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David Poland

By David Poland

Must Read: Dave Eggers on Criticism

I found this after digging enough layers deep into some link or tweet or something that I don’t quite recall where it started. Here is a link to the full interview, which is not available on the Harvard Advocate site for some reason.

Here are two pulls I thought were very interesting, though the whole exchange is worth reading through…

Eggers: To enjoy art one needs time, patience, and a generous heart, and criticism is done, by and large, by impatient people who have axes to grind. The worst sort of critics are (analogy coming) butterfly collectors – they chase something, ostensibly out of their search for beauty, then, once they get close, they catch that beautiful something, they kill it, they stick a pin through its abdomen, dissect it and label it. The whole process, I find, is not a happy or healthy one. Someone with his or her own shit figured out, without any emotional problems or bitterness or envy, instead of killing that which he loves, will simply let the goddamn butterfly fly, and instead of capturing and killing it and sticking it in a box, will simply point to it – “Hey everyone, look at that beautiful thing” – hoping everyone else will see the beautiful thing he has seen. Just as no one wants to grow up to be an IRS agent, no one should want to grow up to maliciously dissect books. Are there fair and helpful book critics? Yes, of course. But by and large, the only book reviews that should be trusted are by those who have themselves written books. And the more successful and honored the writer, the less likely that writer is to demolish another writer. Which is further proof that criticism comes from a dark and dank place. What kind of person seeks to bring down another? Doesn’t a normal person, with his own life and goals and work to do, simply let others live? Yes. We all know that to be true.


Eggers: I am also a sellout. Here are my sins, many of which you may know about already:

First, I was a sellout because Might magazine took ads.
Then I was a sellout because our pages were color, and not stapled together at the Kinko’s.
Then I was a sellout because I went to work for Esquire.
Now I’m a sellout because my book has sold many copies.
And because I have done many interviews.
And because I have let people take my picture.
And because my goddamn picture has been in just about every fucking magazine and newspaper printed in America.

109 Responses to “Must Read: Dave Eggers on Criticism”

  1. anghus says:

    obviously his work has eroded the magic of cinema

  2. matthew says:

    As a film critic who has not (I believe) ever been the driving force behind the creation of a film, what does that first quote mean to you, Dave?

  3. Thuan Dang says:

    Who the hell wants to be normal?

  4. David Poland says:

    I’ve produced theater and television, been the final screenwriter on two films, and even worked as an extra on an indie feature, Matthew.

    I never had any intention of becoming a journalist, much less a film critic. (Some would say that I have succeeded in that intention.) This is, in great part, because I feel the way Eggers does about a significant percentage of people who write about the arts and film, specifically. I do think that there are, indeed, serious people who are serious about film. I think there are many kinds of critics in the world today… and I am fine with all of them, so long as there is a sense of perspective on how they fit into the bigger picture.

    It gets very complicated. Because there a “wing pullers” at every level of the critical spectrum. And there are many critics who are not that at all most of the time… but then something rolls into their sweet spot and the aesthetic offense somehow becomes personal.

    The internet itself has, I feel, tended not to even the playing field, but to eliminate the time that may would take to simply think about a film before making a broad declaration. Everyone feels compelled to be in the conversation NOW. And as human nature works, serious reconsideration rarely takes place once someone is on the record.

    Good people – including myself, on occasion – fall into these traps.

    I have said forever that every paid critic should have to work, at the very least as a PA, on a film set. It’s not about softening the heart, but simply about creating a real understanding that the people making movies are working… even the crazy ones… and that having made a movie is not an intellectual abstraction. Love Siskel & Ebert, but I used to pull my hair out when they would start on their “if only someone cared enough to work on this screenplay” screed or some such nonsense. On 95% of everything that gets made and probably 100% of everything that ever reach the S&E show, many people were trying really, really hard to make something great. And as with most art, they were failing. There is a big difference between indifference and a failure effort.

    I think it is easy to extrapolate from what Eggers said and to turn it into an extremist, pro-artist, no-criticism-is-acceptable screed. I read it as a call for critics to understand that they are writing about someone’s good intentions, not an abstraction.

    And for me, it’s right there in the conversation about racism and sexism, etc. Now, of course, I will never be black or gay or female or mormon or whatever. So the “you should have some direct knowledge” argument doesn’t connect there. But we all understand The Golden Rule of “do until others.”

    I believe I can fairly sense, in most cases, a pile-on. I believe I can sense when a critic is getting off on smashing something. I believe I can sense when something goes from a professional perspective into a personal one. And these happen all the time. They also happen to the advantage of talent.

    There are other layers of complexity as well. Most Adam Sandler movies, for instance, simply should not be reviewed. They are not made for film critics. They fly in the face. in most cases, of the standards by which most critics analyze films. But the job is the job. For me, a good critic is one that lets the reader know that they went in expecting to hate the film, when that’s the case, and either had their expectations fulfilled or not. Likewise, when the announcement of a Clint Eastwood film causes ejaculation, I think it’s only fair to let the reader know about being predisposed.

    But this is the kind of thing that is pretty much impossible to regulate or, perhaps, agree on.

    I think we all can agree that film criticism – and other criticism – has taken a turn for the extreme, the harsh, and the personal in recent years. It is not the responsibility of a responsible film critic to force others to be fair or humanistic or thoughtful. But I do think that shit flows downhill. And every time a major outlet goes to a bad place, it is bad for all criticism. For instance, while I enjoy reading Anthony Lane, as he is a skilled writer, I don’t think he is a movie lover. I think he prefers hating movies… because he’s funnier and more popular when he does. And I think that had poisoned the well, no matter how well intended he really is. And that’s someone who has written books and been reviewed, etc.

    It’s a BIG conversation.

  5. anghus says:

    there are a lot of people who write about film who dont seem to enjoy it very much. And it’s really obvious to the reader, even if they dont pick up on it themselves.

  6. Jerryishere says:

    Mr. Poland,
    What films did you write?
    Would love to check them out.

  7. David Poland says:

    Oh, they’re both awful.

    One of them, I don’t think is available in the US. (I also quit the film about 3 weeks into production.)

    The other turns up on cable now and again. Oy.

  8. Foamy Squirrel says:

    David Poland – worst film writer or worstest film writer?

  9. David Poland says:

    Don’t get it, Foamy

  10. Hallick says:

    “What kind of person seeks to bring down another? Doesn’t a normal person, with his own life and goals and work to do, simply let others live? Yes. We all know that to be true.”

    If this were true, Eggers would’ve been concentrated on his own life and goals and work to do, and simply let those particular critics live, no? Of course not! People who can do that are simply not normal people. Normal people have issues and sweat-grimed axes to grind into humanity and sometimes they make books and sometimes they trash books. Normal is only human nature, not godly nature.

    If somebody just one time could rail against a shitty critic that LIKES their work, because they’re still a shit-writing critic nonetheless, I could process an excerpt like this as more than a well-articulated statement that Mr. Eggers’ skin has felt thin and people are hurting his butt.

    I don’t think he’s wrong for the most part, but dammit, you can’t get up on that particular soapbox without owning up to the fact that you might just be a tad self-serving in these wishes for a loving and tender critical atmosphere.

  11. anghus says:

    “Don’t get it, Foamy”

    It’s a Colbert reference. He used to ask every person he interviewed:

    ‘George W. Bush: Great President or GREATEST President’ which would often confound Democrats who didn’t care for either choice.

    I think he was attempting humor. And Dave, if you ever want to have an ‘awful movie written by’ challenge, i think i could give you a run for your money.

  12. Foamy Squirrel says:

    You see, it’s a play on the “choose between two options that are functionally the same” and the irony of “worstest writer” and…

    …you know, forget it.

  13. David Poland says:

    But as you note, Hallick, aren’t we all?

  14. berg says:

    i checked out the posting link and liked what he had to say, I liked what he had to say about the Flaming Lips too ….

  15. Drew McWeeny says:

    As I’ve said before, Dave, if you’re unwilling to state the name of what you’ve worked on, you shouldn’t claim it as a credit. You say you were the “final” writer, but what does that mean? Did you end up with the screen credit? Did it go to arbitration?

    You may think I’m picking at you, but I’d say this to anyone who has repeatedly claimed to have film credits but refuses to name them. Even the stuff I wish wouldn’t follow me around ends up on my IMDb page, and the films that I’ve written have my name on them so people can judge, for better or for worse, what they think of my work. They can carry that into the reading of my criticism if they want, or they can ignore it, but the point is that I don’t constantly bring up work I’ve done as if it gives me an authority or an understanding of the process without also backing that up by actually listing what that work is.

    You won’t change your mind, and you’ll continue to trot out exactly as much of your resume as you choose to, but I guarantee Eggers isn’t talking about people whose novels were published under someone else’s name or who would be embarrassed to actually claim their own work in that first paragraph, so I think there’s something completely false about you trying to connect yourself and your work history to what he staid.

