Thursday, October 11, 2018

Deadlier Than the Male

So glad I got to see Panos Cosmatos's bloodfest, Mandy, on a giant screen with a packed house. If you're familiar with his previous effort, Beyond the Black Rainbow, than you know dude knows how to fill a screen and max out a hi-fi sound system. Mandy, fucking rocks, man. Just balls-out jackhammers the hell out of its bare-bones revenge plot by cranking the sound design and visuals to eleven.

Enter Nicolas Cage understated-sman extraordinaire and behold the glory of director Cosmatos egging him on to higher, higher, higher hights of manic fuck-muggery. Seriously, anybody else out there that could rage-drink a bottle of vodka in his tighty-whities on the toilet to greater than this dude can just try and wrest the "greatest film actor of his generation" crown from his fingers. (Side note - heh, one of my tweets about der movie made its way to La Voz's coverage of Mandy's Cage-Rage memes - proud of me now, dad?)

A couple weeks since, but I got a little emotional and carried away talking to Steve Weddle about Mandy on the Do Some Damage podcast. It's a rambling episode in which I also recommend checking out White Boy, the documentary about Richard Wershe Jr. on Prime over prioritizing White Boy Rick, the drama starring Matthew McConaughey (as Wershe Sr.).

What I can whole-heartedly recommend that is available to stream now and made for the greatest triple feature I've experienced in a while is the banger line up of trippy, spooky, male-gaze/fem-centric killer flicks: Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon and Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin.

Spring Breakers and Under the Skin are both on Netflix now and The Neon Demon is free on Prime. I'd recommend the order that I saw them in too - Breakers, Demon, Skin - for a slow decent from the opening day-glo hedonism descending into the equally warm-hued and gleeful bloodbathing at the end of Breakers to the harshly lit, ice-cold veneer of Demon's gorgeous red riding-hood-esque fashion fable and concluding with the muted weird of Skin's honey trap.

Great for any time, but an especially chilly and chilling autumnal treat.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Decalong

Couple weeks back when the rest of you were in Florida attending Bouchercon Steve Weddle and I found ourselves bereft of con attendees Holly West and Chris Holm and no idea what to do for the Do Some Damage podcast. What we opted for was an impromptu discussion about films - I promised not to do any preparation and let Steve pull a topic out of a hat prompting me to pull content out of my ass. The ensuing discussion covered Charley Varrick, Sterling Hayden, Jules Dassin and The Grifters. You can find it here.

And if that's not even close to enough of hearing me blather, Angel Luis Colón was his generous self and let me go on and on on The Bastard Title podcast. I've enjoyed listening to The Bastard Title episodes featuring folks like Johnny Shaw, Eryk Pruitt and Jordan Harper especially. Check out our conversation here. And be sure to pick up Angel's latest novel Pull & Pray from Down & Out Books if you like it hard boiled.
I'm always happy to have a new Shane Black film landing, not only for the opportunity to see it, but also for the excuse to revisit his entire body of work and to follow along with all the other folks who clearly feel the same way I do. A couple of my favorite Black pieces landing alongside The Predator that I particularly enjoyed:

Priscilla Page on The Last Boy Scout at Birth Movies Death.

Jake Hinkson on Lethal Weapon at The Night Editor.

I've been enjoying Michael Gonzales' The Blacklist series at Catapult covering out of print titles from African-American authors. The latest piece discusses Charlotte Carter's Rhode Island Red and it snagged my eye because I am still digesting the first of her books I've read, Walking Bones, a title I picked up on a recommendation from Kent Gowran

Kent's recently been posting simple book recommendations and having benefited from his recs in the past I pay attention when new to me titles and authors catch my eye. In the end, that's all I really want out of social media. Tell me about movies, books and music I've missed out on for whatever reason. So, I've been trying to do the same on Twitter recently. Just quick picks and signal boosts particularly for stuff I've enjoyed, but haven't seen much discussion about. 
Today I was going to suggest Jake Hinkson's No Tomorrow and last night he dropped the news that the French translation just won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière 2018. Holy shit, man. That's such great news. Not going to pretend it's not personally validating too. I mean, I've been telling you jokers to read his shit for years. So glad he's at least getting his due elsewhere.
The French, man. They know something. I mean, fucking William Boyle and Benjamin Whitmer's new books are published there before they're available in English. Between this and news that the adaptation of Frank Bill's Donnybrook opened the Toronto International Film Festival and quickly sold to IFC Midnight films, it feels like maybe, just maybe I'm not full of shit.
So, if you want to stay out front of what's what for crime and noir fiction be sure to come to N@B-Pumpkin Spice Edition October 20 for a good shot of creepy fucking shit from repeat offenders Fred Venturini, Shaw L. Coney and Josh Woods, plus Kea Wilson, Seth Ferranti, Kenny Kinds, Sarah Jilek and Jessica Leonard

