MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: I Feel Pretty, Never Really Here, In Harmony, Leisure Seeker, Scorpion’s Tail, Hong Sangsoo, Doom Asylum, T2, The Tunnel, The Good Place … More

I Feel Pretty: Blu-ray
There’s an air of not-so-quiet desperation that permeates Amy Schumer’s third star vehicle, I Feel Pretty. Everything that made the let-it-all-hang-out comic such a hot commodity, only two years ago, appears to have been drained from a property that suffers from an almost complete lack of bodacious, in-your-face humor and self-deprecating mischief. Seemingly, it would be too easy to blame what must have been a demand for a PG-13 rating, but if you put a muzzle on an attack dog, it loses its bite. Trainwreck (2015) made a lot of money for Universal, despite an “R” rating and anemic overseas numbers. It made fans of her of her unbridled sketch-comedy show, “Inside Amy Schumer,” feel right at home, while appealing to men with meaty appearances by John Cena, LeBron James, Tony Romo, Amar’e Stoudemire and Marv Albert. Pairing Schumer with her blond soulmate Goldie Hawn, in Snatched (2017), must have seemed like a no-brainer for the geniuses at Fox, but it fell on its face at the box office and failed to impress critics. In this case, its “R” rating probably had a negative impact on Hawn’s older fans … that, and her off-putting cosmetic surgery. The most obvious things missing in Snatched and I Feel Pretty, however, are writer’s credits for Schumer and directors comfortable working outside the box.  Trainwreck was helmed by kindred spirit Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), who had no problem identifying and expanding upon Schumer’s strengths as an actor. If she was accorded sole writer’s credit, Apatow reportedly encouraged improvisation between takes, which suited the star’s modus operandi and the talents of a cast loaded with actors adept at working off-the-cuff. By contrast, the vacation-from-hell comedy, Snatched, was written and directed by proven talents — Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies), Katie Dippold (The Heat) – who likely were instructed to color within the lines and refrain from taking risks.

I Feel Pretty was co-written by rom-com specialists Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (How to Be Single), who might have been better advised to surrender directing duties to someone with more experience than a single awarding-winning short (“Fairfax Fandango”), 20 years ago. In it, Schumer never seems comfortable playing Renee, a noticeably overweight woman — if hardly obese or unattractive — who constantly struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. The woeful website manager for a large cosmetics firm makes some painfully awkward attempts at getting into shape, but she fails in every predictable way possible. After being knocked unconscious in a fall from a SoulCycle machine, Renee wakes up believing she is suddenly the most beautiful, shapely and capable woman on the planet. To the outside world, she’s the same old Renee, minus the feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Her newfound self-confidence opens the door to an opportunity at the cosmetics firm run by the grandmother/granddaughter team of Lilly and Avery Leclair (Lauren Hutton, Michelle Williams). Instead of working in a dumpy Chinatown office, she’d become one of the company’s public faces in an uptown hi-rise. Naturally, the wannabe fashionistas who handle Leclair’s day-to-day operations can’t see beyond Renee’s ugly-duckling exterior and pedestrian contributions to planning sessions. Leclerc’s sophisticated and still radiantly beautiful founder, Lilly, relishes her strangely intrusive employee’s enthusiasm, dedication to duty and business strategies designed more for everyday consumers than models, who don’t have to pay for the cosmetics they endorse.

Through her website experience, Renee professes to know how to develop a line of great-looking makeup, as well as a marketing scheme designed to appeal to people who shop at Target. (The retail chain is one of several products and companies all too prominently placed throughout I Feel Pretty.) Her new attitude impacts her relationship with two eligible bachelors, one of whom has six-pack abs (Tom Hopper) and the other (Rory Scovel), carries six-packs home from work. The only question that remains unsettled throughout the second third of the movie is what will happen to Renee’s Cinderella moment when, as is inevitable, she falls and hits her head again. As rom-coms go, I Feel Pretty is neither completely unwatchable, nor remotely memorable. It’s just sort of … well, there. If it weren’t for the moments when Schumer improvises in front of the mirror and receives jolts of energy from her funny co-stars, who also include Aidy Bryant, Busy Phillips, Sasheer Zamata and Adrian Martinez, the movie would have sunk under the weight of its leaden clichés and tropes after the first act. (One of the biggest laughs comes when Renee’s exercise partner, played by the stunningly gorgeous Emily Ratajkowski, bemoans her invisible “imperfections.”) The Blu-ray adds deleted scenes, a gag reel and the making-of featurette, “Being Pretty.”

You Were Never Really Here: Blu-ray
If we, as Americans, knew for a certainty that sexual predators would refrain from preying on children, if they were threatened with vigilante justice, instead of a trial, it’s fair to wonder how many heinous crimes would be nipped in the bud. That was the question left for audiences to ponder after watching Taxi Driver, Dirty Harry, Death Wish, Standing Tall, Billy Jack and a half-dozen other violence-driven dramas of the 1970s, in which antiheroes accomplished what even the most sympathetic judges and hamstrung prosecutors weren’t allowed to do: rid society of its defective elements. Antiheroes went out of fashion during the Reagan/Bush years, when robotic cops were introduced to do our dirty work. They were followed into megaplexes by comic-book superheroes who performed the same unsavory chores. Lynne Ramsay’s powerful drama, You Were Never Really Here, returns to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when flesh-and-blood antiheros walked the earth and rescued damsels in distress. Hi-yo, Silver! Away! Among the many differences between the Lone Ranger and Ramsey’s protagonist, Joe, is the Western hero’s customary refusal of remuneration and the mercenary’s insistence on being well-paid for his services. Otherwise, one wears a mask and cowboy hat, while the other disguises his identity with a hoodie. The Lone Ranger relies on the proceeds of a silver mine to support his good work, while Joe takes his orders from a money-grubbing middle man. One used his pearl-handle revolver to intimidate criminals, while the other’s weapon of choice is a ball-peen hammer, which he uses to bash in the skulls of scumbags.

