Holiday Jitters

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Allied Advertising recently informed me that the Ben Stiller comedy Night at the Museum is being previewed only to the daily press, not to weekly reviewers--which naturally raises the question of whether the company in question (Twentieth Century Fox) is deciding in advance that we weekly reviewers won't like this release. Whether that's the meaning of their strategy or not, it does show a kind of uncertainty that is much more general among the so-called majors. For instance, Warner Brothers has at this pointed shifted the Chicago opening date of Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima several times, with the result that it's bounced on and off my ten-best list according to whether it's opening here in 2006 or 2007. New York and Los Angeles reviewers get to consider Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima as part of the same package; Chicago reviewers don't.

I differ from some of my local colleagues in refusing to consider 2007 releases for my 2006 list just because many of the film companies persist in treating Chicago as a cow town in contrast to New York and Los Angeles-- both of which will be premiering Letters from Iwo Jima this year. In fact, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association has just declared the film the best of 2006, confirming that this organization is far better at coordinated efforts and statements that mean something than the New York Film Critics Circle, who came up with the relatively boring United 93 and/or The Queen as its favorites. (For a hilarious inside account of what transpired, see Bilge Ebiri's rundown of events.) As Dave Kehr notes, they're also gutsier. But hey, they're the intelligentsia--or so sez the majors.

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