The Toast of Hollywood

Gene Maddaus' cover story last week — which revealed the criminal records of, and international intrigue surrounding, top Hollywood producers Remington Chase and Stefan Martirosian — had the city buzzing (“The Producers,” Jan. 3). Veteran film-industry reporter Anita Busch writes, “Mr. Maddaus and L.A. Weekly, thank you for your absolute courage and obvious doggedness and thoroughness in reporting and publishing this story.

Scottzwartz appreciated the plea printed from the producers' publicist: “Best quote of the year (not much competition, yet): 'Any of this stuff coming out,' she says, 'is horribly damaging.' ” Yep, we'd call that the understatement of the year. And not just this still-young year, either.

Portrait of the Artist

Film critic Amy Nicholson didn't like Jason Reitman's new film, Labor Day, but that's not what had author Joyce Maynard steaming (“Labor Day Takes Too Much Work to Believe,” Dec. 27). She writes, “While I disagree strongly with critic Amy Nicholson's negative assessment of Labor Day (out now in limited release, with wide release slated for Jan. 31), I would never question a critic's right to her opinion.

What I found offensive in Nicholson's review of the film was her choice to include, in her review, personal and inaccurate information about the past history of the author of the novel from which Reitman's film was adapted. I speak with some authority here: I am the author of that novel.

“Snarkiness is a familiar substitute for wit or insight, among critics of a certain caliber. But the choice of your critic to toss out dismissive one-liners about the experience of a teenager, at the hands of a man 35 years her senior, necessitates response.

“Over the course of my 40-plus year career as a writer, I've published 13 books (one of which, To Die For, was adapted by Buck Henry some years back, for a fine film directed by Gus Van Sant). I'm guessing I've probably published a thousand essays and columns, served as a reporter for The New York Times and commentator on NPR. And yet the critic for L.A. Weekly has chosen to portray me as 'a memoirist best known for having shacked up with J.D. Salinger at age 18.'

“Had Nicholson actually read the memoir, At Home in the World, in which I wrote about that experience (as opposed to Googling my name), your critic might find reason to question whether the term 'shacked up' conveyed the nature of a deeply painful and damaging relationship between a young person and a powerful older man. She might even ask herself: Which of the two parties involved might be more fairly called into question for what ensued?

“Now let us suppose for a moment that I did, in fact, behave outrageously, cruelly, immorally or unethically, during an 11-month period between 1972 and 1973? Would any of this information be relevant in a film review of a piece of work in whose creation I played a part, four decades later? Celebrities often have moments of fallibility in their personal histories (drug use, shoplifting, drunk driving, physical abuse, explicit videos, etc.), but serious film critics are unlikely to say, 'Oscar-worthy performance by so-and-so, best known for a drunken rant on a local highway.' Nor would a critic of Salinger's novels and short stories introduce, in his discussion of the work, rumors of the writer's sexual history.

“Amy Nicholson chose to devote a full paragraph of her 10-paragraph review of Labor Day to a takedown of the personal life of the novel's author. I don't call that film criticism. I call it misogyny. Most egregious of all when committed by a woman.

Nicholson asked for a chance to respond; we give her the floor in this online-only extra. She writes, “What Maynard leaves out in her irritation at a paragraph in my review is, well, everything in the paragraph except a clause.

“An artist's life influences their work and, in turn, influences the way their work is interpreted. True, Maynard's relationship with Salinger doesn't feel present in Labor Day, which is why I didn't analyze it at all — positive or negative, victimizing or outrageous, cruel, immoral and unethical. But her history of publicly analyzing her romances is important as an entry into what my review actually discusses: Maynard's pen-pal romance with a Calipatria State Prison inmate, which she wrote about for Vogue in 2007 and two years later channeled into the novel that inspired this film.

“Given the countless times Maynard's written about her months with Salinger, including the current re-release of her memoir At Home in the World and her September op-ed in The New York Times, it's understandable that she's a bit weary of discussing it. I'm sure her headline role in this summer's documentary Salinger must have pushed her to her limit. If she'd rather be best known as the brains behind Labor Day, be my guest.”

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