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Exclusive: 'Dragon Tattoo' Producer Scott Rudin Replies To David Denby's Upcoming New Yorker Review Embargo Break

by The Playlist
December 4, 2011 8:59 PM
  • |
"They reviewed what?"

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: Scott Rudin
Sent: Sat 12/3/2011 12:08 AM
To: 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.

From: Denby, David
Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2011 11:19 AM
To: Scott Rudin
Subject: RE:

Dear Scott:
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

From: Scott Rudin
Date: Sat, 3 Dec 2011 13:04:32 -0500
To: David Denby
Subject: Re:

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.

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  • Kirsty Richards | January 11, 2012 2:55 PMReply

    Hello there
    I am writing this comment, regarding your latest film The girl with the dragon tattoo.

    I am utterly disgusted with this film play. The graphic scence where the girl is raped, is far too much! Think of how it makes people feel who have been through that themselves in their lives. My partner and I very nearly walked out of this film. I admirer it was a hood storyline but that scence was not needed to be so grahic.

    I am not coping as well as I was, thanks to this movie. I didn't know it had such a horrid scence otherwise I would not have watched it!

    Kirsty Richards

  • Smitty | January 10, 2012 6:46 PMReply

    Who gives a sheeite.

  • Feelitmon | December 14, 2011 1:47 PMReply

    I find it odd that nobody has pointed out Denby's comment that he wouldn't break the embargo were it to be with a negative review. How much more clear does it have to be that the last thing on Denby's mind is "the public's interest" or whatever it is some people think rationalizes his actions? He's contemptible.

    On a side note, I'm impressed by how well written Rudin's e-mail messages are here, especially considering the circumstances. Rudin may be an ass, but it's great to see someone take the time to write messages well.

  • Sybarite | December 11, 2011 8:56 PMReply

    It's simple. Denby and the New Yorker broke their word about writing a review. If The New Yorker won't withhold the review until the agreed upon deadline then they are complicit. So, if Sony is truly upset (not just Rudin), ban Denby from all similar events--his word is worthless after all. If The New Yorker won't withhold, ban all their reviewers. Sony can live without one magazine's reviewers. Otherwise it all smacks of another guerrilla marketing campaign.

  • Mr Anonymous | December 10, 2011 9:24 AMReply

    The thing i most feel sorry for is 'We Bought A Zoo', what's that ever done to anybody? :D

  • Tal | December 9, 2011 7:51 PMReply

    Skip this overblown remake and go see Tinker Tailor...

  • Anton | December 8, 2011 11:07 PMReply

    Denby broke the rules, which I personally wish more journalists and filmmakers alike would do. I agree that the only person damaging this film's release at this point is Rudin. Someone earlier made a point that this film's lack of presence in the media at the time of release would (in "fact") lead to less ticket sales. I would argue that this does not apply to this particular film. The production is using previously-established properties and names such as David Fincher, the novel its based on, Rooney, Craig, etc. No matter how talented everyone involved with this production is, ultimately they are all making a very safe move with their respective careers by remaking a property so soon after the original, and with a much more bloated budget. I'd be willing to bet that a massive amount of the opening day audience has either read the novel or seen the original, or both, and even if they are newcomers to the story, Denby's review will have zero impact on things. Rudin's immature reaction, however, just might leave a mark. So let's suppose Denby is a liar. So what? A person involved with the media was...gasp...dishonest or dishonorable somewhere along the way? If I were Denby, I would have written a childishly dismissive and negative review, only to see everyone empty their pockets to see this overproduced rehash anyway. Rudin's claim that this whole thing is "damaging" is one of the most utterly obnoxious and self-important things I've head in some time. Poor Rudin, you must have struggled to get this $100 million cash cow off of the ground. What a silly industry this has all become. This story reminds me of when Tarantino was on a talk show next to an actress starring in a secret J.J. Abrams production...when pressed about his script leaking early to the public, Tarantino said, "its okay if people read it ahead of time, I'm proud of the films I make!" Rudin and Fincher could learn a thing or two from this and get over themselves. I wish we were seeing Fincher take a real risk, the daring and dangerous kind, and not the "I hope I please the studios who dumped $100 million on this remake" type of risk.

  • JohnG | December 7, 2011 6:12 PMReply

    You are either a man of your word or you are a liar.

    Denby is a liar.

  • Wetbook | December 7, 2011 1:13 PMReply

    "very badly damaged the movie"??? Seriously, Rudin? Denby's early review will have zero effect on ticket sales. If anything, i won't see it now because you've just been a total a-hole.

