A LONELY LIFE

Betty Davis 1962

This autobiography is surprising for its unparalleled excellence and seeming honesty. Davis has represented her life in a well-written little book. She speaks well of everyone she worked with in film including industry rivals, Joan Crawford. She passes on providing long comments regarding Barbara Stanwyck.

Of course, the book tells about acting: stage, screen (silent – talkies), modeling, fame, being a glamour puss. Davis knew she was not the typical 1930s actress – beautiful, lanky or seductive but she was blonde. Davis suggests and I believe she rose on talent and merit alone. The more involved the part the better the performance – two years toward the beginning of her career, 1936 and 1939 Davis received Oscars for best actress. She was dedicated to excellent projects and to excellent performances. She ran into the buzz of the Warner Brothers demanding she do mediocre projects. That legal dispute ended in London before World War Two began for the Americans. Olivia de Havilland broke the studios’ system.

Her movies of the Forties and the early Fifties all had substance for her. She never mentions a western, but early on Bette Davis from New England was typecast as the Southern girl and the Southern lady. Motherhood, marriage and living reduced the number of films she was in. She was not always in Los Angeles but lived on the East Cost. She tells trying to be the best mother, when she wasn’t always around, her understanding of intimacy from work and from husbands, and the shortcomings in the men she encountered and those she eventually married. [The first was always at home but did not work at home and little out of it; the second died young; Gary Merrill, fellow actor, had work but did not like the comforts of a joint home.]

Bette Davis had help with children and with the house; she had capable assistants. Davis expresses gratitude. But she felt isolated from exchanging intimacy, touching, sensing another human being, and caring in full devotion. [Note in the text Davis describes these attributes as handled by a performing actor, but says they are not transitioned to or that acting did not fulfill the needs of a human being living in reality.] This distinction between acting and reality is how she conveys she was lonely, and hence the adjective in the book’s title.

Two remarkable chapters in the book are the first and the last. The first doubts whether anyone, including herself, should write an autobiography. Davis beats out the words in spades. The last chapter deals with the status of a successful woman, running into unsuitable men, earning more than most people, and handling fame, professionalism, being alone, and where all that leaves the woman: Her state of mind. It is an excellent description of explaining the world that might become more matriarchal. Sex alone changes nothing. Couples should be mates and their efforts should complement one another.

This is an excellent autobiography; it benefits from being short and well-thought out. Also, this autobiography became the first feminist tome of the modern era. The Feminine Mystique was published two years later in 1964. If Betty Friedan believed it was the problem that has no name, she was unacquainted with Bette Davis’ Autobiography.

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MAKE A MOVIE

It had to come up, and it did. I was exchanging views about Congressional Investigations into everything Russian, including ingredients for Ruskie salad dressing. My opponent said that the two elderly Republican senators were unAmerican. I stopped and asked for a clarification. The senators were anti-Trump which likely means they are full-red-blooded American males who are anti-Russian.

I asked, “Do you know of a book called The Manchurian Candidate?” There was hemming, hawing and harrumphing. “Perhaps you saw the movie?” Frank Sinatra was in the first which suffered from the lack of good song and dance, an absence of Marilyn Monroe and no hint of ballet.

There was a second The Manchurian Candidate, but I never saw it. I don’t know which big stars were in it; it was therefore a dud.

Now is the time to remake The Manchurian Candidate – third time’s a charm. I’m very encouraged. It’s good for business when Americans have had had Presidents whose career and job performance generate movies. Bill Clinton had loads of movies made about him – President as murderer; President as philanderer; President as corrupt. Bush and Obama were cinematographically uninteresting. But the new guy – let’s see what entertainment does with him.

SEE IT NOW – THE FUTURE

Recent grade-B scientific films present sets which seem a step away from funky main streets of small town America today. Instead of the barber’s pole, there is a pole with a half dozen round plastic platters, like multiple serving areas for kids to NBA players. That was futuristic during the Sixties, and it dates and looks odd today. But the incongruity fits in a science fiction movie: everyone can recognize what it is but like a barber’s pole, no one know what it means.

Next to see on the screen are the race and ethnicity of people. Any film company should have its characters from various places show up in semi-native festive garb. That happens in California usually. It is difficult to know whether someone is in the United States military or with the LAPD. She may be going to a costume party. Ditto, putting these people on a movie set while filming a science fiction flick. The languages present a wild, crazy, different sound tract.