  16. Bob Burns says:

    thanks for this. wider application than film, clearly.

    says a lot about the writing we see on the blogs, much of which is based on critical writing….. pinning butterflies.

  17. I’m finding it hard to reconcile this:

    On 95% of everything that gets made and probably 100% of everything that ever reach the S&E show, many people were trying really, really hard to make something great.

    with this:

    Most Adam Sandler movies, for instance, simply should not be reviewed. They are not made for film critics. They fly in the face. in most cases, of the standards by which most critics analyze films.

    Part of the problem with Hollywood, it seems to me, is that there isn’t someone who truly cares about making a good movie in any place of power or importance on many films. It’s really hard to look at a lot of what comes out of Hollywood and believe that most of the people in charge were trying to make something great.

    I think most of us, whether we’re critics or just regular ol’ movie lovers, can tell the difference between a movie made with love that fails, and a movie made with the crass intentions of fooling enough of the public into buying a ticket before they realize what a piece of crap it is.

  18. David Poland says:

    Drew… didn’t you investigate and expose one the titles in the past?

    And now YOU are deciding what Eggers meant?

    I worked for Chuck Fries for 2,5 years script doctoring and doing one project that never got made. I rewrote Reiss & Voris and Jerry Stahl, amongst others.

    I also did a failed mini-pilot for Spelling.

    So your insight here is that having an imdb listing for Fart, Inc makes you an authority and me not getting an arbitrated credit on a movie or choosing not to take responsibility for work that came out as a horrid bastardization if my work makes the work experience invalid?

    Fascinating and so remarkably full of shit. You, of course, know that most of the writing in this town goes uncredited. Does that make it non-existent?

    I don’t bring this up all the time or often or more than the once every couple of years that it’s relevant. And I don’t make any great claims about my skill as a screenwriter. I didn’t and haven’t claimed to have been Kurtzman & Orci in another life. I wrote and wrote on shitty movies for a couple of years then decided not to do that or any extension of it anymore. No scripts in the drawer that I am dying to sell. Not working on anything.

    So what argument are you still trying to win after 15 years, Drew? Because you just seem petty.

    And you are dead wrong, in my opinion, about Eggers. I saw nothing there about how you feel about the work you’ve done. I see a call for critics to understand the work that goes into the process.

    I’m 47. I haven’t touched a screenplay since I was 30. I haven’t worked at NBC since I was 22. I haven’t worked at Fox since I was 23. It’s old news. I don’t bring it up at dinners. I don’t trade on it. It was all so long ago that it feels like another life. But it happened and it informs my life still.

    Why does this so upset you?

    I’m not competing with you? You have had a better screenwriting career than I. Congrats.

    Now, move along, angry man.

  19. David Poland says:

    MaryAnn –

    I have to disagree strongly. Just because you or I might think of a Sandler movie as junk, it doesn’t mean that THEY don’t love it and are not passionate about it. Cynical? Surely not.

    Sandler’s deal at Sony allows him some freedom to make films that he doesn’t star in or that aren’t broad comedies. He looks for “great” to fill those slots and usually, it’s for films that would otherwise not be made.

    I’m sure there are movies made by cynics out there. And while, yes, there are film artists who seem to be more intensely passionate about their work, the assumption that what you or I might see as crass ideas does not translate clearly to less passion.

    Ironically, Drew’s smack down on me points this issue up. He writes genre screenplays. I highly doubt he is anything less than fully committed to the work, even if you’d never watch Masters of Hprror. And in my case, my seriousness about my work on what turned out to be some horrible films drove me away from the idea of being a screenwriter. From the bottom of the hill, I could look to the top and see that much the same thing often happened at the top, so fighting to achieve the goal of being in top – however unlikely – seemed insane.

    But the point is, fighting to keep a script together, opposed by Robert Davi and hairdresser, was still an act of youthful passion for me. And that shitty director was also really trying, even though every day he was destroying the film. And he’s made art house films that are actually quite good. He just sucked at what we were doing. He wasn’t cynical. And neither was Davi. Other cast became bitter and cynical as the script started getting new pages every 6 hours, authored by hairdressers and the like.

    Of course, I only bring this story up because Drew clawed at my history.

    My bigger point was, Sandler & Co take what they are doing seriously. Critics may hate it, but it’s not Sandler thumbing his nose at us. He has earned the right to do as he pleases. And the films he makes please him. Does he see them as “great?” You’d have to ask him, but I bet he’s aiming at great. And if we don’t like it, we shouldn’t review it as though we were expecting Tati.

  20. movieman says:

    Most Adam Sandler movies, for instance, simply should not be reviewed. They are not made for film critics.

    Don’t tell Armond White.
    I’m sure he’s already rehearsing his (critic’s) back flip for “That’s My Boy.”

  21. Yancy Skancy says:

    I thought Mary Ann was referring more to the execs than the people who actually make the movies. To the MBAs in charge, isn’t it all about “product” and “the bottom line”? They only care about quality if they think some Oscar nods will sell more tickets. I’m generalizing of course.

  22. Drew McWeeny says:

    I’m not angry, nor did I “claw” at anything, David.

    You brought it up. You have repeatedly asserted this over the years, and all I did was ask you again… what are these films? Since you do not apparently have screen credits, it’s very easy to claim work that no one can ever check. When you make those claims, it is more than fair for someone to question you about them.

    If you don’t want anyone to ask, don’t bring it up. And if you do, don’t be shocked when someone wants you to clarify.

    I’m not remotely bitter, David, and I never did an expose on anything about you. I’ve never written an article about you with any agenda at all. I’m not the one who positions myself as somehow above every other writer on film, nor do I position myself as ombudsman of the Internet, telling people what they can and can’t write about.

    You’re the one who has published pieces like “Drew McWeeny Should Not Write About Movies,” David. When you play moral authority, don’t act like the wounded party if someone asks you to clarify points about your own puffed-up work history that you make repeatedly while being vague.

    Remember, folks, when Dave writes something that attacks someone else’s right to work, “it’s not personal,” but if someone asks Dave some questions about something he said, it can only be because that person is “bitter” and “angry,” and not because I’m still curious a decade after you first made these claims in public. Evidently, it’s not fair to expect you to elaborate on something you’ve repeatedly stated to show how you have a special understanding of the filmmaking process.

    I will not ask about it again, David. At this point, it’s quite clear that you are unwilling to put your name to whatever it is you did, but you’re absolutely willing to use it to position yourself as an authority.

  23. Drew McWeeny says:

    Regarding Sandler…

    “Most Adam Sandler movies, for instance, simply should not be reviewed. They are not made for film critics. They fly in the face. in most cases, of the standards by which most critics analyze films. But the job is the job. For me, a good critic is one that lets the reader know that they went in expecting to hate the film, when that’s the case, and either had their expectations fulfilled or not.”

    Nonsense. Like any film, there is a goal, there is craft, and there are examples where Sandler has done it better and worse. I’d argue that real criticism is about context, and in the case of his new film, for example, there’s plenty for a critic to write about. It’s Sandler’s first Happy Madison R, for example, and it’s directed by someone who is not one of Sandler’s go-to filmmakers for the last decade, someone with a stronger personal sense of style. You could discuss the way the new film calls back to the first few starring roles for Sandler or his comedy albums, and you could talk about his ensemble of supporting players he always uses and how they are utilized. Real criticism has nothing to do with “I expected to hate it, and I was right!” I can’t imagine what value there would be in a statement like that.

    Nothing is beyond criticism. However, for someone to be able to speak to a wide range of genres and styles and eras seems to be something that some people simply aren’t interested in providing. I would argue that’s lazy on the part of the critic, and has nothing to do with Sandler or his film being impossible to review.

  24. anghus says:

    On the Sandler review assertion…

    I always go back to Ebert, Siskel and the magical thumbs.

    Applying the same standard to all films is where it all went to hell. Stars, thumbs, numbers, its all metrics and to me film
    criticism should never boil down to math.

    The critics who write their reviews without benefit of idiotic metrics are doing a great service

  25. Krillian says:

    C’mon, David, now I want to know a title. We’ve all done it. Hey, the only line of dialogue I’ve had in a movie is the worst acting you will ever see. Handcart (2002). Your turn.

  26. palmtree says:

    My sense is not that you have to have the credits in order to review a movie…it’s that you have to be what Sondheim calls “literate” in the filmmaking process (he was talking about music, but it’s the same idea).

    Unless we’re debating whether DP is “literate” or not, I don’t see how listing his credits will bolster his argument.

  27. chris says:

    Geez. “Under Surveillance.” Easy to find. Can we move on?

  28. anghus says:

    If were talking uncredited rewrites i got some gems out there.

    None of them are as bad as a flaming bag of poo called Furnace.

