Indiewire Trying to Bully Biutiful Fans?

I began feeling more and more angry yesterday afternoon and evening as it became increasingly evident that a significant percentage of effete critics (i.e., not necessarily a majority) had come down negatively upon Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Biutiful, an immensely sad and highly poetic little film that needs all the intelligent support it can get. And yet certain dweeb types have, it seems, gotten together and decided to diminish it.

Last night the Indiewire team sent out an e-mail stating that the two critical favorites so far are Mike Leigh‘s Another Year (which I’ve managed not to see — sorry) and Charles Ferguson‘s Inside Job (which I admire greatly), and in so doing obviously declared in blunt, Western Union-style fashion that Biutiful was not a favorite.

I interpreted this as an effort to intimidate the Cannes community into thinking that their hip film connoisseur status will be threatened if they put Biutiful at the top of their lists. The Indiewire guys e-polled a bunch of critics a few hours earlier, and had sized things up and concluded that relatively few critics had gotten behind Biutiful, or perhaps were on the fence about it or insufficiently ardent or whatever. However you want to slice it flatly declaring that a film as rich and strong as Biutiful is not critically favored on the very day that it has screened is basically an attempt by elite know-it-alls who live in a cloistered realm to prod or goad others into getting with the anti-Biutiful program.

I despise this kind of Stalinoid bullying. I despise it because I know that Biutiful is a landmark film, and that it’s easily one of the strongest I’ve seen in Cannes this year, and that people who go around tut-tutting and pooh-poohing it for the usual reasons that they flog Inarritu (i.e., his films are emotional wave experiences that are overly tricky, calculated or overly strategized, or are simply too much of a stacked deck and generally not believable) are, in my mind, coming from a kind of stifled and constipated place.

42 thoughts on “Indiewire Trying to Bully Biutiful Fans?

  1. Bob Violence on said:

    I interpreted this as an effort to intimidate the Cannes community into thinking that their hip film connoisseur status will be threatened if they put Biutiful at the top of their lists.

    well that’s just dumb.

    Wells response: A major movie from a major filmmaker (Inarritu) is screened to acclaim in at least some quarters, and that very night — 8 or 10 hours after the initial screening — Indiewire publishes the results of a poll that say that the two films at the top as far as critics are concerned are Mike Leigh’s and Charles Ferguson’s film, and you’re saying that’s NOT putting out a message that Biutiful is not a favored title among the Cannes cognoscenti? How in the world is my coming to such a conclusion (or strong suspicion) “dumb”?

  2. Oh yeah, and this…

    I despise this kind of Stalinoid bullying. I despise it because I know that Biutiful is a landmark film

    This is seriously textbook cognitive dissonance. You couldn’t make up a better example if you tried.

    Wells response: Cognitive dissonance “is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously.” Except I said two things that do NOT conflict. One was that sending out a message by way of a news story that says those inclined to follow the herd mentality on “Biutiful” might want to think negatively about it is a form of bullying, which is why I chose the word “Stalinoid.” The other thing I said was that I know that “Biutiful” is a landmark film because it is good enough to be regarded in the same light or at least in the same distinguished tradition as “Open City” and especially “The Bicycle Thief” in that it’s about economic struggle at the bottom of the barrel within a very tough urban environment, and is also about fathering. How are those beliefs in opposition?

  3. Jeff, IndieWIRE has an ongoing list of critics here in Cannes who are asked to submit their grades every day on the films they have seen. (You are welcome to join them.) Those grades are then counted and the movie with the highest grade goes to the top of the list. Stalinoid bullying? It’s indieWIRE’s equivalent of the Screen critics poll. It supplies a sense of how a film is being received.

    indieWIRE critic Eric Kohn didn’t like Biutiful and I did. Both our grades are in there.

    Here’s my Biutiful piece:

    And indieWIRE’s the day-by-day Cannes Guide and grade averages.

