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« New Venues For Used Books | Main | Nickname the Presidents »

October 04, 2009

Joe Valdez Guest Post

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Today we continue our guest-posting series. Our blogger is Joe Valdez whose name is in the Culture Blogs section at the left where you can link to his This Distracted Globe site.

Below he writes about, uh, well .... Er, take it away, Joe.

* * * * *

The N-Word

If -- like me -- you make an effort to see movies in a theater, you might have missed Surveillance, an American made serial killer thriller that was released in Portugal, France, Germany and Austria in the summer of 2008 and quietly ushered onto Video On Demand stateside in May 2009. Starring Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond as kooky FBI agents interviewing witnesses of a gruesome murder, the movie itself is ridiculous and in my opinion, barely worth the postage to send back to where you rented it from.

What’s worth mentioning about Surveillance is that it was co-written and directed by Jennifer Lynch, whose only other picture was one you might have heard about. Featuring Julian Sands as an architect who abducts the object of his desire (Sherilyn Fenn) and amputates her arms and injured legs, Boxing Helena (1993) may be the most critically reviled movie of the Information Age. Its subject matter was never going to win over feminists, but a highly publicized lawsuit by Main Line Pictures against Kim Basinger (for reneging on a verbal commitment to star in the film) nullified any positive word of mouth the movie could have possibly generated.

Ironically, the quality that helped draw attention to Jennifer Lynch would turn her into a target. Lynch is the daughter of David Lynch, cartoonist, amateur meteorologist and the Academy Award nominated director of The Elephant Man and Blue Velvet. The master filmmaker was not involved in the Boxing Helena fiasco, but when his daughter’s efforts to get a second feature off the ground faltered, Lynch lent his name -- as executive producer -- to help finance Surveillance.


Some might see this as a clear-cut case of nepotism in an industry where this n-word has never inhibited anyone from career opportunities. Darryl F. Zanuck co-founded 20th Century Fox in the 1930s and late in his career, would name his son president of production at the studio; Richard D. Zanuck went on to win an Academy Award for producing Driving Miss Daisy in 1990 along with his wife, Lili Fini Zanuck. Wendy Finerman was married to Mark Canton, chairman of Columbia TriStar Pictures when she won an Oscar for producing Forrest Gump in 1995. Jon Peters got his foot in the door as the hairdresser and boyfriend of Barbra Streisand; Peters later produced The Witches of Eastwick and Batman. The list of goes on and on.

Contrary to conjecture on the Internet, actors are the least likely group to reap the benefits of their family tree. Casting directors would rather not be accused of favoritism, one reason Nicolas Coppola -- nephew of director Francis Coppola -- became “Nicolas Cage” as opposed to throwing the name of his uncle around. In addition, most actors are out there hustling for work themselves. Unless they happen to be running a studio, they don’t have the power to lock up an acting gig for their kids.

Jennifer Lynch -- on the other hand -- has been candid about the doors that opened as soon as she typed “Executive Producer: David Lynch” on her script. In a February 2009 interview with The Guardian Lynch commented: “I swear, any screenwriter wanting a little attention should just write 'Steven Spielberg' on their script. Who's checking?"

Translation: If my name were “Jennifer Ya-Ya”, Surveillance would never have been made. Is that fair? In the debate over affirmative action, one side makes clear that in America, people should be awarded jobs and opportunities based on merit, never on the color of their skin, their gender or who their parents are. If all that is true, why hasn’t anyone called a town hall on Hollywood nepotism?

* * * * *

Thank you, Joe, for helping get 2Blowhards back into a movie mode.

As for that nepotism thing, any volunteers willing to whisper into Queen Elizabeth's ear regarding her firstborn?



posted by Donald at October 4, 2009


"If all that is true, why hasn’t anyone called a town hall on Hollywood nepotism?"

It's hardly hot news, but what can be done about it, in Hollywood or elsewhere?

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on October 4, 2009 5:38 PM

I can forgive David Lynch for indulging his daughter. I cannot forgive him for indulging Roman Polanski.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on October 4, 2009 6:47 PM

I think it would be smart to give up on the word "meritocracy" as applied to the US.

Neptocracy has a nice ring, as do kleptocracy, plutocracy and aristocracy.

Posted by: Marik on October 4, 2009 10:02 PM

Nepotism didn't help Jennifer Lynch that much, considering she went 16 years between movies.

Posted by: Peter on October 5, 2009 10:16 AM

btw, I can't think of 2 other faces I'd rather stare at for 2 hours than Bill Pullman's and Julia Ormond's. Some people were born to be looked at.

Posted by: JV on October 5, 2009 7:51 PM

JV, Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond are two actors who are just getting better with age. I'm hoping more producers figure out how good Pullman is for his salary, or recall that Ormond played Cate Blanchett's daughter in Benjamin Button and offer each of them more work. They're way better than material like this, but in a Great Recession, even actors have to pay the bills.

Posted by: Joe Valdez on October 5, 2009 10:45 PM

"As for that nepotism thing, any volunteers willing to whisper into Queen Elizabeth's ear regarding her firstborn?"

The whole point of hereditary monarchy is that it is hereditary. Un-American, of course. But then, that's part of the point of America, isn't it?

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on October 5, 2009 11:07 PM

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