Joe will remind audiences more of Travis Bickle than the Lone Ranger, although neither of the Avenging Angels accepted money for their contributions to society. Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader’s antihero describes himself, thusly, “Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There’s no escape. I’m God’s lonely man.” The same thing can be said of Joe, who remains in the shadows, leaves no trails and whose only companion appears to be his invalid mother. At 88 minutes, Ramsey doesn’t allow her audience much time to ponder the similarities between Joe and Travis, beyond a belief they’re saving defenseless teenage girls from a life of sin, depravity and brutality.  Neither does the Glasgow-born filmmaker, who’s made such demanding movies as Ratcatcher (1999), Morvern Callar (2003) and We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011), burden us with much of a backstory on Joe, the mercenary killer played by Joaquin Phoenix, or the sex traffickers he dispatches with a single blow. The only things we really know about him involve a sketchy tour of duty in a terrible foreign war, being tortured as a boy by his father and a samurai’s determination to perform as trained, with a minimum of fuss and noise. (In Jonathan Ames short novel of the same title, Joe’s complementary skills are explained by his being a former FBI agent and Marine.) Unlike Bickle, too, there’s no time for Joe to woo a beautiful young campaign worker by taking her to a porn theater in Times Square. When he isn’t working, Joe watches television at home, with his mother.

Like Scorsese, Ramsey amplifies the horror in You Were Never Really Here with an immersive musical track – composed by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood — and disturbing sound effects. Phoenix doesn’t look as if he’s shaved or combed his hair since he “dropped out” after Two Lovers (2008). Clearly, though, Joe carries Bickle’s DNA. It manifests itself in the character’s eyes. Here, the central crime involves the abduction of the seemingly virginal 13-year-old daughter (Ekaterina Samsonov) of a U.S. Senator, who’s connected to a governor being investigated for sex crimes. Joe gets his assignments through a middleman (John Doman) and receives his pay through a cut-out operative in the back room of a New York bodega. Joe’s is a master at tracking leads and locations through high-security software. If it doesn’t take him long to find the girl, who’s being softened for the role of sex slave, it’s only because the battle for his soul is only just beginning. And, once again, the ferocity of Ramsey’s storytelling leaves us no time to concern ourselves with occasional holes in logic. Obviously, the R-rated picture isn’t for everyone, even those who may be drawn to it by their memories of Phoenix’s portrayal of Johnny Cash. Fans of hard-core crime dramas should check out You Were Never Really Here, if only for the test of nerves it provides. It’s interesting to note that the film was submitted to the 2017 Cannes Film Festival in an unfinished state, and it was completed only a few days before the first public screening. Even so, the Palme d’Or nominee came away with a Best Actor award for Phoenix and tied for Best Screenplay with Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

The Leisure Seeker
Here’s a movie for people, like moi, who complain endlessly about the lack of films made for adults who haven’t read a comic book in 40 years and provide substantial roles for actors well beyond a certain age. The Leisure Seeker stars 83-year-old Donald Sutherland and 72-year-old Helen Mirren – with a cameo by comedian Dick Gregory, who died last August, at 84 – neither of whom have suffered lately from lack of quality work. Even so, in his first English-language undertaking, Italian director Paolo Virzi (Human Capital) elicits performances from the old pros that doesn’t require them to be anything but themselves and act their respective ages. I shudder to think, however, what kind of indignities they may have had to endure if The Leisure Seeker were financed by a Hollywood studio and blatantly targeted at a cross-generational audience. (The casting of Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan in the dreadful Georgia Rule provided a negative example of what can happen when such pairings are forced, while Paul Weitz’s indie dramedy, Grandma, gave Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner an opportunity to show how they can be made to work.) Shot in various locations along the Eastern Seaboard, The Leisure Seeker is more of an Italian feel than most American pizzerias. Much to the chagrin of their adult children, Ella and John Spencer have decided to take an excursion – perhaps, their last – in their antique Winnebago Leisure Seeker motorhome, which has provided them with a wealth of pleasant memories. What frightens their son and daughter most is the fact that John has Alzheimer’s and occasionally drifts into a world of his own. Since Ella continues to allow her husband to do almost all the driving, the trip from Wellesley, Massachusetts, to Key West, could either turn out to be a fitting valedictory for a longtime marriage or a demolition derby.

In his prime, John introduced thousands of well-heeled students to the novels of Ernest Hemingway. Today, he wants nothing more than to visit the author’s home on the island. Virzi fell in love with Michigan writer Michael Zadoorian’s best-seller of the same title, which became especially popular in Italy. As co-written by Francesca Archibugi, Francesco Piccolo and Stephen Amidon, the script takes the usual liberties with the source material, but nothing that doesn’t make sense in the context of a road picture or buddy film, in which the protagonists are husband and wife. Since I haven’t read the book, I can only surmise that a lot of the mayhem caused by John’s illness was tempered to allow for entertaining encounters with the kind of everyday Americans one meets on a highway linking very different parts of the same country. Gregory’s cameo comes in a nursing home, to which Elle expelled her husband after his memory returns long enough to recall a serious lapse of judgment in his youth. Otherwise, a lot of the humor derives from people who’ve sold their houses and now live in their motorhomes; at a pro-Trump rally in the South; an encounter with modern-day highwaymen; and a friendly motorcycle gang. The pace is leisurely and Luca Bigazzi’s cinematography nicely captures a landscape that must have been completely foreign to him. Moreover, the actors’ considerate chemistry prevents the unhappy moments from becoming overly sentimental or, worse, maudlin. The DVD adds a making-of featurette and a couple of panel discussions.

