Reactions & Disputes

Boris Kachka‘s New York article about…well, a portion of the Los Angeles Oscar-blogging community (myself, Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg and Deadline‘s Pete Hammond) posted this morning. Like I said yesterday I have a beef or two but it’s mostly an honest, comprehensively reported, smoothly written thing. Boris could have been a little kinder, a little more complimentary…but I guess I can live with it. For the most part he played it straight and fair.

The first portion focuses mostly on Stone and O’Neil, the middle section touches on Hammond, Feinberg and the general lay of the land. (Those who didn’t say anything particularly quotable or those who said nothing get little or no attention.) The last 25% focuses largely on myself. I’m just going to fly through the piece and post reactions as they come to me.

(1) Kachka describes our gang as “a motley and contentious lot, comprising shameless advocates” — a reference to myself and Sasha — “stats-obsessed would-be Nate Silvers” — obviously alluding to Feinberg — “and seasoned journalists.” I chuckled at this passage: “When the aspen leaves start to turn in August on the eve of the Telluride Film Festival, the pack closes in” — an obvious allusion to rats or wolves — “on the big prize a mere six months away.”

(2) I posted this yesterday but here goes again: Kachka says that in early 2013 I “predicted glory for Saving Mr. Banks on the basis of a leaked script alone”; in fact the title of that piece was “If Saving Mr. Banks Is As Good As The Script” — the operative term was “if.”

(3) Kachka says that I’m “often derided in Hollywood.” I know exactly what that’s about, and it’s water off a duck’s ass. “But he’s also praised by auteurs like Alfonso Cuaron, J.J. Abrams and Guillermo del Toro for being genuinely, helplessly sui generis.” Thanks, guys.

(4) Boris mentions the James Mangold/Vanessa Shaw/Lionsgate incident of 2007, but he didn’t care to mention (as he should have) that the embarassing request in my letter to director James Mangold was contained in a single paragraph, and that the entire letter ran 15 paragraphs, and that it covered a lot of honest ground about 3:10 to Yuma — candidly, bluntly. Nor does he mention the Tim Palen-related motives behind the letter surfacing in the first place. (Here’s the whole rundown and the whole explanation, chapter and verse.) This town is full of genuinely vile serpents, and I don’t include myself among them. I told Kachka I regret writing that one paragraph, and that my light-to-moderate alcohol intake back then (wine and beer in the evenings) might have been a factor. I’ve been sober for nearly two years now. I’m a bit happier, clearer of mind and more productive as a result. I say and write fewer things that might conceivably get me into trouble.

(5) Sasha, whom I regard as a friend and vice versa, characterizes me as being “disrespectful to women.” That’s a sloppy and unsupportable thing to say. I challenge her to make that case in print. I asked Sasha to explain this yesterday and she said it’s not so much me as my allowing HE commenters (another wolf pack) to say shitty, sexist things about this or that actress. (Example: LexG referring to Amy Adams as “Grandma Adams.”) She also says I’m disrespectful to the disabled, and that is also bullshit despite what the p.c. brownshirts (two of the most prominent being Anthony Breznican and Guy Lodge) said at the time of the Manchester, Connecticut theatre-noise episode that I posted about last October. (I was told by the son of a person who was there that the person making noises sounded like a duck or a platypus, and I made the mistake of mentioning this in a comment thread, not in the article itself.)

(6) The most disparaging comments about the Oscar-blogging set come from (a) Nikki Finke (who claims that everyone except for Deadline‘s Pete Hammond are “non-entities, charging $20 for ads“) and (b) an Oscar consultant who says “if you thrown them some shekels, they’ll leave you alone.”

(7) The last 13 paragraphs about what Kachka observed during his visit to the Santa Barbara Film Festival earlier this month. The last seven graphs are entirely about what happened at the after-party for SBIFF honoree Cate Blanchett. I respect and appreciate Boris’s scrupulous recounting of the particulars.

  • MoreOscarDollars

    “if you thrown them some shekels, they’ll leave you alone.”

    This seems like an incredibly accurate assessment of the whole Oscar blogging lot.

    • That is what many people on this site, and probably in the industry believe. But it is a mistake to make that assumption overall. Publicists often learn that lesson the hard way (“Hey, you said if I gave them ad money they wouldn’t criticize my movie.”) Doesn’t turn out that way in the end.

