A couple of days ago I spoke of film critic David Denby’s inability to fulfill the terms of the agreement he had with Sony when they screened him “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in advance. Knowing full well he’d be breaking the embargo that was in place for another week, Denby ran his review – in The New Yorker- anyway. As a consequence, both Sony and producer Scott Rudin have chastised the reviewer, going so far as to say he’s not welcome at any more sneak peeks of their films. Considering Sony have “Grown Ups 2” coming up, that’s gotta hurt.
Now David Fincher, director of the film at the center of all the brouhaha, has responded to Denby breaking the embargo and running his review prematurely.
“I think Scott [Rudin]’s response was totally correct. It’s a hard thing for people outside our business to understand. It is a bit of a tempest in a teapot. But as silly as this may all look from the outside – privileged people bickering – I think it’s important. Film critics are part of the business of getting movies made. You swim in the same water we swim in. And there is a business to letting people know your movie is coming out. It is not a charity business. It is a business-business.
“Embargoes … look, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t show movies to anybody before they were released. I wouldn’t give clips to talk shows. I would do one trailer and three television spots and let the chips fall where they may. That’s how far in the other direction I am. If I had my way, the New York Film Critics Circle would not have seen this movie and then we would not be in this situation. I would be opening this movie on Wednesday Dec. 21 and I would have three screenings on Tuesday Dec. 20 and that would be it.
That’s where [Rudin] and I get into some of our biggest fights. My whole thing is ‘If people want to come, they’ll come.’ But they should be completely virgin. I’m not of the mind to tell anybody anything about the movie they are going to see. And that kind of thought is ridiculous in this day and age. But by the same token, when you agree to go see something early and you give your word – as silly as that may sound in the information age and the movie business – there is a certain expectation. It’s unfortunate that the film critic business has become driven by scoops.”
All true, sadly.
Fincher understands how marketing, and the media, works but he doesn’t think this one falls under either umbrella.
“This is not about controlling the media. If people realized how much thought goes into deciding at what point can we allow our movie to be seen, they would understand. There are so many other things constantly screaming for people’s attention. I started shooting this movie 25 days after I turned in The Social Network. We have been working really hard to make this release date. And when you’re trying to orchestrate a build-up of anticipation, it is extremely frustrating to have someone agree to something and then upturn the apple cart and change the rules – for everybody.”
In a slight knock to film criticism, though one entailing a valid point, Fincher says it’s the public’s opinion, not Denby’s, that’s the most important feedback he could get anyway.
“Ultimately, movies live or die by word of mouth anyway. All that other stuff doesn’t matter. Nothing against film criticism. I think film critics are really valuable. But the most valuable film critics are usually those people who come see a movie with their Blackberry and then text their friends ‘It sucked.’ or ‘It’s awesome. You should see it.’ You know what I mean?”
Do wonder- regardless of whether the man says he recalls the review or not (he has to, it’s quoted on the DVD) – whether Fincher’s just miffed that Denby is also the same guy who said this about his 1999 classic, “Fight Club” :
From The New Yorker, November 1, 1999 :
A grunge rhapsody on fascist, sadomasochistic, and homoerotic themes. Edward Norton’s alienated office worker becomes the protégé of Brad Pitt, a happy-go-lucky warrior who vanquishes the inner nerd in other men (in a high point of generosity, he pours acid on Norton’s hand). Since the two men enjoy brawling in the street, they open up an organization they call “fight club,” in which other alienated men happily beat, gouge, and batter one another. Soon there are fight clubs all over the country and groups of proudly lacerated believers who recognize one another by their purple bruises. The director, David Fincher, attains a mood of sardonic disaffection; the camera is rambunctious and alive, the lighting viciously dark. But this fantasia, for all its skill, is ridiculous and even boring. We’re meant to take the male bonding and the blood rituals as a protest against the sterility of corporate life and modern design, but Fincher’s sadomasochistic kicks overwhelm any possible social critique. With Helena Bonham Carter, a tiny, pale Expressionist vamp, who sleeps with the two men—a beard, as it were. Written by Jim Uhls, from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk.
Harsh review or not, Fincher’s still correct in blasting Denby, as is Rudin. Dude broke the embargo. Dude hurts reviewers as a whole. By doing this, Denby could be screw relations up big time for studios and critics.