December 09, 2014
Gruesome, ineffective and kept from the public, says Senate summary report on CIA interrogation program.
Well, see my post title above. This is a full Senate committee report I'll read when published, and it may be the story of the year. News services which have had a peek at it seem a bit riled and even surprised. The New York Times wrote at least 7 pieces about the 500 page summary report released today and noted that the report was the worst condemnation of the CIA since the Senator Frank Church released the "Church committee report" in 1970. Church's report led to a series of laws restricting CIA activities. For the details of the more horrific abuses set out in today's report, see 16 absolutely outrageous abuses detailed in the CIA torture report in a Vox post.
September 26, 2014
America's Swan Song in South Vietnam: Don't miss Rory Kennedy's new documentary.
Last Friday night I saw Rory Kennedy's documentary Last Days in Viet Nam at the E Street Cinema, in Northwest Washington, D.C. a few blocks from the White House. It combines new interviews with recently found film footage (for real, no hype) shot in Saigon in the spring of 1975 when U.S. military and civilian staff coped with a well-meaning but half delusional American ambassador and the wrenching question of who would/would not be evacuated out on U.S. flights as the North Vietnamese army moved triumphantly into the city. Nicely done, apolitical and poignant. Boomers--most of us were in our 20s at the time--will like it especially. I've met and spent a little time with the film's quiet, hardworking and unassuming director-producer. A full-time filmmaker with several fine documentaries under her belt, Kennedy, 45, is the youngest child of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY).
September 19, 2014
Parker Posey: And all she wants to do is dance.
They're picking up prisoners--and putting them in a pen. All she wants to do is dance.
--Danny Kortchmar/WB Music Corp. ASCAP (1984)
Get "Party Girl" (1995) and watch her dance in the last scene. Add Ms. Posey to our Roman Pantheon.
August 26, 2014
Today's Sensitive Hollywood Moment.
Or Overheard in Santa Monica. A true risk-taker college friend--no matter what they tell you 95% of Duke grads are not bust-out thinkers and leaders but instead very bright, pleasant, straight-up bourgeois citizens who play it safe; ironically, and by stealth, my intellectually über-wide open beloved alma mater even teaches them how to do this so they can replicate their parents if they so chose*--who failed miserably a bunch of times in the movie business but finally made it big in the writing-production side of nighttime television has this saying: "Dude, I've been broke--but I've never been poor." I love that.
* I loved Duke and am grateful beyond words to have been admitted. I expected that the university and my classmates would change my life in wonderful ways--and they did. I chose it over Dartmouth and some other fine schools. But we should all expect the world's "great" universities to drive new ideas, produce new kinds of people and make everyone, frankly, a little uncomfortable. They should never uphold the status quo.
Tobacco entrepreneur James B. Duke. West Campus, Duke University.
May 29, 2014
Much beloved, charismatic, handsome trial lawyer "trained as a spy."
Today I am coming clean with everyone that, during summer breaks at college and law school, I was "trained as a spy". Training took place at government facilities in Durham, North Carolina, Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, Ohio. Also at a special counterintelligence school operating in downtown Cleveland. There. I said it. That's all I should reveal at this point. I am tired of living this lie. I'll provide some details, and answer questions, in future posts.
Shameful decades-long ruse.
Editor's Note, June 2, 2014: Apparently, we need to disclose that this was a joke. The idea was to diss young Edward Snowden's probably untruthful and certainly grandiose statement to NBC's Brian Williams last week that he was "trained as a spy." We are fond of Snowden but his statement, even if true, was ill-advised. Not enough context and wrong time and place. However, we are advised that, in the years 1982-1986, Hull regularly (i.e., nightly) drank and consorted with a portly male Russian spy at a Georgetown bar called Garrett's. The bar, not the Russian, was named Garrett's. Hull claims he thought that the Russian was just another D.C. drunk.
February 17, 2014
Best Book, Hands Down, on any American President: Joe Eszterhas's American Rhapsody.
