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David Poland

By David Poland

Time To Consume

I am a great believer in ebb and flow.

There is a time to create. And a time to consume.

I don’t know that I have ever gone into the September festival season more ready to consume. I am HUNGRY.

I’ve already watched 3 different movies to prepare for La La Land. I had never seen Medicine for Melancholy. Now I have, in preparation for Moonlight.

As a busy person, seeing at least 4 or 5 movies for work each week, and having a 6-year-old, and a wife, and shooting interviews, etc, I sadly don’t often consume movies the way I once did. But I am throwing Blu-rays into the player every day lately. Coppola, Mel Brooks, Friedkin, Scorsese…

I am watching the cable networks I pay for every month with a vengeance. I’ve even watched some stuff in standard definition, stretched or shrunk to look like HD. Every movie seems to lead me to another movie that I haven’t seen in forever, or need to see for some reason.

And I am feeling very zen about work in general. I shouldn’t. But the idea has been settling in with me that work has a personal voice and we need — I need — to stop trying to see it through a single set of eyes that are not those of the artist. A chat with Derek Cienfrance last week prompted that reflection. We talked about what connects his films although I didn’t ask that question. He offered it up because it was important to his process and his choices. And his thoughts — about his real family and the family that presented itself while others were around — fit like a glove. And his feelings about his films, once confronted by others who saw them from a different perspective, were quite beautiful in their precision.

Then there is my work. My interviews. If you build it, 1,700 half hours will come of it, I guess.

I treasure the conversations that I have with artists. And I am not nearly worried enough about how many other people get to enjoy them. But each one is a surprisingly vivid memory.

And yet, we are all now surrounded by a parade of roundtables, actors talking to actors, podcasts and stunt talk shows, making my format, which was already obscure in this era, even more so. People are still very generous with their time, but it’s gotten harder to get some subjects that I want… even if the actually eyes and ears I can deliver are greater or at least equal to almost all non-big-network outlets.

But all that is more measuring. It misses the point. It’s an endless seduction, but I never started doing this to win the prize… to be #1. I believe in the work.

So the other day, I listened to some of the newer shows. Three or four. And they were fine. But they were missing something. They were missing that thing that makes me — for better or worse — me. I could never do what those hosts were doing. But then again, they could never do what I do.

I wrestled with this a couple years ago regarding Marc Maron, who I was friendly with before his podcast, and who I genuinely like. There are many reasons why his podcast is much more famous than my show(s). But a big part of that is just… Marc. I mean, I cringe listening to him talking to some people, not because he was terrible, but because I wished he knew more going into the interview. But what he doesn’t know is a big part of who he is. And that naiveté, from a man who is not at all naive, is a big part of the magic of his interviews.

I recently listened to a bunch of Howard Stern interviews and again… I would never, for a second, think to ask most of the questions he asks. For a guy who has been a star for decades, he asks a lot of rube (and rude) questions. But it works really well because people who go on his show are ready and willing to go there.

One guest, who I had a hard time with years ago, was so forthcoming and friendly… and I think it was the rhythm. He paced the person in a way with which they were comfortable. I, clearly, had not. And in the long view, that was fine.

What I do is what I do. It is part of me. There is no other version. And it’s not for everyone. And it’s not always supported by the biggest organization. But I treasure those moments like I treasure the moments when those same people like up the movie screen like a pinball machine (a great old one… not the new digital bullshit).

Getting back to movies, I realize that I get a little shy, then a little overly aggressive, about telling people about Pete’s Dragon. That movie is so much a product of David Lowery. There is no denying it. It is an intimate piece. And yet, it is still about an animated, sometimes-invisible dragon.

I am starving for the unexpected… the artistic… the silly… the banal… the passionate… the real… the fake… the movies.

When I caught The Martian on cable the other night, I realized that the film didn’t exist for me, aside from one-sheets, a year ago. And then, in a multiplex at TIFF, not quite expecting the world, this lovely, complex-but-not-showy work by a truly great director with a great cast and a script of a great idea came into my life. What a wonderful thing.

So I am going to The Church in The Mountains, then going to The Palace North of Buffalo to gorge myself on everything that I can consume. I want to fall in love. I want to be weighed down with hate. I want to wipe away tears I am embarrassed to shed and to quietly make faces in the third act hoping no one will notice (but secretly hoping someone will). I want to get poked in the eye and stroked on the… back.

It’s the movies I love. The people who make them. The tightrope walk that every movie truly is, successful or not.

Let’s go!

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6 Responses to “Time To Consume”

  1. EtGuild2 says:

    This brought a smile to my face.

  2. Geoff says:

    Nice essay Dave – your love of film is always a joy to read about.

  3. Fitz says:

    Very nice, David.

  4. I love reading your work. It makes me think I did the right thing with my life. Showed Rear Window to 150 people tonight on a huge screen. Nothing is more satisfying. Loved Pete’s Dragon as well. Cried like a baby for a CGI image. That is crazy shit.

  5. EtGuild2 says:

    “La La Land” and “Arrival” seem well received 🙂

    Looking forward to your thoughts.

  6. EtGuild2 says:

    Speaking of consuming, I just completed my annual 30-days of FANDOR to catch up on three movies specifically: NOTFILM, TIME TO CHOOSE and RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN

    NOTFILM is excellent, one of the very best docs I’ve seen this year (with Weiner, Zero Days and Paths to the Soul), a thorough deconstruction of Samuel Beckett’s failed FILM experiment with Buster Keaton. Essential for any student of film.

    TIME TO CHOOSE I really enjoyed as well. It’s been criticized for being “docsploitation,” but I didn’t get the sense that it was largely staged. It’s more disturbing than anything, but compassionate as well. I can’t understand how this gets chided and PRESENTING PRINCESS SHAW, which is clearly, entirely staged presentationally, is given a pass because it’s “inspirational.” Uh-huh…

    “Right Now, Wrong then” is the first Hong Sang-soo movie I’ve seen in years, and may be his best. It’s heartfelt and insightful, and is in many ways a romantic version of MULHOLLAND DRIVE, but still different. I can’t agree with AV Club that it’s the best movie of 2016, but I did really enjoy this quiet little indie, and am glad Hong’s work is getting more exposure.

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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