MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Ten Best Movies 2008

1. Shine a Light
U.S.: Martin Scorsese

Anyone who loves movies or rock n’ roll, or both, and doesn’t get blown away at Shine a Light — the roaring new concert film/documentary with the Rolling Stones, directed by Martin Scorsese — just isn‘t trying. This great picture is the vibrant record of a live 2006 concert at Manhattan’s Beacon Theatre on the “Bigger Bang“ tour — and it’s thrilling and sexy and knock-you-on-your-ass brilliant.

No one plays rock with more lustiness, gusto and power than the now-in-their-60s Stones: Mick Jagger, the tireless perpetual-motion, sex-machine front man; Keith Richards, the wasted-looking, devil-fingered genius guitarist; Ronny Wood, his virtuoso reed-thin guitar genius buddy; and Charlie Watts, the stoic peerless calm-at-the-eye-of-the-storm ace-of-aces drummer. No one has a better band. And no one records and captures rock with more sensitivity, wit and visual panache than Scorsese — that nervous fast-talking rock n’ roll movie maestro, the guy who edited part of the 1970 epic Woodstock at the start of his career, who recently knocked off that stinging Bob Dylan rock doc No Direction Home and who, in The Last Waltz, with the Band and their all-star friends (including Dylan and Wood), crafted a no-arguments masterpiece and one of Shine’s precious few rivals as a rock concert film.

Neither Marty nor the Stones disappoints us in Shine the Light — and that‘s understating the case. God, can they still play and sing, shoot and cut, wail and scream! Richards rises from his Chuck Berry-Muddy Waters inferno once again and does another variation on his famous signature hey-I’m-still-alive greeting “Good to be here! Good to be anywhere!” by turning it into “Great to see you! Great to see anybody!” And, midway through, when Jagger traverses a wall of blazing light on stage, as the drums roll and pound for “Sympathy for the Devil,“ he seems to be passing through both Heaven and Hell, to some place hotter and more heavenly than either. He’s the Stone that, like Sisyphus‘ rock, never stops rolling.

Jagger a fossil? Richards a fig? Charlie a fogy? Ronnie a relic? Crap and triple crap. Rock is not intrinsically and exclusively the music of youth, community and rebellion — any more than jazz or blues or Tin Pan Alley were. At its core, rock is more the music of getting laid and getting high — sometimes, of course, in youthful, communal, rebellious ways.
Does that seem to trivialize the music? It shouldn’t. What’s more important in life — and to life — than getting laid? Who makes better lovemaking records (or, as David O. Selznick put it, “schtupping music”) than the Stones? The Stones’ greatest songs — including “Satisfaction,“ “Jumping Jack Flash,“ “Sympathy for the Devil,“ “Start Me Up,” “Brown Sugar” and “Honky Tonk Women” (all on the set-list here) — are mostly riveting, raunchy, primal turn-ons. That’s why they’re great.

Is Shine a Light the best rock concert movie ever? It‘s damned close. The Stones can still rock, still get it on. They can still turn a stadium on, smoke up the house. When they sing and play, they’re the ones who — like Bobby D. in The Last Waltz — seem forever young. It’s only rock n’ roll, but we like it. Extras: Four added performances, featurettes.

2. A Christmas Tale
France; Arnaud Desplechin

The Vuillards — of Arnaud Desplechin’s splendid new ensemble film, A Christmas Tale — are a bourgeois French family, boisterous and lively on the surface but seething with dark secrets, resentments and little tragedies underneath — and their Christmas gathering this year, in Desplechin’s radiantly smart film, is probably the most emotionally risky they’ve ever had.

Mama Junon (played by Catherine Deneuve, still a knockout at 65), is suffering from leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant, perhaps from one of her family — and it’s the same strain of leukemia that, decades ago, killed her first son Joseph as a child and started a chain of family guilts and angers that lasts to this day. Papa Abel (the wondrously troll-like Jean-Paul Roussillon) is a factory owner and dye-maker much older than his dazzling wife, an earthy old soul who seems out of place in his family. (Did Michel Piccoli sneak in and beat his time?)

