MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: War Room, Nasty Baby, Queen of Earth, Leonard Cohen and more

War Room: Blu-ray
When it comes to faith-based movies and box-office obsessives, the old bromide applies, “They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but, you can’t argue with success.” Even more simply put, “Numbers don’t lie.” After Alex Kendrick and co/writer Stephen Kendrick’s War Room dueled Straight Outta Compton for Labor Day audiences, pundits trotted out all of the same explanations that have applied to movies targeted at evangelical Christian audiences since Mel Gibson’s staggering success with The Passion of the Christ. The marketing campaigns are practically invisible, by Hollywood standards, anyway, and they are usually superseded by word-of-mouth campaigns advanced through church groups. I don’t pay enough attention to Christian broadcasting networks to know if the stars of such movies as God’s Not Dead and Heaven Is for Real pimp their products in the same way as mainstream actors required to do on late-night talk shows with Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien. Something’s working, though. The last four movies produced by the Kendrick brothers have grossed $146 million in their worldwide theatrical runs, against a total production budget of $5.6 million. Heaven Is for Real, which also was distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, grossed $101 million against $12 million. The ratio for God’s Not Dead, from niche Pure Flix Productions, was $63.8 million/$2 million. Those numbers don’t take into account any ancillary markets, either. Strictly from my point of view, I’ve seen a marked qualitative evolution in the entertainment product, itself. One reason for that is a shift away from the imperative that all faith-based content be family friendly. A very good movie, Ragamuffin, broke all sorts of new ground by fully documenting the struggles that led to singer/songwriter Rich Mullins (Michael Koch) becoming, with the assistance of Christian singing star Amy Grant (Amy Schultz), one of the largest-selling acts in the biz as a singer and songwriter for other artists. Just as success didn’t come easy to Mullins, neutralizing his demons long enough to record and tour would be a constant battle. As such, his story wasn’t all that different from dozens of others told about rock, country and jazz musicians. Indeed, it’s why so many listeners related to his message. By refusing to fudge history in pursuit of a PG rating, Ragamuffin was able to honestly depict one man’s Christian journey and inspire viewers who may have come to his songs only after his death in an automobile accident in 1997.

By comparison, War Room is a Sunday-school lesson on film. It stresses the core belief that all good things are derived from prayer and Satan is lurking in the shadows waiting to claim the soul of anyone who doesn’t bow down before God and ask his permission to cross the street. In the Kendrick’s uplifting drama, such beliefs are imparted on a troubled African-American wife and mother, whose husband (T.C. Stallings) is a philanderer, crook and liar. In the course of attempting to sell the house of an elderly woman, real-estate agent Elizabeth Jordan (Priscilla C. Shirer) is shown the nearly empty closet to which Aunt Clara (Karen Abercrombie) retreats whenever she feels the need to go to war against the devil. Sensing Elizabeth’s anxiety over her husband’s behavior, which is only getting worse, Aunt Clara suggests she establish a war room and a battle plan of prayer for her family. This would, however, involve forgiving her husband and taking him back whenever he’s ready to start behaving. If Elizabeth’s prayers aren’t heard, well, she obviously isn’t praying hard enough. Aunt Clara is the kind of old-school bible-banger who praises Jesus every time something positive, however insignificant, happens in her daily routine. If she had served her country as a chaplain in the army – as did her long-dead husband — it’s possible that wars could be prevented before anyone got hurt. If only that were true. The question remains, however, if God failed to hear the prayers of the millions of men and women whose spouses were sent to war over the course of the last 2,000 years, why would he listen to the wife of a jerk who doesn’t deserve her? Yes, I know, He works in mysterious ways. Screenwriters favor the magic-wand approach. There’s no reason to think that the makers of War Room are being insincere in their simplistic approach to prayerful problem-solving, because the Kendricks’ body of work suggests otherwise. Neither would I surmise that $67.8 million in box-office receipts some kind of mirage. What it all really boils down to is, “It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but, you can’t argue with success.” The Blu-ray adds commentary with Alex and Stephen Kendrick; several deleted scenes;   bloopers and outtakes; “‘War Room’ in 60 Seconds,” a condensed version of the story with special scenes filmed just for this extra; “The Heart of War Room,” a closer look at the film’s central message: the power and importance of prayer; the music video, “Warrior,” by Steven Curtis Chapman;  and a half-dozen other related featurettes.

