MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

MW on DVDs: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Romeo and Juliet, Salt, Easy A … and more

PICK OF THE WEEK: NEWWall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Oliver Stone, 2010 (20th Century Fox)
Also, Wall Street Collector’s Two-Pack (Also Blu-Ray) (Three and a Half Stars)Includes Wall Street (Stone, 1986) (Four Stars) and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Stone: 2010) (Three and a Half Stars) (20th Century Fox)Extras: Oliver Stone commentary; Featurettes; Deleted and extended scenes; Conversation with Stone and cast.Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps returns us to one of Stone’s great subjects of the 1980s: the glamour and corruption of the American financial markets. A sequel to Stone‘s 1987 Wall Street, this show plunges us back into the seductions and pitfalls of the casino mentality on the trading floors and the stock market, of inside guys making huge, quick profits and the dangerous games and ruinous consequences of playing with other people‘s money, other people‘s lives — and not giving a damn about it.

And it returns us also to maybe the greatest fictional character Stone ever invented: Gordon Gekko, the brilliant, slick-as-a-whip, high-energy, amoral corporate raider with the combed-back hair, the custom made shirts and the fashion-smartie suspenders, the omnipresent half-smirk and whiplash flow of callous cracks and cynical Wall Street “wisdom” — the man whose proud motto was “Greed is good.”

As played by Michael Douglas, who won a well-deserved Oscar for the performance, Gekko was intended by Stone (and original co-writer Stanley Weiser) as the ultimate bad example: an amoral, selfish bastard who betrayed and exploited people, a graveyard dancer who bought up companies, squeezed them for all he could and then, heedless of collateral suffering, gutted and maybe destroyed them — while soaking up all the millions he could and living a high life beyond even the TV-and-movie-stoked imaginations of most of us. Why did he wreck companies, destroy jobs and lives, and swill like a sleek hog in the profits? “Because they’re wreckable,” Gekko casually explained.

What a guy! He was the ultimate hedonist with the ultimate toys, and a dark, mean, but buoyant heart. And Stone and Weiser tried to make sure we’d realize what a bad guy he and what an awful example he set, by clearly showing in Wall Street (to what would seem even the slowest and densest of movie audiences), how evilly and unrepentantly Gekko damaged and hurt people, by finally exposing him, by wrecking his life and sending him to jail — using, as the agent of his destruction, the movie’s handsome juvenile lead and half-sympathetic, somewhat moral, up-from-the-working-class protagonist, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen). Bud wore a wire on Gekko to expose the bastard, and goaded him into a screaming, revealing, rip-it-open tantrum.

But, in the ultimate irony and the ultimate bad real-life joke, Gekko — whom part of the audience at least knew was a heavy getting his well-earned come-uppance (maybe because they’d seen a lot of movies) — became instead an ultimate role model for a generation of swine.

Sheeesh! Incredibly, dark-hearted Gekko became the fantasy best pal/mentor and patron saint, for scads of ambitious, wolfish, proudly unscrupulous young Wall Street traders and raiders — who worshiped Gordon, had a hard-on for Gordon, wanted to be Gordon, and took “Greed is Good” as their own private proud Gekko-credo.

Then these “Little Gekkos“ and other money-mad speculators — taking advantage of the horrendous and stupid de-regulatory financial market policies of the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations — proceeded to wreck what was wreckable, exploit what was exploitable, rob what was robbable, screw what was screwable, maybe even Ponzi what was Ponzable and Enron what was Enronnable, and to live high lives (some of these creeps only in their 20s and 30s) beyond the dreams of even Gordon Gekko himself — until these rotten little high-rolling, high-five-ing parasites and their slimy congressional cohorts finally helped hurl us all into the great crash of 2008, and to what might have been the next Great Depression. (And still could be, if the F.O.X.-G.O.P. ever gets back in power, dives into the loot and starts another greed-crazed deregulated feeding frenzy).

Most of the Little Gekkos probably thought the great lesson of Wall Street was not “Greed is bad,” but “Greed is good. Do it all pal, but watch out for those wires and don’t get caught.”

I guess one or two Little Gekkos may even be reading this (though I doubt many of them waste much time on movie reviews written by lefties). And, if they are, all I can say is: Take an express-train ticket to Hell, buddy, because that’s where you belong.

That was then. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is now.

Full disclosure. I really like most of Oliver Stone’s movies. I love them even at their most outrageous and screamingly preachy and punch-in-the-gut unfair. I tend to dig them even when they’re “bad” — by pompous-critical-snob standards. Even though, like Stone, I had a Jewish father, and was not happy with Stone’s recent remarks in the British media about Jewish politics — I’m willing to forgive him a lot, even forgive him my disappointment that this Wall Street is not as savage, punchy and brainily aggressive as I’d like it to be — that it really does seem to have been mostly written not by Stone, by its two credited screenwriters, Allan Loeb and ex-critic Stephen Schiff (True Crime), rather than Stone.

I don’t know why anybody would want to make an Oliver Stone movie about Wall Street and high finance that wasn’t written, primarily or substantially, by Stone, an Oscar-winning screen writer whose father was a Wall Street insider — though Writers Guild credits rules mean, I guess, that he could have written up to 50%, and still not gotten script credit. But I’ll trust Google for the moment. (Loeb, by the way, worked as a stockbroker. On the other hand, he also wrote The Switch and 21.)

Anyway, business is business, art is art, and this script is certainly out of the ordinary: smart, gutsy, savvy on its subject, and far better than most of what we get from the big studios. It’s not more trash for the young and horny, the Little Gekkos and their Gekkettes, and all the wanna-be Gekkos and Gekkettes. Stone’s hand is there in the script, somewhere, if only as an inspiration. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps just doesn’t have the rip-it-open smack and the take-no-prisoners wallop of the 1987 movie.

What it does have is perspective, mellowness, maybe a little more obvious humanity. Sometimes, that gives us a surprise or two.