Henri (the much-seen Mathieu Amalric) is a scapegrace theatre guy, drunk and womanizer, despised by his elder sister Elizabeth (Anne Consigny), who’s won a court decision to keep him away from her and therefore most of the family. Henri, a blood type match with his maman, is attending with his fiercely proud Jewish girlfriend Faunia (Emmanuelle Devos), who avoids Christmas like the old Scrooge. Elizabeth’s husband, Claude (Hippolyte Girardot) hates Henri, and their breakdown-prone son Paul (Emile Berling) complicates matters because he also matches with Grand’Mere Junon. Other attendees include youngest son, Ivan (Melvil Popaud), a free spirit whose wife Sylvia (Chiara Mastroianni) is about to make an eye-opening discovery about Ivan’s pal, moody cousin Simon (Laurent Capelluto), courtesy of Rosaimee, who was Abel’s wife‘s lover. As for Basile and Baptiste (Thomas and Clement Obled ), they’re a pair of cherubic twins, the innocents in this lost Eden.

If you know French cinema well, you‘ll recognize some of these names as Desplechin regulars and many among the leading lights of contemporary French cinema. This is a great cast, and Desplechin and his fellow writer, filmmaker Emmanuel Boride, have given them great roles to play. Desplechin has also set loose Eric Gautier and his camera to prowl and capture them at will. There‘s a striking similarity, of course, between “Tale” and Jonathan Demme’s and Jenny Lumet‘s Rachel Getting Married. But I prefer this film — which has more great actors and more great scenes.

Desplechin, who had many of the same actors in Kings and Queen, is a real French humanist in the Jean Renoir (Rules of the Game) school, and A Christmas Tale is a wonderful, intelligent, lovingly crafted ensemble film of the kind Renoir and Robert Altman used to give us, that Mike Leigh and Mira Nair give us now — and that Demme gave us in Rachel. I loved it. The cast glows from top to bottom, and, Deneuve, believe it or not, is as lovely and sexy a belle de jour as ever. Well, almost. (In French, with English subtitles.)

3. Australia
Australia; Baz Luhrmann

Baz Luhrmann’s visually scrumptious, rousingly over-the top epic of Australia unbound, one of my favorite movies of the year, follows only a small slice of Aussie history — lasting from September, 1939 to February 1942 — but manages to whip up and evoke a great deal with it, and it entertained me mightily along the way.

This new-fangled star vehicle for a classic sexy-movie romantic couple — Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman as cattle rancher Lady Sarah Ashley, of Faraway Downs, and her impudent but cattle-savvy Drover — manages a fascinating piece of genre-bending. The first big part is a full-blown transplanted American Western, owing heavy debts to Red River, The Searchers, The Big Country and other classics (including a few other Australian westerns like Walkabout and Breaker Morant — and rich and entertaining enough for any normal film, all by itself. The unexpected next and last part is a World War 2 movie, recreating the Japanese air attack on Darwin, on Feb. 19, 1942 with sweeping violence, magical artificiality and poignant heart-tugging.

Australia is a movie for people who love movies — the most persistent allusions, injected over and over here, are to the 1939 Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland‘s Over the Rainbow. But it’s also a real, pulse-pounding national epic, albeit one laden with so much CGI, that it can actually show us its narrator, Aborigine boy Nullah (Brandon Walters), magically stopping a cattle stampede at a mammoth cliff’s edge. There‘s a dreamy quality to Australia throughout, that links it to Luhrmann‘s previous, exhilaratingly innovative musicals Strictly Ballroom and the great, mad Moulin Rouge, and I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to damn the movie, or Luhrmann, for doing what he does best.

I didn’t object to the double construction, because Luhrmann and his company so thoroughly compelled my attention throughout. And it didn’t bother me that the movie wasn’t realistic, or that Wizard of Oz bits kept popping up. Australia is a move made for movie lovers. And certainly Luhrmann is one of those moviemakers whom you want to give as much license, or even as much rope, as possible — because that’s where his gift lies.