  4. Oh no, the dweebs are in a conspiracy to mock Wells’ beloved subtitled male weepie! Damn them! Here, Wells comes off like the Vincent Spinetti character in “A Hard Day’s Night:” “It’s a plot…I know it…”

    And remember, sir, Stalin actually killed people, and so far I hear no reports of Eugene Hernandez conducting any actions of the sort. So quit your bellyaching.

  5. Oh come on. Every true film dweeb knows that Indiewire is bullshit, anyway. Give us monkish hipsters a little credit.

  6. Man, the film blogosphere is getting pretty overheated right about now. You know what might make everyone cool out and relax a little? A nice, long shower…oh wait a minute…doh!!

  7. At this point we’re all sort of waiting for the Jerry-Lewis-near-the-end-of-the-telethon-type meltdown. Actually, it seems to be well underway.

  8. I can’t speak to Biutiful, which could be as good as Jeff says for all I know, but “emotional wave experiences that are overly tricky, calculated or overly strategized, or are simply too much of a stacked deck and generally not believable” is just a SPOT-ON description of 21 Grams and Babel. The lost shot of Babel is hilarious…you have this beautiful, intimate moment between a father and daughter, then WHAM look at this amazing helicopter pan back over a cityscape! Total directorial ego! Sean Pean telling Naomi Watts he has Michael’s heart in 21 Grams is one of the silliest moments of overwrought melodrama in contemporary cinema.

  9. How are those beliefs in opposition?

    treating the quality of art as a matter of objective analysis (you “know” the naysayers are wrong) is a literally Stalinist approach

  10. Yeah, seriously. Were I at Cannes I would have avoided this movie specifically because it’s by Inarritu, a middlebrow Cannes-bait filmmaker whose past work has all rubbed me the wrong way. And this is his first film without Arriaga as a collaborator, right? Let me know when Cuaron comes off the bench. I think even Wells will concede he’s the real artist, and not one prone to mawkish manipulation or time-line gimmicks.

  11. Uh, exactly how is having a different opinion on a movie “Stalinist Bullying”? I’ve always had an inexplicable soft spot for Jaws 3, does that make me Pol Pot?

    Maybe its the illness, but Wells has gone off the deep end.

  12. God, is anyone else sick of hearing about this film already? Will it be this year’s cause ad nausea? Not even gonna get into how Wells assumes that all critics who didn’t flip over the flick are effete (come on, Jeff, at least don’t beat around the bush. Not your style).

    Me? I am just looking forward to tonight’s LOST. Man, I’m both excited and sad that one of the best shows on TV is ending.

  13. So: It’s cause for alarm when a website publishes an unfavorable critical roundup a few hours after a film has screened, but OK to declare that same film a landmark in that same short window of time? I think it took CITIZEN KANE at least a day, maybe two, to attain that status. :)

  14. Maybe Biutiful ISN’T a landmark and requires another re-evaluation? That seems like the more realistic solution. And that isn’t so bad. Why can’t some people be willing to admit “maybe this needs a re-evaluation, as per my peers’ recommendation/scorn”? Some people don’t care for this Biutiful thing. Oh no, end of the world.

    Besides, maybe it’s politics. Inarritu is an asshat, after all.

  15. Okay, I am not at Cannes so I haven’t seen the film. Sure, people can dislike a film but it is the way that they say it that is important. And there are a number of critics who loved this film. I will most liklely agree with them and love this film. And who cares about indiewire and bloggers. I can make up my own mind.

    On the positive side, Biutiful had a nine minute after last night’s gala screening. Also, I read a piece that said the both Biutiful and Anohter Year will possibly be making deals with US distributors. Another Year might go with Sony Classics (I’ve heard that before). And Biutiful might go with Harvey Weinstein and Co. (Anne Thompson said that the film would struggle to get a US distributor but it seems that is not the case). The article said that the films would have to be sold at a reasonable price because of today’s market and economy. And that is true even of the well liked Another Day. It may be a great film but it certainly won’t make tons of cash.

    I thought I would just add some positive words for the terrific sounding Biutiful.

  16. “effete critics”

    “dweeb types”

    “elite know-it-alls who live in a cloistered realm”

    Am I alone in finding it ironic that this post comes a mere 25 minutes after his “What is Allowed and Not Allowed” post, in which he goes on and on about calling him names?