  • whomp whomp | December 7, 2011 11:48 AMReply

    cwry me a wiver Scott.

  • Matthew | December 7, 2011 2:49 AMReply

    It really is total nonsense. Denby is reaching for any excuse that might be plausible, throwing them all against the wall and hoping something sticks.

    How do I know that? Because he contradicts himself in his excuse making. On one hand, Denby blames the NYFCC for moving up the voting date and forcing the viewing of "Girl", but on the other hand, he laments the other option of running a review of "Zoo".

    If you don't see the contradiction, take a moment and think about that. What if the NYFCC had not moved the voting date? Denby would not have had a review in his back pocket for "Girl", that is what. So what would he have run in that case?

    Whatever it is that Denby would have run if the NYFCC had not changed the voting date is what he should have run, no excuses. Trying to blame the NYFCC for this is nonsense. Essentially, in a sort of backhanded way, Denby is crediting the organization with giving him the opportunity to violate the trust given to him by Sony.

    If he were at all disenchanted with the change in voting dates, then he should have made doubly sure he held his honor about all else. Instead he chose the road more commonly traveled.

  • GamerNerdGuy | December 7, 2011 1:51 AMReply

    Commenters and readers, welcome to the world of videogames journalism. For 15 years I worked in videogames PR, and breaking embargoes is far from uncommon. Often they're broken just like this one, with an explanation after the fact, under the guise of "better to ask for forgiveness than beg for permission." It's reasonable to say that both sides had specific strategic objectives in mind with respect to when the review should post; given that, the professional thing (in my opinion) would have been to get on the phone and discuss what opportunities the New Yorker had to see if there was any room for movement. That the review was positive is also a somewhat weak excuse; I doubt it would have ran under the circumstances if it was a bad review.

    I'm sure many of you may think this opinion naive at best and that the studio needs the New Yorker more than the other way 'round. Nevertheless, the relationship between PR and the media is usually a good, but sometimes rocky one, as this situation indicates. This story has been a big topic among my colleagues; we deal with it often. This makes it kind of interesting to see it in a different industry.

  • EmailEmbargoist | December 6, 2011 11:07 PMReply

    Which of these two emailers forwarded these emails to you? Did you sign a confidentiality disclaimer to protect his privacy? Apologize for not reading the 111 prior posts to see if this was already covered. Curious that one or both of them thought it was in his interest.

  • KcM | December 6, 2011 4:18 PMReply

    This dust-up, and Denby's sniffing at We Bought a Zoo, reminds me of Denby's unbelievably snobbish review of the third Matrix back in 2003. (

    A lousy film, for sure, but that doesn't excuse Denby's whining about people who see Wachowski brothers movies rather than stay home and read Cheever short stories. The guy seems to think he's brilliant because he took the Great Books course at Columbia and wrote a book about it. fellow gradual school students taught that class, when we weren't sitting through lousy movies like The Matrix 3.

  • KcM | December 7, 2011 3:42 PM

    Ok, that's two pedants who got hung up on the gradual school joke (see below for an explanation.) Now I get where Denby's readership is coming from.

  • gradual school, eh? | December 7, 2011 11:50 AM

    Does that mean you are gradually working towards going back to 5th grade? This is the karma they get for making a dumbed down American version. Just watch the Swedish films.

  • KcM | December 6, 2011 5:54 PM

    Oh, it's gradual, alright. It takes years...anyone who really attends gradual school knows that for a plain fact. (Also, that's a joke from the movie version of The World According to Garp: "Daddy what's gradual school? Mommy say's she teaches at gradual school." "Oh Gradual school is where you go to school and you gradually find out you don't want to go to school anymore.")

  • Babbs | December 6, 2011 5:41 PM

    When you really attend graduate school, you generally know it's not gradual.

  • Sketchbook | December 6, 2011 12:08 PMReply

    Ben Brantley reviewed the musical "Spiderman" becos it had been playing to
    paying customers for weeks & weeks. Unofficially it was already "open."
    Bottom line: Denby made ka-ka.

  • Adam | December 6, 2011 11:55 AMReply

    Wow, Rudin is being a little dramatic here. I understand both sides, but making a statement like "you've very badly damaged the movie" is clearly an exaggeration, especially when you follow that up by saying the NYT critics will longer be invited. Which is more damaging, an early reivew or no review? Also, this review is published online, meaning its not going anywhere.