When we first see the new Gekko, he‘s being released from prison in 2001, with all his paltry carry-in loot being stuffed in a bag and nary a friend, relative, reporter or tele-journalist, there to push a mike in his face and ask if he‘s learned any lessons. (I didn’t buy that media freeze-out. And, in any case, I think the writers threw away a possible sharp, satiric scene to get their little Gekko-chastening “God, so alone, so alone!” moment. )

Flashing Gecko forward to the mid 2000’s, before the crash, he‘s on the lecture circuit, peddling a book called “Is Greed Good?”, exposing what he used to celebrate. Did Gekko actually write it all, we wonder, or, as with most public figures and politicos who become so-called “authors,” from Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to Hillary Clinton, did he hire an interviewer/ghost-writer? (According to The New York Times, more than 80%, of the Times nonfiction bestseller list books were not primarily written by the name on their covers. The old Stone would have had the ghostwriter at the lecture and cracked a few jokes about this.)

It’s a new world, a new time, a new Gekko, new greed. The fresh villains of our day are the investment bankers, the Wall Street-is-a-casino crowd, all those guys who were handed, by George W. Bush and others, a license to steal. (And did.) In Gekko’s audience is the character we’ve met in the meantime, this movie’s equivalent for Sheen‘s up-and-comer Gekko acolyte Bud Fox: Shia LaBeouf as Jake Moore, a young financial stud with alternative energy principles. Jake, working on Wall Street, witnessed and lamented the crushing (which we see too) of his own father-figure/mentor Louis Zabel (Frank Langella). And, coincidentally he’s dating Gekko’s daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan, at her cutest and wariest), who hates her dad, won’t talk to him, and is running a left-wing blog political website where she celebrates the kind of right stuff and moral attitudes the old Gekko thought were for losers.

So the hook is baited, by Loeb, Schiff, Stone or whomever. Jake hooks up with Gekko, because he wants an insider‘s savvy and advice, so he can go after Zabel‘s wrecker/assassin Bretton James (Josh Brolin, looking like a dark cloud in an Armani suit). Gekko wants Jake so he can get back to Winnie, build a bridge to his old family, be a mensch maybe. James wants Jake on his team, because like Gekko before him, he has a strange weakness for young men on the rise, a weakness maybe for seeing himself reborn in obvious movie juvenile leads.

Here’s one thing I don’t like about the new script. Like too many sequels, it tends to repeat too much the original and its patterns — though here, much less obviously. (But noticeably.) James is the new Gekko. (So, maybe, is the old Gekko.) Jake is the new Bud. Lou Zabel is the new Lou Mannheim (Hal Holbrook) or maybe the new Lou Stone. There‘s no new Darien (Daryl Hannah), unless it’s Winnie Gekko and blogging has become the new interior decoration — but some mistakes I guess we can learn from. Susan Sarandon, as Jake‘s mother, may be the new Martin Sheen (Bud’s dad) and also the new real-estate flogging Sylvia Miles, but the original Sylvia is back too, still hustling apartments. There’s no new John McGinley as the loudmouth in the other cubicle and I miss him. (“Knicks and chicks!“) Stone himself is on the trading floor, wearing just the right dissolute grin.

Bud Fox (C. Sheen) is back too, and that‘s one scene I really liked. (Some didn’t.) David Byrne is on the soundtrack as this movie’s Frank Sinatra. Byrne is good, but Money Never Sleeps, Talking Heads and all, doesn’t have an adequate substitute for the Chairman of the Board‘s great opening “Wall Street” (‘87) ballad opener “Fly Me to The Moon” (“And Let Me Play Among the Stars“) — though, if they were in a humorous mood, they might have tried The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” Or Billy Joel‘s “ Moving Up,” or even, as a bow to the Little Gekkos, Joel‘s “(I Love You) Just the Way You Are.”


Afterwards, we do tend to go through the original archetypal moves and dramatic rituals again — though there are changes or evolutions, and this time, only an idiot wouldn’t realize that Brolin’s Bretton James is intended as a bad example. (I‘m not saying that a lot of idiots won’t.)


Money Never Sleeps deepens Gekko, seemingly, and shows his more human side, which Douglas only let out in little dribbles and sips, if at all, in the first movie. (Hey, the guy liked Bud.) And it works here because of the acting and the top-chop cast. Michael Douglas is a great movie actor, and a born star (just like his own Jewish-American dad, Kirk, aka Issur Danielovitch Demsky). He holds the screen here and usually, in ways that most of the younger leading men, cutie-pies though most of them may be, can’t. He holds it better here than even the often on-target LaBeouf, who’s a kind of ace of his generation for casual, watchful underplaying and sincere realism in mostly over-the-top shows.

I’m happy to see Douglas showcased this year, maybe get an Oscar nomination, for A Solitary Man or Wall Street 2 — though sometimes it seemed that the filmmakers in Solitary Man wanted to wreck their character because he was wreckable. I’m happy despite the fact that there may be a little too much mellowing going on in Wall Street 2 — even though the movie still has a nasty surprise or two up its suspenders.

As for the other actors, Carey Mulligan palms her usual low-key ace, even though she has the least well-written, most sentimentalized character in the movie. Frank Langella cracks your heart on that subway platform. Eli Wallach is here as Julie Steinhardt, backing up James like another consigliore, and I must say I’d rather watch a Wallach seduction ( as in “Baby Doll”) than a Josh Duhamel pitch any day. Warren Buffett, maybe tired of his day job, shows up as local color.

And, just as Wall Street, which was shot by Robert Richardson (while Frank flew us to the moon), looked great and classically Manhattan, cold light shimmering over the skyscrapers and the deals. So does Wall Street 2, in a new world without a Trade Center, shot by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu’s ace Rodrigo Prieto.

Stone has mellowed. Gekko has mellowed. We’ve all mellowed — except maybe “Mad Money’s” Jim Cramer. And though mellowing can be good — though there are things about Money Never Sleeps (mostly the personal drama-sections) that are better than its predecessor — I was sorry this wasn’t the gloves-off Wall Street we, or a lot of us, wanted to see.

