MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup

The Best Offer
Movies about art and the intricacies of profiting from it frequently turn on some brainy crime, usually involving forgery or theft. The egos of the players are ripe to be picked in elaborate cons and schemes, which, as per “The Thomas Crown Affair,” always require the casting of actors who look fabulous in formal wear. “The Best Offer” is no different, really, except for the inclusion of a romance that’s as seductive as it is improbable. If Giuseppe Tornatore’s wickedly rendered mystery is more than a tad long and complicated for mainstream consumption, fans of the art-scam subgenre should find plenty here to admire. Geoffrey Rush fits perfectly as the well regarded, if selectively bent art appraiser and auctioneer Virgil Oldman. In league with a devious con artist, Billy Whistler, deliciously played by Donald Sutherland, they’ve been able to make a very nice living slipping high-quality fakes and undervalued gems past the bidders at some of Europe’s most prestigious auction houses. Oldman’s ability to find and appraise both is unquestioned. As the film opens, Whistler misreads a cue from the lectern and blows a scam, which causes Oldham to blow a gasket. It serves to demonstrate how the scheme works, as well as how quickly things can go sideways. One morning, Oldham receives a phoned inquiry from an heiress, Claire Ibettson (Sylvia Hoeks), whose vague responses to his questions and demands for anonymity pique his curiosity. Even though she’s the one who initiated contact, Claire makes it very difficult for Oldman to appraise the antiques she’s inherited and facilitate an auction. Just as he’s about to thrown in the towel, however, Claire explains that her reclusive nature is the result of illness and a traumatic experience in her teens. She communicates with him from behind the elegantly painted walls that have shielded her from the outside world for all of her adult life.

Having already completed a cursory evaluation of the items inside the mansion, Virgil can’t help but desire to learn more about Claire. After one of their conversations, he hides among the statues in the cavernous ballroom outside her living quarters, hoping to catch a glimpse of his elusive client. When she does appear, sniffing the air like a mouse daring to leave its hole, he’s hooked and so are we. It takes a bit more coaxing from Oldman – who tempts her with gourmet food and other provisions — for Claire to feel comfortable outside her room. Finally, their business relationship evolves into one that’s equal parts paternal and potentially romantic. As if this prelude to a con weren’t sufficiently intricate, another degree of difficulty is added by Oldman’s discovery of a discarded set of gears that could very well be part of a long-forgotten mechanical treasure. To this end, he employs a young tinkerer (Jim Sturgess), whose ability to restore objects brought into his store borders on the miraculous. Oldman’s continued search of the premises reveals even more pieces of something resembling a 19th Century automaton. At this point, I was reminded of the oft-covered theme from “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “The Windmills of Your Mind,” which begins, “Round, like a circle in a spiral/Like a wheel within a wheel/ …” Even at 131 minutes, “The Best Offer” fairly bursts at the seams with subplots and invisible threads. Impatient viewers may give up on it early, assuming that at least part of the ending might elude them and prove unsatisfying. And, in fact, it probably would. Those already familiar with Tornatore’s body of work, which includes “Cinema Paradiso,” “Malena,” “The Legend of 1900,” “Baaria,” “The Star Maker” and “The Unknown Woman,” know that their perseverance will be repaid in Hitchcockian suspense and Italianate eroticism. The art objects aren’t bad, either.  – Gary Dretzka