  • Eric Morey | December 6, 2011 10:12 AMReply

    So when is this remake going to be on netflix with the originals?

  • Terry Heaton | December 6, 2011 10:02 AMReply

    I'm with Denby on this. Embargoes serve the manipulative means of the one imposing the embargo. In that sense, film critics do the bidding of those who create the films in a massive manipulation of buzz-building (hopefully good) leading up to theatrical release. It's a con and exactly the kind of neat, elitist puppetry designed to fill the seats for profit, not entertainment. These "deals" between news providers and journalists are getting rarer and are increasingly being seen for what they really are. Denby doesn't serve the New Yorker; he works for me, a reader, and I appreciate the advanced knowledge of a film that I plan to see.

  • GamerNerdGuy | December 7, 2011 1:58 AM

    Totally get what you're saying. As a reader, Denby does serve you. But given what he's explained in the e-mail, would it have hurt to reach out to them and talk it through? As I mentioned in my prior comment, embargoes are broken often with videogames. Strategically, there's an understanding that the closer to the ship date for a game, the better it helps the publisher. Savvy PR people will provide press with content to fill the gap between getting the game, reviewing it and posting the review (gameplay vids, dev interviews, screenshots, etc.).

    Again, this has been a big topic of conversation among my colleagues to see this; a lot of them (as can I) can relate.

  • Lemon | December 6, 2011 10:51 AM

    But he agreed to the rules when he went to see the movie. Maybe the system is stupid, but you should honour your word. Surely he knew about the mad rush of good films at the end of the year before he went in.

  • Awake | December 6, 2011 8:43 AMReply

    Wow, these film producers are very very petty. "Immoral" lol, that is not only absurd, but just goes to show these guys are being paid too much if they think an early good review is going to "hurt" the movie.

    You kow what is going to "hurt" the movie? Comments that make you sound like your film is the most important thing in the world - no one likes that kind of attitude.

  • EMAILEMBARGOIST | December 6, 2011 11:16 PM

    dear CHEDDAR, when you "Think about it" do you mean you usually buy your tickets for a film only when the review appears the same day or a day or two before the opening?

  • Cheddar | December 6, 2011 6:00 PM

    Rudin's right.

    A review running early hurts first week ticket sales like an album leaking prior to its release hurts first week sales.

    Think about it: the primary ticket purchasers aren't New Yorker readers. If they run a review, the embargo is broken and every other publication will run their review as well. Yet, the movie isn't out. The tickets can't be bought. A week or two later, the movie releases, and all of the reviews and press are about everything else coming out that week.

    Fact: Lower attention and visual real estate in media when a film launches = lower ticket sales.

  • Elizabeth Bennett | December 6, 2011 1:16 AMReply

    [" 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." is brilliant.]

    "Brilliant," no. Squirmy and weaselly, yes. It might be "brilliant" if Denby had said it while taking a true as opposed to poseury "rebel" stand, viz, by leading a charge to refuse to submit to the embargo. Y'know---we'll pass on your embargo, and shucks, guess that means we won't be able to get in a review of your movie in time for its opening, or, say, at all. But never in a million years would this bland, bourgie yuppie whose cinematic apercus are as bland, bourgie, and yuppie-ish as he and the Remnick New Yorker are, dare to do that. He doesn't have it in him. We are now seeing what he has in him, and it is pathetic. And wearing the white hat on this one is none other than Scott Rudin, one of the biggest liars and screamers in the movie business. Tom Wolfe, do you have your notebook out?

    But the absolute worst thing about all this is that it furnishes that other monument of dullness, the New York Times, with material for an installment of the mind-numbingly dull and precious "Ethicist" column, as well as another of those unbearably bloviating, stupefyingly self-impotrant yet totally content-free "film conversations" perpretrated by AO Scott and Mahnola Dargis, all in one Sunday.

  • News Hit | December 6, 2011 1:57 AM

    I agree with your comments about New York critics and the Times' conversations, although - in terms of talent and intelligence - I would say Dargis is a much, much better critic than Scott.

    Denby, though, takes the cake as far as I am concerned. He is one of the most painful and overrated critics working today. His prose is always mannered and overblown, and he often seems hypocritical about his position. He often criticises films for their lack of seriousness, but he once wrote “one of the extraordinary things about growing up French is that you can be absurd without ever quite knowing it,” an ill-founded and ignorant comment.