In 2000, Joe Eszterhas, former Rolling Stone editor, celebrated screenwriter, outspoken Hollywood insider and fellow Buckeye, unleashed my favorite non-fiction book: American Rhapsody. In it Eszterhas explores every fact, nuance, rumor and flight of intelligent fancy on the subject of Bill Clinton's 1995-1997 relationship with Monica Lewinsky, its real roots and the scandal as it emerged in 1998. The book is a masterful, often analytical, way-funny and brilliantly perceptive romp through scores of players, famous and obscure, with a part or bit part in the Clinton-Lewinsky drama. Esterhas has also dissected and thoroughly sussed one William Jefferson Clinton, and it's an achievement. American readers, depending on his or her sensibilities and politics, will come away liking, or disliking, the man even more. Two other bonuses come to mind. American Rhapsody is also a fine history (told in flashbacks) of American Baby Boomers, and a painstaking interpretation of Boomer culture. And Eszterhas is simply a joy to read. He is one of the most gifted writers of English, in any genre, of the last forty years.
September 22, 2013
Overheard in Los Angeles
Life is short, opera is long, and Wagner is longer.
--Plácido Domingo, Spanish tenor, L.A. Opera general director.
German tenor Johannes Sembach (1881-1944), taking a stab at the role of Pylade in Gluck's Iphigenie auf Tauris
September 03, 2013
Sometimes American Films Cut It: The Butler.
August 11, 2012
Brian Neary's Hawk.
A celebrated Hollywood polymath--television producer, songwriter and award-winning author--Brian Neary has written a spy novel that's "not like the others." It's a tight page-turner by a master that captures and catapults you on the first few pages. Even if you have no time to read. Even if you don't like spy yarns.
July 24, 2012
Two Bunch Palms: Peace, Love, Hot Water, Lithium.
Certainly all about its clients, Two Bunch Palms is an older and vaguely Bohemian resort and spa in Desert Hot Springs, California with a small but famous lithium-laced hot springs grotto. Beautiful, tranquil, quiet, no cell phones. Rabbits, orange and lemon trees, and the aromas of the mineral water streams are everywhere. Everyone is issued a robe. Been here about ten times now--and so with no embarrassment I wander around in my "toga" like a contented mental patient for everything except dinner. 2BP is anything but trendy, slick or networky, and for that reason it's remained popular with the Los Angeles film and European business communities.
It's only ultra-fancy here if you ask for it, and people leave you the hell alone. If you drift into, say, Jeff Bridges, or Dana Delaney, floating around with you in the grotto, you just nod and smile back pleasantly like a Hare Krishna devotee or a Moonie. Nothing more. Not even a super-agent like Ari Gold would have the heart or lack of class to hit up an actor, director or studio exec with a project or an idea in the 2BP grotto. The resort even made its own cameo appearance in Robert Altman's 1992 film, The Player. A great place to relax, think, write, plan and, if you are a Griffin Mill, plot.
Hey, making movies can be murder.
July 01, 2012
Seattle's Richard Chiem: "We Are a Gold Mine".
Richard Chiem, 25, a friend and already a celebrated young American writer now based in Seattle, wrote this for his love, Frances Dinger, 22. I met Richard two years ago when he lived in San Diego--and eventually met Frances just before he moved north to join her. Frances is smart, ambitious and similarly accomplished. Writer and editor, she just graduated from the University of Seattle with two degrees. Frances is currently in Naples, Italy with her family. She is as wonderful, lovely and soulful as Richard describes. This poem-video moved me the first time I saw/heard it. It's about a year old. This morning I asked Richard on the phone if I could publish his "We Are a Gold Mine" here. Listen to the writing. And listen to Richard's voice.
June 16, 2012
Everyman's Pookah Rabbit: Harvey and Elwood P. Dowd tip a few at Studio 54.
Appearing again in New York City is a 6' 3" white rabbit. See yesterday's New York Times:
Such is the charm of the director Scott Ellis’s production of this 1944 chestnut, led by a supremely winning Jim Parsons as the gentle protagonist, Elwood P. Dowd, that you may find yourself wistfully scanning the departing crowds for a glimpse of Elwood’s boon companion, that big, furry critter who spreads both exasperation and enchantment among all who encounter him.
Mary Chase’s play is by no means a work of great profundity. The Pulitzer Prize committee may have never erred more egregiously than it did in favoring “Harvey” over Tennessee Williams’s first masterwork, “The Glass Menagerie.” But handled with care, as it has been in this Roundabout Theater Company production, this winsome comedy about a lovable eccentric can cast a satisfying spell.
Jim Parsons with "Harvey", on your left. (Sara Krulwich/NYT).
August 07, 2011
In Bruges: What if the Kray Twins were Chatty, Funny & Guilt-Ridden?
