MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka Dretzka@moviecitynews.com

Stop the madness! Enough on Pellicano, already … wake us in time for the movie

May 3, 2006
Like almost everyone else in Los Angeles, I’ve become so distraught by recent revelations in the Pellicano-gate scandal (there, I’ve said it) that I’ve had a hard time concentrating on the business at hand. By comparison, navigating around Monday’s immigration boycott was a walk down the Yellow Brick Road.
I still find it difficult to believe that any show-business executive – let alone, a former agent – would hire a Philip Marlowe wanna-be to spy on his enemies. These are honorable men, who are engaged in a high-stakes game in which integrity and fair play are taken for granted. And, if Ron Meyer visited the besmirched P.I. in prison … well, what would Jesus have done? Charity has to begin somewhere … it might as well be in the executive offices overlooking an amusement park.
Surely, the New York Times and Vanity Fair have something better to obsess over than a case of business-as-usual in Hollywood? If even half of the leaked rumors it’s repeated, concerning such outstanding corporate citizens as Michael Ovitz, Brad Grey, Chris Rock, mogul Ron Burkle, director John McTiernan and attorneys Bert Fields and Terry Christensen (generally referred to as “feared” or “aggressive,” not “reptilian” or “ruthless,” as some would have it) were accurate, the Hollywood honor code would demand they be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail. Not only wouldn’t they be able to eat lunch in this town ever again, but they also wouldn’t be allowed to operate a Hummer or Mercedes anywhere west of the 405.
Who would risk such ostracism?
OK, you got caught me there … the answer to that question, of course, is “everyone in the 312, 213 and 818 area codes.” Remember, in the business of show — as in college sports — if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. And, anyway, chewing the fat with hard-boiled guys like Pellicano is way cooler than staying home and watching DVDs of movies that have yet to be released. Too bad, if a few estranged wives and girlfriends, jealous business partners, uppity actors and nosy reporters don’t get the joke.
If the lawyers one retains aren’t fearsome and aggressive, what the hell good would they be? Everyone has a niece or nephew in law school that could walk the case through court for the price of a Mini-Cooper. Why waste the big bucks? Better to cop a plea, than risk a trial that might conflict with Cannes or Christmas on Maui.
And, that’s the part of this manufactured scandal the editors and journalistic assault teams of the New York Times and Vanity Fair don’t understand. Until the half-buried body of a divorce lawyer or plaintiff is discovered alongside the road to Palm Springs – those of dead homeless people don’t count – no one in those aforementioned area codes is going to give a good crap about eavesdropping and wiretapping. Reporting that this contretemps is “gripping” the town doesn’t make it so. A few homes in Malibu and Bel-Aire might be feeling tremors, but none north or east of Burbank and south of the 10.
Who knows when any one of us might need the services of an aggressive litigator? If they’re all in prison, where’s our justice gonna come from?
It all makes for a titillating read over bagels and macchiato on a slow morning at Starbuck’s. L’affaire Pellicano pales, however, by comparison to losing the services of a maid or gardener for a full day, just so they can march down Wilshire Avenue … instead of taking the bus, like normal servants do.
No, the full extent of the horror won’t be known until someone at HBO commissions a made-for-cable movie to explain it to us, just as it did in “Barbarians at the Gate” and “The Late Shift.” Right now, I’m seeing Dennis Franz as the wiseguy P.I. … G.D.

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“The worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the destruction of our business. I have such respect and admiration for film criticism. When I was growing up film criticism was a real art. And there was intellect that went into that. And you would read Pauline’s Kael’s reviews, or some others, and that doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s about a number. A compounded number of how many positives vs. negatives. Now it’s about, ‘What’s your Rotten Tomatoes score?’ And that’s sad, because the Rotten Tomatoes score was so low on Batman v Superman I think it put a cloud over a movie that was incredibly successful. People don’t realize what goes into making a movie like that. It’s mind-blowing. It’s just insane, it’s hurting the business, it’s getting people to not see a movie. In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct. I’ve seen some great movies with really abysmal Rotten Tomatoes scores. What’s sad is film criticism has disappeared. It’s really sad.”
~ Brett Ratner Has A Sad

“The loss of a local newspaper critic is a real loss. People who know the local audience and know the local cultural scene are very important resources. You can’t just substitute the stuff that comes in from nowhere through syndication or the wire. I think at the same time, some of the newer outlets have really beefed up and improved their coverage and made room for criticism. The real problem is in the more specialized art forms — fine arts, classical music, dance and jazz, say. There is a real slowing of critical voices, partly because those art forms have smaller audiences. Newspapers and magazines can say that doesn’t get enough traffic, so we don’t have room for that. To me, that’s especially worrisome. This is the opposite of what newspapers are supposed to do, which is not to try to figure out what people are already interested in and recite that back to them, but to hopefully guide them to something that they should be interested in, connecting potential audiences with more interesting work.

“Then again, not everyone needs a critic. People have been going to movies for more than 100 years now, and probably the vast majority of those people have not read movie reviews or cared what critics thought. But there has always been an important subset that wants to know more, that wants to think about what they’ve seen and what they’re going to see, and wants someone to think along with. I think critics are important, not just as dispensers of consumer advice — though that’s certainly part of it, too — but as trusted voices and companions for people to argue with in your head when you’re going to movies or afterwards.”
~ A. O. Scott