  • Adam | December 6, 2011 12:57 AMReply

    Jesus, it's a movie review - who cares?

  • TC | December 7, 2011 1:42 AM

    "who cares?"

    Uh, the studios that have millions invested in films, the magazines and newspapers that have millions invested in their publications, and the millions of people who consume all of the above?

    Are you in high school or something?

  • Sean Russell | December 6, 2011 12:05 AMReply

    The fact that there is usage of the the word "embargo" when it comes to a movie review is astonishing childish.

  • TC | December 7, 2011 1:43 AM

    Yes? And why is it "astonishing" childish, pray tell?

  • bugaloo | December 5, 2011 10:10 PMReply

    Denby has also screwed all other critics with this action, in that for several years the major studios have been more and more reluctant to screen wide releases for critics early enough for any but daily newspaper or TV critics to make their deadline before the film opens. Now he's handed them an excuse to be even more reluctant, meaning that probably even more films will be screened so late that most reviews can't run until AFTER they've opened.

  • MDL | December 6, 2011 6:59 PM

    Yeah, except the same thing happened last year with Inception [reviewed early by Rolling Stone] and The Social Network [reviewed early by LA Weekly] and no critics were 'screwed' in the process. And the movies made great box office. Carry on.

  • James Dunaway | December 5, 2011 9:20 PMReply

    Ouch! I misspelled relevant; how embarrassing! But since I have to send this in I will add this to my comment on Mr. Denby: one thing I have learned in life is that when someone has lied to me, all I know for sure about him or her is that he or she is a LIAR.

  • James Dunaway | December 5, 2011 9:08 PMReply

    Denby is, plain and simple, a person who breaks his promise, in other words a liar, a man who cannot be trusted. Even worse, he tries to rationalize the betrayal of his promise with all sorts of explanations, none of which are relavant to the fact that he broke his promise. If the producers and exhibitors have any self-respect, and any cojones, they would never allow Denby to see a preview, and in addition make him pay his way into every movie house in and around New York. And it would serve him right.

  • Captain Obvious | December 5, 2011 9:29 PM

    You're obviously not familiar with Mr. Rudin's record. None of the players in this fable are people of integrity.

  • Susan Davidson | December 5, 2011 7:34 PMReply

    Anyone who has seen the three original movies will most likely not go to see this movie. Although I like Daniel Craig - having read the books and seen the sub-titled movies - I don't think they can be improved on. The books and the movie trilogy are so intense you are captivated. The actress who playe Lisbeth Salander in the original movie - Noomi Rapace - nailed the part. I don't see who can take the place of her performance. I also think Daniel Craig is too good looking to play the role of Mikael Blomkvist. It doesn't matter who or when the new movie is reviewed it won't be the same as the original.

  • George Krompacky | December 6, 2011 7:35 PM

    I too have read the books and seen the original movies. Noomi Rapace did nail the part, but I don't think the other parts were nailed. And considering that in the books Blomkvist is almost laughably nailing every check he bumps into, I think he has to look like Daniel Craig to be believeable.

  • la bestia | December 5, 2011 4:46 PMReply

    LET's OCCUPY THE PRESS...... enough it's enough. I know he signed an embargo... but jezzz they should let us do out job

  • Captain Obvious | December 5, 2011 4:25 PMReply

    Denby is a smug ass as are the 1,000,000+ readers who read that elitist rag. I am so glad that you have so much more integrity than the aforementioned Denby. Movieline which used to be one of my favorite reads has become just another shill for the studios and producers like Rudin. Rudin is known for his bully tactics and is impossible to work for or with. Critics signed NDA's to be allowed to watch his film?! Really?! Isn't that the bigger issue here. This is the reason why reviewers have become irrelevant. I would be more impressed if you threw caution to the wind and published your review anyway. You wouldn't of course since you might lose favor with the people who allow you access to these advance screenings and then you wouldn't have a job either. The movie going public barely reads film reviews and the ones that do certainly aren't influenced by that review if it is something they truly want to see. It is for reference only. Did you just happen to stumble upon that private email conversation between Rudin and Denby? Maybe you hacked one of their computers. More likely you were given that by one of your minions inside either organization. Please don't insult your readers thinking you are any better than any of the parties involved. Have you read Denby's review? I will be very interested to read his review on Rudin's upcoming opus and if it truly is a rave. I'm sure it isn't. The emperor has no clothes and you are part of the problem not part of the solution.

