I’m surprised that it took this long for one of Aint It Cool News’ ‘spies’ to lose his job over a review posted on that site. The axe fell on a guy named ‘Memflix,’ who has a five month old son and supported him by working as a projectionist for the Malco Theater chain; ‘Memflix’- real name Jesse Morrison – screened a print of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer for what appears to have been exhibitors, not critics, and then wrote up a scathing review for Aint It Cool. A couple of days later he was summoned to the home office (which is next door to the theater where he works, and why his screening was likely for the theater chain’s buyers) and told Fox had complained about the review and that they knew the reviewer worked for Malco. Morrison was told he was on suspension and that his future looked grim, and that at the very least he would never again work one of those early screenings.
Drew McWeeny, long-time warrior against Fox, erupted on AICN. I can see where he’s coming from, and where he has to protect his own, but in this case, he, and Morrison, are just wrong. This situation is a simple and clear-cut abuse of position, and Morrison blew not just his job but the trust people had in him for what? The first review of a second-tier summer blockbuster? At the expense of his child’s well-being? This guy is not only unethical, he’s not bright.
The excuses, of course, fly. The chain knew that Morrison was writing reviews, we’re told. Well, nobody complained about it before. Once they got a complaint they took action on something they were being laissez faire about; maybe they should have clamped down on Morrison earlier, but that doesn’t mean the guy had free reign. Speaking as someone who has abused my position at jobs in the past, there’s a simple fact that comes into play: just because you don’t get busted doesn’t mean it’s okay. Something as simple as taking home paper from the office might be ignored until the day the home office comes by for an inventory and demands to know where all the paper is going. Your bosses were being nice by turning a blind eye, Morrison, but that doesn’t mean they were actually giving you a license to do what you were doing.
The most annoying excuse is that no one told him he couldn’t. In his blog entry on the matter, Morrison mentions that without the pay from the special screenings, the job is not worth it anymore. That obviously means working these screenings were a privilege for trusted employees… but since no one sat him down and told him not to write about the film, or had him sign a piece of paper, he didn’t know any better. This is obvious bullshit, because if he didn’t know he could get busted he sure as shit wouldn’t be writing under the name ‘Memflix.’ But on top of that, this is an excuse that even Dennis the Menace wouldn’t stoop to – Morrison is a grown man with a child, but he doesn’t understand what it means when trust is placed in him in a situation like this? Every time this defense is used my intelligence is insulted. This kind of excuse is the heart of one of the biggest problems I see around me all the time, the ‘It wasn’t my fault’ attitude where people refuse to take responsibility but are happy to accept perks and privileges.
The funny thing is that I am no fan of Fox, or how they operate. I don’t get invited to Fox press events, and I have to claw and scratch to get invited to Fox screenings. My relationship with the studio has gone from ‘blacklisted’ to ‘fucking ignored,’ as far as I can tell, and I trace it all back to negative things I have written about Fox films. This is a studio that deals poorly and unfairly with the press, especially the online press (well, with one major exception), and one for which I have little love – both as a professional trying to work with them and as a movie fan who is annoyed by their generally poor output. But in this case Fox is right – even if they went so far as to demand Morrison be fired (which they and Malco both deny, but who knows). For Morrison this was a game, but for Fox this is a business, and poisonous buzz could hurt a major investment for them. Whether any of us in the press corps like it or not (and I do not like it), it’s the studio’s decision when and where to show us their movies, if at all, and if they want to manage buzz by not screening the film to critics, again, that’s their right. We’re not owed an early review of Fantastic Four or any film. I have never been a fan of AICN’s ‘spy’ reviews from test screenings where movies are not finished or from writers who know jack shit about film but just happened to be in the right mall to get a movie pass, but that’s a whole different ball game from what Morrison did.
Aint It Cool News readers are flocking to Morrison’s aid, some even offering him jobs on their films. It would be hilarious if Morrison got such a job and then started sending in spy reports to AICN; why anyone would trust somebody who needs the basic tenets of ethics spelled out to them is beyond me. Morrison told the Hollywood Reporter that he wants to be a professional film critic – maybe he should start acting like an ethical and professional anything before he tries for that job position.