Maybe you've noticed I've not kept to a strictly weekly posting schedule here for the last few months. Maybe you haven't. Maybe I flatter myself that this has registered with anybody, but the fact is that in just a couple of weeks this blog will officially be ten years old and I'm damned tired. I'm not shutting down, but I'm officially giving myself permission to tap the brakes a bit. 
For three of these last ten years I also wrote Barnes & Noble's (no longer existent or archived) mystery blog, Ransom Notes, with posts twice a week (a pace I mirrored at HBW in order to cross promote). All in all a conservative estimate makes it easily over a thousand posts (and many thousands of hours spent writing and apologizing for them). I'm glad to have done it, but I'd like to concentrate more on other writing going forward.

I'll continue posting here, just don't expect a regular schedule. If you've been reading regularly here, thank you. Really, the feedback I get from you guys makes it feel like I'm not just jabbering into the void and I appreciate every bit of it. For more consistent (and mercifully brief) content Twitter is where you'll find me talking about the shit I tend to talk about (follow me @JedidiahAyres).

Monday, September 3, 2018

Dog Day Afternoon Delight

As a kid haunting the grocery store video section I was always fascinated by the poster for Dog Day starring Lee Marvin. Oh man, he looks so badass pursued by helicopters across a wheat field and----I think I thought the rose on his jacket was the bloody bloom of a gunshot.

I'd never heard the phrase 'dog day' before, but it pretty much translated in my mind to 'a real bitch' and perhaps it's understandable that I confused the Yves Boisset film about a gone bad bank robbery for Sidney Lumet's similarly concerned and titled Dog Day Afternoon.

Then when I was in high school the 'dog' in the title coupled with the black ties in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs made me immediately assume it was all referencing Dog Day.

Michael Madsen's line to Harvey Keitel "I bet you're a big Lee Marvin fan" seems to reference Martin Scorsese's Who's That Knocking at My Door? in which Keitel talks Zina Bethune's ear off about Lee Marvin

But I like to think he's actually suggesting that Keitel's character Mr. White is having a blast play-acting like he's the aging badass thief and killer Marvin plays in Dog Day "Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy?"

I was also totally mixing up Lee Marvin's helicopter pursuit through wheat fields in Dog Day with Marvin and Sissy Spacek running through wheat fields chased by a tractor with evil intent in Michael Ritchie's Prime Cut.

Anyhow, I finally saw Dog Day and it's not very good, but I can now keep it and Dog Day Afternoon and Prime Cut straight in my head. That poster though... that poster is amazing and I'm grateful for all the wild adventures it inspired in my head

Friday, August 31, 2018

Perdita, Perdita

This week on the 7 Minutes With (Do Some Damage) podcast I'm recommending a double bill of writer/director Ryan Prows' feature debut Lowlife and Álex de la Iglesia's Perdita Durango. Both are gonzo pulp crime flicks full of over the top awfulness and humor. Lowlife feels a bit like a multi-focal Robert Altman ensemble packed with weirdos criss-crossing on their way down the drain. Any of the characters could've supported their own feature, but instead we get a collection of stories that all end in the same spot.

When I talk about people who write interconnected stories one of my favorites is Barry Gifford whose Sailor & Lula chronicles are among my favorite fictional universes populated with characters as sweet and depraved as any you'd care to name. Said universe is probably most widely known through the David Lynch film Wild at Heart, based on the first novel in the series. The next volume, Sailor's Holiday, includes a chapter/novella called 59 Degrees and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango (also released in paperback as Perdita Durango). If you've seen the Lynch film, Perdita Durango is the character played by Isabella Rossellini and as fucking cool and great as she is, she's a far cry from the heat and ferocity brought to the same character by Rosie Perez in the Álex de la Iglesia film adaptation, Perdita Durango (also released in a different cut as Dance With the Devil).
Perez is a force of nature in the role and she's only half of the screen. The other half belongs to Javier Bardem's Romeo - a psycho killer, bank robber, carny con-man and when the two of them get together it results in combustion.