  • MDL | December 6, 2011 7:11 PM

    Easy there with your labeling of New Yorker readers. It's a terrific magazine and is only 'elitest' if you consider a New York based magazine with literature, history, social views, critiques and long written articles - as opposed to fluff - to be elitist.

  • Mr. Clumpy | December 6, 2011 1:23 AM

    Come on, Captain Obvious, if you knew anything about 'The New Yorker' or its readers, you would realize that it has one movie reviewer and one film reviewer. Denby is the former, not the latter. If anyone is should be considered smug, it's Anthony Lane, Denby's alter-weekly-ego. Personally, I think Lane's a terrific critic--erudite, funny, and often a snob (which makes him funny as well, albeit unintentionally) and Denby's just passable. But that's because I'm elitist. Anyway, when was the last time you read the magazine? You'll see that it isn't all you make it out to be any more. Now it's just strong writing and good reading. Nothing too fancy.

  • JL | December 5, 2011 4:42 PM

    Read his review here (it actually is positive)-

  • Thomasi | December 5, 2011 4:17 PMReply

    Seriously. All Rudin has is the fact that Denby broke the agreement. When it becomes a full-context conversation, Denby simply has more compelling reasons to do what he did, than Rudin has for being upset about it. Even the reasons the Rudin does offer sound like so much hysteria and hyperbole.

  • Pär Larsson | December 5, 2011 4:13 PMReply

    This is my first time coming to this website. Great article with interesting emails. This is also my last time visiting this website, due to the annoying as all hell thing that keeps sliding up and down on the side of the screen.

    Thank you. Have a nice day.

  • Roger Thornhill | December 5, 2011 4:22 PM

    I have to agree -- that damned scrolling banner is beyond annoying!!! And I'm pre-disposed to bookmark this page for future returns, but only after the banner is gone!!!

  • JL | December 5, 2011 3:53 PMReply

    But...seriously folks...Rudin's argument that Denby has "seriously damaged" the movie is just absurd. How can this possibly be anything but good for the movie? Yes, Denby should have honored his agreement, but that is the only argument that holds sway here, all the others in the mix are laughable.

  • TC | December 7, 2011 1:50 AM

    Yes, it's a sure bet that you know far more about the ins and outs of multimillion-dollar film marketing than the professionals who actually do it for a living. Christ, the Internet sucks.

  • HK | December 5, 2011 3:46 PMReply

    The New Yorker is under no obligation to actually run a review. It's free publicity for the film if they do. Denby is publishing a positive review, i.e., even better free publicity for the film. How does *that* effect the film's marketing strategy? Is the New Yorker on their payroll or in their marketing budget? And does one review (good or bad) really impact MILLIONS of dollars of marketing capital? Unlikely. Would early reviews spoil a film's chances at the box office? Why would they? More to the point, if the film's future is so tenuous that one positive review DESTROYS its marketing plan, then that speaks volumes for the fragility of the film industry rather than the press's ability to run a review when they have a slot in their publishing schedule. Yes, clearly Denby signed the embargo, but is the embargo really binding? No.
    Clearly Rudin is annoyed as well, but this much fuss over a positive review? Please. Positive word of mouth is something that has always helped films. Why would a positive review be any different?

  • Pauper | December 5, 2011 8:27 PM

    You've got the wrong man, Capt. Obvious. I'm not in a studio or marketing. I'm an editor for a small gaming site. One that reviews games and abides by agreements. One that is constantly passed over for reviews, because we're not in the top 10 gaming sites. Us running a review a week earlier than any other would probably get us many readers. We'd never do it, though. Integrity is far more important to me than pageviews and site scores.

  • Captain Obvious | December 5, 2011 5:27 PM

    Spoken like a true Studio Marketing Exec, Pauper. Here's an idea. Stop screening the shit out of these pictures. Let them see the pictures with the general public and see how quick they get in line. Do you really need their opinion to market your film? Let them run their review on Saturday where it will be lost with the rest of Saturday's news. They will run their usual "the studio didn't make the film available for review" on Friday. BLAH BLAH BLAH. Relationships between publicity departments and reviewers have been contentious for years. This is nothing new. Publicity departments kiss their asses hoping for a good review. I can tell you from experience that a certain publicity Departmentt would give Gene Shalit a personal screening at his local theatre in Great Barrington, VT to ensure a good review. Which they always got when they abided by his wishes. I'm fully aware of these very "strategic" marketing plans surrounding these films. The landscape is changing these media companies need to deal with it. It's like they are still using an abacus to do their math.