The Selfish Giant
No one puts a keener focus on the plight of men and women marginalized by the depressed worldwide economy than filmmakers from the U.K. The “kitchen sink” dramas of the 1950-60s stirred the conscience of audiences who may have assumed that citizens of post-war England were better off than those in the countries that were defeated. Thirty years later, after Ronald Reagan had canonized Margaret Thatcher, movies revealed the truth about the devastation her policies brought to the north. Even the laughs in “The Full Monty” were born of despair. Today’s social-realists need not look any further than the children and grandchildren of the people portrayed in the kitchen-sink and post-Thatcher dramas for inspiration. If anything, the victims of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, alcoholism, racism and drug abuse have grown even more pessimistic about their futures. If there’s a common denominator here, it’s the continued presence of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh as chroniclers of hard times in the U.K. Not surprisingly, perhaps, both men have had their new films selected for competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Although the decreasingly working-class north of England continues to provide much fodder for socially realistic stories, young filmmakers from Scotland and Ireland have nobly carried on the tradition, as well. (The Irish economic revival has gone bust in the last few years.) Among the most impressive is Clio Barnard, whose experimental documentary about the late British playwright Andrea Dunbar caused a sensation on the 2010 festival circuit. “The Arbor” describes the hellish conditions in which Dunbar was raised in the Brafferton Arbor estate, where drugs, alcoholism and single parenthood compete for the title of most-corruptive influence on young women. “The Selfish Giant” is set, as well, in the hardscrabble projects of Bradford, West Yorkshire. This time, however, writer/director’s protagonists are 13-year-old Swifty and Arbor, boys so disaffected that they can hardly express their appreciation for being expelled from school. Among other things, it provides them an opportunity to get an early start on a life of improvisational crime. Like many other boys in the northern communities, they endeavor to make a living as scrap gatherers, under the tutelage of a grown-up misfit, Kitten (Sean Gilder), raised in the same projects.

In no other world would Kitten qualify as a role model, but anyone who makes money in such a dysfunctional environment is to be admired. The boys quickly learn that the most exploitable source for profitable material can be found at construction sites and anywhere copper wiring and cable for television reception are laid. This includes railroads and the nuclear facility that dominates the skyline. It’s theft, pure and simple, but their age precludes them from serving hard time. It also protects the yard owners, who can always claim ignorance if caught recycling stolen goods. Kitten may cut corners with the boys whenever possible, but he bonds with them over a mutual interest in work horses and buggy racing. A shady businessman can’t protect boys from taking risks an experienced thief wouldn’t attempt, however, and they’ve begun to tread in some very dangerous waters on their way to becoming career criminals. When tragedy strikes, it hits us especially hard. We know that Arbor and Swifty are sharing most of their ill-gotten gains with their mothers, who always seem to be on the brink of being evicted or abused by their brutal alcoholic mates. Barnard frames her story within the context of a “fable” by Oscar Wilde. She based Arbor and Swifty on two scrappers she met while filming “The Arbor.” Like so many other child actors cast in these sorts of movies, Shaun Thomas and Conner Chapman – only 12, when cast – fully embody the characters they play. The DVD includes interesting interviews and background material with Barnard and cast members. – Gary Dretzka

Hill Street Blues: The Complete Series
Masterpiece: Mr. Selfridge Season 2: Blu-ray
PBS: Super Skyscrapers: Blu-ray
Nickelodeon: Spongebob, You’re Fired
Binge alert! Finally, every episode of the most influential police drama in the history of the medium is available for viewing, once a week or all at once. Either way, you’ll thank yourself for making the effort to catch up with the men and women of “Hill Street Blues,” a show that caused a paradigm shift in the way police work and other workplace-based shows are depicted. At a time when network television had run out of ideas as to how it should respond to rampant crime, gangs and drug abuse in the streets of our cities, MTM Enterprises assigned little-known writers Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll to create a show that would mirror that chaos, without ending each episode with an unlikely act of heroism or pat solutions. No one, including the people in charge, knew the answer to the questions raised by the victims of crime, gang violence and neglect. In fact, the presumptive protagonist of “Hill Street Blues,” Captain Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti), rarely left the station during work hours and served more as a ring master than a crime fighter. As someone who worked his way up through the ranks, Furillo was neither a reformer nor by-the-book hard-ass. He maintained an open-door policy with the troops and provided a buffer between the station house and police headquarters. Whenever it seemed as if the train was coming off its rails, he’d go home and share a bubble bath with public defender Joyce Davenport, with whom he frequently locked horns during the day. Together, they may have done more for bathtub sales than anyone since the inventor of the hot tub. If any group of fictional characters defined the term, “motley crew,” it was the cops who gathered each morning in Hill Street’s squad room. Women and minorities were fairly represented, perhaps for the first time in TV history, and the normally minor role of briefing sergeant was immortalized byveteran cop Phil Esterhaus, who famously ended the introductory roll call each week with, “Let’s be careful out there.” He won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor, before succumbing to cancer in 1983.

