Shrinking Film Critic Archive for March, 2007

Seinfeld's doc-diss

While I interpreted Jerry Seinfeld’s joke-a-thon intro to the documentary awards as play for Oscar host next year, John Sinno saw it differently. And he has a point.
Sinno, whose “Iraq in Fragments” didn’t win, has sent an open letter to the Academy (and to the press) to protest Seinfeld’s disrespect of this traditionally undervalued category. Before you say boo-hoo (as I was initially inclined, since at least Seinfeld was a respite from all the trumped-up sobriety of the slick show), consider that nearly every other awards category was treated with awe and dignity. (Except maybe those child actors being forced to make badly scripted jokes about the “shorts” categories.)
My problem isn’t with Seinfeld introducing the nominated docs as “incredibly depressing” — because that was rather funny, and rather true. It’s that somehow everything else in the show has gotten so serious and pompous that Seinfeld’s ribbing stood out in the midst of a politically correct, essentially boring evening. The other awards were positioned as momentous events worthy of suspiciously glistening eyes.
Sinno goes on to protest that there wasn’t any mention of Iraq. Here I disagree. It’s tedious when celebrities use the Oscars as a podium to go all noble over world events. So, again, it wasn’t the lack of a mention of Iraq that was the problem, it was that this year’s Oscars were an informercial for the eventual doc winner, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Now, I’m all for fighting global warming (or “global warmings” as Will Ferrell pronounces it in one of his hilarious riffs on President Bush speaking to the nation; Google it and you’ll see). But between all the Gore-boosting of the evening and the trio of Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola waiting to welcome long-overdue Martin Scorsese into the Oscar fold, it looked like the fix was in. (Can you imagine how humiliating it would have been for Marty if someone else had trotted up to accept the directing Oscar from his three amigos?)
So I’m not necessarily in favor of making Sinno et al whole by enshrining documentaries as they do other categories. I’m for taking it all down a peg, or at least getting a grip. You know more ink has been spilled about Jennifer Hudson’s silver bolero jacket than about anything else Oscar night, and that the real power of the Oscar show is in its ratings, so stop trying to overcompensate. The only part of the evening that truly merits those glistening eyes is the so-called Parade of the Dead clip reel, the only time the audience understands the true value of things.

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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