Both Lowlife and Perdita Durango approach crime material with a good dose of gonzo energy and if you've seen other Iglesia pictures (like The Last Circus or Witching & Bitching... pretty much anything except The Oxford Murders - what was up with that?) then you know what I'm talking about. They're not going to be for everybody, but they're going to be delicious little discoveries for some of you.

Outside of say... Pulp Fiction or the Sin City flicks, I'm having difficulty thinking of other specifically crime movies that do the whole interwoven narratives ensemble thing, but I'd love suggestions if you've got any. I just love well-done fare like that. I like to watch it, I like to read it, I like to write it. You know who else does?  Steve Weddle. On the episode I didn't miss the opportunity to mention his own contribution to the field, Country Hardball, but he y'know edited it out... so it sounds like I'm making him the butt of a joke rather than making him the butt of a joke and actually plugging his book. You should all go read his book.

Another book you might consider reading?

The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong. It's the first English-language translation by the author who is a best seller in Korea - land of the kick-ass crime flick. It's the first Korean crime fiction I've read and thanks to Minsoo Kang and Steph Cha I got the opportunity to write about it for The Los Angeles Review of Books.

It was kind of perfect for me because it's about a weirdo without a social life who's obsessed with movies...and might be a matricidal psychopath. Anyway, it gave me the chance to talk about movies a lot in a book review.

Films like The Bucket List, American Ultra and especially City of God figure into the actual plot of The Good Son while I used the opportunity to talk about other flicks the book reminded me of like Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure and David Lynch's Lost Highway, but considering the subject matter and Korean setting, I think Bong Joon-Ho's Mother is the film begging to be talked about alongside The Good Son (which I've seen compared to Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley as well).

Lastly, be sure to mark October 20 on your calendars and make plans to attend N@B-Pumpkin Spice Ed. It'll be your chance to hear N@B favorites Shaw L. Coney, Fred Venturini and Josh Woods return as well as first timers Seth Ferranti, Sarah Jilek, Kenny Kinds, Jessica Leonard and Kea Wilson. See you then.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

I Like Spike

On the latest episode of the Do Some Damage podcast I'm talking about Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman. Have you seen it? You should, I think it's a minor miracle for several reasons. First, it's fueled by and focused on the stuff of Spike's best works: race, politics, love and justice. Second, it's not only righteously angry throughout, it's riotously funny at points. And third, it effectively subverts the intent of KKK National Director David Duke's mission to make White Nationalism mainstream by having the first real mainstream movie moment of characters inviting the audience to cheer along to chants of 'Black Power!'

And gawl dang if you don't want to. It doesn't feel subversive, or edgy or dangerous it feels fucking mainstream and like something we should all be happy to chant along with. All due respect to Get Out and Black Panther, but BlacKkKlansman clarifies the moment and makes it explicit and bold and an audience-pleaser all at once.

Of course after the rousing and satisfying climax of the movie's plot, Spike sends us out on a note of recognition that Ron Stallworth and the forces of good may have won a minor battle, but that the war is most definitely still churning on and though the film feels absolutely mainstream the country is in the grips of some ugly shit on every level. It's an effective call to arms without being an absolute bummer. Lemme say it again - it's a fun movie.

It's a movie of its time and it's not the first time Spike's made a popular entertainment that addressed a national moment head on. David Benioff's first novel was released on September 11, 2001 and was instantly eclipsed by the real events of the day. It was already in development as a film though and Spike delivered the first and probably best mainstream film to deal directly with the day's tragedy.

You can catch The 25th Hour to rent or buy on most streaming services now and if you've never seen it, I'd highly recommend doing so. The one signature aspect of Spike Lee's film making identity not on display in BlacKkKlansman is his identity as a New Yorker. With The 25th Hour he took the new century's New York-est moment and turned in the appropriately New Yorkiest movie about it. I'm not a NYC guy, but damn, I can get behind this flick.

Spike's on a roll. After the pleasingly odd Da Sweet Blood of Jesus I was especially excited by Chiraq (a kitchen sink blast funded by bounced checks written for fucks) and BlacKkKlansman proves he can deliver power and pleasure and not sacrifice popular.

