Sunday, October 29, 2017

#METOO






Reading about Anabella Sciorra's ordeal with Harvey Weinstein in The New Yorker brought on a flashback and a fount of repressed anger and upset for me today.  Not specifically for sexual harassment, but harassment in the form of abuse and debasement because I was a woman.  Harassment that likely caused me the loss of a career.

It was 1988, there was an open period in the Editor's Guild, and through a producer friend, I had managed to get hired as an assistant film editor on a Michael Mann back door pilot for ABC (it never made it to series, but aired as an MOW, and was later re-tooled by Mann with better actors into the feature HEAT).  I needed 75 days on the union show to get into the union (I know; it's a Catch-22 type of situation).  It seemed like manna from heaven.  Editing was, after all, an arena very receptive to women, and it was a career with longevity--to wit, Dede Allen (who died in 2010 at age 86), Thelma Schoonmaker (still editing at age 77).


But then enter the sociopathic first assistant editor.  He was younger than I, but already balding, with sickly grayish skin and little interest in his job.  He balked when the editor asked him to sit in on dailies and take notes (duh--big part of his job and I would been thrilled to do that!).  On the initial day, the first assistant sent me on errands, one of which was to buy him a pen with a light to make notes in the dark of the screening room.  When I brought one back he didn't even look at it--he just threw the package at me and said it was a piece of shit and to go buy another.  This happened two more times.  He wouldn't let me touch film aside from reconstituting the occasional KEM roll (basically just rolling up strips of film).  As the lowest person on the totem pole (I was basically functioning in the apprentice role), I had to get lunch for the whole department.  The two other (male) assistants (who were not bullied, nor did the wusses ever stick up for me) paid me daily, but the sociopath did not.  When I asked for reimbursement at the end of the week, he became annoyed, threw some money on the floor, and hissed, "Pick it up, bitch."  


My job consisted mainly of making 2-3 trips a day from Glendale to to the Hollywood sound facilities transporting film.  What kept me going was my mantra of "75 days" and Johnette Napolitano (above)  of Concrete Blonde belting out "God is a Bullet" on a cassette tape--I played that album over and over and over in the car.  I thought I could tough it out. 75 days and I'm in the union! But after the sociopath came into my room and swept everything off of my editing bench onto the floor, I finally went to the post supervisor (a woman) and told her I would no longer take directives from Sociopath and that they'd have to be funneled through her.

For this chutzpah I got reprimanded by the abrasive male editor for "taking it out of the department" (were we not post?), who said he'd have me and Sociopath in his room that afternoon to "talk it out" and apologize to each other. He expects ME to apologize?? Then the editor promptly forgot about it. I quit. There was no HR department to go to, not that they are much help in these instances, even today.

I had visions of revenge. Sugar in Sociopath's gas tank or slashing his tires being by far the mildest. I went back to working in film development, when one day years later Sociopath showed up as an assistant editor at the company I was working at, on one of my projects!  I didn't even realize how traumatized I'd been until, seeing him walk in the front door and recognizing him, I reflexively turned and rushed away, panic rising. I alerted the all-female editing staff and our head of post production. I told them of my experience with the guy and also that I'd heard he had been escorted off the Paramount lot (our parent company) for harassing a female apprentice after my experience with him.  He was later fired by my company after tearing off two lighting fixtures from the wall in the hallway--which he then threw against the front doors--because accounting was late cutting his paycheck, as he wasn't expected in that day.

Which got me thinking about all of the other areas of the entertainment business in which harassment occurs, and which only a couple of articles have touched upon.  But the floodgates have opened in all other areas and fields, hopefully. Just this week a USC social work graduate student filed a sexual harassment suit against one of her male professors.  Colleagues working at a nonprofit filed a petition with the board and are meeting with a lawyer to protest emotional and psychological abuse from an administrator, which I have also endured.

