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Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: Florida Project, Daddy’s Home 2, The Hero, Thirsty and more

The Florida Project: Blu-ray
Until the mass migration by white middle- and working-class Americans to the suburbs after World War II, one of the most enduring themes in American culture was the depiction of poor and hunger people struggling to survive in the shadow of great wealth and luxury. In one of his best-remembered bits, Lenny Bruce wondered how Moses and Jesus would react if, during a surprise visit to New York, they stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where then-Cardinal Francis Spellman was conducting Mass. “Christ says to Moses, ‘We went through Spanish Harlem, where there were 40 Puerto Ricans living in one room. What were they doing there, when this man has a ring worth $10,000?” Today, the homeless are found sleeping in the parks and under bridges in major cities from San Francisco to Manhattan, smf in the doorways of boutiques, salons and restaurants that cater to one-percenters. In most cases, the social safety net extends no further than the city limits. Look closer, though, and pockets of need can be found in the darnedest places. In 1964, Walt Disney World Company surreptitiously began acquiring the parcels of land around Orlando for what was then dubbed the Florida Project. Uncle Walt wanted to create a recreational mecca for the Americans – an estimated 75 percent of the population — who lived east of the Mississippi River and rarely visited Disneyland. He also wanted that property to be buffered from the same clutter and commerce that had attached itself to the original Disneyland like remora fish to a shark. The virtual moat would have to be wide enough to force visitors to pay for gas, lodging, food and souvenirs from companies licensed by Disney. And, for a while, he was successful. The moat couldn’t hold forever, though. By setting his closely observed humanist drama, The Florida Project, within the shadow of Disney World, Sean Baker (Tangerine) describes how a community of homeless, underemployed and frequently lawless single parents has taken root on one of the commercial strips leading into Uncle Walt’s greatest fantasy.

From its freshly painted lavender façade, tidy grounds and spacious parking lot, it would be as difficult for passersby to know what goes on inside the doors of the Magic Castle Inn & and Suites as it is for audiences during the first few minutes of The Florida Project. It doesn’t look like a welfare hotel, teeming with unattended kids, quick-buck artists and single moms who sometimes turn tricks to pay the rent, but that’s pretty much what it is. Kissimmee’s Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway is lined with low-rent hotels, trinket shops and fast-food restaurants that cater to tourists looking for bargains before heading into the park. The names of the hotels are close enough to legitimate Disney attractions that unsuspecting visitors aren’t likely to suspect that Florida welfare agencies also use them as temporary shelters for homeless families. Oscar-nominated Willem Dafoe plays Bobby, the conscientious manager of the Magic Castle, whose limits are frequently pushed by the kids’ shenanigans, as well as the bad behavior of their parents, which he monitors from a bank of video screens. Dafoe’s terrific, as always, but he’s forced to hold his own against child actors so irresistibly and convincingly mischievous – not harmless, but not evil, either – that viewers might have nightmares about them moving in next-door to them. As the film’s de facto protagonist, Mooney, 7-year-old Brooklynn Prince is a force of nature and as good a reason to rent or stream The Florida Project as Dafoe. When Baker envisioned the kids’ roles here, he flashed to the original Little Rascals, with Mooney stepping in for George “Spanky” McFarland and Darla Hood, depending on the situation. As hard as we try to empathize with Mooney’s mother, Halley — well-played by newcomer Bria Vinaite – she’s clearly trapped in a cycle of poverty” and could easily drag Mooney into it with her. You wouldn’t Halley to move in next to you, either. Even so, Baker refuses to abandon his characters to their own peculiar devices. There’s plenty of humor in The Florida Project, but it’s dark and kind of scary, too. The Blu-ray adds bloopers and outtakes, as well as a worthwhile collection of interviews.

