Bryn Pryor

Welcome to my blog. I'm Bryn Pryor, aka porn director Eli Cross

A year ago today, I was out running errands for Diminuendo, the film we were finally beginning to finish after losing our post-production funding, when I got a text. Sent by Jacleen, Richard Hatch’s close friend who had been helping settle his affairs and arrange his care and his life as it neared its end, the text simply said “Come soon, if you can.”

I rushed over to the West Valley house where Richard was in hospice. Richard’s son Paul was there, alongside several students from Richard’s acting class, which was one of the most important things in the world to him. I doubt Richard was aware of us. He drifted quietly in a deep sleep, and no one needed to say that the end was near.

We sat his vigil, and talked quietly. They told me that a few days earlier, the class had a small party, rolling Richard outside in his chair to enjoy the beautiful yard, the gorgeous view, his students, and a little tequila. It sounded lovely. Perfect. Exactly what he would have wanted.

Richard’s breath grew slow, then shallow. I held one of his hands for that last ten minutes as he slipped oh-so-quietly away. I whispered a goodbye into his ear, touched Paul’s shoulder, hugged Jacleen, and left.

And it was okay.

Yes, I had to sit in my car for fifteen minutes because the tears made it impossible to drive, but I was also smiling. This death… this was okay.

I first met Richard through Walter Koenig, when we were making Cowboys & Engines. During that shoot, we bonded over his endless desire to explore the inner workings of every human he ever met (Richard would spend hours in freewheeling philosophical discussion with ANYONE), his fascination with my fucked up psyche and worldview, and my perverse desire to turn that around and shine the spotlight on HIS inner workings. During long bouts of verbal fencing and trying to avoid probing questions about ourselves, we formed a real friendship.

Over the years, lunches, dinners, bowling, and even a film happened together, but mostly, I think about the talking. I miss the talking; Richard’s boundless passion and infectious enthusiasm tempered my bleak cynicism and intractable bitterness.

We knew Richard was sick during filming of Diminuendo, but we all — Richard included — thought it was a stomach issue. There were days he just couldn’t eat, or would duck around a corner to throw up in a bush right after a take. He refused to not work, though, and because we were friends, I respected that. In his shoes, I would have done the same thing, and expected the same respect. “Don’t try to tell me when I can’t work,” he said. “I’LL tell you when I can’t work.”

Shortly after Christmas, he did. We had a few days of re-shoots scheduled for the end of January. Richard asked me to stop by for a visit, which turned out to be three hours of talking. Partially about his pancreatic cancer (which, by this point, we all suspected), and partly about his plans, but also just to talk. Like we always had.

Richard knew he couldn’t do the re-shoots. He saw the end coming. All he wanted was to not die in pain, not die in the hospital, and not die alone.

We also talked about the fact that he wasn’t telling people. Like refusing not to work, this, too, felt familiar. Richard was proud and strong, and he wanted people to know him as he chose to be known. He didn’t want pity or extraneous concern. He didn’t want what was left of his life to become one long conversation about chemotherapy.

So I kept my mouth shut. I told Sarah, who Richard loved, and when (with his Jewish Illness radar working full-tilt) Walter Koenig called me out of the blue to ask “What’s wrong with Richard,” I told him as well. I couldn’t lie to Walter.

I visited Richard one more time in January. He was thin, tired, but himself. We barely talked about the cancer, except to discuss his plan to hold a party for all of his friends to see everyone last time and say goodbye; to let them say goodbye. I thought that was a fantastic idea.

None of us knew how quickly the cancer was going to move. The next time I saw Richard, he was in the hospital. Walter wanted me to drive him over to visit, and I asked Richard if he would allow Walter to come. He said no, and I honored his decision. I visited once more in the hospital, and then he was out, and then he was gone.

And because he wasn’t in the hospital, he wasn’t in pain, and he wasn’t alone… it was okay.

In the weeks that followed, I talked to a lot of Richard’s closest friends, people who had known him YEARS longer than I, who had no idea he was even sick. Or had no idea how sick. Some first found out he was ill when they read that he had died, on Twitter.