  29. David Poland says:

    Well, you can’t really spell “drama” without Drew.

    First, let me repeat, simply… if you are in the business of selling your creative work to studios/producers/production companies/etc, neither you nor anyone else has any business reviewing their movies or movies within a stone’s throw of their movies. Period. Basic common journalistic sense. 101 stuff.

    The Rule of Drew has always been “what Drew feels like doing is right… and if it changes, it changes.”

    You are a bright person, but in this regard, you have always been full of shit and the thinnest-skinned, whiniest brat of them all.

    And now… The short and perhaps hazy-over-time of version of the stupid story of me and a movie called Under Surveillance.

    In 1989/90, I’d been in LA for about 4 years. I came to LA to get out of television, but the wga strike really got me out of television, so I had worked for Marty Ingalls running his celebrity brokerage company. When that ended, as it had to, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I decided on screenwriting as a potential way to become a film producer. I was as green to the movie business as could be, though I’d already been through quite a lot in a few years in TV in NY.

    I did a pilot presentation for Spelling that went nowhere. Everyone thought they were going out of business. Their last shot was a new short-order of a show called “90210,” which everyone at the company seemed to think was a joke.

    I had a friend who worked for Fries Entertainment in feature development. The TV movie company was, as was the fashion at the time, trying to make features to break into the VHS market. They’d made Flowers in the Attic and Phantom of the Mall

    I became friendly with the head of production (I think that was his title) at the time, Henry Seggerman. I did some work on a Bruce Boxleitner film in production called Diplomatic Immunity. My most significant contribution, really, was getting them to hire a certain actress to appear topless for the first time in an American movie.

    The next project they were wanting to make, but which had not been greenlit, was called Under Surveillance. No director had been hired. Nor any actors.

    The list of people who had written on it, as I remember was over 6 people or teams long. The most recent was a team names Reiff & Voris, whose action script I was asked to rewrite as a buddy comedy.

    I took the job, joined WGA, and spent about 3 months before production on a page one rewrite the script. All that was left were a couple of action sequences, character names, and the overall idea. During that time, a Polish-Canadian director, known for an arthouse success, was hired. He didn’t really understand any of the jokes, but the Fries team kept me on track and disregarded the growing conflict.

    Eventually, Robert Davi, hot off of some bad guy roles, was cast as the lead. Next up was The Girl. The 25-year-old Teri Hatcher – my first choice – was rejected by the director because she “wasn’t sexy enough.” My second choice, 26-year-old Lauren Holly, coming off of Ford Fairlaine was also a pass. (I think that one was about $20k or some such amount.) They hired 34-year-old Melody Anderson, who was dead sexy… about 10 years earlier in Flash Gordon. She was perfectly beautiful as an adult woman… but it wasn’t what the role needed. It needed sexual flash and danger.

    Gale Hansen, who’d been in Dead Poet’s Society was a good choice to play Davi’s smart-as sidekick. And Kevin Kilner as the earlier partner was terrific too.

    That was about as deep as I got into casting.

    When we met with Davi, I think at the director’s place in Venice, to go over the screenplay, I got the first inkling of a real problem, as the director and Davi started talking about the film as a noir piece. I’d just spent months writing something that was definitely not noir.

    Production started. I was on set. I went to dailies. Some of the lines were the same or similar, but not funny at all. I think the first day may have been in Davi’s character’s house. The director focused on a jazz record, some bit that Davi came up with about not feeding the dog and having nothing good in the refrigerator. Oy.

    As we got a few days further in, the movie started getting farther from the script I wrote. But it wasn’t creative license, It was tonally a different film. Davi was re-writing himself… and so was his hairdresser.

    We had an action sequence shooting at night in downtown LA. I got to spend hours with Chuck Napier, which was one of the few joys I had. Lots of great stories. But again, the dialogue was all over the place. Stuff was exploding, but it wasn’t connecting.

    I think it was in the next day of dailies that I quit the film. If they weren’t going to get the director to shoot the film I wrote, why was I on set?

    A week or two passed. I got a panicked call. Would I come back. The movie wasn’t cutting together.

    I asked for the weekend to think about it and all the dailies on VHS. I watched what they had done and tried to figure out how to cement back together the fragments without significantly changing the shooting schedule. I came back.

    A couple of days into my return, there was a night shoot… the big sexual engagement between the two leads. I had written new pages. But on the set, we all found out that Davi would not take off his shirt on camera. This scene, that was supposed to be about him falling so deeply in love with her that he couldn’t see what evil she might be up to, was suddenly transformed into a wannabe spin on Rafelson’s Postman Always Rings Twice with him muscling her around the kitchen.

    Even in the scene shot as the post-coital encounter in the bedroom, she was disrobed and he was fully dressed.

    It felt like a rape sequence. (And I will leave other stories, not relevant to my work, out.)

    It turned out that Melody had started rewriting on her own as well. I don’t think Gale had… but he was so angry most of the time that I think he just wanted to get it over with.

    A few days later, there was a scene with an evil dentist who ended up getting thrown out of a window. David Dukes played the dentist. I was thrilled. He was a serious stage actor. His dialogue dominated the scene. And it would be the only time in the production of this film that I felt my words were given voice… and I loved the sequence… whether I was right or wrong to love it.,, high camp… but the tone I had been hired to write. And in the hands of an actor who respected the words, it worked and worked well.

    That same day, Davi refused to bite the hand of an attacker, one of six, because “Would Arnold do that? Would Sly do that?” I was also asked to write with the hairdresser.

    And I was out of there again.

    I have never seen the completed film. I gathered it was released in Europe and not here. Not idea whether a DVD exists here now.

    Fries hired me to do another script that was based one of the fries clans families. It was a Thanksgiving gathering comedy. On this one, I was going to have first position on the screenplay.

    The day I was to deliver, the script was refused at the front desk of the building. (They had the Fries Entertainment name on top of the building on Hollywood, which now had the TV Guide sign, I believe.) Why? It turned out they filed bankruptcy 36 hours later.

    I read something Bill Goldman wrote about doing a pricey re-write and having to put up with a stupid, young exec. Bill F-ing Goldman. If he was still doing that after all those years and all that success, I was heading into a career of even more misery than Under Surveillance. I am not built for that. So I retired as a screenwriter almost immediately. I think I finished a script called This One Will Kill You… but never tried to sell it.

    I wandered the earth for a while… took Groundlings classes… worked as a Santa Claus… eventually ended up in journalism and criticism, which I never wanted. But I loved the idea of what would become The Hot Button.

    And so ends the short version of that story.

  30. cadavra says:

    Yancy’s correct. The studios are at the mercy of their marketing departments, who aren’t concerned with notions of “good” or “bad,” only “How can we sell it?” Hence all the sequels, remakes, public domain fantasies and toy/comic/TV spinoffs, most of them geared for the under-25 quadrants and merchandising. As for Sandler: please. How could anyone look at GROWN-UPS, which is not so much a movie as it is a two-hour outtake reel, and think “we’re doing quality work here?” Yet they’re doing a sequel. Why am I not surprised?

  31. David Poland says:

    As for the Sandler thing… sorry for dealing with the real world and how most critics work regarding product like Sandler’s.

    Did i really need to say, “80% of critics are unwilling to seriously consider anything Adam Sandler does, aside from one PT Anderson movie… so we’d all be better off without them pretending to be unbiased?”

    Yes, as I already wrote. It’s about context. And honesty. And transparency.

  32. Drew McWeeny says:

    I ask you a question about something you have been stating for over a decade, and not only do you insult me, but then you accuse me of being the dramatic one.

    Check the responses here for where I called you any name or even insulted you.

    Funny how I’m the thin-skinned one and the whiny brat, while you’re the 50+ year old man calling people juvenile names because they have the audacity to question you on something.

    Thanks for the story, though. Imagine how much easier that would have been a decade ago.

  33. Drew McWeeny says:

    “It’s about honesty. And transparency.”

    Says the man who just called me names for asking him to clarify a claim he’s been making for a decade.

    Now quick… call me a shit again.

  34. LYT says:

    Worked as a Santa Claus?

    That’s a screenplay in itself. Maybe even for a Billy Bob Thornton sequel.

  35. LYT says:

    Incidentally, hilarious that Robert Davi ever thought he was such a big shot that he could just throw around demands like those. I’m sure that makes him a Lexian role model, but it also explains why he only gets hired for shitty movies nowadays. You can only pull that stuff so long if you’re not an automatic draw.

  36. anghus says:

    i had to look up Robert Davi. I recognized the face once he popped up on Google, but didn’t even know him by name.

    And you’re right. People dick themselves right out of the business.

  37. Joe Leydon says:

    “80% of critics are unwilling to seriously consider anything Adam Sandler does, aside from one PT Anderson movie… so we’d all be better off without them pretending to be unbiased?”

