If you read online film writing regularly, you've probably heard about (if not bookmarked) the sites of David Poland and Jeffrey Wells. Poland runs Movie City News, but shares his personal views on film-related happenings over at The Hot Blog. Wells's one-man site Hollywood Elsewhere includes a range of movie topics, from reviews to thoughts about Nikki Finke to discussions of studio politics.

The two writers are notorious for feuding with one another on anything and everything, which helps boost interest in their sites (and likewise, traffic). It's always a bit of a shock when they actually agree on something, and when one goes so far as to promote the other's writing, it certainly draws your attention to the issue under scrutiny.

The issue in question concerns press/preview screenings, embargoes on film reviews and, specifically, problems in these areas that Chicago critics encountered with Twentieth Century Fox movies. If you're not a film critic, you might wonder why this matters, but it does affect the timeliness of movie reviews. If I don't see a movie until the night before it is released, either my review will appear late or it will be hastily written, and that's not helpful if you like to read reviews before deciding whether you want to see a film. On the other hand, studios are worried that if I review the movie too early, any negativity could impact box-office, and it might spoil some of their marketing strategies.

Wells posted an entry to Hollywood Elsewhere earlier this week in reference to a Radar story on the Chicago Film Critics Association's (CFCA) negotiations with Fox about screening and review guidelines. He suggested that reviewers who follow the embargo guidelines be rewarded with earlier screenings. You might think this was a fairly innocuous suggestion; a day later, however, Wells reported that Fox publicity reps were displeased with his entry and told him they were "out of business with Hollywood Elsewhere," which probably means he won't be invited to any early screenings at all. Wells then decided to "take a couple of steps back and chill down," and must have been feeling pretty mellow, because next thing you know, he's pointing us all to a column on the issue from his nemesis Poland.

As Poland points out, the real difficulty is that there are no rules set in stone about embargoes, and sometimes fluffy feature stories that are only supposed to "preview" a film might venture into criticism. He also notes that online outlets should not be considered the major culprits when movies are reviewed early or spoiled, pointing out several examples of print media gaffes. Clear-cut guidelines with specified penalties or rewards seem to be the answer, but of course exceptions will always be made for media outlets considered top-tier. Meanwhile, as various bloggers analyzed the CFCA/Fox situation, Wells posted an update: the Chicago critics association reached an amicable agreement with the studio, including more inclusive screenings and stricter adherence to embargoes. Here's hoping Wells reaches his own amicable agreement with Fox as well.
CATEGORIES Movies, Cinematical