Nasty Baby
No “Saturday Night Live” alumnus as taken as many risks with their career as Kristen Wiig. After scoring a direct hit in her first starring and co-writing role with Bridesmaids, she probably could have skated along for a good long while, appearing in silly character-based comedies, alongside other “SNL” veterans, or providing voices for animated features. Instead, Wiig’s kept busy honing her improvisational skills in various sketch-comedy shows and lending her considerable talents and good name to such edgy indies as Friends With Kids, Revenge for Jolly!, Girl Most Likely, Hateship Loveship, The Skeleton Twins, Welcome to Me and The Diary of a Teenage Girl. If you haven’t heard of any of these titles, it’s not for lack of trying on Wiig’s part. She’s gives them her all and isn’t reluctant to appear on talk shows promoting them. In Shira Piven’s thoroughly offbeat Welcome to Me, Wiig left nothing to the imagination in her portrayal of a bipolar woman who decides to stop taking her meds after winning the Mega-Millions lottery. She uses the money to finance her own talk show on cable television, basically to talk about herself, some fairly unappetizing recipes and masturbation. If anyone had gone to see it, Wiig might have gotten a Spirit Award nomination, at least.

Even fewer people saw Sebastián Silva’s challenging adult comedy, Nasty Baby, in which Wiig plays Polly, a Brooklyn woman who wants to create the “new normal” family with her closest friends, a gay couple, Freddy (Silva) and Mo (Tunde Adebimpe). It appears as if Freddy’s primary interest in fathering a child is to use it as a metaphorical prop in his film about the infantilism of modern men and women. When his sperm proves insufficient for the task of procreation, they turn to Mo, who’s much less enthusiastic about the prospect of being used a stud by his best friends and lover. He eventually warms to the idea, but not before exploring the idea with his mainstream African-American family, which is still getting over the reality of him being gay. The 36-year-old Chilean filmmaker has already made a name for himself in arthouse circles with The Maid, Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and Magic Magic. His first U.S.-set production is as much a riff on films about contemporary gay couples as it is a commentary about life in a newly gentrified neighborhood in New York. Polly’s neighbors run the gamut from artists and yuppies, to schizophrenic street people and cranky agitators. They all will figure into the equation sooner or later. Despite excellent performances all around, Nasty Baby’s appeal is limited to festival audiences and those who believe New York is the center of the universe. It’s emphatically not for viewers whose familiarity with Wiig begins with”SNL” and ends with Bridesmaids or, even, her key supporting role The Martian.

Queen of Earth
Like Kristen Wiig, Elisabeth Moss has resisted the temptation to be pigeonholed into roles that would remind “Mad Men” fans of the upwardly mobile doormat, Peggy Olson. Before landing a key role in current Oscar hopeful, Truth, Moss played prominent roles in a series of independent dramas that received excellent reviews but struggled for exposure. Her most prominent performance to date has come in Jane Campion’s New Zealand-set mini-series, “Top of the Lake,” in which she plays a dogged, if seemingly overmatched cop assigned to investigate a murder involving a Manson-like thug and his harem of brain-washed women. Shown here on Sundance Channel, it easily qualifies for binge viewing on VOD or DVD. In Queen of Earth, Moss portrays Catherine, a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. After the recent death of her father, a famous artist, and being dumped by her boyfriend, Catherine accepts an invitation from her best friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston) to recuperate at her lake house. Although her memories of the house include images of happy times spent with her then-boyfriend, Catherine anticipates spending quality time with Virginia. While it’s possible to anticipate the close friends partaking in some sexual healing, what happens next is far more disturbing. Instead of devoting her time to Catherine, Ginny picks up a local stray, Rich (Patrick Fugit), who delights in picking the aspiring artist’s emotional scabs. Catherine piles on with some pent-up aggression of her own. For a while, Catherine is able to hold her own in the increasingly nasty verbal exchanges. Moss’ facial expressions provide all the evidence we need to determine precisely when Catherine reaches her breaking point. Alex Ross Perry’s Bergman-esque approach to his story benefits from the pastoral setting, and he’d already established a rapport with Moss in Listen Up Philip. Waterston’s icy take on the back-stabbing BFF is spot-on, as well. The DVD adds a making-of featurette.