    Gee, I favorably reviewed Sandler in Reign Over Me, Big Daddy and The Longest Yard. Guess that means I’m in the TOP FREAKIN’ TWENTY PERCENT OF ALL FILM CRITICS OF ALL TIME.

    So how come it’s been 17 years since my last full-time gig as a film critic? Does my greatness, like, intimidate editors?

  38. anghus says:

    “So how come it’s been 17 years since my last full-time gig as a film critic? Does my greatness, like, intimidate editors?”

    There are still full time gigs for film critics?

  39. Joe Leydon says:

    Seriously: There never have been that many. Even back in what we now might look back on as a golden age. In 1982, when I landed my first (and last) full-time gig as a film critic at The Houston Post, a friend pointed out to me that there were more people gainfully employed as pro baseball players than film critics in the US. I didn’t argue.

  40. David Poland says:

    Drew – You insinuated that I’ve been lying about my history. (Which, by the way, telling this story does nothing to clear up. If I’m a liar, I can make up a damned story.) I’m pretty sure that’s an insult.

    Maybe you just have a reading comprehension issue.

    I’m 47. I wrote that just a few hours ago in a comment to which you responded. Or am I lying about my age now too?

    Didn’t call you a shit… called you angry, petty, and full of shit. But you can be a shit, no doubt.

    I haven’t been making a claim for a decade. “Making a claim for a decade” is “my dick is a foot long” or “I can drink 48 beers and not get drunk.” What I did, today and in times past, is to share a part of my personal history, when I was asked about it by someone.

    I wonder… do you need my diploma to be sure I graduated NYU? Do you want to check to see if I was really adopted? Are you 100% sure I am not an android created by Guy Pearce?

    Thing is, Drew… it’s my story. I don’t owe it to you just because you ask. Even as it is, I left out plenty. That is my prerogative, not yours. If I choose to tell it, I choose to tell it. If I choose not to, I expect that when it comes up once a year or so, it’s not that big a deal. It’s 20 years ago already.

    It would never occur to me to ask you to prove your personal history. You see, that is personal. I assume you aren’t making shit up about yourself because I may see you as thin-skinned, but not as a lying fuck. I don’t know what I have ever done that would make you think that I am a liar… except disagree with you on issues of principle.

    And a philosophy about reviewing while working for companies connected to your artistic work? That is not personal. It’s a moral stance. Whether you agree with me or on the other side… either position is a moral stance… not personal.

    Get it? (That’s rhetorical. I know you don’t)

  41. Joe Leydon says:

    David: With each new day, I lose a few more grey cells — and I know that the last ones to go always are the ones that make you think you’re getting better — but I vaguely recall your once indicating in a Hot Button column that this writing/blogging/reviewing thing could very well be a temporary detour, and that you might someday go back into production on some level. Now, mind you, I think you wrote that quite a while back, so you’ve obviously changed your mind. But I’m curious: No regrets about the road not taken? Or, to be more precise, the road not continued on?

  42. David Poland says:

    Like Grown-Ups or not, Cad, it’s Sandler’s biggest hit. And it was legs, not just marketing.

    He isn’t sitting with Marketing and designing movies with them. He does what he wants. I think he likes what he does.

    And I think when Jim Brooks made Spanglish, he thought it was an important movie, albeit a comedy.

    And if you think for a second that Rob Marshall doesn’t think he is a genius, think again.

    I am all for critics setting the bar. That is what AO Scott, I felt, was saying in that Carr video. But it’s all too easy to write off what we dislike as being “easy” and what we do like as being a more difficult, richer intent of greater effort. I don’t think that’s necessarily true… and I am sure it’s not most of the time.

  43. David Poland says:

    Joe –

    I’m 47. There are a lot of potential roads in my future. I am quite sure that blogging will not be my primary business in 10 years. I’m also pretty sure that it will not be producing movies.

    Honestly, I have limited perspective on that future. I love doing DP/30, but it’s not a business right now. I will probably write a book this year.

    I have zero interest in being a screenwriter. And I have almost zero interest in ever working as a journalist or critic for a media outlet, as opposed to working for my own.

    I have a hate on entertainment journalism right now, as a profession. I just think the standards are in the toilet. (Which by the way, does not include Drew. Ironic, eh?) And I don’t know how they will be raised. There is too little information and too many people trying to take credit for it without doing the work. It all makes junket media look more legit than what’s been thought of as legit press.

    Docs, maybe.

  44. Joe Leydon says:

    Let me toss this out for discussion — and, I promise, not to take a dig at you or any other individual: Are standards in the toilet, or somewhere in that vicinity, at least party because so many people who currently are reviewing, reporting on and/or blogging about movies are doing so with the clear goal in mind of not doing it for the rest of their lives? In other words: Is someone who’s covering film merely as a prelude to doing something else, or as a gig between gigs, really going to have a vested interest in maintaining standards for the long-term? I’m frequently amused by critics and bloggers who take pains to write something on the order of, “I don’t plan on doing this for the rest of my life,” or, “Gosh, I hope I’m not doing this 20 years from now.” (Which happens, by the way, more often than you might think.) Because, really, I don’t remember Pauline Kael or Andrew Sarris or even Rex Reed ever feeling the need (or desire) to write anything like that. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying people who are “temporarily” critics produce little or nothing of value. (Graham Greene’s film criticism actually is quite insightful.)But what does it profit these temps to think in the long-term about tradition or standards?

  45. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    ” I don’t know what I have ever done that would make you think that I am a liar”

    To be fair Dave, it may be that in the past you referred to a screenwriting career without actually ever backing it up with facts. I think it’s a fair call from Drew. Sure it’s a dig at the same time but if you put yourself out there you have to expect it.

    The vagueness is a bit similar to the way that others here talk about mystery films leaving it open for interpretation that they could be ghosting on Ghost Protocol when the reality it’s for some 300 unit run of a regional oddity called Squeamers.

  46. Krillian says:

    Dave, that’s a great story. I love reading stuff like that.

  47. Drew McWeeny says:

    Sorry I got your age wrong.

    Beyond that, you have no leg to stand on when accusing others of rage ever again. Good lord, do you get livid and profane quickly, especially considering how completely non-profane and non-livid everything I’ve said to you here has been.

    Sorry I asked you to back up your claims (which is all they are without further detail) with something as complicated and controversial as the titles of the films.

    I never pushed you for the full story. Never asked for it. Never insisted upon it.

    I did, on about five or six occasions when you brought up your screenwriting background, ask you for the titles. And you’re right… you don’t “owe” me. But considering how many times you’ve dipped deep into my personal and professional histories in your various published hit pieces over the years, it’s downright hilarious to see how angry you get at the outrageous audacity on my part to ask you for something as private as the titles of films you say you wrote.

    I did not call you a liar. I think there’s a pretty huge gap between puffing up professional credits (this is Los Angeles after all) and being a “lying fuck,” words I certainly didn’t use. I have been pretty consistent about the question I’ve asked you over the decade you’ve been mentioning this. That’s it. Everything else you want to project on me or yell about or get furious over… that’s on you, sir.

    As I said… good story. Thanks for sharing.

    Beyond that, your name-calling is, as always, revelatory. Congratulations on your remarkable vocabulary and your obvious deeply-seeded loathing of me.

  48. cadavra says:

    Actually, ANGER MANAGEMENT was his biggest hit, but that had Nicholson. Similarly, GROWN-UPS was Sandler PLUS James PLUS Rock and Spade and Schneider and Hayek and Bello, ad infinitum. It’s as close to an all-star comedy as you can probably get nowadays, so its success was no surprise.

    But my point, which admittedly may not have been clear, was this: Sandler is not an idiot. He’s likely capable of doing better pictures. Hell, even Ferrell goes outside his comfort zone now and then and does a STRANGER THAN FICTION or CASA DE MI PADRE. Sandler does not. He just makes the same crappy barf-fest repeatedly. C’mon, did someone honestly think, “Hey, wouldn’t CACTUS FLOWER be even better if we had a little boy take a dump on a guy’s hand?” No–he makes shit because he knows it sells. In fact, his films barely need marketing, because just like Steven Seagal, he does the same lousy picture over and over again, and his fans are just fine with that. Yay for him for getting away with it for so long, but it does the rest of us no good.

  49. LYT says:

    Cadavra – Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People weren’t out of his comfort zone?

    (at least to the extent that Casa de mi Padre was to Ferrell, which is to say not hugely by character, just by commercial prospects?)

