I Am, I Said


FROM: David Manning, Ridgefield, New Jersey

TO: The Village Voice, Newsweek, Variety, MSNBC, the Los Angeles Times, et al.

I’d like a chance to respond to the recent news stories claiming that I, David Manning, of The Ridgefield Press, am a fictional character concocted by a desperate and amoral Sony Pictures publicity department to provide their fabulous, terrific films with advertisement blurbs. Though a riveting, inventive, and even sexy conceit, this is simply untrue: I am alive and well—and irresistible!—in America. Great! I have a house (actually, the basement of a house), a gerbil, a credit card, a used car, and a kickass Sony DVD player. Absolutely real! Fantastic!

While it’s true I do not work for the Connecticut Ridgefield Press, I do periodically publish a newsletter out of my own office here in Ridgefield, New Jersey. Thus I am still just as much a legitimate critic as any other—and I’ve got the blurb credits and Four Seasons towels to prove it. (That sentence rocked!) Why am I being pilloried among all the nation’s “gray-market” reviewers? (Lewis Lapham’s phrase, not mine, and isn’t he sensational?) Could it be elitism? I was the only critic who had the nerve to declaim love for the heart-stopping thrill ride Vertical Limit and that uproarious laugh-fest The Animal, and for that I’ve been accused of being a public-relations felony instead of a flesh-and-blood filmgoer who just so happens to like movies—all movies—a whole bunch. With so many fussy, can’t-relax “serious” critics scribbling away, isn’t there room for a little unconditional amour? Hot!

Anyway, I wasn’t entirely alone in my praise of Hollow Man and A Knight’s Tale—on the latter, Peter Travers was right there at the open bar with me, and his quote was much bigger than mine. Why Newsweek found my blurbs only on Sony ads—for scintillating, cool, unforgettable Sony movies—is simple. When Sony has a hard time finding blurbable praise, that’s when they call me. (And they always know what suite I’m in.) The other studios never call. Simple as that. Blast off!

This whole misunderstanding seems to have people very suspicious of junketeering reviewers. I won’t deny that a nice chardonnay and a bellyful of free catered food puts a glow on my feelings about a movie. Don’t I owe it to my public to be in as positive a frame of mind as possible when I sit down to a movie? Awesome!

One thing’s for sure, though—the Sony people deserve to be cut a little slack. You expect these busy pros to hunt through every review in The Oshkosh Telegram-Monitor looking for quotes? (Tremendous point!) I feel very guilty about those advertising executives being suspended because of little old me—and that class-action suit by those disgruntled moviegoers in California is pure bunk. Imagine, disliking A Knight’s Tale so much you call a lawyer!

For what it’s worth, I’m real, but I know for a fact that Kevin Thomas isn’t, and neither are most of the Times‘ restaurant critics. For that matter, John Simon is not a man but a mutant mandrill that someone taught to type. (Go see The Animal, John!) So what? Let’s put it this way: I could have been invented, because someone needed me. Who’s ever in need of a killjoy?

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