  • Pauper | December 5, 2011 4:32 PM

    Once an embargo is broken, it opens up the gates for other publications, reviewers, etc to release their own reviews. Doesn't sound too bad, right? It does when you've planned out marketing and promotions around a certain date. Your product is now 'out' a week early with hardly any marketing to support it. Publicity is nice, but targeted marketing is better. Go ahead and market something worth potential millions, and target your promotions around a certain date. If we're all honest with ourselves, I think we'd say we'd be a tiny bit angry right now if someone threw a pipe wrench into our scheduling, money and hard work. It's made worse if other publications run their reviews ahead of embargo, since one person already broke it.
    Both sides handled it poorly. I think we can all pretty much agree on that. But it all started with one person agreeing to an embargo and then breaking it. That's how these two entities operate with one another. That's the small promise they give to each other in order to have things run smoothly. No one wants stricter agreements/contracts to make sure publications adhere to timely reviews. That's why this is important, since this is exactly where we're headed. Not just in film, but in all forms of media.

  • FeloniousMax | December 5, 2011 4:27 PM

    Because the attention span of the masses has degenerated to that of a toddler after gorging on a handful of chocolate covered espresso beans, breaking the embargo could very easily be bad for the film, since this review will run early, all other reviewers will feel pressure to get theirs out now that the embargo has been broken, film does not release for several weeks amongst several other Christmas releases that will have their reviews prominently displayed in magazines and news papers around the time of release.

  • sidsbowl | December 5, 2011 3:27 PMReply

    Nice to know Denby is both deceitful and a snob. I'll take that under cosideration when I'm looking at his reviews.

  • scribe | December 5, 2011 3:25 PMReply

    Cannot believe he did this to Scott "I make some of the best films in H-wood" Rudin. Fucking idiot

  • Thomasi | December 5, 2011 3:15 PMReply

    "... you broke your word to us and that that is a deeply lousy and immoral thing to have done." - Scott Rudin.

    Oh, is that rich!

  • Finise Avery | December 5, 2011 3:00 PMReply

    Scott Rudin is very correct to place the embargo.............More Directors should follow his lead.

  • Honesty | December 5, 2011 2:46 PMReply

    No one complained this loudly when Ben Brantley reviewed the Spiderman Broadway musical ahead of its opening, trashing it and, basically, forcing the hand of the producers who had $70 million on the line. As for the so-called marketing plan that may have been thrown a curve, as someone who once worked in the film business with some of the major studios and now works in the advertising business with major corporations, marketing in the film industry is infantile, at best. Rubin's so-called "strategy" most likely has more to do with what he ate for breakfast the morning his office had to put it together than with any science. Hollywood is, as ever, all about ego, and Rubin is just throwing his weight around for all to see. Really, who cares?

  • Cantankerist | December 6, 2011 3:27 AM

    You're kidding, right? They complained loudly. The only reason they shut up is cos the review was so bad they didn't want to draw more attention to it.

  • phoneitin | December 5, 2011 9:27 PM

    You really underestimate Rudin. Just an example, he'll clock the typeface of every print ad running for a film that he has produced. And this time of year, the people whose jobs are arranging layouts are clocking overtime and working weekends, tweaking and kerning to his notes.

    Here's a question: Did both Rudin and Denby consent to their emails being published online?

  • bugaloo | December 5, 2011 3:40 PM

    Yes, but the Spiderman musical was really an exceptional case because it ran for months while constantly pushing its official opening date further into the future--making millions off audiences paying full price to see what was still called too much a "work in progress" for critics to see. So everybody in the world EXCEPT critics could see and discuss it if they wanted. Essentially the critics were being dicked around so the show could make as much money as possible before being subjected to the same public critical evaluation as any other show would have gotten months earlier.

  • Carey | December 5, 2011 2:38 PMReply

    This is a superb publicity stunt for the New Yorker, with nice benefits to David Denby, too. Bravo. Good one.

  • PK | December 5, 2011 2:37 PMReply

    Videogame websites and magazines face the same problems. The holiday season sees a huge tide of all the best games releasing near the same time. Why is this relevant? You need to actually play the videogame in order to review it. A process that takes slightly longer than watching a movie.

    Denby used a lame excuse and I hope he understands that now. If he doesn't, I urge him to try and review a small handful of videogames in November. Full reviews, with him completing every game.