In Harmony
Here’s another heart-rending and entirely relatable drama that should appeal to grown-up viewers, especially those who’ve recently been faced with life- and career-changing issues. If that sounds a bit on the heavy side, credit the team behind French writer/director Denis Dercourt (The Page Turner) for making In Harmony an experience that’s as entertaining as it is meaningful. Based on co-writer/adviser Bernard Sachsé’s real-life story, it stars Albert Dupontel (See You Up There) as an equestrian stuntman, Marc Guermont, whose movie career comes to an abrupt and painful end when his horse reacts to an unexpected explosion by throwing him and stepping on his back. Without consuming a lot of time on Marc’s exhaustive hospital stay and therapy sessions, viewers pick up on the proud and stubborn horseman’s life as he returns to his farm, committed to rebuild his career as a trainer from scratch. Spoiler: that isn’t going to happen … at least, not in the way he expects. The part of Sachsé’s book to which most people can relate is his battle with the movie company’s insurance provider, which is willing to go the distance to cheat him out of the settlement due a man, who, through no fault of his own, will never work in his chosen profession or, perhaps, get on the back of a horse, again. The insurance company is represented by an attractive, largely fictional character, Florence (Cécile de France), whose job is to talk the 50-something Guermont into accepting a settlement that, while sizable, eventually wouldn’t cover expenses on his farm, home and pursuits.

Before long, the no-nonsense claims adjuster is forced to balance her obligations to her employer with her natural sympathy for anyone in Marc’s predicament. Florence is aware of the fact the company is willing to put as much financial pressure on the claimant as is necessary to get him to sign the settlement agreement. This includes illegally freezing his assets and cutting back on payments to workmen hired to retrofit his home and maintain Marc’s boarding and training business. While his courage in the face of adversity impresses her, it’s his recognition of the frustration she feels over an aborted career as a concert pianist that finally works on her heart. Knowing that Guermont doesn’t have the wherewithal to contact a lawyer willing to go the distance against the company, Florence is faced with the dilemma of giving in to her growing fondness for the man or committing an unethical act certain to get her fired, if discovered. It doesn’t help matters any that she’s married to a decent man, and their daughter also plays the piano. Or, that here husband and Marc have occasion to do business with each other. Here on in, however, lie plot twists that make In Harmony such a pleasurable viewing experience. And, while it’s a distinctly French entertainment, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that someone in Hollywood is preparing a script in which Marc is recuperating rodeo star or jockey … same circumstances, same ending, different language. In addition to terrific performance by the veteran actors, Dupontel and de France (Hereafter), kudos go out to the chestnut stallion, Othello, who proves to be as empathetic and versatile in a supporting role as most human actors in similar circumstances.

The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg
Typically, westerners are far more interested in the traditional arts and crafts of Asian, African, Latin American and indigenous artists than anything painted or sculpted within the last 100 years. After all, it’s what’s taught in colleges and displayed in museums, alongside mummies, suits of armor, furniture and dinner sets commissioned by royalty. We’ll stand in line for hours to see the paintings of French Impressionists and Spanish Surrealists, Americans are far more suspicious of Modern arts … unless it comes attached with a brand name, like Andy Warhol. Look how long it’s taken for American museums to embrace the brilliant work of such Mexican artists as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Even though Mexico is our next-door neighbor and the artists have spent time working in the U.S., they might as well be from Togo. Then, too, the governments of many Third World and underdeveloped nations have shown themselves to be openly antagonistic to artists whose bodies haven’t been a-mouldering in their graves for a couple of centuries, at least. Indeed, a commitment to Modern art – even when it isn’t meant to be controversial or provocative – can land artists, filmmakers and free-thinkers in jail or banishment to other countries. World opinion and prestigious awards work in the favor of some persecuted artists, of course, but not always. One such irrepressible artist, Ai Weiwei, plays a prominent role in the eye-opening documentary, Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg, by German writer, culture advisor and theater director Michael Schindhelm.

It begins by recounting the development of the first joint venture between a Westeern company and China, initiated by the Swiss-based Schindler Group. Then, it introduces us to the Swiss diplomat, businessman, journalist and art collector, Uli Sigg, who worked for Schindler – frequently under conditions completely alien to Swiss executives – and made solid contributions to what was then a struggling Chinese economy and infrastructure. While stationed there in various capacities, Sigg developed a passion for modern Chinese art and the country’s often beleaguered and underappreciated cultural community. In time, he became the largest private collector of contemporary Chinese art in the world. Sigg is credited here by artist Weiwei, pianist Lang Lang and curator Victoria Lu for championing the artists he admires, working tirelessly for their international recognition and preserving their work as a record of China’s tumultuous and historic changes, especially those undertaken since the end of the Cultural Revolution. Moreover, in 1997, he organized the annual Chinese Contemporary Art Awards. In  2012, he donated 1,463 works by 350 Chinese artists to a new museum, scheduled to open next year in Hong Kong. His donation to the M+ includes 26 works by Weiwei and other works by Ding Yi, Fang Lijun, Geng Jianyi, Gu Wenda, Huang Yongping, Liu Wei, Xu Bing and Zhang Xiaogang. The combined works are worth an estimated $163 million. Nevertheless, the donation garnered negative press in mainland China, because he decided to hold back 300 works for his personal collection. While the controversy is discussed in the doc, the emphasis is on the paintings, sculptures and mixed-media exhibits that are brilliantly colorful, highly whimsical and surprisingly topical.

