The Playlist has posted an e-mail exchange between New Yorker critic David Denby and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo producer Scott Rudin about the ethics and motives behind Denby and his editors breaking the 12.13 Tattoo embargo by posting Denby’s review today.

Denby says he regrets breaking his word but he and his editors felt they had to review Tattoo now because almost all of the good films are jammed into December, and to cover them all would necessitate mini-reviews in the New Yorker‘s year-end double issue. But he felt more or less okay with running it, he adds, because the review is positive.

Rudin tells Denby that breaking his word isn’t cool or honorable regardless of his review being thumbs-up or the practical considerations behind publishing it. He says he “could not in good conscience invite you to see another movie of mine again, [Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close] or otherwise”, and that Denby’s action “will now cause ALL of the other reviews to run a month before the release of the movie.”

Ethical matters aside, the core problem is the New Yorker‘s cumbersome publishing policies, particularly regarding the holiday double-issue. Weekly and every-other-week print editions are obviously unable to respond to the changing day-to-day, hour-to-hour nature of everything these days. If you’re in the 2011-2012 digi-stream you’re looking for a constant outpouring of pops and re-bops and rimshots and counter-tweets, which print obviously can’t and doesn’t provide. Print is the old woman rummaging around for for her subway card at the subway turnstile and making everyone else wait.

The solution, to paraphrase Nikki Finke, is to say “fuck it” and post film reviews in the New Yorker‘s digital edition on a timely, as-they’re-seen-and-written basis. New Yorker iPad and laptop subscribers can thereby consider Denby-Lane reviews in a much more timely fashion, and for those doddering souls who only read the dead-tree version the New Yorker editors can make them available in the usual late-to-the-party fashion of 20th Century technology. Will these people care that Denby-Lane reviews in their holiday issue are appearing one or two weeks after the release date? Maybe to some degree, but if they really cared about timeliness they wouldn’t be print-only readers. Let them find their own way.

Here’s the Denby-Rudin back and forth:

“—–Original Message—–

From: Scott Rudin

Sent: Sat 12/3/2011 12:08 AM

To: Denby, David


You’re going to break the review embargo on Dragon Tattoo? I’m stunned that you of all people would even entertain doing this. It’s a very, very damaging move and a total contravention of what you agreed. You’re an honorable man.

From: Denby, David

Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2011 11:19 AM

To: Scott Rudin

Subject: RE:

Dear Scott:

Scott, I know Fincher was working on the picture up to the last minute, but the yearly schedule is gauged to have many big movies come out at the end of the year.

The system is destructive: Grown-ups are ignored for much of the year, cast out like downsized workers, and then given eight good movies all at once in the last five weeks of the year. A magazine like “The New Yorker” has to cope as best as it can with a nutty release schedule.

It was not my intention to break the embargo, and I never would have done it with a negative review. But since I liked the movie, we came reluctantly to the decision to go with early publication for the following reasons, which I have also sent to Seth Fradkoff:

1) The jam-up of important films makes it very hard on magazines. We don’t want to run a bunch of tiny reviews at Christmas. That’s not what “The New Yorker” is about. Anthony and I don’t want to write them that way, and our readers don’t want to read them that way.

2) Like many weeklies, we do a double issue at the end of the year, at this crucial time. This exacerbates the problem.

3) The New York Film Critics Circle, in its wisdom, decided to move up its voting meeting, as you well know, to November 29, something Owen Gleiberman and I furiously opposed, getting nowhere. We thought the early date was idiotic, and we’re in favor of returning it to something like December 8 next year. In any case, the early vote forced the early screening of “Dragon Tattoo.” So we had a dilemma: What to put in the magazine on December 5? Certainly not “We Bought the Zoo,” or whatever it’s called. If we held everything serious, we would be coming out on Christmas-season movies until mid-January. We had to get something serious in the magazine. So reluctantly, we went early with “Dragon,” which I called “mesmerizing.” I apologize for the breach of the embargo. It won’t happen again. But this was a special case brought on by year-end madness.

In any case, congratulations for producing another good movie. I look forward to the Daldry.

Best, David Denby

From: Scott Rudin

Date: Sat, 3 Dec 2011 13:04:32 -0500

To: David Denby

Subject: Re:

I appreciate all of this, David, but you simply have to be good for your word. Your seeing the movie was conditional on your honoring the embargo, which you agreed to do. The needs of the magazine cannot trump your word. The fact that the review is good is immaterial, as I suspect you know. You’ve very badly damaged the movie by doing this, and I could not in good conscience invite you to see another movie of mine again, Daldry or otherwise.

I can’t ignore this, and I expect that you wouldn’t either if the situation were reversed. I’m really not interested in why you did this except that you did — and you must at least own that, purely and simply, you broke your word to us and that that is a deeply lousy and immoral thing to have done. If you weren’t prepared to honor the embargo, you should have done the honorable thing and said so before you accepted the invitation. The glut of Christmas movies is not news to you, and to pretend otherwise is simply disingenuous.

You will now cause ALL of the other reviews to run a month before the release of the movie, and that is a deeply destructive thing to have done simply because you’re disdainful of We Bought a Zoo. Why am I meant to care about that??? Come on…that’s nonsense, and you know it.”