  17. I think Indiewire put that out before they had a consensus on Biutiful reviews. Also, some people didn’t like the film.

  18. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. The dweebs definitely do get weirdly aggressive when one of their golden gods is criticized, but I don’t see any real evidence of Indiewire bullying here.

    The people with the most well-rounded taste in movies on this site are Actionman and LexG. Both well-versed in cinema, yet both still capable of seeing cinema as entertainment first and foremost and not some strictly intellectual exercise in holier-than-thou posturing.

  19. >The people with the most well-rounded taste in movies on this site are Actionman and LexG.

    ? Lex would rather gnaw his own arm off than watch an animated film, yet insists any movie with sufficient testosterone/guns/etc. or with K-Stew is a priori must-see viewing (and anyone who doesn’t tremble with anticipation of same isn’t a true filmlover). That’s well-rounded how?

    You’re taking your anti-snob position too far the other way.

  20. Man, this is why I come here, to hear this shite. Fabulous stuff. I know Biutiful will get it’s share of kudos from the usual suspects when it comes to the states. I’ll probably like it too, if only for Bardem. Then again I don’t think Innaritu has made a great film since Amores Peros, but I still have hopes for Biutiful. As for oscars, etc., Bardem is probably in like Flynn.

  21. The best thing about l’affaire Biutiful is that it’s quieted the T&A group for awhile. On Dave Kehr’s blog, a mention of John Ford, usually 10 posts in, is sufficient to hijack a thread from its original subject, sometimes interestingly; here, it’s boobs, typically after three, and almost always numbingly.

    The initial post gave no reason as to why the film is such an out-of-the-gate stunner, It’s Bardem, it’s migrant labor, it’s a string of majestic adjectives. No content, no context, making it easier to pull apart as more thorough reviews arrived.

  22. This movie might be good, maybe not. I don’t know. But to compare it to Bicycle Thief and Open City? You gotta be fucking kidding me. It might be overly film dweebish of me to say, but I’m willing to wager that it is NOT as good as those two movies.

    P.S. Sorry for the Stalinist bullying.

  23. I’m probably the target audience for this hard knock weepie, but it bears stating that based on Indiewire’s ‘criticWIRE’ average, the same they use for all the films they’ve compiled a score for, Biutiful is simply not a favorite. In fact, its C+ score is being inflated by Sasha Stone’s lone A+. Last time I checked, Sasha was an Oscar blogger, not a critic. (No offense, but she shouldn’t take any given her frequent rants against “the critics.”) Currently, Inside Job, Abel, and Another Year have the highest scores at B+ and B respectively. What you might target instead is the dubious selection of critics in the calculation of that average, but then you’d surely have to start by raising an eyebrow in Sasha’s direction.

    In any case, who cares? It’ll probably end up with a Metacritic score like that of Precious, ranging from Fs to high As. More to the point, this is exactly the kind of film that becomes a best picture contender after critical divisiveness. See also, Babel, which also rode a C+ average into the final 5.

  24. “treating the quality of art as a matter of objective analysis (you “know” the naysayers are wrong) is a literally Stalinist approach”

    Oh, I just figured it was the way that Jeff frequently describes his own actions as “Stalinist” and is now decrying Stalinism.

  25. “Sorry, who accused a Babel hater of being right-wing for no reason yesterday?”

    Tulse – being fair, the specific person he was responding to has been frequently taking up the right-wing side of political arguments ’round these parts since first showing up a few months back, so it was absolutely a fair cop (whether Jeff actually knew it or not).

  26. Inarritu’s new movie is a downer? Color me shocked. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a single frame of any of his movies, because they’re just sad for sad’s sake. Look, I know we are all connected and all, but down this whole “look how our tragedies impact each other so terribly that I’m going to make the same movie about it over and over again” road, CRASH lies. So I try not to go down that road.

    Inarritu could make me want to slit my goddamn wrists even if the movie he was making was an adaptation of Super Mario Kart.

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