MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar


It’s a frustrating aspect of seeing a lot of films on the fest circuit that you very often find a film you really love, only to have it languish in the netherworld of distribution forever. It happened with 2007 Sundance fave Son of Rambow, which took forever to get released due to rights issues over its use of footage from Rambo, and with Teeth, another 2007 Sundance entry, which finally got a limited release a year later before going to DVD.
The excellent 2007 Sundance entry Four Sheets to the Wind, directed by Sterlin Harjo, won the Best Actress award at the fest that year for lead actress Tamara Podemski (shared with Teeth lead actress Jess Weixler), but the film never got distribution and disappeared completely. Sweet Mud, which won the Crystal Bear at Berlin and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, was never seen in the US off the fest circuit.

I could go on and on listing worthy Sundance (and Berlin, and Cannes, and Toronto) films that played well at the fest but disappeared for a long time, or were never seen again. And on the one hand, it makes me feel incredibly priveliged to have had the opportunity to even see these films, but on the other, it makes me sad that so many good films play the fest circuit only to never been seen by a wider audience.
Phoebe in Wonderland, which I saw at Sundance 2008, is another such film.
Phoebe, the directorial debut of Daniel Barnz, has a stellar cast: Elle Fanning as Phoebe, a little girl who’s suffering socially because of problems relating normally to others, Felicity Huffman and Bill Pullman as Phoebe’s stressed-out parents, and indie fave Patricia Clarkson as the drama teacher who sees beyond Phoebe’s problems to the potential within her.
As good as the film is, it’s a difficult film to figure out how to market. While it has fantastical elements as Phoebe escapes from the rules of the real world into an Alice in Wonderland-fueled fantasy world where she’s understood and accepted, it’s considerably too dark to be a film for younger kids, and Phoebe’s Tourette’s-driven social antics may cause even the most understanding of adults in the audience to cringe. And yet, it’s a solidly directed film with a remarkable performance by Elle Fanning, who’s coming into her own as the talented younger sister of kid actress Dakota Fanning, a solid supporting cast and a good, original story.
Phoebe in Wonderland is finally getting a release date March 6 via distributor THINKfilm; it’s well-worth catching in theaters while you can.

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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