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David Poland

By David Poland

McCarthy Gets A Blog… May The Ebert Be With Him

I suppose I am supposed to have an opinion about Todd McCarthy landing at indieWIRE. Well… uh…
I hope he’d getting paid well.
I am glad he’d got a place. I am glad they are so enthusiastic about celebrating his arrival.
And I think this fits into the ongoing problem of websites that are trying to expand their audiences but at the sane time, keep making their niches smaller.
It’s nothing against Todd or his work, anymore than it would be about other critics who have written for outlets that have strong positions as perceived influencers. Todd’s work and the power of Variety over the last decades are separate issues. And Todd does have influence. But he has influence over exactly the same niche that indieWIRE already services… actually, a part of that group.
What does the idea of building Eric Kohn into a major critic, using indieWIRE’s position, become now? Unless there is a plan to make it Kohn & McCarthy At The Indie Movies, McCarthy can’t help but to usurp Kohn’s budding authority. (Eric also has a range of authority… younger than Todd’s… but very much the same group of festival-focused writers.)
In short, Leonard Maltin expands the indieWIRE brand more than Todd, simply by the nature of who each one is. Leonard will have some over-50s, who wouldn’t normally click on indieWIRE, showing up for him and – I’m sure they hope – rolling over to other writers.
Of course, none of this has much to do with celebrating the work of each writer. But while I consider Todd a worthwhile read and think he may be much better while not under the yoke of Variety’s structure – meaning deeper pieces with less interest in commercial success – a critic with a history of lining up in recent years against some of the most challenging indies with an aggressive tone that bordered on Fox News at times… well… part of me remains comforted by the loss of power, while at the same time I am more interested in how he will now evolve as a critic.
So there you go.
May The Ebert Be With You… may you embrace your new freedom with the gusto and fresh eyes that Roger has brought to his most recent incarnation.

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3 Responses to “McCarthy Gets A Blog… May The Ebert Be With Him”

  1. Don Murphy says:

    This is like Poltergeist or something, moving the dead bodies to another grave. Children today already ask “Critics? What were they?” And the wind whispers “Eat your cereal child. They never mattered anyway.”

  2. SJRubinstein says:

    It’s kind of funny to think that, at one time, to be a major critic you had to be a poet – John Dryden, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, Baudelaire, John Crowe Ransom, Coleridge, Joseph Addison, Alexander Pope, T.S. Eliot, Norman Corwin, etc. It was pretty much a symbiotic pair of professions (I’ve probably met as many people who consider Ruskin and Arnold critics first as I’ve known who see them as poets first – I think it’s totally fucking obvious that Ruskin = critic first, Arnold = poet first, goddammit).
    Perhaps this new generation of critics should begin publishing poetry and whoever writes the best gets accorded the most fame.

  3. David Poland says:

    Part of me agrees with you, Don.
    But the truth is, people will always look for trusted authorities, even when they are counter-culture authorities. Kids deify figures and follow.
    So yes, the traditional critic of the 70s is not the future. But a guy like Todd will be able to make a difference in how a movie hoping to gross $10,000 a weekend per screen gets booked in NTC.
    And on big movies, I still feel that the system of distribution and marketing has been the primary reason why no conversation about all but a dozen movies a year, maybe, matters. And those that it does matter on are only those that will play strong past weekend four. When that happens, we now get crazy pronouncements, like Dragon = Big Fat Greek Wedding.
    All very Cole Porter.

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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?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
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“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon