If you follow movie insider baseball news you may have heard the embargo on Sony's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is about to break tomorrow in the New Yorker via a full-blown review by author David Denby, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle. In a controversial move that is now taking on a greater ripple effect than they likely expected, the NYFCC had moved their year-end voting deadline ahead a few weeks earlier this year, in order to be first out of the gate with their 2011 awards. But, the organization was rushed to see everything in time, and while Warner Bros. declined to screen "Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close" early for the organization, Sony provided 'Dragon Tattoo' under the wire (the NYFCC actually moved their voting back one more day to accomodate the screening). This is where Denby, along with his fellow NYC colleagues, were granted early access to see the film (though it's been said less critical Fincher fanboys have also seen the picture).
It's an internecine battle at the moment, but Sony is furious about the review going early on Monday and sent an email blast to film critics today urging writers, reviewers and film industry bloggers to hold their reviews until the intended December 13 embargo date.
The Playlist has exclusively acquired this morning's email correspondence between Denby and 'Dragon Tattoo' producer Scott Rudin. Suffice to say just because Denby's review is reportedly a positive one, Rudin is still not happy that the embargo rules have been broken (though Deadline's Nikki Finke -- who reveals her favorite film critic is Denby -- says, "fuck it, who cares?"). And whether or not the review is positive is beside the point. Denby agreed to an embargo date, and if he couldn't or wouldn't stick to it, he shouldn't have stepped into the theater plain and simple. The justifications he proffers -- that the year-end has too many movies or that he doesn't seem to like "We Bought A Zoo" enough to run that review instead -- don't really wash. Moreover, the New Yorker editors also have to shoulder some of the blame for knowingly moving ahead with the review as well (though they'll probably love the traffic and attention they'll receive as the only review in town for a week). Read the exchange below.-----Original Message-----
From: Denby, David
You're going to break the review embargo on Dragon Tattoo? I'm stunned that you of all people would even entertain doing this. It's a very, very damaging move and a total contravention of what you agreed. You're an honorable man.
Scott, I know Fincher was working on the picture up to the last minute, but the yearly schedule is gauged to have many big movies come out at the end of the year.
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. But since I liked the movie, we came reluctantly to the decision to go with early publication for the following reasons, which I have also sent to Seth Fradkoff:
1) The jam-up of important films makes it very hard on magazines. We don't want to run a bunch of tiny reviews at Christmas. That's not what "The New Yorker" is about. Anthony and I don't want to write them that way, and our readers don't want to read them that way.
2) Like many weeklies, we do a double issue at the end of the year, at this crucial time. This exacerbates the problem.
3) The New York Film Critics Circle, in its wisdom, decided to move up its voting meeting, as you well know, to November 29, something Owen Gleiberman and I furiously opposed, getting nowhere. We thought the early date was idiotic, and we're in favor of returning it to something like December 8 next year. In any case, the early 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
I appreciate all of this, David, but you simply have to be good for your word. Your seeing the movie was conditional on your honoring the embargo, which you agreed to do. The needs of the magazine cannot trump your word. The fact that the review is good is immaterial, as I suspect you know. You've very badly damaged the movie by doing this, and 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. If you weren't prepared to honor the embargo, you should have done the honorable thing and said so before you accepted the invitation. The glut of Christmas movies is not news to you, and to pretend otherwise is simply disingenuous. 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??? Come on...that's nonsense, and you know it.