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Debate Continues Over Use of A.O. Scott's Modified 'Llewyn Davis' Tweet; He Said No to Publicity Team When Approached UPDATED

Awards
by Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna
January 7, 2014 12:08 PM
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A.O. Scott

UPDATE: It seems that when A.O. Scott was approached over email by "Inside Llewyn Davis" publicist Cynthia Swartz about using his tweet in a full-page NYT ad for the film, he gave her a pretty clear "No."

Per the Times, he responded to Swartz via email:

Well this is a new one. I’d prefer though that my tweets not be used in advertisements. That seems like a slippery slope and contrary to the ad hoc and informal nature of the medium.

And changing the tweet is basically manufacturing a quote, something I avoid.

So I’m afraid the answer is no.

This didn't stop the "Llewyn Davis" team from plowing ahead with the ad, without further discussion with the critic. When Margaret Sullivan of the Times reached out for comment, she eventually got a hold of producer Scott Rudin who said that "If a critic is going to use it, we're free to use it. We're free to edit any review. We pull out what we want."

He also went on to say that the Times had in fact approved the ad; its cost was about $70,000.

Rudin did cede however that the ad, as it was (see below), should have included some disclaimer that it was a modified tweet (MT), as the quote came from a longer tweet related to the critical debates surrounding "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "American Hustle."

EARLIER: The indefatigable "Inside Llewyn Davis" Oscar campaign team has gone an unusual route (though in this socially mediated age it may become more usual) by posting a full-page ad in Saturday's NY Times. That's normal. What nabbed attention is that the spare ad (below) features a tweet by chief film critic A.O. Scott, reading "I'm gonna listen to the Llewyn Davis album again. Fare thee well, my honeys." 

'Inside Llewyn Davis' Town Hall Concert

At the bottom of the ad, it simply reads "The best picture of the year," as the film was Scott's number one choice in his 2013 Top Ten.

Scott was surprised, if forewarned, that his tweet would be used so boldly in the paper he writes for, and sent out some amused follow-up tweets:

“We have reached a strange new place in marketing when tweets become full-page print ads. I think you’d like this movie’ –A.O. Scott, phone conversation with his mother.”

“Always thought of Twitter (perhaps naively) as something different.”

CBS Films may be upping their already music-slanted campaign (read Michael Cieply and Ben Ben Sisario's NYT piece on that here), from a Coens and T-Bone Burnett Tribute at Telluride to a New York Town Hall concert aired on Showtime--in light of recent snubs of the Cannes Grand Prix and AFI Ten Best winner by three often predictive Guilds: SAG, PGA and WGA. These omissions could reveal weakness for the film's Oscar chances. 

Or not. The Academy's ever-evolving voting rules favor both consensus and passion. In other words, if enough voters give the movie a number one or two ranking on their ballot, it will land a Best Picture nod. Assuming that "12 Years a Slave," "Gravity," "Captain Phillips," "Her," "Saving Mr. Banks," "American Hustle," and "The Wolf of Wall Street" are Best Picture locks, two other films are on the bubble: "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Blue Jasmine." 

Not landing a Best Picture nod is not the end of the world. "Inside Llewyn Davis" is holding steady in limited release in 156 theaters, with an impressive $7 million in box office so far. The critics' favorite (sweeping the National Society of Film Critics over the weekend) seems to play better for smart moviegoers and the Academy craft branches--its impeccable period detail and filmmaking could land art direction, cinematography and costume nods, for example-- than the mainstream Academy. 

Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis"

The foreign-weighted directors branch can be idiosyncratic (as we learned last year when Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin grabbed nominations over Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow), but the WGA omission was a surprise, especially in a field when so many competitors were ineligible. But these two groups don't always match up.

We'll see how it fares at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, and whether it gets a boost from this week's BAFTA nominations. 

Let's be honest: "Inside Llewyn Davis" does not adhere to conventional narrative structure. Nor does it boast an easily likable lead--he only wears his emotions when he sings. The film may prove too avant-garde, with its long hallucinogenic road detour featuring John Goodman. Or, it's possible that while many in the Academy understand and appreciate this portrait of a too-pure and unsuccessful artist, for others on the downslope of their careers it strikes a sour note. There's always the Independent Spirits. 

(For the record, the "Llewyn Davis" ad tweet is a modified version of Scott's original tweet. This of course happens often with quotes pulled from reviews, too. Scott's original tweet was in the context of the recent "Wolf of Wall Street" critical brewhaha: “You all keep fighting about Wolf of Wall Street and Am Hustle. I’m gonna listen to the Llewyn Davis album again. Fare thee well, my honeys.”)


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