Why We Can’t Review ‘Shutter Island’

We’ve been getting some emails and website comments about the abrupt paucity of PW ’s recent film coverage.

Here’s the deal: Things aren’t going well for movie critics these days. It’s a weird profession, in that we’re reliant on the studios offering us access to their product in order for us to review it, but they make all the decisions about when and where films are available to critics. Studios are strategically moving their press screening times closer to release dates, attempting to minimize feedback. The reason you’ve been seeing less in this section lately is that nothing has been screening in time for us to review it for you.

I can’t blame them. Why suffer the possibility of any negative reviews when you can just shut out the critics and crank up the hype?

This leaves us with a big dilemma: Do we review films like Valentine’s Day, The Wolfman or any other movie that opened a week ago and is on its way to Redbox supermarket kiosks already, which we believe are far from what our readers want to see? Or do we simply refrain from wasting the time, space and money?

We’d hoped to devote this page to a piece on Shutter Island, the new Martin Scorsese picture. Unfortunately the movie wasn’t screening “for review” until long after our deadline.

Please note the terminology “for review,” because I’m fully aware the film has been screened all over town for the past couple weeks. I, along with other critics, wasn’t invited and wouldn’t have been allowed into the theater even if I’d tried to crash.

This experience isn’t limited to Shutter Island , though. Already this year, I’ve been deliberately shut out of screenings of The White Ribbon and Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer .

I suspect this all started with Avatar, when my editor was contacted by Fox reps just a few hours before deadline when she asked for screen shots to accompany the piece. Several all-caps emails and angry phone calls later, we agreed to pull my negative review and run it only on the website the Friday it opened. Raves from the Inquirer and the Daily News were allowed to run on the Wednesday prior to release, but my dissenting review caused a commotion.

What have we come to when a new movie by America’s greatest living filmmaker is hidden and protected from those who only wish to write about it? Martin Scorsese is the reason I went to film school instead of growing up and getting a real job. I would like nothing more than to spend this column discussing his technical virtuosity, uncanny command of music and the deeply Catholic sexual issues that keep cropping up in his work.

Instead, I can only offer you some gossip from my Boston pals who were around when Shutter Island was filming in town.

If I had a nickel for every “Leonardo is a douchebag” story I heard, I’d probably be rich. My favorite anecdote takes place on one of Scorsese’s patented movie nights, when the new film’s cast assembled for a private screening at a rented-out cinema.

Despite the place being depopulated for the evening, DiCaprio still insisted on being brought in through the back door with a protective entourage blocking all four people in attendance—throwing out their hands and screaming: “Stay away from him!”

Leo walked in with a bandanna tied over his face like a bank robber from an old Western. Um, does he have any idea that Titanic happened more than a decade ago and he’s just not that famous anymore?

Meanwhile, his Shutter Island co-star Mark Ruffalo was hanging out at the concession stand, eating a cookie and rapping with the staff, over-tipping and making friends.

I’d rather not be writing this kind of TMZ nonsense. There’s a new Martin Scorsese picture coming out this weekend. I’m more than happy to go see it with everybody else, but I still feel like I’m letting you good people down. Sorry. ■

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