I Am Another You
It’s always interesting to see what America looks like through the eyes of strangers, especially if those eyes belong to artists accustomed to looking at life through a lens. With her humanistic documentary profile of a homeless millennial, Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang has joined the likes of Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas), Michelangelo Antonioni (Zabriskie Point), Louis Malle’s (Atlantic City), Lars von Trier (Dogville), Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in America), Roman Polanski (Chinatown) and Peter Watkins (Punishment Park), to name just a few of the directors who’ve used broad strokes to depict Americans in their native habitats. Not all of them have gotten it quite right – Antonioni whiffed on his portrayal of student radicals in 1960s, while capturing the timeless beauty of Death Valley – but, when they do, as was the case in Paris, Texas and Once Upon a Time in America, we benefit from their fresh perspectives on our way of life. In her early 30s, with only one other documentary feature (Hooligan Sparrow) under her belt, Wang probably would blush to mentioned in the same breath as those filmmakers, but, for what it attempts to achieve, I Am Another You deserves some consideration alongside their movies. Currently residing in New York, Wang was born in a small farming village in Jiangxi Province, China.  She lost her father when she was 12 years old and was forced to drop out of school to work, so she could support her family. Unable to afford high school, Wang enrolled in a vocational school and eventually started working as a teacher at the primary level. Several years later, Wang was granted a full fellowship from Shanghai University, while enrolled in a graduate program for English language and literature. Having developed a late interest in film, she returned to school to study it. She also earned a journalism degree from Ohio University and a degree from New York University’s Documentary Program.

In I Am Another You, she uses one young man’s decision to join the homeless masses to address her fascination with how Americans define and explore their constitutional right to pursue freedom. In 2011, while staying at a Florida hostel, she met a personable 22-year-old Utah native, Dylan, who’d been living on the road for a year. Looking a bit like a young Matthew McConaughey, Dylan’s idea of being homeless conforms to how hippies lived, traveled and supported themselves in the late 1960s, at least until Charles Manson gave the communal lifestyle a bad name. (Before the so-called Manson Family was apprehended for the Tate-LaBianca murders, young people lined the streets of university towns, hoping to catch a ride to places from Alaska to Florida. After their pseudo-hippie conceits were revealed, you could wait days for a ride and go a hundred miles in any direction without seeing a hitchhiker.) Wang considered Dylan to be something of a “barefoot philosopher,” speaking with clarity and conviction about a life free from materialistic constraints and conventional expectations. “Eating, happiness and community” are his only goals, he says. In the documentary, we watch him panhandle and beg for money, cigarettes and food, some of which he’ll simply give away to other vagrants. Wang follows Dylan with her camera on a journey that takes her across America, sleeping in parks, scratching for food, dodging police and communing with other people deemed “homeless.” She meets his father and mother, who are divorced, and discovers some of her subject’s backstory. It includes an estrangement from the Mormon faith, a serious drug habit, bouts with unchecked bipolarism and a constant desire to live off the grid.

In what amounts to the third act of I Am Another You, Wang is invited to attend the second marriage of Dylan’s father – a likable guy, by the way – to a woman who bears a passing resemblance to his ex-wife. Since she saw her subject last, Dylan appears to have cleaned up his act and is enjoying a clear-eyed view of life. He’s cut his hair, gets along well with his siblings, dad, stepmother and other guests at the wedding, and appears ready to stick around for a while. He even has a girlfriend, who’s only slightly better off than he is. As his father suspects, however, the proximity to old friends with bad habits puts him back on the road to substance abuse and mental instability. Living under a familiar roof becomes as foreign to him as eating pizza from the garbage was for the filmmaker. We’re left with the feeling that, without medication and therapy, Dylan is going to hit a dead-end sometime very soon. His good looks and engaging sense of humor will fade, and he won’t be able to rely on the kindness of strangers – some of whom we meet – for his needs.

The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail: Special Edition: Blu-ray
Just when you think you’ve seen all the gialli worth watching, another terrific specimen pops up and grabs you by the jugular … this one from a distance of 47 years. When committing one’s time to surveying the masterworks of an unfamiliar genre, subgenre or national cinema, the temptation always is to start with the work of most famous practitioners and continue down the ladder until it’s time to move on to something else. When it comes to giallo, of course, that means focusing on such prolific practitioners as Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Umberto Lenzi, Lucio Fulci and Antonio Margheriti. That would, however, be like limiting one’s intact of hard-boiled crime fiction to such influencers of film noir as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain. There’s so much more to be seen and read, it’s ridiculous to think you’ll ever have enough free time to make it through the first decade’s worth of source material. For the last couple of years, at least, Arrow Video has become one of the go-to companies for re-releases and upgrades of classic giallo, Westerns, horror and police dramas. It’s allowed other distributors to work the cannibal market, but, considering how many directors dabbled in the other subgenres, it always comes up in discussions included in the exemplary supplemental featurettes. Arrow’s “Special Edition” of Sergio Martino’s excellent jet-set giallo, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, reminded me of two things, 1) how much I enjoyed Blu-rays of Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) and Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975), and 2) how many more titles are left for me to explore, including Torso (1973), All the Colors of the Dark (1972) and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, which only cover his giallo phase. Like several other contemporaries, Martino began his career assisting on sword-and-sandal films, like Hercules Against Rome (1964), then moved on to sexploitation  docs (Naked and Violent), Spaghetti Westerns (Arizona Colt Returns), sex comedies (Giovannona Long-Thigh), cannibal horror (Slave of the Cannibal God), creature features (The Great Alligator), straight  horror (The Scorpion With Two Tails), sci-fi (The Fishmen and Their Queen), thrillers (Casablanca Express ), erotica (The Smile of the Fox) and, until 2012, TV movies and series (“Carabinieri”). Like most of the other noteworthy Italian directors, he’s surrounded himself with such international sex symbols as Barbara Bach, Ursula Andress, Barbara Bouchet, Senta Berger, Carol Alt, Anita Strindberg, Suzy Kendall and, female muse, Edwige Fenech. Among his leading men were Luc Merenda, Richard Conte, Glenn Ford, Donald Pleasence, Mel Ferrer, Stacy Keach, George Segal, and, male muse, George Hilton.

