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Note to Critics: Always Look Over Your Shoulder

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire March 7, 2012 at 11:29AM

(Especially at film festivals.)
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"Lucky Number Slevin."
"Lucky Number Slevin."

From New York film critic Bilge Ebiri, a cautionary tale for all the critics out there.  At his personal blog They Live By Night, the news that Lucy Liu will play Dr. Watson in a new American TV series based on Sherlock Holmes inspired Ebiri to relate a hilarious and intensely awkward anecdote from his first trip to the Sundance Film Festival.  Ebiri saw "Lucky Number Slevin" and, like a good working critic at Sundance, dashed off to the press office to find some wi-fi and file his negative review. I'll let Ebiri take it from there:

"As I was typing, I chose not to pay too much attention to a couple of gentlemen who came and stood behind me. I also chose not to pay too much attention to the third guy who joined them for a bit, or to the hushed tones with which they spoke. Then the third guy came and sat at my table, politely asking if the seat across from me was taken. I told him he could sit (he was already sitting), and kept writing. After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, he finally asked me if I’d seen anything good at Sundance yet.

“Well, it’s my first day, but there were some festival films I saw in New York before I came here,” I said. I mentioned a couple of them (including the documentary 'Iraq in Fragments,' which I was very much in love with at the time).

“So, not very keen on 'Slevin' then?” he asked.

“No, not really. I didn’t care for it,” I said.

And then I stopped, because I suddenly realized I was speaking to Paul F*cking McGuigan."

Awwwwwwkwaaaaaard.  This blog post should come with its own sad trombone soundtrack.

This story right here is the dark side -- or at least the weird, icky side -- of film festivals. I've never had a director read my review over my shoulder as I wrote it, but I have interviewed lots of filmmakers whose work I haven't enjoyed. In my experience, if a director starts off an interview with "Did you like the movie?" the odds are the director's in denial and he's desperate for validation. When you get that question before an interview, and the real answer is "HELL NO IT WAS HORRIBLE," what's the right answer? Honesty is always the best policy, but there's a good chance that in this case honesty will ruin your conversation (On a tangentially related topic, you know who's the one director I ever talked to who demanded -- literally demanded -- negative feedback? Nicolas Winding Refn).

But I digress. What did any of that have to do with Lucy Liu as Watson? Elementary, my dear. To deduce the answer to that query and to read the rest of this fabulous story (yes, there's more) go to Ebiri's blog.

This article is related to: Bilge Ebiri, Lucky Number Slevin, Retro/Active


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