      • EvenMoreOscarDollars

        Many people believe it because it tends to be true.

        • Until it isn’t.

          • Cinesnatch

            If they can’t get enough bang for their shekels from AD, then they go try HE (SLP)? Or vice-verse (Lincoln)? *shrug*

            But, the article was a good read. I enjoyed it. And I thought all of the principles came off looking rather human, which was nice. Because as much as people ride you (including myself), you are still human, and you’re passionate about what you do.

            • Sorry but that’s bullshit, Vince. It really doesn’t work that way – it would be easier for all concerned if it. If Wells is doing an active “take down” campaign on Lincoln then yeah. But you see Gravity ads on his site now. You see American Hustle ads on my site. I had Argo ads on my site for Phase One and Phase Two. I have no Wolf of Wall Street ads, neither does he.

              • GigglesForGigli

                Pretty sure he had Wolf ads on his site at one point and a Wolf “advertorial” which apparently went for $5k.

                Plus, you’ve got to love an article chastising academy members for not watching 12 Years a Slave surrounded by 12 Years a Slave ads.

              • Cinesnatch

                Fair enough. Wasn’t really sure. Thank you for clarification.

  • I think he captured the world beautifully. About Pete asking Blanchett that question about Woody, it wasn’t just Pete who wouldn’t go there – we were laughing because it isn’t done, not by Pete, not by John Horn, Anne Thompson, Dave Karger or any of the moderators. Celebrities would not do those q&as, tributes or VIP parties if those kinds of questions got asked.

    • That’s correct.

      • Chris Willman

        It’s one thing if it’s a gossip item. But on a day where it has turned into a major news story via the New York Times, there would be a way for a moderator to politely ask, “I know this is a touchy subject, but is there anything you’d want to say about this news today,” without coming off as a bottom-feeder. And she would say exactly what she said to Wells, and it would no big deal. One would think/hope. There is a tactful way to at least introduce almost any subject and allow the subject an easy out.

  • JR

    Jeff, as hard as you try to be fair and balanced in your assessment, you manage to come off pretty thin-skinned in your criticisms given some of the crap you shovel on film industry folks on a daily basis. I read the article and think that all of you got off pretty easy here, especially you. The article is very well written, way above average in that regard alone.

  • Pertwillaby

    Stone met Wells at a screening in 2006. “The first thing he did was stare at my chest and ask me out,” she says. “So we had a two-week affair, and that ended badly.”

    Whaat?!?!?!?!?! That explains everything!

    • Phat Abbot
    • JR

      The only shocking fact in that is they have only known each other for 7 or 8 years…i guess I imagined they had known each other for a longer time than that. The revelation of the affair is unsurprising to me – the sexual tension between them has at times been palpable, but not so much in the last year or so…

    • criterionstalker

      It certainly explains something…

  • Kano’s_Razor

    And just when you thought Sasha couldn’t get more bangable, she quotes…The Shining! Veddy nice.

    Pretty entertaining and informative read from my end — who knew that Hammond wrote for The Arsenio Hall Show (What?!), Stone used to do janitorial work (Huh?!), this silly-ass Oscar-blogging racket can net you “low six figures” (REALLY?!), and Wells had a fling with…well — okay, okay — we all pretty much suspected that.

  • Stoner makes LOW SIX FIGURES a year? A YEAR? A YEAR? If I was making that kind of bank talking about Labor Day’s awards prospects, I’d love the film even MORE. We all know Hollywood’s a cesspool of politics, sleaze, and avarice but if you can squeeze some major coin out of the dream factory, you’d think focusing on the valuable art itself would prove easy.

    • Well you COULD do that, Jesse. You could be an out and out whore but you wouldn’t have readers who cared what you thought about anything. I could give you a list of films I loved that I got ads for (Inside Llewyn, All is Lost) and films I didn’t that got ads for (American Hustle, The Croods) – I happened to love Labor Day – I don’t judge films by what the mass of critics (mostly male) think. To me it was one of Reitman’s — actually his best film. If ever care to know how it really works, rather than just take this approach there is a lot I could tell you.

      • You misunderstood me, Sasha.

