Caffeinated Clint : Who’s Watching The…


Today, TIME Magazine published their review (they’ll swear to their balls are blue that it ain’t a review though, I betcha, if you use the compose button to strike) of “Watchmen”.

‘So what?’ I hear you mutter towards the computer screen as you take a look to the left to see if mum’s dropped off your ham & cheese croissant.

Well, ya see – we’ve all seen “Watchmen”, but nobody’s ‘supposed’ to be allowed to review it yet…. Not even those that wear ties to bed, and have pictures of Reagan hanging above their beds.

Hang on, I’m just going to look up for a minute.

Nope. TIME magazine’s not above me.

Maybe they have been given a get-out-media-blacklist-jail-free-card in exchange for a cover but the fact of the matter is, all media – especially the evil online types – have had to swear they won’t publish their review until week of release. So why have TIME got their review up? Are they above us? And will Alan Horn jump on their ass about it? Hell no…

“It’s happened plenty of times to us – we don’t approve it, but what can you do?”, says a friend at Paramount. “It’d be nice if all outlets respected embargoes but unfortunately some don’t. And unfortunately the bigger the outlet the more unwilling someone is to say something to them – like, for instance, please remove the article”.

I saw “Watchmen” a week ago. And from the moment I was informed there was an Embargo on the review, I promised I wouldn’t run a review – not even a swanky facebook status message saying ‘Guess what I saw today?’. I think I’m pretty respectable when it comes to studios (some may say too much). Essentially, I respected the studio’s wishes with this film – and quite frankly, had no problem with it. It makes no difference to meet to wait an extra week or two before unleashing my review. And I know my peers feel the same.

I get invited to a lot of early screenings – some so early that I can’t even tell a living soul what I’ve just watched. And I don’t. I’ve probably seen half-a-dozen of say, next April’s releases already. It’s largely because I write for an internationally-known website, but also because I’m a long lead reviewer for magazines, that I’m able to preview things that bit early. Usually, these are ‘staff’ screenings – where it’s usually one or two long-lead media, and a bunch of suits from the studio, checking out a film for the first time.

I’m always asked if I could please hold the online review of whatever-film-I’ve-just-watched till, well, whenever they want it up. I always oblige. Always happy to. They are, after all, good enough to invite me to their ‘closed’ screenings – heck, good enough to invite me to a screening.

I think also because I know work on the other side of the fence – in distribution, as well as production – I know how important ‘timing’ is when it comes to publicity and especially reviews, especially negative ones. We don’t, for instance, want the bad word leaking about one of our films (and I’ll tell you, this happened late last year with a title* I was involved with) eight weeks ahead. We’d prefer the word – bad as it may be – to hit around the time of the release. * When discs were sent out of this particular title a note was added to please not review it until the release date. Most obliged.

In the case of “Watchmen”, the U.S publicists (Warner Bros) asked online critics to not even “mention” the film on their site – not even a “by the way, Watchmen rocks” comment. And again, we respected that.

A local publicist tells me by Facebook that “even here we have a few outlets, and not necessarily the internet, that seem determined to get their review out of a film the weekend before – and though they’ve been told it’s an opening day embargo. We respect you, you respect us. It’s a pity someone, like this Watchmen reviewer guy, couldn’t stick to the rules”.

Granted, we’ve all accidentally broken an embargo at some time or another – usually not realizing that there’s one in place – like, for instance, Aint it Cool publishing a review of “Star Wars : The Clone Wars” a day before its release late last year. In that case, Warner Bros didn’t want a single review of the film dancing on the InterWeb until the very last minute. Or the time we, and a bunch of other sites, ran a ‘synopsis’ of the “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” novella, about a month or two before the film’s release, not realizing there would be any kind of embargo on it.

Some online outlets don’t respect the studio’s wishes – and might as well mouth ‘fuck you, don’t you see my twirly moustache!?’ to the publicist on their way out of the theater. And the ones that are doing this? You’ll find the answer surprising (or not) – the trades. The trades nearly always post their reviews early – even for those films that have an embargo til opening day. One broken embargo that comes to mind is Variety unleashing their “Cadillac Records” review early – there were a few pissed-off publicists that day.

“Yeah love, we weren’t happy”, says one of the publicists who worked on that particular film. “Nothing we could do though – waste of time following it up”.

The Playlist wrote, “Are the rules different for Variety? Is that how it works? Yes, we realize they have about 10 trillion times more juice than us and most of the rest of bloggers out there, but an embargo is an embargo, no? Doesn’t make sense if people don’t play by the rules does it?”

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a review for a film that we’ve all been told we can’t speak of until opening day reviewed on a trade’s website several days prior. But it’s this TIME magazine review of “Watchmen” that really irks me. And will they get a kick in the ass? I doubt it… they’ll probably get a free cask of wine, T-Shirt and night in Jamaica for their coverage.

Devin from CHUD hopes studios remember who broke the embargo on this one – not us “evil internet guys” (yes, unfortunately, that’s how some studios still think of us) but the rag that just had Obama on their cover.

“This is sheer bullshit, and I hope that the next time some studio flack talks about how online breaks embargo, they remember that it was Time fucking magazine that did it” writes Feraci. ‘’And let it be noted that I have no problem with the embargo and with Warner Bros enforcing it; I have a problem with certain elements in the media believing that they’re above it all.”

Indeed. Couldn’t agree more.