Most movie audiences probably don’t know enough about investment banks, unless they caught it in passing on Kudlow or heard it being screamed about by Cramer — and even the smartest among them may think derivative means something ripped off from “Executive Suite” or “Citizen Kane.” It wouldn’t have been belaboring the obvious, for at least 90% of the audience, to take us through a dramatic primer on how all those deregulated assholes manipulated the system, lived their high lives, and devastated the economy for most everyone else. Then at least, some audiences would be armed against the avalanche of baloney they get every day on Fox News.

Greed? Good? Give me a break. A month or so ago, I was talking to an older guy in my building, a retired hospital administrator, telling him some horror stories about what happened to my 94-year-old mother Edna in the local medical system — such as the time I found her, lying in sheets and blankets drenched with blood because of a doctor’s I.V. insertion error, that nobody had caught until I got there. He looked at me sadly, and said he was sure that it was all true — that there was an unspoken policy at many hospitals to give second or third rate care to the elderly, because it was felt they took up too many beds and decreased profits.

Maybe my mother wouldn’t have died in our apartment, six or so hours after the hospital released her, breathing softly “Help Me,” if there had been better medical care, kinder policies — and a few less parties, a little less Coke, one less political donation, a few less “Knicks and Chicks,” a few less derivatives, a little less clout, and a few less outrageous rats and greedy little scoundrels, living it up on Wall Street with all our money.

Will anybody listen this time? Or will they deify greed once again? Now as then, in the 2000s, as in 1986, just as Oliver Stone likes to show us, good is good and bad is bad. Greed is greed. Wall Street is Wall Street. Money never sleeps — and love of money, as they say in the Bible, is the root of all evil. Listen, you Little Gekkos, you Little Gekkettes, you liars, you crooks and you worthless cold-hearted cheats: Greed ain‘t good. And to hell with you.


PICK OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC  The Black Pirate (Blu-ray) (Three and a Half Stars)

U.S.: Albert Parker, 1926 (Kino)

Douglas Fairbanks was the original movie swashbuckler, and still, in many ways, the best. Errol Flynn was a little too much of a real-life jerk, to be totally convincing as a pure-hearted, dashing adventurer. No one after those too had quite their dash, their flair — or their lavish Hollywood backdrops to play against.But we still have Fairbanks (at least on celluloid). And more moviegoers these days should get to know him: his signature ‘stache, his laughing eyes, his wide smile, his exuberant ways, his flips, his jumps, the way he slashed a sword at a cutthroat‘s breast. “The Black Pirate,” his first Technicolor film, and a beauty, is one of his best shows, neglected maybe because we know so little of the director, Albert Parker.

But Fairbanks himself (one of Gene Kelly’s idols) was one of the writers, one of the producers, maybe half the director. It’s his personality that catches us. Let this movie reintroduce you to one of the great movie stars, and then show you the reasons why the world loved him. With Donald Crisp and Billie Dove. (Silent, with intertitles and two music scores: the original 1926 Mortimer Wilson score conducted by the estimable Robert Israel, and a Lee Erwin organ score.)

Extras: The complete talkie version of The Black Pirate (Two and a Half Stars), narrated by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.; Commentary by Rudy Behlmer; 47 minutes of outtakes, with some Behlmer commentary; Photo gallery.


PICK OF THE WEEK: BLU-RAYWilliam Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” (Three Stars)

U.S.-Australian: Baz Luhrmann, 1996 (20th Century Fox)

Back in 1996, I carped at this Baz Luhrmann version of the greatest romantic play ever written — with Leonardo Di Caprio a heart-felt Romeo, Claire Danes a glowing Juliet, Harold Perrineau a touching Mercutio, and John Leguizamo a snazzy, brutal Tybalt — dismissed it as a smart-ass pseudo-Shakespearean film that drowned the matchless poetry in teen-age movie gangster chic clichés. But, after Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! knocked me out at Cannes a few years later, Kenneth Branagh’s high praise for Luhrmann’s Romeo convinced me to take another look.I now think I knocked Romeo not wisely, but too well. Luhrmann’s madness had method: His resetting of the play in Verona Beach, among police helicopters, nightly TV eye-witness news, gunfights and youth gangs (continuing the West Side Story – Franco Zeffirelli teen-age “These hot days is the mad blood stirring” tradition) does make the great poetry more legible and “decoded” to a modern audience. And therefore it gets Shakespeare’s poetry to new people, making the story exciting and moving and poignant all over again. Right on. Great cast too: Brian Dennehy and Christina Pickles as the Montagues, Paul Sorvino and Diane Venora as the Capulets, Pete Postlethwaite as Friar Laurence, Miriam Margolyes as The Nurse, and a smirking young Paul Rudd as Paris.Extras: Commentary by Luhrmann, co-writer Craig Pearce and others; Interviews; Featurette; Uncut footage from the vault.__________________________________________________

PICK OF THE WEEK: BOX SETAmerica Lost and Found: The BBS Story (Also Blu-ray) (Four Stars)

U.S.: Various Directors, 1968-72 (Criterion)

You’re going to get hold of this box set — you buy it, beg it, or borrow it, it’s too big to steal — and you’re going to listen to the BBS story all over again. Maybe you’ve heard it or read it before. Doesn’t matter. Good stories can be told again and again.So this is the true-life tale of two young TV and moviemaking guys, radical-minded but well- connected: Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider. Bob, who had quite a temper, was the nephew of Ernst Lubitsch’s screenwriter, Samson Raphaelson. Bert, who looked something like a Jewish prince, was the son of Columbia Pictures president Abraham Schneider.The two made a lot of money with a silly but wildly popular little rock n’ roll TV show they dreamed up called “The Monkees,” for their production company, Raybert — which eventually became BBS (for Bert, Bob, and their third partner, theatrical/promotional whiz Steve Blauner). A little company attached to the then-faltering colossus of Columbia Pictures, BBS was designed to make little “art” movies for about a million or so. (Old Hollywood Saying: If you make a movie for a million dollars, you can’t steal a million dollars).They knew some other talented young guys — and gals — who’d been knocking around, but hadn’t quite made it: people like Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Karen Black, Carol Eastman, Bruce Dern, Henry Jaglom, Peter Bogdanovich — , and they started making movies with them. Those movies, some of them at any rate, made a lot of money and won Oscars, and got them noticed, got them tickets to the dance (the deals and the parties). And they made more movies. Not that many, though. Seven films in this box set, not all official BBS shows, and their last picture was an Oscar-winning documentary Hearts and Minds, that survived the company.

