It’s being suggested by Sasha Stone and David Poland that Warner Bros. publicity pretty much engineered the Inception backlash by giving that early looksee to the online Cool Kidz (i.e., bloggers like Faraci, McWeeny, Pond, Tapley, Stone, Hammond, Gilchrist), which goaded the Second Wavers (straight-critic essayist types like Edelstein, McCarthy, Zacharek, White, Pinkerton, Reed) to slap down the Cool Kidz for being impetuous and overly fawning.
“The situation was set up improperly,” Stone writes. “Critics are the elders of the tribe. They see themselves as a cut above everyone else but more than that, they have to see themselves as above the bloggers because, goddam it, not just any old person can have the keen insight [that critics] have and not just any old person can write about film, define film, set a film’s place in history the way they can.”
“I think WB had good intentions on this one,” Poland comments, “but I’m not sure this approach worked either. I was not the only one who was a bit put off by the intensity of and the metaphors used by the positive wave from the first group of reviews.” He claims that “the first ‘backlash’ was not backlash at all, but opinions of the film that felt compelled to point out — as my review did — some of the silly overreaching in the first wave of post-Travers reviews.” Poland means Devin Faraci’s tab-of-ecstasy multiple-orgasm review, I suspect.
“WB tried their own hybrid process to the embargo situation,” Poland summarizes. “First, they junketed. And [then] Peter Travers, who was quoting for the studio, screwed the embargo all on his own. Still, the studio took the heat and set a screening when they were comfortable with reviews starting, which was still 10 days before opening.
“Then, confident with the film and still under fire, they moved the screening for an early review date up by 5 days. About a dozen outlets, including the trades and some non-critics, saw the film and agreed to wait 3 days, to a specific date and time of day, to review. Two days later, every other ‘major’ in NY and LA was able to see the film and the embargo was pretty much busted.”
In short, did the Cool Kidz (with WB publicity’s aid and encouragement) indirectly fuck things up for Inception? Did they inadvertently trigger a backlash mentality — a few drops in the well spreading out like blood in the Nile — that may or may not intensify once Average Joe ticket-buyers start seeing Inception tonight (i.e., at the midnight screenings)? I’m not saying this is true — I’m just asking.
My review was neither Faraci orgasmo nor White-Pinkerton-Zacharek negative. I just dove in and found the right balance, I think.
“Even if Inception is too complicated for you, it’s the right kind of complicated,” I said. “Sometimes a good grapple leaves you feeling stronger, more awake, more alive. This is one of those times. It’s a pain-in-the-ass landmark film — a cinematic stretching and weight-lifting exercise that makes you feel strong and brave at the end of the day. It made me feel as if my mind was being pulled like turkish taffy, but it’s a very good thing to live in a world in which highly intelligent $160 million mindfuck movies are still being made.”
The Wrap‘s Steve Pond has noticed how Inception is sitting on a very high fence right now, but teetering. “[Inception director] Christopher Nolan is on top of the world this week. In Hollywood, that’s not always the best place to be.”