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David Poland

By David Poland

Remembering A Sundance Favorite…

Almost a year and a half later, Downloading Nancy is arriving in theaters… I had a bit of an opinion on the film…
“There is a point at which it is not about what the character feels and it is simply like a nasty trick, trying to make the audience as anguished as what they are watching. It is hateful filmmaking and every director who does it seems to be beloved by his female cast. Why? Because he makes/allows them to put it all out there. But that isn’t art. That is abuse.”

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10 Responses to “Remembering A Sundance Favorite…”

  1. LexG says:

    Hey, I was gonna ask about this just the other day; I saw the trailer before GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE and thought it looked unsettling, awesome, and TOTALLY up my alley. It’s a shame Jason Patric’s (perceived) fundamental humorlessness (amusingly parodied on Entourage) keeps him from being more popular or even highly regarded… I think the guy is incredible and wish he worked more.
    But interesting take on it… Though might not please you that such a strong negative reaction probably makes people like me want to see it even more, if only out of curiosity.
    But SPUN, despite seeming like a roll-call of Lex-esque tropes (Suvari, Stormare, Rourke and Roberts, Brittany Murphy, frenetic camerawork, disdain for humanity) is pretty excruciating and smarmy… I think it was my Worst of whatever year it came out.

  2. LexG says:

    Oops… apparently I (and everyone else in the original thread) was mistaken and misread a confusing comment there:
    Jonas Akerlund didn’t direct this movie. D’oh.

  3. mutinyco says:

    I was at the NY press screening of Spun in ’03. I remember Jeffrey Lyons groaning throughout the first half, then he walked out.

  4. Of christ, Spun was an appalling movie. Actually a bit depressing remembering it.

  5. LYT says:

    Loved this and Spun. And Hostel II. And Irreversible. Disagree that any of them are pointless, but we’ve trodden this ground before.
    After seeing this with my sister, she asked what else Maria Bello had done, and I said that she basically has defined the role of “damaged woman who likes to fuck.” It’s her niche, if you will.
    Coincidentally, I also just got interviewed today for a doc about sexual violence.

  6. Spun is terrible for completely different reasons to Hostel (I haven’t seen the sequel). Irreversible is a movie I err on the side of liking though.

  7. jeffmcm says:

    I saw this trailer last week in front of Tyson or something, and even before I remembered ‘this is that movie that DP hated’ I was thinking ‘this looks like Lifetime-movie garbage.’

  8. LYT says:

    Jeff – you can hate it for whatever reason…but it’s a long way from Lifetime movies.

  9. jesse says:

    It’s a long way from Lifetime movies, indeed, because it’s far more dull and pretentious. LYT, I can’t believe you’d love Downloading Nancy because I’d find it difficult to picture anyone loving this movie. It’s such a weirdly amateurish slog — it has the wintry moodiness and deadly-serious tin-eared dialogue of a bad student film. It didn’t repulse me as much as it did David on an “abuse” level simply because the movie was too glum-yet-ridiculous for me to go there. I do consider it an abuse of Bello’s trust, though — she obviously gives a lot to this role, and she’s rewarded with nothing. She’s an interesting presence and deserves better (also, David points out the lack of believability of her husband not noticing her self-mutilation — that’s just one of about a million things that rings completely false about the marriage in this movie, and most of the human relationships in fact).
    It’s also one of the only movies of the past bunch of years that I’d accuse of being way too clunky with its computers. Usually you have ridiculously, cartoonishly pumped-up graphics and/or super-up-to-date machines for characters who shouldn’t be able to afford them. This movie seems to be set in present day, but all of the computers look like they were purchased in 2000 or thereabouts. That’s actually sort of a neat aspect — characters using crummy computers that they could probably afford! — except that the filmmakers don’t seem to know much more about computers or chatrooms or anything than the average Hollywood hack who juices them up The Net-style. By the end I was wondering if the filmmakers even knew what downloading actually is, as I’m not sure there’s even metaphorical downloading going on here.

  10. jeffmcm says:

    LYT, I’m completely going off the trailer, which made it look tawdry and exploitative in a very specific kind of way that reminds me of last year’s Untraceable – exploitation with a phony hand-wringing pretentiousness to it.
    Maybe the movie itself is great, but based on the trailer, I’m not seeing it.

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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