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David Poland

By David Poland

When The Only Defense Is The Truth

How does one handle a name-calling, lying punk on a street corner who is trying to pick a fight?  This is a real problem and apparently one that I am going to be stuck with as long as I am in this game. 

Today’s gum on my heel is Tom O’Neil, whose response to what I thought was a pretty factual and not remotely personal take on his Sunday NYT article is to call names and to use lies to try to besmirch my name.

I am one of those people who tends to respond.  My most experienced colleagues would tell me to just shut the hell up and to let the peripheral players say whatever they want.  But I’m not quite that strong yet. 

Responding in kind to O’Neil would be stupid.  Suffice it to say that my alleged ignorance seems to lead to me taking positions and leading the way long before he ever puts his neck on the line.  I acknowledge my occasional failures and try not to gloat about my successes.  And I sure do not think that I or anyone else is “The Real Awards Expert.”  I’m a guy who listens to a lot of people with a lot of opinions and I study my history and make my calls.  I do not work for a major media outlet, so if anyone wants to disregard what I write, they are completely free to do so. 

It is sad that Tom is so obsessed with five hours we spent together almost four years ago. (At the Oscars, not the Globes.)  I don’t remember it that well.  What I do remember is that the dumbest – and maybe, funniest – thing I said that night was “With God as my witness, Gladiator will not win Best Picture.”  I was wrong.  But it was funny.  And that was the point.  (I do seem to remember picking Benecio del Toro when Tom said he was the only nominee who had no chance… or something like that.)

As far as the next year on E!, Tom O’Neil had nothing to do with my invitation to appear that came and got rescinded a week before the event.  E! Online did not want online competition.  I have no idea how much Andy Jones had to do with it.  He had bitched and moaned about me being on air the year before, but no one listened then, so I assume it was someone higher on the foot chain that made the call.  And frankly, it was a shitty gig.  No money and a ten hour day for 10 minutes of face time on E!.  But I was irritated that E! invited and then disinvited me to play.  The fact is, I have never pursued any media exposure outside of my work… not my appearances on Ebert or E! or anywhere else.  I was recruited to work for EW and later, to come be on the web, by of all people, Andy Jones.  It’s probably foolish, but I prefer to let my work – for better or for worse – do the talking. 

The idea that I promised revenge on Tom is an outright lie.  After I got the call from Patrick Goldstein, who told me that Tom had attacked me before he could even ask about me, I sent Tom a fairly courteous note asking whether it was true.  Tom didn’t answer the e-mail.  That was the only e-mail I sent.  There were no threats.  What could I do to Tom O’Neil?  What would I want to do to Tom O’Neil… except get him of my back.

Roger Friedman has received, over the years, a few profane notes.  When he attacks others with outright lies – even people I also dislike – it really pisses me off.  Roger, quite smartly, leaves me out of his column.  Tom, on the other hand, has not been a bad guy … except, apparently, when it comes to me.

My column about Searchlight making a mistake, in my opinion, by not sending out Garden State, I Heart Huckabees or Napoleon Dynamite, was about just that.  (I still feel that way, even though I have my copy of Napoleon Dynamite now.) If someone wants to read it some other way, so be it.  That is the price of being in print. You give up your right to determine context for others. 

Likewise, the obsession with a two-month old column about The Phantom that was a bit pig-headed on my part, given that I had no idea what the release pattern was or how relentless Tom and Anne Thompson and Dave Karger and others would be about trashing the movie before anyone else had seen it.  Such are the lows of writing weekly.  You won’t see him trashing my call on Million Dollar Baby or Sideways or other early reaches that are coming to fruition.  But again, I can’t control the way people want to assess me. 

I wish I knew what the “selfish” accusation is.  I can’t even conceive about what I am being selfish about.  Call me an egomaniac and I wouldn’t even flinch.  But selfish? 

Anyway, I guess my arrogant, faux macho position this is that I don’t like guys who creep around attacking people without having the courage to confront them directly.  Some people, I’m sure, agree with Tom.  Others, I’m sure, like to whisper these things as gossips do. But I believe in sunlight as the best disinfectant. 

Keep in mind, O’Neil’s rant below is a response to a piece I did that questioned Tom’s work.  Notice how he completely fails to address any of the issues in the piece.  When the truth is not with you, attack the man. 

Five years ago, Tom was “The Man” when it came to the Oscar thing.  No one else was even making an effort.  Things change.  People grow.  People learn.  And when a veteran loses some of his turf, he has a choice… keep growing and get better (like doing Q&A screenings for studios a couple months after MCN had great success in doing the same) or lash out at the new people and try to slow them by attacking them. 

I now leave it to you to determine the truth.  My side of it all is now on the record.


