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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Career LA Times journo makes funny about apparent lousy education; Synecdoche, NY the butt of his affectation

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, the role of a journalist was to inform, educate and elevate public discourse. Now it’s to pretend you’re as stupid as the next straw man. synecdocheposter.jpgIn a rare “Big Picture” blog foray that doesn’t involve lunch with powerful people or the fear of being taken for a parking valet by powerful people, LA Time’s Patrick “P-Bloggy” Goldstein asks after a Los Angeles screening of Synecdoche, New York, “Can anyone pronounce the title of Charlie Kaufman’s new movie?” “[B]efore the screening, a gang of us grungy media types lollygagged around, like a cut-rate version of NPR’s ‘Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me,’ trying to guess how to pronounce the movie’s title, a play on Schenectady, N.Y. (The only person who seemed to truly have a clue was Christian Science Monitor critic Peter Rainer, but I think I spied a dictionary in his back pocket.)” I don’t mean to go all Mark Rabinowitz on anybody, but what the fuck does that mean coming from someone who’s over 50 and has spent their entire career working with language, on staff at the Times for a decade once of the most prestigious outlets for journalism? Aside from the de rigeur har-de-har reference to KCRW? “I think I spied a dictionary in his back pocket.” To whom precisely is the condescension directed? “Always a good sport, Sony [Pictures] Classics co-chief Tom Bernard laughed when I asked if he’d given Kaufman a list of other possible New York towns that might roll off the tongue a bit more mellifluously, like Rochester or Syracuse or even Ithaca.” Bernard’s smart enough to know that the name of Erin Brockovich wasn’t Erin Brockovich: in the real world, it was “Julia Roberts IS Erin Brockovich.” Quotes Goldstein, “We’re completely happy with the title… The whole idea is to brand it as a Charlie Kaufman film. So if it’s an issue with anyone, people can just say it’s the Charlie Kaufman movie. Maybe it will be a good thing. If people can’t pronounce the title, that simply means they’ll have to spend more time talking about it.” Frets the man, “[T]he title is a still a tonsil-twirling tongue-twister.” Tonsil-twirling… Pr0n term? Medicinal? Carnivalesque?: Have to get the Google out of my hip pocket… This is extremely silly stuff.

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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