Daddy’s Home 2: 4K UHD HDR
When the original Daddy’s Home grossed $150 million at the domestic box office and another $92 million in foreign sales, there was nothing any of the critics who hated it could do, except pray they wouldn’t have to review the inevitable sequel. The bro’s-will-be-bro’s comedy may not have been as despicable as others that tried and failed to replicate the riotous success of holiday staples Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – both written by John Hughes — but it didn’t come close to equaling previous work turned in by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Sure enough, 23 months after the original was released, on December 25, 2015, came Daddy’s Home 2. Just as predictably, while the reviews were overwhelmingly negative, the picture performed just fine for Paramount. If it didn’t match the original’s box-office numbers here and abroad, the ratio of expenses to returns couldn’t have disappointed the studio. Even though my expectations for director Sean Anders and co-writer John Morris’ follow-up were pretty low, I was pleasantly relieved by the sequel’s energy and warmth, if nothing else. And, while I wouldn’t recommend it do anyone who hasn’t experienced the insanity that comes with Christmas with the kiddies, especially in families divided by divorce, it provides several legitimately funny moments. For those, I credit the addition of Mel Gibson and John Lithgow to the cast, as grandfathers with diametrically opposed personalities, and serving as counterweights to Ferrell and Wahlberg’s overly familiar schtick.

In the interim between original and sequel, former rivals Dusty and Brad have become good buddies, happily sharing custody of the children. Dusty has re-married, this time to a self-absorbed writer, Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio), with a worldly teen daughter, Adrianna. Brad, Sara (Linda Cardellini), Dusty and Karen attend a school play, where Megan (Scarlett Estevez) reveals to the audience that she doesn’t like bouncing between homes to celebrate the holiday twice. So, Brad and Dusty agree to do a “Together Christmas.” Grandparents Don (Lithgow) and Kurt (Gibson) arrive almost simultaneously at the airport, insinuating themselves into the festivities. Not thrilled with the setup, Kurt rents a cabin large enough to accommodate both broods. You can probably imagine how things will turn out from here and wouldn’t be far from wrong. To my mind, the best gag comes when Brad decides to impress the gang by cutting down the perfect “Together Christmas tree.” Naturally, he chooses a cellphone tower disguised to resemble an evergreen. In doing so, a jolt of electricity knocks him for a loop, sending his chainsaw flying dangerously through the air. After Dusty revives him, Brad is charged $20,000 for the destruction of the tower. They decide to use it, anyway. One thing leads to another and … oh, yeah, hunky John Cena arrives out of nowhere to rescue Adrianna from the nuthouse. The very decent 4K UHD is bundled with a separate Blu-ray, upon which the five rather short featurettes, a gag reel and deleted/alternate/extended scenes are contained.

Same Kind of Different as Me: Blu-ray
The Star: Blu-ray
Despite a cast and production values far superior to those typically found in faith-based movies, Same Kind of Different as Me didn’t come close to matching ticket sales for Heaven Is for Real, God’s Not Dead, Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie and The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, among many others in the same genre. Any optimism inspired by hefty first-Friday audiences — enhanced by early group sales – diminished quickly after receipts for the following two days and weekend inexplicably plummeted.  I’d hate to think that fans of so-called Christian entertainment are less attracted to stories about redemption through community service and helping the homeless than to end-times dramas, silly cartoons, Medea and movies designed to re-affirm their own beliefs, but why else? If Jesus had tailored his message to attract Israelites who lived comfortably and didn’t mind the presence of Roman legions or money-changers in the temple, Christianity would probably have been a non-starter. Go figure. Here, Oscar-nominated Greg Kinnear (As Good as It Gets) plays wealthy Fort Worth arts dealer Ron Hall, who, after getting caught cheating on his wife, Deborah (Oscar-winner Renée Zellweger), elects to save his marriage by joining her in her ministry, which includes feeding the city’s homeless. They include a deeply embittered and violent former sharecropper, Denver Moore, played by two-time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond), who tests the faith of everyone around him. Rounding out the list of award-winners is Jon Voight (Coming Home), who, as Ron’s father, embodies the stereotype of the Texas good-ol’-boy bigot who loves his guns more than he does humanity.

