MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Secretariat, Life As We Know It, Buried, You Again, and Let Me In

Secretariat (Three and a Half Stars)

U. S.; Randall Wallace, 2010

If you’ve got a great story, in life or in movies, the best thing to do is usually to let it fill your heart, tell it clearly, keep it straight and pure, and don’t load it up with agendas and tack-ons. The new movie Secretariat has a great story, an almost unbelievable (but mostly fact-based) story — the incredible saga of the horse who won the 1973 Triple Crown, blew away the field, set unmatchable records, and is still regarded almost universally as the greatest race horse who ever lived and ran. (Almost?)

All the above is not spoiler-alert-worthy by the way. Anybody who doesn’t know at least part of the Secretariat legend, probably has no intention of ever seeing this movie, of ever going to a horse race, or even of finishing this review. A good part of the audience (especially the younger part) probably never heard of the horse Seabiscuit before they saw the movie, although they certainly had to know that multi-million dollar films most likely aren’t going to be made about horses that lose the big race and fade into obscurity.

But what person who ever picked up a sports page hasn’t heard at some time of Secretariat?

Director Randall Wallace and scenarist Mike Rich‘s movie generates suspense and narrative tension in different ways than just making you wonder what will happen next — or ultimately. This is a movie that takes us behind the scenes of a story we may partly know — a historical episode both marvelous and universal– and then shows us what we don’t know about it, tells us about how and why it all happened, and introduces us to the backgrounds and the people behind the story, the gallery of characters who were present at the creation of the legend. (“What really happened” as John Ford liked to say.) .

All that turns out to be about as fascinating as the recreated spectacle of Secretariat, dueling three times on the track with another great Horse, Sham, his insistent Triple Crown runner-up and a racer who would have been the record-breaker himself if Secretariat wasn‘t around.

The problem with making an inspirational sports movie about horse-racing is that the races themselves only last a few minutes. Seabiscuit triumphed over that by giving us the whole backstory of the horse’s career, the drama that led up to the races. Secretariat does something similar, giving us a long, well-drawn, often engrossing look into a world most of us won’t know and a story well worth telling. But the races themselves are squeezed for all the drama they can yield — with captivating long shots and close-ups, with slow-motion, with telephoto wizardry, with jockey Ron Turcotte battling his way, on the unconquerable Secretariat, up through the pack to daylight and the inevitable (almost always) finishing line.

Those scenes are exhilarating, in a way modern sports movies — taking advantage of the modern technology that makes TV broadcasts so routinely thrilling — often can be. But the backstory, the tale behind the race, is exhilarating too.

That story revolves around the strong, non-stereotypical woman who, in real life, owned this history-making stallion, held onto him and backed his rise to fame and glory despite heavy odds and constant difficulties: Penny Chenery (glowingly played by Diane Lane). The daughter of a once prominent stable owner (Scott Glenn), who dies and leaves her his seemingly failing operation, Penny shows classic inspirational sports saga gumption.

She decides to keep up the business, Virginia‘s Meadow Stables, despite strong opposition from her family, especially from her finance-minded brother, despite an occasionally surly, uncooperative staff (a trainer she has to fire) — and despite the fact that she lives in faraway Denver in the middle of the country, and so has to commute to the East Coast and often leave her family to keep the whole thing afloat. Among those left behind are Penny’s husband Jack Tweedy (Dylan Walsh), who sides with her brother, and her teen daughter Kate (AJ Michalka), who, in typical early ’70s Vietnam era fashion, wants to get out of Vietnam, and make love, not war. (Those protest scenes, by the way struck me as the movie’s one major phony note.)

What saves Penny and Meadow Stables is Secretariat. And she gets Secretariat almost by fate, when she tosses a coin with grinning patrician local horse czar Ogden Phipps (James Cromwell), for one of two colts to be sired by the famously potent super-horse Bold Ruler. Penny loses the toss, but gets the mare she wants anyway when Phipps chooses wrong — ceding her the foal of “Something Royal,” the mother of Secretariat.