After the unforgettable opening credits and Mike Post theme song, the cops would filter into the streets according to previously introduced story threads or through-lines previewed at the roll-call. Hand-held cameras were extensively deployed to capture the intimacy and drama of face-to-face police work, while portable units allowed viewers an opportunity to appreciate the series’ physical context. As is sometimes the case with ensemble shows, few of the actors would go on to became breakout stars in their own right. The rare exception was Dennis Franz, who played two different cops in the show’s six-year run. One of them would be spun off to create “Beverly Hills Buntz.” He worked again with Bochco on the failed “Bay City Blues” and monster hit, “NYPD Blue.” Betty Thomas would go on to become a major behind-the-camera force in Hollywood. Lest we forget, however, NBC chief Fred Silverman stayed with the low-rated, oft-moved series long after the bean-counters had given up on it. (The same would happen in the first season of “Seinfelf.”) Besides looking and sounding good, the complete-set DVD box adds interviews and discussions with cast members James B. Sikking, Dennis Franz, Bruce Weitz, Charles Haid, director Dennis Dugan, writers Bochco, Robert Craise, Jeffrey Lewis and Alan Rachins; commentaries with Bochco, Sikking, Weitz, Haid, Dugan, Lewis, Crais and Joe Spano; a gag reel; featurettes “The History of Hill Street” and “Roll Call”; and a commemorative 24-page book.

Mr. Selfridge,” as unlikely a hit on both sides of the pond as I could have imagined, opened its new season this month, five years having passed from the events of Season One. The store has established a prominent position in the firmament of London society, while also keeping its doors revolving for more moderately budgeted customers. The biggest difference between the 2013 and 2014 iterations is the lord and master’s attitude toward his personal life. Selfridge’s wife has returned from the United States in time for the store’s anniversary ceremony, but in no mood to let bygones be bygones. He’s turned over a completely new leaf when it comes to drinking, carousing and philandering, and by mid-season, at least, has proven to be a good boy. With rumors of war emanating daily from Europe, Selfridge has committed his American know-how and the store’s resources to the effort. He has promised the male employees that their jobs would be kept open until they return victorious and has asked the women to fill important positions throughout the store, including those on the delivery dock. Selfridge also is interested in using his resources to acquire uniforms and other provisions – forgoing commissions – but finds himself in competition with the unctuous Lord Loxley (Aiden McCardle). Loxley, who has a talent for finding the right palms to grease, has returned to England with his bride, Lady Mae, with whom Selfridge shares some baggage. Despite the show’s success, I still have a difficult time completely buying into Jeremy Piven as the lead character. He has a 21st Century sheen about him that’s difficult to square with an actor still best known as a smarmy Hollywood talent manager. Nonetheless, Piven appears to enjoy what he’s doing and his enthusiasm enhances his performance. Anyone who’s taken a peek ahead, at the actual history of Selfridge and his store, knows not expect the happy façade to last. Otherwise, all of the other characters who made Season One such a delight have returned, even from hiatuses abroad.

There’s something about living in a post-9/11 world that begs the question as to why really, really tall buildings – a.k.a., targets — need to be built, anymore. Is there a shortage of office space in the world or are the host countries in dire need of tourist attractions? It would be interesting to learn how many people have actually booked travel to Dubai, simply to ride the elevators of the Burg Khalifa tower or imagine themselves swinging at top the pinnacle, like Tom Cruise in “Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol.” I’d add a “LOL” here, if I thought there was anything funny about the money being spent on such edifices. The producers of the PBS mini-series “Super Skyscrapers” aren’t nearly as cynical about really, really tall buildings as those of us who may never have the opportunity to purchase a luxury condominium at the top of the world. I’m also afraid of heights and refuse to stand on a slab of Plexiglass, just to look past my shoes to the ground below me. What else is there to do up there, though? “Super Skyscrapers” opens at One World Trade Center, which absolutely had to be built at Ground Zero at the conveniently symbolic height of 1,776 feet. Now in its final year of exterior construction, OWTC has been engineered to be the safest and strongest skyscraper possible. If that sounds too much like a dare aimed directly at the heart of every wannabe terrorist on the planet, let’s hope that it’s never accepted. The next stops are London’s Leadenhall Building (a.k.a., “the cheese grater”), Shanghai’s multi-use “vertical city”; and, back to NYC, for the One57 “billionaire building,” which, we’re told, will redefine luxury living in the big city. There’s no denying the mini-series’ more awe-inspiring aspects and the undeniable fear-factor of looking down on the less fortunate among us. They also provide jobs for thousands of ironworkers, carpet weavers, quarrymen, janitors and the occasional architect. Anyone interested in modern architecture and construction technology should love it.