The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail has so many red herrings and unexpected twists, it’s frequently been compared to thrillers by Alfred Hitchcock, especially Psycho. It opens with the mysterious death of a millionaire, in  a midflight explosion. Even as the fiery debris is falling to Earth, his wife, Lisa (Evelyn Stewart), is enjoying a sexual liaison with her English lover. It isn’t the most secure alibi that a woman about to inherit a small fortune could have, but it’s convenient. Lisa must fly to Athens to collect the inheritance. (With other stops planned in Rome and Madrid.) It is also where a bevy of criminals is waiting to separate her from the money, which a blackmailer has instructed her to carry around the city in a suitcase. An insurance-fraud investigator, Peter (George Hilton), is also on her trail, which ends rather abruptly with the disappearance of the dough and end of Lisa’s role in the movie. The search for the money moves to a gorgeous Greek island, where the investigator and his journalist lover (Anita Strindberg) pick up the scent of a razor-toting ninja. The typically tangled script by Ernesto Gastaldi (Death Walks on High Heels), and complementary musical score by Quentin Tarantino-favorite Bruno Nicolai, help make The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail one of giallo’s more definitive, as well as entertaining titles. The Arrow package benefits from a new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative; the original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks; Italian/English dialogue tracks; commentary with writer Ernesto Gastaldi; lengthy interviews with Hilton and Martino; analysis of Martino’s films by Mikel J. Koven, author of “La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film”; a video essay by Troy Howarth, author of “So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films”; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon; and, in he first pressing, an illustrated collector’s booklet, featuring writing on the film by Rachael Nisbet and Howard Hughes, and a biography of star Anita Strindberg, by Peter Jilmstad.

Doom Asylum: Blu-ray
Released in 1987, Richard Friedman and Rick Marx’s bargain-basement sendup of slasher films, Doom Asylum, was meta before meta was cool. (I just became familiar with meta-horror and wanted to use the adjective in a review as soon as possible.) As cheesy as it looks most of the time, the story is sound enough to support the deliberate excesses of its creative team. It opens with a terrible automobile accident that leaves a young woman dead and her lover shockingly burned and mutilated. The first tip that Doom Asylum is playing fast and loose with genre conventions comes when the survivor crawls to his girlfriend’s side and picks up her severed hand, as if it were a prop in a Shakespearean tragedy. After passing out, the victim is taken to a nearby sanatorium, where he’s put on a slab in the mortuary, in advance of some slicing and dicing by the tool-obsessed coroner and his assistant. After managing to fight them off, using their chest cutter as his weapon, the badly deformed and constantly bleeding creature decides to take up residence in the building, even when it’s abandoned. Ten years later, the daughter of the dead woman organizes a road trip to visit the site of the accident, where their car breaks down, leaving them stranded just outside the gates of the sanitarium. (Patty Mullen, who will forever be known first as a former Penthouse model, and secondly for her performances here and in Frankenhooker, plays both mother and daughter.) Once there, the mixed group of nerds and yuppies set up a picnic lunch, but not before the women strip down to their bathing suits.

In a completely in explicable coincidence, a band of female punk rockers has taken over the roof of the abandoned facility to practice their act. Disturbed by the presence of their uninvited audience, they bombard them with water balloons made from condoms. The confrontation includes a topless scene by scream queen Ruth Collins that’s so obviously forced and gratuitous that it’s the opposite of erotic. Not only are the musicians pissed off, but the killer (Michael Rogan) is none too pleased to share his domicile with the trespassers. One by one, the visitors leave the safety of their respective groups to explore the creepy, graffiti-adorned interior, only to be savagely attacked by the killer. (The set design was provided by teenagers and vagrants who used the former hospital as an out-of-the-way place to crash or party.) As befits a slasher parody, Doom Asylum includes a “final girl” and special makeup effects that look even less convincing in hi-def. To pad out the original 79-minute running time, scenes from George King’s 1936 melodrama, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, starring Tod Slaughter, are spliced into Doom Asylum to extend its runtime to almost 90 minutes. (The killer is watching the black-and-white movie on television.) Now, here’s the pièce de résistance: a 22-year-old Kristin Davis (“Sex and the City”) made her film debut in Doom Asylum as a doomed bookworm. She wears black-rimmed glasses and a baby-blue one-piece bathing suit, which, sadly, stays on her girlish bodyuntil her date with destiny. (As weak as Davis’ acting is here, it’s more accomplished than anything in Sex and the City 2.)  The Arrow package includes archival interviews with producer Alexander W. Kogan Jr., director Richard Friedman and production manager Bill Tasgal; “Morgues & Mayhem,” new interview with special-makeup-effects creator Vincent J. Guastini; “Movie Madhouse,” a fresh interview with DP Larry Revene; “Tina’s Terror, with Collins, who explains how she was talked into doffing her top; audio commentaries with The Hysteria Continues and screenwriter Rick Marx; a still gallery; a reversible sleeve, featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourne; and a fully illustrated collector’s booklet with new writing by Amanda Reyes.

Two Films by Hong Sangsoo: Special Edition: Blu-ray
On the Beach at Night Alone: Blu-ray
I’m not sure how the folks at the independent British distribution company, Arrow Films, differentiate between the world cinema, cult, art, horror and classic films only recently made available here on its Arrow Video and Arrow Academy labels, via MVD Entertainment Group. According to its Facebook page, Arrow Academy “brings cinephiles prestige editions of new and classic films from the greatest filmmakers across the globe.” (What constitutes a “new classic”?) Arrow Video kicked off its American division in spring of 2015, with the Spaghetti Western, Day of Anger; Michael Armstrong’s horror, Mark of the Devil; and the “bizarro yakuza/samurai/ghost-story/horror hybrid” Blind Woman’s Curse. Two years later, Arrow introduced its Academy line into North America, with Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp’s The Creeping Garden; Elio Petri’s The Assassin and Property Is No Longer a Theft; and Luchino Visconti’s Ludwig. Apparently, it comes down to Grindhouse vs. Arthouse. This week, the aforementioned Case of the Scorpion’s Tail and Doom Asylum represent AV, while “Two Films by Hong Sangsoo” — Woman Is the Future of Man (2004) and Tale of Cinema (2005) – are a better fit for AA’s criteria. Makes sense.  At the last moment, Cinema Guild snuck Hong’s On the Beach at Night Alone in on me. It’s one of three films released by the hyper-prolific Korean writer/director in 2017 and it’s easy to see how his approach has evolved in the interim. There’s no question that Hong’s work fits snuggly within the confines of the arthouse category and shouldn’t be confused with the far more accessible output of such Korean Renaissance exemplars as Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden), Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder, Mother), Kim Ki-duk Kim (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, Moebius), Kim Jee-woon (The Good the Bad the Weird, The Age of Shadows) and Yeon Sang-ho (The King of Pigs, Train to Busan).