West Flanders, Belgium. I have been there 3 times--mainly passing through, usually on the lamest of pretexts to simply be there. But anyone can get a good idea of the look, feel and rhythm of this medieval city in Belgium's West Flanders province just by seeing the movie In Bruges.
Much of it is shot in the striking Market Square area of Bruges. The film is about two skilled Irish hit men (Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell)--nice guys for the most part--with Ralph Fiennes as their wonderfully foul-mouthed, mean and manic crime boss who rose up from London's storied East End. Imagine a yarn about London's Kray Twins--but one also featuring their mean boss, and a younger, sappier brother (Farrell), who wants to mend his killing ways. Chatty, passionate criminals, all three.
While as violent as the Krays, the two male leads are a bit different: funny, smart, 100% heterosexual, hopelessly Irish. Tripped up by guilt and good hearts.
July 20, 2011
Today, Yesterday, Los Angeles: Pitches, Dreams, Log Lines, Drive & Money.
Alien, 1979, directed by Ridley Scott: "Jaws" in outer space.
Stills, 1989, novel by Samuel Hazo: Years after a celebrated war photographer loses his young wife to a stray bullet in Lebanon, disappears, and is presumed dead, he surfaces in Manhattan, and meets a young woman making a documentary about his life and work.
The Wizard of Oz, 1939, directed by Victor Fleming: Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again.
May 22, 2011
Santa Monica Playhouse: Locked and Loaded.
A new play by Todd Susman, extended until June 26. With Paul Linke, Andrew Parks and Terasa Sciortino.
May 13, 2011
Club Ned Evening Wear: Overheard in Palisades.
"Honey, just wear a black turtleneck--even Ned Beatty looks good in a black turtleneck."
Club Ned: Beatty looks happy and relaxed just days before his first Georgia fishing float-trip to bond with buddies and nature and ending in the small but brain-damaged village of Antry. Seriously, Louisville-born Beatty, 73, is one of America's great talents. Actor's actor. Played a fine Tennessee lawyer in Robert Altman's rule-breaking, genre-crashing "Nashville".
May 12, 2011
Challenges, twists, prima donnas--and hard work.
I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis. --Humphrey Bogart
You think life in law and business is hard? What if all your partners were grandiose, spoiled, drunk, or poised to shoot a wild animal every morning before work? Okay, you say it's a lot like that now. Well, making John Huston's The African Queen was no summer picnic, either. To get a better idea of the kind of talent and guts it takes to make it as a writer or producer in Hollywood, visit Neely Swanson's No Meaner Place: Hollywood writing, ups, downs, more downs, productions, persistence and dreams.
(updated from April 24, 2010 post)
April 08, 2011
"Hollywood is the one place in the world where you can die of encouragement." --Dorothy Parker
October 29, 2010
Eric O'Neill: Hard times jeopardize security clearances.
In Washington, D.C. alone, over 300,000 people from all walks of life have a national security clearance or approval from the federal government to work in or around government secrets: everyone from U.S. intelligence community chiefs and analysts to electricians contracted for projects at the Pentagon or FBI buildings. Above, Eric O'Neill, lawyer, real life American hero, and CEO of The Georgetown Group, talks to CNN on how foreclosures and other financial problems are perceived, fairly or unfairly, to make some Americans with security clearances vulnerable to bribes by foreign spies.
September 20, 2010
"St. Elsewhere" starts with Episode #1 tonight.
All 6 seasons of "St. Elsewhere"--the much praised mid-1980s ensemble cast TV drama--starts today on the ALN cable channel. Relive the quality, originality and authenticity of Pre-Squeak America. Historical note: In this acclaimed series, none of the actors, or the characters they play, are "anonymous", or hide behind pseudonyms. The male characters are not "sweet", confused, wimpy, thin-skinned, or neutered. The women are scary. Episode #1 tonight. A gem.
"St. Elsewhere" runs in its entirety over the next several months.
August 19, 2010
The Fed: U.S. industrial production up 1% in July
Construction, retail sales and hiring may still be sluggish. But things could be worse, and there are some promising numbers. See the Federal Reserve's August 17 release.
April 19, 2010
Île Saint-Louis: Pay full price--but savor the rudeness.