  50. LexG says:

    The Sandler thing is probably wasted breath on the part of anyone pro or con… Moreso than just about anything in popular American film, it’s a love/hate divide where you can’t convince a true-blue Sandler hater of his genius any more than a Cadavra type could get me to set fire to my Billy Madison DVD…

    And Cadavra’s one of my favorite MCN regulars so I say this with respect, and knowing it’s a lost cause, but for Sandler’s audience, his fanbase, “Adam” is sort of an avatar through whom we’ve “grown up”… There’s something specific about his comedy that is entirely lost on his detractors, but which means the world to his fans… View Sandler’s movies, including even the Happy Gilmore productions for his buddies, and it’s like this ’70s-’80s kid glorious mashup of the Reynolds filmography combined with the stuff from Landis and Reitman movies that AS is always paying homage to– that sense of camaraderie, silliness, sports-ish guys growing up with their buddies in that ELO-Billy Squier neverland of the end-of-disco LITTLE DARLINGS/CADDYSHACK ERA, going back to school, falling in love, becoming parents, becoming middle-aged men looking back on the compromises– Sandler’s “cinema” is as personal and heart-on-sleeve as just about ANYONE’S in the modern age; It’s gross-out gags and silly, so the “critics” don’t take it seriously, but there’s an arc, a growth, from movie to movie, a definitive AUTEURIST P.O.V. and even a social conscience (Chuck and Larry, Zohan, Just Go With It…)

    Again, it’s so wholly lost on people who simply don’t find him funny, but to a specific sect of ’80s kids who first saw him on Cosby and worshipped SNL and the anarchic spirit of Opera Man or Canteen boy and have seen Sandler morph into this elder statesman, practically “straight man in his own movies” persona with age, for whom some sound cue of UGLY KID JOE unleashes an avalanche of nostalgia and “where did my life go this way?” questioning, Sandler’s like reigning king of putting that late-era Gen X career/life/romantic path on screen.

    If you’re even a hair younger or a hair older, it probably doesn’t resonate– my mom certainly doesn’t have any GLOWING nostalgia for 1993 or 1992 any more than a zit-faced mall kid today remembers it with any particularity. But the SNL-informed late-70s-90s man milieu of Sandler, and the infectious inclusion of all his “bros” going back 20 years now– it may seem like a cynical cash grab to some money-man out-of-the-looper or stuffy-ass tweedy critic, but for those of us who were alert and everything in the last 20 years was CATACLYSMIC CHANGE, Sandler is the voice we relate to.

  51. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Welcome back, Sane Lex. 😉

    And second on the opinion that Cadavra is Good People ™.

  52. sanj says:

    >I love doing DP/30, but it’s not a business right now.

    well as a fan – i’ve never clicked on any ads .

    would it be the worst thing to see a random film trailer half way during an interview – not really ….

    so much easier if they ended up on HBO …

    isn’t there interest of the interviews outside the US for tv deals ?

    do you make the actors sign contracts that say – these will never ever end up on tv stations anywhere ?

    i always figured if DP stopped doing the dp/30’s – he’d end up running a film festival.

    C. Robert Cargill – @Massawyrm – he was a film critic for several sites and now he’s writing movies ….
    i must have heard his movie reviews around 100 times and now thats gone to zero.

    there are a lot of actors / directors now that can be good critics – Kevin Smith comes to mind – hes got his podcast for it – Quentin Tarantino knows film history more than most people so he could become a film critic
    p;etty easily .

    there’s 1 tech reporter on tv i really used to like but
    then tech reporter ended up working for the tech companies
    as a consultant.

    do film critics stop following other film critics cause
    for some reason you can’t trust them – info you have
    that the average person doesn’t know about – and it not
    some personal thing.

    usually i trust Jon Stewart for the latest news but when
    he interviews comic actors – i just can’t trust him ..
    his interviews with Will Ferrell – Paul Rudd and Ricky Gervais are pure entertainment…he stops being a critic
    of those actors ….but he does continue being a critic of
    top people who actually run the government.

    I trust Jon more than i do Wolf Blitzer from CNN.

  53. Glenn Kenny says:

    You people are WEIRD.

  54. GexL says:

    The Cold Blog heats up!

  55. Paul D/Stella says:

    Sandler is good or great in Punch Drunk Love, Funny People, Spanglish, and Reign Over Me. I like all but Spanglish, but he’s solid in all of them. As for his more traditional outings, I used to really enjoy them. He started to lose me when they got increasingly saccharine. I suppose it made sense to him and his posse, as he got older and started a family, to add sentimentality. But it just completely smothers many of his more recent movies, the ones I have seen anyway. Haven’t seen Zohan and a few others.

  56. jesse says:

    Lex, that’s a great point about Sandler — even if I’m probably slightly out of the correct age range for that level of Sandler appreciation, it is something that is less likely to be noticed by someone who was already 25 or 30 or 40 when Billy Madison came out. I watched Sandler on SNL as a teenager, and liked him even though his last year on the show was the worst season of the show I’d ever seen. Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, then, felt like a breath of fresh air, with more laughs in their 90 minutes than most 90 minutes of SNL in that era (I know everyone has their own preferred point to say that SNL used to be better, but I swear, I’m a huge fan of the show and forgiving of its faults… that last pre-Ferrell year is just ghastly for the most part). At the time, as a 15-to-16-year-old, I thought of them as a poor man’s Wayne’s World — in a good way. That sensibility, but on a budget and sometimes much stranger and sillier, even, than the Myers/Carvey movies.

    As such, I’ve always been up for seeing a new Sandler movie, even as they started getting weaker, circa Anger Management. Some of it is definitely the way he acquiesces to his aging, and while that seems remarkably egoless — consciously deciding to be the straight man, as Lex says, in his own movies, ceding the funnier bits to his friends, and playing the suburban dad rather than the crazy young man — there are other aspects of the Sandler settling that do, to me, smack of inflated self-importance, even if it sometimes has a layer of self-deprecation. In the last few movies — Jack and Jill, Just Go With It, Grown Ups — his character is this cranky white affluent jerk painted by the movie as a regular guy. And sure, he needs to learn a lesson or whatever by the end of the movie, but it’s never really about him not learning to be a vaguely smug, entitled ass. That stuff about possible regrets and aging and such just doesn’t really make it into the movies themselves.

    I wonder if this is in part because around the time where Sandler’s movies got far less consistent (early aughts), he did start taking on the occasional ambitious part, some successful (Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People), some less so (Spanglish, Reign Over Me). The real emotional lifting in his career, riffing on his personal history and such, can be found, to some extent, in those movies… not so much in Click or The Longest Yard. I don’t doubt Sandler likes the movies he’s made, not just the more serious one, and I’m sure he sees their consistent box office as proof that he knows what he’s doing. But his transition to the suburbs has left him far less inspired; maybe he just lets his buddies do too much.

    That’s why I liked Zohan so much — Sandler tries something different! He’s playing a character, not just Sandler the Affable Millionaire! It has some of that Happy Madison slack to it, but you can totally see the Smigel jokes, and it has a certain kind of weirdly specific NYC sweetness that his rich-guy-in-suburbs adventures do not. Hell, even Jack & Jill, which is pretty bad, gets a few more points from me than Grown-Ups or The Longest Yard or Just Go With It because he’s definitely trying something. It doesn’t really work, but he’s trying it. I actually found the Jill character sort of endearing, in an odd and, again, specific sort of way.

    Anyway, again, Lex, great point about the connection to late-seventies comedies, too. I watched Meatballs for the first time last night; I’m reviewing the Blu-Ray release. It’s easily as slack and ambling as any number of Sandler comedies. Murray is pretty inspired in it, but it’s really just a series of extremely mild half-sketches centered around summer camp. I mean, Revenge of the Nerds looks like a masterpiece of construction by comparison. I can see how Sandler probably would like to think he’s making movies lik Meatballs, Caddyshack, etc. — basically that pre-Ghostbusters aesthetic. (Or maybe Blues Brothers was the aesthetic changer in this case.) And at his best, he is. He just doesn’t bring it very often anymore. I was honestly interested in seeing what he would get up to just hanging out with his buddies in Grown Ups … and it turns out, he got up to just sitting in lawn chairs and improvising their way through INCREDIBLY weak, lazy barely-jokes.

  57. Paul D/Stella says:

    I also find it hard to dislike Sandler because he seems like a cool guy. Obviously I don’t personally know him; he could be a huge asshole. But there are plenty of anecdotes out there about him treating friends well and being a generally decent dude.

  58. Zoe Levitz says:

    Team Poland here all the way.


    That McWeeny is a PUTZ. Yes, I am reverting to name-calling.

    Dealt with him in years past. Always felt like some trailer-park blob of a mess that was deeply out of his element.

    He was the epitome of some hack that got lucky…for a while.

  59. David Poland says:

    “how many times you’ve dipped deep into my personal and professional histories in your various published hit pieces over the years”

    Would love to know what you’re talking about there. When have I ever written (Or thought, really) a word about your personal life, Drew? What do you think I know about your personal life?