Hell, I suppose Australia does go too far. For some, at least. But it’s a matter of taste. I say, give Luhrmann his budgets and crew, and give him Nicole Kidman, and let him rip.

4. WALL-E (Four stars)
U.S.; Andrew Stanton, 2008 (Disney)

A longtime Pixar science fiction comedy project about lovable little robots, written and directed by Andrew Stanton — the filmmaker who gave us that oceanic delight, Finding Nemo — this movie ignites our sense of play, and of wonder and of that priceless childhood ability to anthropomorphize toys: to turn them into living beings infused with heart and soul. That‘s part of what Pixar has done with its star characters here: two small but very resourceful robots named WALL-E (for Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class) and EVE (for Extra-Terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator).

WALL-E lives in the big city on an earth devastated by waste, greed and probably warfare, in a barren, burned-out New Yorkish place where time is out of joint and where some of the skyscrapers are piles of compacted waste that little WALL-E (who resembles, but much improves on, the cute robot, No. 5, in Short Circuit) has been gathering and piling up for the past 700 years — ever since he was accidentally left behind when humankind blasted off in survival ships from their dying earth.

EVE, by contrast, is a sleek white and black flying ovular-looking robo-chick, with a deadly laser blaster that demolishes men and cities. She comes from a spacecraft, the Axiom, and a hothouse on-board world loaded with other robots, the remnants of humanity — who have evolved into somnolent, pleasure-loving tubboes — all run by a sinister robot computer with a very familiar circular red light and bossy disposition, whom we instantly recognize as the double of 2001’s psychotic computer HAL-9000. That ship has dropped EVE on the urban ruins on a scouting expedition to learn whether the planet has become habitable again. She (somehow we know EVE is a she and WALL-E a he) runs into WALL-E, who has exactly that proof, a little delicate leafy plant he found amid the rubble. Boy robot meets girl-robot –and Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are obviously not enough here. Of course there’s a happy ending, where the good robots become, in their way, human, or more than human.

But the movie has something more: a real sense of the fragility of humankind and the ecological horrors that may face it — on the mess we’re making right now. We should also mention WALL-E’s knockout credits sequence: a grand progression from cave man drawings through great paintings (impressionists and all) to today’s omnipresent computer images, climaxing with a little love-blip of WALL-E and EVE. I was moved by those credits: with the suggestion that art keeps evolving and growing again in many forms, just as we humans do, or can. Bravo, WALL-E. Bravo Pixar.

5. Gran Torino
U.S.; Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood plays a Dirty Harry grown old in his latest movie Gran Torino. And he makes us feel lucky…. to be watching him simmer and explode on screen one more time.

It’s been four years since Eastwood last played before the camera, as the gruff fight trainer/manager in his heart-breaking Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby. And though he’s greatly enhanced his directorial credentials then — with a run of gems like Mystic River, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima — it’s refreshing to see him trotting out his scowl, his squint and his nasty disposition. The real Clint is a gentler, more thoughtful character than Harry or Philo or The Man With No Name or any of his other noir or western creations. But on screen he still seems to relish playing his counterpart, a male fantasy figure, by his own description. That’s what Gran Torino‘s Walt Kowalski is — though with a difference.

Walt, a Korean War veteran and Ford assembly plant retiree, is a seventy-something Detroit suburbanite, who has few friends, only the obnoxious family members left, and the same foul-mouthed and slow-fuse but deadly temper that old ‘70s antihero detective Harry Callahan had. Walt, who views the world though a grimace, is playing out his last chapter after his retirement from Ford (after a half century) and though he‘s the neighborhood grouch in an increasingly Asian community, he becomes involved, at first almost against his will, in the problems of the immigrant Asian (Hmong, or Laos or Thailand mountain people) family next door, especially their harassment by local Hmong gangbangers.

Increasingly, Walt noses into the neighbor Hmong kids’ scrapes with the local delinquents, mostly Asian or black, — and as usual with the kind of classic revenge or town-taming thriller that Gran Torino aims for, the confrontations get tenser and more explosive. By the time of the movie’s sad furious climax (which I don‘t question any more after a second viewing), Walt has faced a last battle and director-star Eastwood has notched another late-career revisionist triumph in his six-shooter canon.

