MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland

Things I Am Thankful For: Episode 17 (2013)

I’m Thankful To wake up almost every morning with my wife and my near-4-year-old son by my side. That’s really the size of the world that matters most, even with the Blackberry close at hand, ready to connect me to anyone who might be trying to expand that worldview, with hundreds of channels of satellite TV and Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and Apple TV and Roku and the Google Dongle, with Twitter beckoning, and the world outside creaking with the sound of morning.

I Thank the friends I know, the friends who are really right there, and more and more, the friends I have never met. I am afforded a degree of anonymity in my work, especially via DP/30, where I haven’t been on camera in years. In years past, there were times where the lack of personal branding was uncomfortable. But now, each time I see a “I don’t know who this guy is, but…” comment, I feel like I am closer to my mission statement. There is ego in my work. More when I was younger and anxious to become a known quantity, if only in a small swath of my chosen turf. But as entertainment journalism has become mostly ego, most of the time… I am pleased to offer up the work without it being about me and my self-promotion. Particularly with DP/30, I feel like I am offering something of value to viewers (and sometimes, to talent), as best I can, without the singular focus on what is in it for me.

I Am Thankful For a tremendous movie year, scooped—as it now too often is—from the crapfest of the first half of the year. Of all the wide releases, I count The Place Beyond The Pines, Mud (950 screens), Spring Breakers, and The Great Gatsby as the only films really worth any more consideration than the time spent/wasted viewing them before July. (Admittedly, I did not see Now You See Me or The Croods, which have some love in some quarters.)

Thank GOD For independent films and distributors. It’s a somewhat nasty business right now. After all the posturing in indieland, making fun of the exhibitors for demanding respect of their window, indie is still struggling with windows and how to balance VOD, PPV, and theatrical to best effect (mostly on films that have a legit chance at finding a bigger audience). But there are many long-established distributors out there, still working their asses off, and more new companies trying to figure it all out than I ever recall. As a result, more interesting movies of quality are getting some distribution. And some of that distribution is painful. There are some awfully good movies that are getting lost in the new, evolving system. And there are “elements” in many of the breakouts that threaten to create an era of chasing the wrong things in indie, just as they did when “Sundance films” all started to look the same for a number of years. The good part is, we know the intentions are good… or at least, better than the wide-release distributors (though the evil of big distributors is overstated endlessly by writers and critics, young and old).

We All Should Thank the directing iconoclasts, from David O. Russell to Richard Linklater to The Coens to Harmony Korine to Abdellatif Kechiche to Lars von Trier (who has made an impact this year with trailers/clips alone) to Baz to Denis Villeneuve to The Retired One to Joshua Oppenheimer to Steve McQueen to Jeff Nichols and on and on… even to the mainstreamers like Ron Howard and Scorsese, who continue to stretch their comfort zone while members of The Senior Circuit.

I Am Thankful To all the people in the film business out there who are just doing their danged jobs. It’s not that they don’t have a passion. But there are a lot of people, even at the VP level, who are keeping the trains running. They face a lot of obstacles every day, many of which are just other people trying to do their jobs. But it’s not easy. And a lot of them lost their jobs this last year. But they are the backbone of the whole thing. As I get older, watching the ebb and flow of talented executives, publicists, marketers, etc, I get more philosophical about this. I can almost always tell the ones that are going to make it and rise in all this mess… they’re the ones who are there to make things happen, no matter how hard it gets, how obnoxious the “talent,” however many times the spouse needs an apology. There are a lot of Good People who work in this business of bullshit. They not only make my life easier… they give my soul comfort.

Thank You, Megan Ellison. I do not know you, as you don’t care to be known by me. That’s okay. I dig you anyway. It cannot often be said that The Money makes the movie world a better place. But you have invested the money in the best ways possible. And all of our movie lives are richer for you having taken in interest in making movies.

I Am Thankful For the embrace of so many people—personal publicists, studio publicists, talent—that have allowed DP/30 to become a 200+ episode a year internet series. The range of interest varies, from great enthusiasm to going with the movie publicity flow to complete disinterest. But the needle keeps moving towards the better part of that scale as the years go by. It requires a fair amount of trust to put talent on camera for 30 minutes without a break or a more traditional set of expected questions. But I think that many of these folks, who have truly intimate relationships with the talent with whom they work, understand that in filmed entertainment, it is very rare to fully disappear inside a character. No journalist knows this talent as well as the people they work with daily. And who these actors and directors and writers and composers and so on are does matter. It’s not about ripping away the facade or getting so close that the public knows what personal hygiene choices they make. It’s about the work and the passion that allows people to make a life doing the work they do. The format is loose and not always magical. But when we’re all on the same page, good things almost always happen. The effort it truly appreciated. (Extra thanks to the publicists at a couple of the studios that don’t really prioritize these interviews, but keep fighting for them to be included on the schedules. You know who you are… and even though things don’t always work out, the effort to fight the disinterest is truly appreciated.)

Many Thanks To The Gurus o’ Gold, who participate each week in our consensus chart. We were the first of these samplers and, I like to think, still the best one… because we have the best of the best, even as Oscar prognosticators seem to be procreating like bunnies.

I Thank whatever drives Amy Adams to push herself into new places in her work. Amy herself said in a Q&A that she admires Jennifer Lawrence’s fearlessness (for which I thank some higher power). But after taking a big step into her own darkness with Paul Thomas Anderson, she’s taken another daring step forward with David O. Russell and an actor who could have rested on her spot as one of America’s Sweethearts is taking steps into a rangey, really exciting career (with a lot of years to come). There have been a number of new discoveries and revelations this year, but when a vertran turns a corner (also see: Scarlett Johansson), it is especially thrilling.

I Am Always Thankful To the legacy players that led to this moment, from Scott Safon and the late great Andy Jones to Laura Rooney to the current right hand of MCN, Ray Pride… and all the contributors to the site. I am not a one-man band. Never have been. Whether it’s Michael Wilmington or Len Klady doing weekly entries or Ray doing the daily headlines or my cameramen for DP/30, we’re lean and mean and every piece of the puzzle matters.

And as always, I thank you for reading this and anything else you read or watch that I created this year and any other. It is a privilege to have an audience. That doesn’t mean that my audience gets to define me. I’m not Burger King. But if you allow me to either support your ideas, conflict with them, or just have the conversation, you are honoring me with a gift of engagement. And that is about the best gift that anyone can give me. Thanks.

Be Sociable, Share!

3 Responses to “Things I Am Thankful For: Episode 17 (2013)”

  1. KMS says:

    I, too, am thankful for the Coen Brothers and Megan Ellison. I’m always thankful for Paul Thomas Anderson, even if his latest feature won’t hit theaters until (likely late) 2014. I’d also like to thank Shane Carruth for doing everything he had to do to make Upstream Color a (sur-)reality. Amy Adams does indeed deserve special notice, along with Jennifer Lawrence, for not giving in to the dark side of easy money and fame, despite their good looks and prior experience with box office success. Finally, I’d like to thank Richard Linklater, who somehow turned a respectable romantic flick into the greatest trilogy of our time. His latest masterpiece may be forgotten amid the late-year stampede of Oscar bait, but his brilliant and beautiful work will be revisited with great fondness when all the dust settles across these other, flashier efforts.

  2. Sam says:

    Why are we thanking Megan Ellison? I’m not objecting; I just don’t really know who she is, beyond a skimming of her Wikipedia article.

  3. Manny says:

    I look forward to this article every year.

    Thank you for all the great work you do year in and year out championing cinema with your DP/30s.

The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

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