Mitchell exit smokes out a critic’s critics

Movieline dumps critic after 'Source Code' allegation

Once upon a time in Blogland, a film critic losing a job inspired solemnity and commiseration from colleagues.

That was so 2009.

The mood was one of blogospheric schadenfreude after high-profile Elvis Mitchell on April 23 exited as chief critic for film blog Movieline, where he’d been working since Jan. 13.

Deadline Hollywood (owned by Jay Penske, who also owns Movieline) reported that Mitchell had been terminated over his review of “Source Code.”

For weeks, the blogs had reported that the film’s director, Duncan Jones, was unhappy over the review — not that it was bad, but the fact that Mitchell referred to the pipe-smoking of Jeffrey Wright’s character. The pipe was in the screenplay, but not in the final film. Implication: Mitchell needed to explain why and how this happened or the suspicion will be that he didn’t see the film.

IndieWire’s Anne Thompson decided that it was time to share her experiences as Mitchell’s editor at Premiere magazine. The even stronger implication of that piece was that when it came time to hit deadlines and turn in clean copy, Elvis left the building. A lot. As Thompson reports, “Mitchell is not good with money. Or meeting deadlines. Filing expenses. Or doing what he says he’s going to do.”

Imagine the next screening where Thompson and Mitchell are sharing the Jujubes. Awkward!

Others were smoking mad, citing Mitchell’s past early exits from jobs, as well as his personal life, battles with the IRS, etc. Evidently smoking a peace-pipe, Kim Voynar at Movie City News was mystified by the “gleeful cackling” online over his exit; the comments on the site indicated MCN’s readers were split on the vibe of the stories about Mitchell, and speculated whether “Source Code” was really the source of the exit.

Anonymous comments such as “Everyone knows there are money problems at Movieline and lots of people are getting laid off over there” popped up more than once.

Meanwhile, at the Wrap, Brent Lang kindly allowed critic David Edelstein to come to his friend Mitchell’s defense.

“David Edelstein thinks he saw Elvis at ‘Source Code’ ” won’t go down in any J-school annals as a classic headline, but if you’re following this strange tale, it sums up the mood.

But rather than let the defense of Mitchell rest, Lang decided he too needed to take Mitchell to the woodshed for what appears to be a lifetime of not living up to other journalists’ ideas of how Mitchell should comport himself in the terribly serious world of entertainment punditry.

Lang sounded like the voice of Mitchell’s conscience when he wrote, “As for Mitchell, no word yet on his future plans, but he’ll likely land on his feet. In a career that’s taken him from the Paramount lot to the New York Times, he’s never been hard pressed to find work. Keeping a job, on the other hand, has been more of a problem.”

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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