Elvis Mitchell Fired From Movieline Chief Film Critic Job Due To Review Error

by Tambay A. Obenson
April 23, 2011 12:43 PM
15 Comments
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Deadline just reported that Elvis Mitchell has been fired as Movieline.com's Chief Film Critic, after just over 3 months on the job. Mitchell was hired as Movieline's Chief Film Critic on January 12th of this year.

So why was he fired? Mitchell's recent review of Source Code which reportedly contained reference to an item that was in an early draft of the film's script, but not in the final film Mitchell saw.

Here's Nikke Finke's explanation: "A Summit rep tells me that Mitchell was shown a final cut of the film Source Code on February 24th in NYC. His review of the movie appeared on Movieline.com on March 31st. That same day, the pic's director Duncan Jones tweeted, "Find it odd Movieline choose to complain about Jeffrey Wright smoking a pipe, something in an old draft of the script thats not in the film." The reference was to what Mitchell had written in his review: "It’s up to Jeffrey Wright, as the administrator supervising the Source Code — the machine that keeps firing Colter back, back, back to the recent past — and his eccentric brio to keep the silliness from piling up like ash from his pipe. That’s how you know this film is science fiction — someone is smoking indoors in the United States — and that Wright is a martinet whose malevolence must be checked.""

So... apparently, Mitchell didn't even watch the film that he reviewed, and instead reviewed it from an early draft of the script he read???

Movieline of course got a hold of Duncan Jones' tweet, and questioned Mitchell about it; Mitchell responded, stating that he was at the screening, and that there was a misunderstanding. However, soon after that, Mitchell was terminated, followed by Deadline's announcement.

Does any of this make any sense? Something's amiss, and I don't think we're getting the full story here. Why would he review a film he hadn't seen? And what happened between the time he replied to Movieline's query, saying there was a misunderstanding, and them firing him?

It hasn't been a good last 5 months for Mitchell has it? Recall, in December, he was dropped from Roger Ebert's new half-hour At The Movies film review program, which he was supposed to co-host. And I don't remember if the reasons there were ever publicly detailed, where they?

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15 Comments

  • AJ | April 25, 2011 9:17 AMReply

    I hate to admit it, but this kind of thing makes me mad, and not at Movieline (it seems Mitchell probably did see the movie but he was generally hard to work with and unreliable: http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/2011/04/24/elvis_mitchell_ankles_movieline).

    When high-profile black writers do wrong, it makes us all look bad; it's a shame and it's unfair, but they set an example. Mitchell's less-than-stellar reputation -- unreliability, flamboyance -- makes his past employers and others think twice before hiring black writers. The job market for journalists of color (all colors) is close to the worst its been: http://asne.org/article_view/articleid/1788/newsroom-employment-up-slightly-minority-numbers-plunge-for-third-year.aspx. I imagine the likes of Jayson Blair never helped.

    The burden of representation: you have to own it, carry it responsibly. And black writers always carry a heavier load.

  • drchilledair | April 25, 2011 3:19 AMReply

    Slightly before the Punic Wars, Elvis and I were up for the same menial non-industry job. I got it; he never forgave me. So you can just imagine the grudges he must hold against the IRS, Roger Ebert, the NY & LA Times, Paramount and now. . .Movieline. Oh well, I hear the Beverly Hills Courier might be looking for a second string film crit.

  • theyounglion | April 24, 2011 11:40 AMReply

    @Cynthia. I don't see what's trivial about reviewing a film you didn't even see. What he is accused of doing is just wrong on so many levels, and is definitely something to get fired over. I'm an Elvis Mitchell fan -- I like his writing and he's got a great radio show on KCRW in L.A. -- but if he did indeed do what they said he did, then he definitely should have been let go.

    For a website or newspaper or magazine that put out such a fraud, it immediately calls their trustworthiness into question. If your readers believe you will tolerate blatant lying, then you'll never be taken seriously. (i.e. Fox News has a lot of viewers, but it has even more people who see it as a complete joke.) Movieline had no choice but to fire him if in fact they learned he did indeed write his review without seeing the film.