  • Sonia Black | December 5, 2011 2:35 PMReply

    My girlfriend and I already made plans to go see this movie on the day it opened because we are big fans of the books. But now we feel Rudin is absolutely ludicrous with his panties in a bunch over an early review. It has taken the lustre off of the plan and neither one of us feel the same about going to see it because of Rudin. We are not sure if we will go anymore on the first day. Or even the first weekend because he makes us feel disgust toward him. The "embargo" is manipulation of the press. Screw him. All these arguments about what day to release the review is just plain stupid. You make the movie you stand by it. You don't want critics to review it, don't invite them early. It's not rocket science. The press's right to inform the public trumps the studio's right to wring as much money as possible out of the public.

  • dragon | December 5, 2011 2:08 PMReply

    Whatever reputation Rudin has, there is generally an unwritten and in this case signed agreement not to review the film until Dec. 13. The tone of the review is irrelevant. And, with a little more time Denby could have written a more thoughtful and longer review, the kind of fine writing we have come to expect from him.

  • Chris | December 5, 2011 2:00 PMReply

    Scott Rudin is notorious in the film biz for his temper flareups and his treatment of his assistants. His rather unreasonable response to Denby's email isn't a surprise (nor does it even come close to the nasty streak that Rudin has shown behind closed doors).

  • Robert S. | December 5, 2011 2:56 PM

    What part of Rudin's letter do you find unreasonable, Chris? His points all seems pretty reasonable, and even if you like Denby, as I do, you have to admit, it's pretty clear: He broke an agreement and then defended it with reasons that are solely to the advantage of the New Yorker. Rudin has a right to be angry, yet in his letter he seems to be trying to be as civil as possible, given the circumstances.

  • Chris | December 5, 2011 1:47 PMReply

    I can understand why this controversy would matter if you're David Denby, a Hollywood producer, or movie critic, but to the rest of us, it's probably a gift. The embargo system perpetuates Hollywood's ability to release one crappy movie after another, knowing that if it has a big star, a great trailer, or is a sequel of some kind, it will probably do very well on opening weekend. Then they capitalize on the opening weekend hype to sell even more tickets for their (mostly) lousy movies. If more movies were judged on merit rather than all of this hype, we'd all probably have a more enjoyable time at the movies more often...

  • add_bot | December 5, 2011 1:31 PMReply

    Sony obviously has been paying attention to Apple. Everyone knows that after Gizmodo leaked the original lost iPhone 4, they couldn't give the things away once released. I mean c'mon who even remembers what that thing is let alone having seen one. As a result, due to Gizmodo's immoral damaging actions those unleaked Windows Phone 7 handsets just destroyed Apple. Sad.

  • Laurie | December 5, 2011 3:16 PM

    Sarcasm. Ha.

  • phoneitin | December 5, 2011 11:26 AMReply


    What a fantasy. What was it?

    An unmarked envelope hand-delivered to The Playlist?

    A bcc? or forward from Scott?

  • Chadd | December 5, 2011 10:51 AMReply

    Just because YOU don't understand why an early review might damage the movie doesn't mean Rudin doesn't have his reasons. It's HIS movie. If he wants an embargo, he gets one. He doesn't need to explain to Denby the complicated marketing and information release schedule he and the studio have worked out. He is obviously and completely right in being pissed off.

  • Matt | December 6, 2011 7:18 PM

    In other words, this is Rudin's world and we just live in it? Yikes....

  • Joe Sena | December 5, 2011 10:40 AMReply

    This should have been a phone call, not a series of "leaked" emails. They're both grownups and apparently respect each other. One can only deduce that this was manufactured jut to get us to do what we're all doing this about it.

  • cory | December 5, 2011 9:58 AMReply

    The real loser in all this? Cameron Crowe. The funniest part is how Denby pretends not to know the name of "We Bought A Zoo" as if a 2 second google search wouldn't have confirmed his suspicions on that title.

  • chaz | December 5, 2011 9:29 AMReply

    The remarkable thing here is that a critic and a producer are corresponding at all - and on a first name basis. This is of course the norm for American journalism these days -- it's all one big cozy club, with lots of back scratching and mutual admiration -- which also accounts for all the lies and piffle one finds in the American media today.

  • RTD | December 6, 2011 1:49 AM

    "If Denby (or any other critic) had any integrity, he wouldn't agree to see movies with review embargoes and would uncouple himself from the studio publicity machine." You obviously have no clue how all critics, from the most obscure bloggers to Roger Ebert and A.O. Scott, are able to perform their professional duties. Uncoupling from the publicity machine, in this case, would be tantamount to quitting your job, in no uncertain terms. Could you pay to see all the new movies every Friday and submit reviews after every other critic in the country? Yes, if you were unconcerned with readership and had loads of disposable income, as most journalists do not. But you'd be a fool.