        I’m not talking about ad whoring (which I’ve never suspected from you anyway). In fact, I still have an obnoxious, Bill Hicksian view in regard to selling out. I’m talking about making a very nice living writing about movies and having the opportunity to see an incredible number of films before they come out. Anyone who maintains even a basic understanding of the film industry knows about the sausage getting made but most of us aren’t pulling down 100+ a year.

        If you’re making that kind of money and NOT compromising your artistic values, how can you not love film? I love film and I live in a studio apartment while idiots I’ve worked with who couldn’t tell you the difference between Paul WS and Paul Thomas Anderson live on Mulholland. If the 100+ quote was bogus and you’re really scraping by, my sympathies but christ, if you can pull in that kind of money NOT to whore, I think you’ve tapped into one hell of an industry.

        (I liked LABOR DAY as well.)

        • TOM


          • What bubble? The world is filled with morons. If you write about film, politics, sports, cars…whatever, you’re dealing with complacency, stupidity, and the ever-present challenge of values vs. commerce. Oscar coverage isn’t unique.

            • TOM

              To Sasha, Jeffrey and Jesse: Please go on supporting what you really believe in! Because we, your followers and readers, will find out immediately when you start cheating…………

    • TOM

      Dear Jesse, being a subscribe like me on me now on twitter, please let me tell you: Yeah, RIGHT! Print is dead and everybody has to deal with “the hollywood bloggers” now

      • TOM

        Just read the article and am a little bit frustrated. Boris Kachka could
        at least have mentioned that you, the so-called “Oscar Bloggers” are
        replacing the so-called print trades in no time, since print is going
        down the drain everywhere. And that you are not posting about the Oscars
        only, but year-round. About arthouse films, foreign films, life in
        general, and that everybody can interact with you and you connect other
        readers around the globe by commenting. You guys are doing more to
        democracy than any state with their laws and restrictions will ever be
        able to accomplish. And of course Boris Kachka forgot to mention what it
        must be like, living this life. Having the freedom to work and travel
        and have a living from the ads, but the downside, too. Having to be
        accessible at all times, being responsible and having to juggle the ad
        income regarding your journalistic freedom. In a big publishing house,
        if you write a bad review for a film that puts down advertising, they
        might pull you into a meeting, asking if you can soften it down to be a
        film that is still recommended. But you guys have to sort this out all
        by yourselves. A tightrope, and I hope the companies won’t be able to
        make you their slaves ever… Big Hugs

      • What does any of this have to do with print (which, I agree, is dead)?

        • TOM

          PRINT IS ALMOST DEAD ALREADY EVERYWHERE; in every category and every topic.If you haven’t been fired by your newspaper already, just wait and it will happen in no time for sure

  • Jeff

    This article is just awesome. Really well written, felt like a less gossipy version of Biskind. I along agree with the folks below, had no idea the money was low six figures. Props to you all for basically creating a field that pays very well and affords you the opportunity to travel throughout the world to review and talk about movies.

  • I’m glad you guys feel like the scene was portrayed accurately, but this reads as awful by people who don’t run blogs for a living.

    • Fuck does that mean?

      • Take a look around sites that aren’t purely about Oscars and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

        By the way, for a guy who prides himself on not watching The Wire you steal a lot of their lines.

        • HE is far from being purely about Oscars. What’s your problem?

          • Just look, that’s all I’m saying.

            “One trait they share is an inability to recognize when they are coming across as awful people.”

    • It probably does. It is mostly meant to. And that’s what I mean about accurate. Oh but I know, I’m supposed to be too stupid to get that because all I do is think about the Oscars.

      • No one would ever accuse you of being stupid.

  • kwisatzhaderach

    J.J. Abrams is an auteur now? For what? Making mediocre sequels to other peoples good ideas from the 60s and 70s?

  • Correcting Jeff

    All that recap of the Shaw incident is missing is the punchline, “… but if you fuck one goat, that’s all they remember!”

  • GSmith

    “Sasha, whom I regard as a friend and vice versa, characterizes me as being ‘disrespectful to women.'”

    This is a shocking claim, coming from her.

    • Read what she really meant. Read what I wrote. It helps if you do that.

      • GSmith

        I did read it. I believe it adds nicely to the irony of my joke.