Welcome to The Wright Stuff, our weekly column following the career of Raptors point guard Delon Wright. Since we can’t influence his training or anything on the court, we’ll recommend films that reflect his past week and hopefully inspire a leap forward. It’ll be part film breakdown, part essay, and part whatever loose piece of wisdom we can shake from the experience.
To be honest, I’ve mostly forgotten what Delon Wright did this past week in the three games he appeared in. The Raptors went 2-1, losing a tough one to the Jazz, running over the Lakers, and then staying strong against the Timberwolves. Wright was there, playing in all three, and putting up some decent numbers — a nifty 5 point, 6 rebound, 3 assist performance here, 10 points there, sound minutes always.
But the week has belonged to other issues, different people, more important things.
First, there were concerns about the Raptors clutch offense, their struggles to execute anything resembling a proper play in the game’s dying seconds. In truth, it’s a problem, perhaps even a deathly serious one, but by week’s end it looked like the glimmer of a solution had formed.
Then, quietly, we wondered about the Raps’ slow starts again, and watched as DeMar DeRozan looked sluggish in the first half of two straight games. Of course, he finished strong in both, and the Raptors won, so... maybe we should relax.
Finally, Fred VanVleet had his baby girl, Norman Powell was resurrected, and Wright just played on and on. Was he lost in the chatter about all these other things? Sure. Did it matter? Well, not entirely.
Harry Caul knows enough to be paranoid. They’re on to you after all, and him, and everyone. So, Caul has to be careful, cautious, vigilant — always. It’s why his life is his work and vice versa. In Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, we watch a man consumed by the very network of technology of which he claims to be in control. Where the film begins and ends offers no easy answers, but anyway: Caul may ultimately be fine with that, in his own damaged way.
Lost amidst the towering triptych of The Godfather trilogy (and Apocalypse Now to boot), it feels fair to call The Conversation somewhat underrated. It came out the same year as The Godfather Part II, earning Coppola the rare double-Best Picture nomination at the 1974 Oscars, but is lost a bit now in the cultural conversation. Unlike The Godfather’s grand historical bent, or Apocalypse Now’s over-the-top fever dream imagery, The Conversation is something smaller and meaner. It’s main character, as played by a prickly Gene Hackman, is not a warrior, or a grand leader, though he might believe he is capable of that. Instead, Caul is just a small man lost in a machine he thinks he understands. As the film unspools, we learn how much he actually does know — and how much the gaps in his knowledge torture him.
Coppola structures his film around a recording. The opening scene regards Caul as he records a conversation between two people — who are they? what are they talking about? is somebody in danger? if so, who? We’re left to guess. Like Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup and, later, Brian De Palma’s Blowout, The Conversation returns again and again to this piece of media in a search for clues. We watch Caul play and replay this tape he’s made, sifting through it, trying to figure out what it means. Someone is a threat to someone else, but what is that threat? And could it come to hurt Caul? He seem’s certain of it — or, at least, of something. There’s a line in the 2004 film Primer that sums up this sensibility well: “What’s worse? Thinking you’re being paranoid or knowing you should be?” Caul wears this sentiment proudly.
Meanwhile, life swirls on. Caul has his competitors in the surveillance industry, and his own desires — though he tries his damnedest to deny them. John Cazale shows up to turn in a compact performance as an erstwhile partner; it was one of five roles Cazale ever played, and it is, naturally, a note perfect performance. Then all of these people get lost in the static, the film turns in on itself, and we to are lost in the cacophony of paranoia Caul has created for himself. It’s the kind of chatter we would do well to avoid.
There’s a lot of noise in the NBA too. And, if you’re inclined to believe every rumour you hear or read, there’s constant chatter about who is going where, who hates who, which teams get along, and what it all means in the big picture. The players are just living their lives, of course, but we’re all caught up in it regardless.
It feels fair to say Harry Caul would not enjoy the NBA rumour mill, is my point. The trade machine? Get that right out of his face!
But amidst all the other things going on — teammates having babies, rebuilding careers, dealing with injury, grappling with doubt — Delon can just go out there and casually do something special, and maybe not think about it at all. That feels much healthier.
Besides, Harry Caul only wishes he could have a moment as cool and contained as that one above. He’d never have the guts to be so effectively loud.