Thursday, August 04, 2005

Citizen Gyllenhaal (or not)

One of the many classic scenes in Citizen Kane is when Kane’s old friend and the drama critic for his newspaper, Jedediah Leland, has to write a review of Kane’s wife’s god-awful singing debut. Leland writes half of a vicious pan before passing out drunk on his typewriter. Kane finds the review, finishes it in the same tone, publishes it, and then fires Leland.

This got me to wondering how the Star Tribune movie critics handled reviewing actors Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the nephew and niece of their boss, Editor Anders Gyllenhaal. True, the critics (Jeff Strickler and Colin Covert) had one big advantage over Jebediah Leland – their boss’s relatives actually have some talent. Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to go through the Strib’s movie review archives to see if I could find any blatant examples of sucking up, hopefully accompanied with a vicious pan that pre-dated Gyllenhaal’s editorship.

Unfortunately, no such luck. Jake Gyllenhall received only positive reviews before Anders Gyllenhaal was named editor (Maggie wasn’t reviewed). The only negative review for a Gyllenhaal appeared shortly after Uncle Anders became editor. Jeff Strickler wrote in his August 16, 2002 review of “The Good Girl”: “The last act gets a little too sudsy at times. Gyllenhaal ("Donnie Darko") starts overacting, while spouting lines that are more silly than profound …”

Since there was no evidence of any sucking up (in fact, the opposite) I decided to abandon the idea.

Well then, if the post was abandoned, then why are you reading about it? The reason is that I recalled this quote from my favorite physicist, Richard Feynman:

“If you’ve made up your mind to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look good. We must publish both kinds of results.”

This does not need apply only to science. Feynman tended to have a somewhat low opinion of lawyers, politicians, and others in the persuasion business precisely because they tended to ignore this maxim. Most consider it the responsibility of the other side to find their own evidence and make their own arguments. But if are goal is to move us closer to the truth, we have the responsibility to bring to light all information we know of, whether it helps or hurts our theory.

So, for what it’s worth, Anders Gyllenhaal isn’t firing employees who give poor reviews to his relatives.


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