I realized then how privileged I had been for Richard to allow me into his passing. I honestly think, if he hadn’t had to tell me, he might not have, but it didn’t matter; it was gift. I’d like to think it went both ways.

I did what I could to share that gift with Richard’s closer friends, telling them this story, explaining why Richard hadn’t wanted anyone to know, explaining that by the time he understood how few hours were left, the time to let them in had passed. As best I could, I tried to help them understand what I had been privy to; that Richard is gone, and he wouldn’t want this maudlin melodrama. He would want you to understand that it’s really, honestly… okay.

Richard Hatch was one of the finest men I have ever know. Beyond incredibly talented he was also gracious, kind, warm, charming, effusive, thoughtful… and he was my friend.

So say we all.

2018.003

Well goddammit. I suppose I have to do this thing in the spirit its intended. How do I quantify 2017, now that we’ve all moved forward in our joint temporal experience of now…?

Pride. Love. Loss. Success. Achievement. Failure. Disappointment. Joy. Anger. Frustration.

I began 2017 with an entire catalog of expectations that proved to be as wrong as wrong can be. I have ended the year in exactly the same fashion. Along the way I got married, lost a good friend, lost a truly delightful mother-in-law, completed a film I’m extremely proud of, failed to sell that film (so far) due to truly ridiculous circumstance 100% beyond our control, and gained and lost all hope, faith and aspiration daily (or, some days, hourly).

Shoulda fastened my seatbelt. It’s been a bumpy night.

I knew when I set out on my blog-a-day mission that there would be several that were private; journal entries that are for my eyes only. As it happens, there have been a LOT more than I expected. as 2017 came to a close, it became apparent that there were a lot of thoughts and opinions I’m simply Not Allowed to Voice. That’s a hard place for me, but I have responsibilities beyond my own public persona, so I’ve ranted in silence, and it’ll stay that way for now.

Going forward into 2018, I’m still having daily crises of self centered on talent, strength of will, ambition… I’m still frustrated that we haven’t closed a sale for Diminuendo… I’m still inexplicably surprised to discover that I continue to be, by a large measure, my own worst enemy…

For some of these problems, there are already plans, mechanisms and solutions in place. For others… well… I guess I keep my enemies close.

It’s official; 2018 can eat a dick. I want to live the rest of my life during Aug-Oct of 2016.

First day of 2018. So far, I’m not impressed.

Anger. Fear. Aggression. The nerd rage are they.

And, yeah, nothing but spoilers ahead, so don’t be a fucking tool.

Before I begin in earnest, I’d like to quote Alex DeLarge… “Let’s get things nice and sparkling clear.”

Star Wars is important to me. It’s difficult to overstate its significance in my life, or the impact seeing the first film had on me in 1977. It quite literally changed my outlook, wants, hopes and dreams in a way that can never be repeated. The joy lasted for six years, until May 25, 1983. I walked out of the Kachina Theater in Scottsdale with a feeling of sinking disappointment in my gut that simply got deeper as weeks went on. Empire had been an incredibly powerful experience, and they followed it up with a few hours of… nothing.

And then, of course, the prequels came along, tore open that old wound, and smeared hot, wet feces into it. So you have to understand my relief every time one of these new Star Wars films isn’t just bag-of-dogshit-terrible, and maybe that will forever color my perceptions. I will always default to “At Least It Isn’t The Prequels.” Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon, but it has always been a deeply flawed one. Since 1977, there has been precisely ONE truly great Star Wars film: The Empire Strikes Back. The other 8 (or 10 if you count the Ewok movies, which we don’t, do we?) range from Very, Very Good (A New Hope) to… well… “I Hate Sand.”

I tend to over-write these things, so if you’d prefer a precis of this review, here it is: The central statement of The Last Jedi is that millennials suck. I’m only partly kidding. Stay with me.

Overall, I really enjoyed Last Jedi. The Rey/Luke/Ren arc is powerful, and both feels like Star Wars, and expands the story, the world, and the mythology. I also thought the Poe/Leia/Holdo arc was strong, as long as you don’t mind realizing that Poe is fucking idiot. I don’t. It worked for me, because it ties into the central theme… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The battle on Crait is compelling and looks gorgeous. The duel with Snoke’s praetorians is fantastic. Holdo’s moment of tactical genius is stunning (though it raises the question why hyperdrive torpedoes aren’t a battle-standard piece of kit). And the moment when we realize Leia is the single most powerful Force-sensitive in Star Wars history had me damp-eyed. It makes me genuinely sad that we’ll never see what they had planned for Leia moving forward, as this moment was obviously the introduction to something MUCH larger. All of that was great.