From posted January 03, 2005 04:07 PM by Tom O’Neil

David Poland knows NOTHING about awards and keeps proving it when he says such ridiculous things as Phantom is the only pic that can beat Aviator for Best Pic. Recently Patrick Goldstein of the L.A. Times asked me what I thought of David as an awards "expert" and I laughed and pointed out his many doozies. Like Phantom, but also his ALL-TIME CLASSIC. The only time he was ever on E!’s award shows, he was with me and Andy Jones from E! Online. Just hours before Soderbergh won best director for Traffic — as everyone on planet earth knew he would in the event Scott didn’t win for Gladiator — David actually said on TV: "If Soderbergh wins for either Traffic or Brockovich, it’ll definitely be for Brockovich. It’s impossible that he could win for Traffic." Andy and I were DUMBSTRUCK with horror over what he had just said. Shockingly stupid. Andy leaned over to me and said, "That’s the single dumbest thing I’ve ever heard uttered on TV in my life."

David is ONE MORE FILM CRITIC who thinks he’s an awards expert and that’s laughable. Awards are a separate science and these buffoons with their overblown egos just can’t accept that. David keeps on making a fool of himself in public and because I had the GALL to call him on that to the L.A. Times, I got THREATENING, NASTY EMAILS from David SWEARING REVENGE. Honest to god — that petty.

That’s what his column is — the promised revenge.


I have been told by people who know David well that he LOATHES me sooooo much because he was never used on E! again after his boneheaded appearance at that Globes. So he stalks me, determined to keep lashing out at the REAL awards expert acknowledged by all top media sources, including the New York Times. Just beware: This petty foot-stomping bully has a private, selfish agenda that has nothing to do with me, but with his own personal failure as a TV personality and showbiz authority. He will continue to stalk me in the future. I might consider his ferocious jealousy to be a compliment if David was anyone of substance.

Just two weeks ago gads of Hollywooders were howling with laughter over the tantrum in his column — bitching about how one studio had the NERVE not to give him a movie screener he wanted. HA! He whined and babbled like a pathetic spoiled child. One top studio exec said to me on the phone, "The only reason I sometimes even bother to read his column is to see what outrageously clueless, selfish thing he’s going to whine about again. Every time I do, I think to myself, ‘What is this joker doing in the business?’"

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20 Responses to “When The Only Defense Is The Truth”

  1. Neal says:

    Whatever the truth behind this matter is (usually it’s somewhere in the middle, but this time I’m not so sure), it’s clear to me that O’Neil is the one who is babbling like a “pathetic spoiled child”. Say what you want about David, but he never seems to lose control of his emotions in print, despite being obviously passionate about what he does. O’Neil is hamming for a camera that isn’t even there. His line about awards predix being a “seperate science” is a load of crap. Like there’s some people that have a damned Masters degree in prognostication. I don’t even think people that guess right often would claim to be experts.
    There’s so much taken out of context here, I fear that only regular Hot Button/Blog readers will recognize all the bullshit. Yeah, David was enthusiastic about Phantom’s chances–that was before MIllion Dollar Baby appeared, and was something gauged on audience reaction and a sense for the type of films that win awards. At no time did David even claim it was a masterpiece. At least he has the honesty to admit that he jumped the gun. His “crime” was speaking his mind at the time instead of feeling out the buzz to make a delayed, safer critique or prediction. Also, and this isn’t meant as a slight, but the idea of some “top studio exec” reading Dave’s column and then squawking about it to some two-bit hack is just laughable. I guess when you’re not a shill for this interest or that there’s just more people who want to take you down when you objectively cry foul.
    I can’t even get into more of what’s wrong with O’Neil’s piece because it pisses me off the more I read it. It’s sad when someone backs you into a corner, and even though you don’t want to respond, you just have to make a stab at clarifying things. Is O’Neil based in New York? Because it sounds just like something one of those bitter East Coast assholes would write.
    Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  2. Ray Pride says:

    It’s just like you, David, to take your private, selfish agenda to print each day.

  3. Kernan says:

    Mr. O’Neill’s piece is quite the insight on his psyche. Clearly he has security issues. Anyone who refers to himself as “THE REAL AWARDS EXPERT” clearly has a self esteem problem. Why not refute the argument that David made rather than blathering about behind the scenes gossip that readers have no knowlege of.

  4. Martin says:

    Haha, that’s some funny shit. Of course most of the readers here are fans of DP and will say shit about Tom O’Neil, but it has to be said that the guy is a funny cracker. I mean, that was one of the more insane pieces I’ve read from one entertainment journalist to another. These guys really get fuckin catty!

  5. GdB says:

    None of the Gen-X’ers or younger remotely give a shit about these awards anymore. It seems as if only critics really care about it. The awards are a dying era. Even the average joe in Nebraska knows it’s a marketing game now. There is no glory anymore in the oscars or any other awards show. So really Dave, who gives a fuck at who’s better at picking winners?