As a keen observer of human foibles and subtle personality traits, he’s been compared to French New Wave pioneer Eric Rohmer (Pauline at the Beach, Claire’s Knee), whose deliberate approach has been praised, mocked and copied by critics, buffs and contemporaries. I wouldn’t have any problem comparing his highly stylized films to those of Whit Stillman (Metropolitan) and My Dinner with Andre (1981), Louis Malle’s chatty collaboration with theater director Andre Gregory and actor-playwright Wallace Shawn. In Woman Is the Future of Man, two long-time friends — a filmmaker (Kim Taewoo) and an art teacher (Yoo Jitae) – decide to reconnect with a woman (Sung Hyunah) with whom they both had an affair, although only one of them knows it. Lacking appreciable amounts of self-awareness, they quickly demonstrate how little they’ve evolved since college. By contrast, the woman has long overcome any sadness she experienced by being jilted and has successfully gotten on with her life. Tale of Cinema almost imperceptively unfolds as a film within a film, telling two interrelated stories of passion and failure. In the first, a depressive young man (Lee Kiwoo) forms a suicide pact with an old girlfriend (Uhm Jiwon), with whom he’s recently reconnected. In the parallel story, after a failed filmmaker (Kim Sangkyung) sees a movie that he believes is based on his life, he commits to meeting its female lead (also, Uhm Ji-won) and turning their onscreen relationship into reality. Neither the suicide pact, nor the filmmaker’s awkward attempts to make a love connection are particularly successful. Ironically, though, the actress opens herself to an evening of drunken sex with the dork.

If you haven’t guess already, much of what approximates fireworks in Hong’s films is triggered by cheap rice wine and the inflated expectations of delusional men with a blood-borne desire to make films movies. (In “Woman,” both men hit on the same waitress, separately, by requesting she audition for a part in a movie and pose in the nude for a painting. Although flattered, she has no problem rejecting their overtures.) Copious amounts of Soju wine, the allure of the cinema and an ill-advised sexual liaison also inform On the Beach at Night Alone, for which the 36-year-old former model, Kim Min-hee (The Handmaiden), was awarded the Berlin International Film Festival’s top acting award, Silver Bear. In it, she plays an actress, Younghee, who engages in an affair with her older, married director, while on location. After returning home from Europe, she learns to her chagrin that the affair is an open secret among her friends, fans and members of Korea’s artistic community. Even if such liaisons are taken for granted in Hollywood and Europe, the stain of adultery still carries weight back home. While meeting with friends in a lovely beachfront community, Younghee is confronted directly with the allegation and, after much Soju is consumed, the sparks really begin to fly. The title, which, as is his wont, Hong borrowed from a Walt Whitman poem, alludes to the hours of solitude and contemplation Younghee spends on Gyeongpo Beach, a popular place for locals and tourists to watch the sun rise. (Not so ironically, perhaps, the fictional affair mirrors Hong and Kim’s real-life May-September affair, as it was labeled in the press, which left the 58-year-old filmmaker’s 30-year marriage shattered.)

The Arrow Academy package adds newly filmed introductions to both films by Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns; interviews with Kim Sangkyung, Lee Kiwoo and Uhm Jiwon, the stars of Tale of Cinema; an introduction to Woman Is the Future of Man, by director Martin Scorsese; a featurette on the film’s production, with the actors; a stills gallery; reversible sleeve, featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow; and illustrated booklet, with new writing on the films by Michael Sicinski. On the Beach at Night Alone, from Cinema Guild, adds a Q&A from the New York Film Festival; an essay by Mark Peranson; and reversable art, featuring a limited-run poster.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day: Endoarm: Blu-ray, 4K UHD
Just for the record, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the episode in the franchise in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the good Terminator, sent back in time to protect John Connor (Edward Furlong), the boy destined to lead the freedom fighters of the future. John’s scrappy mother, Sarah (Linda Hamilton), has been institutionalized for warning of a nuclear holocaust she knows is inevitable, but no one else believes is coming. Together, the threesome must devise a way to stop T-1000 (Robert Patrick), the most technically evolved and lethal Terminator yet created, whose mission is the opposite of that of his still formidable predecessor. James Cameron also returns as director, with co-writer William Wisher. To merely describe “T2” as an “explosive action-adventure spectacular,” as does some of the marketing material, is to miss the point of making Arnold the good guy and young John, an aspiring juvenile delinquent, who rebels against being forced to live with foster parents. Cameron must not have been thrilled with the idea, either, because the T-1000 eliminated Jenette Goldstein and Xander Berkeley from the story before we got to care very much about them, one way or another. “T2” also became a proving ground for the latest in computer-generated imagery, including the first use of natural human motion for a computer-generated character and the first partially computer-generated main character. The experimentation pushed the budget to within spitting distance of a record $100 million, which, in hindsight, was a bargain. Besides collecting four Academy Awards — Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup and Best Visual Effects — it became the highest-grossing film of 1991, topping out at $205.8 million at the domestic box-office and $315 million in foreign sales, an astounding figure, considering the infrastructure for overseas exhibition was still 10-15 years from being fully developed. The patents on the software probably were worth a pretty penny, as well. Paramount, which took over the series in 2015, with Terminator: Genisys, is expected to release an as-yet-untitled sequel in 2019, with Tim Miller (Deadpool) at the helm.

