There’s an explosive story brewing at Gawker, the gist of which is that Variety, the biggest trade publication in this here movietown, deep-sixed a negative review of some random movie called Iron Cross because the film’s producers paid the mag 400 thousand (dollars) for an Oscar campaign.

I know, you’re like ‘What Oscar campaign?’ Seriously, that was 400k poorly spent, even without the negative review. Anyway, the movie is the final role of Roy Scheider, and it’s like Death Wish meets Marathon Man meets Inglorious Basterds, where Scheider hunts down the SS officer who killed his family back WWII. This movie that nobody heard of made it into Variety’s Oscar contender screening series, complete with Q&As with the filmmakers, and was advertised in Variety daily until the deadline for Oscar nominee ballots passed. The filmmakers were trying to push Scheider into the race, apparently.

And then a negative review appeared – and was quickly removed. But everything can be found on the internet, and Gawker discovered a Google cache version of the review. Later they found a completely batshit insane email from the film’s producer, Joshua Newton, where he complained that the critic ‘snuck’ the review into Variety (how the fuck could that even happen!) and proved that he was a worthless critic because he didn’t like Newton’s previous film a movie seemingly pulled from thin air, Rat Race. Which is truly a piece of shit. Says Newton:

You’ll note the very high percentages awarded by the top critics – reaching 100% by the San Francisco Chronicle. Koehler, who trashes many movies, gave it only 20%, stating “A lineup of comic actors running on empty long before the dust settles”. Clearly a man without a sense of humour. Which probably explains why he hated Iron Cross. In the first act of the film, well before the neighbour is abducted, I depict several humorous moments, amongst which Roy’s character imagines what he’d like to do to the man he believes killed his family –- not as your friend suggests, some random German. These include gassing, hanging and cutting off his head –- three methods the Nazis used to kill people. These moments — and several others –- received widespread audience laughter, as intended, at the three Variety screenings we have had.

Oh man!

But let’s not get swayed by how nutty Newton sounds there (or in the rest of the letter), but on the fact that Variety spiked a review because it was trashing a movie they were working to advertise. This is troubling ground, especially for the most prestigious and oldest trade paper in Hollywood. Times are tough for traditional publications, and Oscar ads can keep mags like Variety and Hollywood Reporter afloat for a whole year. But now they’re competing for ad dollars with Oscar obsession web sites like Hollywood Elsewhere and Movie City News, and it looks like they’ll do whatever it takes to keep those ad dollars flowing.

Claims of ethics lines being crossed are nothing new (you’re likely to see some such claims made against me in the comments below by yahoos who don’t understand how the film business works), but the details on this story appear too clear to be a misunderstanding. If Variety did remove a legitimate negative review of a movie because they wanted to maintain a relationship with an advertiser, that’s very, very bad. Especially if it can be documented so well. Assuming the Gawker story is on the up and up and all the emails they have are legit, this is the kind of scandal that should cause major, huge change at Variety. Like, people losing their jobs change.

This story is why I’m especially glad I have nothing to do with the advertising that runs on CHUD. I don’t even know about site reskins until you do – ie, when the site has been reskinned. It’s shameful that a magazine like Variety would behave in a way that I wouldn’t expect from even the slimiest elements of the blogosphere.