He’s an amazing horse from the moments of his birth, when he stands up in the stall almost instantly, after emerging from Royal’s womb. His heart is more than twice as large and strong as the average horse‘s. He seems twice as smart too. He is beautiful and ungodly fast and perfectly muscled and he loves to run. He even seems somewhat cocky. In races, Secretariat likes to start by laying back near the tail-end of the field, as if teasing everybody on the track and in the stands, then put on a sudden, unbeatable burst of speed, blow past every other horse anywhere near him, and win going away. His nickname is “Big Red.” His groom, Eddie Sweat (Nelsan Ellis), swears he can understand the humans around him and what they‘re thinking, though they (we) can only marvel at him.

Penny assembles a crack team behind Secretariat, drawn from Meadow Stables holdovers and others, that includes Eddie, the maternal go-to gal Miss Ham (played by Margo Martindale, in what should probably be described as a quintessential Margo Martindale role), his plucky jockey Turcotte (played spot-on by real-life jockey Otto Thorwarth), and, most importantly, her gaudily-dressed, acid-tongued new trainer Lucien Laurin (played, with his usually screen-grabbing relish and panache, by John Malkovich), an eccentric French-Canadian whose sartorial tastes are as whimsical as his strategies are rock-solid, and who was recommended to Penny by her dad‘s old friend Bull Hancock (played by Fred Dalton Thompson, who I’m always happier to see acting in movies or on Law and Order, rather than running for president.)

It’s a stirring, amusing and sometimes touching cadre of offbeat characters and glorious outsiders, headed by Penny: an outsider herself in some ways, since she’s a woman and mother, intruding in male territory — and into a mostly closed community where wealth and privilege (and the quiet arrogance or polite arrogance they sometimes inevitably sire) rule. Obviously, there’s a feminist theme here. But the movie doesn’t hammer at it, doesn’t pile on too many scenes where Penny — played with her usual quiet natural radiance and effortless magnetism by Lane — bests some chauvinistic or testosterone-heavy foe, gracefully ball-busting him.

There are some, such as her dust-up with that nasty first trainer (who defects to the opposition) and her public and publicized verbal sparring with Pancho Martin (Nestor Serrano) the hectoring, badgering owner of her major competition, Sham, who keeps trying to puncture the Secretariat legend, as it keeps growing and growing. (Not for nothing is Lane still one of the most gorgeous ladies in American movies. As the screen Penny, we sense she has a lot of these guys somewhat disarmed and buffaloed before the horses even get into the gate. That may have been true or not in life; it‘s sure fun to watch on screen.)

If Lane, daughter of the late acting teacher/director and Cassavetes crony Burt Lane, makes us fix on her on screen without any strain, a natural movie actress if there ever was one, than Malkovich retains his title as one of the great modern scene-heist artists in movies. Garbed in flamboyant pinks and outlandish haberdashery, his voice and manner “tart as a grand aunt” (as Norman Mailer once said of Truman Capote), Malkovich plays the kind of believably weirdo character that would never have been imagined by a yarn-spinner for a movie like this, who could only spring somehow, however fictionalized, from life itself.

Life is what Secretariat often seems to be giving us. I just don’t believe that the movie’s narrative, style or priorities were dictated by knee-jerk Oscar-mongering or formula-choked prize-whoring (two basically meaningless critical clichés that often hit Secretariat and similar movies), instead of real feeling for the subject matter. And, if it was, maybe we should allow filmmakers more latitude to try to make prize-worthy movies, rather than churning out the usual box-office-whoring (or so they wish) junk.

Wallace wrote the screenplay for Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning Scots heroic saga Braveheart, and he directed Gibson’s okay, somewhat pretentious kick-ass Vietnam War movie, We Were Soldiers. Rich is an inspirational sports-movie specialist; he wrote The Rookie (2002) and Miracle. This is, I’m pretty sure, the best film work either has done — though it‘s Lane who should probably get the Oscar here. (She‘s as good as the similarly cast Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, and the movie is better.)

This movie’s advisor, Bill Nack, also wrote the book, Secretariat: The Making of a Champion, on which the film is based, and he’s a real expert on the subject. One has to assume that the moviemakers paid attention to him throughout, and that he brought them scads of the little, lesser-known facts and rich details that make this movie seem so real, so knowing.

The houses look impeccable but lived-in, almost discomfitingly lush. The races — those three crown jewels, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont, and the ones before — all seem to be happening right now, as if we’d been dropped bodily into 1973 and the time before. The talk seems right; the characters converse with that easy, courtly, cocky-casual semi-arrogance the American upper and upper-middle classes often affect.