The special kick of watching big, long-lived movie stars in a show is that we‘re seeing people we feel we know, with whom we share a history, albeit an imaginary one. That’s part of what makes Gran Torino such an enjoyable experience. It’s not the best or deepest thing he’s done recently. But it’s the most entertaining. Walt is his man, Gran Torino is his vehicle. And he knows how to drive them home.

6. Happy-Go-Lucky (Four Stars)
U.K.; Mike Leigh

Nobody makes actor’s movies like Britain’s Mike Leigh, and Happy-Go Lucky — the blithe tale of a pretty, flippy 30-year old London school teacher named Poppy (played entrancingly by Sally Hawkins) — boasts the usual extraordinary performances Leigh gets from his heavily participating casts. And it also has an incandescent blowup scene between Hawkins’ Poppy and Eddie Marsan (as a wired-tight driving instructor named Scott), that’s really one of the great acting showcases of the year, comparable in force and surprise and compassion to the classic Brando-Steiger taxi scene in On the Waterfront.

Happy-Go-Lucky is one of Leigh’s best — as good in its lighter, more beguiling way as his grimly realistic 2004 abortion story masterpiece, Vera Drake (in which Hawkins and Marsan also appeared in supporting roles). It’s a miracle of shifting, deftly handled tones: A happy, bouncy, but also emotionally deep comedy-drama that catches elfin heart-breaker Poppy at a transition moment, when she’s probably about to evolve from extended girlhood to womanhood and greater responsibility. (Or maybe not).

Hawkins, with her amazingly mobile face and mastery of evanescent moods, hops merrily through the film — enjoying her free and easy life style with no romantic entanglements, at first. We see Poppy at school, at play with her longtime roommate Zoe (Alexis Zegerman), wheeling through the streets and bridges on her bike. (When it’s stolen, she sadly exclaims, “I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”). And though some viewers may misread her as a kind of girlish psychopath, we also see that she’s a good empathetic teacher, who juggles semi-adult life with that childlike openness and innocence that too often gets lost.

She’s the kind of spunky offbeat lass you could fall unreasonably in love with — and that’s exactly what happens to Marsan’s brilliantly twisted Scott, a neatly bearded neurotic and semi-fascist, who has an anal retentive obsession with driving rituals, and obviously finds Poppy a breath of much fresher air than his own darkness — though he can only express his attraction by bullying her.

The movie is packed with great moments, all the fruit of Leigh’s famous, mysterious rehearsal process. Leigh is the king of movie spontaneity, but this film, like Vera Drake — which was also edited by the great Jim Clark — has a masterly sense of structure and pace. It’s not only a superb movie, it’s a thoroughly entertaining one, never more riveting than the great scene I mentioned above, the last clash between Scott and Poppy, with Marsan tearing up the screen as he rages and rants, in the equivalent of one of Jack Nicholson’s classic Jack-Attack temper tantrums — with Hawkins reacting perfectly. Both of them take us, in these astonishing few minutes, to the very heart of acting.

7. Milk (Four Stars)
U.S.; Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant follows his recent experimental, long-take art film period (with Bela Tarr-influenced oddity/odyssey films like Elephant, Gerry and Paranoid Park) with what has to be the best mainstream movie of his career: a stirring, proudly humanistic bio-drama of San Francisco’s storied gay political leader, assemblyman and assassination victim Harvey Milk.

Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black cover Milk‘s life from 40, when he leaves his closeted corporate New York life for the ‘60s flower power adventure of San Francisco, with his boyfriend/subway pickup Scott Smith (James Franco, in a neat reversal of his “Pineapple Express” pothead comic tour de force). Once on Castro Street, we see Harvey leading battles and besting foes from Anita Bryant to John Brigg, turning playguys into activists like Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch) and forming alliances with labor leaders and sympathetic politicos like Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber). We also see him clashing with his great nemesis: troubled fellow assemblyman Dan White (another top-notch performance by Josh Brolin).

