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Fear and Loathing at the Walter Reade Theater
Instead of a review of "The Royal Tenenbaums"
by Jurgen Fauth

"The Royal Tenenbaums" stars Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Angelica Houston, Gene Hackmann, and Danny Glover. No wonder some people were angry to be shut out.

Film critics are a greedy, freeloading bunch. I don't say this easily -- I've been known to partake at the occasional junket -- but the feeding frenzy at the New York Film Festival breakfast buffet is enough to shake even the most jaded observer of human nature. Standing in line for free coffee in the lobby of the screening for Storytelling, I was repeadedly elbowed in the groin by an elderly lady who might easily have escaped from one of Solondz' screenplays. When she discovered the thermos had run empty, she kicked me in the shin for emphasis and stomped off. Imagine, then, the outporing of anger when the doors closed on the first advance screening of cult director Wes Anderson's latest film, The Royal Tenenbaums, leaving hundreds of usually entitled card-carrying members of the press in the cold, including yours truly.

A big fan of Anderson myself, I had anticipated the onslaught and arrived at the Walter Reade Theater at New York's Lincoln Center a solid hour early. I found myself very close to the beginning of the second tier "limited press" line, where the common rabble of journalists waits and watches while the royalty of name-brand critics parade past, doubtless to head straight for the scrumptious spreads of bagels, donuts, and danishes laid out for their delectation, along with several varieties of gourmet coffee.

The tension was rising as more and more VIPs disappeared into the theater and the festival staff showed no sign of letting us inside.

 More from the NYFF
• NYFF Main Page
• Storytelling
• Y Tu Mama Tambien
• Mulholland Drive
• Fat Girl

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• Film Society of Lincoln Center
• Official Site of the NYFF 2001

• Storytelling Official Site
Minutes after the scheduled start of the screening, the theater was declared full. The orderly line of film scribblers turned into a seething mob that would not have been out of place at a public stoning, or, armed with torches and pitforks, could have hunted down a B-movie monster. Wave after wave of critics surged forward to profess their own importance, the considerable clout of their editors, their intimate personal relationships with "Wes." But none of it mattered: the Festival's henchmen pulled their fingers across their throats with that "krkrk" sound that means "Game Over." I half-expected them to resort to the time-honored bouncer classic: "Which part of no don't you understand?"

We were told to attend the public screenings instead, the sounds of which is enough to make a critic gag (you have to pay to get in, after all), and which everybody knew was a futile suggestion to begin with: even New York Magazine had caught on and declared The Royal Tenenbaums "the hottest ticket of the fall." All showings were long sold out.

One guy who suspiciously looked like Harry Knowles in a "United We Stand" t-shirt tried one last time by threatening to hand-cuff himself to the doors of Walter Reade Theater, but the staff was unmoved. To make their point they dragged an octogenarian freeloader outside and berated him publicly for trying to sneak past them: the theater was full. Full. Full. The film was going to be shown without us. We would miss the press conference with "Wes." There was nothing left to do. The critics dispersed, shaking their heads sadly, reduced to having to wait for the film's official release in December, and without breakfast.

I paid for a cup of coffee and took the train home, where I popped Rushmore in the DVD player and let Max Fisher ease my pain.

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