No change has to be made when asking characters to speak, not American but their first language. The misunderstandings today are brief and small. In the future it may be impossible to cross the street without knowing five languages.

A few movies have used the present day to project a futuristic society. This presents a step, an advancement reflecting a truer future than any other show. For instance the future is unlikely to be anything like The Jepsens. In the cartoon there are just too few people, too many open spaces and isolated houses abound. It is likely that houses will be owned and sold in 100 years, but honey-combed constructions of apartments, condominiums and town houses are what most of the human race will live in. It is call urbanization. There will be too many of us: From caves we came, to caves we will return

Science fiction movies rarely show the current press of human existence or what that will be in the future – close quarters, get off my back! In the movies this point can only be inferred by how many human beings are killed and by whom. Undoubtedly, the protagonist feels totally bad when a human being is smoked – less so if a droid dies. Deaths of druids evoke different emotions. After the first human beings are extinguished, death gets easier, and everyone becomes desensitized. It does not matter how many characters are killed, provided the protagonist and his brawny, brainless hunk survive as the only persons on earth, there to watch the sun rise – a new day on the planet to begin again and the human race will avoid all the mistakes it made the last time.

Are you voting for Don Trump, or Hillary Clinton?

The prospects for over-population movies are narrow. Everyone knows the likely solution, and human beings don’t like that. Everyone also dislikes solution number two: Don Trump and HRC survive and …

QUENTIN TARANTINO

He is in a bad state and place, intemperate and overwrought before followers and hangers-on. He was the biggest person there, which might have been the whole point for himself and for persons in the audience, looking for an edge. Tarantino has now complained that he was only exercising his right of free speech. Indeed, he did, but he does not have the right to control how people interpret his words.

Tarantino has quickly learned that adding flavoring to words spoken does not work. Adding more words to the milieu is an ineffective way to remedy ops. Consider Kevin McCarthy.

I’m not joining any boycott because I haven’t seen an Tarantino movie in a long while. Crime rates in the United States have declined. Most people have seen Pulp Fiction and fewer saw Jackie Brown. Thereafter violence became gratuitous, like Stallone, Van Damme, Lindgren movies about murder, murderers and the murdered. I hear but don’t understand why violence sells well in foreign markets, if those people are more peaceful and sophisticated than Americans.

VARIOUS MOVIES

A SINGLE SHOT DON’T SEE. Appalachian man, Sam Rockwell, at the beginning of a divorce, goes hunting. He uses a rifle that looks like a shotgun. Aiming at a deer, he hits a woman in hiding. He’s shocked he killed the woman. He does not know who she is; he does not know she was living in his woods. There is no explanation about it in the movie. Sam is a moron mountaineer although he easily finds where she’s been staying and discovers a stash of cash which he appropriates. He conceals her body.

Next Sam Rockwell has to keep his cool, but he becomes a retard. He spends freely; he seems incredibly social, considering his house which looks like it hasn’t been cleaned since 1998. The boyfriend of the dead girl comes to town seeking revenge. He kills Sam’s dog’s. Since there are two strangers in the one-horse town Sam does not know who is the bad guy. Sam’s house is burgled. The body of the dead girlfriend is put into Sam’s freezer. Sam wonders who is plaguing him.

He wants to resume relations with his wife. Nope. A teenage daughter of a local diary farmer has the hots for Sam. There is a New Age scene where Sam shares a meal with her.

The film gets worse.

This movie need not be filmed in the backwoods, anywhere. It could be filmed in the front woods or along side a road. It might have been filmed in Frisco or in Westwood among the homeless. Sam Worthington would be noticeable by the sign hanging around his neck reading, I’m the biggest moronic, retard-fool on the planet.

The Canal (2013). The film is unnecessarily dark, with a poor story, mediocre dialogue and ill defined characters.

The International – Clive Owen, Naomi Watts. This is a predictable film with an excellent scene of dialogue (four minutes) between Owen and bad guy, Armin Mueller Stahl, which makes those opponents allies. At the end there are also good rooftop scenes of Istanbul.

After Hours – Griffin Dunne, Roseanne Arquette, Linda Floretino, Teri Garr, Martin Scorsese (Director). WATCH. This is as delightful and true a film as when I first saw it.