I suspect that most women have experienced serious harassment from men.  The Weinstein and Toback revelations, while not surprising, have brought back a flood of bad memories for me.  Starting with the obese 19-year-old downstairs, the landlady's son, who one day forcefully tried to bar 10 or 11-year-old me from leaving, and when I ran back up to our apartment (home alone) and locked the door, he got the key, let himself in, and searched for me from room to room, calling my name in a sing-songy Hannibal voice as I hid under my bed, heart racing.  This was a boy who was fond of cutting the tails off of squirrels (hurting animals is a criteria of Conduct Disorder, basically a teen version of Anti-Social Personality--basically your career-criminal type), playing with BB guns, and who had killed his sister drag racing.  I knew if he found me he would do something awful that would include rape.  

My escape was something out of movie:  when he went back downstairs to apparently wait by our only entrance/exit, I moved a piece of furniture in my parents' bedroom blocking a door that led into his bedroom, unlocked it, and crept down his family's front stairs and out their front door. I ran non-stop to the next town where my divorced mother was working in a sewing factory and took refuge in her 1953 Buick until she got off from work. The outcome? My mother confronted his, who yelled at him. That's it.



And then, naturally, there's college. Like at least two other fellow female classmates, I had an affair with one of my undergraduate  professors. Here's how it went down:  post a poetry seminar, I had asked the professor if he'd be willing to advise me in procuring a teaching associate position or fellowship to graduate school, and his immediate response was, "Of course! Let's have lunch."  

Lunch involved his taking me to a place in another town, where we had martinis (I'd never had one) and Caesar salad made at the table (that was new to me, too), and then later the walk, followed by the grab and kiss.  Only years later did I realize how vulnerable and impressionable I had been, and how, in his position of power, he'd seized advantage. I recall with revulsion the K-Mart baby doll lingerie he bought for me that turned him on. And how old he seemed at 31 when I was 23.  

And I remember with shame that he was married with a toddler. I was married, too. My husband was then growing increasingly psychotic and violent, with incessant auditory hallucinations. He refused counseling and stayed sequestered in our two-room apartment.  A couple of months later, after assaulting me and trying to rape me, he was arrested and committed to a psychiatric hospital, where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.  So, yeah, I was needy and scared and confused.  But I had wanted a mentor, not an affair.

Thankfully there were a few true male mentors in my life. In high school I got a summer job as a secretary at Yale, and my kind boss patiently showed me how properly to type up business letters and other documents. The esteemed Harvard economics professor for whom I was also a secretary a few years later was utterly respectful, interested in my opinions and talents, and, with paternal concern, urged me to go back and finish college. And I'm blessed to still have a connection with one of my wonderful Ph.D. advisors (in English) and his wife, whom I see when they travel to Los Angeles.


As a psychotherapist, I've recently treated at least two or three (male and female) patients for severe anxiety and depression brought on by abusive bosses. All were in situations in which there was no HR department to complain to (not that they're much help). It makes one wonder: has this behavior always existed, or is it epidemic now, emblematic of the general devolution in America and reflected in the apparent fury of our planet, beset with hurricanes, heat waves, fires, and mass shootings?

One can only hope that the times will be a changin'...soon.


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Sunday, August 27, 2017

RADIOHEAD







Mug shots:  Colin Greenwood (bass), Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments), Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, piano, other instruments), Philip Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Ed O'Brien (guitar, backing vocals).  From Oxfordshire.  Formed in 1985.  Their 1992 single "Creep" ultimately made them famous; they still play it at concerts because their audiences love it, but they reportedly don't much care to do so because of its hit singledom.  I see/hear it as their Nirvana "Smells Like Teen Spirit" song.  Eminently singable.  One of the few you can clearly hear the lyrics to, sing along with.  But I imagine that, every time someone in the audience requests it, it's like what Joni Mitchell said about asking Van Gogh to "paint another 'Starry Night,' man."   

Radiohead has mainly worked with producer Nigel Godrich since 1994--he's their George Martin.  Nine albums and 30 million album sales later, their music has evolved incorporating electronic music, looping, sampling, 20th century classical, jazz, krautrock, and Jonny Greenwood's orchestral arrangements (Jonny also does film scores for writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, and Thom is currently doing his first score for Luca Guadgnino's "reimagining" of the horror film Suspiria).