    I don’t know shit about you, except you worked for AICN, you got married, you have 2 boys, and you work for/with HitFix. I don’t know where you live, where you like to hang out, or if you prefer sweet or salty. I know you were selling/trying to sell screenplays or do re-writes for Fox, Revolution, and others. I know that AICN and Paramount are in bed together and have been for many years. (Pretty sure you’ve angrily demanded that I prove that in the past. Oy.) I don’t know where you went to school, where you grew up, anything real about your relationship with Harry or anyone else, and I only know your imdb credits because you made it into an issue yesterday. I know you used to fight with Don Murphy and now you seem to have made up. I do know people who have things to say about you, but I don’t listen much… because I don’t really care. The significance of your personal life to me is non-existent unless you are kicking me as a result. And I don’t know that you ever have.

    Hit pieces? Funny. I’m not going to repeat the basic argument that I have made about you continuing to review movies from people who are working with creatively for money.

    Your position on piracy was a piece once because you got it right… and then you apologized for doing so. But again, an issue of policy, not personality.

    As for the history of AICN, which is only personal when you make it so, you are the only person who seems to claim it was not so.

    Have I ever written anything about you outside of those contexts? Have I written anything about you in the last 5 years? 7 years?

    I don’t loathe you, Drew. Never have. I don’t like the drama and hypocrisy. From the first time we ever spoke, you were defensive, angry, put words in my mouth, grandstanded, and played the victim. We’ve had some decent moments since then. We’ve had some very high drama… like when you took a private argument that I didn’t want to be having but that insisted on escalating and then you added studio people to the e-mail chain, making us both look like idiots. But I have always thought you were one of the smart guys in your circle. And I don’t take it too personally for too long, as when I calm down, it’s clearly all about you and very little about me.

    But yeah, you can piss me off. You pick fights and then disown them as though someone else did it. It’s playground bullshit.

    Maybe you’ve had anger management. Good on ya. That doesn’t erase the past.

    Own your anger. Own your poking. Own your paranoia. It’s really not that big a deal. We all have more important things to do. But your endless denial of any involvement and attempts to one-up me and others by claiming a more earnest, more righteous position is bullshit and certainly not healthy.

  60. storymark says:

    I like both guys – but McWeeny actuially endeavored to have a reasonable discussion, without calling names or being dismissive. He’s the grown up on this one.

  61. hcat says:

    I Hated Hated HATED Sandler for a long time, even after liking him on SNL and in silly supporting stuff like Airheads.

    Though I have skipped the majority of his stuff (I have watched about 10 minutes of each of his films on cable, enough to know to skip). I gave Zohan a chance and was greatly impressed. Though it had many of the Sandler Hallmarks (hey look, he had sex with someone unattractive, Ha, ha, ha), it was constructed as an actual movie, had a lot of laughs, heart, and was strangely patriotic. I gave Grown-ups a shot and thought it was oddly watchable in its shaggy non-plot driven sort of way, like a Mike Leigh movie for the dumb. But there is something real driving that movie about boys who feel like they simply blinked and became adults with responsibilities and families.

    I still think he is one of the laziest stars/producers around, but as Lex said, can you think of another person that is as relatible to their audience as Sandler?

  62. David Poland says:

    Cad – Grown-Ups is easily his biggest worldwide grosser. And there’s no Nicholson to pay the next time around.

    And unlike Steven Seagal, the joke has lasted for over a decade.

    I am not the guy’s biggest fan, though I love a few of his films and do think he’s very Jerry. And Ferrell has done more interesting work. But without Sandler, Ferrell’s road would have been tougher.

  63. Don R. Lewis says:

    Honestly, as a film writer, etc. I could give 2 shits about David Polands screenwriting career. I don’t see why that matters as he’s not doing it now and it clearly didn’t work out. I am and always have been curious about Drew’s link to studios and how this may (or may not) shade his access and reviews. As a big name in entertainment writing as Drew is, it’s a more than fair question. MORE than fair. And every time it’s brought up (typically, here) Drew goes martyr style and changes the subject. I’m not trying to open up an old argument and I honestly let go of really caring what other writers do, but still. I think it’s a fair question. Plus, Dave answered Drew’s question so where’s the quid pro quo?

    On the flip side, as David also pointed out, there are no standards in film writing. There’s no bosses, no editors, no clear definition or biases or relations to filmmakers, there’s no demands to transparency, it’s a mess. I may hate the game but I don’t hate the players any more. Why should anyone hold themselves to a standard no one else is willing to follow? Look at how pissed people get over embargo rules? It’s all arbitrary and silly. No wonder film criticism is dead.

  64. Don Murphy says:

    Ahh David you had to summon me up again. Must be a day you need more page hits. And as usual you don’t know shit. I never fought with Drew McWeeney. Almost a decade or so ago I had been given some seriously wrong information about him. I then said some unkind things about him. Things I was wrong about and regret. I apologized and he accepted and we became friends. You see he loves what he does. He is smart. He loves movies. And he isn’t a dick. Pretty much the reverse of you on every level. I’ve been to the guy’s home. Seen Anne Thompson and other great film lovers there. Not you of course. Too busy bloviating.
    Dave you really are the Nelson Muntz of the blogosphere. You walk around the internet with your spitballs giving wedgies and when caught by someone with more knowledge you go “Who? Me?” It’s boring and obvious. The fact that you are a failed producer explains your ongoing animus to me, the only idiot producer who will read your site. In Drew’s case, check this- he never reviewed a movie for a company he was working for. In fact FOX fired him from a movie after he dissed on them. It was their right. But for you to twist reality so that you can look anything but the insipid guy you are is too much.
    HAH HAH Nelson! HAH HAH.

  65. Krillian says:

    I agree with jesse. I thought Adam Sandler was one of the funnier guys on SNL in his time (Opera Man, Cajun Man, host of the My Ex-Girlfriend Denise Show), and Happy Gilmore, Wedding Crashers, Waterboy, I dug them all.

    But each movie feels like less and less effort. Grown Ups felt like one the laziest movies I’d ever seen. Guys sittin’ in lawn chairs going “We’re making millions just doing this. Anyone want another beer?” Just Go With It sucked. Never saw Jack & Jill. That’s My Boy is Sandler’s schtick rated R. Previews are painful, but we’ll see.

    I like it when Sandler stretches, even if the movies don’t always work (Funny People, Reign Over Me). But financially it hasn’t really paid for him to stretch.

  66. christian says:

    Sandler gets a pass for his SNL work and HAPPY GILMORE (still say the Bob Barker fight is a true classic bit of screen comedy), but otherwise, unwatchable. I get a visceral Jersey Conservative gay panic vibe. Or something. I did pass a Paramount screening room where Sandler and his pals were watching old serials. So there ya go, Cadavra. And that’s how I think of Sandler’s films, disposable two reelers with multi-million talent and budgets.

    And I liked it better when critics like Kael and Sarris and Simon dueled. Far more formal and elegant.

  67. David Poland says:

    Yes, Don… mention your name in a comment and the page views go through the ROOF!

    The only animus I have ever had for you has come from you threatening me over and over and over again.

    Nice to you see under your real name. You can go back to your Twitter account now.

  68. Don Murphy says:

    Moronicus I don’t have a Twitter account. I don’t understand the value of limited postings. I do have a Facebook which you have been unfriended on. Sucks to be you.

  69. David Poland says:

    Yes, Don. Of course, Don. You matter, Don. Very, very important man you are, Don. Hang in there, baby.

  70. Don R. Lewis says:

    Actually….I’m staying out of this.

  71. mysteryperfecta says:

    “But each movie feels like less and less effort. Grown Ups felt like one the laziest movies I’d ever seen.”

    This is exactly how I feel. I think he’s a naturally funny and likeable guy, but Grown Ups and Just Go With It felt phoned in.

  72. anghus says:

    the thing about Drew that always puzzled me is his presence here.

    Obviously these two don’t get along. So why hang out on the blog of someone you can’t stand.

    To me the only question worth asking is this:

    Dave. Do you hang out at HitFix, read every post and throw your two cents in and take occasional potshots?

    Because to me Drew being here is akin to having someone hang out at your house all the time and lob criticisms from the lawn. Why are you even there in the first place.

    People who camp at blogs of people they purport to loathe is socially and psychologically odd. its trolling for drama.

  73. sanj says:

    SNL has tons of other talented people – what’s Tina Fey going to do after 30 rock – does Kristen Wiig have another
    hit movie coming – Andy Samberg is out of SNL now ..will he
    still do digital shorts …can Mike Myers make a hit out of Austin Powers 4 ?

    people who leave SNL have interesting acting choices .some work and some don’t … Chris Parnell is on like 3 different shows in minor roles but he seems to be working
    more than Adam Sandler…but he doesn’t get the press Sandler does.

    remember Dennis Miller ? i was too stupid to understand him on SNL and i’m still too stupid to understand him when
    he goes on talk shows.

    i figure in 20 years Sandler will get his lifetime oscar..