Head. Easy Rider. Five Easy Pieces. Drive, He Said. A Safe Place. The Last Picture Show. The King of Marvin Gardens.

So you get the story here, in the box set’s documentaries and featurettes — some vintage, some new — and in the Criterion booklet, with six very sympathetic articles by six very sympathetic critics. (These were our movies, our g-g-g-generation, you now). And you get it in the movies. Mostly in the movies. You may not have seen these pictures for years, for decades. But you may be surprised at how they’ve all held up, even improved.

Seven little movies in five years. Eight, if you count Hearts and Minds. Raybert. BBS. Remember?

Includes: Head (U.S.: Bob Rafelson, 1968) (Three Stars). Director Bob Rafelson and his producing partner Bert Schneider were the men behind “The Monkees,” a weekly TV rock n’ roll comedy musical show obviously inspired by The Beatles and Richard Lester’s “A Hard Day’s Night” — and starring the Monkees, a hand-picked mini-Beatle group composed of drummer/singer Mickey Dolenz and singers/guitarists Davey Jones, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were groups made up of boyhood friends. The Monkees were a pickup group Rafelson and Schneider assembled from auditions, but their pop record career took off anyway (fueled by huge hits like “I‘m a Believer“ and “Last Train to Clarksville.“ They were known somewhat scornfully among the snobbier rock crowds as “The Pre-Fab Four.”

After a couple of years, the Monkees were tired of the whole TV magilla, and Rafelson wanted to make a movie. So he enlisted the help of the Pre-Fab Four, of his actor/screenwriter pal Jack Nicholson (who still calls him “Curly“) — and that assembled a totally perverse back-up cast that included Timothy Carey, Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston, Ray Nitschke, Carol Doda and Victor Mature’s hair, and that‘s how Head came to be. (The title means what you think it does — although Rafelson has confessed that they intended to advertise their next movie with the tagline “The new movie from the guys who gave you Head!)

Since Head was a colossal, if somewhat undeserved flop, the point was moot. (Jack and Curly’s next movie, in any case, was Five Easy Pieces.)

Easy Rider (U.S.; Dennis Hopper, 1969) (Three and a Half Stars). In 1969, Easy Rider — a low-budget revolutionary biker flick in which writer-producer Peter Fonda and writer-director Dennis Hopper play Wyatt (aka Captain America) and Billy, two shaggy, pot-blowing bikers, riding cross country to New Orleans, the Mardi Gras and an evil destiny, after a big cocaine score – exploded onto America‘s movie scene and culture like few low budget movies ever have. It won the Camera d’Or (for best first film) at Cannes, grossed a ton, and became a landmark film in the ‘60s-‘70s U. S. movie New Wave.

It still plays like a guitar jam house afire, with blazing Laszlo Kovacs cinematography, a trend-setting rock soundtrack (keyed by Steppenwolf’s furious “Born to be Wild” and The Band‘s epochal “The Weight“ ) that fundamentally changed the way movies have been scored ever since, and an iconic cast headed by Fonda, Hopper, and the nonpareil Jack Nicholson as happily drunken lawyer George Hanson. (It’s a performance, some friends say, that, booze aside, is closest to Nicholson’s real personality). The cocaine buyer in the opening scene, by the way, is Phil Spector.

Dennis Hopper, who was a truly great interview subject (either drunk or sober) once told me that there are longer cuts of Easy Rider that he prefers — one of four and one of about eight hours — and which, he claimed, really gave you the feeling of riding cross-country. We’ll probably never get the original Greed. But even if Dennis is gone now, why not try for the original Easy Rider?)

Five Easy Pieces (U.S.: Bob Rafelson, 1970) (Four Stars). One of the great ‘70s movies — with Nicholson as Bobby Eroica Dupea, who has fled his isolated Oregon classical musician family for a life as a wildcatter and hell-raiser on the Bakersfield oil fields, with a Country & Western-loving waitress girlfriend name Rayette (Karen Black‘s shining hour). Bobby, a secret whiz at Mozart and Chopin, now has to return home — Rayette wheedles herself along too — to say goodbye to his dying father. (That “goodbye” is an emotional wipeout, for Nicholson and for us.) The rest of the troubled household consists of Bobby’s hero-worshipping sister Lois Smith, injured brother Ralph Waite and a sexy ladyfriend (Susan Anspach), who likes his (piano) style.

The script, with heavy Rafelson influence, is the finest work of Carole Eastman, a.k.a. Adrien Joyce. And the film’s mix in Bobby of blue-collar and bourgeois, of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” and Mozart’s classical piano music is consciously artistic and genuinely radical in intent. This movie, which often plays like a film in the vein of Bergman (Bergman loved it), hit critics like a thunderbolt in 1970.

If Easy Rider established the young producers commercially, Five Easy Pieces “made” them critically. Incidentally, the legendary scene where Bobby needles and then blows up at the truck stop waitress who won’t bring him a side order of toast — trying to circumvent her by ordering a chicken salad sandwich on toast (hold the chicken) — actually happened in real life. To Rafelson. (“I want you to hold it between your knees!”)

Drive, He Said (U. S.: Jack Nicholson, 1970.) (Three Stars) Tell it like is, babe. Jack Nicholson wanted to direct, and BBS obliged. The result, this adaptation by director/producer/writer Nicholson of co-screenwriter Jeremy Larner’s realistic novel of college basketball, sex and anti-war radicalism, is one of the few films I can think of that really brings that time and my campus (The University of Wisconsin at Madison), and the whole faux-revolutionary feel of things, right back to me. It’s grim. Sexy too.

The college-age actors here are William Tepper as long-haired hoops phenom Hector and Michael Margotta (kind of a little Jack) as his radical roommate Gabriel. For the older folk, Nicholson put his buddies in. Bruce Dern gives the movie’s best performance as the hyperbolic Coach Bullion, Karen Black is Hector‘s married lover Olive, Bob Towne is Olive’s wimpy academic hubby Richard, Henry Jaglom is Conrad. (Should Towne, one of the great modern masters of movie dialogue, especially for Nicholson, have been more involved with the writing here? Well, you never know: Maybe he was.) Real-life basketball star Mike Warren is Hector‘s team comrade Easly.