It’s an Oscar-slanted project of course, but it doesn’t fumble any of its balls or chances — either in recreating the period, analyzing its roots, capturing its politics, making its dramatis personae come alive, or in acing what first seems a very risky casting decision in its pick for Harvey himself. Van Sant’s choice, Sean Penn, might seem initially too dour, rebellious, short-fused and macho a personality for the role of the sweet-tempered, eminently diplomatic Harvey. But Penn eats this part up. I couldn’t catch a false or unconvincing moment in the performance, and Penn‘s consistent excellence — the way he captures the man’s external mannerisms and takes us inside him as well — is really awe-inspiring, a major part of what makes the movie work so well. It’s a really brilliant, admirable job and if Penn does get another Oscar for it, nobody should carp. This is the kind of acting part, and personal coup, for which Oscars were invented.

The territory was covered before in the Oscar-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk (which also supplies some images for this movie, including the candle-light march at the end). But Milk the movie gives us the added bite and empathy of its dramatic recreations, and the often stunning work by Penn, Brolin and the others. Van Sant’s decision to adopt a more conventional movie style actually fits his subject. That’s exactly what Milk did — and what made him so effective a political leader. It also makes Milk a very effective political film, one that can easily blend truth and drama and, in the process, speak out to everybody.

8. Still Life
China; Jia Zhang-ke

China’s Jia Zhang-ke, the director of Platform, The World and this Venice Golden Lion winner about the human flotsam around the brand-new Three Gorges Dams on the Yangtze River, is one of the great contemporary movie realists — and the fact that his movies are popular only with aficionados both here and in China, is a somewhat sad commentary on mass tastes.

But at least, Jia has an audience. Like his other films, Still Life (more homily called Good Folks on the Three Gorges in China) is about working class people and peasants circa 2006 who are being displaced by China’s massive dam project, then soon scheduled to flood the banks of the Yangtze, submerging houses and whole villages. This Wild River-like situation is thrown into relief by two searching main characters, a sad husband (Han Sanming) seeking his wife, and a smart young wife (Zhao Tao) seeking her husband — both after separations of years.

It’s a melancholy story in many ways, but Jia never sinks into sentimentality or bathos. He shows us the way people really live, play and suffer. The movie is brilliantly shot in Jia’s customary style — deep focus long shots and long takes, with improvisatory acting — and it’s full of magnificent shots of the Yangtze and surrounding countryside, beauty about to be swallowed up by progress. (In Chinese, with English subtitles)

9. The Dark Knight
U.S.A.; Christopher Nolan

As long as we’re living in an age where the biggest-movie budget loot tends to be sunk into adaptations of Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man rather than, say War and Peace, Remembrance of Things Past, Henderson the Rain King or V, this is the kind of movie we should be happy enough to get: fast, hip, expensively mounted, beautifully crafted and hell-on-wheels to look at.

Director-co-writer Christopher Nolan and his visual wizards ingeniously turn Chicago into a film noir bat-cave inferno, the Gotham City of your best bad dreams. The script is smart and the movie has three deeper-than-usual antagonists, all very well played: stalwart bat-hero Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale), crazed psycho-killer The Joker (Heath Ledger) and tormented hero/villain Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart).

All these guys come out of the Bob Kane-created comic — and so does wry butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), dogged Lieutenant/Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), and the others. Nolan takes these simple, archetypal guys and gals and plunges them deep into a psychological horror story. He pumps up the action, juices up the story, and lights a fire under his actors. Whether encased in those armor-like bat clothes, or draped in polyester Joker-suits (The Joker’s style is a mixture of Gucci and grunge), they respond, as does most of the rest of the cast, including Maggie Gyllenhaal as heroine/law-woman Rachel Dawes, with harrowing intensity.

