Ten days ago a producer I’ve known for a quarter-century told me that David Poland and/or Movie City News is “leaving the internet.” That struck me as…I don’t know, a bit curious? Nobody just up and quits anything without something else to jump into as an alternative revenue stream. MCN might be less of an industry force than it was 10 or 15 years ago but it’s still there, still contributing to the conversation. And I love those Ray Pride-generated links.
“How do you know this?” I asked the producer. He didn’t reply and that was that. I figured “okay, leave it alone, hold your horses and wait for the other shoe to drop.”
Last night it dropped. Sort of. Mostly but not specifically.
“I don’t know what the immediate future will bring for Movie City News,” David Poland wrote last night. “Laura Rooney and I gave birth to this thing almost 16 years ago. Ray Pride has been my editorial partner for years. It is still a viable business and website, but the right circumstance to move it forward has not shown itself.”
I’ve read Poland’s somewhat vaguely worded post (“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do“) three times, and he doesn’t literally say he’s pulling the plug on MCN. Although he may. Obviously when you post about moving on and breaking up you’re saying the curtain is more or less coming down. Poland wanted to say it but he could’t quite bring himself to say it, so he half-declared and half-hedged. Although he’s more or less declared.
Friend: “It seems like he’s casting about for a way to basically keep something going so Ray isn’t put out on the street. That’s my sense of it.”
“I’m 53 years old,” Poland states, “and it’s time for the next act. I need to end my public-facing life and take it all private. I need to work for the other team, if they will have me. I want to keep loving movies. I want to support movies I love. I want to support great filmmakers. And I want to use the experience and knowledge and simple brain power every day that I can in my life.
“I want to work hand-in-fist with the executives whom I have known and respected for years and for those I do not yet know, finally free to help me get down to the absolute truths of situations glorious and grotesque in order to help them be even better at what they do. I need to start signing NDAs and doing the work I hope will take me to a very late retirement. I am raring to go.”
He also states very clearly that he’s going to keep going with DP30, which has 100,000 subscribers. But that he wants to start working for “the other side”, presumably in marketing.
In Poland’s view, MCN’s award-season, industry-sussing business, which was presumably hunky-dory for the first few years, began to change for the worse in 2006. When the soul of things started to leak out in dribs and drabs, when the term “execution dependent” (as in something that production executives were determined to avoid in terms of green-lighting films) began to take hold.
“That was the summer when box-office went from being a sleepy village of people with a real interest and the intent to be truthful to being a commodity, as commodified by Finke and Drudge,” Poland writes.
“But then…2009. Penske buys Finke. The mirror of this was Sheldon Adelson Gets Behind Trump.
“Like the last presidential election, the serious implications of this event were enhanced great by timing. Newspapers were shitting themselves. And they were right to do so. And online media wasn’t much more comfortable. Nikki Finke, whatever you thought of her work, was getting paid. And depending on who you asked, she was getting paid a lot or a small personal fortune. And, whatever her work, she was instantly iconic because of that money. Some of the best minds covering media got sucked into believing the lies she built around herself.
“When I started online, people were afraid of Ain’t It Cool News. For a moment, people were afraid of the madness of Jeffrey Wells. But Finke was different because everyone suddenly wanted to be like her. They wanted her profile. They wanted her money. They really didn’t pay attention to her abuses or her slowly selling out to every single studio in town. This is not even a judgement of Nikki. This is the nature of doing business the way she did business. And Penske supercharged it.”
The “madness,” eh? That’s Rabbi Dave talking. Always the judger, the scolder, the tut-tutter. Posted on 6.5.12: “When David Poland informs you of a profound failing in your character or professional conduct, there are only two things you can do in response: (a) submit to the ministrations of a 17th Century doctor and allow your veins to be opened and just let the evil pour out into apothecary jars, for your sins are so foul and pernicious that they have surely manifested in the blood, or (b) throw yourself onto the steps of a nearby temple and stab yourself to death. There’s no third way. Well, there is. Ignore Rabbi Dave’s tedious sermonizing and finger-wagging.”
Obviously I have my passions as well as occasional eccentricities and obsessions, but show me someone who’s completely “normal” and regulated without the slightest trace of lopsided or colorful. I’m a four-square believer in the church and temple of cinema, and I’m sober, married and a flawed father of two, and I work my tail off each and every day, honing my thoughts and sentences and paragraphs until I nod off. I’ve been a voice, dammit, and that has meant laying my cards flat down on the checkerboard table cloth, face up. That means exposing all the corners of my perceptions and psyche, save for the intimate stuff or 90% of that.
If you ask me I’ve been the sanest (as in the most open and unmitigated), most straight-talking, no-bullshit columnist out there, and I’m not going anywhere. I believe in keeping on, pushing on, working harder, filing every day, seeing everything, doing the right festivals, pushing the boulder along…push, persist, worship, caress, adore, celebrate. Hollywood Elsewhere and HE:plus forever…toujours l’audace.
“[Since ’09], Penske has spread his pixie cash over a big chunk of entertainment media,” Poland notes, “especially on the industry side. Variety, IndieWire, Wenner Media, Fairchild. Journalism was teetering on the edge of the cliff for a long time. I don’t think he meant to push it over the edge. But over the edge it went. And with it, trust between the two sides of the journalistic effort.
“I never wanted to compete with AICN. I never wanted to compete with Wells,” etc.
“The problem is not that studios can’t trust most outlets to do what they want. The problem is that studios can now happily live without anyone who does not do what they want. And they do. Moreover, the money in journalism isn’t in journalism. It is in proximity to talent (on both sides of the camera) and the ability to manage and exploit it.”
I’ve respected and admired Poland for 20-plus years. He’s a mixture of a brilliant guy, a very decent human being, a wonderful dad and, in the public arena, a hanging judge. I really liked him during our friendly days. He’s the only male I’ve known on the planet earth who’s dropped me. I wish we could be friends again as his perceptions and wit and laughter are wonderful. But I wish him well. I presume that whatever he winds up doing down the road will…well, I don’t presume anything but I hope it works out. In a fair and just world it should. At the end of the day Poland is a good man.