Drawing from the AP wire, Yahoo news featured a a story this morning about famed fake movie critic David Manning. Turns out Sony will be paying out $1.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit as a result of using fake quotes from "David Manning" a fictional critic for the real Connecticut newspaper The Ridgefield Press. (This on top of a $326,000 payout to the state of Connecticut.) Moviegoers who saw those films in the theater are eligible for a $5 reimbursement. The unclaimed funds will go to charity. Sony admitted no liability. "Manning"'s quotes appeared on promotional materials for four movies released between 2000 and 2001: Vertical Limit, A Knight's Tale, The Animal, and Hollow Man.
That 2001 incident serves as a high-water mark for studios co-opting critics into the marketing process, one that almost proved they don't need critics at all. Should it have taken two years and four movies for anyone to notice. (John Horn of
Newsweek got to the bottom of it.) Me, I kind of miss Manning. In his own way, he was a lot more honest than the oft-quoted critics whose main claim to legitimacy is flesh and blood. I like to think Manning's still out there somewhere in Connecticut watching movies. also like to imagine what he'd have made of the past few years.
True, it's tough to speculate too deeply about his opinions given that Manning's total body of work consists of four quotes. But from those, a portrait of a cineaste emerges. Specifically, he's a cineaste who pays particular attention to Sony-distributed movies with an affection for those who need that extra oomph in the critical blurbs department. So in 2002 he probably would have loved The Mothman Prophecies ("More chilling than The Blair Witch Project!") and New Best Friend ("Mia Kirshner is the hottest Canadian import since maple syrup!.") He would have kept his silence on Spider-Man but Master Of Disguise would no doubt have gotten his attention ("You can't hide laughs like these!"). 2003 would have kept him busy with Anger Management ("Adam Sandler at his Adam Sandleriest!"), Tears Of The Sun ("You'll cheer!"), and Radio ("Cuba Gooding Jr. shines, Oscar-style!"). And he would no doubt have loved 2004's White Chicks, Christmas With The Kranks, and The Forgotten ("Unforgettable!") while letting others talk about Closer and the like.
As for this year, he'd love it for Man Of The House alone, but he'd probably be saving his highest praise for the end of the summer. There's a Deuce Bigalow sequel coming up we know he's a Rob Schneider fan. You can take David Manning off the movie posters, but his spirit lingers on.