    For the filmmakers and company that spent years and tens...maybe hundreds...of millions of dollars making and marketing the film, doing what he allegedly did is anything but trivial. It's beside the point whether Elvis is capable of "making or breaking a film". He is an influential critic that helps guide the consensus on a film's worthiness,. That's a separate thing from whether it makes money or not (though it is of course related).

    I wonder if some critic for a large publication thought incapable of "making or breaking a film" wrote a blistering review of "Night Catches Us" or "I Will Follow" or "Medicine for Melancholy", and it came out that the critic never even saw the film, whether anyone here would call that "trivial".

  • JMac | April 24, 2011 11:19 AMReply

    Drug or alcohol problem? Too difficult to get along with? Has other people write his reviews and he stamps his name on them? Something major must be going on to lose two gigs in five months.

  • sandylieberson | April 24, 2011 9:35 AMReply

    too bad...mitchell is an excellent critic.

    as for source code, a poor ripoff of ground hog day without the comedy. silly!

  • Dankwa Brooks | April 24, 2011 7:17 AMReply

    I was just talking to my cousin earlier and she loves what I write on my blog and think I should write every week. I told her as much as I love writing I don't have time to write and I don't even know if I would like to get paid for it because there is a such constraints and demands on professional writers to meet deadlines. I think I would write a bunch of bullsh*t.

    I think Mr. Mitchell was just under deadline and published anything. Sad and that's not the way it should work, but he probably makes good money so why stop that because you didn't watch or pay attention to what you saw.

  • Steve Warren | April 24, 2011 6:43 AMReply

    My favorite drinking game involves finding details Roger Ebert gets wrong in his reviews - and he hardly ever publishes one that's 100% accurate. Imagine if he got fired for every mistake.

  • Sean Means | April 24, 2011 4:02 AMReply

    Oops. Confusing Movieline with Moviefone. Never mind.

  • JasonJee | April 24, 2011 3:36 AMReply

    seems it would be easier to just watch a movie than slog thru a script.

  • Sean Means | April 24, 2011 2:45 AMReply

    What is it about AOL and "Source Code"? First, TechCrunch gets dinged by AOL overlords for snarky comment about "Source Code" at SXSW, then Elvis leaves the building (sorry, couldn't resist) over his specious review of the same film. Hmmmm....

  • Bob | April 24, 2011 2:37 AMReply

    At the time he left the TV show, Ebert was emphatic that it was an amicable parting, but it was true that no reason was given and it's impossible not to wonder. My hunch is that there is a real issue here but who knows what the real story is.

  • kbonez | April 24, 2011 2:07 AMReply

    Cynthia,
    I would assume that publishing a review of a film you never saw would not be seen as "trivial" by those in the industry. His job was to report and comment on the quality of the film, so if he didn't even see it then everything he wrote was a lie. It'd be like a White House reporter making up a quote from a press conference that had been scheduled and then canceled. So if thats what happened then I would say that firing was for good cause. Having said that, it does seem like a pretty odd story, so I'm wondering what else went down that we don't know about?

  • Tombs | April 24, 2011 2:07 AMReply

    Did Elvis Mitchell ever get back his $12,000 back?
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/08/14/elvis-mitchell-former-emn_n_118865.html

  • Tombs | April 24, 2011 2:00 AMReply

    Nikke Finke’s explanation: “A Summit rep tells me that Mitchell was shown a final cut of the film Source Code on February 24th in NYC. If this is the case, then he saw the movie right. It didn't say anything about shown a script. So… apparently, Mitchell didn’t even watch the film that he reviewed, and instead reviewed it from an early draft of the script he read???
    Does any of this make any sense? No!

  • Cynthia | April 24, 2011 1:43 AMReply

    Very odd. Better yet, how do you fire someone over something rather trivial? I don't recall Elvis making or breaking a film. smh

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