If you've got a subscription to Filmstruck you can check out their Best of Blaxsploitation collection to play along with the conversation John David Washington and Laura Harrier have in BlacKkKlansman about films of the day - they specifically argue the Shaft vs. Super Fly dichotomy. Both of those films are included in the collection as well as The Mack, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Black Belt Jones, Cleopatra Jones and a Rudy Ray Moore double feature: Petey Wheatstraw and Dolemite.

Speaking of Rudy Ray Moore, I just heard that the Eddie Murphy as RRM flick, Dolemite is My Name is a Craig Brewer joint. That there is three very distinct layers of interest to put into one movie. Never mind the rest of that cast: Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key, Tituss Burgess, T.I., Mike Epps... Consider my ticket bought.

And shit, I meant to catch the SuperFly remake that was out this summer. I've heard good things. Did you see it?

While we're talking about pimps, the documentary Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp is free on Prime right now and it features one of my favorite talking heads, Gary Phillips. Get on that.

Finally, in the wake of Spike Lee's recent remakes, Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, Bill Gunn's Ganja & Hess (as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus) and his own She's Gotta Have It now being a Netflix original TV series, you'd be forgiven for any confusion as to BlacKkKlansman's origins. It's based on the memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth and is not a remake of Ted V. Mikels' The Black Klansman (aka I Crossed the Color Line) from 1966 which is currently available on Prime.

Also, I assume you're all tuning into the podcast for Steve Weddle, Chris Holm and Holly West. You should be, anyhow.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Gleeson For the Season

I watched a lot of Brendan Gleeson movies this week. But not enough. I don't think of myself as having a favorite actor, but some days... some days it's this guy. Fuck, he's good. Concentrated on crime flicks of course, which means he's playing gangsters and cops. I've included some links here so that you can play along at home.

First up I was so happy to find Paddy Breathnach's  I Went Down was on Prime. It's a film I've wanted to see for twenty years and somehow always eluded me. Now I have. And you can too. You'd be a right cunt not to seize this opportunity to catch it.

Followed that up with Adam Smith's Trespass Against Us. At least my third viewing and it still broke my heart and jacked my pulse and made me laugh. I fucking love this movie. More crime movies with this kind of heart, please. Fuck me, it's beautiful. It's on Prime now if you haven't caught it yet.

Only my second viewing of John Boorman's undersung The General about real criminal and folkhero Martin Cahill. It's so utterly charming and worth seeking out. Glad it beat Thaddeus O'Sullivan's Ordinary Decent Criminal with Kevin Spacey in the lead role (inspired by Cahill) into theaters by a few months as it's the clearly superior offering. Dudes, it's also on Prime.

Another first time viewing was Gillies MacKinnon's Trojan Eddie featuring Gleeson in a supporting role as an enforcer for small time gangster, Richard Harris, whose son, Stephen Rea, is just out of prison and resisting his influence. Also on Prime.

Didn't find John Michael McDonagh's The Guard on any major streaming service so I broke out my well-worn DVD for a fourth? Fifth? watch. I loved both McDonagh brothers' films last year, but was a little disturbed to realize neither had utilized Gleeson as they're so fond of doing.

John Michael McDonagh brought Gleeson back in his second feature, Calvary. This time, in an about-face on the gleefully compromised yet somehow uncorrupted copper of The Guard, Gleeson plays a good and straight-man priest trying to balance atoning for the church's sins with protecting his own life when it's threatened by a victim of sexual abuse from a priest.

And JMM's brother, Martin McDonagh, has also used him twice. Most notably as the conflicted hitman enjoying his holiday, and suffering his pouty partner, Colin Farrell, in In Bruges (available on Netflix)

as well as in the wonderful short film, Six Shooter, which really distills both McDonagh brothers' essence nicely. Equal measures profane and profoundly sad with outrageous dialogue and of course Gleeson being the key ingredient holding it all together. It's on fookin YouTube.

Another first time viewing and another short film this week: Noreen. Written and directed by Brendan's son Domhnall Gleeson and co-starring another son, Brian Gleeson. Father and son play police partners royally fucking up covering up their fuck up of a crime scene. Check it out on Prime or also on YouTube.

That does it for my week in Gleesonland. A magical place and a shithole.