At 55, the human need to create false dichotomies and false hierarchies has become an inescapable fact of existence. As a form of critical judgment, rank-and-file is as important to choosing one tomato over another in Safeway's produce department as it is—it seems—to ranking print press over online press. Some years back when I passed through the vaulted gates of publicity as one of the first online journalists granted festival accreditation, I joyously celebrated the democratization of the press. It was a short-lived ill-conceived celebration.
A few years later, I am reminded that every democracy is—indeed—more democratic for some than others; such is the nature of the unwieldy beast, bipartisan conventions notwithstanding. Recently, pitching to get an interview with a director coming to San Francisco with his new film, I was advised by the film's publicist (I name no names) that all she could do for me was to put me into a roundtable with other online journalists because—you know—she couldn't grant a one-on-one to a blog. She said it like she had regurgitated a rather slimey black frog onto the table between us. Nevermind that I've interviewed hundreds of people in recent years. I'm fully aware that blog rhymes with frog; but, it only took a few seconds for me to rally and admit a sudden disinterest in both the publicist, her film and—sadly and unfairly—the film's director. Because I might have actually asked some good questions and given the film some decent exposure. Ah well. Little cattle, little care as they say.
An online journalist—i.e., a blogger (shudder)—can't take these things personally. You have to develop a skin as thick as—well—an amphibian. The publicists are, after all, subject to rank and file themselves; they're gatekeepers for the studios. But it is interesting to consider what the studios are so frightened of that they enforce a divide-and-conquer policy among filmwriters. If you're not there to fill the auditorium for that first weekend rather than—let's say—writing as intuitively as you can about a film and appreciating it on its intricate merits, then to hell with you. That line through the S of the dollar sign is a telling if not perhaps a necessary skewer after all.
Truth is, I'm just as guilty as anyone of creating false dichotomies and hierarchies. I'm only human, albeit a blogger. There are some publicists I prefer working with over others because they grant me intelligence and trust my being of service to the film. Let's hear it for Karen Larsen of Larsen Associates for being a consummate professional and a stellar example to all those wanna-be publicists who call themselves publicists but are really studio lackeys driven insane by false power. Insane, I tell you! First and foremost, she's there for the film. Imagine.
Now, before I'm accused of ingraciously biting the hand that feeds me, I will get to the point. Which is to mention in passing a pleasingly acerbic piece written by Markus Keuschnigg for Senses of Cinema; his report from the 61st annual Cannes Film Festival, which he unabashedly describes as "an anachronistic bastard." I really like this piece, more for its unbridled editorial than the reviews themselves. Check it out. As incentive, though this is an online report, it is written by a journalist who writes for the daily newspaper Die Presse as well as film-editor-in-chief of the magazine thegap. How unfortunate that he's tainted his credentials by venturing online. Apparently even print journalists have some gripes. Irregardless, it's a fun read over black, black coffee. And let's count our blessings that—though a false hierarchy has been established by certain Bay Area publicists between print and online journalists—they haven't gone so far as to assign us colors. Yet. Be on the lookout.