Monday, March 5, 2018
First up is Rob Hart talking about the differences between Brian Garfield's source novel and the 1974 Michael Winner film, Death Wish that turned into a long-running-ever-running-away-from-its-origins series starring Charles Bronson as a vigilante at Criminal Element. It's an article he wrote in a while back, but it's surfaced again because of the Joe Carnahan-penned Eli Roth remake starring Bruce Willis.
17 Vigilante Films That Are Way Better Than Eli Roth's Bullshit 'Death Wish' Remake - an apparent lay-up piece offering the opportunity to highlight some other worthy work. The piece lists the 1974 version as well as parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 to take up a little space and perhaps stretch credulity (I mean, is this new one really gonna be less entertaining than the latter Death Wish installments? I never got through part 3 so I'm not willing to take the author's word for it), but where the piece loses me permanently is including a pair of excellent flicks - David Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Jonathan Kaplan's Truck Turner - that I can't wrap my head around being called vigilante fare. Then the inclusion of Boondock Saints just kinda clinches it (it's better than something?)
this one from Electric Lit ranking Elmore Leonard adaptations manages not to even mention 52 Pickup, Cat Chaser or Life of Crime in favor of talking about The Big Bounce and Be Cool? Um, nah.
I've seen a lot of folks I respect making it clear that they did not like it. They hated it in fact. Which is a cool place to start a conversation and a couple of them have made me reconsider my instant embrace of it - they haven't made me change my mind, but they've made me think about what I responded to and what I could have missed.
this McSweeney's piece I've seen some folks sharing which pretty much exemplifies missing the point of the movie in an almost willfully obtuse way. I'm fine if you didn't like it - I'm fine if it pissed you off and you have no desire to subject yourself to the ugly bits of humanity paraded across the screen, but somewhere this idea that the movie is trying to be a redemption story has really got folks off-base in their approach to the film.
It's not a redemption story. And there are no heroes in it. Not even Frances McDormand's character. She's a bitter piece of human flotsam who takes center stage in this picture the way she takes center stage in any situation she's in. Through her attitude and actions she's maybe even more of a hindrance to her own stated goals than anybody else - solving the crime isn't the point of the film and neither is it 'look at the heroic measures taken by this grieving mother' - the point is that even this bitter bit of humanity and even the dumb, mean, racist cop and even the abusive, cheating ex-husband are more than single-dimensional. Are any of them excused because we can identify a bit of humanity in them?Of course not. We're just left a little uncomfortable because we can see in them something of ourselves.
Second - it's not supposed to be realistic. It's not really America or the South. It's a foreigner's impressionistic portrait of us and it's kinda fascinating. Martin McDonagh's been saying the same types of things for three pictures now and they're adding up to a picture of the U.S. and of U.S. global culture as this big, fat, mean-spirited fascist, racist, sexist, thing that delivers horrors when it tries to do good and also produces real beauty completely unconsciously.
Back to the realism problem though - yes, natural consequences go right out the window in favor of unexpected and grand (usually rash and violent) actions and words to be committed and or spoken for maximum entertainment value. As film maker both brothers seek to first never bore a viewer. If you don't laugh, maybe you'll cry. If you aren't excited maybe you'll be angry. These are the best movies not Best Pictures.
Do Some Damage about Quentin Tarantino and race and misogyny. If you've ever spoken with Danny you'll not be surprised to learn he doesn't hold back. He rips hard into Tarantino and another one of my favorite artists, James Ellroy, in this piece. Again - hasn't changed my enjoyment and appreciation of the art, but his piece is anything but dull and a good conversation starter. Give it a look.
Give the piece a read. It's called The Genealogy of a Hunter at a blog called The Westlake Review (which is worth a look if you haven't been there). Good stuff.