  6. Mark says:

    David, this guy really has it in for you. Too bad he can’t write that well and no one cares. I think if any critic or entertainment journalist knows anything about the award season, its you.

  7. Joe Leydon says:

    >>One top studio exec said to me on the phone, “The only reason I sometimes even bother to read his column is to see what outrageously clueless, selfish thing he’s going to whine about again. Every time I do, I think to myself, ‘What is this joker doing in the business?'”<< Hmmm. Let me see. Writer with personal agenda claims to have received comment from anonymous source that just happens to echo writer's own sentiments. And that comment just happens to be the gossip-monger's wetdream of a money quote. Gee, this sounds familiar. Where have I heard this before? Oh, wait, now I remember. Didn't Matt Drudge pull this crap a few years back when he "quoted" someone who saw a preview of the "Planet of the Apes" remake? Someone who "complained" that the final scene was an insult to memory of Abraham Lincoln? And, more recently, didn't Matt Drudge pull this again when he "quoted" an unnamed "Saturday Night Live" production assistant who was upset about the sketch that depicted Rush Limbaugh as a drug abuser? A production assistant who "complained" that no one at "SNL" would have dared make fun of John Belushi or any other drug-abusing "SNL" alumnus?

  8. L&DB says:

    Wow. Who would have thought that all of that venom
    could come from a guy who seems so serene just
    about everytime he shows up on E! or even the
    Today show. The best part about all of this;
    he sucks at VITRIOL! Great way to attack a guy
    then do it in a fashion that makes you look like
    an poor grammar having ass. Goodness. Why do
    people get so pissy?
    Then Ray Pride gives Poland a shot. Got to love
    honary employees! Excuse me for being a bit silly
    about this, but COME THE RUTT ON! It’s award
    season, but Poland has no right to state his
    opinions? O’Neil gets pissy for someone asking
    questions? All around silliness.
    And GdB, no one in any generation has given up
    on these awards. Saying they do not matter to
    certainly ignores data and box office receipts
    that prove they do. If you grew up watching them
    then it will probably carry on to the next gen.
    That’s how these things work. Plus if you give
    two craps about films, then they have some sort
    of meaning to you.
    And AGAIN; Ray Pride dropping the ATOMIC ELBOW
    on Poland a devasting maneuver.

  9. Joe S. says:

    Whew! Haven’t seen this much dirty laundry since my last year in college.

  10. Neal says:

    I suspected that Ray Pride’s comment was sarcastic and not meant as a dig, but who knows? If I was going to respond seriously to it, I’d say that David’s Blog is perhaps something where more personal musings are more appropriate, if not totally legitimate. It’s not like he put that stuff into the actual Hot Button column.
    There IS a difference, or he wouldn’t have two separate lines of communication.

  11. Ray Pride says:

    I was just teasin Poland’, y’know. Ironic with some extra nice-niacin.

  12. alkali says:

    I have to admit that it would be kind of cool if *I* had a job that required me to promise revenge on my enemies from time to time. Very Godfather and all that.

  13. bicycle bob says:

    who watches e anyway?

  14. teambanzai says:

    So how does one become the “real awards expert”? Did he pull a sword from a stone? Did the lady of the lake, her arm abrest in the finest shimmering… Oh who cares. Tom’s piece just comes across as childish and petty.

  15. L&DB says:

    Yeah I figured Pride’s response was sarcastic, but
    felt like making wrestling and or basketball
    comments about it. I should have typed; “Pride
    with a devastating move down low all over Poland,
    and the bucket!” Curse my lack of a proper allusion.
    And O’Neil really wrote that piece that slammed
    just about every movie critic as well as Poland?
    Someone needs to have shenanigans put upon him.

  16. Nick says:

    I hear there’s an Olympic comittee that votes on the title of “Real awards expert”.

  17. Breedlove says:

    i’ve seen this guy o’neal on E, and he’s a moron. i’ve been reading david daily for a cou two columns speak for themselves. thisple of years and i trust him. the

  18. Breedlove says:

    Sorry about that. And moron may be a bit strong. But I’ve seen this guy on tv and I guess the word “fluff” comes to mind. No, not like that…he’s just very E!. I pretty much agree with what’s been said here in David’s defense…when he made that bold call on ‘Phantom’ it was obviously pretty out there, a bold call, but doesn’t that make for a great read? That was a tantalizing, intriguing, column, which is all I care about. At the end of day, David has earned my trust with these daily columns for a few years, much more than Tom O’Neal’s crappy, scripted soundbites.

  19. bicycle bob says:

    i’ll cast my lot with dave. hes proven he knows what hes talking about even if he loved the rundown. the rundown… uggh

  20. Mark says:

    If we are here and posting, its pretty safe to say we like David’s writings and thoughts.

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