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David Poland

By David Poland

When Armond Hits It…

I read Armond White of The New York Press every week. I rarely find myself just agreeing or disagreeing with him. My response is usually, “he’s so right and he said it better than anyone else” or “he’s completely nuts.”

This week, in reviewing Ray, I think he hit it out of the park. He’s also a little nuts, obsesing on his dislike for Michael Mann’s Ali. But in the end, while I have shortcutted it, all too often repeating, “it’s too long,” White gets to it…

“Committed to balancing chronological order with signs of personality, screenwriter James L. White avoids the bad taste and disingenuous omissions that ruined other recent black pop bios. But Charles’ extraordinary story eventually becomes mediocre when it ought to soar—or confront the contradictions of the music biz (remember Little Richards’ appearance at the end of the Frankie Lymon flick). White relies on the hoariest bio-pic clichés to depict the gestation of Ray’s artistic highpoints (such as the inspired recording of “I Got a Woman,” “Hit the Road, Jack,” “What Kind of Man Are You?” and the Modern Sounds of Country and Western album). This reduces Charles’ art to a consequence of mundane events (Ray’s lover’s quarrel with his women) or as a mere gesture of banal expediency. It is never acknowledged as the product of truth-telling or mysterious genius. In this sense Ray commits many of the faults of the bio-pics that preceded it. Its significance is in Taylor Hackford’s maneuvering past the genre’s many ideological obstacles. Thus, I’ve presented its negative virtues. Ray remains conscientious but unimaginative.”

Conscientious but unimaginative… ouch. But accurate.

A good movie… but it never quite dares to be great. And that is a shame, given how much real talent, from the actors to the director, is involved.

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One Response to “When Armond Hits It…”

  1. SRCputt says:

    Some people may overrate this film. Clearly Foxx is amazing. He is grat, the film is merely good — mainly because of Foxx.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon