Monday, March 15, 2010

Film Critic DisInvited from a Press Screening

Armond White doesn't like Noah Baumbach's films -really doesn't like them.

The current dispute began, White recalled, when he received a phone call last Thursday from RJ Millard, a publicist for Focus Features, informing him that Baumbach and producer Scott Rudin didn’t want White to attend this Friday’s press screening because of his previous reviews of Baumbach’s films, “The Squid and the Whale” and “Margot at the Wedding.”

White said Millard went on to say: “I see your name is on the RSVP list of names for the press screening, I’ve been instructed to tell you not to come to the screening by Noah Baumbach, Scott Rudin and Leslee Dart.”

6 comments:

Thomas Garvey said...

Don't think "this couldn't happen here." There have been concerted efforts afoot in recent months to silence or isolate at least two local critics. I can't say more about these campaigns - luckily both have failed. But don't think the battle is over; there will be renewed salvos from theatres (and other interested parties) who don't much like the smarter, ruder voices now operating on the web, and are happy to trample on first amendment rights in order to strong-arm an ad-worthy review.

Ian Thal said...

What's the point is of deliberately barring particular critics is beyond sheer pettiness? Don't producers selectively mine quotes from the more positive reviews anyway? Or not include negative reviews in press kits?

Or is petty ostracization the whole point?

Ian Thal said...

In the effort to rewrite the above comment before posting, I managed to create whole new errors.

Hypercorrection!

Thomas Garvey said...

I'm afraid the natural human instinct is to control all the discourse, all the time. Hence we see threats to free speech not only from our entrenched political, academic and financial entities here in Boston (who feel they have the expertise to decide what's good and what's not, and that we're all just here to clap along), but also from the blogosphere, which was once imagined to be a place of intellectual near-anarchy, but has recently developed a disturbing affection for Animal Farm-style groupthink. This, of course, is as it ever was. But it's always worth mentioning. And it's amusing to me to be under fire these days not only from the MSM, and certain local powers-that-be, but also from the very people who were supposed to oppose the MSM and those powers-that-be, but who are actually very much in cahoots with them.

Ian Thal said...

I certainly know of what and whom you speak, Thom.

My question though, was essentially: "what's the point of banning a particular critic?" It seems to me that there's really little to gain from such a petty act.

As Blogger E, who spends entirely too much time with Critic A, might hypothetically say:

If Critic A doesn't typically like plays by Playwright B as presented by Company C* there are two distinct possibilities Critic A might see no reason to change his or her opinion, where upon the local theatre scene can just say "Well Critic A is just being Critic A" and both B and C can instead use Critic D's raves in their press, or Critic A can decide that either Playwright B or Company C have made some great artistic growth that was thus far unanticipated.

*Blogger E is not trying to get on anyone's "enemies list" at the moment, so if there is a Company C out there, E is not actually talking about you, E is speaking generically.

Thomas Garvey said...

Hi Ian - the point of banning a critic is, I think, not merely to silence that particular voice, but also to send a warning shot over everyone else's bow, as it were. You might be surprised at how bare-knuckled the struggle over reviews can be - and then there are the award nominations to think of, and the general buzz. And of course there's a widespread perception that there's an established pecking order around here, and critics should respect it, whatever the weaknesses of the artistic product involved may be. The money and connections and power, it's assumed, should factor into things. And those who don't toe that line should expect reprisal. Even when I was at the Globe, demands were made by certain producers to keep me away from their productions - demands that, believe it or not, were often received sympathetically. Imagine how much more exposed a critic is without any large organization to back him or her up.