At the after-party for last night’s Exploding Girl premiere screening at the Tribeca Grand Hotel — (l. to r.) director-writer Bradley Rust Gray, star Zoe Kazan (also on B’way in Behanding in Spokane), director So Yong Kim and There Will Be Blood/Little Miss Sunshine‘s Paul Dano (also Kazan’s b.f.), who’s recently wrapped Kim’s latest film, For Ellen.
Greene Street near Grand — Monday, 3.8, 11:05 pm.
“The only reason anyone pays much attention to Variety, critically, is not because Todd McCarthy is the greatest critic in the world, but because studios, steeped in The Past, have continued to allow Variety to act as though they have a unique position in the industry and to review first. That has drawn much of the traffic they have had.
“And Variety — and Todd McCarthy — have held onto that long antiquated idea of how to handle review embargoes closely to their hearts. It has been their lifeblood, however absurd on its face, as ‘the trades’ have been published on the newswires and as consumer content on the search engines for years.
“So how, having fired McCarthy, slashing the number of reviews in the paper and online, and going all-freelance with reviews, how could any studio continue to allow Variety to own a space that it does not earn and for which it now shows clear contempt?
“In other words…it’s over.
“Variety will not go out of business. But it will be a brand, eventually sold off, still trying to figure out how to balance print and online in a way that gives the title any distinction at all in the marketplace. Same with The Hollywood Reporter. As such, the title may someday disappear completely. We’ll see. The discussion and ambition will continue. But for now, long live Variety, Variety is dead.” — from David Poland‘s 3.8.10 Hot Blog column.
It seems fair to say that NY Press critic and NYFCC member Armond White is not only a harsh critic of Greenberg director Noah Baumbach, but that he harbors an intense dislike for the guy. White doesn’t claim to know Baumbach personally, but believes that his films speak volumes about his character and personality. Or so he said 27 months ago.
In a 12.18.07 interview with Big Media Vandalism’s Steve Boone, White called Baumbach an “asshole.” One of his quotes state that “you look at Noah Baumbach’s work, and you see he’s an asshole. I would say it to his face. And, of course, he gets praised by other assholes, because they agree with his selfish, privileged, stuck-up shenanigans. I don’t need to meet him to know that. Better than meeting him, I’ve seen his movies.”
Because of these sharp remarks, 42 West honcho Leslee Dart, who represents Baumbach and Greenberg producer Scott Rudin, decided last Friday to prevent White from seeing Greenberg, Baumbach’s upcoming film, at earlyish screenings.
And yet Dart told me early yesterday evening that White wouldn’t be prevented from seeing the film in time to meet his weekly review deadline (Greenberg opens on 3.26) — just that he wasn’t welcome to see it presently. I don’t know what this accomplishes exactly, but that’s her call. She made this decision on her own, Dart says, and not at the behest of Rudin or Baumbach.
I’ve been on shit lists myself from time to time so I know what this feels like from White’s end. I think it’s almost a badge of honor to be occasionally disciplined or threatened by movie publicists. Call it an oblique tribute to your tenacity or toughness of spirit or perceived influence…whatever. But where’s the beef in this White-vs.-Dart thing? How bad can things be for White if Dart is only delaying his invitation to a Greenberg screening?
It does seem as if White exaggerated when he complained yesterday in an e-mail to a colleague (a copy of which was sent to me yesterday afternoon) that he had been “blackballed.” I spoke to Dart after being sent White’s e-mail, and asked if what he’d written was true. And she spelled out the above. And sent me a link to White’s Big Media Vandal interview.
White told the colleague that a Focus Features rep had “called to disinvite me from [a] press screening of Greenberg. I objected that they were infringing upon my First Amendment rights as a journalist. In a second phone call, [the rep] apologized but informed me that I was still blackballed. Feel free to share [this] information with the NYFCO members.”
To go by two group-mailed messages sent my way last night, White’s e-mail has led to murmurings from some critics (including Eric Kohn) that they need to stand arm-in-arm with White and that a Greenberg review boycott may be in order.
In an e-mail sent to critics last night titled “Support Your Fellow Film Critics,” it is claimed that White “has been blackballed by Focus Features at the request of Noah Baumbach and his producer Scott Rudin.” Again, to my knowledge this is untrue as White’s Greenberg access is only on hold, and because Dart, according to what she told me, made this call on her own and not at the behest of her employers.
“Some of you may think that Armond is a pretentious pompous fool who has no idea what he’s talking about, but he is still a fellow film critic,” the letter states. “I suggest we all do three things: One, do not review Greenberg. Two, complain directly to the president of Focus Features, James Schamus, who prides himself on being a writer and supporter of the written word. And three, write directly to Scott Rudin and tell him you will not review any of his upcoming films.”
Jesus — this is like The Ox-Bow Incident! “C’mon, boys…let’s ride out and string up the killers of Larry Kincaid!” I’m making this analogy because, as noted, Larry Kincaid to my knowledge isn’t dead, and White will eventually be good to go with a Greenberg screening. I don’t know how these things get started but they obviously do from time to time. Tempest in a friggin’ teapot.
