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David Poland

By David Poland

"I Disagree."

Why are these two words sooooo hard for people to conceptualize these days?

If someone doesn’t like Sideways as much as I do, why does it have to be a character flaw?

And what really scares me is that there are a lot of people out there who agree with the headline "The Most Overrated Film of the Year," but cannot see there is a difference between having a personal opinion and an attack headline in the New York Times.   

We are all right & wrong, brilliant & ignorant… the glorious thing about the web is that people can follow the flame they are attracted to, positive or negative.  But man, how brilliant I am (for some) when they agree with me and what a fool I am when they don’t.

The person whose taste I am most in line with will sometimes disagree.  Why is that such a problem for some people?

And why can’t I look at the New York Times and see an unhappy arc over this weekend’s movie coverage and not be accused of attacking Tony Scott?  Why can’t I believe he was asking a question that he really wonders about?  And why can’t I question whether his bosses, by running a series of pieces that go negative in odd ways, are baring their teeth in an inappropriate way?

And if you disagree, why can’t you just say, "I disagree," and explain why without making it personal?  Isn’t that what a discussion is?

Forgive me for going on, but it was striking that the few negative e-mails I got today all went somewhere other than, "We see it differently."

The real discussion in all of this is how we all see something being "rated."  Is it box office or critics or Oscars or zeitgeist or what?  It’s the same thing with the election… everyone wants to put it in a red state/blue state box as though the world is that simplistic and everyone who voted either Republican or Democrat thinks exactly the same way.

The key question in my piece was not whether the NYT is evil.  (It’s not… just deeply flawed and flailing right now… least of all in the critics’s slots.)  The key question was, should any voter in any group be looking at how any other group voted and wondering whether a movie is "overrated" or "underrated" or should they just vote their heart?  And if they like Sideways best and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind second best and Million Dollar Baby third best, and the margin – outside of who actually won awards – is pretty tight… is there really anything to fight over?

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23 Responses to “"I Disagree."”

  1. bicycle bob says:

    agree totally with u dave. still think the times was looking to cause a stir and that headline is just terrible writing. it is a flawed newspaper and losing credibility by the say

  2. Stella's Boy says:

    bob, you’re funny. You totally agree with Dave here (as do I), yet you have constantly labeled people who express even the slightest support of Moore, his movie or anything you perceive as liberal.

  3. teambanzai says:

    There has been plenty of that kind of stuff posted here. But you bring up a point that I have been thinking about. My personal taste in film has always been way off of the main stream so I have to accept that no matter how much I like a film there’s a good chance I’m really alone, so consequently the films that everyone else likes I don’t. So of course if I state my opinion there’s the good chance that somebody will say I’m nuts or a commie or something like that rather than accepting that our opinions differ. There seems to be this heard mentality that those that don’t agree with a majority must be converted or else shamed. But I think we all can admit that even those of us that understand different opinions exist our first thought when someone doesn’t like a film we enjoy our first knee jerk reaction is “what? are you nuts?”

  4. David Poland says:

    The big difference is that those knee jerk reactions used to be only for pals. Now they are a part of the public discourse… for better or worse.

  5. Joe Leydon says:

    >>And why can’t I look at the New York Times and see an unhappy arc over this weekend’s movie coverage and not be accused of attacking Tony Scott? Why can’t I believe he was asking a question that he really wonders about?<< Dave, there's a simple reason for your, ahem, lack of credibility in this area: Your long obsession with dissing the NYT in general, and A.O. Scott in particular. You may think you've been fair and balanced, but YOUR evaluation (be it accurate, defensive, self-felusional or whatever)is almost entirely beside the point. What's important is that you live in showbiz, an area (much like politics) where PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING. And, I'm sorry, I know you violently diagree with this take, but I think it's safe to say that any reasonable, objective person who has read you for the past year or two -- not just your column and your blog, but also your sarcastic comments on the links you post on Movie City News -- would perceive that you have some well-worn axe to grind. And that, as a result, any comment you make about the Times and Scott (and, for that mater, about Frank Rich) should be taken with several grains of salt.

  6. Joe Leydon says:

    And, of course, the above should read “self-delusional,” not “self-felusional.”