But we can also see how a phenomenon like Secretariat breaks up classes, vanquishes snobbery, reduces a whole crowd of breathless spectators into a mass of gaping, amazed kids-at-heart. That’s what happened on the race tracks, as never before, and never since, with Secretariat. That’s why we don’t need conventional suspense and surprise here. Watching this careful, loving, often exciting recreation of this amazing horse’s astonishing career is like seeing a grand dramatic recreation of the Ali-Foreman fight, the Boston-Phoenix finals classic, the sight of Beethoven, deaf, conducting the first performance of his Ninth Symphony, of Shakespeare playing the Ghost at the Globe at the first performance of Hamlet. We know how it ends. We know what it means. (Or part of what it means; we‘ll know more about Secretariat after watching the film.) We just want to watch it happen. We want to see that horse, on that track, at that time, in those moments, win those unprecedented, unrepeatable, jaw-dropping races. In the best of Secretariat, we do.

Life as We Know It (One and a half Stars)

U.S.; Greg Berlanti, 2010

Something drastic has to be done about American movie romantic comedies. Even as we speak, they seem to be getting glossier and glossier, sillier and sillier, more and more awash in clichés and glamour-puss nonsense. Take this movie. (Please!) Its premise is simple and ridiculous: Gorgeous Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl of Knocked Up, a good romantic comedy) and studly Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel, of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, a bad one) have a date with each other, thanks to their matchmaking best friends. Holly looks a little like a less saucy Diane Lane. Eric looks like an elongated Rob Lowe.

They don’t like each other, because he’s a sort of a jerk and an ostentatious stud, and she’s got a temper. Nasty surprise: Their friends later die in an accident, and their will stipulates that Holly and Eric must live together in their friends’ old house and bring up little baby Sophie (played by three Clagett family tots and two Liddells).

That’s is one of the stranger damned wills I‘ve ever heard of, but no lawyer in Atlanta is apparently smart enough to crack it, and Sophie is a little sweetie, so Holly and Eric movie in together — even though he’s a TV director for the Atlanta Hawks, and she has some important glamorous desirable well-paying job that slips my mind. Maybe she’s an agent for romantic comedy scripts?

Never mind. They’ve been maneuvered into the house together: the hunk and the babe. Complications now arise. Will they bicker? Will they bond? Will they fall in love? Will they do it? Will Josh Lucas, as kindly doctor Sam who dates Holly, mess everything up? (Sam looks like a softer Paul Newman.) Will Sophie do cute things and take her first steps? One really wonders.

Part of the problem here is that Eric is such a selfish obnoxious jerk, that you keep wanting him to be arrested for reckless egotism. But, since this is a movie, and he’s the top-billed guy, we know he’ll be domesticated. Anyway, he proves to have a kinder, gentler side. When the filmmakers want him to express deep feeling they have him strip to his underpants — an image that so entranced the marketing department they’ve put Josh in boxer shorts on the Life poster, with K. H. and one of the baby Sophies.

Josh Duhamel is no Steve Martin and Katherine Heigl is no Goldie Hawn. They’re no Kate and Spence either. Or Lucy and Ricky or Burns and Allen –and frankly what this movie needs is less glamour, and more laughs. But this movie keep throwing away good opportunities for comedy, such as a possible messed-up double date night where everybody runs into each other at the house and refuses to leave. In fact, the writers (Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson) throw away every opportunity for comedy you can think of, preferring to woo us with their costars’ glamour, deep feelings and hot underpants.

At the screening I attended, I counted two chuckles, both inspired by fairly nasty anti-marriage jokes that may have struck some in the audience as a relief from all the glamour and nicey-nice life lessons they were being spoon-fed. I’ll say it again: Too many modern Hollywood romantic comedies are preoccupied with relationship advice. And deep feelings. And underpants. And glamour-pusses and glamour guys. They should hand us some laughs first.


Buried (Two and a Half Stars)

U.S.; Rodrigo Cortes, 2010

Paul Conroy, an American worker in Iraq (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up to find himself in a coffin. His only light source is a cigarette lighter. His only contact with the outside world is a cell-phone. Desperately, he calls his estranged wife, the U.S. government, his company. And his captors, some terrorists, call him, threaten him.