Directed and co-written by Baumbach, Greenberg is an amusingly bent and emotionally downbeat character study of a neurotic 41 year-old carpenter and ex-band member (Ben Stiller) as he takes care of his brother’s Los Angeles home during an extended vacation.
For what it’s worth I love Greenberg. I’ve seen it twice, in fact. It’s not a conventionally commercial film, but what Baumbach film is? In a 3.1 posting I called it “easily the most intriguing film of the new year…[it] doesn’t exactly ‘entertain’ and yet it does — it’s just operating in a low-key way that’s almost entirely about observation, and without a single false note.”
Update: Village Voice columnist/bloger Michael Musto, who’s also seen and enjoyed Greenberg, called Dart to clarify about the White matter, and she told him the same thing — i.e., that White hasn’t been banned, that he’ll see the film eventually, etc.
Further Update: White will reportedly see Greenberg on Friday.
Roger Ebert twittered a little while ago about Variety‘s decision to lay off its chief critic Todd McCarthy, to wit: “Variety fires McCarthy and I cancel my subscription. He was my reason to read the paper. RIP, schmucks.”
Update: Late Monday night Ebert filed a story about McCarthy’s dismissal. Here are the last few graphs:
“Todd always had reasons behind his reviews. They were clear and potentially helpful to filmmakers. His prose was considered. It began in the closing days of slangy Varietyese and evolved into a style fresh and witty. He didn’t miss a thing.
“What I’m saying is that Todd McCarthy is not a man Variety should have lightly dismissed. He is the longest-serving and best-known member of the paper’s staff, and if they made such a drastic decision, we are invited to wonder if Variety itself will long survive.
“Variety used to cover everything. I remember a magical night in Rome in 1967, when I sat late at night on the Via Veneto and gawked at the last remnants of la dole vita. I held a copy of Weekly Variety, all black and white on newsprint and easily more that 100 pages thick. I became fascinated by the back pages, the items two paragraphs long about cabaret performers in Boston, dancers in Miami, magicians in Philadelphia, lounge acts in Las Vegas, jazz clubs in London. Variety got its name from variety artists, and for decades they lived off a favorable notice in its pages. The paper then truly was ‘the showbiz Bible.’
“Well, those days over with. The glory days of the famous Variety critics are finished. I knew one of them, Gene Moskowitz, who signed his reviews Mosk., and was the Paris bureau chief who directed coverage at Cannes. In the 1970s, dying of cancer, he came to what he knew was his last Cannes, bringing along his wife and the young son he was so proud of. Under an umbrella on the beach, he looked toward the old Palais and said, ‘I saw a lot of good movies there.’
“About Todd McCarthy I am not very worried. He’s one of a kind. I can think of no better candidate as the director of a major film festival. Or as a professor, or of course as a film critic. What I lament is the carelessness with which his 31 years of dedication were discarded.
“Oh, the paper cites its reasons. ‘It’s economic reality,’ Variety President Neil Stiles said of the move. Some ‘downsizing’ is necessary cost-cutting. Some symbolizes the abandonment of a mission. If Variety no longer requires its chief film critic, it no longer requires me as a reader.”
Everyone presumably knows the Extra Virgin story by now…right? After meeting last November with Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow at this cozy West Village restaurant, I asked three female employees if they’d seen The Hurt Locker. None of them had even heard of it. One of them asked, “Is it a documentary?”
Two of three current Extra Virgin waitresses who haven’t seen The Hurt Locker.
EV hostess Nadia Owusu, an actress and SAG member who’s seen Kathryn Bigelow’s film on disc.
So I returned late this afternoon to see if the EV crew was still clueless in the wake of Bigelow’s Oscar triumph — i.e., winning last night for Best Picture and Best Director.
I spoke to five Extra Virgin staffers — a bartender, a hostess and three waitresses — and can report that Hurt Locker awareness levels have definitely surged since last November.
Hostess Nadia Owusu, an actresss and a SAG member, has seen a DVD screener of Bigelow’s film, and the bartender said he caught it at the Quad last summer. (They both liked it.) The three waitresses haven’t seen it — one said she didn’t know what it was about, and another said she’s only recently arrived to Manhattan and therefore wasn’t up to speed — but they do know the title and so on, having watched the Oscar telecast.
So that’s that. Knowledge evolves, life moves on, the universe expands, etc.
I don’t mean to sound facile about a grave occurence, but Variety‘s senior film critic Todd McCarthy has been whacked, Joe Pesci-style. The ailing trade paper’s president Neil Stiles has told N.Y. Times “Decoder” contributor Michael Cieply that McCarthy and theatre critic David Rooney have been let go as a cost-saving measure.
Ex-Variety staffer Todd McCarthy during the 2007 Cannes Film Festival
“It’s economic reality,” Stiles said. Variety will continue to carry the same number of reviews, he explained, but on a freelance basis. Here’s to one of the finest and most knowledgable film critics in the country bouncing back as soon as possible, and perhaps launching his own site.
