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David Poland

By David Poland

Thankful 2015: Episode 19 – The Farce Continues

2015 has been a challenging year. They all are, I guess. But this one had added stresses of my own creation. So I will be thankful to see the end of the year.

I thank God (or the deity of your choice) for the movies that reach for something. And not just for the great ones. There is often greatness in deeply flawed films that gets lost on the rush to stamp a category and a judgment on everything these days. There have been few years in which I have been as often reminded of the value of imperfection… of the beautiful limitations of a form that captures moments… aspiring, flawed, and never to be repeated. I take no joy in a film that doesn’t come together, but often revel in the moments within it that do.

I am thankful that people who I talk to every week for DP/30 and Celebrity Conversations still show up to talk to me. What I do is not the most challenging thing in the world for talent. I’m not grilling them like they are witnesses to a crime. But what I do isn’t not what they have become used to either. And the vast majority of actors, directors, writers, cinematographers… filmmakers… have been willing to engage in an open, honest way.

Thanks to the movie gods for a half-year of movies that are truly wonderful, even if few of them fit the classic award season template. Room and Spotlight and Brooklyn and Grandma and Youth and Carol and Sicario and Creed and Love & Mercy and Mr. Holmes and 99 Homes and Straight Outta Compton and Ex Machina and Time Out Of Mind and Kingsman: The Secret Service and McFarlane USA and I’m sure I am missing titles, but who the hell saw THAT coming? Who saw The Martian coming? And this doesn’t even include documentaries or animation! Amy! Fucking Amy… perhaps the most significant documentary about the arts and how we deal with artists in decades.

I am thankful for my health and the health of those I love… and those I like… and even those I don’t much care for. Now in my 50s, I am having more losses each year. I have a group of friends in their 70s and 80s and when things turn, it is painful. But when I lose a friend to cancer at 50, it is devastating… no so much because it reflects on my own mortality, but because she was just getting to the fun part of a life that has been full of challenges and joy. She created a foundation for a great future for her two kids and husband. That is all one can really ask from a life. But to not be there to see it all come together or fall apart or, most likely, both repeatedly… just sucks.

I give thanks to fellow journalists, whether they love or hate me, are honest with me or talk behind my back, whether they are straight players or thin-skinned babies. I don’t expect anyone to enjoy being criticized or challenged. But I expect pros to take criticism professionally, not personally. Not everyone signed up to be critics of the industry, but in this era of the web, we have all become exactly that, whether we are qualified or not, whether we have done our full homework or not. If we feel okay about criticizing this industry, we must be willing and able to be called out when we come up short as well. I thank those who can roll and even more, I thank those who challenge me, whether I am wrong or right about something. No one grows from complacency.

I am thankful to the entire team at Ovation TV, led by Rob Canter in my case, who have embraced what I do and worked hard to create a new platform for it. They leapt into this craziness and our first shoot was cancelled because an actor didn’t want to be on TV and the second included an interview that will never be seen, which was a first for me… on my first day with a new partner. But they have stuck with me and the show, even when the proliferation of “shooting suites” made Toronto into a mostly indie experience for the first time in my career, which was great for me, but not so great for them.

I thank Twitter for unexpected friendships and even unexpected disconnections that have come from my tweeting. There are many horrible things about Twitter, but one think I have come to love is that people show themselves, for better or worse. Twitter is, for me, a concentrated view of my worldview. It is not a complete picture. It rarely gets to be a full idea. But I am satisfied that I come across when my tweets are read in context of one another. Interestingly, Twitter has become about extended images and not about speedy commentary to me. I have learned so much about people by sticking with them over time. A part of me wishes I was not so insistent a Twitterer, but as time passes, I take comfort in aspiring to clarity. Whether I fail or succeed is for others to determine.

I thank all the people who contributed to this last 20 years in journalism, from Cable Neuhaus at Entertainment Weekly to Scot Safon and the late great Andy Jones at to Laura Rooney who started Movie City News with me and to all the writers who have written for and supported the site over the last 13 years, especially Ray Pride who has been the master of MCN headlines for years now.

Thanks to Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Ridley Scott, Harvey Keitel, Lily Tomlin, Mary Steenburgen, Sam Elliott, Norman Lloyd, Blythe Danner, Don Johnson, Scott Glenn, and John Boorman, film biz veterans who made their first appearances on DP/30 – Celeb Conversations this year and were part of my early love of film. Every one of them was a gem and a pleasure.

My family deserves thanks for putting up with me… full stop. I don’t even know who to thank for my son, Cameron, who is the bright part of every day (between being a 5-year-old pain in the butt). And my wife. She’s spent this last year chasing a dream and has not always had the luck that I have had. But it is a good dream and a generous dream and hopefully it will come to full fruition in the spring.

