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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

The Squid finds its Voice: A Whale of a Tale

In the Voice, a week after a cover package touting David Cronenberg as the paper’s historically best-reviewed auteur father, Noam Baumbach, son of former Village Voice reviewer Georgia Brown (and Mr. Jennifer Jason Leigh) is anointed as the best kid on the block for his magnificent short story The Squid and the Whale. Former Voice intern Rob Nelson makes a case for mom’s critical savvy;
Jim Hoberman offers a long caveat on
why he’s even reviewing the film: “Full disclosure: If I hadn’t liked The Squid and the Whale so much, I might have begged off reviewing. For, while I have only the slightest personal acquaintance with the filmmaker, I do know his brother, his father, and particularly, his mother, former Voice movie critic Georgia Brown. From this privileged position, the movie is, of course, additionally fascinating—albeit not so much for what the filmmaker reveals about his family but how he chooses to represent them. Janet Malcolm opened her infamous screed “The Journalist and the Murderer “by observing that “every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.” But isn’t this true of any writer who takes people’s lives as grist for her mill? I don’t necessarily recognize Baumbach’s actual family in [his movie] but I do recognize the artist’s ruthlessness—and the degree to which he’s been true to their aesthetic family values.” And Jessica Winter listens to Baumbach: “The director grew up in a household of voluble cinephiles. “My dad [Jonathan Baumbach] had been a film critic for the Partisan Review, but when I was younger and not aware of those kinds of things. Then my mom started reviewing around the time I was finishing high school and starting college, and I was so excited—I felt like the family finally had a mouthpiece, that she could write about all the stuff we’d been discussing for all these years. What interested me about my mom’s film criticism was that she really valued an emotional reaction to a movie… I feel that with this movie I learned the value of an emotional approach to filmmaking. I made an emotional movie about intellectuals.”

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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