  7. viktor says:

    Aside from the global attitude of the Times, transparent in the exploitative title you pointed out, the point in the Scott piece was really about Sideways being more of a critics’ movie than a ‘general audience’ one. Or so it seemed to me.
    Anyway I think Scott is being too cerebral about his job and his place opposite Joe Moviegoer (a psychological hint of the pressure to go mainstream at the Times?). People who really love movies love to talk (and argue) about movies, not about critics.

  8. David Poland says:

    Exactly my point, Joe. You are reading my history, not my ideas. That’s not good.

  9. Joe Leydon says:

    Whether it is good is beside the point. It is. As Lenny Bruce once said, there is only what is. What could be or should be is a lie. You’re the one who asked why people (including the folks who recently e-mailed you) doubt your sincerity, or assume you have an ulterior motive. I offered an answer to your question. For many readers, everything you say about Scott and/or the Time will be, now and forever, suspect. That’s the burden under which you will have to labor.
    It’s sort of like my reaction to “Lost in Translation.” Much like more than a few other people I know, I found the film to be condescending in its caricatures of Asian people. And, while we’re on the subject, I thought the pigeon-English “joke” you used to link to an article on Japanese reaction to the film was offensive, if not borderline racist. But I decided not to write anything about it, or complain to you, because, I admit, I can be accused of being overly-sensitive because of my own history: I have a Korean son, so, OK, maybe that makes me HYPER-sensitive about such Asian-baiting “humor.” (Sort of like, after visiting Auschwitz nearly 15 years ago, I have an even shorter fuse when dealing with Holocaust deniers.)
    And by the way: Ideas are ALWAYS viewed in context of history, because they are inextricable. (Ever hear the expression: Consider the source?) Once again, this is neither good nor bad. It is. Pat Buchanan, of all people, has written some very astute criticism of President Bush’s Iraq policies. Indeed, he’s been far more corrosively critical than many so-called Lefties have been. (Hey, what can I say? A stopped clock can be right twice a day.) But his motives will forever be questioned because of his past history of animosity toward the Bush family. You might say that’s unfair, I might say that’s unfair, and I’m damn well sure Buchanan would say that’s unfair. And maybe so. But it doesn’t matter. It is.

  10. bicycle bob says:

    stella, how does my hate for moores politics and actions get involved in how the new york times is losing credibility? please tell me how that corresponds.
    but i am glad u agree with me since i am right

  11. PeppersDad says:

    Dave –
    Are you actually denying that your history is what actually forms your ideas?
    To the limited extent that Viktor, above, is right, I think the Times missed the boat only slightly due to the way it framed the article. The headline, “The Most Overrated Film of the Year,” is indeed pugilistic and arguably inappropriate for a newspaper of the Times’s pedigree. But, without changing much of the content of Scott’s piece, a headline something more along the lines of “Why the Most Highly Praised Film of the Year Isn’t Finding a Bigger Audience” could have been beyond such reproach.
    As a regular reader of the Times, I don’t see the out-of-control “flailing” you speak of in their entertainment coverage, and found nothing insupportable about Scott’s efforts to place the critical response to Sideways in the context he chose. When there appears to be such unanimity among critics but not among the target audience, there is nothing wrong with concluding, as Scott does, that something may be afoot.
    For what it’s worth, I know a lot of highly educated, adult moviegoers who, like me, enjoyed Sideways but still feel it was wildly overrated by critics. At least Scott had the guts to write a piece that intelligently examines that undammed rush of praise while giving voice to another legitimate perspective about the film.

  12. Mark says:

    It is much too obvious that it was an attack headline. Meant to derail a films steamroll to an Academy Award. The question is why? Since when did the NYT have an agenda when covering entertainment. Only more proof that the newspaper is a rag. From Jason Blair to their Bush coverage to blasting the US one day after their relief effort to this. They can’t win.

  13. Stella's Boy says:

    The NYT may not be perfect, but it’s not exactly Fox News either. It’s still worth a read on a daily basis.

  14. PeppersDad says:

    I agree with you, Stella’s Boy. The Times is far from infallible, and I think their premature attack last week on the Bush administration’s response to the tsunami disaster was probably a doozy of a misstep. But as far as being the most trustworthy “must-read” newspaper of record, overall it’s pretty clear that no other publication comes close, even among conservatives.

  15. David Poland says:

    History does count. And Joe has the absolute right – perhaps duty – to look at me askew if he feels I come to the table with a bias. However, that alleged bias does not make anything I write on the subject false.
    If my ideas ring false, then look for a reason. But don’t assume the worst then force the idea to overcome your bias.
    And for the record, I do ask that of myself. There is an inherent skew in that if it is in the NYT, it is news and if it is in some mid-west paper, it can be overlooked utterly. But that is the burden of being the NYT… I think it is more than fair.

  16. Mark says:

    Stellas Lady, what do you have against Fox News? You bring them into every conversation. You have a grudge and O’Reilly? Did you win an Alan Colmes look alike contest?

  17. Geek, Esq. says:

    “And why can’t I look at the New York Times and see an unhappy arc over this weekend’s movie coverage and not be accused of attacking Tony Scott? Why can’t I believe he was asking a question that he really wonders about? ”
    Answer: Because you said:
    “In any case, the real battle for Best Picture seems to be shaping up to be Sideways vs. Million Dollar Baby, with The Aviator and whatever other two films are nominated as potential spoilers.
    Do I have to tell you which film Tony Scott had at the top of his Top Ten this year?”
    Aside from the inaccuracy of the first statement, you pretty much come out and say that you think Tony Scott:
    a) agrees that it’s M$B vs. Sideways for the Best Picture Oscar (highly, highly, highly unlikely); and that
    b) his column was borne of his conscious or unconscious desire to tilt the race to M$B at the expense of Sideways.
    The reason that you’re getting so much flack is that your major premise–that it’s a showdown between M$B and Sideways and that this is what is motivating folks at the Times, including Scott, is viewed as being patently absurd.

  18. David Poland says:

    I keep preaching context… you are taking the one paragraph so seriously as to skew the point. Yes, I think that Scott is baffled by the praise of Sideways and the limited critical love for M$B, which I also support. Yes, I think that it was a slap.
    I have written repeatedly that I think any of the five nominees can win. If you asked me today who the two most likely winners are, they would be M$B and Sideways, with Aviator as a possible to sneak in between. You want to believe that Aviator is a frontrunner? Your business. There is a long, long way to go before this race is won. And I am saying that more than anyone else I read. No one has a lock to win. Box office is not an issue yet. It will be. BFCA and Golden Globes haven’t spoken. They will. And there will be the most ferocious three week campaign we have ever seen, I suspect.
    And if you think editors are above sitting around whining about Sideways and then doing something, you haven’t spent much time with editors. Tony Scott is, as I wrote, the least to blame for this… starting with that headline.

  19. Geek, Esq. says:

    Fair enough.
    But calling the “real battle” and dubbing the others as “spoilers” doesn’t reflect your belief that any of the five nominees could win.
    In the era of Michael Moore, one has to be careful about juxtapositions such as the one I quoted.

  20. bicycle bob says:

    this guy scott has achieved exactly what he wanted here. he got people talking about how eastwoods flick is good and how sideways is overrated even if its not. hes trying to effect votes. good for him. but i don’t think voters or even readers are going to be swayed by his article. it wasn’t that good

  21. Geek, Esq. says:

    Where does Scott mention M$B in this article?

  22. bicycle bob says:

    hey geek boy, do ur research. whats scotts #1 film on his top ten list? million dollar baby. whats the article about? diminishing sideways momentum and giving his top choice a shot. come on fella

  23. Adam says:

    I didn’t think the article was about diminishing Sideways at all, I felt it was the most accurate piece of reporting about Sideways I’ve read all year, what people have almost seemed afraid to mention: that it’s practically designed to appeal to critics since it’s about how (wine) criticism is a metaphor for a life style affects your successes and failures in life. It’s definitely a critics darling, and hardly something that will appeal to general film audiences, possibly even more so than Lost in Translation. I didn’t think it was an attack, I thought that someone finally hit the nail on the head in regards to Sideways and actually wrote a piece of criticism discussing the film’s merits and appeals rather than just bland praise restating again that the film is great.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

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~ David Simon