David Fincher weighs in on embargo-gate

Yesterday I told you about the email fight (sort of) between New Yorker critic/scarf enthusiast David Denby (left), and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo producer/chocolate enthusiast Scott Rudin (right), over Denby’s decision to run his Dragon Tattoo review a week ahead of the “embargo” date he’d agreed to. Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald asked David Fincher what he thought about it, and that seems important because Fincher directed the thing. As an aside, Rodriguez also points out that Denby once wrote a thoroughly scathing review of Fight Club, which is about what you’d expect from a dude in a fancy scarf who gets excited about Stephen Daldry movies.

Fincher didn’t remember Denby’s Fight Club review when I mentioned it to him (“Have you read Alexander Walker’s review?” he asked.) But he did have something to say about the [embargo kerfuffle].

Another aside here, you should totally check out that Alexander Walker review. It makes that Fox News segment about The Muppets being liberal brainwashing seem logical and carefully reasoned by comparison.

“I think Scott [Rudin]’s response was totally correct. It’s a hard thing for people outside our business to understand. It is a bit of a tempest in a teapot. But as silly as this may all look from the outside – privileged people bickering – I think it’s important. Film critics are part of the business of getting movies made. You swim in the same water we swim in. And there is a business to letting people know your movie is coming out. It is not a charity business. It is a business-business.

“This is not about controlling the media. If people realized how much thought goes into deciding at what point can we allow our movie to be seen, they would understand. There are so many other things constantly screaming for people’s attention. I started shooting this movie 25 days after I turned in The Social Network. We have been working really hard to make this release date. And when you’re trying to orchestrate a build-up of anticipation, it is extremely frustrating to have someone agree to something and then upturn the apple cart and change the rules – for everybody.

“Embargoes … look, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t show movies to anybody before they were released. I wouldn’t give clips to talk shows. I would do one trailer and three television spots and let the chips fall where they may. That’s how far in the other direction I am. If I had my way, the New York Film Critics Circle would not have seen this movie and then we would not be in this situation. I would be opening this movie on Wednesday Dec. 21 and I would have three screenings on Tuesday Dec. 20 and that would be it.

“That’s where [Rudin] and I get into some of our biggest fights. My whole thing is ‘If people want to come, they’ll come.’ But they should be completely virgin. I’m not of the mind to tell anybody anything about the movie they are going to see. And that kind of thought is ridiculous in this day and age. But by the same token, 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.

“Ultimately, movies live or die by word of mouth anyway. All that other stuff doesn’t matter.  Nothing against film criticism. I think film critics are really valuable. But the most valuable film critics are usually those people who come see a movie with their Blackberry and then text their friends ‘It sucked.’ or ‘It’s awesome. You should see it.’ You know what I mean?”

I can’t really argue against the principle of honoring the agreements you’ve made, but neither Fincher nor Rudin address the general shittiness of the studios’ release policies. When they save all the critic-y movies for the end of the year, publications aren’t going to have the space for all those reviews, which is fine if you’re The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but all the little movies that come out around the same time that really need the coverage are going to get screwed (as are the readers who won’t be able to hear about them). Running a review of a huge movie that people have already been hearing about for six months anyway a week early doesn’t seem like a horrible solution. That early review ain’t gonna hurt the movie, I guarantee it.

But as a wise song in a Pokémon movie once told me, at the end of the day, who really gives a shit.