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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

The Informant!

An appealing bait-and-switch tale, pretty much based upon true events, Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!, has been released by Warner Home Video. Channeling William H. Macy, Matt Damonstars as an executive in a large food conglomerate who confesses to the FBI that he has been involved in a worldwide price fixing scam when he is called in on the investigation of another matter. He agrees to help gather evidence against his supervisors, but the case unfolds in a number of unexpected ways. Scott Bakula co-stars. Although set in the Nineties, Soderbergh uses a Marvin Hamlisch musical score and title card typefaces that evoke the Seventies, with perhaps the reason for this being the same untethered spirit that informs the narrative and motivates the hero. The film has a satisfying level of sophistication in the complexity of the deals the hero is involved in that plays well against the inherent humor of his distracted and guarded personality.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. As usual, Soderbergh does his own, typically murky, bland cinematography, which is transferred as well as it can be amid the haze. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound has a reasonably effective mix and is adequately delivered. There are alternate French and Spanish tracks in 5.1 Dolby, optional English, French and Spanish subtitles, and 6 minutes of deleted scenes that often hit the nail too square on the head, although a couple are quite funny.

The Blu-ray can do nothing to rescue the cinematography and in fact, the way these things work, it actually makes it look worse, as you are more aware of how fuzzy everything is. The sound is better detailed, but the differences are minor. The subtitling and special features are carried over from the DVD, with one additional feature (which really belongs on a DVD for reasons of convenience), a commentary track featuring Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns. It is a reasonably informative talk, going over both the making of the film and the background of its subject. Near the end, they talk about how badly the film did in previews, but anticipate, since they were recording the track before the film’s commercial release, that the boxoffice gross would prove the previews wrong. Sorry guys, didn’t happen. They also, at another point, demonstrate an obliviousness to irony as they digress into a discussion of candy corn and how it has ‘no corn in it,’ when in fact, as the opening narration of the film clearly lays out, the candy, like practically every other food item, is loaded with corn syrup.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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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