Welcome back, Monsieur Hool. As before, three cats or two waitresses in room. Remember. You must choose. This is Hôtel du Jeu de Paume, the non-oath version. Erected in the 17th century, it once housed a tennis court built by Louis XIII, king from 1610 to 1643. Beams from the early 1600s cross the ceilings. An interior garden. The walls: old books, newer original art.
Neither Left or Right bank. Save for your 6th trip to Paris. The longstanding and competent staff takes a "working" dim view of both Americans and the English. They are wonderfully rude, Paris smart, and Yankee-style industrious. A haughty Labrador even lives here full-time. Be late to breakfast at your peril. Hull McGuire's hands-down favorite since 1996.
Brits never stay here twice. Too French. The staff does not just smile when it is says no; it laughs.
April 03, 2010
Good Saturday: Paris Spring 2010
It's not often easy,
And not often kind.
Did you ever have to make up your mind?
March 07, 2010
Will someone please give Jeff Bridges his Oscar now?
Real heroes. For his performance in Crazy Heart--and because he has worked his ass off over the years to be excellent again and again.
A reserved and classy human and family man in real life, Bridges has been an artist's artist since his Duane Jackson days in The Last Picture Show. A rangy and compelling actor. Most critics have admired and liked him since 1971--but over the years no one could figure out why he wasn't opening movies. We'd wager that things in his world are about to change.
In Crazy Heart, Bridges plays "Bad" Blake, an eccentric but truly authentic bad-ass cowboy Alpha male who finally grows up--but at a price (Maggie Gyllenhaal). The movie tells a fine and believable story--with a happy ending sans the goofy Hollywood slam dunk. Bridge's character, like his acting career, is a study in grit, growth, and great victories in later life. At 60, Bridges is famous and respected but now may start being a serious commercial player.
The Dude's ship just came in. We may have to call him "His Jeffness".
Fox Searchlight Pictures
February 26, 2010
Heroes: Neely Swanson's No Meaner Place
No Meaner Place will highlight writers and writing that for one reason or another have pushed aside, shoved to the curb, and abandoned; wonderful scripts that have never made it to the big screen or to the small screen in series form.
--Neely Swanson, August 11, 2009
Writing Well, Hollywood. Here's why I personally admire directors, actors, producers and their writers:
Business executives, professionals, government officials, politicians, physicians, lawyers, academics, accountants and other generic white collar dweebs can--and do--make it big in their worlds and disciplines without being extraordinarily creative, gifted or otherwise talented. Or being talented at all.
In the West, we reward (a) fitting in, (b) moderate energies, and (c) making the right moves. There is nothing wrong with that. But is it enough?
In the scheme of things, most of us just slip by. We escaped the more discerning judges. We worked for other mediocre people. We surrounded ourselves with people who made us comfortable rather than challenge us. We were a bit energetic--and a lot lucky. We did the "right things", on safe paths, often chosen by others.
Next, we pretended that we, our firms or our colleagues, are smart or excellent or brilliant. On those days--the ones when we believe our own press releases--maybe someone should, you know, get the net.
Big Talent in the West's entertainment industry? I've been around or worked with some who have it, both known and inexplicably unknown, since I was fairly young. The rub: Big Talent, the kind attracted to and simmering in our LA and NYC-based entertainment industry, as well as places like London, Manchester, Paris, and Berlin, is merely a prerequisite.
It is rarely enough.
"Hollywood is the one place in the world where you can die of encouragement." -Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Even if you have Big Talent, and hit big once--the odds are greatly against that--you might not work again. You must, like Faulkner's Dilsey, endure.
Big Talent and Big Moxie. You need both to make it.
Sometimes unsung quality, even when coupled with the verve it needs to be noticed, gets its day. Maybe even another chance. First, however, it needs a Champion--a discoverer and advocate. This blog--about Clients, about "Paris", about Old Verities--is simply about Quality, and the values you can't get from family, school or church. You get them on your own.
And that's precisely why we like No Meaner Place, an unusual, nuanced and important new site by Neely Swanson, former Senior Vice President for Development at David Kelley Productions (L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, Lake Placid). Here is brains, toil, courage and magic--in writings by skilled storytellers that never reached the public.
Of the talented writers Swanson now interviews, and their writing that was "pushed aside" in the past:
Some of them were produced to pilot, poorly, some were entirely ignored, some were too original, some were, well who knows what they were...but all of them deserved better fates.