Sand Dollars
I doubt very much if any candidate for this year’s Best Actress Oscar has delivered a performance nearly as risky, nuanced and well as Geraldine Chaplin does in Sand Dollars. At 71, Chaplain bares her body and soul in ways most American actors her age probably would refuse out of hand, if they were offered such parts in the first place. As much as I would love to see Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep or Glenn Close appear in a drama about the sexual exploitation of Third World men by North American women well beyond a certain age – and the price paid by them for a week’s worth of illicit pleasure – if there wasn’t a place in it for Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, it wouldn’t get made. Unlike Laurent Cantet’s steamy 2005 drama, Heading South, Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán’s Sand Dollars doesn’t specifically address the many questions surrounding sexual tourism, as practiced by northern snowbirds of the female persuasion. (For that matter, how many dramas about male-oriented sexual tourism in Holland and Thailand have the studios attempted?) In Heading South, the ever-fearless Charlotte Rampling played Ellen, a French-lit professor from Boston, whose itinerary included sand, sun, clubbing, perhaps, sampling the local talent. For a fistful of Yankee dollars, these very young men allow themselves to be courted and won, for as many as seven days and six nights. The more gullible among them even believe their temporary lovers might want to continue seeing them if they can find a boat strong enough to make it to Miami. Ellen’s idyll sours after one of sexually exploited young men demands to be treated with the same respect as any other island entrepreneur.

Sand Dollars takes place not far from the Haitian beach upon which Rampling lounged, in the popular Dominican Republic resort town of Las Terrenas. Chaplin’s seemingly wealthy French character, Anne, may no longer qualify as being a woman of a certain age, but it hasn’t stopped her from entering into a financial understanding with a fragrant island flower 50 years her junior. So far, it’s lasted three years. For her part, Noeli (Yanet Mojica) is working a long con on Anne, by passing her boyfriend, Yeremi (Ricardo Ariel Toribio) off as her brother. The problem comes when Noeli is impregnated by the impatient Yeremi and realizes that it will prevent her from accepting Anne’s invitation to come with her to Paris and be spoiled rotten on a more permanent basis. Viewers may see the danger in such thinking, but what could be better than breaking away from the cycle of poverty that enslaves so many young women on this largely Roman Catholic island. In the short time Anne has left in the D.R., Noeli’s indecision and Yeremi’s machismo combine to push her last nerve. It’s to the credit of the husband/wife filmmaking team that we’re allowed to see both sides of the coin simultaneously and take sides based on the evidence on display. Adding greatly to our enjoyment of Sand Dollars is the native bachata music of Ramon Cordero and Edilio Paredes, who can make audiences dance through their tears. The DVD adds a making-of featurette, interviews, deleted scenes and a short film.

