Scott Ellington's Blog

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Dolts in Toyland; a conversation

It’s an intermittent conversation  recently resumed with this:

where I wrote sparingly, and pithily, I think, after considerable thought;

“Perhaps the groan issues from the gut of those of us who are simply over-the-hill in a line-of-sight virtual universe.”

His email effectively encouraged me to blither on.


more wonderful control of language! 

Thanks,  Grant

 I countered with: 




Twitter’s likely to remain an alien mystery to me, but the Politics and Popular Culture panel, accessible through the link I dropped,

just reminded me of the groundswell of citizen-journalist energy that crowded into NCMR last summer.  And that means that a tweet is essentially the sound of a whistle-blower infinitely complicating the slippery slope between one’s public image(s) and private enterprises.  I think that new, more effective definitions of terms like, “transparent”, “public”, “secret” and “national security”  cannot possibly keep pace with developing hardware, let alone the purposes to which people will put it.

When everybody’s wired, when every audience member represents critical press, when there is no “off-the-record”, when everyone you meet is a potential iHole…whither confidentiality and trust?

Perhaps the next big real estate boom will depend upon LAN-damping, communities in which no electronic message can result in wider/global consequences.

I absolutely loathed The Final Cut until I caught the commentary; afterward, it became one of my favorite films, even though it’s only a primitive and preliminary dance around a raft of pivotal 21st Century dilemmas…an era in which no man is an island unless he pays a bunch.

I really like the line you drew between tweeting and pun-ishment.  Effective communication, by means of the dreadful kludge of the English language, demands a degree of consensual seriousness and sincerity, which punning completely invalidates.  The punisher objectifies the mode of communication at the violent expense of content, while devaluing the correspondent by failing to take the message and the messenger seriously.  There’s probably no Miranda warning on a free electron.  There should be, if anything you say or do can be used in the court of public discourse to sway opinion, it will be used to someone’s ruinous disadvantage, eventually.

The commentary for Murder, My Sweet contained a reference to Robert Montgomery’s The Lady in the Lake.  The film which Montgomery directed, and in which he also stars, is described as a thriller/mystery in which the camera’s point of view is the lead actor’s point of view, so he only appears in the film when he walks in front of a reflective surface.  Netflix will probably have it here in a couple of days.  This POV thing I’ve been curious about may turn out to be a totally dreadful way to tell a story.  I’m just looking to find out whether it works.  I think it’s insane that there are so few examples of persistently coherent POV that nobody I’ve asked can name a film in which it happens — if they’re sure they know what the hell I’m blithering about.  Happy Chicago!

Film at 11. 




Thanks for;


It aligned in time very nicely with my experience of the commentary track for Murder, My Sweet in which a filmmaker named Alain Silver

suggested strongly that Raymond Chandler loathed the unrealistic convention of the iconic, omniscient detective, which led very directly the evolution (if not the creation) of Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe.

Mall Cop and Observe and Report aren’t on my list of things to do, but I just placed an order with Amazon for a mess of Chandler in a couple of volumes, wishlisted his selected letters and notes, ordered your Transformations, and pre-ordered the upcoming release of Lonely Are The Brave.

There’s a new and contemptuous Washington Post review of Observe and Report, here:


The most resonant aspect of your blog-post, for me, concerns the super-perceptive detective, whose powers of observation, deduction and inferential reasoning sell well, undeniably.

Buried in the subtext of NYPD Blue, conversely, the intrinsically superior, infallible faculties of eccentrics like Holmes, Monk, House, Poirot, Columbo…have very little to do with the reality of criminal detection.

In True Blue, David Milch and Bill Clark repudiate the common belief that hard, scientific evidence and brilliant forensic criminologists put bad guys away. 

Circumstantial evidence and eyewitness reports ain’t shit.

The uber-detective is a comforting fiction that’s just as impracticable as a Miranda warning when a working investigator is busily manipulating a criminal suspect into the production of an unimpeachable confession.

Adding a lawyer to that mix guarantees absolute failure and hopeless recourse to the CSI-brand of pocket-protector and paper-chase police work; anathema to priests and detectives.

They paint an effective detective as an eagle scout or choirboy, whose moral imperatives are pitted against exactly the mean streets Chandler talked about (first).  The disparity between the actual job and the official job description, sooner or later, destroys the person who accepts the burdens shouldered by Kelly and Simone, and most especially Sipowicz, all of them bound to protect the public from knowledge of how their job is actually done…and doubly bound to get the job done more-than-less legally/cosmetically.

Milch goes on to say that New York City cops (into the 80s) were famously underpaid and overtasked with the burden of preserving the PR illusion of constitutionally-correct law enforcement, when the job involved something entirely else.

Ridley Scott’s commentary substantiates this (Milch/Clark) perspective in describing the Michael Douglas role in Black Rain,  by indicating that the life of a married policeman made divorce an inevitability, and that alimony/settlement always transformed the destitute cop into an aggressive participant in any form of lucrative corruption.  Scott presents the same point of view from a slightly different angle in Someone To Watch Over Me.

Serpico, The French Connection, Bullit and all of early Eastwood lean far in the direction of very ordinary men (played by rising superstars) bending the rule of law in pursuit of a purer definition of justice than law can quite conceive:  Circumstantial Justice, without the pomp.

So who. exactly, is it that dotes on a very long succession of successful movies and television shows about super-detectives and dolts?  And why?

I’ve got no reasonable answer to the question posed in your post, but I’ve been thinking that nearly all productions are financed by people/organizations that exert considerable control over the final product.  It seems reasonable to suggest that We the People (out here in the dark) are only fictively the primary audience for putative works of Hollywood cinematic and video art.  The real-er and far more influential audience is  “note”-delivering investment bankers, lawyers; board members and anti-creative old farts whose purse strings call the  shots.  The ultimate objective of investors doesn’t seem to be the creation of profoundly moving art, nor incisive and insightful visions of authentic reality.  They want, instead, maximal return on their investments.  So I’m going to guess that Kevin James and Seth Rogen portray moronic stand-ins for We-uns, The Paying Audience (dumbfucks), as visualized by (egomaniacal) Power.  And that they see themselves as Holmes, Monk, Columbo…

On the other hand, anything defamatory I’ve said about the Nikon Corporation is probably incorrect.  Yesterday I looked beyond their website, and actually called a phone number for Nikon’s Southern California plant.  The quarter-century-old lens information I’ve been seeking (in vain) for over a month was faxed to me in an instant, my bayonet plate was ordered, and a photocopy of the 1982 userguide will arrive in the mail next week. 

In the words of Emily Litella, I’m an idiot, and “never mind”.


He answered; 



Scott, You have supplied the answer so elegantly, you made the problem disappear.  Wonderful.  Still, the account is too pessimistic for the likes of me.  It’s also a little implausible.  I know some people in the investment community and they just don’t know enough about culture to pull something like this off.  Best, Grant

I found that interpretation kind of flattering, but incomplete and partially off the point (if I had one [or only one]), so:




Me too.  At no time did I intend to convey a sense of concerted conspiracy.  I think the revered leaders of all financial industries have amply demonstrated their incompetence at — Everything. 

They meddle, and thereby drive down the pre-existing value of everything they control.

Addison DeWitt (a true believer) explains to Eve Harrington all about The Theater in All About EveThe boundary between reality and make-believe is often vague, complex and tenuous.  It’s a line he attempts to migrate across with her later in the film.  The very same line has been repeatedly violated by Adelle DeWitt with Viktor in Dollhouse.

There’s a brief moment in which Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and Marilyn Monroe appear silent and alone in-frame together.It’s like a science class chart of the evolution of stars and careers in the wake of a golden era of make-believe.


I awoke at 4:30 this morning to watch Compulsion on AMC.  The 103minute film was presented in 2.5hours, to make possible the frequent repetition of the very same commercial advertisements, time and again.

Ads for ExtenZe, The Future of Classic, and Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser, shilling for a credit-consolidator) interrupted the movie intermittently at first, but as the plot thickened, the interruptions came more frequently, or perhaps they just annoyed me more keenly.  If this is The Future of Classic movie presentation on AMC, it’s a bona fide abomination.  The debatable pre-existing value of the movie (at least as a touchstone) for numerous cultural allusions to Leopold and Loeb is in no way enhanced by frequent AMC interruptions to present the same very-lame commercials, again and again and again.


Tracy’s Darrow in Inherit the Wind was a great deal better than Welles’, but no matter who delivers the speech, how does one not love to parody Darrow’s summation:


“this terrible crime was inherent in his organism, and it came from some barbaric ancestor… Is any blame attached

because somebody took Milton Friedman’s philosophy seriously and fashioned his life upon it?…

it is hardly fair to hang ten thousand financial whiz-kids for the philosophy that was taught him at the university (of Chicago).”


They meddle.  We meddle. 

We make it slightly more interesting.  They make it vastly more costly. —–Scott



(Post Script) Sent from a cell phone. Please forgive brevity and bad spelling.

The work is done.  You just need a TypePad account.  Actually I think WordPress might be better. 

I’ve had WordPress since the start of the writers’ strike (to post at United Hollywood).  There seems to be something I’m not understanding.  Are you suggesting that I post this conversation at your blog under Dolts in Toyland?



No, I’m suggestion that you post your thoughts, as expressed in our conversations, as often and as widely as possible.  They are too good to be wasted on the likes of me.  which is not to say I am not grateful to have had a “first look.” 

Aw shucks.  I’m predisposed to see the stuff I say as unsupported looniness, but okay.


 And that’s how this bloglike thing got started.

Nah.  Most of the stuff I said was conversational, and intended to tip you off to stuff I’ve been finding that might pique your fancy…attempts at returning the favors you do us all by referencing so allfired many things several times each month, for a long, long while.

And editing that conversational junk into a blog-comment format?  Seems a hell of a lot like work.

Thanks, though. —–Scott


 Again too pessimesstic for my tastes but tell me please tell me you posted it. Best!  —–GrantHis next blog post inspired me to another email message, largely because the film in question isn’t and won’t be on my agenda — I wrote:

14 Apr 09 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Upon review of a ton of cut&paste, some paragraphs have disappeared, but wtf.

    Comment by scottellington | 14 Apr 09 | Reply

  2. There were missing paragraphs and elements of interaction which I think I’ve put back where they belonged in the course of that conversation.

    The ability to edit is wonderful, but the tiny editing/writing window leaves a great deal to be desired.

    I also offer apologies for the peculiar gaps in logic, formatting and continuity. Blame for the formatting gaps I happily share with this platform. The misspellings, irrationality and haphazard thinking is entirely attributed to me.

    Comment by scottellington | 16 Apr 09 | Reply

  3. The more I attempt to edit this Dolts post, the screwier it gets. Enough, already

    Comment by scottellington | 25 Apr 09 | Reply

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