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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“Yes, good movies sprout up, inevitably, in the cracks and seams between the tectonic plates on which all of these franchises stay balanced, and we are reassured of their hardiness. But we don’t see what we don’t see; we don’t see the effort, or the cost of the effort, or the movies of which we’re deprived because of the cost of the effort. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice may have come from a studio, but it still required a substantial chunk of outside financing, and at $35 million, it’s not even that expensive. No studio could find the $8.5 million it cost Dan Gilroy to make Nightcrawler. Birdman cost a mere $18 million and still had to scrape that together at the last minute. Imagine American movie culture for the last few years without Her or Foxcatcher or American Hustle or The Master or Zero Dark Thirty and it suddenly looks markedly more frail—and those movies exist only because of the fairy godmothership of independent producer Megan Ellison. The grace of billionaires is not a great business model on which to hang the hopes of an art form.”
~ Mark Harris On The State Of The Movies

How do you make a Top Ten list? For tax and organizational purposes, I keep a log of every movie I see (Title, year, director, exhibition format, and location the film was viewed in). Anything with an asterisk to the left of its title means it’s a 2014 release (or something I saw at a festival which is somehow in play for the year). If there’s a performance, or sequence, or line of dialogue, even, that strikes me in a certain way, I’ll make a note of it. So when year end consideration time (that is, the month and change out of the year where I feel valued) rolls around, it’s a little easier to go through and pull some contenders for categories. For 2014, I’m voting in three polls: Indiewire, SEFCA (my critics’ guild), and the Muriels. Since Indiewire was first, it required the most consternation. There were lots of films that I simply never had a chance to see, so I just went with my gut. SEFCA requires a lot of hemming and hawing and trying to be strategic, even though there’s none of the in-person skullduggery that I hear of from folk whose critics’ guild is all in the same city. The Muriels is the most fun to contribute to because it’s after the meat market phase of awards season. Also, because it’s at the beginning of next year, I’ll generally have been able to see everything I wanted to by then. I love making hierarchical lists, partially because they are so subjective and mercurial. Every critical proclamation is based on who you are at that moment and what experiences you’ve had up until that point. So they change, and that’s okay. It’s all a weird game of timing and emotional waveforms, and I’m sure a scientist could do an in-depth dissection of the process that leads to the discovery of shocking trends in collective evaluation. But I love the year end awards crush, because I feel somewhat respected and because I have a wild-and-wooly work schedule that has me bouncing around the city to screenings, or power viewing the screeners I get sent.
Jason Shawhan of Nashville Scene Answers CriticWire