Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

The Directors Who Said Too Much

Who listens to DVD commentary tracks?
The Onion’s A.V. Club does, rounding up the oddest of the not-so-special-features for its Commentary Tracks of the Damned column.
Now the magazine’s critics have come up with The 15 People You Meet Listening to DVD Audio Commentaries: the hack helmers who insist that all the good stuff got cut, the dreary academics, the kings of nostalgia (hello, Peter Bogdanovich), the tired and emotional cast and crew reunions.
Despite the proliferation of director’s commentary tracks–and I’ve been listening to them since they were laserdisc commentary tracks–most of them are skippable. Sci fi and horror movies directors and producers who started in the 1980s and earlier love to tell the secrets behind every practical effect and gag, and they tell these stories not just because they’re well spoken, funny guys. Fans of the numerous re-issues buy the new editions, and the commentators (Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Wes Craven) actually have something new to say to the next generation of filmmakers.
I’m not sure what can be learned from the contractually obligated chats from the directors of movies like Stealth and The Island, but it’s wicked boring to hear how many times a CG visual effect was sent back to the effects house.
It’s like hearing an MBA tell you how many times he told his assistant to revise a PowerPoint presentation. That’s not making movies. That’s manufacturing.

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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