The turning point of the movie comes when Deborah learns she has terminal cancer and will miss out on seeing the results of her good work at the church, soup kitchen and surrounding neighborhood. In 2006, Ron Hall and Denver Moore co-wrote a book, with Lynn Vincent, describing how Moore’s and the Halls’ life journeys intersected. They would go on to create similar ministries throughout the country and raise millions of dollars to feed and shelter the poor. Now, I’m not trying to say that the performances of the four major stars are Oscar quality here, but they are good enough to compensate for any miscues by freshman co-writer/director Michael Carney or in the adapted script by first-timers Alexander Foard and Hall. Even so, Same Kind of Different as Me is a highly inspirational, deeply personal and definitively Christian effort. The Blu-ray adds commentary, deleted and extended scenes, interviews and making-of featurettes.

By contrast, a CG-animated feature that recounts the Nativity from the point of view of the animals, including a pint-size donkey named Bo, did very well in its theatrical run. The Star takes the basic New Testament account and injects humor into the lead-up to the birth of Christ that apparently was sorely missing in the bible. In his first feature, Oscar-nominated Timothy Reckart (Head Over Heels) took a script that had been gathering dust at Henson Company since the late 1990s and turned it around in less than two years. In doing so, he decided to make the kind of spiritual, yet silly film that would be “accessible to a broader audience.” Huh? Bo (Steven Yeun), yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. Finding the courage to break free, he teams up with Ruth (Aidy Bryant) the loveable sheep and Dave the wacky dove (Keegan-Michael Key). Along with three wisecracking camels (Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey) and some eccentric stable animals, they follow the same star that’s leading the three wise men to Bethlehem. The Star is produced by Affirm Films, a company under Sony that produces and distributes mainly conservative Christian films. There must have been some real money behind it, because, in addition to the aforementioned actors, the voicing cast includes Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Kelly Clarkson, Anthony Anderson, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Patricia Heaton, Kristin Chenoweth and Christopher Plummer, and songs by Mariah Carey, Fifth Harmony, Kelsea Ballerini, Kirk Franklin and A Great Big World.

Nayak: The Hero: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray
An Actor’s Revenge: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray
Satyajit Ray, one of the greatest of all 20th Century filmmakers, wrote and directed Nayak: The Hero towards the end of his early realist period, which began so auspiciously a decade earlier with The Apu Trilogy and The Music Room. If it isn’t considered to be one of his masterpieces, it still has plenty to offer lovers of the Indian cinema. The simplicity of its premise disguises the urgency of subplots dealing with the toxic adulation of celebrity, rise of feminism and persistence of the caste system on the subcontinent. In it, Bengali matinee idol Arindam Mukherjee (Uttam Kumar) is going by train from Kolkata to Delhi – a 24-hour trip, dictated by a lack of space available on planes – to receive a prestigious acting award (the only kind he’ll accept, anymore). During a respite from giving autographs to worshipful passengers, he’s approached by a magazine editor, Aditi (Sharmila Tagore), who’s pushed by a friend to seek an interview. The magazine is written, edited and published by women, without pandering to any fascination with movies and their stars. He’s amused by her lack of interest in his movies and invites her to tea. Arindam doesn’t agree to an interview, but, later, as he begins to warm up to her, she begin taking notes surreptitiously. Other well-heeled passengers playing key supporting roles are a wealthy businessman and his family; an ambitious advertising man, willing to pimp out his pretty wife to close a deal; an elderly former movie star, who disapproves of the trappings of fame; children, giddy over being in Arindam’s presence; and several overly solicitous attendants and waiters.