  • Jeff | December 5, 2011 1:24 PM

    That's what I was thinking. If Denby (or any other critic) had any integrity, he wouldn't agree to see movies with review embargoes and would uncouple himself from the studio publicity machine.

  • Zach | December 5, 2011 9:20 AMReply

    It's a little hard to take Rudin's fulminating seriously. He's a notorious schemer, and I wouldn't put past him the idea that he cooked this up himself, since as many have pointed out: this can do nothing but help the movie's box office haul, especially with all the hubbub now surrounding it.

  • Roger Ellman | December 5, 2011 5:30 AMReply

    Breaking ones word is dishonest. The world progreses based on trust not doubt as to whether to trust...
    So this agreement broken, was a breach of trust.

    If Scott Rudin has ever broken his word, that too would have been a breach of trust. But the two events if true cannot compensate, justify or amelirote each other.


    Best wishes and good business

  • Steven Strauss | December 5, 2011 10:50 AM

    What is….is, but what is amelirote?

  • Francola | December 5, 2011 12:47 AMReply

    Even though Denby broke his word (which was wrong), this is really quite rich coming from Rudin. If we only had a nickle for all the times that Rudin lied and broke his word to actors, writers, directors or assistants, we would all have bloated bank accounts stuffed with checks even bigger than the ones that Rudin is cashing for "The Book of Mormon." Let's not even mention Rudin's use of gamesmanship-like and dastardly producing tactics by leaving early morning 6:30AM messages in untended voicemail boxes on either coast... "I have Scott Rudin for..."

    But that's beside the point. For the unenlightened of us, can someone please explain how a positive early review hurts a movie like this? I realize that other reviewers will be compelled to release their reviews before 12/13 as a result of The New Yorker publishing the review early, but what are the specific consequences of this? But since the movie is released wide on 12/21, doesn't this positive review just build greater buzz for the movie? From a motion picture studio marketing and PR department point of view, what exactly does this early review do negatively for the film and how do they need to change their plans as a result? That's really what this is all about, isn't it? How this tempest in a teapot could negatively effect global box office or somehow cost the studio more money in marketing dollars?

    I'm not excusing Denby's behavior, he broke the embargo and that was wrong, but beyond that transgression, what's the actual impact that this has on the film or the role of embargoes in general. Any studio marketing people care to give a coherent answer to this one?

  • Bill Peschel | December 5, 2011 3:52 PM

    Understand where you're coming from, but don't you see the morality razor blade? If Rudin's a liar, does that justify lying to him? And if Denby lies, does that justify me not paying him back the hundred bucks he loaned me at Sago's last week?

  • tkotl | December 5, 2011 12:19 AMReply

    Once looking at Denby's review, I have a feeling the controversy will die down. It's like reading the trailer, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

  • MDL | December 5, 2011 12:07 AMReply

    Denby writes: "Grown-ups are ignored for much of the year" and then Rudin calls him "immoral" for writing a review. Unless this is some marketing trick this view is absurd and, yes, childish. Hey Rudin if you can't handle reviewers reviewing your film then why not just end critics' screenings all together and release your film to the public with no reviews? Is that what you want? Why Rudin thinks the movie will be "damaged" by an early positive is, in my opinion, also a joke. I predict when the movie hits the $200 million mark he'll forget what Denby did.

  • Joe | December 5, 2011 7:06 PM

    Travis, it's only a "bad precedent" if you're on the side of the one trying to exert control. If you're on the side of the reading public, anything that blows up an information embargo is a good precedent.

  • MDL | December 5, 2011 12:05 PM

    This review by Denby actually doesn't set a precedent. As noted in another article, last year both Inception and The Social Network had a one week early reviews that broke an embargo. It's not new. It's Rudin wanting control. And I think he wants control because one day he may produce a really bad movie that he will want to make sure doesn't get early press that sinks it financially.

  • Travis Hopson | December 5, 2011 12:31 AM

    If The New Yorker doesn't respect the embargo rules for a major film like 'Dragon Tattoo', what's to stop any other outlet from doing the same for the smaller films that might not get such high praise? It sets a bad precedent and opens the floodgates, so I see Rudin's position on this.

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