The lighter is getting used up. The cell-phone battery is running down. The oxygen in that coffin must be getting used up too. Conroy keeps clicking and clicking the lighter, calling and calling. It’s like the predicament of Agnes Moorehead or Barbara Stanwyck in Lucille Fletcher‘s classic radio drama turned movie script, Sorry, Wrong Number. You can’t escape. You can’t move. You can only call on the phone. For a while. Sometime, maybe sometime soon, time will run out.

This movie, written by Chris Sparling and directed by Ricardo Cortes, starts out ingeniously. It opens in the coffin, keeps the screen black until Reynolds switches on the lighter, than keeps us there, trapped, confined, pinned down in a blackness that goes on and off with each flick of the lighter. Cortes keeps it up, ingeniously. Reynolds mostly makes the hysteria, frenzy and desperation believable. This actor, taking a real chance, deserves a hand. A hand up out of the coffin for sure, but also a big hand from the audience.

But I have to say, without revealing anything, that Buried has such a phony, contrived ending, that it almost spoils everything. And that ending also exposes some of the artifice and contrivance that keeps us from asking too many questions beforehand. A shame. But, if you want somebody to film The Premature Burial, the Floyd Collins story (from Collins’ viewpoint) or No Exit, Cortes is obviously your guy.


You Again (Two Stars)

U.S.; Andy Fickman, 2010

Another terrible movie romantic comedy, which out of respect for my old screen crush on Jamie Lee Curtis (“I’m very good at saying Yes.”), I should probably ignore. But duty calls.

Consider this truly ludicrous premise. A now successful glamour-yuppie named Marni (Kristen Bell), who was bedeviled all through high school by sadistic schoolmate Joanna (Odette Yustman), discovers that the “ideal” girl marrying her best-pal brother … is Joanna!

Wow! Who knew! But wait, there’s more. Once everybody gets to the wedding, Marni’s mom Gail discovers that the sadistic schoolmate Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) who bedeviled her all through high school … is Joanna’s aunt!

Wow! Incredible! Wonders never cease!

But what’s with all these people? Are they suffering from on-again, off-again amnesia? Don’t any of them gossip? Didn’t any of them ever hear of Facebook? More complications: Marni starts to turn into a face-blemished nerd again, just like high school. Gail and Ramona start squabbling again, just like high school. Old flames show up and go psycho, just like high school. The movie and the wedding dissolve into chaos and silliness, just like high school. If all these people would just sign on for a transfer to a remake of Back to the Future, Part One all their problems would be solved.

Written without fear by Moe Jelline, and directed without hesitation by Andy Fickman, You Again is the sort of movie you’d like to be shown at your high school reunion — to all the classmates and teachers who annoyed or bedeviled you. But…Hey! Betty White is also in this, her career resurgent, playing Grandma Bunny, a real card.

Right on, Moe and Andy! Strangely, Grandma Bunny does not seem to have had a sadistic schoolmate who bedeviled her all through high school, not even one called Elmafudda or Daffyducka, who could be worked into a cameo for Mary Tyler Moore or Georgia Engel. But maybe that’s all for the best. How could anyone get away with sadistically bedeviling Betty White?


Let Me In (Three Stars)

U. S.; Matt Reeves, 2010

Matt Reeves’ American remake of the widely praised Swedish kid-vampire movie Let the Right One In — its title now shortened to Let Me In — is not a bad movie, as modern vampire movies go. It’s not unintelligent, crass or hokey. Nor is it a big fancy expensive gory-glossy-teen-romance like Twilight, or a mindless travesty like Vampires Suck. Let Me In’s delicate portrayal of childhood angst, its more sensitive tale of an outsider romance between two alienated 12-year-olds — culled by Reeves from the original film made in 2008 by novelist-screenwriter John Ajvide Lindquist and director Tomas Alfredson — has been cited often or its moody lyricism, its respect for its audience‘s intelligence, and praised by many critics as a good, maybe great, genre piece.

I can see justification for some of the nearly universal praise the movie has gotten. But, truth to tell, I also found Let Me In somewhat unpleasant, unscary, slightly pretentious and relatively unmoving — good at times, but not perfect, or near-perfect.