Keith Richards: In His Own Words
Leonard Cohen: Triumvirate
Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise
Jaco: The Film: Blu-Ray
Hawaiian Rainbow/Kumu Hula: Keepers of a Culture
No one embodies the rock ’n’ roll persona than Rolling Stones’ guitarist and co-founder Keith Richards. The fact that he’s still alive and kickin’ it at 72 has inspired tens of thousands of his fans to believe they’re also immortal. You can hate everything the Stones have recorded in the last 40 years and still love Richards, if only because, in 2006, while in Fiji, he was seriously injured while climbing a coconut tree, actually snorted the ashes of his cremated father and that he’s reprising his performances in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in the 2017 sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. After Johnny Depp admitted to infusing his character with Richards’ mannerisms, he agreed to play the continuing character Captain Teague, the father of Captain Jack Sparrow. I.V. Media’s makeshift bio-doc Keith Richards: In His Own Words effectively serves as an unauthorized supplement to his best-selling and critically lauded 2011 autobiography, “Life.” The DVD includes almost two hours of previously filmed interviews with the guitarist/singer/songwriter, a couple of which were staged during the publicity tour for the book. As such, much of the material is repetitive. Even so, it’s fun listening to Richards from different periods in his career, including about hiatus projects apart from the Stones. In one, a very pretty Italian reporter actively flirts with him, basically handing him the keys to her hotel room after the interview concludes. I may be wrong, but it seems as if he couldn’t get away from her fast enough … maybe because Patti, his wife of 32 years, was lurking somewhere in the background.

If there were a competition for the coolest man in rock ’n’ roll, Leonard Cohen would either be a close runner-up to Richards or first in the singer/songwriter division. From Collector’s Forum comes the three-disc Leonard Cohen: Triumvirate, which includes the previously released Leonard Cohen: Under Review: 1934-1977, Leonard Cohen: Under Review: 1978-2006 and Leonard Cohen: The Mind of a Poet, a new compilation of vintage interviews and events. The analysis that accompanies the musical clips in the first two discs are extremely well-reasoned and informative. The career-spanning interviews package is marked by Cohen’s sense of humor and intellect, as well as visits to the Zen Buddhist monastery on Mount Baldy and other locations. (If anything, European audiences are more reverential than their North American counterparts.) This would make a terrific gift for anyone who’s fallen in love with Cohen’s music and poetry. Here, too, a toothy blond Scandinavian reporter cautiously passes along the question her co-workers urgently believe needs to be asked: Will you sleep with me? His enigmatic answer suggests he might have taken the bait, if he weren’t on his monkish best behavior.

Neither was the delightfully eccentric jazz composer, musician, band leader and mystic Sun Ra lacking in the coolness department. Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise does a nice job showcasing the improvisational master’s musical range on the piano and the “cosmic jazz” that shocked and challenged jazz audiences for more than four decades. Listen close enough and you’ll hear references to Count Basie. Ahmad Jamal, Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor, alongside those to Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Schoenberg and Shostakovich. He was an early pioneer in the free-jazz movement of the 1950-60s, introducing synthesizers and electric keyboards to the mix. Holding him back, however, was a penchant for pthurple robes, pointed hats and philosophies that go back to ancient-traveler myths and the pyramids. It’s fun, but only for a while. My favorite chapter features Sun Ra exploring his deepest roots in a selection informed by several different blues stylings, but it’s the wild presentations of the Arkestra that we recall most fondly. Robert Mugge spent two years shooting Sun Ra and the Arkestra in a wide variety of locales, among them Baltimore’s Famous Ballroom, Danny’s Hollywood Palace in Philadelphia, and on the roof of Philadelphia’s International House on the edge of the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Sun Ra’s poetry and mythological pronouncements were filmed in the Egyptian Room of the University of Pennsylvania’s anthropology museum, in a sculpture garden in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., and inside and outside of the house he shared with key band members in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Songs performed in the film include such Sun Ra classics as “Astro Black,” “Mister Mystery,” “We Travel the Spaceways,” “Along Came Ra/The Living Myth,” “Spaceship Earth (Destination Unknown)” and “Requiem for Trevor Johnson.” The DVD includes extended audio versions of the songs.