During my many years reading and recommending scripts, projects and writers to David Kelley, I read thousands of script submissions, books, short stories and plays, and among them were some truly terrific potential projects.
It is my intention to be entirely positive and only write about scripts that transported me, in one way or another; I will not write about bad or mediocre scripts.
Whether or not you can create or write, go to this site if you have dreams and grit. Swanson, who knows good scripts as well as anyone, has created at No Meaner Place her own narrative about talent, heart and struggle that inspires. Many of the writers she interviews have had past writing triumphs. See for starters "What’s Your Story? by Jack Bernstein". Even Bernstein, a well-regarded mainstream television writer-producer, who has also scripted three feature films you've heard about, doesn't shoot out the lights on every writing project.
October 24, 2009
Milton Supman (1926-2009)
No Boomer growing up in Detroit in the 1950s could miss Soupy Sales. You think of him as a Howard Stern for kids--and for his studio crew, who often sounded as if they were rolling on the floor laughing. Always having secret fun. He died Thursday. His character "White Fang" was born on a U.S. battleship in the South Pacific.
August 28, 2009
We Americans? We lawyers? Too normal?
So, Justin, did you ever have an original thought in your whole damn life? Go ahead. Go crazy. It's Friday. Wear those spats for ten minutes. Americans, as much as any creatures on Earth, do have a passion for routine and ritual. And what of Lawyers--and other Dweeb Breeds? A recent WAC study of lawyers in Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Cincinnati--I have strong family and life ties to each of these Midwestern cities--states that True Lawyer Wildness, Originality and Flashes of Personal Anarchy are reflected in clothing: i.e., wearing a bow-tie, tasseled loafers and a trench coat--but all at once, and on the same day. But you never know. We always need to look beyond the veneer, and day-to-day patterns. "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972), by Surrealist Spanish director Luis Buñuel, is about the ritual of dining, and its more revealing and darker undercurrents.
July 09, 2009
Stamford Connecticut girl makes good (again).
Our friend Ellen Bry, a nighttime drama television mainstay (St. Elsewhere, Dexter, Boston Legal, Monk, The Closer) for decades--and known in the LA-NYC underground as WAC?'s in-house photographer--has the lead role as Ester Hobbes, a Chicago socialite who suddenly loses everything, in The Lost & Found Family, a new Sony Pictures release.
In the film, we meet a strong and spiritual woman who is surprised to learn that she has inherited just one thing from her dead businessman husband: a run-down old house in Georgia, and the turbulent foster family living in it.
Taken from the story Mrs. Hobbes' House, The Lost & Found Family is a poignant, uplifting, instructive and remarkably powerful family film set in the American South. It was filmed in Jackson, Georgia, a town between Atlanta and Macon, with a population of about 4000, in Butts County.
It is a movie for rural people who go to church, sing, watch lots of TV, listen to Bocephus, have at least two cousins in the Meth trade, eat a lot, and are afraid of virtually everyone, and of everything, all of the time. It is bound for fame as a cult classic: a comfort to millions of rustics stuck in the vast grayness and troubled reverie that is American Fly-Over Country.
Hey, just joshing you. Early in 2008, I saw a rough cut of The Lost and Found Family--then still entitled Mrs. Hobbes' House--before Sony Pictures acquired it. Do see the new Sony clip below, which includes what I saw. Like me, you may recognize the people portrayed:
Many Americans, including my own family, have roots that reach deeply into, say, southwestern Virginia, east Tennessee, and southern Missouri (where I've visited family my entire life), going back well over two centuries. Later generations are still there: always hard-working and proud, sometimes devout, seldom well-to-do, and worlds away from the country club life Ester Hobbes led when her husband was alive. They often struggle to make the best life they can.
So you need not be Southern, rural or devoted to any form of organized religion to be moved by Ester Hobbes' story. This film will touch every viewer with simple but forgotten verities that bind us to one another.
There are artful, and moving, performances by Ellen and her younger cast members, who include teen heartthrob Lucas Till (Walk The Line, Hannah Montana: The Movie), and Jessica Luza, a film and television actress (The Sullivan Sisters, Boston Legal) and MTV fashion host.
Ellen Bry's movie credits include Mission Impossible 3, Deep Impact, and Bye, Bye Love. Stage work has included The Sixties, The Cafe Plays, Tribute and Seduced. A graduate of Tufts and Columbia universities, she is former stunt woman, a Mom, and a well-known national advocate for autism issues. She is also reputed to make a mean Peppered Shrimp Alfredo.