Armed with inside knowledge and personal Variety experience, Indiewire‘s Anne Thomnpson has written a good commentary piece about McCarthy’s departure:
“Variety can’t afford McCarthy and Rooney, as they couldn’t afford me or editors Michael Speier and Kathy Lyford. But I was a relative newbie, a columnist/blogger. I was a luxury. Problem is, I was well-paid, as were McCarthy and Rooney. Nonetheless, they are necessities. Without them, Variety is doomed.
“Along with the badly handled recent fracas over Robert Koehler‘s review of Iron Cross (which was pulled off the site during a robust Oscar campaign, then later restored) this sends a dubious message to Hollywood: Variety is running out of cash. As one vet journalist tweeted me today: ‘This feels like end of the world as we know it. I can’t even comprehend.’
“I saw it coming. When I left The Hollywood Reporter, which gave me the opportunity to launch the Riskybiz blog, and had already been through several Draconian staff and expense trims, to move to number-one trade Variety, I saw a bigger, fatter, more spendthrift organization accustomed to riding high off the hog. And I saw a trade that was neither in tune with its customers, nor with changing times on the web. Layoffs eventually came. And kept coming.
“But former editor-in-chief Peter Bart had built a respected news organization with a strong staff — and he saw the wisdom of deploying top critics all over the world. That was the center of Variety‘s long-range success. It made the paper a global must-read.
“Erudite and learned about cinema, Todd McCarthy gets more hits for his reviews than anyone at the paper. Wait…Variety is behind a pay wall. They don’t care about hits anymore. Don’t they care about premium content? They also lost star news hound Michael Fleming to Deadline Hollywood, which is stealing more readers by the day. He probably saw that he too, was overpaid. And didn’t want to be rendered invisible.
“Too bad Variety couldn’t haver instituted across-the-board pay cuts for everyone — and saved some jobs and talent. Oh, wait — the people at the top would have to cut their salaries too. And what about that blinking red Variety logo on top of their Wilshire office tower? How many salaries would that cover a year?
“While this change brings opportunity for two talented, less expensive younger staff critics trained by McCarthy — Justin Chang and Peter Debruge — McCarthy and Rooney’s departure marks a sad, sad day.
“It is indeed the end of an era.”
All The Wonderful Things columnist AJ Schnack has posted the remarks that The Cove director Louie Psihoyos intended to deliver on the Oscar stage last night…but couldn’t because the orchestra cut him off.
“We made this film to give the oceans a voice,” Psihoyos would have said.
“We told the story of The Cove because we witnessed a crime. Not just a crime against nature, but a crime against humanity.
“We made this movie because through plundering, pollution and acidification from burning fossil fuels, all ocean life is in peril from the great whales to plankton — which incidentally is responsible for half the oxygen in this theater.
“Thank you, Black OPS Team for risking your lives in Japan, and thank you, Academy, for shining the brightest lights in the world on The Cove.
“Japan, please see this movie for yourselves! Domo Arigato!”
The Wrap‘s Joseph Adalian is reporting that last night’s Oscar telecast attracted 41.3 million viewers, the best since 2005 and an approximate 15 percent gain from 2009’s viewership, which averaged 36.3 million. But the show “skewed a bit older.” Much of the audience gains came in adults over 50, who upticked about 17 percent. In terms of 18-to-34 year-olds, the show “was actually down 3 percent.”
I think it was unfair and ungracious of Oscar producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman not to include Farrah Fawcett in last night’s death-tribute reel. Fawcett began on the tube, of course, but she was an industry-community person as much as anyone else, and she gave highly respected performances in at least two features — Extremities and Alan Pakula‘s See You In The Morning. And let’s not forget her fine work in The Burning Bed, a powerful made-for-TV flick.
I didn’t see Ron Silver in last night’s tribute either, although I may have missed him. Was Edward Woodward included? I know Bea Arthur wasn’t, and that they also blew off Marilyn Chambers, basically for blowing too many guys in too many porn films. Incuding her would have established an unwelcome precedent, I realize, but Chambers was as famous and influential a performer in the early 1970s as Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Cybil Shepard or Barbra Streisand were in their realms. She wasn’t a real “actress”, of course, but Average Joes and Janes knew her quite well. She was as iconic in her own way as Muhammud Ali.
Robert Downey, Jr. vs. Mickey Rourke as Mr. Gravelly-Voiced Bad-Ass Whomever…Ivan Vanko/Whiplash. The Superhero must face down a Formidable & Ruthless Opponent in the first franchise-sequel. I’ve now seen Iron Man 2 (Paramount, 5.7) in a compressed form — I know exactly what’s coming. All that’s left is to sit through the long version at an all-media screening, write “pretty good” and then stand back as the Eloi masses surge into the plexes.
“I’m afraid we can only do, absurdly, what has been given to us to do, right to the end.” — from Jean Anouilh‘s Becket.