Now to the matter at hand: Lionsgate’s limited-edition, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day: Endoarm Collector’s Edition,” in Blu-ray, 4K UHD. Fans and collectibles junkies expected the package to be released last December, but, apparently, only the Blu-ray/4K UHD edition was ready for Christmas gifting. While responding to complaints about previous Blu-ray/DVD editions, the Blu-ray/4K upgrade received decidedly mixed reviews from critics, buffs and techies. This had to come as a surprise to fans who expected Cameron’s seal-of-approval on anything with his name attached to it. My untrained eyes and ears savored the 4K UHD presentation, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, on my less-than-state-of-the-art home-theater unit. Since I can’t remember seeing “T2” in any of its iterations, I was free to make comparisons based on unscientific data. Neither have early investors in the $175 “Endoarm Collector’s Edition” sounded terribly impressed with the specially packaged gizmo – limited to 6,000 units — based on complaints lodged on Amazon. Not having been sent a test arm, and not being a collector, I wouldn’t know. As always: caveat emptor. The bonus features included on the Blu-ray disc include a new 55-minute documentary, featuring Cameron, Schwarzenegger and Furlong; deleted scenes with audio commentary; three versions of the film; two commentary tracks; and several featurettes ported over from previous editions. First-timers should know that “T2” has lost none of its considerable ability to entertain sci-fi and action enthusiasts.

A.R.C.H.I.E. 2: Mission ImPAWsible
I don’t suppose that having Michael J. Fox’s name highlighted above the title will hurt sales and rentals of A.R.C.H.I.E. 2: Mission ImPAWsible, Robin Dunne’s Dove-approved follow-up to A.R.C.H.I.E. (2016), especially in Canada. If he needed a second job, the diminutive native of Edmonton, Alberta, probably could sell snowballs to Inuits. The eponymous protagonist gets second billing, even if Fox’s role is limited to providing the voice for the robotic beagle. I didn’t recognize the names of any of the other actors here, although the bulbous Sheldon Bergstrom kind of resembles those other Canadian exports, John Candy, and Ryan Reynolds, in Just Friends. The sequel in a small plane with Paul (Dunne), who is taking flying lessons from A.R.C.H.I.E. We learn that Sydney (Bergstom) has always had a desire to perform in a circus or carnival, but he is largely unqualified to do anything that people would pay money to see. He does, however, talk A.R.C.H.I.E. into serving as his talking sidekick in a ventriloquist act. While the carnival is in terrible financial straits, it does enjoy a rise in attendance thanks to A.R.C.H.I.E. and his buddy. The timing could hardly be any worse, in that the dog with the animated mouth has been contemplating deleting his hard drive, so that he can be a normal dog. And carnival owner, Max (David Milchard), has been thinking about spending more time with his son Gregory (Will Allen Mitchell) and less time with the show. Drama ensues when someone steals the carnival’s money and demands that Paul help him escape in a getaway plane.  He’s also taken Gregory hostage as insurance. Little does the thief know that Paul can’t land the plane without A.R.C.H.I.E.’s assistance and A.R.C.H.I.E.’s computer needs a reboot to function correctly. Not surprisingly, room is left for a second sequel. Maybe the evil, tariff-levying president of the United States can play a villain and Justin Trudeau can enlist A.R.C.H.I.E. in the service of their country to save it from ruin.

Across the River
At 75 minutes, Warren B. Malone’s debut rom-com Across the River is too long to be a short, but too short to find much traction as a theatrical film. It reminds me the material featured on the ShortsTV channel, where pint-sized relationship comedies and dramas are packaged in shows with such headings as “Love Bite,” “Sex in Shorts” and “Shorts in Love.” They allow sufficient time to get to know the characters and understand what makes them tick – as well as a brief roll in the hay, or two – before we figure out how mundane some of them are and it’s time for them to leave us. Anyone who’s attended a festival dedicated to the form knows how difficult crafting a prize-winning short can be, as well as how entertaining they are. Across the River describes what happens when a pair of long-estranged lovers accidentally cross paths along the Thames, in central London. They haven’t seen each other since their romance ended badly, years earlier, so the pain has worn off and they’re surprised and happy for the opportunity to reconnect. It doesn’t take long for Elizabeth Healey’s Emma and Keir Charles’ Ryan to remember what led to their breakup, however, and the temptation to place blame is impossible to resist. This, of course, is followed by a stroll along the river and its parkway, during which they recall the reasons they got together, in the first place. Knowing they both must get to their respective homes, on opposite sides of the river, Emma and Ryan are required to pack a lot emotional baggage in a short period of time. We’re left wondering if they’ve matured sufficiently to give it another go or they’d have to give up too much to even try. That’s it, really. The walk along the Thames is pleasant enough to justify our short investment in time, but nothing about them is exceptional, beyond that.

Male Shorts: International V1
Breaking Glass Pictures presents an international collection of five short films, all of them focusing on gay men, and some of them are explicit. Their only exposure, so far, has been at festivals highlighting LGBTQ titles. “Male Shorts: International V1” is comprised of Just Past Noon on a Tuesday, in which two strangers visit the penthouse of a recently deceased lover, only to find themselves learning more about each other; La Tepette (“The Mousetrap”) features Baptiste, a gay man who can’t stop dreaming about a female contortionist, who works at a local pub and steals cheese from traps; The Storm (“La Tempete”), about a young man, Leo, who fantasizes about a handsome TV weather forecaster, Luca; Neptune, in which a chance encounter with another swimmer at a local pool develops into an obsession; and PD, set in a cruising area that takes on majestic proportions as classic Grecian statues recall sonnets 18, 57 and 20, by William Shakespeare.