--from JDH 6/24/09 post
June 24, 2009
Ellen Bry: Stamford Connecticut girl makes good (again).
Some girls just love to work. Our friend Ellen Bry, a nighttime drama television mainstay (St. Elsewhere, Dexter, Boston Legal, Monk, The Closer) for decades, and known in the LA-NYC underground as WAC?'s in-house photographer, has the lead role as Ester Hobbes, a Chicago socialite who suddenly loses everything, in The Lost & Found Family, a new Sony Pictures release. In the film, we meet a strong and spiritual woman who is surprised to learn that she has inherited just one thing from her dead businessman husband: a run-down old house in Georgia, and the turbulent foster family living in it.
Taken from the story Mrs. Hobbes' House, The Lost & Found Family is a poignant, uplifting, instructive and remarkably powerful family film set in the American South. It was filmed in Jackson, Georgia, a town between Atlanta and Macon, with a population of about 4000, in Butts County.
It is a movie for people who go to church, sing, say "golly", watch lots of TV, eat a lot, and are afraid of virtually everyone and everything all the time. It is therefore bound to be a cult classic, comforting to millions residing in the vast grayness and troubled reverie that is American Fly-Over Country.
Just joshing you.
Early in 2008, I saw a rough cut of The Lost and Found Family--then still entitled Mrs. Hobbes' House--before Sony acquired it. I recognized the people portrayed. Many Americans, including my own family, have roots that reach deeply into, say, southwestern Virginia, east Tennessee, and southern Missouri (where I've visited family my entire life), going back well over two centuries.
Later generations are still there: always hard-working and proud, sometimes devout, seldom well-to-do, and worlds away from the country club life Ester Hobbes led when her husband was alive. They often struggle to make the best life they can.
You need not be Southern, rural or devoted to any form of organized religion to be moved by Ester Hobbes' story. This film will touch every viewer with simple but forgotten verities that bind us to one another.
There are artful, and moving, performances by Ellen and her younger cast members, who include teen heartthrob Lucas Till (Walk The Line, Hannah Montana: The Movie), and Jessica Luza, a film and television actress (The Sullivan Sisters, Boston Legal) and MTV fashion host. Ellen's other movie credits include Mission Impossible 3, Deep Impact, and Bye, Bye Love.
June 08, 2009
WAC Special: Raising the Bar--A Second Season Preview
Below Rob Bodine, WAC?'s newest co-writer, a Washington, D.C.-based IP lawyer, reviews this season's opening episodes of Raising The Bar. That's tonight, Monday, June 8, on TNT at 10 PM Eastern Time/9 PM Central Time:
ca⋅thar⋅sis /kəˈθɑrsɪs/ [kuh-thahr-sis]
–noun, plural -ses /-siz/ [-seez]
1. the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, esp. through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.
Random House Dictionary, 2009
Steven Bochco’s latest contribution to television, Raising the Bar, starts its second season tonight. The series centers on the interplay between the offices of the public defender and district attorney, the judges in front of whom they argue, and the clients whose lives are at stake.
The show is intensely character-driven. As in the shows involving different professions Bocho first made popular nearly thirty years ago, we get glimpses into work and personal lives--and how they clash.
The lawyer storylines. They do seem familiar, at times drawing from “hot-button” political topics, but adding a level of complexity not always seen. The cases presented show that sometimes there’s more to an issue than initially meets the eye. And that those with shared shared interests can be at odds.
The attorneys face the same tensions felt by the viewer in the real world, with only the context-- the legal system--being the difference. That is their world. By day, they’re bitter adversaries, deeply frustrated with each other’s legal positions; by night, they’re friends, sharing drinks and stories of their day.
On the job, they’re ethically bound to represent their clients to the best of their ability, while also being ethically bound to allow the client to dictate the direction of that representation, either through political pressure (prosecution) or through prioritizing other interests above their own legal interests (defense), all the while making sure to check their egos at the door. Divorcing one’s feelings from the job is difficult--especially when your client is compellingly sympathetic, or even noble, in their cause. But it’s necessary, and Raising The Bar drives that one home convincingly.
Should idealistic Jerry Kellerman (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar) change who he is for the sake of the job by sacrificing a trademark part of his personality? Can right-and-wrong prosecutor Marcus McGrath (played by J. August Richards) accept the conflict between the public’s interests with his superiors’ political interests?
