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David Poland

By David Poland

I Miss Jack

I had a funny relationship with Jack Valenti (who barely knew who I was). I almost always disagreed with his spin on controversial issues, like the ratings. But I always admired his tenacity and skill set. The guy was a perfectly coiffed bulldog. And he protected the film business more aggressively and more successfully than 99.9% of people can begin to imagine.
Ironic that today the MPAA’s CARA board overturned an R rating on The Hip Hop Project, allowing the language to go so the film can reach its target market of kids who need to know there are better options in the world. I really like Dan Glickman, who seems committed to making the MPAA a more adventurous, fair place for the benefit of filmmakers and audiences. But Dan is no Jack. There is no other Jack, really.
He has been missed. He will be missed, especially by any of us who ever got to tussle with the man.

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12 Responses to “I Miss Jack”

  1. Wrecktum says:

    Valenti was a god. Boy, I’ll miss him.
    It’ll be interesting if Glickman will make changes to the ratings system now that Jack has passed. Valenti had an iron grip on his beloved creation, and one could sense that the MPAA was loathe to make significant improvements as long as Jack had breath in his body.

  2. RoyBatty says:

    To get the bile out first, I could not stand the man’s convoluted, double-speak, bullshit, tortured logic about how film ratings wasn’t censorship and why a new rating for Adults wasn’t needed.
    However, he was always a gentleman. And even after 40 years did not mind one more rehash about his days working for Johnson, the most underappreciated president of the last 50 years (three words: Civil Rights Act).
    We might be near the time of the second coming, because if anyone was born to be God’s spokesman…

  3. Blackcloud says:

    The film ratings aren’t censorship. That doesn’t mean they’re not stupid, but that’s another issue.
    My impression is that Valenti, like most monarchs who have a lengthy reign, stayed on the throne too long. For himself, for his subjects, and, perhaps most of all, for his successor(s).

  4. montrealkid says:

    It’s sad that Valenti has passed but let’s be honest: The MPAA was nothing more than an old-boys club for the studios that threatened daring or independent works to be cut or released “unrated” or face the dreaded NC-17, while pushing through their own films with a lesser degree of scrutiny.
    It was and is an unworkable system that needs to overhauled and have its members be indentified and held to greater accountablility.

  5. Wrecktum says:

    LOL, montrealkid. The MPAA is a trade organization and a major lobbying group in Washington. You (and everyone else, it seems) assumes that the MPAA’s main role is its podunk ratings system. How wrong you are.

  6. montrealkid says:

    Good point Wrecktum, and it only gives more weight the to the argument that lobbyists have no business rating films. And “trade organization” is laughable as their interests are mainly those of the big studios.

  7. Wrecktum says:

    Actually, I kinda agree with you.

  8. Me says:

    Having worked for a few trade organization, they almost always work in the interests of the big guys in their industries.

  9. David Poland says:

    The MPAA is not “of the studios,” it IS the studios, quite literally. But we tend to forget that the economics that have been forged by the organization benefits all filmmakers, even if the NC-17 is an ongoing car wreck.
    What I miss most about Jack in recent years is his ability to rally the studio leadership to collude to do better for the industry. Left to their own purely bottom line thinking, the studios now tear at the foundations of future economics a little more every year. Jack was great at keeping those battle in-house and under control.

  10. Wrecktum says:

    Industry collusion is illegal, you know.

  11. EDouglas says:

    “Ironic that today the MPAA’s CARA board overturned an R rating on The Hip Hop Project, allowing the language to go so the film can reach its target market of kids who need to know there are better options in the world.”
    This is GREAT news. The first thing I said to the publicist after seeing this movie is that the main thought going through my head while watching it was that the language in the movie would get it an automatic R, but even more than Gunner Palace, this had to get a PG-13 rating so the kids who could learn from it could actually see it.

  12. Cadavra says:

    The Appeals Board tends to be a little more lenient with unscripted films/documentaries, especially when there is a “greater good” at stake, though supposedly they got a lot of complaints about GUNNER PALACE. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the “F-word” subplot on STUDIO 60 was directly inspired by the GUNNER dust-up.

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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.

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