None more though than Ledger’s Joker — whose look was partly inspired by punk rockers Johnny Rotten and Iggy Pop. He’s someone the audience can get slightly more conformable with, than the weird night-riding, straight-arrow Batman of Bale. Ledger has the original Joker’s clown-white face and perpetual red-lipped, rip-faced grin, as well as his purple and green zoot outfit. But it’s a revisionist Joker look that suggests Calvin Klein ads and smeary Euro-chic. He’s Bruce Wayne’s id, exploding. Ledger plays the part as if he knows he’s got the movie stolen from his first scene on, and wants to go further, twist up the audience reactions, make us share the Joke’s mean, crawly vision of things. He mutters to the audience (or himself) the way comedians like W. C. Fields and Groucho used to — and it serves a similar subversive function.

You can tell there was a lot of money well-spent on The Dark Knight and it’s even stimulating when the movie finishes on a dark or melancholy note — though of course the series-side precedent for that is The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a hellacious action nightmare thriller, a noir for our time. And Ledger’s great creepy swan song brings down the house. That’s more than enough.

10. Miracle at St. Anna
U.S.; Spike Lee

Spike Lee’s new World War 2 picture about the fantastic/tragic adventures of four black Buffalo Soldiers in a small Tuscan village behind Nazi lines, is a wonderful picture. It’s exactly the kind of large-scale, personal, deeply ambitious American movie we don’t see enough these days, all of it excellently acted and beautifully shot.

The movie, adapted by writer James McBride from his 2004 novel, has a rich, dense novelistic feel, combining the blood and guts force of a full-throttle war saga with the exquisite fancies and grace of a South American magic realist tale by Marquez, Fuentes or Vargas Llosa.

St. Anna also tries to revise the image of African-American soldiers in World War II — and that’s one of its strengths. The movie takes place in 1944, when the soldiers of the Army’s Negro 92nd Division were on the march in Italy, commanded by white officers, but segregated from the rest of the white troops. Four riflemen — pensive 2nd Staff Sgt. Aubrey Stamps (Derek Luke), slick and cynical Sgt. Bishop Cummings (Michael Ealy), watchful, careful Corporal Hector Negron (Laz Alonso) and huge, hulking but gentle Pvt. 1st Class Sam Train (Omar Benson Miller) — get separated from their unit in an attack, and their rescue is botched when their hot-tempered racist commander, Capt. Nokes (Walton Goggins), refuses to believe they actually penetrated enemy lines.

Soon, all four reach the village of St. Anna di Stazzema; while on the journey, Train has rescued from an explosion a mysterious little boy named Angelo (Matteo Sciabordi). Angelo, a magical child who becomes strongly attached to Sam, is that iconic innocent we’ve seen in many another European war or anti-war movie — in Forbidden Games, in Paisa, in Ivan’s Childhood and The Night of the Shooting Stars — and here he‘s subject to visions and fancies, as well as witness to horrific recent events. He’s the catalyst for everything that happens — during the war and decades afterward.

It’s a complex story, and the characters and events keep accumulating. But Lee and his longtime editor Barry Alexander Brown organize and present the tale beautifully, moving easily from one group to the other. Miracle at St. Anna also has a burnished look that suggests both the American movies that were Lee’s first love and the foreign films he may have caught up with later: German films like Stalingrad and The Downfall, and the great Italian social realist tradition of the Tavianis, Vittorio De Sica and Ermanno Olmi. Miracle at St. Anna may have a few corny or rushed moments (especially at the end) but they’re easily forgiven. Masterfully directed, wonderfully written and acted, it’s a film that stares unblinkingly into the face of war and finds its human side: a magical tale that speaks with angels and makes neglected history come alive and sing.

RUNNERS-UP: Synecdoche, NY (U. S.; Charlie Kaufman); Mongol (Russia; Sergei Bodrov); Doubt (John Patrick Shanley); Slumdog Millionaire (U. K./India; Danny Boyle); Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (U.S.; Steven Spielberg); Ballast (U.S.; Lance Hammer); Burn After Reading (U.S.; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen); A Girl Cut in Two (France; Claude Chabrol); Cloverfield (U.S.; Matt Reeves); I Served the King of England (Czech; Jiri Menzel); Iron Man (U.S.; Jon Favreau); Tuya’s Marriage (China; Quanan Hang).

Read Michael Wilmington’s Top DVDs of 2008

– Michael Wilmington
January 2, 2009

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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