AT MIDDLETON

One reviewer said it briefly, “Wonderful movie not to be missed.” It is more complicated, but this movie about the past catching up with two adults is a must-see. Neither adult knows one another, but each has taken a child (son, daughter) to an entrance orientation at a liberal arts college. This movie is a romance.

The adults/parents (Andy and Vera) slowly get together and have their own college tour/orientation. Along the way, they steal bicycles to ride around, are chased by the cops, venture where they shouldn’t and end up in a drama class: Hints about their lives leave crumbs until they are required to act the roles of husband and wife in the class. Vera is unhappy and alone, in her live with her real husband. He is uncontented but resolved to plough through life with no satisfaction. As part of the role playing, he asked Vera (as he might ask his own wife), “When did you stop loving me?”

That line and sentiment may seem incredibly disjointed, but in this screenplay it works. Vera makes inferences about mistakes she made in her past: Misimpressions, bad advice, taking the wrong road, regrets and sulking and how to handle life’s miseries.

An overall point of this story presents a problem of time for the writer. When young couples fall in love, the whole experience seems automatic. When older, love is hardly automatic. Those systems seem or are forgotten. This scriptwriter knows this, and works on solutions to make the story go.

It seems that Andy and Vera should fall in love, tell the kids, and divorce their spouses. NO – too Hollywood. It is suggested they will see one another but that remains appropriately unclear. The issues of the day’s orientation for the kids work out more directly. Their parents meet other students and get shit-faced. The son and daughter must must drive each parent home (in opposite directions). It was a memorable day. The son asks Andy which way should I drive: “Take the long way.”

THE OUTSIDER

Jason Patric

The Limney in a similar setting, upscale LA – tells a similar story. Bad guy, James Caan is running an identify theft scam to fleece the system and millions of people of small amounts of money.

British father, Craig Fairbrass (needs to project his voice) learns his daughter, Caan’s software engineer, is killed in LA. Father arrives and learns the dead woman is not his daughter. Where is the girl? As Fairbrass looks, he destroys half of LA like Godzilla might.

He finds his daughter and learns of the fraud. He, the daughter and friends can rip off Caan, which provides action for the final act. This is a low budget movie. In fight scenes one can see fists being thrown and missing, but the actors react as though being hit. At the end Caan is shot and like in the olden days, there is no blood. I kept wondering, when is he going to start bleeding! [After the toll booth shooting James Caan may have no blood in him.]

It is always welcome to see Jason Patric in a movie. As the lead detective he and the cops don’t have much to do, except saying, Get the judge and his sorry butt out of bed, to sign warrants. With another story about the ever-growing seedy side of LA, the police presence could be dispensed with altogether.

I’LL COME RUNNING (AWAY)

I watched 40 minutes of this movie, I’ll Come Running. The script is on par with TV teleplay writing, low level incidents and ordinary dialogue in bad need of canned laughter.

Three Danish men, early twenties, travel in Texas. They eat in a restaurant, where they are loud and boisterous while speaking Danish. No one understands their rudenesses. That is a point Danes should understand – being rude works only if the words are understood by everyone. But no one in the world speaks Danish. They are so obnoxious they offend the Latina waitress.

One Dane, the protagonist (mostly English speaking now), decides to go home. His friends drive off leaving him in Austin. He has flight reservations in a few days. He can’t find the hostel – he sits around outside the restaurant doing nothing. Latina waitress leaves work and invites him to a party. One thing leads to another, episodically – the story is weak or nonexistent. Dane and Latina end up in bed; I don’t know why e.g. she doesn’t like his 10-day growth; the next day she insists he shave, a mistake!. He looks much better when he hides his face.

She cuts work to spend the day with him (She’s a working stiff – that all the film shows.) although the job is important to her. What do they do? Very little. She wants to go out; he wants sex. A local parade passes her house. He takes out his camera and films as people pass by. A Texan doesn’t want pictures being taken, grabs the Dane and moves him 20 feet into a fountain, pushing him in.

A writing point making for a better story: Texan grabs Dane who begins speaking Danish. Texans realize this guy isn’t speaking my language. Texan lets go. DANE (in English) “Pictures for Copenhagen!”

However, the fountain dunking puts the Dane in the shower, where Latina begins taking film of him. They get to film and touch each other, etc., etc., look at various and sundry sites on the Internet.

The next morning he leaves to return to Denmark. No tears, but many hugs and much smug satisfaction. Taxi drives off. Going down the highway Dane decides to turn around and go back. Why? The movie has to be longer than 40 minutes.

I realized the movie was over. For these two characters as the old saying goes, “We’ll always have Austin.” I don’t need to see more of their adventures in Texas and going to Denmark, is not like being in Austin.

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

Poor entertainment, fantasy history, no character is credible, directed by Robert Redford.

This movie is set in the present day. Since there are big stars in the film it is easier to refer to the stars rather than the names of the characters each portrays.

Susan Sarandon is arrested for a murder she committed during a bank robbery while she was with the Weathermen in the early 1970s. I note that there seemed many surveillance cameras in the bank during the robber and murder, suitable for today but the 1970s? Scruffy aging looking guy comes up to Robert Redford, playing an attorney in the movie. He tells Robert, represent Susan. Robert refers the case to a Philadelphia lawyer.

It turns out that Robert is connected to Susan. He was a Weatherman, who knew all the bank robbers, who dropped out of the movement and who reentered society as an attorney in New York in 1979. Robert goes on the run and visits former Weatherman friends who help him; some of them get arrested for present and past transgressions. The FBI (Terrance Howard, Anna Kinrick) is really cleaning up. Robert wants to find a Weathergirl, now woman, Julie Christie who can testify he was not in the bank and didn’t shoot anyone. Julie was in the bank and responsible. 

This trite story never should have become a movie. A far superior movie about radicals trying to life a normal life underground and having to flee is Running on Empty (Judd Hirsch, Christine Lahti). Behaviors and development of fugitive Weathermen are absent in this movie. It becomes a chase movie with no cars following one another.

The characters – Susan, Julie and Robert – are sell outs. They can still talk revolution, anarchy and radicalism, but they enjoy the good, prosperous life. The dialogue about the purity of the good old days is phony and false. All the comrades who Robert mets cherish their current lives; they flourish in American society, except for the scruffy looking guy at the beginning. The audience never sees him again; the FBI never catches up with him.

The movie has the major premise that the Weathermen split from SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) because they wanted to the bring the Vietnam War home, fight violence with violence. This is complete crap, a falsehood. The Weathermen separated from SDS for personal reasons: The Weathermen were megalomaniacs, mentally ill sociopaths and psychopaths willing to use any tactics but avoid jeopardy to themselves.(Praise for Charles Manson) They learned their social and political skills in junior high school and never progressed from there. After the split, SDS and other radicals said about the WeatherVain, “You don’t need to be a Weatherman to know who the assholes are.” Jane Alpert’s Growing Up Underground, Morrow, 1981, is an excellent book about those lives and those people. The SDS and Weatherman split is recounted in many books, most notably Todd Gitlin, The Sixties, Bantam, 1989.

Many other sources from time to time have chapters and passages telling of the persons within the Weatherman and similarly violent groups. A fair representation of the personalities (without the seedy, lustrous life) is found in Katherine, with Sissy Spacek. It is known and occasionally mentioned in Robert’s movie that the Weathermen could not agree among themselves and were unwilling to agree with anyone else. The Weathermen were individuals who Lenin described in What Needs to Be Done: “Let them call themselves Social Democrats to their heart’s content. I am not a child to get excited over a label.” Lenin himself was caught up in those pettinesses. Purportedly near death Lenin was arguing with Julius Martov, (Russian revolutionary Social Democrat living outside the Soviet Union) carrying on a disagreement of 10 or 20 years before. Lenin was for for Leninism; Martov inclined to leftist social democracy.

Problems in the late Sixties, cooking and typing were shitwork. Life was a bitch! The Weathermen had many things to argue over: money, who would do the laundry, who would wash the dishes, why they were always eating hippie food (vegetables), whether bugs in the bathroom ought to be killed, who would kill and skin the pet bunny to eat for that night’s dinner (Don’t add squirrel to the stew!), whether love meant cleaning the toilet after someone else vomited into it and mostly hit the bowl, who would do what in bed, or on the kitchen table, in the car with whom and with which species and how many people could watch and who could listen to the narration and who could talk without being interrupted.  It was a time for a lot of back to nature stuff.

It was a time when rape was described as “an attack with a friendly weapon.” In 1970 for a journalism class I reported on crime on the UC Berkeley campus and spoke with a supervisor of the UC Police Department. About rape he advised, “The woman should not resist. She ought to lay back and enjoy it.” It was a time when No did not mean No. No meant, yes, maybe, go ahead slowly. Berkeley communes and houses had free sex in the late Sixties; there are articles. Yet women found the arrangements very unsatisfactory. It is no wonder that the next “political” move was to Women’s Liberation and to Feminism.

The Weathermen were Neanderthals. They rejected monogamy and personal relationships. They adopted a new way written up by a German neanderthal, Frederick Engels who wrote that monogamy was akin to owning private property and the personal relationships were anti-socialist. All that would change under socialism. Society would become more friendly to males, as Bill Clinton aptly demonstrated. (See Engel, “The Origins of the Family: Private Property and the States.” From Feminism to Liberation, Altbach, Edit, Hoshino, Ed., Cambridge, Schenkman Publishing Co, 1971, p. 47-52 including smashing monogamy cartoon.)

Robert, actor and director, plays an attorney with a child. I know hundreds of attorneys. Robert’s first bit of dialogue involves land use and taking title to private property under the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution. Ten minutes later Robert is identified as a “public interest” lawyer; later he has a “private practice.” Robert has nice offices. Everything is modern and upscale around his assistant with a desk top computer. On Robert’s desk no stacks of files clutter the desk; there is no laptop; there seemed to be no notepads; there were no piles of messages; the phone seemed inconspicuous. There are a few diplomas on the walls and a few ” good work,” plaques. There are no photographs of his daughter or Robert’s dead wife. There is a set of Martindale & Hubbel behind Robert – Martindale is seven volumes with listings of attorneys by community and state. Inside is a brief description of law, but they are not books of law, certainly not for a “public interest” lawyer. 

PARAGRAPH A. In his office Reporter (Stupido) asks Robert whether he will represent (defend) Susan. No brainer. Robert is a “public interest” lawyer, not a criminal defense lawyer trying to handle a difficult case, murder in the 1970s. Robert would commit legal malpractice if he tried to defend Susan. His defense would result in an automatic reversal of any guilty verdict based upon inadequate representation of counsel. Robert himself would be disciplined by his state bar – attorneys get disbarred for taking cases they cannot handle. Finally, this whole interview is nonsensical, as the audience learns later. Robert is a member of the bar of New York; Susan was arrested in Vermont. Neither New York nor Vermont are where the bank robbery occurred. (Michigan) Trial will be in Michigan. Robert presumably is not licensed to practice in Michigan; he would have to jump through hoops to get permission to represent Susan there.

Susan is a sell out. She is represented by the Philadelphia attorney Robert recommends. She has the bucks because we all know Philly attorneys work cheap. Robert is an idiot. He’s supposed to be underground, avoiding publicity. But he’s a “public interest” lawyer, getting “good work” plaques, gallivanting around New York state helping on this cause or that. When he learns Susan is in trouble, he recommends a lawyer and jabbers with Stupido rather than say, I know nothing about it.

The young reporter, Stupido, approaches Robert. He wants to know why Robert won’t defend Susan. Being a reporter he knows everything that is in PARAGRAPH A. Obviously, this reporter would go to a podiatrist when a urologist is needed. But to carry the movie along, Robert is very accommodating; he lets Stupido make a complete moron of himself. At the end of the interview Robert says too much: “Thirty years ago the movement could have used a smart guy like you…”

I’m addressing Robert, the director, now. 2 + 2 = 4. The movie is set in the present day. The crimes leading to Susan’s arrest happened in the early seventies, meaning 42-44 years ago. SDS and the Weathermen split in 1968 after the Columbia University occupation in May 1968. [Most women split from SDS in the summer of 1967 after a brute told Shulamith Firestone, approaching the microphone with a feminist socialist agenda, “Go away little girl. We’re talking about important matters.”] Robert should know that when he and Paul Newman were making Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was the time when the Weatherman were plotting their moves – the Days of Rage in Chicago (fall 1969) and blowing themselves up in New York City (March 1970.) It was not 30 years ago. It was 45 years ago. Robert, the director and the actor playing a character, should also know that Robert came from the Underground to become an attorney 30 years ago – that was 10 -12 years after the bank robbery.

Having lost credibility as an arithmetic student, Robert the attorney loses all credibility as a counselor to trust when he says Stupido is a “smart guy.” This is a very inept reporter who looks like he’s lost 20 IQ points by smoking too much dope. (He’s jittery and defensive) What Robert did not say is the truth: The Weathermen were dolts and dullards. Kirkpatrick Sales in SDS reports that Weatherman leaders, Mark Rudd and Bill Aryes (Obama’s friend), bragged in meetings that neither of them had read a book for more than a year. The actor playing Stupido looks like he didn’t read the script and certainly he did not comprehend it.

The big plot twist yielded no suspense and destroyed any connect with reality: Robert is underground himself. He has the new identify as a lawyer since 1979, ten years after all the criminal acts happened. Robert is a man wanted by the pigs for murder in the Michigan robbery.

The first fallacy of the movie cannot be swallowed by the most gullible person in the audience: When one person of a dormant underground cell is found and arrested, the other members of the cell or network do not contact one another. They do not contact old friends. They are prepared to go on the lam – get cash, get disguises, have a car ready. But not Robert. He’s Robert Redford forever. Robert runs from one former Weatherman to another, endearing them to him – some get arrested. Of course, they whole point of going underground is to disappear and not see anyone who may know you. Indeed in the movie for a while, the FBI does not cancel Robert’s credit cards and ATM machine card, so they can learn where he’s going. Yet Robert always seems to have food, transportation and comfort. I inferred he was using his cards, but the FBI was slow – to keep the movie going. Anyone underground fleeing the cops would know, use no electronic devises, have no electronic transactions to allow the cops to know where you are use burn phones.

The reason Robert is on the lam is to find Julie Christie. Julie Weathergirl is still full of anarchist/radical crap. What she says is true. Obama’s Wall Street friends are looting the country. She makes her money trafficking drugs.

Julie runs to Robert. She knows about the recent arrests because the press broadcasts everything. It’s magnetism and magic to go, see Robert whom she hasn’t seen for 30 years, [45 years], [12 years], [last week?]. She wonders what the audience wonders: Why am I going? Nothing good will come of it because she knows Robert wants her to turn herself in – implicate herself and tell the cops that Robert was not in the bank during the robbery/murder. Of course Susan who is already arrested could testify to the same facts, but no one ever expects Susan to tell the truth. She’s a sell out.

Robert and Julie meet in the cabin, cold outside but not warm inside. Robert left his Viagra in New York, so Julie is disappointed. Again, why did Julie drive from California to Michigan? [For a high school reunion among the losers?] In their cabin scene it is clear that Robert was involved in the planning of the bank robbery; he just didn’t make it to the bank. If Julie admitted guilt, she would also tell about the planning. That makes Robert guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and murder. This legal point makes the whole movie fake, phony and fraudulent. Robert is going to prison if anyone talks. Yet Robert runs around contacting people who can talk about him and the bank. Robert is not a very good lawyer. He’s dense; he should be disbarred.

Julie says she will not turn herself in. It’s the first sensible action by anyone in the movie. She leaves Robert in the cabin and runs to a pier, to a boat. She motor and sails away to the end of her life. But she’s troubled. Robert is going to prison for a robbery/murder he helped plan but wasn’t directly involved in. It is horrible. Robert Redford in the hoosegow. Watching Brubaker was hard enough. Julie turns the boat around: VOICE OVER RADIO BROADCAST: Julie turned herself in. Robert is free. It’s a sad ending. I hoped Julie would have the smarts to save Robert’s daughter from a lifetime of a further life with Robert, rather than with Chris Cooper, her uncle, openly established, less criminal and closer to her age.

Equally preposterous are the role of Stupido and the FBI. Stupido follows a very simple trail to wind up at the cabin after Julie leaves. REMEMBER the Weathermen are fugitives who want to be underground and untraceable – no public records, no trail of any kind, no revisiting of old haunts. Yet, Stupido easily learns much about Robert and his Weatherman activities and buddies and follows, whereas the FBI are steps behind. The Bureau also loses the ability to follow Robert through his credit cards. 

Everything Stupido does and the FBI doesn’t is a plot contrivance.