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Sony, Rudin Fight Back Against The New Yorker for Breaking The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Review Embargo

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by Anne Thompson
December 4, 2011 8:36 PM
11 Comments
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Scott Rudin
Scott Rudin

Scott Rudin is pissed. And so is Sony. They feel strongly that the New York Film Critics Circle made a deal with them to honor a worldwide December 13 review embargo on David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," which opens December 21. The studio and the filmmakers went out of their way to screen the movie for the NYFCC on November 28; the critics delayed their voting by one day in order to see the film. Every member agreed in writing to honor the embargo. During their vote, the critics did not give the film any awards. But critic David Denby (who fought against moving the voting earlier this year) went ahead and filed a review for The New Yorker for the issue that hits the stands on Monday, December 5, a week ahead of the embargo deadline.

The studio sent an email plea to media to stick to the embargo. Sony is concerned that reviews will now break too early, and won't post closer to the release date. Please. If they had put the film in a festival like London or AFI Fest, one tier of reviews would run followed by a mass of features and pieces close to opening, including all the TV critics and major dailies. This is really a control issue. Rudin feels royally screwed, and who can blame him?

In an email exchange with Rudin, Denby, the New Yorker critic--who shares film review chores with Anthony Lane--admitted that he was breaking the embargo, and simply wanted to file a major review of an important film this week, ahead of the holiday glut of adult films. The New Yorker did not choose, for example, to piss off Disney, DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg with an early "War Horse" review, even though it screened for the public via selected sneak previews, opting instead for Spielberg's other movie, the globally reviewed "The Adventures of Tintin."

Sometimes studios will make deals with a major newsweekly in hopes of a cover or positive treatment (see Time's series of "Star Wars" first looks, their "Titanic" cover story or Spielberg on "Munich"); if a real review is involved, then the trades and other embargoed outlets will run their reviews. DreamWorks was upset with Newsweek when it broke an embargo on another Spielberg movie with an early cover, "Saving Private Ryan," with a review/essay inside, illustrated with photos acquired from an outside source.

Embargos have been broken with hot ticket movies such as Chris Nolan's  "Inception," which was reviewed in late June ahead of an early July embargo by Rolling Stone's Peter Travers. Last fall New York Film festival selection committee member Scott Foundas ran a review of "The Social Network" ahead of other critics who had not yet screened the film, also produced by Rudin. But it was a rave and Rudin and Sony let it pass.

Rudin, who is trying to put the cap back on this review bottle, insists that all the critics who have seen "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" have agreed to continue to hold to the embargo. (I got a call; as always, I'll review when the trades do.)

In my informal polling, while I detect outrage that Denby broke his word and behaved self-servingly, "jumping ahead in line," as Sasha Stone puts it, folks are waiting to see what everyone else does. The New Yorker was on newstands at 9 AM Sunday morning, but so far no other reviews have run (it's online for subscribers only, but here's a link.)

As the NY Post's Lou Lumenick reported, it starts off, "You can't take your eyes off Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander," and ends up, "This is a bleak but mesmerizing piece of filmmaking; it offers a glancing, chilled view of a world in which brief moments of loyalty flicker between repeated acts of betrayal.''

Will everyone else play ball? And will Sony impose some kind of punishment on The New Yorker? A spokesman would not comment on their interactions with the magazine. Something with teeth? The Wrath of Rudin is certainly a real threat: he tells Denby that he won't screen his films for him anymore:"I could not in good conscience invite you to see another movie of mine again, Daldry or otherwise."

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11 Comments

  • DavidC | December 5, 2011 1:20 PMReply

    Peculiar review. Too short for such a rave, for starters, and lacking any background or context. No mention of either Steig Larsson or Noomi Rapace. Feels dashed of at the last minute.

  • Sketchbook | December 5, 2011 10:37 AMReply

    In politics when X is giving a speech, the press gets a copy with a release date.
    This is honored. The NYer likes to brag about ethics. OK, Denby has none.

  • ORGICO GYRAM | December 4, 2011 11:49 PMReply

    GUY HURE.
    Talk to the hand.

  • CATSAPP CATES | December 4, 2011 11:48 PMReply

    The whole WHAMBANGO is HEINTZ!
    And KERRY is turning on his wife like RICK!

  • SLYCA STALLONE | December 4, 2011 11:46 PMReply

    RYAN SEACREST is an ANIMEL with MARTINEZ!
    He's with DR. DRAGON BALL!
    RICK YOUNG 's a PED with KERR and RICE!
    And all of them with BALDWIN have " PITY LTD"!

  • OSIRIS- HYDRA- PETWOOD | December 4, 2011 11:42 PMReply

    DASSAULT is the bee for BERRIRO?
    Why would a billionaire need a gangster to market him?
    Unless , of course, he was a gangster, also....in all his " NEW VIOLENCE".

  • Joel | December 4, 2011 11:20 PMReply

    Unlike Ryan taking the worst of New York attitudes is not a good way to go. If you sign a paper saying you wont do something and you break your word, you should have consequences. Being from the New Yorker, does not automatically relieve you of having a moral compass. Being a huge fan of the reviewer allows you to have an opinion, but letting him off the hook saying he is taking a stand and should not tolerated. He can review the films any time he wants from now on when he pays for a ticket and goes to see it with everyone else. Then, when he no longer has perks, who will read his reviews a week after the opening? If you regard the New Yorker as the most consistently great magazine of our country, you are most likely still living in the 1960s or 70s.

  • Ryan Sartor | December 4, 2011 11:29 PM

    After reading the email exchange, it's clear Denby wasn't "taking a stand." I was wrong there. The New Yorker is a great magazine, though-- the best in my opinion. They had the best feature on Mark Zuckerberg last year, their piece this year on Anna Faris and women in movies was great. Their piece last week on Drake was fantastic. Granted, I lean heavily towards their arts stories but I think they're overall a great publication. Just look at the Best American Short Stories of 2011. About a third of them are from the New Yorker. Who is better than them?

  • Ryan Sartor | December 4, 2011 9:47 PMReply

    Personally, I’m a HUGE David Denby fan. “Snark” is one of my favorite recent books. I think the issue should not be his direct action, but the response to it by those who would call embargoes “stupid.” I certainly agree that they are dumb, but I also think that if you make an agreement with someone, and sign a document confirming your future actions—or lack thereof—it’s certainly understandable for Sony and Rudin to be like, “What the fuck?”

    That being said, if Denby is taking a stand and saying, “You can give me that document to sign every time and I’ll sign it and then review the film when I want to,” then I commend him for taking a stand and laying out a position for the future.

    I also think it will be foolish for Sony to treat (arguably) the most consistently great magazine our country’s ever known as though it were a petulant child.

    Http://ryansartor.tumblr.com

  • Cliff | December 4, 2011 9:09 PMReply

    Who the hell reads the New Yorker??

  • Mick | December 4, 2011 9:04 PMReply

    Go get em' Scott!!!!!!

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