Thursday, May 9, 2019

Pod Peephole

I made another appearance on One Heat Minute with Blake Howard. This time episode 144 where Al Pacino tries to thwart Natalie Portman's suicide attempt in his bathtub. My own kids are her character's age and it's a rough scene to watch. In the episode we talk about the implications about Vincent's relationship with her mother Justine (Diane Venora - who makes an appearance in the minute's last seconds) as well as clues as to exactly how desperate Lauren (last name; Gustafson - another tidbit learned in this minute) really is/has been for Vincent's attention/validation.

Among those implications - Lauren's artery cuts are precise and done 'right' to get the job done. No hesitation scratches, no perpendicular to the wrist cuts. In the world of 1995, before the internet was what it is now, how would a kid that age learn how to do this to herself? Implied: from hanging around Vincent who deals with that kind of ugly every day and who insists on not dragging it home and into his marriage. Fail.

Also, I don't really suggest that it was Lauren's intent, but it is the result of her suicide attempt that Vincent and Justine have their most honest connected moment in the hospital (next minute) that ends with Vincent promising he's here for her and not going anywhere - a promise he immediately breaks when his beeper goes off and he "dances" out of there (a moment I suggest could/should be scored with the tuba/mandolin piece best known as the theme from Curb Your Enthusiasm). Fail.

To further drive home the point of Vincent's failure, I point out the artwork that adorns the walls of Justine's ex-husband's, dead-tech, post-modernistic bullshit house including an empty men's suit (a magnet or some probably cheap, kitchy thing) in the kitchen and a wall-sized painting of a man with blank features filling out clothing and leaning on a desk that is behind Xander Berkeley's Ralph after Vincent discovers Justine's been demeaning herself with him just to get closure. Between Lauren's never-there father and Vincent's constant disappearing act, that house is haunted by the ghosts of absent men.

If Waingro (Kevin Gage) is Neil's biggest enemy - the guy he prides himself on not being and secretly fears that he really is underneath, then Lauren's father/Justine's ex-husband is Vincent's Waingro. Vincent talks so much shit about him - "Does this guy have any idea what he's doing to her?" "Is this guy ever gonna show up, or will he leave her hanging like last time?" - but his actions, in the end, are no different than that asshole's. He's never there for them. He makes promises just to break them.
Exactly how pathetic is Vincent as a husband? One point I don't think I got to bring up: the big date-night scene that ends with Vincent getting called away to the murder scene of the young prostitute Waingro killed, the one where Vincent's whole crew are dressed up nice and taking their wives out for a much-needed good time? It's not only juxtaposed with a similar scene with Robert De Niro's heist crew's family night where Vincent's crew is doing surveillance on them from the roof top of the building across the street, it's very clearly the very same night. In other words Vincent's crew's wives are only getting a night out at this nice restaurant because it's across the street from the one where Neil's crew is taking their loved ones. Really. Not only do the scenes immediately follow each other, but Vincent's crew are wearing the exact same suits in both -  they all just went to the bathroom at the same time or some juvenile shit like that to go up on the roof and spy on the bad guys. Fail.

Here's a link to the episode - we talk about a lot more, of course, including me putting Blake on the spot about what his least favorite Michael Mann movies are and whether L.A. Takedown is superior in any way to Heat. Plus, Blake does a pretty great Ted Levine impression and that's worth tuning in for.

Hey, two appearances on One Heat Minute is an honor, but holy crap, I've now been a guest on Mike White's excellent The Projection Booth podcast seven times? Dang, that's cool. And not slowing down. Several more appearances booked this year.

Anyway, in my latest appearance I discuss Peter Hyams' space western Outland starring Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking, Frances Sternhagen and Clarke Peters with Mike and Josh Hadley. It's shittin good too (the movie, that is). One of those movies I grew up seeing advertised on TV and the images I caught gave me great ideas. Few movies like that that ever live up to the imagination of a child, but when I finally saw the movie as an adult I was very pleased.

Pleased too for the excuse to go back through a bunch of Hyams films. A quick list of movies I watched in preparation for the episode: Rolling Man, Goodnight My Love, Busting, Capricorn One, Hanover Street, Running Scared, The Presidio, Timecop, Sudden Death, The Relic, End of Days and of course I had to watch Fred Zinneman's High Noon and Ridley Scott's Alien back to back with Outland.

Here's a link to the episode (also featuring an interview with co-star James B. Sikking!) where you can hear me make dubious claims like "Outland is better than High Noon". And if you'd like to hear more episodes with me talking to Mike and his always great lineup of co-hosts, guests and interviews I keep a list on Letterboxd with links to the episodes I'm on.

Next up I'll be on to talk about Paul Verhoeven's Philip K. Dick adaptation, Total Recall which should fit nicely into the lineup of pictures I've thus far discussed on the show. I've noticed a theme of the malleability of memory and reality in my guest spots (Session 9, 12 Monkeys, Mulholland Drive...).

Season two of the Do Some Damage podcast chugs along and on recent episodes I suggested checking out a few flicks including S. Craig Zahler's Dragged Across Concrete. I think it's his best movie yet and I really liked Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99. It's a chewy piece of crime fare that rewards thoughtful viewers. Back in the mix are Zahler cast vets Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Fred Melamed, Udo Kier and Don Johnson, along with Zahler newbies Michael Jai White, Laurie Holden and the scene stealing Tory Kittles. Right up front though is Mel Gibson, an actor of outsized gifting and no little controversy.

If Mel's presence is gonna keep you from checking this one out I'm not here to talk you out of your stance. Instead I highlight another new flick starring another performer of outsized gifts. Writer/director Maria Pulera's Between Worlds is a hell of a thing. It's an erotic, supernatural thriller that goes in a half dozen directions at once and features a lead performance to match from the absolutely off the chain Nicolas Cage.

The romantic pairing of Cage and Franka Potente was enough to grab my attention, but the movie (and Saint Nic) don't stop anywhere near there. In fact, they're probably still going somewhere in the space between worlds. I was so taken by the audacious confidence in Pulera's film that I checked out her previous effort, 2016's Falsely Accused, and while the two films share undeniable dna, Rosanna Arquette, despite all her rage, is just no Nicolas Cage.

Kudos to Pulera for casting Cage and for gifting all the worlds with this performance. It is marvelous. Please don't deny yourself this experience.

In the second Do Some Damage episode that's dropped since I last blogged I recommend two more recent favorites it's hard to imagine won't be on my year's favorites list.

First up Karyn Kusama's Destroyer starring Nicole Kidman. If you, like me, have to wait for the third season of True Detective to be released on DVD, but need something to scratch a similar itch, I highly recommend this one. Kidman plays a police detective whose latest case appears to have ties to her past. The film splits the narrative between the current investigation and her character's past undercover with a group of high desert outlaws and it features some terrific violent content and a satisfying story of criminality and corruption.

Second is writer/director Henry Dunham's feature debut, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek. The story concerns a small militia group who discover that one of them may have started a war with the cops. The group whose politics are never discussed are torn between sniffing out and offering up their member who shot up a cop's funeral and bracing for inevitable Armageddon. The dramatic tension is expertly drawn out and the cast are uniformly good. I can't wait to see where Dunham's career goes from here.

Side note: James Badge Dale had a good year. IMDb lists his 2018 credits as The Standoff at Sparrow Creek and Jeremy Saulnier's Hold the Dark, plus a spot in Tim Sutton's (disappointing) Donnybrook, and I'm really looking forward to catching Nia DiCosta's Little Woods.

1 comment:

Gavinmcb said...

Great list for 2019. I'd put Never Grow Old on there too.