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David Fincher's 'Dragon Tattoo': Should it stay under wraps?

December 9, 2011 |  3:12 pm

David fincher

I went to see David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" last night at a screening packed with critics and media insiders. Of course, I can't really say what I thought of the movie, thanks to a strict embargo that restricts any reviews or opinionated tweets about the film until next week.

The embargo provoked a comical flap earlier this week between "Dragon Tattoo" producer Scott Rudin and New Yorker critic David Denby, who broke the embargo and ran a review of the film, claiming in an email exchange with Rudin that, well, there were just too many quality movies coming out at the end of the year and the New Yorker just didn't have enough space to wait until its year-end double issue to write about all of them.


If you, like me, were wondering what Fincher thought about the whole mess, he gave his own characteristically blunt, idiosyncratic take on the whole affair to the Miami Herald's Rene Rodriguez. Fincher didn't beat around the bush. "If it were up to me," he said, "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."

While he didn't exactly bash movie critics, he made it clear that the people who mean the most in terms of delivering a verdict on his work are the ones who see the movie on opening night. As he put it: "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?"

Fincher is right. It's the hoi polloi who really matter when it comes to spreading the gospel about a good film. Except at Oscar time. This is the one time of year when the critics have some clout. If you look at the historical record, you'll see that a movie with lousy reviews has never won an Oscar for best picture or animated feature.

Of course, if you don't let the media see your movie in a timely fashion, you risk becoming the focus of stories that wonder: So why can't we see the film? Is there something to hide? That's what has happened with Rudin's other award-season release, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," which Warner Bros. has kept away from critics and media types until this week.

The whole idea of media access, especially during Oscar season, has become so highly charged that the New York Times' Brooks Barnes weighed in today with a bizarre story claiming that Rudin was such a puppet master that he was manipulating the entire Oscar carnival by keeping the film away from prying eyes, or as Barnes breathlessly described it: "The Oscar race now comes down to one man's hand, and how he intends to play it."  

It's a pretty preposterous theory, especially considering the fact that Barnes bolsters his argument by saying that Rudin was burned last year when the late-arriving "The King's Speech" stole all the momentum from Rudin's own film, "The Social Network," which had been released in October. In fact, that's not what happened at all, as tons of media types saw "The King's Speech" early in the fall when it screened at both the Telluride and the Toronto film festivals. What won the Oscar for "The King's Speech" was how much it appealed to older academy voters, not its late entry in the race.

I'm with Fincher. It's probably unrealistic to expect that everyone could wait until opening weekend to see a film, but it would be great for all of us — from the experts to the rank 'n file — to see the movie at essentially the same time. It's what happens all the time when a studio has a stinker, which they keep away from critics until the last minute. It would be refreshing it they would try the same thing with a good movie too.


'Dragon Tattoo's' producer Scott Rudin in embargo battle with New Yorker critic David Denby

— Patrick Goldstein

Photo: David Fincher, left, with Rooney Mara at a press meeting for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" in Stockholm, Sweden.

Credit: Claudio Bresciani / European Pressphoto Agency


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