Let me out. Perhaps I’m wrong. My reaction surprised me because — though I haven’t yet seen the Alfredson-Ajvide-Lindquist original — I’d been looking forward to both. I’m predisposed toward my Swedish cinema ancestors, and fully supportive of their famous propensity for gloom and suffering, appreciative of their coups of mood, landscape, intense acting, milieu and deep drama. (Ingmar Bergman, Victor Sjostrom and Jan Troell are three of my all-time favorite filmmakers). And I was even partial to Matt Reeves’ previous movie, the brilliantly gimmicky false-home-video “let it run” horror show Cloverfield.

But something about Let Me In alienated me almost from its first scenes, including the grisly nocturnal hospital episode that kicks things off. In it, a burned, blood-caked man (Richard Jenkins) — shown in grim, chilly shots that resemble cinema verite for ghouls — is brought into a room (not the emergency room, it seemed, where he obviously would have been taken) and later joined by a cute, determined little girl, maybe his daughter, named Abby (Chloe Moretz) who wreaks havoc and disappears. A taciturn policeman (Elias Koteas) arrives, investigates, begins to suspect a satanic cult behind this and other recent murders. Maybe he’s right. But the images of that flayed, burned, dying man and the runaway little girl hang over the movie from then on.

We are in another time and place — in Los Alamos, New Mexico (bomb-testing territory) in 1983, in the depths of winter and of the Reagan era. (We soon see the President himself, greatly communicating, on good and evil, on TV.) Flashbacks show us our other main identification figure, besides little Abby: an incongruously doll-like little 12-year-old boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who lives with a drunken mother (Cara Buono) and peers at his neighbors in an apartment complex (Abby is one) with a ‘scope through his darkened window, like the young voyeur in Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love from The Decalogue, or like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.

He’s a bit of a creep, but the movie doesn’t play him that way, drawing him instead as a victim in search of affection and human love. And a victim he certainly seems — at least initially. Owen, an only child of a neglectful alcoholic mother, is being tormented by bullies at school, who obsessively razz and assault him. His new neighbor, Abby, we soon learn, is a vampire. (No surprises there.) And the burned man was not her father, but her familiar, a creature charged with finding Abby blood snacks and blood feasts.

“We can’t be friends,” Abby tells Owen, near a jungle gym. But of course they do become friends, headed toward maybe more. And, of course, Owen‘s sadistic tormentors are in trouble. The arena of menace and carnage for them all is a huge indoor swimming pool, next to a dark room of metal lockers, where Owen is attacked and where revenge brews.

It sounds eerie, and it looks eerie too. Greig Fraser’s (Bright Angel) cinematography and the Michael Giacchino (Up) score plunge us into twisted-up edgy melancholy. The attacking bullies (led by Jimmy “Jax” Pinchak) are nasty little shits. Koteas’ snoopy cop bristles with threat. The very air seems cold and dead, heavy with dread, and Jenkins looks like man grown tired of hell, but stuck in his contract. There are some very, very effective moments and scenes in Let Me In — never more so than during the moments when the youngsters are huddled together, hiding, in darkness, alone against the world.


But this movie’s romance and tenderness did nothing for me, and they should have. (Twilight, I hasten to say, does nothing, or less than nothing, for me either.) I liked these kids sometimes, but they seemed weirdly disconnected from their states, their beings. When Abby turns vampire, she’s a bit like the demon-possessed swivel-headed Regan in The Exorcist, a fiend with mad eyes and a gorgon’s voice, who’ll rip you apart. I liked being shocked by The Exorcist. I didn’t like it in Let Me In.


Here’s the trouble with the story. It wants to make us feel for these outsider kids. But it’s sadistic and self-pitying in a way I found off-putting, steeped in a trash-strewn gloom that uneasily mixes real-life sadness, viciousness and deadly supernatural fantasy. The kids are attractive, but they show little empathy or feeling, except for each other. When Owen bashes his lead attacker with a pole on a school outing, and cuts his face open, it’s strangely callous, even though it also prefigures the carnage we know is probably to come. And I never felt much real suspense. Even the driven cop (even played by Koteas) didn’t seem much of a threat.