It’s the rare episode of an animated children’s program that gets the right-wing goons at the New York Post and Fox News salivating, as well as liberal do-gooders rushing to defend the food-stamp program against the pronouncements of a cartoon character. Such, though, is the power of Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” to dictate the issues of most importance to the American punditocracy. Amid the national debate on the Affordable Care Act, the show’s writers created the special episode, “Spongebob, You’re Fired,” in which Mr. Krabs boots SpongeBob from the Krusty Krab, where he was a fry cook. Krabs did this after learning he could save a nickel by eliminating the position. As topical as the episode might have been, commentators found ways to indict the kids’ show for comments made by Patrick the Starfish, extolling the virtues of unemployment. Al Sharpton couldn’t resist rising to the conservatives’ bait by “standing up for poor people” on his MSNBC forum. Not surprisingly, this tempest in a teapot helped the episode garner the show’s highest ratings in two years. So, everything’s groovy in Bikini Bottom, again. The special double-episode is accompanied by 14 other work-centric tales. – Gary Dretzka

Peter Simon’s Through the Lens
Photographer Peter Simon, who’s shot some of the most celebrated men, women and events of the Baby Boomer era, should have known better than to entrust his creative legacy to a format that makes infomercials look exciting. Sitting in his photo-filled Martha’s Vineyard gallery, covering his nearly bald pate with a knit Rasta cap, Simon narrates the story of his life in a monotone as flat as the table at which he’s hawking his coffeetable book, “I and Eye.” Yawn. Unless one already were aware of Simon’s fine body of work and fascinating backstory, the two-disc DVD, “Peter Simon’s Through the Lens: Celebrating 50 Years of Personalized Photojournalism,” might come off as world-class ego trip and excuse for name-dropping. The first thing to know about Simon is that his father — who died early, but not before he introduced his son to photography — co-founded the book publishing firm, Simon & Schuster. His position and connections ensured a life of privilege, culture and access for siblings Peter, Lucy, Joanna and, as is evidenced here, the highly photogenic Carly Simon. Portraits of Carly and then-husband James Taylor are sprinkled through the presentation. At the same time as Simon was attending East Coast prep schools and photographing antiwar activists at Boston University, he also was opening doors to people who would allow to shoot photos for fun and profit. These included editors at Rolling Stone magazine, who provided access to artists that had yet to reach their commercial zenith. There’s hardly a Boomer icon that Simon didn’t shoot in the mid-1960s, often while sharing the stage with them. While some of these early photographs are still in demand, Simon continues to make money by capturing some of the same performers in their dotage. Anyone who’s followed the popular-music scene over the last 50 years will recognize many of the 300 photographs included in “Through the Lens.”

Simon didn’t limit himself to photographing the leading lights of the ’60s. When he went through his changes, the pictures did, too. For years, he lived among other rich hippies on communes throughout New England, favoring those with a clothing-optional policy. From here, he would seek enlightenment in the company of spiritual leader Ram Dass, a former Harvard prof who famously dropped acid with Timothy Leary. In the 1970s, Simon used his art successfully to promote Jamaican reggae and its leading practitioners in the U.S. As anyone born after the nation’s bicentennial can attest, there’s nothing quite so tedious as listening to their parents and friends describe how they lived in the ’60s and how cool it was to starve on communes or panhandle for money to buy inebriants. “Through the Lens” suffers from Simon’s many anecdotes of the period and photos of naked hippies with goats. The first disc ends with more anecdotes about life on the Vineyard and rubbing shoulders with its celebrity community, from the Kennedys, Clintons and Walter Cronkite, to John Belushi, Larry David and Mia Farrow. The second disc is far less celebrity-centric and, by extension, more compelling. Instead, the photos and narration are more issue-oriented and journalistic, with stops in Jamaica, the Occupy protests, Shea Stadium and places where the disparity between wealth and poverty, blight and beauty, collide. Much of the scenic photography is nothing short of spectacular. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, “Through the Lens” suffers from name-dropping, celebrity worship and Simon’s own charisma deficiency. The photos, though, are well worth the effort it might take to peruse them. – Gary Dretzka