But there’s a catch. Catch-22, maybe. Like I say, the movie feels just like 1970 to me. But there’s something wrong with “Drive, He Said,“ some reason maybe why it didn’t fully connect with audiences at the time, why it still doesn’t fully connect with me. Hell, I’m just not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the times that were wrong. And they still spook me and attract me at the same time. I left something back there. Yeah, that could be it. Tell it like it is, babe…

A Safe Place (U.S.: Henry Jaglom, 1971) (Three and Half Stars). Henry Jaglom likes to make up movies, as he goes along, with his actors, and in his debut feature A Safe Place he had the best leads he ever had for one of his movies for his whole career. The transcendentally gorgeous Tuesday Weld is the outwardly ebullient and girlish, inwardly tormented Manhattan beauty Susan (or Noah). Jack Nicholson (the Man) is her smiling, supremely self-confident old love, Mitch. And Orson Welles (the greatest of them all) is a pious-looking old magician who hangs around in the park, making little rainbows. (Welles with a little rainbow, became the signature image of Jaglom‘s later long time producing company, Rainbow.) ,

‘70s audiences found this movie self-indulgent, and it is. But why shouldn’t it be? If you have actors this wonderful (and other good ones like Philip Proctor and Gwen Welles), why not indulge them and yourself as well? BBS was definitely the place to do it. And you can’t say Jaglom was a phony; he still makes the same kind of movies, with the same methods. His heart on his sleeve and his hat on his brow, he’s still a full-blown movie romantic — the song we keep hearing in Safe Place is Charles Trenet’s “La Mer” (“Beyond the Sea” for Bobby Darin) — and this is his most romantic movie. (Though “Last Summer in the Hamptons” is fine, and my mother loved “Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?” with Karen Black.) That means it’s his best. I know he won’t like to hear me say that, but it’s true. There’s a time to indulge yourself; this was it.

The Last Picture Show (U. S.; Peter Bogdanovich, 1971) (Four Stars) (U. S.; Peter Bogdanovich, 1971 (Columbia/Sony)
Peter Bogdanovich‘s great movie about memory, youth, loss, romance, and sex, is also a poetic tribute to the movies and the ways we interact with them. The Last Picture Show — adapted by Bogdanovich and Larry McMurtry from McMurtry’s excellent novel about high school friends in a changing ’50s small town Texas world, is of course, regarded as a modern classic — and it shines through once again here. The movie is beautifully designed and structured and executed, beautifully shot (by Robert Surtees) in classical black and white. It really looks and feels like the fifties. Smells of them, even.

Hank Williams is on the jukeboxes and radios, Howard Hawks’1948 John Wayne cattle-drive western Red River is in Sam the Lion‘s movie house. The movie’s influences are obvious: Hawks, Ford, Welles, even Hitchcock and Preminger — and Bogdanovich honors his masters, while applying their techniques to something really different: a side of the fifties you never really saw in “Red River,” in “The Quiet Man,” in “Mr. Arkadin,” or “The Wrong Man” or “Anatomy of a Murder”: a more honest, even shockingly candid at sexuality. The great breakthrough cast includes Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd, Randy Quaid, Ellen Burstyn, Clu Gulager, Sam Bottoms, Eileen Brennan and Oscar winners Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman.

Bogdanovich sometimes seems somewhat haunted by this movie, by its incredible critical reception and maybe by the widespread notion that he may never make a better one. Well, maybe he won’t — just as Orson Welles never really topped Citizen Kane, whatever critic Bogdanovich thinks. But that doesn’t matter, shouldn’t matter. Any filmmaker would be honored to have either a Citizen Kane or a Last Picture Show in their resume. Christ, most movie makers never get near either one.

The King of Marvin Gardens
(U. S.; Bob Rafelson, 1972). Four Stars. Jack Nicholson plays one role that he probably never wanted to be type-cast in: an introverted, sexually repressed writer/radio talk show host named David Staebler, who seems to make up his own autobiography as he goes along. Bruce Dern plays his older brother Jason, a would-be slick, glad-handing artist and promoter, who never stops grinning, never stops selling, holed up in a boardwalk hotel in Atlantic City, where he‘s got a deal going down. He says.

And Ellen Burstyn is a sexy lady with a warm and welcoming manner and beauty queen smile named Sally, who travels around with Jason and with her pretty, fragile stepdaughter Jessica (Julia Anne Robinson) and a ton of makeup, and is about to see everybody (including herself) at their worst.

Surprisingly, here, in a film relatively few have seen or know, are three of the greatest performances in the whole history of the American cinema, three quintessential ‘70s acting knockout rounds by three actors who are always good, often terrific — Nicholson, Dern, Burstyn — but rarely better than they are here. Nicholson plays against his seeming strength: He’s a shy guy who nearly fades into the background, deep into himself, dominated by his colorful fake of a brother. Dern plays to his strengths: He takes over the screen, rides over everybody, sweeps us up in his waves of energy and chutzpah, even though we all know this guy is full of bullshit.

As for Ellen Bustryn, playing her looker’s last twilight act, as this Tennessee Williams-style damaged-goods lady — well, she just takes your heart and tears it up into little crumbs and scatters them like her makeup and mascara and lip gloss tossed to the wind and fire on the desolate New Jersey shoreline beach. If you don’t feel a twinge or a tear at this, buddy, you’re stone. You’re stone.

There are so many great scenes in The King of Marvin Gardens — also from Robinson and from Scatman Crothers (as a kindly looking black gangster) as well as the Big Three, that it’s a puszzle to me this movie, in some ways the ultimate BBS movie (if less affecting than either Easy Pieces or Picture Show, isn’t seen as more of a classic. Jacon Brackman is sort of a pretentious writer, but a lot of BBS stuff is a little pretentious, including “Head.“ (That’s part of its charm.) I guess I think cowriter Brackman (an ex-esquire Movie critic) and Rafelson didn’t fully exploit the material — that King of Marvin Gardens is about three scenes short of greatness: three two-character scenes, one apiece, with David and Jason, Jason and Sally, Sally and David.

