N.Y. Times film critic Manohla Dargis has informed me that MCN columnist Len Klady‘s reporting about why her paper has decided to change the way it covers the New York Film Festival — i.e., no more pro forma reviews of films on the day they “open” at the festival, and in their place running a kind of “Times portfolio” with little critical quips inserted — is “wrong” and that she’s asked him to run a correction .
Klady’s error, Dargis says, was in writing that “the exact reasons behind the decision are a bit sketchy, [but] it appears the Times was persuaded by a film industry emissary that a potential blot on a [NYFF entry] was neither good for it or them.” Dargis responded that “our decision to change how we cover the NYFF was not prompted by some unnamed ‘film industry emissary’ and I resent the implication that we would ever change our coverage based on outside pressure.”
So what did prompt the Times decision to forego regular NYFF reviews in favor of what’s being called “portfolio” coverage? Dargis just said the following: “We decided to change how we cover the festival; our new approach will serve our readers better and will allow us to cover the festival as a whole, rather than in piecemeal fashion.”
“We will no longer be writing individual reviews of each feature film in the festival, the exceptions being those films that are opening commercially soon after their festival screenings, including The Queen. In addition to a handful of reviews, we will be publishing other articles, including critic’s notebooks in which we cover
individual films of interest and the program as a whole, much as we do with Sundance and Cannes.”
I don’t know if an “emissary” had anything to do with the Times decision, but NYFF publicist Jeanne Berney did, I’m told, pass along an opinion on this matter. I gather it had something to do with a feeling among distributors that they would be able to better finagle or circumvent negative N.Y. Times reviews if they appeared on the day of a film’s commercial opening rather than the day they show at the NYFF.
“I kept running into people at Toronto who were telling me about this new Times policy,” Klady told me this morning, “and obviously right now there’s a lot of sensitivity about this. I ran into Manohla up there and asked her about [the portfolio approach] and she said, ‘Oh, we’ll be able to inject criticism into these things.'”
(These “things” aren’t technically being called portfolios, by the way. Apparently they don’t have a name. Not yet anyway.)
“The people who may miss out with this new policy,” Klady notes, “are the ones without distributors who are hoping for reviews from the Times to bolster their profile. Question is, are certain films going to avoid the NY Film Festival because of this decision?”