Endless thanks to the many behind the scenes, whose names are meant not to be spoken aloud, but who make everything possible, for me and for the talent. Their generosity towards me and my work continues to amaze at times and I can only hope that I deliver on their faith. I am sometimes a jerk in the process of getting things booked. Sometimes I am jerked around. But on the whole, this symbiotic relationship seems to work, not only in the moment, but for years to come, as these interviews continue to be a source of insight for many people, young and old.

I am thankful to Universal for picking up and making Steve Jobs, to Disney for making McFarland, USA amidst all their “tentpoles,” for A24, period… but mostly for letting Alex Garland loose, Oscar Isaac dance, and Vikander be in Ex Machina this year, to Paramount having enough time on its hands to try to mainstream Anomalisa, for WB/NL rolling the dice with MGM on Creed and not trying to turn it into something wrong, to Fox for having the most schizophrenic line-up of films in history from Fantastic Four to The Martian, auteurs and amateurs, and to Sony for moving on (it was time, hack or not).

I thank a parade of women who have helped educate me about the trouble with being a woman in Hollywood. Male that I am, I want to fix the inequity right now. I don’t want to talk it to death. But how the transition occurs is clearly as important to some as the change itself. Three films at every major directed by a women in 2016. Make it a demand. Repeat it in every corner. The industry wants to change… really does… but it doesn’t know how to change. Everyone knows there is a problem. Educate those in power about how to make it better.

I’m thankful for retro when it works… and there was a lot of 70s and 80s nostalgia this year and not too much of it did work. Mad Max: Fury Road, Creed, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Straight Outta Compton… all winners. Lots of losers. But when it did work, it was a ton of fun. And there is anther bullet in the barrel, just a few weeks away.

I thank the guy who dragged me into shooting video. (I’d name him, but not sure he wants responsibility.) I go to this work every day that I go to this work not knowing what is coming. I know who will be sitting across from me, but I have no idea quite what way it will go. And then it happens. And I am truly alive, whether it’s going well or poorly (which has thankfully been rare). Even actors and directors who I’ve shot before… one never knows. I don’t even quite understand what I am doing at times. And that is glorious… because it is real… real in the way, I think, that so many actors explain to me is their experience in the moment on a set. I’m not a character. All I’ve got is me… only character I’ve got. And when it’s real and in the moment and true, I am blessed that it is a good thing. And when it is a bad thing, I am doubly blessed, as I get reminded that I am not just playing a parlor trick that I have learned and can repeat over and over.

And as always, I thank you for indulging me. I know that it’s not always easy. I know that I am not delivering the kind of content that some of you want in the quantity you want. I know that my current great work love is not what all of you want from me. But for all the aggravation of process, there is a lot of joy. And you bring more value, in a worldly and emotional way, to that joy. I thank you.

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6 Responses to “Thankful 2015: Episode 19 – The Farce Continues”

  1. mariamu says:

    Thanks for all that you do David. You are much appreciated.

  2. leahnz says:

    not exactly a barn burner on the hot blog so just to say (and before commenting on any ‘thanksgiving’ thing i always feel compelled to say, on behalf of my lakota sioux great gran, “thanx for the genocide!”, take that jackson off your $20)
    with that out of the way and on a bit of a tangent, funny to see ‘mcfarlane’ mentioned a couple times, who knew.
    the white saviour trope is a one we could do with a lot less of – there are all types of saviours – but i think caro with her sensitive eye and technical acumen (and perhaps with some insight as a non-white woman) did well within a commercial sensibility to lift formulaic, rather cliché material out of the mundane into something more entertaining and inspirational (not sure what this has to do with anything… i’m thankful for niki caro? haha also, ‘awards season’ can go fuck itself)

    we’ve learned to fly the air as birds
    we’ve learned to swim the seas as fish
    yet we haven’t learned to walk the Earth
    as brothers and sisters

    darkness cannot drive out darkness:
    only light can do that.
    hate cannot drive out hate:
    only love can do that.

    er ETA $20 (money not my thing)

  3. Cable Neuhaus says:

    Hoping your 2016 will be amazing!

  4. Ears says:

    Podcast in 2016 please. We live in a car town.

  5. Hallick says:

    “There have been few years in which I have been as often reminded of the value of imperfection… of the beautiful limitations of a form that captures moments… aspiring, flawed, and never to be repeated. I take no joy in a film that doesn’t come together, but often revel in the moments within it that do.”

    I’m thankful for finally seeing Aloha and being reminded that once in a while a horribly conceived and misguided film can still captivate my attention on a Thanksgiving’s Eve night. What a wonderful mess I enjoyed…

  6. Thomas says:

    Thank y o u for your videos and different style of interviewing people. Extremely well done! Keep up the good work! 🙂

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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