If Ray had been so inclined, he could have added a mysterious death and, instead, turned Nayak into an adaptation of “Murder on the Orient Express,” called “Murder on  the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.” Instead, we’re allowed to observe what happens when Aditi gets under the star’s skin through pointed questioning, causing him to relive his past in sometimes painful flashbacks. They recall his early decision to sacrifice his ideals by turning his back on the theater; being deceived by a legendary actor in his prime; avenging the insult much later, when the same actor comes begging for a job; and allowing himself to be seduced by an aspiring actress, also seeking a part. Before the train pulls into the Delhi terminal, Arindam will be forced to look himself in the mirror and determine what, if anything, to take from his revelatory journey. In real life, both Kumar and Tagore were well-established actors, who’d probably grabbled with similar questions. The pristine Criterion Blu-ray adds a 2008 interview with Tagore; a new visual essay on Ray, featuring film scholar Meheli Sen; an essay by author Pico Iyer and a 1980 tribute to Kumar by Ray. By the way, anyone who discerns similarities between Nayak: The Hero and The Darjeeling Limited (2007) – including music in Wes Anderson’s soundtrack – should know that they are anything but coincidental.

Also from Criterion Collect this week, Kon Ichikawa’s An Actor’s Revenge (1963) takes a completely different look at the art and agony of a revered thespian. The great Japanese actor Kazuo Hasegawa plays Yukinojo Nakamura, a popular oyama (a male actor who not only performs female roles, but also lives the female role offstage as well) in a 19th Century kabuki troupe. While in Edo, he chances upon an opportunity to avenge the deaths of his parents, who, 20 years earlier, were driven to insanity and suicide by a trio of greedy merchants. By coincidence, two of the three thieves are in the audience during his bravura performance, with the beautiful Namiji (Ayako Wakao), the daughter of their sickly compatriot. To exact his revenge, Yukinojo, who’s also a master swordsman, decides to seduce Namiji and get them to betray each other. Namiji is the shogun’s favorite concubine, but she falls for the burly oyama, nonetheless. He’s then befriended by an attractive man-hating pickpocket (Yamamoto Fujiko), who, likewise, has strong feelings for Yamitaro the Thief, who’s also played by Hasegawa. Yamitaro’s primary role here is to serve as an observer of Nakamura’s scheming and comment on it. Everything plays out on the extra-wide kabuki stage, which gives Ichikawa plenty of room to work his magic through brilliantly colorful visuals and spectacularly atmospheric false backgrounds. The fights are staged in kabuki fashion, as well. It’s worth noting that Ichikawa originally created An Actor’s Revenge as a tribute to Hasegawa on the occasion of his 300th film. It is based on Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Yukinojô henge: Daiippen dainihen, which, 30 years earlier, starred Hasegawa in the same dual role. Both were inspired by a garish newspaper serial, originally written by Otokichi Mikami and revised in 1965 by Ichikawa’s wife and frequent collaborator, Natto Wada. The Blu-ray sparkles, thanks to a 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack; a 1999 Directors Guild of Japan interview with Ichikawa, conducted by critic and filmmaker Yuki Mori; the learned opinions of critic, filmmaker and festival programmer Tony Rayns; and an essay by critic Michael Sragow.

Last week, Andrey Konchalovskiy’s Holocaust drama, Paradise, was favorably reviewed in this space. Had I known that I’d be considering a movie by his younger brother so soon afterwards, I might have held off my thoughts for a few days. As is my wont, I enjoy pairing movies with common elements and the work of siblings easy qualifies. Konchalovskiy and Nikita Mikhalkov have separately enjoyed moments on the red carpets leading to the Academy Awards, Cannes, Venice, César, Golden Eagle and various other awards ceremonies. Mikhalkov is best known here for Burnt by the Sun (1994), Close to Eden (1991), Dark Eyes (1987) and A Slave of Love (1976). His latest period drama, Sunstroke, wasn’t shown here upon its release in 2014. It won a few Golden Eagle awards, in Russia, but nothing special. It is set in both 1907, while the sun still shone on the monarchy and the bourgeoisie, and 1920, at the height of the Red Terror, during which troops loyal to the Tsar were severely punished. Sunstroke opens at a makeshift prison compound, where officers have been told to wait patiently for Moscow’s decision regarding their fate. Most have come to believe that their Bolshevik captors fully intend to send them home in a few days. No one is being beaten or tortured – as has been reported in other camps – and there’s even time for a soldier with a camera to attempt a group portrait. The arrival of a stern female Bolshevik, dressed in black leather, suggests that those days are numbered.

