Rob Burnett

The geek community has a preternatural ability to delude itself. To suspend not only disbelief, but actual awareness, effectively enough to cut anything even remotely genre-related all the slack it could ever possibly want. There are people out there who still explain the greatness of Lucas’ Star Wars prequels. Who defend Zack Snyder stealing virtually every shot in BvS from another, better film as homage rather than a total lack of imagination. Who tell me, when I criticize Next Generation, “Oh, that was just the first two seasons. It takes a while for a series to find it’s feet.” (THAT’S TWO GODDAMNED YEARS, PEOPLE!?!)

For a while, I was one of them. I tried hard to tell myself that Return of the Jedi was awesome (it wasn’t). That Temple of Doom was a worth sequel to Raiders (it isn’t). That Logan’s Run isn’t covered in cheese (it is; it’s still an awesome movie, but best when grilled, and served hot with tomato soup).

Unfortunately, as I was becoming a film-addled teen, I was also watching movies like The GodfatherLawrence of ArabiaFrench Connection. Films from the height of epic cinema and the depths of the anti-hero 70s that are powerful and visceral and unapologetically brilliant, and I realized we geeks were getting the short end of the stick.

We were gifted with occasional moments of true filmmaking brilliance – Raiders, which is a perfect film, or Empire Strikes Back – but mostly, we were ranting and raving about mediocrity. Movies that, viewed objectively, would get a 5 or 6 at best on a scale of 10. I kept thinking back to something William Windom said in his Starlog interview about his turn as Matt Decker in the TOS episode, Doomsday Machine. Windom reflected his own version of what’s known elsewhere in the geek world as “Sturgeon’s Law.”

That Star Trek episode was a piece of crap,” he said.

“whether it’s bagels you eat, clothes you wear, adults you meet when you’re little, plays you go to or are in, 90 percent is horsecrap. Five percent is just godawful and you wish you could forget it, five percent is memorable, so you better en­joy the horsecrap, because nine out of 10 hours in your life are gonna be spent in horsecrap. So fine, but don’t go around giv­ing it first prizes! The first prizes are too valuable — they’re really only for that five percent — of people, food, clothing, time, weather, age, whatever you want to name in your life.”

He was right. It took a while to sink in, but I slowly realized that not calling out the films, shows, books, comics, in the 90th percentile for being what they are — fine — is actually a disservice to the films, shows, books & comics that truly are excellent. It fucks up the bell curve.

Because I haven’t ceded my critical faculty, I often get called a hater. This drives me crazy for two reasons; 1 – it’s not a fucking word. 2 – it isn’t true in any respect. I simply refuse to love everything. I had a guy tell me, “I just choose to like things, and I think I’m happier.” My response was that I chose what I like, and therefore, I enjoy the things I enjoy much more passionately.

I have a friend I frequently tell that he needs a superlative filter. Whenever a piece of expensive marketing hits for the Next Big Thing, he is on social media exclaiming that this is THE GREATEST THING EVER! since the last GREATEST THING EVER! and I try to tell him that, no, it is mathematically unlikely that it is. Since this man prides himself as a film lover, I once explained that claiming Fast & Furious 4 is the GREATEST MOVIE HE’S EVER SEEN is pretty fucking insulting to, say, The Godfather, Part II. Right?

“Why can’t you just enjoy stuff?”

Because that “stuff” is the result of hundreds of millions of dollars, tens of thousands of hours of work, and is sold under the pretense of art, and I have too much respect for the labor, the money, the medium and myself to not hold that shit up to the highest possible standards. There’s no crying in baseball.

Also, there’s the obvious point that, by supporting the shit with our dollars, we tell the horse dropping it that we would please like more of it, and as soon as possible. This same friend loathes JJTrek as vehemently as I do, and yet he has seen every single film in the theater (some more than once), and owns all of them on blu-ray. It absolutely mystifies me.

I’m not a hater. I just care more than you do. Very few films will ever rise to the level of No Country For Old Men or fall to the depths of Watchmen. Most of them hover in between; like Derek Smalls, they are lukewarm water. Let them be.

We define the good by defining the bad. You cannot have one without the other. Shadows are only visible in the light; absent one, the other disappears. You might choose to swim in a flat artistic sea rendered in smooth shades of grey. I like my art with more swells, currents, riptides, eddies and vibrance. Suck it up.

I had several errands to run today, a grand circle tour of the Valley. I always try to plan these things out so I can backtrack as little as possible, and do it all in one day. My first stop was to drop a toy I had been selling for my friend Rob that he sold directly; the second was to loan some tools to K for an art project.

Both things should have been in the garage. Alas, I discovered that someone who had the combination to the padlock (meaning an employee of the management company, or someone the Gas Company meter reader gave the combo to) had come in and removed all my power tools, and all the collectible toys from the box they were in. I believe they knew I was gone (implying the property maintenance) because they took their time.

So now I owe Rob a shitload of money for his toys, and am out about $1,500 worth of tools it’s going to be a pain-in-the-ass to replace. Needless to say, I didn’t start the day happy. Looking on the bright side, though… it saved me two stops.

Professionally, things are moving, albeit slowly. I’m now talking to four different companies about directing. Something has to give. On the mainstream side, a lot is going on, all of it nebulous, most not worth talking about yet.

TQO seems to have blown me off completely, at least for now. I think she’s in love with her ex or something, from what I can glean off Twitter. Saturday night, I went to K&A’s art show in West Hollywood. It was good getting out to see people, something I need to do more often. I’m a lot like an animal. Left alone too long, I eventually cease being domesticated, and it takes a long time to get socialized again. I think I need to make the effort to travel down to ComicCon for a couple days, just for that purpose. I also had lunch with James Deen yesterday, mostly to get the scoop on The Canyons, the Paul Shrader-directed, Bret Easton Ellis-written film he’s starring in, but also to discuss one of those nebulous mainstream projects.

After the art show Saturday, I went to see Vega. Although it’s customary on a girl’s first blog appearance to explain her nom de voyage, in this case, it’s far too convoluted so I’m gonna skip it. I’ll tell you she’s 22, in the business, smarter than most people think, extremely sarcastic, and a filthy whore. When I fucked her in the ass with a knife to her throat, I think she was a little disappointed I didn’t actually cut her. Just a little.

Much to my surprise, she asked me to stay. I was even more surprised that I agreed. She woke me up with a blowjob that turned into buttsex with her squirting all over both of us, which I think is about the best start to a Sunday I’ve had in a long, long time. She asked me to come back last night, but I was in the middle of too many things, and declined. Vega did everything she could to talk me into coming, but I stood firm which led to her response that I have more willpower than sense.

We were supposed to get together tomorrow, but I’m going to Palm Springs with Hollywood to shoot some footage of a private investigator. Don’t ask.

Other than that, I have a date with a girl I’m going to call Ink (she looks like a Burning Angel girl) later in the week that I’m excited about, and I’m sure I’ll see Vega before then.

Meanwhile, about every third night, I wake from a dream in which a particular Girl I’m no longer seeing does or says something to convince me she finds me pathetic, annoying or foolish. This morning, I woke up at 4:30 afterI dreamed I was walking along a cliffside with said Girl when I slipped. I knew I had broken my ankle, and suddenly (dream logic) there was bottomless abyss underneath me. Instead of helping, Girl turned, expressed disappointment, then chuckled to herself as I lost my grip and fell.

Either I need a better mattress, or my subconscious is trying to tell me something.

Last night, Mischief & I ordered Chinese and watched Corruption. It was her idea, not mine, so don’t imagine I’m forcing the girl to sit through my oeuvre and tell me how brilliant I am. In fact, I have no idea what she thought. There was a lot of heavy silence, so my guess is she was less than impressed.

I’m not surprised. A few days ago, I showed her – without telling her I was responsible – a Cock Diesel music video I directed as a cross-promotion for ICON, and she hated it. Not knowing it for what it was, not being able to recognize the location or the roof or Kylie or Hillary (largely because we were watching it in Ultra-Shitty-Scope on YouTube) gave her permission to express, and boy did she.

I don’t mind. Her opinion was so heartfelt and honestly delivered, I can’t take it personally. Besides, there’s a lot going on; the age difference, the different cultural references, the fact that she was, to an extent, comparing a video shot for free in 4 hours to a $460,000 Fatboy Slim video (Weapon of Choice directed by Spike Jonze) that was shot over six days, the incredibly bad YouTube encoding, etc.

None of which changes the fact that she hated it, and I’m okay with that. Doesn’t change the fact that I’m proud of it, either. We’re learning that we have very different taste in media. But it was useful to compare her reaction to Corruption and gauge her distaste by all she didn’t say.

I suspect she hated it as well. And that’s okay, too.

The most curious part of the evening was how it brought crashing back into my consciousness something I know, but often forget. A subtle reminder of why it’s so often pointless to put real effort into porn films.

No one takes a critical eye towards a cheesy Brady Bunch parody. But for those who care, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we work, we just can’t compete. To the average viewer, movies like Corruption that come close to looking and feeling like “real” movies get compared to those same mainstream films, and that’s a contest we simply cannot win.

Compare my little political drama with its crew of 11 and its 10-day shooting schedule to even a single episode of West Wing, whose catering cost more than my entire budget, and we’re just not going to shine very brightly. Like Icarus (in my new favorite poem), having flown too close to the sun, we come to the end of our triumph. I suppose that’s the very definition of hubris.

But, like a proud parent ignoring his child’s faults, it is so very easy to forget. I don’t take it to heart, but I have to admit, the whole enterprise has made me somewhat melancholy and reflective about the hopelessness of my life’s ambition.

I have a close friend who is in his final weeks of pre-production on a mainstream film. At one time, I was to have a small role in it, essentially playing Helms from Corruption. When that looked untenable I asked if I could at least audition for the part, simply to be seen by a real casting director. I asked for a job on the movie, even as a P.A., just to get back on a real set, just to get the taste for blood, the hunger back in my mouth.

I have essentially offered to work for free. Apparently, I am too tainted by my current career to pursue my vocation even as an avocation. Free, it seems, is too high a price for a broken-down old pornographer to venture back into mainstream.

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