PBS: The Tunnel: Vengeance, Season 3: UK Edition
NBC: The Good Place: The Complete Second Season
PBS: Frontline: Blackout in Puerto Rico
PBS: Frontline: Trafficked in America
There’s always a certain amount of trauma attached to the loss of a favorite television show. Audiences invest a lot of time and emotional currency into storylines and characters that, before they were introduced formally, were as foreign to them as delegates to the United Nation. And, yet, mourning the cancellation of a sitcom, mini-series or legal drama is something we’ve all been required to accept, however grudgingly. It explains why reruns of classic shows – and some, not so classic – continue to dominate the cable-television universe and seasonal compilations sell like hotcakes on DVD/Blu-ray. I wonder how a psychiatrist would explain the continued popularity of “I Love Lucy,” “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Andy Griffith Show,” decades after the lights went out on their sets. Are they really that much better than shows made after, say, 1999? Maybe, maybe not. Among the mini-series that I’ve recorded and enjoyed most in the last 10 years, or so, are the 2011 Danish/Swedish crime series “The Bridge” (a.k.a., “Broen” and “Bron”); the British/French offshoot, “The Tunnel” (a.k.a., “Tunnel”); and the U.S./Mexico hybrid, “The Bridge,” which was canceled after a two-year stint on FX. I’ve yet to see the Russian/Estonian spinoff, “The Bridge” (a.k.a., “Мост”/“Sild”), which began airing in the Russian Federation in May. Three of those four series began the same way, with a corpse being discovered smack dab in the middle of a span connecting two different countries. (In “The Tunnel,” the body is discovered on the line dividing France and England, inside the Channel Tunnel. The placement requires the participation and active cooperation of two separate police jurisdictions, with mixed-gender lead investigators. Beyond the expected problems with language differences, the writers further complicate the proceeding by assigning the detectives character traits associated with their cultural backgrounds, as well as medical ticks, relationship issues and political interference.

Sadly, “The Tunnel: Vengeance, Season 3” compilation marks the end of the Anglo/French collaboration. The fourth and final season of the Scandinavian original should soon find its way to streaming services very soon, as well. Season Three of “The Tunnel,” reunites Stephen Dillane in his International Emmy Award-winning role as Karl Roebuck, with Clémence Poésy as Elise Wassermann, one of the most intriguing characters on television. As with her Swedish counterpart, Elise is noted for demonstrating traits consistent with Asperger syndrome, such as difficulty in understanding or recognizing social concepts such as empathy, sarcasm and lying. She possesses an above-average intellect, a good eye for detail and a reputation for thoroughness. Roebuck is getting over serious marital problems. The season is informed by post-Brexit hysteria and the exploitation of immigrants trapped in Calais. The killer or killers may be immigrants from the Bosnian War, with a fixation on “The Pied Piper of Hamlin.” I, for one, am really going to miss the show.

By limiting its first  two seasons to 13 episodes, each, “The Good Place” appears to have taken a page from the playbook of premium cable networks, where quality almost always trumps quantity. Sitcoms on HBO and Showtime carry production costs – talent contracts, too – that aren’t necessarily covered by subscriptions. NBC may be hedging its bets on “The Good Place” by doing the same thing. Unlike most network sitcoms, it carries an unusually large number of recurring cast members – a veritable United Nations of young acting talent — in addition to lead actors Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Shot on location at Pasadena’s heavenly Huntington Gardens, the first season was said to be influenced by “Lost,” Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” and “The Prisoner.” It’s one of the very shows on television whose characters are of nondenominational and interdenominational backgrounds, and routinely are challenged by philosophical and ethical issues that cross religious borders. In it, the recently deceased Eleanor Shellstrop (Bell) finds herself in a colorfully quirky afterworld designed by Michael (Danson). The “Good Place,” we’re told, is where people who led a righteous life on Earth go for their final reward. This confuses Eleanor, who fully expected to wake up in the “Bad Place.” When she realizes that she was sent there by mistake, she decides to hide her morally imperfect behavior and try to become a better person. Because Michael answers to a higher power, he’s constantly experimenting with ways to keep traffic moving and mistaken placements held to a minimum. As the end of Season One, it is revealed that Michael is an emissary from the Bad Place and that he constructed a fake Good Place to torture Eleanor and other cherubs whose bodies and souls got switched in their journeys. He’s forced to repeatedly restart his experiment, due to Eleanor always figuring out that the Good Place is the Bad Place, and eternity may have its limitations in either location. That’s weighty stuff for prime-time television. “The Good Place” was created by Michael Schur, best known for his work on the NBC comedy series “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.” He also co-created the comedy series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which, after being canceled by Fox, was picked up by NBC for a midseason run. He may be the only person at NBC who knows what’s going on in “The Good Place.”

What’s the deal with Republican presidents and disastrous hurricanes? The most recent Bush administration managed to make a very bad situation worse in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, due to its lack of concern over the citizenry of a predominantly Democratic and heavily African-American metropolitan area. The Trump team has had even less reason to help rebuild Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria tore apart its prehistoric electrical grid and housing that wasn’t built to withstand a major storm. The “Frontline” presentation, “Blackout in Puerto Rico,” investigates the continuing humanitarian and economic crisis in Puerto Rico, in relation to how the federal response, Wall Street and years of neglect have left the island struggling to survive.

In “Trafficked in America,” PBS’ “Frontline” and the Investigative Reporting Program at U.C. Berkeley tell the inside story of Guatemalan teens, who, in 2014, were brought into the country illegally and forced to work against their will on an Ohio egg farm. It’s one of many businesses dependent of immigrant labor, as no sane American would choose to be employed by them, especially at minimum wage. An investigation into labor-trafficking reveals a criminal network that exploited undocumented minors, companies profiting from forced labor and the U.S. government’s role in protecting those who benefit from slave labor conditions … including, I suppose, everyone who enjoys eggs with breakfast.

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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