Off the job, they’re ordinary people, facing ordinary problems. Should Kellerman and fellow public defender Bobbi Gilardi (Natalia Cigliuti) pursue their relationship even if it's potential ammunition against her in a bitter divorce? Should McGrath pursue a relationship with a woman who represents the political system with which he often finds himself in conflict?
For the lawyers watching the show, there’s something special in it for us. John Michael Higgins solidly delivers as your less than favorite judge. This isn't to say that there isn't dramatic license taken, but when you're looking unwind, do you really want to watch a show that's 100% accurate in its depiction of the law?
At a day's end, when egos have been bruised, frustrations are high, and hope dies a little, things can and do work out. You are uplifted, restored. Even Justice is served. A moral order in the universe, maybe? Mind you, when I was watching the advance tape this weekend, it hit me that RTB doesn't accomplish all this by insulting you and yours. Like you just died and went to Hallmark: "triumph of the human spirit", "people coming together and caring about one another...", learning to trust one another, working with one another despite their differences.
This show is very real about the ambiguities of real life--and real work. Sometimes, there’s no one right answer.
January 28, 2008
SAG Awards: thanks, we needed that.
About last night. Believe what you will about Los Angeles. Like NYC and DC, it's a magnet for talent, extra-hard work, big ideas and just plain big ones. You think being a lawyer is hard? It is, done right. But success in Hollywood is way harder. No town for weenies. NYT: "Stars Seize Their Chance to Shine at SAG Awards ".
January 20, 2008
Overheard in Los Angeles: Club Ned
In the Starbucks on Sunset in Brentwood, a woman to her man about what to wear to an event on Saturday night: "Honey, just wear a black turtleneck! Even Ned Beatty looks good in a black turtleneck."
Ned at home relaxing, planning Georgia fishing trip with buddies.
January 05, 2008
Screen Actors Guild will stick it to NBC.
Take that, running-dog lackey studio suits.
June 11, 2007
The Sopranos: Is ISO 9000 training for the family in order?
The Sopranos was HBO's masterwork. It started in 1999 and ran its 86th and final episode last night. Yeah, Tony and his family survived. The best television series ever came to an end--but you didn't really think HBO and Chase Films was going to kill off movie sequels along with the family, did you?
Like a genuinely responsive law firm, a winning litigation strategy or a successful American political campaign, Tony and the Soprano crime family either prospered or perished--and lived or died--on the family's "rapid response" apparatus working or not working well. Last night Tony and what's left of his crew put it all together at the last moment.
But they were getting cocky, sloppy and slow to react.
So "now" the clan from New Jersey badly needs a firm retreat. And to consider an ISO 9000-like continuous improvement model, some training, performance auditing and a new plan so they will be ready in the future--if only in the ether of our imaginations--to ward off evil-er forces and make some serious scratch. Enough said.
On a personal note, I never saw this show until it show entered its third season--and then I caught up quickly. In fact, and setting a bad example for fellow TV-weaned baby boomers, I have watched close to zero network or cable "series" television over the past 40 years. It's not a matter of having good taste or loving Leaves of Grass or The Upanishads more. Rather, it's because hardly any of the shows over the years have been interesting, exciting or funny. Some are even painful for a human to watch. I viewed Friends and Seinfeld in their heydays for 10 or 15 minutes each and was disturbed for days, especially by the portrayals of the male characters. But The Sopranos was an exception. It was well-written, intriguing, different, fast-moving and, most of all, the funniest television show ever made. Somehow real. Disturbingly American. And always hilarious.
April 30, 2007
Jack Valenti (September 5, 1921 - April 26, 2007)
See this New York Times obit, which is fair and pretty comprehensive.
To me, Jack Valenti was not just the Motion Picture Association of America CEO, Hollywood's "DC guy" or the fellow who came up with the movie ratings system. Part of our neighborhhood, he was the elegant, dapper but tough-looking little guy and ex-LBJ aide you saw walking often by himself near the southwest corner of 16th and Eye where he had his office, about two blocks north of the White House, and one block west from I had my first private practice lawyer job in Washington, D.C. in the ASAE Building. When you saw him walking around you knew that he was a "Washington somebody" whether you specifically recognized him or not: Washington royalty--but without the button-down boringness. He exuded it, but he never seemed like a self-important DC jerk. Some of us wandering around downtown DC during lunch or in the evenings after work did recognize Valenti. He was the man on the far left in the famous November 22, 1963 Air Force One picture, looking on while LBJ was being sworn in.
