If "Home Again" ("from Nancy Meyers" but not really) is as funny as its ads, it could be another one-week wonder, box office-wise. It's not the highlighted scenes from the movie that are funny (they aren't), it's the ravings that punctuate each scene. The ads have these hyperventilating quotes but, at first glance, there seems to be no attribution at all.
If you squint real hard and get up-close to your 50" TV screen, however, you detect a blur under each quote that apparently gives the name of the critic in question. It's a safe guess that the critic is not from The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times or Rolling Stone because, in such a case, the name of the publication would be larger than the quote itself.
No, these "critics" are nobodies from the internet.
Which brings me back to Manning. I couldn't connect the name to a person because there is no person. Sixteen years ago, in one of its 2001 June editions, Newsweek magazine exposed a critic named David Manning who, up until that point, was a star of sorts in television spots and also in display ads that ran more frequently in daily newspapers back in those days.
David seemingly came out of nowhere. According to the ads, he wrote for the Ridgefield Press, a small Connecticut weekly. But no one knew who he was, including the Ridgefield Press. The new Kilroy. David liked the right movies. He was the only critic on planet earth who actually liked Rob Schneider's "The Animal," a film not screened in advance for any critic.
"Another winner!," David gasped nevertheless.
Newsweek pursued the story when reporter John Horn noticed that "David Manning of the Ridgefield Press" was quoted in ads for movies released by Sony Entertainment exclusively (that would include Columbia Pictures, TriStar and Screen Gems) and became suspicious. The story broke.
There is no David Manning and there never was. He was a PR concoction.
The two Sony advertising flacks, who created the fictional critic and wrote the quotes for Sony ads themselves, were suspended. David Manning was gone. He never made the National Society of Film Critics, although I hear that there were serious plans to court him. If only he could be located.
David was invented because the good old days of studios threatening and co-opting critics were fading. There was a time when gossip columnists like Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons were only too happy to supply the studios with money quotes. The new breed of movie critic would not be controlled or compromised. All that was left were the die-hard Junketeers, those celebrity-obsessed interviewers who are wined and dined and put up in hotels by the studios (and, if everything works as planned, have their picture taken with the celeb!) and who are expected to produce fawning pieces from which a planted quote could be conveniently extracted.
A quote from a critic who isn't a critic - and from a review that doesn't exist. These days, this is the new normal, thanks to the internet.
In the 16 years since David Manning perished and went to critics' heaven, everything has changed. The world is now full of self-proclaimed "movie critics" - wannabes and amateurs. These professional jokes seem to forget that one really isn't a critic unless a media source actually pays you.
But the point is, there's no need in 2017 to invent someone like David. He's back, multiplied many times over. I've never counted (who has the time or the patience?) but there seems to be thousands of so-called movie critics on Rotten Tomatoes, a place where someone who works as a shoe clerk and writes reviews in his bedroom is put on the same plane as Roger Ebert. Great, just great. Wait a minute! "Great, just great"? That's it!
Hey, taken out of context, that's a hell of a money quote, the kind studios love. But please don't attribute it to me. Instead, sign it ... David Manning.
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~What David Manning might look like if he existed