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!