The actors have their parts down so well, maybe they could have made the scenes up, like Jaglom‘s actors.

Anyway, no more BBS. Some of them went on to great things; all of them have a place in film history. But I bet each BBS person — Rafelson, Nicholson, Hopper, Bogdanovich, Jaglom — would admit that at BBS, they were at their best, never happier, never higher. (Both senses of the word, I bet.) The BBS years were short but sweet. Small, but great. Seven Films, Five Years. We still watch them. We still dig them. We still wish that moviemakers today would make movies as good, as smart, as honest, as free. Maybe they can. Try, fellas? Anybody? If you don’t spend a million dollars…Oh well, as Jack might say, it was nice while it lasted.

Extras: Commentaries by Bob and Toby Rafelson, Hopper, Fonda, Bogdanovich, Jaglom, Shepherd, Quaid, Leachman, and The Monkees, Intrviews with Nicholson, Hopper, Fonda, Rafelson, Blauner, Burstyn, Dern, Kovacs, David Thomson and Douglas Brinkley; Documentaries; Featurettes; Trailers; Booklet with essays By Chuck Stephens, Matt Zoller Seitz, Kent Jones, Mark Le Fanu, Graham Fuller, J. Hobernman.


U.S.; Fatih Akin, 2009 (ifc)

Fatih Akin’s new movie is as nervy, fast-moving and hard-edged as Head On or The Edge of Heaven, but it’s mood and motive are much sunnier, bubblier. It’s a comedy, a bawdy and delicious one, about a Greek-German restaurant owner-manager trying to make a go of a hip little eatery called Soul Kitchen — ensconced in a large space in an industrial area of Hamburg, full of comfort food and jumping with pop music.The Kitchen, which booms out the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing,” plus Curtis Mayfield, Quincy Jones, Ruth Brown and other soul classics over the speakers, and draws much of its patronage from a nearby art school, is a smoking little place. Its menu (pizza, burgers, fries) is easy and toothsome, and its staff is congenial. But it’s problems are also seemingly endless.For much of the movie we simply watch the Kitchen’s owner-hero, Zinos Kazantzakis (played by real life restaurateur and longtime Akin buddy Adam Bousdoukos), run around trying to solve them — to untangle his troubled love life, the keep his staff happy, and to keep out of the hands of predatory creditors, a relentless taxwoman and malicious, greedy business sharks. Zinos’ romantic turmoil mostly revolves around smart journalist heiress-beauty Nadine (Pheline Roggan) who has a job (and maybe a new boyfriend) in China. His personnel quandaries stem from his new temperamental chef, Shayn Weiss (Birol Unel), who likes to throw knives when his culinary gifts are doubted, and from his ex-con brother Ilias (Moritz Blibtreu), who likes to gamble and has a crush on one of the waitresses. Zinos’ most troublesome tax collector, and most persistent predatory business shark (Wotan Wilke Mohring as Thomas Neumann) are often at his door, and , at least once, in each other’s arms. And we haven’t even mentioned his slipped disc.Kazantzakis, of course, has the same name as one of Greece’s greatest novelists, Nikos Kazantzakis (The Last Temptation of Christ, The Greek Passion, Zorba the Greek). He also has an energy and upbeat personality that seem equal to the task. But barely.

The Turkish-German Akin‘s other movies — great, unsparing, lacerating looks at urban youth and the immigrant experience in modern Germany, have been lively and sexy and often grim. Soul Kitchen is lively and sexy and often funny. It definitely shows Akin has more strings to his bow, at least when his tummy is nicely full and his other appetites slaked.

This movie reminded me very pleasantly of college days in Madison, Wisconsin in the ‘60s and ‘70s , where a place called “Soul Kitchen,“ with that menu (or at least the original menu), that staff and that play list, would have been the hit of the town. (They would have had to put The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen” on the jukebox though. And it would have been played a lot.) Akin’s show reminded me joyously of my old friend, the late Jim Cusimano, alias “The State Street Gourmet,” an eloquent writer and happy trencherman who was restaurant critic for our college paper, The Daily Cardinal, when I was the movie critic and Jim’s pals Gerry Peary and Larry Ratso” Sloman were the arts and music editors. These are happy, happy memories.

Bousdoukos may be a film acting amateur. But his years of pulling customers in for his food have given him a natural energy and a shaggy presence and charisma, that helps keep all these whirligig plots in motion. Blibtreu, as brother Moritz — a well-meaning but reckless guy who has “trouble” stamped on his neck — gives a marvelous supporting performance. And so does Unel as Weiss, a chef willing to pull a knife on a customer, rather than blasphemously heat up his bowl of gazpacho. The rest of the cast, all good, pungently illustrate the whole melting-pot pizzazz of life in the city when you’re (relatively) young, active, and alive to lots of options. And ready for snacks of all kinds.

Now mind you, Soul Kitchen is no profound, life changing cinematic experience. Who cares? I liked it a lot. And maybe I speak too soon of profundity or its absence. After all, this has to be a life changing experience for both Zinos and Ilias. It’s just that these are also troubles, however grave and vexing they appear, that we can laugh at, muddle through, and that can temporarily be solved by a tasty gyro, spinach pie or a heart-warming doumani. And some sweet soul music. What‘s happening, baby? (In German, with English subtitles.)

Salt (Two Stars)

U.S.; Phillip Noyce, 2010 (Sony)

Salt has its moments. But it’s mostly another pillar of fancy big-movie trash, preposterously plotted and scripted. The show, which stars Angelina Jolie as a seemingly rogue C. I. A. agent on the run, pretty much lost me from the start, even if it‘s done with some flash and dash and style. Through good spots or bad, it’s enlivened by long stretches of slick-as-an-Aston Martin action movie expertise from a killer filmmaking crew, and graced with a really fine cast (including top pros like Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor and the great Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski), capped by star Jolie‘s deadly charms, lithe torso and witchy-eyed glare.