Soon enough, Mikhalkov focuses our attention on a single prisoner, Poruchik (Martinsh Kalita), whose memory of better times takes us back to a leisurely steamboat trip, up the Volga, full of fancily dressed passengers and children having a grand old time. Poruchik’s uniform is as white as it good possibly be and his sword appears never to have been tainted by human blood. On the journey, he is struck dumb by the appearance of a mysterious beauty (Viktoriya Solovyova), listed in the credits merely as Strange Woman. Upon their arrival at the first major town, they depart the steamboat and enjoy a blissful night in each other’s arms. The next morning, she leaves him the vaguest of goodbye notes, before hopping on the first boat heading upriver. When Poruchik realizes that he’s been left high and dry, he spends the rest of the day in the company of a boy who knows his way around the docks and gives him hope of catching up with Strange Woman. It’s easily the most satisfying section of Sunstroke, even if it foreshadows the sadness to come. After flashing backwards and forward in time, the prisoners are told they will finally be allowed to leave, on a large less-than-seaworthy barge. Or, will they? Either way, Mikhalkov ties up past and present in a largely satisfactory way. The problem, however, is that the abrupt transitions leave too many of the other questions unanswered and plotlines hanging. The film looks gorgeous, however, and that has to count for something.

It wasn’t until I watched Thirsty all the way through that I realized the musical biopic – “post-queer musical biopic,” if you will – tells the real-life story of self-described “girly-boy” and drag entertainer Scott Townsend (a.k.a., Thirsty Burlington). Unlike many such performers, who lip-synch the songs of the women they’re impersonating, Burlington is a very capable singer. For as long as he can remember, Townsend’s favored his predominantly feminine side and, growing up, paid the price by being bullied unmercifully in the projects of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The only time his alcoholic mother (Deirdre Lovejoy) complained was when little Scott decided he would save himself some agony at school by cutting his long, black hair and eyebrows. She merely thought he’d done a sloppy job of it. From an early age, Townsend displayed a gift for singing showtunes (“Jesus Christ Superstar”) and pop songs by such kitschy artists as Captain & Tennille. Recognizing the lad’s untapped talent, an uncle invited Scott to join his group on the Jerry Lewis Telethon. After getting through one number without a problem, he alienated the crowd by assuming the female point-of-view in the follow-up.

The singer he was born to impersonate – in song, dress and makeup — was Cher … an iconic staple of every drag revue on the planet. It won him a place with a local troupe, as Thirsty, as well as a loyal following. The only stumbling block he faced early on came from his boyfriend’s desire for a manly-man lover, not one who preferred looking like a woman. Thirsty is enhanced by plenty of singing and dancing. Indeed, director Margo Pelletier cushions several of the early bullying scenes by modeling them after the fights in “West Side Story.”  Cole Canzano and Jonny Beauchamp, the young and teenage versions of Townsend, are quite convincing, as is Lovejoy. Clearly, though, Thirsty was made on the cheap and it suffers, as well, from a non-linear narrative. The DVD adds commentary, cast interviews, an “All That I Am” music video and Pelletier’s original storyboards. In Thirsty’s real act, she supplements Cher, with impersonation of Sonny Bono, Judy Garland, Little Edie Beale and Townsend’s own drag persona.