March 03, 2007
Secret Agent Man: Ain't No Biz Like Show Biz
"Hollywood is the one place in the world where you can die of encouragement." --Dorothy Parker
"I read part of it all of the way through." --Samuel Goldwyn
With few detours, my firm, Hull McGuire PC, represents publicly-traded and often well known companies based in the US and Europe. We have the talent and drive to attract and keep big game, often in the automotive, steel, transportation and energy industries, so why not? We avoid individuals, even very rich ones, and also steer away from small to medium sized businesses. Both are often unsophisticated in the use of lawyers--they can't tell great ones from good ones from mediocre ones--and that is not our idea of a good time. While all clients are treated very well (that's an understatement), we'd rather answer to a General Counsel. No use in having your own firm and working your ass off with with smart lawyers unless you get interesting work from smart, appreciative clients. It's hard, high-pressure work, but we love it.
But here's something even harder, involving individuals, but just as much fun. About 5 years ago, and because of my frustrated writer's love of films, literature and the theater, I started to represent novelists and authors who wanted to turn their works--both fiction and autobiographical--into feature films. My niche is books which are critical if not commercial successes and need scripts and/or treatments (the latter of which I often work on myself). It's the hardest work I've ever done--and the ups and downs are manic and brutal. But it suits me: it combines story-telling, writing, selling, business and law. It's taken me to LA, where I made my first live pitch three years ago, to NYC, where I struck out in someone's office after blowing a meeting so badly all I could eat for the next two days was crow, and even to Manchester, England, where Granada Studios handed me my first rejection in 2002. (Pippa Cross herself yelled at me on the phone re: an adaptation she didn't like).
The rejections (except Pippa's) come with "encouragement"--and the trick is to separate the constructive criticism from the BS. So I love Ms. Parker's quote above. I'll write about our new cottage industry from time to time under "Secret Agent Man". In the meantime, a question: you know any good writers with a good published story? Compelling is required. Difficult artists welcome.
December 18, 2006
Are book agents spoiled, lazy vultures with staffs from Hell?
Query: Does anyone know a reputable and skilled business book agent with even the crudest of: manners, organizational skills, and instinct for the Client as an Asset?
Forget all the unkind, if accurate, things I have said about my client service-challenged fellow corporate lawyers recently--well, at least for the weekend. And color me naive. Three business book agents with good reputations--WAC? is seriously considering naming all 3 in a future post, and to hell with the consequences--are showing interest in a WAC? book proposal. WAC? was/is quite willing to become a humble and eager student of the difficult business of developing, marketing and publishing a book. It's hard to find a good literary agent. I never expected Easy--and I heard and read that most good agents were the new royalty, and treated first-time book writers like troublesome peasants, servants or turds. But be patient with the process, I was told. They are busy and get all manner of queries and proposals, many of them terrible, from misguided or full-of-themselves writers. And do listen to what they say.
I had no illusions. The Student was ready.
And apparently, I lucked out, in my first time out. So, as the proverb goes, the Teacher(s) (i.e., agents) started to appear--but none of them are quite "all there". They are 10 times worse than I had been told and read. To summarize, none of the agencies or agents have any people or business skills, two appear to be mildly retarded, and one is clearly flat-out insane. They keep losing things--and the things these cretins lose are my things. They have unhappy robot office staff from Hell. The are like third-tier "customer satisfaction" employees at a utility or insurance company--phony, dumb, mean and 100% cartoon.
My would-be agents say they want to help me develop a book on 'client service', and 'building and leading service cultures'....but how could I ever let them any of them help develop such a book--unless my own hypocrisies suddenly had no bounds? Sure, these people are nuts--but so am I for letting them in on a project which, due to their own dysfunctional business cultures, they could never be expected to understand without a serious 28-day client service rehab/charm school and the latest in "pro-client" medications. If they can't treat the neophyte Client-Writer as an Asset, how could they ever really buy into a book on "Client Service in the new global services economy"?
I feel stupid. And I am done, for now, with these miserable, spaced-out screw-ups. Guys, you win, I lose--but please go away.
And give me back my stuff.