  74. anghus says:

    I love Chris Parnell. The guy is in a thousand commercials right now. He’s aces on Archer. His turns on 30 Rock are hysterical.

  75. cadavra says:

    First of all, thanks to everyone for the kind validation!

    Luke: PUNCH-DRUNK (as well as SPANGLISH) was work for hire, but even so, he was still doing that bull-in-a-china-shop thing, only not for comedic effect. FUNNY PEOPLE is still an Apatow picture: even when they tried to be “serious,” they still couldn’t go more than 30 seconds before going back to the dick jokes. I will grant him REIGN OVER ME, however, but even that was five years ago.

    David: I checked BOMojo, and turns out we were both wrong. His biggest grosser is BIG DADDY. Go figure.

    Lex: You make excellent points, especially about it being a generational thing, but I’m not humorless. I’ll defend the Three Stooges and Jerry Lewis and even Wheeler and Woolsey till the day I die–but even when their characters are stupid, the scripts are not. There’s a real structure and thought process at work there. You don’t get that, by and large, with Sandler. Take 50 FIRST DATES. In one scene, a walrus suddenly projectile-vomits on a transsexual. Why? No reason. They simply stuck it in because they thought it would get a cheap laugh (which it did). Ditto the dump-on-the-hand in JUST GO WITH IT (which didn’t even involve any of the major characters). Sorry, but that’s just bad, lazy filmmaking. And he is not evolving. He’s in his mid-40s now, and even playing characters with hot wives, big houses and thriving careers, he’s still behaving like a Type-A frat boy in T-shirts and cargo shorts. Hell, do any of his characters even own a pair of long pants? As I said, I do believe he is capable of better, but right now he’s not attempting to do so (are we really ready for THAT’S MY BOY?), and I’m thinking he’s soon to drive off the same cliff that Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers have.

  76. David Poland says:

    Cad – According to Mojo, Big Daddy did $235m worldwide and GrownUps did $271m.

  77. film fanatic says:

    The thing Sandler doesn’t get enough credit for, and perhaps his most enduring comic legacy in terms of shaping the comic landscape of the ’00s and beyond (and which DEFINITELY influenced Ferrell and McKay), are the inspired absurdist touches he’s always thrown into his movies: think the Buscemi “kill list” gag in BILLY MADISON, or the zamboni driver in HAPPY MADISON, all the way up to ZOHAN and the Pacino bits in the criminally underrated JACK & JILL. I think the failure of LITTLE NICKY scared him away from some of these impulses — I blame that on the ham-handed clunky direction of Steve Brill — but there are still usually a few wonderful moments that deliver, even in his laziest films like JUST GO WITH IT and GROWN-UPS. I’d like to see him stretch himself more — not in terms of doing more “serious” roles, necessarily, but by going balls-out with a comedy that truly let him lay some of his smarter, surreal humor out on the table and perhaps step outside of the safety zone of working with his usual stable of crony hack directors (I’m thinking more Brill, Coraci and Segal in this regard; Dugan, though also something of a hack, is more capable and has better physical comedy chops, a talent he’s displayed all the way back to BRAIN DONORS, and almost always gets the best out of his star).

  78. anghus says:

    Nothing ever topped Billy Madison.

  79. Krillian says:

    “criminally underrated JACK & JILL”

    Never thought I’d seen that phrase in my life.

    Unless we were talking about Tim Burton’s update on the nursery rhyme, starring Johnny Depp as the head-injured Jack and Helena Bonham Carter as his enabling sister Jill, complete with Danny Elfman soundtrack (BOM BOM BOM BOM, deedlty-dee, deddlty-dee, BOM BOM BOM BOM…!)

  80. anghus says:

    I would be fine if Button Depp Bonham-Carter and Elfman never do another film together. Unless they decide to do one final project. I have a title which seems apt given their previous films.

    Done to Death.

  81. Joe Straatmann says:

    I really enjoyed Sandler’s early stuff. They had a crazy, anarchic spirit and logic you either thought was really funny or it really repelled you. I was the former. Even through the Waterboy, I enjoyed the movies. Then….. he got older and movies either had to be about something or something for his kids. Big Daddy managed to swing the story about him trying to become a responsible father by being a reprehensible one and learning it doesn’t work that way, but there was Mr. Deeds which couldn’t turn that corner (Though it wasn’t all Sandler’s fault. I don’t try to rag on actors and she’s done some very good stuff, but Winona Ryder was simply awful here), tried a sentimental third act in Click that didn’t earn it at all, and it wasn’t until Zohan that I felt he’d got back into the old spirit of his work, and Zohan really worked in its own, weird way. Then there’s Grown Ups, which is the cinematic version of those celebrities who have kids, think, “Wow, growing up and having kids is hard. I should make a sitcom about this,” and then make one which is a hit despite it being the least interesting thing ever. I have no doubt they had a blast making it. If I made a movie with my friends from my college access comedy skit show, we’d love the shit out of it. I don’t think anyone else would enjoy it, though….

    As for his dramatic stuff, I liked Punch-Drunk Love despite the overly pretentious first 10 minutes (The deal with the organ or whatever was unecessary and overlong), haven’t seen Spanglish, and I had some real issues with Reign Over Me. In Reign Over Me, Sandler’s character is not so much a real character as he is a construct to create drama. Every time the movie needs a burst of drama, the character seems to have a magic button that will cause him to break down. It feels manipulative, and in a movie that’s trying to find some release with real grief in such an artificial way…… it bothers me.

  82. anghus says:

    This is how i’d rate every Adam Sandler movie:

    1. Billy Madison
    2. Happy Gilmore

    An epic five mile gap.

    3. – 24. Every Other Adam Sandler Movie

    25. Bulletproof

  83. cadavra says:

    David: Well, I was talking about domestic, which is where most of his popularity resides (and ipso facto where his comedy is targeted), but yes, you’re correct about worldwide.

  84. David Poland says:

    Think is, Cad, the recent expansion into the international market has kept him viable in spite of increasing costs of production

  85. palmtree says:

    I walked into the last part of Click and found it to be a pretty dramatic ending with Twilight Zone-esque implications. Maybe the rest of the movie was fart jokes, but I thought it was at least an attempt to move people emotionally. Well, that and I was expecting the worst, so yes, I was surprised.

  86. sanj says:

    Sandler uses his star power to grab any LOOK AT HER!!!
    actress he wants.

    all have appeared in a movie with Adam ..

    Leighton Meester – Katie Holmes – Nicole Kidman
    Jennifer Aniston – Brooklyn Decker – Minka Kelly
    Salma Hayek – Maria Bello – Leslie Mann – Aubrey Plaza
    Keri Russell – Teresa Palmer- Courteney Cox
    Emmanuelle Chriqui – Jessica Biel – Kate Beckinsale
    Tea Leoni – Paz Vega – Drew Barrymore

  87. jesse says:

    Yeah, Cadavra, you’d think Anger Management would be a bit bigger due to Nicholson… just as I would’ve thought 50 First Dates might’ve gone beyond its (very strong) $120 million or so due to reteaming with Barrymore. But for some reason, the movies that have broken out of Sandler’s usual 120-140 range and into 150+ have been ensembles with other actors who aren’t really big names (as in Grown-Ups or Longest Yard). Not that his fifteen years of consistency is anything to sneeze at.

  88. LYT says:

    I thought Click was a fairly savvy metaphor for addiction (keep using whatever your habit is as a crutch to speed through the tough stuff, and before you know it you’re dependent and you’ve missed everything), and one of the few Sandler starrers that didn’t need him specifically – it could have worked with any decent actor in the lead.

  89. Angelo says:

    Sandler deserves a fair shake. I’m not sure I follow the argument that his work is pitched at a frequency that critics’ ears will never hear: the best ones like Zohan have been justly praised by some, so why should Just Go With It be set aside like tough esoterica? It’s true that some people will just want to review Adam Sandler, but probably you know who those are going in; why would the first instinct be to to say no one should review him, rather than no one should continue to read critics they hate?

    As for Eggers, here’s the most telling part of his piece for me:
    “Well, anyone who has criticized the book for the self-aggrandizing aspect…are simply echoing my own criticisms, so it’s hardly worth comment. As a longtime critic myself, I anticipated all the possible angles a reviewer might take, and incorporated them into the Acknowledgments.”

    This is as snotty as the bit in Lady in the Water when Bob Balaban eats it after citing a dozen generic possibilities for how he could die, only to be killed by a novel one, straight out of the ingenious author’s critic-proof brain. Incidentally, that strikes me as a moment of bratty film criticism, a shot at less auteur-centred genre films that’s as unsophisticated and as crude as anything cranked out of the meanest reviews of The Village. The same is true of Eggers’s comment: To suggest that you have pre-emptively acknowledged and neutralized every criticism that could come your way is to offer a lazy review of criticism itself. The working assumption is that critics will uniformly swarm on you and press one of three buttons, but nevermind, because you’ve beat them to it — conversation over.

