MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: Welcome to Me, Wild Tales, Gett, Bob Hope and more

Welcome to Me: Blu-ray
Since leaving “Saturday Night Live” and starring in the barely seen Hateship Loveship, Kristen Wiig has appeared in movies that, had they made it that far, might have found an audience among arthouse regulars, if not fans of the show, her 2011 breakout hit Bridesmaids or any of the animated features to which she’s lent her voice. That’s not a knock on the wonderfully gifted actor, merely an observation based on box-office data. On “SNL,” Wiig never hesitated to take her characters into places that were equal parts funny and disturbing, and she was rarely less than brilliant. For all sorts of reasons, that same vibe has yet to translate to theatrical audiences, accustomed to more fully fleshed out characters, perhaps, or a more precise seriocomic blend sustained over time. With “Ghostbusters” and “Zoolander 2” on tap for 2016, however, Wiig may very well realize her destiny as a major player on the big screen. In Shira Piven and writer Eliot Laurence’s Welcome to Me, it can be argued that her seriously bipolar Alice Klieg might have worked better as a recurring character on “SNL” or “Funny or Die” than as the protagonist of a feature-length film that may best be described as a comic psychodrama. Kleig has been “off her meds” for quite some time when she wins the Powerball lottery, making her filthy rich, if not an iota less mentally troubled. We know this because, when interviewed on local television about winning the grand prize, she takes the opportunity to suggest how it might affect her masturbatory habits. When she learns that this was trimmed from the news reports, Kleig takes it as a personal affront.

In response, she pays a visit to a Palm Desert studio that produces the kind of infomercials that over-populate late-night television, but somehow find viewers with money to burn. It’s one of the channels she watches when Oprah Winfrey isn’t on the air or she’s tired of reruns on OWN. Now blessed with F-U money, Kleigh asks station executives how much it would cost to have her own show. As nutty as the proposal sounds, the executives are just that desperate for bread and can’t wait to take her money. She uses the show, “Welcome to Me,” to realize personal fantasies – being wheeled onto the set on swan chairs – and settling scores with people who done her wrong in childhood. She also offers cooking tips – meatloaf cake, for example – and other lifestyle suggestions. There’s no way that Wiig and a cast that includes James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Linda Cardellini and Wes Bentley could make such a setup anything but funny … for a while. It’s when Kleig, a onetime veterinary assistant, becomes an advocate for neutering dogs and, then, begins demonstrating the procedure for her viewers, the producers begin to sense her financial contributions may not be worth the hassle of lawsuits or the disgust of other paying customers. Any doubts that Wiig might not be able to accurately depict her character’s tortured mental state disappeared when leaked photos of a stark-naked Wiig, walking through a crowded Palms Spring casino, began to appear on celebrity-skin websites. It’s a brave performance and Wiig is excellent throughout Welcome to Me. How far her fans are willing to accompany Kleig into her journey into madness is open to question. The Blu-ray adds a short making-of featurette.

Wild Tales: Blu-ray
Anthology films rarely are accorded the respect they deserve by audiences and festival juries, if only because the vignettes tend not to be of equal quality and they frequently have different pedigrees. Critics weigh each segment as an independent entity, while viewers pick favorites. The stories of Raymond Carver have been interpreted in dozens of different ways – Short Cuts, Birdman, Jindabyne – but typically expanded to feature length. If the overriding theme of Damien Szifron’s Wild Tales may be revenge, each entry exists independently from the others. If it hadn’t been nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film, each of the stories could theoretically have been entered individually in the Best Live Action Short category and picked as a finalist. It’s entirely possible that voters were attracted to the film by Pedro Almodovar’s name on the list of producers and the presence of the great Argentinian actor, Ricardo Darín (The Secret in Their Eyes, Nine Queens). Comparisons to Quentin Tarantino’s work probably didn’t hurt, either, although one now should take such endorsements advisedly. Unlike most anthologies, all six of the segments in Wild Tales were written and directed by the same person, Szifron, and none was genre-specific. The revenge is served cold and hot, comic and tragic. To explain them in any more detail risks spoiling the surprises, which are immediately remindful of really good episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” It’s most apparent in In “Pasternak,” in which a casual conversation between a music critic and a model, eventually reveals a connection between all of the passengers in the cabin and a man named Gabriel Pasternak, who quietly arranged for their tickets. From just that much information, you might be able to guess what happens next, but why spoil the fun? In “Bombita,” Darin plays a demolitions expert, who innocently becomes trapped in a web woven by corrupt city officials and bureaucrats. After his career and personal life are nearly ruined, he becomes a people’s hero by sticking it to the “man” in the only way left to him. None of the short films overstays its welcome and each makes good on its promise of delivering poetic justice. The excellent Blu-ray presentation adds the 25-minute featurette, “Wild Shooting: Creating the Film” and short Q&A with Szifrón conducted after a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem: Blu-ray
It may come as a surprise, even to daytime television junkies, that the longest running courtroom show of all time is the syndicated “Divorce Court.” With the show’s 35th season now completed, it leads the second-ranked “The People’s Court” by five years, although “Divorce Court” hasn’t been in constant distribution since its debut in 1957 and its format was changed to substitute real couples for actors. Because the litigants have already filed for divorce and must abide by the ruling of a former judge, the original soap-opera nature of the episodes was eliminated. I doubt very much that the Roman Catholic Church looks favorably on such desolations, but, thanks to Martin Luther and Henry VIII, “Divorce Court” never seems to have run out of cases. I don’t know if a version of the show can be found on Israeli or Iranian television, either. Anyone who’s seen Cyrus Nowrasteh’s shocking 2008 drama, The Stoning of Soraya M., Asghar Farhadi’s heartbreaking, A Separation (2011), or Asghar Farhadi’s The Past (2013) already knows where a woman stands in the dissolution of her marriage under Islamic law. In “Soraya M.,” a husband uses false accusations of adultery to prevent his wife from getting in the way of his plans to take a 14-year-old bride. In the other two films, women are required to put their lives on hold, sometimes for years, while waiting for their husbands to agree to a divorce. As Israel’s official submission to this year’s Academy Awards, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem demonstrates, once again, how thin a line divides the laws of Islam and Judaism, at least when it pertains to keeping women from exercising their human rights. Essentially a courtroom drama, sibling filmmakers Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz chronicle the final stages of a marriage they began to follow in 2004, in To Take a Wife, and, four years later, in 7 Days, neither of which are readily available in the U.S. It isn’t necessary to have seen the previous two installments in the trilogy to appreciate “Gett,” however. It’s enough to know that child-bride Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz) has regretted agreeing to marry the older, ultra-Orthodox Elisha Amsalem (Simon Abkarian), through all three installments of the saga.

A year before initiating divorce proceedings, Viviane left Elisha to live with her sister. Their adult children are on their own and Viviane had been chafing under her husband’s conservative yoke for many years. We will learn that neither party has committed adultery – his lawyer will imply she’s a slut for sitting in an outdoor café with her lawyer – and physical violence isn’t an issue. Elisha, though, is a ninja when it comes to passive-aggressive behavior and controls everything from who is allowed to visit their home to rejecting her request to have a family car. For every restriction he imposes on Viviane, Elisha is able to quote scripture to substantiate his objection. For a divorce to be considered legal under Jewish law, a man must grant his wife a religious divorce — a gett — of his own free will. She may receive a civil divorce, but cannot remarry within her religion and that’s some serious shit in Israel. Even if Elisha hasn’t initiated sex with Viviane in years and he doesn’t approve of her behavior, he has refused to appear before sessions of the rabbinical court, even after being so ordered. After three years of this nonsense, Elisha is forced to attend sessions and provide witnesses who will attest to his character and lie about what they know of their marriage. Viviane is also instructed to bring witnesses before the tribunal, but their testimony –and appearance — is put under much greater scrutiny than that of the male witnesses. This frustrating process continues for another two years, even as Elisha appears to acquiesce to the gett, before rescinding his approval moments later. Finally, it becomes clear that Elisha’s overriding demand is that Viviane not have sexual relations with another men, ever. It’s a maddening 115 minutes of drama –almost entirely shot in the cramped courtroom or the hallways where negotiations happen — relieved by some fabulous acting and evocative cinematography. The runtime allows for  the Elkabetz’ to give all parties, including the rabbis, ample time to state their cases, even if I think any TV judge worth his or her salt would have settled the litigation in a half-hour, including commercials. The Blu-ray adds an excellent making-of featurette.

Spirited Away: Blu-ray
The Cat Returns: Blu-ray
Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle
Now that Japanese animation genius Hayao Miyazaki has retired and shows no sign of picking up his pen, again, every new Blu-ray of past classics deserves to be treated as an unexpected gift from a relative overseas … or Disney studios in Burbank, one. I don’t know how many more Studio Ghibli titles Disney has salted away in its vaults, but hi-def is definitely the ideal way to watch these fine movies. Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001) and Hiroyuki Morita’s The Cat Returns (2002) share several fantastical story points, including young female protagonists who find themselves trapped in fairytale land far away from their parents and must call on powers they didn’t know they had to get home. In Spirited Away, Chihiro and her parents take a wrong turn on their way to their new house, ending up at a tunnel leading to a failed theme park, which, at night, comes alive with a wild array of spirits. Instead of turning around and getting back on the right track, the intruders stick around long enough to sample some of the treats left out for the nightly bacchanal. The ethereal regulars don’t take kindly to the newcomers, turning mom and dad into pigs to be fattened for slaughter. Chihiro is left with the task of insinuating herself into the royal bathhouse – a thinly disguised brothel in the Japanese edition – and convince the sorceress (Suzanne Pleshette) to spare her parents. Fortunately, she’s able to convince a spirit boy (Jason Marsden) to be her guide to this realm of soiled demons, spirits, and evil gods.

In The Cat Returns, the precocious schoolgirl Haru saves the life of an unusual cat, unexpectedly setting off a series of events that could lead to her hand being awarded to the King of the Cats’ son, Prince Lune, in marriage. Most cats would consider this to be quite an honor, but, Haru has little interest in being turned into a kitten queen. In this fantasy world, dominated by all manner of felines, Haru (voiced by Anne Hathaway) will encounter political intrigue and a magical maze designed to test her ability to avoid danger. Once again, the female protagonist is supported by a gallant spirit, a.k.a., the Baron (Cary Elwes). Fifty minutes shorter than Spirited Away, The Cat Returns was originally intended for airing on television. It is, nonetheless, delightful. Much of the credit for that belongs to a voicing cast – added for the Blu-ray release — that also includes Judy Greer, Kristen Bell, Rene Auberjonois, Andy Richter, Peter Boyle, Elliot Gould, Tim Curry and Erin Chambers. Blu-ray features includes an introduction by John Lasseter, original Japanese storyboards, voicing featurettes and other making-of material. As the Blu-ray offerings dwindle down to a precious few, it will be interesting to see if Disney changes its mind about releasing Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday (1991). In it, a 27-year-old office worker travels to the countryside, while reminiscing about her childhood in Tokyo. Although Disney owns the rights to the coming-of-age movie, it has refused to release it on DVD/Blu-ray because it contains a reference to menstruation and Miyazaki won’t allow any editing or censorship. Maybe, Disney could release the film on its Buena Vista label, which isn’t afraid of adult material … even if it pertains to a naturally occurring physical transition experienced by roughly 51 percent of the world’s population.

Moving, now, from the sublime to the ridiculous – or merely very silly – we have Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle, the second sequel to the 2006 theatrical release that featured the voices of Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright and, of course, Clint Howard. The only carryover actor is Frank Welker, who’s voiced more animal characters than even his agent can count, by now. If anyone has earned the right to have a star purchased for him on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – perhaps, alongside Mel Blanc – it is Welker. He deserves it far more than restaurateur to the stars Bobby Flay, who was so honored on June 2. All of this is a long way of saying that the new addition to the “Curious George” saga, which began in 1941 after his creators escaped the Nazis, it should appeal primarily to kids still unable to ride a bicycle without safety wheels. Here, the little rascal has been asked to take part in a space mission, which inadvertently ends in a crash-landing in Africa. In addition to Welker, guest voicers include Angela Bassett, John Goodman and franchise veteran Jeff Bennett, as the Man in the Yellow Hat. The DVD adds sing-along videos.

Tentacles/Reptilicus: Blu-ray
Anyone who cares enough about cinematic schlock to trace the roots of such upcoming Syfy creature features as “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” need not look any further than this twin-spin package of Tentacles and Reptilicus. Released in 1977, the former offers a rare example of a Eurotrash movie that was made in America, directed by a Greek and features a multinational cast of actors, some of whom actually qualify as stars. Besides Oscar-winners John Huston, Shelley Winters, and Henry Fonda, it includes Delia Boccardo, Cesare Danova, Claude Akins, Bo Hopkins, Marc Fiorini, Franco Diogene and Sherry Buchanan. Clearly intended to exploit whatever juice was left over from Jaws (1975), Ovidio G. Assonitis’ rubbery opus follows the same blueprint as the one drawn by Steven Spielberg. This time, however, the great white shark is a dopey giant octopus and the threatened beach community is on the left coast. Just when all SoCal life appears doomed, an employee of Marineland of the Pacific – now, a Donald Trump golf course – remembers that the killer whales he trains are the natural enemy of octopi and they might hold the key to salvation. Not before some Euro-babes are scared out of their bikinis, of course. Fonda spends most of his time on screen, standing in a booth barking orders into a phone. Huston, only three years removed from his great performance in Chinatown, plays a dogged reporter at a seaside rag. At this point in her career, Winters pretty much accepted any role thrown her way. If the movie made any money at all, it’s only because nothing, besides the actors, required more than credit card to create and one good weekend on the drive-in circuit would put it into the black.

Released in 1961, after the first tsunami of Japanese sci-fi/horror flicks hit our shores, Reptilicus is the real deal: a movie so bad that it borders on being a masterpiece of lame intentions. Besides being the first and only monster movie made in Denmark, it was the brainchild of the legendary schlockmeister Sidney W. Pink, who had already given the world Bwana Devil, I Was a Burlesque Queen, Flame Over Vietnam and The Angry Red Planet. While drilling for copper in a remote Danish location, the carcass of a prehistoric beast is hauled to the surface and delivered to a lab somewhere within shouting distance of Tivoli Gardens. When someone accidentally turns off the air-conditioning in the laboratory, the monster’s disparate parts are re-generated. After escaping from the lab, it grows to the size of Godzilla and demonstrates that it carries the same fire-breathing gene as the monster that terrorized Tokyo. Naturally, NATO troops are called in to eliminate the menace with weapons left over from World War II. M-1s and bazookas didn’t work against Godzilla in Japan and they don’t work in Denmark, either, but for a different reason. As the Scandinavian scientists and their buxom-blond assistants predict, every time an appendage is blown off the monster, it regenerates into an entirely new beast. The greatest minds in northern Europe are required to devise a plan to kill the monster and save the population, without damaging the herring and lutefisk industries. Supposedly shot in Pathécolor, it looks as if the negative spent too much time in the rinse cycle. Reptilicus is just that wonderful.

The Happiness of the Katakuris: Blu-ray
The prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike isn’t at all reluctant to put his loyal viewers through wringers, squeezing every ounce of sweat out of them and testing their ability to withstand outrageously graphic depictions of violence and perverse sexuality. Miike’s movies may not be for the faint of heart, but his fan base now extends around the world. Not all of the movies make it past national boards of censorship intact, however. A year before the release of the deceptively merry family musical, The Happiness of the Katakuris, the promoters of Ichi the Killer raised eyebrows by handing out branded barf bags to critics at the Toronto Film Festival. Judging simply from the cover art of The Happiness of the Katakuris, one might think the movie was a Japanese version of The Sound of Music. The alpine backdrop and happy faces of the multigenerational Katakuri family recall a romp through the edelweiss in pre-Anschluss Salzburg, far more than what we know of rural Japan. Based on Korean filmmaker Jee-woon Kim’s spooky feature debut, The Quiet Family, the dream of the Katakuris is to use the patriarch’s unemployment settlement to rehab an abandoned lodge situated on a former garbage dump near the base of Mount Fuji and turn it into a jolly B&B. The White Lover’s Inn is strategically located near the path of a road being built to the resort district. Their timing is a shade off, however, as the highway may not be finished before the Katakuris go bankrupt from lack of business. Still, the family is able to unite behind their dream and wait patiently for the first customers to check in and spread the word on the Japanese equivalent of Yelp.

The first guest, a television personality, uses his room to commit suicide. The next, a Sumo wrestler, suffers a fatal heart attack while humping his girlfriend, causing the wee thing to suffocate. The bodies are buried in a makeshift plot on the hillside, so as not to draw attention to what some might consider to be a curse. No sooner do relatives begin missing the now-dead tourists than the Katakuris are notified of the impending extension of the road, which is expected to run through the growing pile of corpses. It’s not an uncommon dilemma for murderous fiends to face in horror movies, but rarely to people who are simply are victims of circumstance. In Miike’s hands, the original solution to their problem naturally evolves into something far more ghastly. The result is a surreal horror-comedy, distinguished by claymation sequences, musical and dance numbers, a karaoke sing-along scene, and dream sequences. For good measure, Miike throws in the threat of a volcano erupting and literally melting the mountainside. The Happiness of the Katakuris was one of eight movies churned out by Miike in 2001, so he might fairly be accused here of overextending his reach creatively. There’s no question it divided critics and his fan base at the time. I enjoyed it as a warped, digital-age parody of Rodgers & Hammerstein and Gilbert & Sullivan. There are several spectacularly grotesque images, including the face of the poor girl crushed by the Sumo wrestler in flagrante delicto. Its farcical tone does make it seem more of novelty than the fully developed horror story we normally would expect from Miike. As usual, now, with Arrow Blu-ray releases, this one is backed by several entertaining making-of featurettes, interview sessions, commentary and booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Johnny Mains and a re-printed interview with Miike conducted by Sean Axmaker, illustrated with original stills. The hi-def cinematography enhances the presentation in all the right ways.

Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops
A more precise title for this trip down Memory Lane probably would have been “Hollywood Goes to War: Entertaining the Troops.” Bob Hope may be the first name that comes to mind in any discussion of morale-boosting missions overseas in times of war, but the 90-minute “Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops” takes a far more expansive look at such activities in World War II. It opens with the newsreel footage of the Hollywood Canteen, bond rallies and the successful mobilization of nearly every A-, B- and C-list actor, radio star and musician who hadn’t already been drafted or volunteered two weeks after Pearl Harbor. It was ends with a wonderful 1987 reunion interview with Hope and the nucleus of his touring troupe, Frances Langford, dancer Patty Thomas and musician Tony Romano. (Jerry Colonna had died a year earlier.) Their anecdotes are pretty entertaining. Director Robert Mugge also includes footage of such familiar participants in the USO tours as Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Dorothy Lamour, the Andrews Sisters, Abbott and Costello, Lena Horne, Carole Landis, Dinah Shore, Danny Kaye, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Larry Adler, Kay Kaiser, Cass Daley, Irving Berlin and Mel Blanc. There’s a discussion of the role played by pin-up models and cartoon characters in the war effort, as well. Hope would continue to perform before our troops in and out of war zones until 1990. Although such tours hit a bump in the road during the Vietnam War, which a lot of our troops didn’t find particularly amusing, he would set an example for the current generation of entertainers, whose contributions often go unheralded. The bonus package adds extended footage of the reunion interview.

All Yours
As much as the queer cinema has matured, moving well beyond the tortured coming-out clichés that dominated earlier specimens, it’s still rare to come across a film that can compete on even terms with other indies in festival competitions not limited to LGBT themes. Although limited commercially by a few scenes of hard-core sex, All Yours is enhanced by the kind of production values expected of any other foreign export. The acting is terrific and the direction never calls undue attention to itself as a movie targeted at a niche audience. I think that writer/director David Lambert (Beyond the Walls) was gratified by the fact that his picture wasn’t ghettoized in festivals, even if it probably will be in video outlets, if only for the sake of easy categorization. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart (“Epitafios”) plays the Argentine protagonist, Lucas, who supports himself by performing sex-on-demand for an international audience of gay men – presumably – through his website. One of those gentlemen, Henry (Jean-Michel Balthazar), a corpulent baker in a small Belgian town, pays for Lucas’ flight to Europe. He does so even though he knows almost nothing about the young man beyond what he can intuit from the website. Henry expects Lucas to service him sexually in return for the price of the ticket, but he also demands of the increasingly perplexed lad that he work in the bakery for his room and board. There was no disguising the unhappiness on Lucas’ face when he’s greeted by Henry at the airport. Neither does the language divide do them any favors or the lack of a separate bedroom in Henry’s apartment. Imagine Laurel and Hardy trying to sleep comfortably in a double bed.

On the plus side, Henry can be a jolly fellow when things are going right and no one in town appears to view their relationship with distain, open or otherwise. Already working in the bakery is a pretty single mother, Audrey (Monia Chokri), who makes fast friends with Lucas. She doesn’t have to steal money from the till to afford a glass of beer at the local pub, however, or a jacket for the cold fall air. Their friendship is largely based on the fact that they’re two lonely people, living in a small town and working for a man who needs them more than they need him. Even after making her acutely aware of the nature of his former job, they get close enough to each other one night to have sex. It doesn’t preclude Lucas from servicing Henry or making a few bucks on the side at a gay dungeon in a nearby town, but the atmosphere inside the bakery becomes decidedly lighter. It’s when Lucas begins showing signs of a flu-like condition that things get complicated in the triangle. Once again, Lambert, manages to steer the narrative away from the maudlin and toward something reasonably unexpected and uncompromised. The DVD package adds the short film, “Live a Bit Longer,” that inspired the feature, All Yours.

PBS: Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist
PBS: Inside the Court of Henry VIII
PBS: Nature: Animal Homes
Before Lance Armstrong broke the hearts of millions of Americans by finally admitting to something everyone in competitive cycling already took for granted, the charismatic Italian racer Marco Pantani carried the cross for athletes whose integrity was being tarnished by sketchy accusations of doping and using performance-enhancement drugs. A likeable young man from a humble background, he was nicknamed “The Pirate” for wearing a scarf over his bald head, sporting an earring and boldly attacking the leaders on hill climbs. In 1998, three years after colliding with a car head-on during the Milano–Torino race, Pantani became the first Italian since Felice Gimondi, in 1965, to win the Tour de France. He would go on to become only the seventh rider in history to achieve the Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double. Seventeen years later, he remains the last rider to win the Giro and the Tour in the same year. Naturally, as had always been the case with competitive cycling, such success caused him to be accused of cheating. (The same thing happened to sluggers Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark Maguire as they broke records once considered to be unreachable.) In the late 1990s, testing wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as it would become in the Armstrong era and the specifications for doping were vague. Even though Pantani had never tested positive during his career, he would be yanked from the 1999 Giro for a slightly elevated haematocrit reading. He would be exonerated three years later, but, by then, the damage was done. Pantani had gone into a deep depression and self-medicated himself with cocaine. In February, 2004, at the age of 34, he was discovered dead in a seedy Rimini hotel, from acute cocaine poisoning. First released into theaters, then shown on PBS outlets, “Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist” is a powerful documentary about a sport that may not recover quickly from the Armstrong travesty. More than anything else, however, James Erskine’s film demonstrates why Europeans are nuts for cycling and why the people in charge of the sport should have done something definitive about such serious issues decades earlier. It’s also a beautiful film from a scenic perspective. (Imagine holding the World Series in Aspen every year or the Super Bowl overlooking the ocean in Big Sur.) The DVD adds lots more material, including footage of a downhill run at speed.

Of all of the recent TV mini-series and movies based on King Henry VIII, PBS’ 60-minute-long documentary “Inside the Court of Henry VIII” may be the most informative and historically valid of them all … unless, of course, one requires the presence of naked royals in their history lessons. Among other things, it benefits from expert testimony from scholars and settings that may actually have Tudor ghosts residing in them. It doesn’t ignore any of the wives or conspiracy theories that haunted Henry throughout his reign, but adds context and perspective that got lost in more exaggerated accounts. Moreover, the scholars are perfectly willing to point out the man’s positive points. A little nudity wouldn’t have hurt, however.

Sometimes, the simplest ideas make for the most interesting documentaries. The PBS series “Nature” proves this point on an almost monthly basis. How much more basic could a film titled “Animal Homes” possibly be? Didn’t we all learn everything we need to know about bird nests, beaver dams and other animal habitats in 3rd Grade? Basically, yes, but elementary school teachers didn’t have the same access we all do now to reference material that allows interior shots of these habitats and computer representations of the architecture. It’s truly amazing and an important reminder of what gets lost when habitats are destroyed and species are threatened by pollution and reckless exploitation of the land. Ecologist Chris Morgan serves as guide and “real estate agent,” evaluating and deconstructing animal homes, their material, location, neighborhoods and aesthetics.

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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