David Denby Does Something Relevant

Over the weekend, Sony freaked out when they heard David Denby’s review of “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was coming out in the New Yorker today, sending out a dramatic “please respect our embaaaaaargo” email to all and sundry. (The “embargo” date is December 13. Forced to define the rationale for embargoes, their reasoning is tepid, at best: “[E]mbargo dates level the playing field and enable reviews to run within the films’ primary release window, when audiences are most interested.” But, you know, trailers should come out four months before the film. Mmm hmm.) Then producer Scott Rudin wrote an email to Denby, which was so clearly for public consumption, as it was immediately “leaked,” because you have never, ever seen such a calm and polite communication from Rudin. What Scott Rudin is this and where is the real one? Denby’s points in debate with Rudin are decent, if not particularly relevant: he’s definitely right that critics (and even movie-goers) are pretty hosed that Oscar movie season is like a few weeks long and also over the holidays. (And then, the February – April movie season assaults our intelligence.) People break embargoes all the time; but because this is an Oscar movie, the studio is treating it like the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

In the end it’s not an issue for anyone else but the small number of people who actually both read magazines and go see movies, and Denby’s review (LOL, subscription-only) is boring, not revealing, hasty and just not very good. (He’s my least-favorite movie critic anyway, but c’mon.) It’s 50% plot explanation and 25% praise for its star; it’s without any kind of utility for movie-goers, and it actually seems weird and wrong—elaborating on how the titular full-time batteree Lisbeth Salander is a sex goddess, basically, which is like… gross? Makes you wish Andrea Dworkin was alive to handle that one! So it’s tough to be on Denby’s side. But mostly this whole episode reads like the studio and producers capitalizing on a moment for publicity.