Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


What I’d like to see

April 23rd, 2017

In addition to the Trump impeachment (and good luck on that one), here are some things I’d like to see this summer.

After 29 years of wondering just who the Hell would ever read through the LA Times’ Summer Sneaks list, I did so this morning. So don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s too late to change.

Here are the films (and release dates) on my I’d-like-to-see list. Realistically, given time constraints, I might see 5-8 of these. At the top, I’m putting the MUST SEE list (barring nuclear holocaust, of course).

I’m not even a movie fan, per se — but there’s something about each of these that speaks to me.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (5/5/17)

Alien: Covenant (I go to see all “Aliens” movies, so long as they don’t also involve Predators, because even I know to avoid those.)(5/19/17)

War for the Planet of the Apes (For five decades now, I’ve made it a practice to see all “Apes” movies) (7/14/17)

Dunkirk (TOM HARDY and MARK RYLANCE. ‘Nuff said!) (7/21/17)

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (the terrifying Al Gore documentary — I’ll need drinks afterward) (7/28/17)


Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (documentary; currently, I’m interested in development issues) (4/28/17)

LA92 (documentary about the LA riots; I want to see it because I was here) (4/28/17)

Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait (documentary) (5/5/17)

The Lovers (Aidan Gillen, Melora Walters) (5/5/17)

Obit (documentary, about the people who write obits for newspapers) (5/5/17)

3 Generations (5/5/17)

Burden (documentary, about the performance artist Chris Burden, who encouraged his assistant to shoot him in the arm during one live performance, and who was crucified onto a Volkswagen in another) (5/12/17)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (5/12/17)

Whisky Galore! (it stars Eddie Izzard — that’s why!) (5/12/17)

The Commune (This is about a Danish commune in the 1970s. I think communes are ridiculous, and from the plot description this one sounds typically misbegotten, so I’ll be seeing it because occasionally it’s good to see your beliefs and values vindicated.) (5/19/17)

Paint It Black (5/19/17)

The Survivalist (post-apocalyptic thriller) (5/19/17)

Long Strange Trip (documentary about the Grateful Dead; I don’t like the Dead, but I’m still trying to figure out why so many people do. I feel similarly about Frank Sinatra.) (5/26/17)

Churchhill (Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery; I’m going because it’s a great cast, and because it’s about Churchhill.) (6/2/17)

Wonder Woman (Because it looks like great fun, and because she was the only fun thing in that wretched Batman v. Superman movie.) (6/2/17)

It Comes at Night (And hopefully it scares the bejesus out of me.) (6/9/17)

Nobody Speaks: Trials of the Free Press (documentary about the privacy trial between Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media) (6/23/17)

Baby Driver (from writer-director Edgar Wright, about a heist gone wrong) (6/28/17)

Good Fortune (documentary about John Paul DeJoria’s rise from homelessness and gang banging to become a billionaire philanthropist — I love this guy) (6/30/17)

The Journey (Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, John Hurt in a fictional account of two implacable enemies in Northern Ireland – firebrand Democratic Unionist Party leader Paisley and Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness – who set aside their differences and arrive at peace. I need more of this right now.) (June)

The Dark Tower (from the Stephen King novels) (8/4/17)

Annabelle: Creation (I see all “Annabelle” movies too. I’m a sucker for menacing evil playthings.) (8/11/17)

Tulip Fever (written by Tom Stoppard) (8/25/17)

The Unknown Girl (thriller) (August)

Paid vacation

April 14th, 2017

Paid by YOU.

Fear when flying

April 13th, 2017

All of the attention paid to the passenger forcibly ejected from the United Flight isn’t because we’re insensitive to the plight of Syrians or possible collusion with the Russians; the attention is being paid precisely because the rough treatment of the doctor who had already paid for his seat has so many of us asking what has happened to our society, and to our civility and principles, that we now find ourselves with this sort of episode. Put another way: It’s of a piece with many other things.

Laying down the law

April 11th, 2017

Some people are surprised that the Texas anti-masturbation law is moving forward.

But lawmakers have gone back and forth and back and forth with this. Now that it’s finally coming to a head, nobody should be surprised by the climax.

Punishment for violating the new law? Getting sent to the penal colony.

Why do old books smell so great?

April 10th, 2017

Three words for you: “woody,” “smoky” and “earthy.”

Thanks to Doug Hackney for letting me know about this!

Coming soon

April 5th, 2017

Without risking becoming one of those tiresome people who recounts how busy he’s been by providing a litany of tasks and appointments, let’s just confirm the assumption that there’s been a lot going on. Among other things, I’ve given a number of talks in California that I hope to be writing about here soon. (We’ll see.) And in addition to doing a lot of speaking, I’ve been doing a lot of (non-blog) writing.

Looking ahead:

I’ll be in New Jersey and New York May 4 – May 10, so I’m hoping to catch up with some friends and colleagues.

May 10 – May 12, I’ll be in Lake Tahoe on business.

May 18 – 21, I’ll be in bucolic Hays, Kansas for my good friend James Smith’s long-overdue wedding to a delightful and beautiful woman who will actually have him. James has been in more of my plays than any other actor (eight of them? 10?), and now he’ll be acting the role of a responsible grown-up. I’ve never been to Hays, Kansas or, I think Kansas itself. A good friend who is also a very good playwright, Ross Tedford Kendall, is also from Kansas, and when I told him I’d be visiting Hays, he just laughed long and hard. That caught my attention. But hey, where I’m from isn’t exactly a metropolis either.

On June 3, my new play “Triptych” will be opening in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. More to come about that. (Including a link to secure tickets.) The play went through several different working titles, including “Pyramid,” “Triangle,” “Triptych” and “How We Know You,” before my director convinced me to call it “Triptych.” I would say I’m hoping for the best, as one always does with a production, but I’m blessed with three honest-to-God great actors, all of whom I’ve worked with before, and a talented director who understands my work and my sensibility. If you’re in LA in June, I hope you’ll come see it.

Musical legacy

April 4th, 2017

We don’t always recognize the people who’ve made a significant impact on our lives. Sometimes it’s the engineers we can’t name who built the roads and bridges we drive; sometimes it’s the people who created the systems we use; sometimes it’s the person who designed, say, the handy squeezable ketchup or mustard bottle. Sometimes it’s artists, and sometimes it’s the business people behind the artists. Usually, those business people behind the artists get a (deservedly) bad reputation.

Which made it all the sweeter today to read about a tribute to Robert Hurwitz, who just retired as the head of Nonesuch Records.

During his 33 years heading up Nonesuch, Hurwitz helped helm the careers of John Adams, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Kronos Quartet, Randy Newman and many others. All of those names, and several others in his professional legacy, can be found in my music collection. It’s nice to see a “suit” get some credit for having taste, and for helping the masses share in that taste. Although I’d never heard of him before, it turns out that for decades Robert Hurwitz has helped to curate my listening.

Thank you, sir. Enjoy your retirement.

The perfectly decorated home…

March 10th, 2017

…If you’re a mollusk.

Take a look.

Preparation pays off

March 8th, 2017

In preparation for International Women’s Day, I was born to a woman, I married a woman, I sired a woman, I helped get more than one woman elected, I selected many woman friends, and I got a woman business partner. I have huge respect for this woman thing, and I am all in on it.

“It’s not all binary.”

March 2nd, 2017

That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard all day. Or longer.

It was said by one of the other speakers at the Innovation Expo in Napa Valley where I was also a presenter today.

His point: Not everything is yes or no; black or white; Democrat or Republican. Most things — most answers — most choices — lie along a spectrum. Yes sometimes; no other times; sometimes, something in the middle.

The worst thing going on in the country is the binary camps. It’s like we’re all caught in the middle of the Coke vs. Pepsi war we saw twenty years ago, and 7-Up is nowhere to be seen.

It leads to something like this:

I have a friend who is a solid, thoughtful, caring person who also voted for Trump. (As did many of my other friends — and relatives — around the country.) In addition to a lot of other community service this friend does, he’s also part of the ski patrol — you know, those guys who rescue you when you’ve had a bad mishap on the slopes. He’s a life saver. Last month I saw this friend at an event and he was pretty sore because one of his closest friends — a friend whose life, he said, he’d once held in his hands — unfriended him on Facebook because of their differing political views.

That’s pretty bad. I wish it hadn’t happened.

For the record, as you’ve gleaned, I loathe Donald Trump. And it’s not a recent thing — I’ve detested him for 35 years, for reasons that were made abundantly clear throughout last year’s presidential campaign. But people vote for the people they vote for for a variety of reasons, and sometimes that reason is because they’re voting for some of a candidate’s issues (and not others), and sometimes that reason is because they don’t like the other choice, and so they settle. (I didn’t like the person I ultimately felt forced to vote for either.) But I’m doing my best not to lose any friends (or relatives!) because they voted for the other candidate. Even though my fear is that this particular president is a threat to the republic.

Earlier today, in a break between sessions, I got caught up in a Facebook exchange with a friend who lives in Kansas. One of her friends was responding to my friend’s outrage about Kellyanne Conway sitting on her bare feet on a couch in the White House. The exchange got silly in a nasty way, and then this person I don’t know called me out as a “liberal,” which I take it meant pejoratively, and here was my response:

“A couple of misunderstandings on your part that perhaps I can help with. And I’m going to share them with care and respect, because I can see you’re a friend of Jodi’s, and I have to tell you, I love Jodi, and also because I’m doing my best to have respectful conversations with people online. First, the easy part: when you say ‘the liberals lost…’ you are assuming that I’m a liberal. You shouldn’t assume. I’m a common-sense centrist. When I look at what Republicans theoretically represented at one point, most of that would have fit me just fine. Secondly, ‘liberals’ — whomever they are — are not upset because they ‘lost.’ They are upset because they a) don’t like what Trump REPRESENTS (that seems to be: misogyny; racism; authoritarianism; disrespect for the judiciary; mocking the handicapped; and boy could I go on); and b) they are concerned that the election was STOLEN because of Russian interference; and c) they are concerned that Trump is IN THE POCKET of the Russians. So it’s not about losing an ELECTION — we’ve all lost elections — it’s about LOSING THE COUNTRY. That’s why, no matter one’s political inclinations, EVERYONE should seek a full investigation of Russian influence. Because, as Americans, we should all wish for the good of the nation. I wish you a good night.”

Also, in the thread, I agreed with this person that Bill Clinton had disgraced that very same room, the Oval Office, in his dealings with Monica Lewinsky. And, I’ll add, he lied about it under oath.

Not a binary response, for a Democrat.

In the binary-response world, I’d have to stick up for “my” people no matter what, and this other person would have to stick up for his people no matter what.

That’s what we have to get away from.

Because most things in life aren’t binary.

And because facts should matter.

When I was a boy, I kept all the food served to me at dinner nicely isolated in separate areas on my plate, so nothing would touch. I didn’t want the sauce or runnings from one thing seeping into something else. My mother teased me about this once, and I said, “Do you like ketchup?” She assured me that she did. So I said, “Well, you don’t want it in your coffee, do you?” Of course not. So, see: sometimes, in some circumstances, she likes ketchup — but she doesn’t like it in other places.

We all live along a spectrum of choices. At times, even life and death aren’t binary. Medical professionals sometimes debate whether people in certain circumstances on life support are still “alive” or “dead.” As those of us who remember the Terri Schiavo case recall.

Not everything is binary.