The Girl Without Hands: Blu-ray
Based on a lesser-known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, The Girl Without Hands conveys more information with a few well-chosen brushstrokes than dozens of other animated features I’ve seen lately. Writer/director/cinematographer/editor Sébastien Laudenbach employs an economic, yet visually striking style, using characters and backgrounds painted on paper in bold calligraphic lines and unexpected colors. In an interview included in the package, he allows that the technique allowed him to complete the project in far less time than usual, while telling a fully realized story. As it goes, an impoverished miller sells his daughter to a shape-shifting Devil (Philippe Laudenbach) for an endless stream of gold. Protected by her purity, la jeune fille (Anaïs Demoustier) escapes, but only after her father cuts off her hands. Walking away from her family, she encounters the goddess of water, a gentle gardener and the prince (Jérémie Elkaïm), who brings her to his castle and impregnates her. The prince is away, at war, when the baby arrives, and the announcement sent to him is so muddled by the Devil’s handiwork that the mother feels forced to flee with her infant son to the distant mountains. She awaits heavenly intervention to overcome the Devil, praying it doesn’t come too late.

Rise of the Footsoldier: Part II
Just as Chicago’s infamous Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre inspired dozens of movies and television shows over the next 80-something years, the slaughter of three drug dealers on December 6, 1995, near the village of Rettendon, in Essex, has become part of British gangland lore. It’s known by various names, including the Rettendon Murders, Range Rover murders and Essex murders, while, by my count, inspiring nine separate film accounts, including prequels, sequels, spinoffs and rip-offs. Two local hoodlums were each given three life sentences for the murders, which they deny committing, with a recommendation that they serve a minimum of 15 years. There are three films in the Rise of the Footsoldier franchise. (Essex Boys and Bonded in Blood being the other two series.) The newly released second installment followed the original to DVD by eight years. It features the lone surviving member of the gangs, Carlton Leach (Ricci Harnett), has he tries to numb the pain of his friends’ loss through drugs and the desire for revenge. He’s also found a path to salvation that lies in climbing the ranks of the criminal underworld he had abandoned. Once at the top, he plans to use his power to destroy his friends’ killers once and for all. It’s easier said than done. I haven’t had to watch all nine films – thank God, for small favors – but the ones I have seen are hyper-violent, unpleasantly loud and probably not terribly accurate, none of which should discourage action junkies. I lost count of how many time the c-word is deployed, but it must be near 50. And, yes, I realize the word carries far more weight here than it does in England. Still, viewers with sensitive ears are forewarned. Besides starring in the first two of three “ROTFS” entities, Harnett directed and wrote this one.

Irish actress Valene Kane uses her cute overbite to its best advantage as a CIA whistleblower, Riley Connors, living in exile in Colombia. After two hard years, Riley’s old partner Bill Donovan (Charlie Weber) shows up with an offer she’s too gullible – they once were lovers — to refuse. If Kane helps the agency recover millions in ill-gotten money being laundered through Colombian banks, she’s told the agency will allow her to return to the U.S. with a clean record. While tracing the money’s paper trail isn’t difficult for Riley, she doesn’t foresee becoming a moving target for the criminals, corrupt agents and former boyfriend. It’s a pretty standard actioner that benefits from being shot on location in Colombia, but suffers from a tight budget. As straight-to-DVD movies go, it isn’t bad.

Doomsday Device
Previously known as “Pandora’s Box,” Doomsday Device went straight-to-Syfy in Australia and straight-to-DVD or VOD everywhere else. In it, an odd-couple pair of FBI agents are on the trail of several elusive crooks, who have stumbled upon an ancient Japanese artifact of enormous power. A rich businessman is willing to pay a fortune for it, so the agency puts the investigation on the front burner. When cops or rival crooks come close to taking possession of the box, whoever is holding it at the time opens the cover and unleashes a shitstorm of violent meteorological events. It’s at this point that I said, “Whoa!” That’s because the cloud spewing lightning bolts and molten boulders towards Earth looks exactly like doomsday clouds in the last half-dozen Syfy disaster flicks I’ve seen, including last month’s Shockwave. I expect better from my cheesy disaster pictures and so should you.

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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