Now, lithe torsos and snazzy action scenes can cover a multitude of filmmaking sins — especially if the action, if not the torsos, are coordinated, as they are here, by a legendary second unit director and stunt expert like Simon Crane. Still, when we got to the end, and I saw that Phillip Noyce had directed this show, and that Brian Helgeland was one of the co-writers, I could barely believe my eyes. Could Noyce (Dead Calm, and The Quiet American) and Helgeland, the scripter of L. A. Confidential and Mystic River really have gotten though this script without fits of wild laughter?

What about the scenes where Salt offs multiple opponents in a Brooklyn water treatment center, or keeps leaping from one truck or car roof to another, on a packed expressway, while agents Winter (Schreiber) and Peabody (Ejiofor) watch, with nary a shake of the head or a mutter of “Sheee-it!”

The idea here was apparently to do a female James Bond thriller. (They might have been better off trying for a female “Bourne Identity”). But the movie lacks the better Bond movies’ essential quality, that tongue-in-cheek approach — even though that kind of Richard Maibaum urbanity and lightness might have really worked here in a show where almost every scene is more outlandish than the one before it.

Schreiber, to give him credit, does sport some bemused expressions. And Jolie does her best, playing Evelyn Salt, sexy rogue CIA agent, who’s fingered as a sleeper spy by a melancholy Russian defector named Orlov (Olbrychski), and who promptly escapes C. I. A. headquarters, and goes on a one-woman rampage, followed closely by ex-buddy Winter and the sternly suspicious Peabody (who remains suspicious of Salt even though Orlov escapes too, killing two agents). Her agenda seems to involve protecting her husband, taking part somehow in two potential presidential wipe-outs (one Russian, one American), the snookering of two huge secret service agencies, protracted car chases on a N. Y. expressway, (Did Robert Moses destroy whole neighborhoods so we could see this?), gunfights against dozens of cops and agents, the reactivation of hidden cadres of “sleeper” Russian secret agents all over the U.S. (despite the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed decades ago) and the possible triggering of World War III.

Talk about multi-tasking. After a while, it all begins to seem like one of those vast, interconnected fiendish plots Glenn Beck keeps breathlessly describing with his handy-dandy blackboard on Fox News, while rolling his eyes, giggling flirtatiously, babbling mournfully about the Founding Fathers, and breaking into one of his absurd dry-eyed crying jags. If Joe McCarthy, Beck’s spiritual grandpa, once seemed to be finding Communists under every bed in the black list era, Beck’s boyish mugging suggests that he’s worried that the Commies are actually trying to get into his bed and under the bed sheets with him, while starting a weenie-roast with the Constitution.

I can’t say that a lot of this isn’t entertaining. (Salt, not Beck.) And Jolie has a simmering presence that works well in action thrillers. But the problem here isn’t so much with the gunfights and chases, as with the dramatic “breather“ scenes between. If Salt had five or six more dramatic scenes as good as the interrogation scene with Daniel Olbrychski — and, here, they have the cast that could have done them — they might have saved millions on action and special effects, and Jolie or whomever wouldn’t have had to keep leaping from truck to truck, to keep our attention. Also, I bet the audience would have liked it more.

Watching Salt, I kept remembering how invigorating it seemed back in 2002, when director Noyce, after being trapped for a few years in exciting but ludicrous Tom Clancy-derived thrillers, came up with the exhilarating double whammy of his Graham Greene adaptation The Quiet American and the reality-based Rabbit-Proof Fence. Going from Clancy to Greene, must have seemed to him like going from Kool-Aid to pinot noir. Obviously, Noyce wanted to get back to his roots then, and to start making really fine high-profile movies again, instead of just dropping Harrison Ford into another maelstrom.

Big budget action movies that try to use politics and contemporary events don’t have to be crocks of crap; it just seems to be an occupational hazard. But I hope Noyce can make another movie as good as The Quiet American some day, without having to stick World War III into the script. Maybe he can bring Olbrychski, Schreiber and Ejiofor, or actors just as good, along with him. And Angelina Jolie too. She deserves to be dropped into something besides a maelstrom.

Extras: Filmmaker commentary; Featurettes.

Step Up 3D (Two Stars)

U.S.; Jon Chu, 2010 (Touchstone)

How much you like Step Up 3D probably depends on how many howling dance movie clichés and how much lousy screenwriting, you’re able to forgive, for the sake of some lively, sizzling musical numbers.

You enjoyment really doesn’t depend on whether you‘ve seen this movie‘s predecessors, Step Up (2006) or Step Up 2 The Streets (2008), which were, respectively, about a love story between a break-dancing hood and a high school ballerina set against the backdrop of the Big Show, and second, about a bunch of break-dancers getting together to compete in the Big Contest. I missed them both, and I don’t think I’ll be catching either one any time soon — though some aficionados consider the Step Up trilogy among the best of their bust-a-move genre.

Don’t worry though. Nothing that happens in Step Up 3D will surprise you even if you wander out to the concession stand for a half hour or so and start your own Big Contest. Neither will anything in this review.

Step Up 3D is set in New York City, and it’s about another Big Dance Contest: the World Jam, in which the good guys, The Pirates, led by hunky inspirational leader Luke (Bob Malambri) compete against the bad Guys, the House of Samurai, led by Luke‘s one-time buddy, now turned arrogant richboy jerk Julien (Joe Slaughter) — whose gorgeous sister Natalie (Sharni Vinson), infiltrates the Pirates by pretending to be a homeless street dancer, but then falls for Luke, and has to prove her love.

Hoo! Cool! The Pirates hang out in a huge loft over a dance club, which reminded me a little of Fagin’s thieves’ lair in “Oliver,” as it might look if it were filled with boom boxes instead of stolen purses. Meanwhile, break-dancing natural and curly-locked cutie-pie NYU frosh Moose (Adam G. Sevani), hooks up with Luke in Washington Square Park, demonstrates that he‘s a street-dance natural with a few wriggling moves, is recruited by Luke to join the Pirates, and then chased out of the park by unhip cops who haven’t seen The Other Guys yet. Pretty soon, the Pirates and the House of Samurai — Luke and Moose and Natalie and Julien and all — are hoofing, head-spinning, wiggling and roboting it out in the World Jam, where the world’s greatest free-lance gang of street-dancers will be selected, and where scads of people are waving little American and U.K. flags.