My problem with the film is that the stuff that doesn’t work really doesn’t work. The humor feels forced and slapsticky, which gave me Jake Lloyd flashbacks. The endless array of stupid creatures is… stupid. I love Dark Crystal, but it works because there are no humans to make you aware of what an awesome puppet show you’re watching. The Jim Henson workshop does great work, but this isn’t Fraggle Rock in Space. The porgs were… fine. The casino on Canto Bight was ridiculous. The nuns on Ahch-To were just too fucking much. I suspect the strong arm of Disney in the background demanding MORE CREATURES TO MAKE TOYS!!!

I realize it was an intentional structural choice in Last Jedi to essentially re-tell Return of the Jedi and Empire in reverse. It even kinda works. But I have a dream: In the future, I’d love to see a Star Wars film that was written with the mandate of not including ANY stock Star Wars set pieces. No cantina scene. No desperate bid to destroy a planet-killing machine. No Jedi being turned. No massive space battle. The result would be fascinating. But I digress.

Last Jedi‘s biggest problem is, of course, the second act. Finn has absolutely no reason to be in the movie. Rose even less so. The rest of the film is so well done that this overt padding is almost embarrassing. It’s obvious that the screenplay was written around the Rey story, after which Johnson made Poe the tip of the spear for what’s happening with the Rebellion Resistance and then realized he had no fucking clue what to do with Finn. As a result, we get a ludicrous, overlong, meaningless McGuffin subplot that results in nothing except fucking up Leia and Holdo’s plan.

Jamming this plotline into the seams opens up a lot of new cracks that didn’t need to be there. Finn is going to desert to… hang out with Rey? Except, won’t they then NOT be able to find their way back to the Resistance? Finn and Rose instantly being the two smartest people in the Resistance and figuring out EXACTLY how the Empire First Order is tracking them, from where, and how to defeat it? That’s just incredibly bad writing. It’s the worst kind of plot-convenience theater. “I have to get these two pointless characters out of the way and on their pointless mission. Let’s do it quick.” Rose’s little SJW rant at the fathier paddock, which is just the another of the things Rose has never seen and never done, but is an EXPERT on… like suddenly being an ace pilot. It’s all SO BAD.

And, by the way, the tracking through hyperspace that sends FinnRose off on their idiot’s errand? It’s pretty obvious that was actually a traitor among the Resistance at some point when the script was better. That scene we never see between Snoke and Hux about “the end of a string” was NOT to explain that they have some new tech that Snoke — for some reason — doesn’t know about. It was to explain (in private, where the information was safe) that Hux has an informant (or a droid or a tracker or something) on board the Resistance cruiser. It’s really fucking obvious. The red herrings are even still in place to indicate the traitor is Holdo, so this change happened late. Would have been so much better.

So, what does it all mean? One friend thinks Kylo Ren’s “tear down the old” screed is a commentary on modern politics and the two-party system. Maybe. This film went into production before anyone thought Trump could win, so it would have to be residual Bernie anger to drive that subtext.

Personally, I think the theme of the film is the hubris of youth, and the fallacy of individualism.

Yes. Seriously.

Start by thinking about the real meaning behind Luke’s disdain for the vanity and failures of the Jedi. “The Force belongs to all of us” is a very egalitarian, even socialist, viewpoint (so maybe Libby is right about the political commentary). But it’s more specific than that; “The greatest teacher, failure is,” explains Yoda, and right there, as plain as can be, he tells you what the entire film is about.

Consider; every single NEW YOUNG character ( including Snoke, who acts like a petulant teenager), begins the film with a very millennial narrow outlook focused on themselves; what do THEY want or need? When do they get THEIR moment? And all of them fail.

  • Rey fails to get Luke to return; fails to understand the Force, herself, or her visions; fails to turn Kylo Ren.
  • Kylo Ren fails to convince Rey to join him, fails to defeat Luke, fails to destroy the resistance, fails to resolve his conflict.
  • Snoke fails to turn Rey, fails to control his apprentice, fails to correctly interpret the future.
  • Finn fails to escape the ship, fails to even SPEAK to the correct codebreaker, fails to disable the tracker, and probably fails to kill Phasma.
  • Rose fails to have a reason to exist except to fuck up the ONE MOMENT when Finn finally decides to be IN the movie. Just as he’s about to do the right thing and sacrifice himself in a smart, noble, effective way, Rose wrecks it so she can have him for herself. Seriously, lady, what the fucking fuck? Are you a soldier or not?
  • Poe fails to… well… everything, because he’s a brainless, heroic dick…

Even the still-irritating-as-shit BB-8 fails to tell them there’s a way out of the base on Crait. It falls to Threepio to give them their way out, which is how it goes for the old farts in Last Jedi. Leia and Holdo always have a plan, and the plan works until the kids fuck it up. Chewie is still able to make the Falcon dance. Yoda appears to smack Luke around and make him quit wallowing in self-pity (and destroy the tree which, BTW, Yoda knows is completely free of Ancient Jedi Texts thanks to Rey). And Luke… has the best moment he ever had in any of the films.

The original characters, the older characters, all understand sacrifice for the greater good. Rey has figured it out by the end, and is finally able to help the hapless Resistance rescue itself.

As I said with The Force Awakens and Rogue One, by and large, The Last Jedi feels like Star Wars to me, and that’s the biggest expectation I have. It’s still a better film than Return of the Jedi.

APPENDIX: NIGGLY GEEK SHIT

As always happens thanks to the internet, there are tons of questions about the movie, theories, retcons, etc. Thought I’d address a few.

Who Is Snoke?!?!?
Everybody is up in arms that Snoke died, and he wasn’t revealed to be Darth Plagueis or Grand Moff Tarkin or Luke’s REAL father or something else convenient and intricately connected. I’m here to tell you IT DOESN’T MATTER.

Before the Bobforsaken sequels, the entirety of what we knew about the Emperor was that he was Vader’s master, and shot Force lightning from his cock. That was it. He didn’t have a backstory, a lightsaber, he didn’t even have a name. The Emperor appeared in one film as a hologram (and that wasn’t even Ian McDiarmid until the Special Editions), and another in his throne room, where he was killed by Vader. He was a powerful, malevolent presence, and then he was gone. That was plenty.

I think people are pissed off about Snoke because they expect everything to be interconnected. It’s a movie! Everything has to resolve! It doesn’t. And Snoke was never the villain of this trilogy.

(Now, all that being said, I think if you pay VERY close attention, it’s pretty obvious who Snoke is… but you’ll have to figure that out for yourself. I ain’t helping.)

What About Rey’s Parents?!?!
Again, I think you’re grasping at straws. Remember what Luke said; The Force is for all of us. Doesn’t matter who Rey’s parents are. Kylo Ren might be telling the truth (and probably is, or believes he is), or he might not. It doesn’t matter that Rey isn’t Kenobi’s daughter or Luke’s unknown child. She’s powerful, committed, and has a bunch of boring Jedi texts (and probably Luke’s Force ghost) to turn her into a true warrior. Maybe not a Jedi, but, then again, Snoke and Ren aren’t Sith, either.

Who Were the Knights of Ren and What Happened to Them?
Luke told you Kylo took some of the students with him. They became the Knights of Ren. Then, they became Snoke’s praetorian guard.

How Did No One Know Luke Was A Force Ghost on Crait?
I assume Leia did know. Didn’t matter. She was seeing her brother for the last time. Johnson certainly clued in the audience given that Luke was younger, wearing his Jedi whites, and not leaving footprints in the salt. Kylo Ren was far too overwrought to even consider it.

Was Snoke Really Responsible For The Force Bond Between Kylo Ren and Rey?
Seems unlikely since it continued after his death. Snoke wasn’t a Sith lord; just a very powerful Force sensitive and Sith groupie. Seems more likely the bond between them is a genuine mystery that connects them for as yet unknown reasons.

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