Devil’s Due: Blu-ray
Having watched dozens of found-footage and P.O.V. thrillers in the last few years, I’ve become immune to the charms and failures others see in them. I simply can’t tell the difference between the stories, anymore, and don’t particularly care. This isn’t to say that I don’t experience the occasional chill or continue to relish unexpected surprises. What reviewer doesn’t? It’s just that each new one looks – to my eyes, anyway – almost exactly the same as the previous one. If only the proprietor of a Voyeur Dorm site would collaborate with a found-footage specialist, adding ghosts and demons to the shower scenes, the genre might survive. The makers of “Devil’s Due” comprise a filmmaking collective known as Radio Silence — directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, cinematographer Justin Martinez and visual-effects supervisor Chad Villella – which previously contributed a segment to the low-budget horror anthology “V/H/S,” titled “10/31/98.” Judging from the group interview contained in the bonus package, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Radio Silence caught a little studio static before it was released. Apparently, the filmmakers thought they were making a “creepy thriller” or “unsettling love story,” instead of the studio’s desire for something more generically horrific. There is an outdoors scene that comes out of nowhere, towards the end of the picture, which suggests what the boys had in mind before compromising their vision with jump scares and gore. That’s simply my guess, however.

As it is, “Devil’s Due” opens on the eve of the wedding of the exceedingly cute Samantha (Allison Miller) and her betrothed, Zach (Zach Gilford), whose head appears to be attached to a video camera. Instead of being feted by friends at a bachelor party, Zach gets his kicks on the eve of his wedding by sneaking up to Samantha, while she’s exiting from a shower, covering herself with a non-revealing towel. The fake-out device is pretty effective for starters and it gives viewers reason for hope. Zach and Sam honeymoon in Santa Domingo, where everything goes well until she insists on visiting a local fortune-teller. The elderly woman correctly guesses that Sam survived a terrible event as an infant and should expect something similarly unpleasant to happen in the near future. Completely unsettled, she drags Zach out of the shop and into a conveniently placed taxi. The driver talks them into visiting a local disco for some fun. Sam has a bit too much fun, however, passing out on the dance floor and waking up the next morning with no memory of what happened. Shortly thereafter, she learns that she’s pregnant and has been for some time. If the words, “Rosemary’s Baby,” don’t immediately spring to mind, you may want to pause “Devil’s Due” and find a service streaming the Roman Polanski classic. Apart from the one outdoors scene, involving a ravenous vegetarian and Bambi, the rest of the movie is completely predictable … not awful, but predictable. Another thing that could make genre purists frown is the frequent shifts from hand-held or eyeglass cameras to security tapes and motion-triggered devices within their homes.  There are other times when a camera appears to have been inserted into Zach’s eye socket, which hardly qualifies as kosher. The filmmakers argue that the movie is “told through cameras that exist in the world of the characters,” so pretty much anything goes. Or, not. The Blu-ray features also include deleted scenes and shorts produced by the collective. – Gary Dretzka

Dead Shadows: Blu-ray
Imported from France by the adventurous folks at Shout!Factory, “Dead Shadows” is a movie that merges specific elements of John Carpenter and H.P. Lovecraft, with the nuttiness of such mid-’80s drive-in fare as “Night of the Comet” and “Lifeforce.” Weighing in at a mere 75 minutes, including crawls, the story by first-timers David Cholewa and Vincent Julé describes what happens when a comet passes over Paris and a citywide “apocalypse party” turns frighteningly real, with the arrival of tentacled creatures of varying sizes and temperaments. The one person not anxious to celebrate the Earth’s demise is Chris (Fabian Wolfrom), whose parents were killed 11 years earlier, while Halley’s Comet could be seen from Earth. The only thing he wants to do is get out of Dodge, but, as his friends and neighbors get contaminated with space dust, it becomes impossible to avoid the tentacles. And, believe me, there’s no hole too tight to keep a long tongue-like appendage from piercing it. If “Dead Shadows” doesn’t tell much of a story, it’s still fun to guess from which orifice the next tentacle will appear. The Blu-ray adds deleted scenes, an interview with director Cholewa and a making-of featurette. – Gary Dretzka