How many homeless people have been accorded the honor of having the park they once inhabited named after them? Not many, I’ll bet. On the date that would have marked his 56th birthday, December 1, 2008, Jaco Pastorius Park was dedicated in Broward County, Florida. It’s where the bassist extraordinaire spent the nights leading to his untimely death on September 21, 1987, at 35. Wracked by bipolar disorder, Pastorius had 10 days earlier substituted alcohol for his meds and began kicking in the door of a local nightclub. The beating inflicted on him by the club’s bouncer would cause the massive brain hemorrhage that led to his death. Blessedly, Paul Marchand and Stephen Kijak’s heart-breaking Jaco: The Film saves the sad stuff for the end, after exploring his extraordinary contributions to jazz, rock, Afro-Cuban and other musical disciplines. Among other things, Pastorius radically changed the way musicians and audiences perceived the contributions of the electronic bass to a band or orchestra. By pulling out the frets with a needle-nose pliers, he discovered a way to make the bass perform like a cello and add a harmonic voice to the ensemble. Almost immediately after his death, he was inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame, joining only six other bassists: Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Charles Mingus, Charlie Haden and Milt Hinton. In 2008, Fender also released the Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass, a fretless instrument in its Artist Series. Besides some amazing musical performances, Jaco: The Film features revelatory interviews with such artists as Flea, Joni Mitchell, Sting, Wayne Shorter, Mike Stern, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock and Geddy Lee, as well as friends, family member and industry executives. A second disc adds another 100 minutes’ worth of outtakes, anecdotes and stories, in addition to special footage used during the historic Jaco’s World Tribute Show 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl. True-blue fans will notice some missing associations with other prominent artists, but what’s here is pretty compelling stuff.

The evidence on suggests that no documentary maker has stuck his camera into as many musical corners as Robert Mugge. In addition to the aforementioned Sun Ra documentary, this week’s mailbag included the combined screener, Hawaiian Rainbow/Kumu Hula: Keepers of a Culture. Released back-to-back in 1988-89, the films introduced traditional Hawaiian music, dance, myths and culture to mainlanders whose concept of greater-Polynesian culture is limited to poi, pig roasts and lei greetings at the airport. In fact, the musical heritage is extremely rich and its roots stretch from Portugal and Spain, to Honolulu and back to Nashville. Inspired by what he encountered during his first visit to Hawaii in 1986, Mugge joined forces with Dr. Neil Abercrombie, University of Hawaii ethnomusicologists Dr. Ricardo D. Trimillos and Jay W. Junker, educator Vicky Holt Takamine and Honolulu Academy of Arts film programmer Ann Brandman to produce an 85-minute documentary on Hawaiian music shot largely on the Island of Oahu. Then, with the help of Cove Enterprises executives Roy Tokujo and Ronald Letterman, a second 85-minute documentary on Hawaiian dance was shot on all six of the primary Hawaiian Islands. In both cases, Abercrombie was able to convince his former colleagues in the state legislature to fund the films because of their educational and promotional value for the state. And, the narrative frequently sounds far too distant and bland, by comparison to the music and dance. Hawaiian Rainbow focuses on Hawaii’s traditional chants, percussion, ukulele, slack-key and steel guitar, male and female falsetto, and lush vocal harmonies. Kumu Hula: Keepers of a Culture examines the art of the hula and Hawaiian dance traditions going back to 500 AD, when Polynesians first arrived in the islands. Takamine and other respected kumu hula – master educators and trustees of ancient knowledge — reveal how traditions have survived, despite attempts by 19th Century missionaries, plantation owners and the U.S. Marine Corps to repress Hawaii’s indigenous culture. Both films were transferred to HD video from their original 16mm and stereo audio masters and lovingly restored.

