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."