Smug New Yorker Critic Somehow Manages to Compel Sympathy For Scott Rudin

This kind of silly public skirmish seems a little too convenient to just naturally occur in a week when The Artist and War Horse are dominating awards chatter, but either way, stroppy megaproducer Scott Rudin is furious with The New Yorker for breaking a review embargo on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Who can blame him, especially since critic David Denby -- along with the rest of the members of the New York Film Critics Circle who saw the film before voting last week -- signed an agreement assenting to hold his review until Dec. 13 at the earliest? Or maybe the more important question is: Why should you care? I can think of a few reasons, chief among them being that Denby's excuse for breaking his word is hilarious.

The Playlist got a hold of an e-mail exchange between Rudin and Denby, which really must be read to be believed -- particularly this passage from Denby (who, incidentally, gave the film a rave):

The system is destructive: Grown-ups are ignored for much of the year, cast out like downsized workers, and then given eight good movies all at once in the last five weeks of the year. A magazine like The New Yorker has to cope as best as it can with a nutty release schedule. It was not my intention to break the embargo, and I never would have done it with a negative review.

[T]he early [NYFCC] vote forced the early screening of Dragon Tattoo. So we had a dilemma: What to put in the magazine on December 5? Certainly not We Bought the Zoo, or whatever it's called. If we held everything serious, we would be coming out on Christmas-season movies until mid-January. We had to get something serious in the magazine. So reluctantly, we went early with Dragon, which I called "mesmerizing." I apologize for the breach of the embargo. It won't happen again. But this was a special case brought on by year-end madness.

In any case, congratulations for producing another good movie. I look forward to the Daldry.

Best, David Denby

"Best," indeed! I never thought it could be done, but for once -- and again assuming this isn't all some manufactured controversy (which The New Yorker historically would be above, but at this point who fucking knows) -- I actually feel pangs of sympathy for Scott Rudin. A few thoughts for the six or seven of you who cared enough to read this far:

1. Comparing sophisticated adult filmgoers who face a prestige glut in December to "downsized workers" is one of Denby's more hobbled (not to mention breathtakingly tasteless) metaphors of the year -- and this is a guy who regarded a film last winter "like a butterfly half out of its cocoon, emerging with many fond looks back to the protective walls." Congrats, I guess!

2. "A magazine like The New Yorker has to cope as best as it can with a nutty release schedule," Denby writes. Memo to Denby: Everyone has to cope with this schedule -- critics, editors, studios, theater owners... It's a challenge that requires strategy and choices. That's what professionals do, not pledge one thing and change direction to suit themselves. I have a feeling that to the extent they even care, readers will understand. But you tell me, readers.

3. Moreover, since when does "a magazine like The New Yorker" sign NDAs prohibiting it from covering something? I'd love to see the White House try that with Seymour Hersh.

4. "What to put in the magazine on December 5? Certainly not We Bought the Zoo, or whatever it's called." LOLOL.

5. For Christ's sake, people, stop calling films "the Daldry" or "the Fincher" or whatever. It's such an obvious, pretentious affectation -- like an annoying auteurist equivalent to being addressed as "bro" -- and everyone who practices it knows it. The title of the film is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; just use it.

Either way, there will be no "the Daldry" for Denby, at least if Rudin upholds his own vow, also obtained by The Playlist:

I could not in good conscience invite you to see another movie of mine again, Daldry or otherwise. I can't ignore this, and I expect that you wouldn't either if the situation were reversed. I'm really not interested in why you did this except that you did -- and you must at least own that, purely and simply, you broke your word to us and that that is a deeply lousy and immoral thing to have done. ... You will now cause ALL of the other reviews to run a month before the release of the movie, and that is a deeply destructive thing to have done simply because you're disdainful of We Bought a Zoo. Why am I meant to care about that???

For the record, this is not the crisis that Rudin claims it is -- there will not likely be a torrent of other reviews a month before Dragon Tattoo, and even if there were, "deeply destructive" implies strong dislike across the board -- which, as word gets around, apparently couldn't be further from the reality of many reviewers and other insiders' perspectives. Nevertheless, Denby's smug entitlement is of a rare variety that outsizes even Rudin's own. Pretty impressive, I have to say.

And in any case, as much as we hate to make you "downsized workers" out there wait, Movieline will wait to publish its review closer to the release of the film. Hang in there!

· 'Dragon Tattoo' Producer Scott Rudin Replies To David Denby's Upcoming New Yorker Review Embargo Break [The Playlist]


  • AS says:

    Rudin is a hypocritical jackass who will connive and scheme anyway possible to better sell whatever movie he is promoting at the time. And he has the audacity to speak of "immorality" and "keeping ones word." Ha!