Jenny’s Wedding
Although same-sex marriages have only been recognized by legal authorities for a couple of years, gender-neutral co-habitation within the LGBT community predated it by several decades. Watching Mary Agnes Donoghue’s strangely old-fashioned pro-tolerance rom-dram Jenny’s Wedding, I was left with the same feelings I had after enduring Hollywood’s first tentative steps toward recognition of interracial marriage, gay rights and women’s liberation. In an effort to offend the least number of viewers, studio executive essentially rendered their own products irrelevant to huge numbers of more enlightened audiences. If members of the Fox News demographic cared to see a primer on gay marriage and the misconceptions forwarded by their pinhead pundits, Jenny’s Wedding would be that movie. They probably wouldn’t dig the ending, but, at least, they could leave the theater knowing some of the archetypal characters here aren’t beyond redemption. After years of living together, Jenny (Katherine Heigl) and Kitty (Alexis Bledel) have decided to get married. They make an extremely cute couple, by anyone’s standards, have good jobs and probably haven’t received a speeding ticket since their Sweet 16 parties. Somehow, Jenny’s outwardly liberal parents (Tom Wilkinson, Linda Emond) have missed all of the signs that point to their daughter being a lesbian. They still can’t figure out why she isn’t interested in the men she’s introduced to by her happily married brother or why she hasn’t shown much interest in having children, like her unhappily married sister. No sooner do Jenny and Kitty break the news of the impending nuptials and hoped-for pregnancy to the family than Jenny’s parents and sister declare that they’ll take a pass on the ceremony, no matter that it’s going to take place in a church. The rest of the movie concerns itself with finding ways to make mom, dad and sis feel guilty about their decision and stopping them from treating Jenny – Katherine Heigl, for God’s sake – like a freak. No matter how Donoghue spins it, though. the process holds no surprises for anyone who watches ABC’s “Modern Family.”

Bread and Circus
Axe/Kidnapped Coed: Blu-ray
Nightmares: Blu-ray
The Life of Death
Every so often, a genre picture from Scandinavia comes this way and typically it’s a doozy. It’s taken a dozen years for Blood and Circus to make the journey from Norway to the U.S. and, in all that time, it hasn’t lost any of its ability to gross out viewers. In a kingdom where non-conformists are hunted and killed, a man is born as a child to Mother Earth … literally. After his afterbirth is cleaned off, the Normal One is examined and allowed to enter the system. When NO gets old and useless, he’s scheduled for execution. Before that can happen, though, he carves a message on a stone for future generations to consider before they’re given business suits, marching orders and expelled through Earth’s anus. Outlaws lead a zombie-like existence, always wary of the shotgun blast to the brain that will wipe them out, too. A couple that finds the message attempts to put an end to the oppressive system. The rest is splatter. Blood and Circus should satisfy genre extremists’ lust for gore while repulsing everyone else.

From Severin Films comes a truly curious novelty. The Axe and Kidnapped Coed double feature is comprised of a pair of super-low-budget crime/horror films, from the mid-1970s, that appear to have been made back-to-back and with common elements. In each one, a small-time criminal (Eddie Matlock) conceives a nasty crime, which backfires in his face, leaving him in similar circumstances as the victim. In Axe, Jack Canon plays the heavy in a killing spree that ends with a hostage-taking situation at a remote farmhouse. The residents are a paralyzed old man and his teenage daughter, who’s more capable of defending herself than anyone could expect. In Kidnapped Coed, a young woman living in a boarding house is kidnapped by a small-time criminal (Canon), who hopes to be compensated by her wealthy father. When other crooks learn of the scheme, they short-circuit the abductor’s plans. In doing so, they get stuck in the kidnapped girl’s web. Taken on their own merits, these films feel incomplete. A third movie included as a bonus feature, Bloody Brothers, is an independently made mash-up of both pictures, in which Canon’s characters are evil twins separated from each other at birth. As adults, they unknowingly commit the similarly terrible crimes documented in Frederick R. Friedel’s Axe and Kidnapped Coed. It’s weirdly satisfying. The Blu-ray package adds several more bonus features than anyone would have felt necessary in the mid-‘70s.

