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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Fincher on the Denby Debacle and the Trouble with Scoops

Indiewire has an interview up with David Fincher about his response to the New Yorker‘s David Denby casting aside embargoes to run his review early. For me, the most pertinent quote in the piece is at the end:

And at the end of the day, Fincher sees this whole issue as a sad reflection on the state of film criticism as whole these days. “…when you agree to go see something early and you give your word – as silly as that may sound in the information age and the movie business – there is a certain expectation. It’s unfortunate that the film critic business has become driven by scoops.”

Exactly. This whole thing, to begin with, came out of an misguided decision that neither Fincher nor the studio really wanted, to show The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo early to the NYFCC for awards consideration. A decision that was driven, in part, by the NYFCC’s foolhardy decision to rush their awards announcements to be FIRST! FIRST! FIRST! Fincher’s point is spot-on here, folks. Yes, if you are in the business of breaking news pertinent to the film industry, you want to be FIRST! to have TOLDJA! — although even the whole driving-traffic-via-scoops business I think is questionable at best, and leads to breaking stories that are factually incorrect or misguided at worst.

But critics should absolutely not be driven by any perceived need to be first to get a review out, ever. Yes, you need to be timely in writing and not post a review weeks after the film’s opened, but beyond that why does it matter if your review goes up 28 minutes after that person’s? This has become endemic at film festivals, particularly Toronto and Sundance, where you’ll see critics frantically banging out their thoughts on a film minutes after seeing it, or Tweeting 140 character reviews on Twitter as they’re walking out of the theater. It’s gotten to the point that it borders on the ridiculous. Yes, I write my ass off at festivals, but I also try to allow myself a little bit of time to process, too. I’m first! I’m first! I’m … goshalmighty, folks. Who really cares?

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One Response to “Fincher on the Denby Debacle and the Trouble with Scoops”

  1. Keil Shults says:

    I often think back to what Charlie Kaufman said in regards to critics at Cannes (I believe) instantly tweeting condemning soundbites of Synechdoche, his passion project. What took him years to create was essentially chewed up and spat out with no real time to digest the material. And while I realize that we all have gut reactions to films, very few of us can sincerely and precisely articulate our view of the film and its myriad elements in a matter of minutes.

Quote Unquotesee all »

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.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“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