    If that were true there would never be a need to positively review a Dave Eggers book either. Eggers ought to know, as a critic himself, and as someone who goes on to say that criticism is really quite personal and idiosyncratic, that you can’t anticipate all the angles a reviewer will take — and if he has only poor, boilerplate reviewers in mind, then he should say so instead of lambasting the profession as a dark snake pit. Certainly you can predict a lot of those directions, as the more surface reviews of something like Moonrise Kingdom show, but there’s always a Richard Brody waxing on Anderson’s modernism. Anyway, it seems a bad faith gesture, as a writer, to suggest that an entire class of writers is going to speak in one common tongue about your work. “Doesn’t a normal person, with his own life and goals and work to do, simply let others live?” indeed.

  90. cadavra says:

    David: That’s true up to a point, but his decreasing numbers are getting worrisome, and if the new one tanks, he may no longer have the carte blanche he’s had up till now.

    Sanj: I always figured he decided where he wanted to go on vacation, wrote a script set there, and boom! Instant paid vacation! Dude’s shot more film in Hawaii than Jack Lord.

  91. Terry McCarty says:

    Re Adam Sandler: the discussion has been reasoned enough on his film career that it might be the beginnings of a quasi-academic anthology.
    Wondering if anyone read the Patrick Goldstein “Adam Sandler movies now cost too much for what they gross” piece in LATIMES. Goldstein portrays THAT’S MY BOY as a disaster waiting to happen, while ignoring the upcoming GROWN-UPS 2, which could have played mild havoc with the article’s likely Sony-centric thesis.

  92. Don R. Lewis says:

    FWIW I don’t think many can deny that over the past like, 8 years, Sandler’s movies have declined in quality. They all seem like money grabs and that bums me out because, as many have echoed, I think BILLY MADISON and HAPPY GILMORE are really weird and funny movies. I was always a fan of Sandler’s weird sense of humor dating back to the REMOTE CONTROL days and loved his SNL stuff. Yeah, the “retard” voice thing gets old and I’d be equally disappointed if he were still doing THAT, but I always liked the closeted anger and will towards self-destruction you could see in his older stuff.

    I also love times ten FUNNY PEOPLE.

  93. sanj says:

    1 hour review of Jack and Jill –

    they take the entire movie apart bit by bit .

    everybody should watch this .

  94. Paul D/Stella says:

    I’m surprised that Click works for so many people. I found the sappy stuff cringe-worthy and not remotely believable. Which applies to the sappy stuff in pretty much any Sandler movie. Don I also love times ten Funny People. It’s flawed but highly watchable. Whenever it’s on I always make time to watch at least part of it.

  95. David Poland says:

    In the last decade, Sandler has had 10 $100m+ domestic movies… the only exceptions being the smaller side films (Spanglish, Funny People, Punch Drunk, 8 Crazy Nights, Reign) and Jack & Jill.

    On his last 5 “Adam Sandler films,” only J&J did less than $100 million internationally… a new phenomenon. Even J&J did $150m worldwide.

    This is a ONE FILM slump.

    And Patrick’s piece is Sony trying to put Sandler back in his place financially.

    The reality is, he is more valuable than ever. However, Sony let the costs slide north on film after film and yeah, $90m for films by Richie Brockelman that look like they were shot by drunk college students is too much money.

    On the other hand, Ferrell’s The Other Guys cost $100m, according to the studio. Carrey started wanting to do very expensive movies relying on effects other than his face. Stiller’s budgets went through the roof. Etc. So Sandler, still making the same movie, isn’t out of line with the bad financial choices of other comics. He’s less demanding. But it seems to me that it’s in his interest and Sony’s to cap his movies at $70m each or so.

  96. sanj says:

    did Sandler beat the regular system ? he doesn’t seem to use his movies to go to film festivals like other movie makers … has any of his movies been in the top 10 movie festivals in the world ?

    is he a worldwide star ? stick him in Dubai and will he do interviews all day about his movies or will he just
    hang out in all the fancy hotels they have over there – he can afford them ..

    what would happen if Adam was forced to do the next 2 movies ith 10 million dollars each ..

  97. cadavra says:

    David: I’m not so sure. JUST GO WITH IT just barely broke $100 mill domestic, despite being marginally less awful than his other recent pictures. And J&J failed to break that number period. That’s beginning to look like a trend to me. And if the new one (a hard R, from what I understand) doesn’t at least hit $100 mill domestic or close to it, then I think we have to agree it’s a slump. Which is not to say he should stop, but yeah, the budgets absolutely need to be brought down to earth. (Or of course he could surprise us and try something a little less boneheaded.)

  98. Paul D/Stella says:

    The Jack & Jill box office is surprising. At about $75 million it’s by far his lowest grossing traditional, live-action comedy since Little Nicky in 2000. The next closest is You Don’t Mess With the Zohan at an even $100 million. Also is this the most thorough analysis ever of Adam Sandler’s career?

  99. anghus says:

    Dave should do an MCN sponsored Adam Sandler retrospective with guest speakers.

  100. bulldog68 says:

    Exactly what, outside of Sandler’s salary, cost $80m to $100m in a Sandler movie? I’ve always wondered that. And I’m assuming that does not count marketing costs. It’s not exactly exotic locations, and maybe with the exceoption of Grown Ups which might have had a bigger payout for Kevin James and Chris Rock, and maybe Jennifer Anniston in Just Go With it, and Nicholson in Anger Management, where’s the $80m going? Catering?

    When you can deliver a Hunger Games with lots of set pieces for $80m, or even an American Reunion for $50m, why can’t the production cost on a uncomplicated shoot like an Adam Sandler movie be kept below $70m? Hell, District 9 cost $30m.

  101. Don R. Lewis says:

    Not that DP’s stats were in reference to my comment but I’m not talking about how much money they made, I’m talking about movies I’d have any desire to see. Or, better, movies I don’t look at trailers for and think it’s a joke or satire like something out of FUNNY PEOPLE (like YO, TEACH!).

  102. Colin says:

    But cadavra, “Just Go With It” hit $214m worldwide, which was, I believe, Sandler’s 4th biggest international grosser ever. And his previous movie, “Grown Ups,” was his biggest international grosser ever at $271m. (“Big Daddy” hit $234m, and “Click” hit $237). Sure, “Jack & Jill” underperformed, but I don’t think that we can call his last few pictures a downward trend.

  103. hcat says:

    Bulldog, He has his own group of buddies on every film and I am sure they are paid handsomely. Winkler, Buscemi and Turturro probably get bigger paychecks hanging with Sandler than they do anywhere else. I’m sure Dugan doesn’t get the same amount when (or if?) he is directing a non Happy Madison film. One of the perks of being the boss is getting to spread the wealth around, and Sandler is probably willing to spend every last dime that Sony will cough up.

  104. anghus says:

    But Big Daddy came out in 1999. We have diminishing returns on rising ticket prices. And the movies are costing more.

    Less people are turning up to buy tickets to Sandler movies

  105. bulldog68 says:

    Hcat, what do you think is the ballpark salary for those players, $2m per film? $5m per film? I doubt it tops that. And I dobt they have any back end deals either.

    Ensemble romantic comedies like Valentine’s Day cost $52m, and thats with Julia, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, the two Jessicas and Ashton Kutcher. Other comedies with no new huge star bit still plenty of recognizable talent include Horrible Bosses @$32m, and Bad Teacher at a bargain basement $20m. He’s Just not into you: $40m.

    What is Sandler’s salary? $20m to $25m per movie, plus back end?

  106. hcat says:

    I have read that Sandler gets 25, and since its his production company he probably gets a nice bit of of the back. And I doubt anyone other than him gets anything after production. But looking at Grown-ups and say it broke down hypothetically to Sandler 25, 5 each for the other guys, 3 each for the ladies, and a million for the glorified cameos by Buscemi and Quinn, whatever Dugan makes, it adds up real quick.

    I would agree that they are paying more than market price for these services, but since they are friends he fills their pot. On the films you mentioned they had producers who were trying to keep costs down (Horrible Bosses was certainly not a sure thing with that cast and would not have been greenlit above that budget), but Sandler gets a ceiling for his budget and spends to hit that ceiling. Sony gets an almost guarenteed hit and a nice profit even before they sell well on DVD and are sold to USA and Comedy Central to play around the clock on weekends. And if Sony doesn’t like the return, I’m sure any of the other studios would love to play ball.

  107. sanj says:

    somehow Katherine Heigl and Adam Sandler haven’t made a movie together.

    time to get DP to use his movie powers and make this happen.

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