Nightmares is a pretty decent, if tame horror anthology, directed by Joseph Sargent after he made MacArthur, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and White Lightning. His next high-profile picture would be the abysmal Jaws: The Revenge, so, maybe, he made a deal with the devil for early success and it ran out after Nightmares. The stories, though, all display the handiwork of a professional filmmaker and recognizable stars. If they aren’t terribly frightening, at least they’re clever and well made. Cristina Raines is a chain-smoking Topanga Canyon homemaker, who insists on going out for cigarettes even as an escaped madman is being hunted nearby. Emilio Estevez plays a video-game hotshot, who dares to take on a strange challenger. A troubled priest (Lance Henriksen) seeks to find the faith he has lost on the road, but instead encounters someone in the desert who is trying to drive him out of his mind; and, finally, when Claire (Veronica Cartwright) hears rats in the walls, her husband (Richard Masur) mistakenly believes he can take care of the problem with a few mousetraps.

In The Life of Death, real-life genre specialists discuss how they’ve come to perceive death during various periods in their lives and, likewise, how its certainty has influenced their work. It includes interviews and insights from Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman, artist Bob Fingerman, writer Jack Ketchum, special-effects artist Tom Sullivan and scream queens Debbie Rochon and Caroline Munro, among other pros. It’s interesting, if only because the horror genre demands that death be considered separately with every new project.

PBS: Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson
American Experience: The Pilgrims
The Nanny: Season Five
PBS’ “Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson” demonstrates the debt owed to the Gloved One by artists of a foreign musical genre. Peruvian-born, Miami-raised producer/multi-instrumentalist/arranger Tony Succar was able to round up more than 100 musicians and such Hispanic superstars as Judith Hill, Jon Secada and Obie Bermúdez in the first-ever Latin album salute to the King of Pop.

In the two-hour “American Experience” presentation “The Pilgrims,” Ric Burns chronicles the history, origins and critical first decade of the first permanent English colony in New England. Who were the men and women who constituted this multifarious band of English Protestants, in whose name we gorge on autumnal treats, football and parades? It’s a bit more complicated than what’s depicted in grade-school holiday pageants.

In the fifth season of “The Nanny,” Fran Fine (Fran Drescher) faces the very real possibility that her romance with Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) might lead to a promotion from babysitter to bride. This stanza’s guest stars include Ray Charles, Chevy Chase, Whoopi Goldberg and Elton John.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Ophelia, Ambition, Werewolf in Girls' Dorm, Byleth, Humble Pie, Good Omens, Yellowstone …More

rohit aggarwal on: The DVD Wrapup: Ophelia, Ambition, Werewolf in Girls' Dorm, Byleth, Humble Pie, Good Omens, Yellowstone …More on: The DVD Wrapup: Diamonds of the Night, School of Life, Red Room, Witch/Hagazussa, Tito & the Birds, Keoma, Andre’s Gospel, Noir

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Sleep With Anger, Ralph Wrecks Internet, Liz & Blue Bird, Hannah Grace, Unseen, Jupiter's Moon, Legally Blonde, Willard, Bang … More

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Bumblebee, Ginsburg, Buster, Silent Voice, Nazi Junkies, Prisoner, Golden Vampires, Highway Rat, Terra Formars, No Alternative … More

GDA on: The DVD Wrapup: Bumblebee, Ginsburg, Buster, Silent Voice, Nazi Junkies, Prisoner, Golden Vampires, Highway Rat, Terra Formars, No Alternative … More

Larry K on: The DVD Wrapup: Sleep With Anger, Ralph Wrecks Internet, Liz & Blue Bird, Hannah Grace, Unseen, Jupiter's Moon, Legally Blonde, Willard, Bang … More

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Shoplifters, Front Runner, Nobody’s Fool, Peppermint Soda, Haunted Hospital, Valentine, Possum, Mermaid, Guilty, Antonio Lopez, 4 Weddings … More

gwehan on: The DVD Wrapup: Shoplifters, Front Runner, Nobody’s Fool, Peppermint Soda, Haunted Hospital, Valentine, Possum, Mermaid, Guilty, Antonio Lopez, 4 Weddings … More

Gary J Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Peppermint, Wild Boys, Un Traductor, Await Instructions, Lizzie, Coby, Afghan Love Story, Elizabeth Harvest, Brutal, Holiday Horror, Sound & Fury … More

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