Oh, did I mention that the rent on Luke’s loft hasn’t been paid for five months, and that they’re about to foreclose on the mortgage? Some rent money would come in handy.

So would a new script. With a story like that, you need some good actor/dancers and some good speeches to put it across, and Step Up 3D got shortchanged on dialogue too. So you’ll have to be satisfied with the dancing, which is fairly entertaining.

There’s another problem though. Street dancing, which is designed to be done solo if necessary, and to quickly impress sidewalk passersby, doesn‘t here lend itself to great extended dance scenes or musical stories. So the Pirates and the House of Samurai get on stage at the World jam, while the announcer goes frantic and the flags wave, and the two dance gangs make menacing stares and glares at each other, as if they were the Jets and the Sharks, or kick boxers in a Bruce Lee movie. The music pounds, monotonously. Then they wriggle, jerk, jump, flip over and stand or spin on their heads and arms. Often this Big Contest consists of dueling glowerers going at it. It’s like a mix of Kung Fu and aerobics, crossed with a severe back itch.

Midway through Step Up 3D, Moose and Camille break into a little song and dance number strolling down the Village sidewalks, set to all time master dancer Fred Astaire singing Jerome Kern‘s and Dorothy Fields’ lilting “I Won’t Dance,“ from the 1935 Astaire-Rogers classic “Roberta.” And the kids are super. It’s the best thing in the entire movie — even if it’s not nearly as good as Fred and Ginger could do it.

Why? Because it’s a song/dance/number that tells a story and expresses a mood and a feeling, that turns life into a lyrical set-piece, New York into the old MGM Freed Unit back lot, and lets a dream-romance blossom between the two singer-dancers.

Jon Chu is a pretty good musical director. He handles the 3D well, and at least he uses lots of dancing and lots of music here (including Pat Benatar and Johann Sebastian Bach). But there’s only so far you can go with a terrible script, music that goes chunka-chunka-chunka and a lot of guys doing the robot. Another Big Show? Another Big Contest? Another mortgage? Well, as Fagin said “You‘ve got to pick a pocket or two, boys.” As Fred said: “My heart won’t let my feet do things they should do.” And as Pat Benatar says (and she’s right) “Hit me with your best shot.”

Extras: Music videos; Featurettes.

Easy A (Two and a Half Stars)

U.S.: Will Gluck, 2010 (Sony)

Emma Stone, the star of Easy A, has the kind of sharp camera sense, acting smarts, knowing eye action, and willowy bod that make her a camera magnet, plus a brainy delivery that belies much of her material. I’m afraid, for me, it belied Easy A too — which is a high school variation on Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s The Scarlet Letter that seems to be obsessed with being both Clueless (a high school variation on Jane Austen‘s Emma) and Juno (a high school Catcher in the Rye-ish show with a pregnant Holden Caulfield).

The plot is obvious, but a little goofy. Stone plays Olive, a virginal but tart-mouthed teen at East Ojai High, who accidentally gets overheard in the john by the school bible-thumping bitch Marianne (Amanda Byrnes), while Olive tells her best friend a juicy lie about her sex life. For reasons never very clear or very plausible to me, Olive decides then to keep up the pretense of being a slut (though she has the rep and the notoriety any way), and soon she’s peddling lucrative fibs about putting out, lies paid for by a lot of virginal local boys, including one gay guy and a lot of dweebs, the ones who also want a rep for what they’re not doing.

This bizarre pretense reaches its first climax, sort of, at a party where Emma and a client pretend to be doing it, moaning, carrying on and jumping on the springs in a bedroom, with a lot of the rest of the party-goers, ears pressed to the door, kibitzing on the other side. Sure.

Soon, Olive has plastered a big red “A” on her top and the sham is reaching epic proportions. Pulled into the fray are Olive’s favorite teacher and his hot-pants guidance counselor wife (Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow, both tantalizing but wasted), the smirking principal (Malcolm McDowell, t. but w. too), the school team Woodchuck mascot (t. but w.c.) and everybody else within a cell-phone of the rumors.

Puzzlingly unconcerned are Olive’s unsquare parents, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson (t. but w. most of all), though it‘s explained that Olive’s mom led a wild life.

Actually, very little of Easy A made any sense to me at all. (It has great titles though.) Most of the cast, tantalizing or not, seemed wasted, or at least too cutesy. (We except the wonderful Ms. Stone.) The dialogue was all smarty-pants rib-nudging stuff. The sexy plot twists seemed to me inexplicable. At that high school party, for example, I would have guessed that the people on the other side of the door would have busted it open and piled on the bed, and not just because I‘ve been brainwashed by Judd Apatow. Furthermore, why is everybody keeping did-she-or-didn’t-she secrets like this — especially high school guys, who, no matter how much money they’ve shelled out, usually can’t keep secrets about sex at all? Why does Olive make her best friend her enemy and vice versa? Is East Ojai High really this sexually retarded? Why didn’t Church and Kudrow and Tucci and Clarkson just forget all this, find another script and break out a bottle of pinot noir with Paul Giamatti and Emma? Cheers!

Bert V. Royal’s script reminded me uncomfortably of all those ‘60’s Doris Day-Rock Hudson, Norman Krasna/Stanley Shapiro sort of gelded sex comedy scripts, those phony-promiscuous shows where people were supposed to be screwing but weren‘t, or the gal was supposed to be doing it but wasn’t, or the guy was supposed to be gay but wasn’t, and nothing was really going on, but the supporting actors, or at least Tony Randall and Paul Lynde, were constantly leering over everything.

I accept the fact that I just don’t understand the younger generation, or at least this version of it. (Or the older generation too, apparently. Or sex. Or woodchucks.) And though I never laughed once at Easy A, a lot of people around me were chuckling, tittering, having a ball. Aw, they were easy.

Extras: Commentary with Stone and Gluck; Featurettes; Gag Reel; Audition tape.    

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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