No matter how many times I listen to their songs, I find myself looking up the titles on my Sonos controller--even to my favorites.  Not because the songs are indistinguishable, but rather because they bleed into each other, and they engage one in a liminal way--like waking dreams.  Listen to the audio of Thom and Jonny's concert (pictured below) at the Macerato Sferisterio (a stripped down concert benefitting 2016's Le Marche earthquake) and you'll understand.  The music is gorgeous and haunting.





Radiohead's techniques have become more and more elastic and experimental through the years as they've shifted from rock instrumentation to a more electronic orientation, with all members switching among various instruments.  Songs are credited to all of the members, and Jonny Greenwood has said that he sees the band as "just a kind of arrangement to form songs using whatever technology suits the song.  And that technology can be a cello or it can be a laptop."

Paul Thomas Anderson directed the video below for "Daydreaming," from Radiohead's latest album, A Moon Shaped Pool.  The video features Thom Yorke opening door after door, wandering through corridors, up stairways, through landscapes, hospitals, schools, middle-class homes.  Opening front doors, exit doors, ultimately sliding a heavy metal door releasing Thom out into a snowy landscape and a mountain, up which Thom trudges in his street clothes, finally burrowing into a tunnel and collapsing next to a fire, uttering what appear to be backwards lyrics that seem utterly primeval.  What better visual metaphor for the experience of their music I described above as liminal--every song opens another door; they're like a series of doors, one leading to yet another.  No beginning, no ending, but a cycle, evolving, devolving, endlessly searching.  Like filmmaker David Lynch, Radiohead seem to have a direct connection to the unconscious in their work.

For a more biographical--and fascinating--exegesis of the video, check out "The Hidden Secrets in 'Daydreaming.'"



"Dreamers/They never learn.../This goes/Beyond me/Beyond you.../We are.../Just happy to serve/You."


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Sunday, August 6, 2017

WIND RIVER



Wind River is the third script in a trilogy written by former actor (Sons of Anarchy) Taylor Sheridan.  The first was the stunning thriller Sicario, directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and James Brolin.  The second, directed by David Mackenzie, was Hell or High Water, with Ben Foster, Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges.  Wind River is Sheridan's directorial debut.


For Sheridan, the theme of the trilogy, he's said, is a question:  how does one move on without getting closure?  He also sees it as dealing with issues of masculinity and fatherhood.  (Interestingly, when asked during a Q & A about his approach to writing female characters, Sheridan said he writes his women characters as if they were men, and leaves it to the male actors to react to them as if they were women.)


If you're a screenwriter or an aspiring one, it's easy to hate Sheridan.  Sicario was the first script he'd ever written, after he departed Sons of Anarchy for trying to lowball his salary.  Out of acting work, Sheridan completed all three scripts in three months, and gave Sicario to his entertainment attorney (since he'd fired his acting agent).  His attorney read it, loved it, sent it around, and the rest is history.

Wind River was financed by Native American tribes (Sheridan had spent much time on reservations) and shot in Utah (for Wyoming) in 30 days.  A key scene with many characters was rehearsed for a month and shot in a mere 45 minutes--because that's all they could afford.



The film stars Jeremy Renner in perhaps the best role he's had since The Hurt Locker. Sheridan described Renner as an actor who "can wear his emotion on his skin."  And indeed he does in the film--with his ex wife, his Native American grieving friend, and particularly in a scene towards the end, with Elizabeth Olsen (below), his co- star, who plays an FBI agent who is out of her element and smart enough to seek out Renner's tracker character's help.


This thriller is ostensibly about finding the rapist and killer of a Native American woman found dead in the snow (in reality, many women on reservations have gone missing), but its emotional core is loss, grief, friendship, doing the right thing, and trying to move on.  If one scene defines the film, it is the one below between Renner and his friend, the father of the dead woman, played by Apesanakwat of the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin, in which the two friends sit with their grief.



Wind River is a quiet thriller and a thoughtful one.  Sicario is still my favorite, followed by Hell or High Water, but this one must also be seen.  When asked what films influenced Wind River, Sheridan said it was one:  the tone of Michael Mann's The Insider.

Sheridan's next project is a limited series with Kevin Costner titled Yellowstone, which he described as being about the "gentritifcation of the West"..."The Godfather in Montana."

Here's the trailer for Wind River:





P.S.  Music by Nick Cave!

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