Let Me In, in a way, is probably being seen as the anti-Twilight, which, in a way, it is. But I liked the film vampire legend better when the vampires were genuinely evil and deeply frightening — as they were in Murnau‘s Nosferatu, Dreyer‘s Vampyr, the Tod Browning-Bela Lugosi Dracula, and in the Christopher Lee Hammer Horror shows, or even among the scuzzy bloodsucking rebels of Kathryn Bigelow‘s Near Dark — than more recently, when the vampires began to clean up the cobwebs, dust off their capes and become more romantic or sympathetic figures, as with Frank Langella’s Count, or Gary Oldham‘s for Francis Coppola (the best of this approach) or the hunks of Twilight. (Let Me In by the way, revives the Hammer brand.)


In a way, Let Me In (and maybe Let the Right One In before it) represents the ultimate example of a sympathetic vampire: an attractive, loving, vulnerable-looking little girl whose vamp talents may save a little boy from his tormentors. But doesn’t this sympathy and half-happy romance throw our emotions off kilter? For me, Let Me In would have been better, more powerful, if it had had a really shocking ending, if Owen had recoiled from Abby, and she had been forced to kill and eat him, and wept over the bloody chunks.


Let’s digress. I want to defend the movie now. There‘s been some controversy over the fact that Reeves has made essentially a copy of that highly praised Swedish film by Alfredson. I can’t comment on the changes. But American copies of great or popular foreign films are no new thing. Nor are they a kind of plagiarism, any more than it is when somebody restages Hamlet or Lysistrata, or makes another movie of a Charles Dickens novel, or when John Huston did the second remake of The Maltese Falcon in 1941, after two Warner Brothers flops by others (one with Bette Davis), this time with Humphrey Bogart and a script that went back to the book. (I know what you’re going to say: If they made it bad, then you can remake it good. But a text is a text, a film is a film, and one film can easily be the text for another.)

Sometimes these Americanized redos work splendidly, as when Fritz Lang remade Jean Renoir‘s brilliant French crime-romance La Chienne into the American film noir classic Scarlet Street, or when Alfred Hitchcock remade his own 1934 British gem, The Man Who Knew Too Much into a 1956 American gem, or when Blake Edwards turned the German Viktor und Viktoria into Victor/Victoria.

Erik Skjoldbjaerg’s 1997 Norwegian thriller Insomnia was actually improved when Christopher Nolan remade it with Al Pacino and Robin Williams in 2002.

The new movies can also work, if not better, then very well, as when Paul Mazursky refashioned Renoir‘s sublime French comedy Boudu Saved from Drowning into the sunny L. A. farce Down and Out in Beverly Hills, or when John Sturges remade Kurosawa‘s Japanese all-time adventure/war masterpiece Seven Samurai into that solid 1960 Western The Magnificent Seven.

And sometimes, as when Martin Ritt and writers Fay and Michael Kanin tried to turn Kurosawa‘s Rashomon into another Western, called The Outrage, it‘s an outrage.

Is it wrong when foreign cineastes return the compliment? Luis Bunuel remade Jean Renoir’s sparkling 1946 Hollywood film of Octave Mirbeau’s Diary of a Chambermaid into a very fine 1964 French version, with Jeanne Moreau. (Of course, you can argue that it was Mirbeau, and maybe Moreau, more than Renoir, who attracted Bunuel.)

As for making a near scene-for-scene, shot for shot remake, which Let Me In has been accused of being, that’s exactly what John Cromwell did with Julien Duvivier’s French classic Pepe Le Moko, starring Jean Gabin, when Cromwell remade it in Hollywood as Algiers with Charles Boyer. (I’ve seen both movies, and both can get your Moko-mojo rising.) Of course, it’s also what Gus Van Sant did with Hitchcock‘s Psycho, turning a great thriller into the most misbegotten of remakes.

Well, enough of that remake debate — though the best argument for redoing good foreign films here is that at least you‘re starting with good material. Even if I didn’t like it as much as others, Let Me In has good stuff in it, good ideas, a good mood, a good source. Good blood, I guess. And if my reaction to it seems perverse or even skittish, remember that I grew up in a small Midwestern village with only about 1,114 people. Stephen King wasn‘t around, Twilight wasn‘t around. I don’t think we had any vampires.

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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