After Lee Siegel was exposed and suspended for confronting nasty commenters on his New Republic blog under a pseudonym (“sock puppet”), I e-mailed him a condolence note to the effect that blogging is a pipeline to the id, and that some of us — the exhibitionist, the paranoid, the batshit-crazy — should approach such unmediated self-expression warily, if at all. It’s too bad that in his recent book (Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob), he blamed the medium far more than the lesser part of his — our — nature. I’m not going to blame the medium for the dumb-ass stuff I wrote in my last blog entry. It was an unholy confluence of man and machine.
To synopsize, I said that Anthony Minghella, who died suddenly following surgery, never lived up to the potential of his first feature, Truly, Madly, Deeply, and I suggested that his career trajectory had a lot to do with Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein pushing him in the direction of tony Oscar-bait material following the slew of Academy Awards for The English Patient. Yes, it’s a minority view that those films were artistically compromised. But even allowing for their considerable merits (and my reviews of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain were largely positive), it’s a pity that unlike, say, Neil Jordan, Steven Soderbergh, or Stephen Frears, Minghella didn’t also make smaller and more personal projects that were as adventurous, as sui generis as Truly, Madly, Deeply.
I stand by that opinion of those films but was wrong to finger Weinstein for pulling Minghella’s strings. Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere knew the director and said he liked living well and making high-profile pictures. The projects in question — none of them remotely formulaic — were initiated by Minghella or studios other than Miramax. Beyond that, the tone and timing of the piece stunk, especially given Weinstein’s close friendship with Minghella. Defamer’s Stu VanAirsdale wrote that I’d done the impossible: made people feel sorry for Harvey!
I want to be clear that no one ordered me to apologize. I had decided to eat shit even before Harvey called. Yes, he called — did you think he wouldn’t? He was the soul of politeness, believe it or not. He said he cried for hours when he got the news. He said Minghella came to him with most of the projects. He said despite his “Harvey Scissorhands” reputation, Minghella was not a man whose work you recut.
I told Harvey that as a critic, I reserve the right to make fun of him anytime I want, and that he can expect in the future to be regularly pissed off. But this time, I was over the line in so many ways. I apologize to him, to you, to Anthony Minghella.