With the subject of anti-government militias back in the news, “Bucksville” takes on a relevancy it may have lacked even three weeks before the standoff in Nevada. Set in the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest, Chel White and Laura McGie’s family drama describes what happens when the son of the recently deceased founder of a small-town militia decides that the group has become as evil as the system it professes to abhor. It takes a while for Presley (Thomas Stroppel) to get to that point, however. The vigilante group, the Lodge, was organized after the killer of a girl escaped justice, and local law-enforcement types banded together to avenge the murder. They found so much satisfaction in the act that Lodge members decided to remain on the path of self-righteousness. Presley stayed on after the old man tormented his wife to the point that she split town with the girls and was forbidden to maintain contact with the boy. He interpreted this as abandonment and refused to forgive her. When the father died, Presley was handed over to his uncle, the chief of police, who kept him on the straight-and-narrow path toward fascism. When the Lodge becomes affiliated with a larger, more extreme faction, its wealthy leader tests its loyalty by demanding it take on a personal vendetta. When Presley begins to show signs of backsliding, his reluctance to abide by the rules presents the Lodge with another test. As vigilante movies go, “Bucksville” is borderline existential. The rabble-rousing is held to a minimum and the beautiful outdoors setting provides a stark contrast to the insanity of the Lodge members. I’ve seen Stroppel in a couple of other low-budget indies and I wouldn’t be surprised if he landed some larger parts soon. – Gary Dretzka

Prince Killian and the Holy Grail
As coincidences (a.k.a., publicity stunts) go, last week’s revelation about the Holy Grail residing in the San Isidro basilica in the Spanish city of Leon is far better than the shark sightings that would coincide with any new “Jaws” sequel. Not surprisingly, then, comes the new DVD from Spain, “Prince Killian and the Holy Grail,” retitled from the less specific, “Captain Thunder.” Based on Victor Mora’s popular action-comic, “El Capitan Trueno,” Antonio Hernandez’ adaptation finds the heroic knight-errand in the Holy Land, during the Third Crusade. Killian has been assigned the task of recovering the cup, from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, and bringing it back to Spain to be protected for time eternal. The easy part is gaining custody of the cup, itself. All he has to do is liberate a prison full of Christians from Muslim hands and, then, be identified as a worthy bearer of the treasure. Getting the Holy Grail back to Spain is complicated by obstacles of both the military and supernatural variety. Fortunately, he’s accompanied by sidekicks Crispin, Goliath, and the beautiful Viking princess, Sigrid of Thule. As much as Captain Thunder wants to return the Holy Land to Christian hands, he much appreciates Saladin’s decision not to kill him in close combat after recognizing some God-given skin branding. Filmed in some of the same scenic locations that provided backdrops for the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s, “Prince Killian” has enough action to satisfy older boys, I think. If it doesn’t match Ridley Scott’s $130-million “Kingdom of Heaven” for grandeur, the Spanish product never looks undernourished or cheesy. – Gary Dretzka

Lady Peacock
Fans of drag entertainment probably will enjoy this wildly uneven romantic dramedy from genre specialist Jana Mattioli (“The Coffee Shop”) more than other viewers in the ever-expanding niche. In “Lady Peacock,” the Calais Nightclub is a moonlight mecca for gay men and a tableful of lesbians, at least, attracted primarily to the Puerto Rican drag queen Adora, who does a very good Carmen Miranda. When Adora’s offstage, the preening young men spend their time playing musical boyfriends with anyone who will buy them a drink. This gets complicated when a “newbie” attracts the attention of Adora’s boyfriend and egos are bruised. Finally, the only solution to the problem is found — where else? — in a thrilling lip-synch duel. “Lady Peacock” is a million light years from “Cabaret,” but the original music is pretty good. You don’t often find movies with 18 producers, either. – Gary Dretzka

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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