  • Captain Obvious says:

    Denby is a smug ass as are the 1,000,000+ readers who read that elitist rag. I am so glad that you have so much more integrity than the aforementioned Denby. Movieline which used to be one of my favorite reads has become just another shill for the studios and producers like Rudin. Rudin is known for his bully tactics and is impossible to work for or with. Critics signed NDA's to be allowed to watch his film?! Really?! Isn't that the bigger issue here. This is the reason why reviewers have become irrelevant. I would be more impressed if you threw caution to the wind and published your review anyway. You wouldn't of course since you might lose favor with the people who allow you access to these advance screenings and then you wouldn't have a job either. The movie going public barely reads film reviews and the ones that do certainly aren't influenced by that review if it is something they truly want to see. It is for reference only. Did you just happen to stumble upon that private email conversation between Rudin and Denby? Maybe you hacked one of their computers. More likely you were given that by one of your minions inside either organization. Please don't insult your readers thinking you are any better than any of the parties involved. Have you read Denby's review? I will be very interested to read his review on Rudin's upcoming opus and if it truly is a rave. I'm sure it isn't. The emperor has no clothes and you are part of the problem not part of the solution.

  • The Woman with the Draggin' Tatoos says:

    Man alive! You just can't have a fuming literati crow-eating exchange via e-mail, or sext your dong without everybody knowing about it these days...
    How do people not know this at this point!? It blows my f-ing mind, the level of arrogance it must take to think that if you've hit sent on ANYTHING electronic that it will not end up slathered all over the interblogs. A leak in reprisal for a leak, I guess. And though I am loathe to side with The New Yanker, Mr. Rudin should understand that you NEVER do anything but be grateful for a good review.
    By the way, who does he think is on the fence for an oppressively popular book-adaptation advertising itself as "The feel bad movie of Christmas" from the guy who made Seven, scored by Trent Fucking Reznor? That's a pretty defined market. Pre-built and very specifically targeted.
    Did he really think a huge and vital audience was going to wander in uninitiated if there were fewer print reviews to give them an idea of what to expect?
    And now, a short comic play:
    moviegoer one: I am going to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
    moviegoer two: Which One?

  • blizzard bound says:

    People don't talk on the phone anymore.

  • SunnydaZe says:

    I love "The Denby's" argument here>
    "I promised I wouldn't blow you and/or knee you in the nuts until Wednesday. But, instead, I blew you on Monday without kneeing you in the nuts... You should thank me!!"

  • The WInchester says:

    On the one hand, I have a little bit of sympathy for Rudin. What Denby did was unprofessional. He broke his word, a word that countless other journos (online and print alike) gave and have managed to keep.
    But it's not like he leaked nuclear launch codes, for Christ's sake.

  • SunnydaZe says:

    Yes, Movieline had Gollum sneak into Mordor and retrieve the sacred emails...

  • blizzard bound says:

    What I mean is, no one jumps on the phone, gets X on the other line and shouts, "You sap! You promised!" At least with that method, people had the satisfaction of some kind of vocal admonishment.
    Nowadays, everyone drags things out through emails. In some ways it is Elizabethan when you look at it. The drama!

  • The WInchester says:

    Obviously it's the shenanigans of one Lisbeth Salander.

  • j238 says:

    Mostly agree with this article. But I believe White House press releases have embargo dates which are usually respected.
    Denby's logic is that he can break a written agreement because he has nothing to write about that week. He can't find a gem in limited release? There's nothing of interest going on at Walter Reade, Film Forum, MoMA and BAM? No worthy classic getting a great DVD release? No young director available for an interview? No venue trying a new way to attract audiences? No recently deceased film personalities to profile?
    A film writer in New York, who can't find material to fill his magazine column is seriously suffering from a failure of imagination.

  • Charles says:

    Talk about much ado about nothing. Who the hell reads David Denby anymore anyways?

  • Grim_Noir says:

    Why on earth did this movie need a DNA anyway? The books have been NYT bestsellers for years and the original versions of the movies have hit the theaters and moved on to DVD/BD. Most people already have an opinion formed about this remake.
    Unless Mr. Rudin was afraid in his heart of hearts that he would be compaired unfavorably. His reaction to this is more telling to me, a moviegoer and GWTDT fan, than Mr. Denby's review...

  • Noah James says:

    A NDA is a NDA is a NDA. I get why you all don't understand the bruhaha this caused, but it IS a big deal. It was a positive review? Irrelevent. The fact is, Denby signed a LEGAL document stating he wouldn't release the review until the agreed upon time. For every movie I work on, I too have to sign the NDA - so does everyone involved. And let me tell you, they are VERY detailed on what you can or can't say.
    What Denby did WAS immoral and (most importantly) illegal. He could (and should) be sued, along with the pretentious company he works for. Also, his excuse for publishing the review is lame, smug, and a complete lie. First he complains about all these "grown up" films being released in a short amount of time at the end of the year, then he claims they didn't have a movie they could cover in time for printing. The REAL reason they published it was: Selling magazines. Despite a slew of amazingly well-reviewed films out recently, nothing has the mass appeal that Dragon does. And what better way to sell your edition than having the first review of the film.
    Once again, I get why some don't see the big deal, but it is in the industry. And if you go against the NDA, you can get sued and you will lose. Because of this short-term cash grab, New Yorker could lose a lot more in the long run.

  • Maya says:

    Well, I'm still planning to see the movie and I'm sure a ton of other people are as well...