Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Air Supply

"Cause, man, this is America."

When exactly did my country roll over and decide that we didn't want to compete on the global field of crime filmmaking? When did the motion pass that we only make films about people who are "the best" hitman, conman, heist crew, gangster, drug dealer, gunrunner, embezzler, lawyer, investigator, journalist, bounty hunter, security specialist etc? Or, and this is how you know it's a comedy - a real side-splitter - someone who's "not the best." Gah, I don't generally care about the elaborate mechanics of crime - yeah, they're nice details, condiments, but I'm sick of eating ketchup sandwiches. I'm here for the who and sometimes the why of crime, followed - nay pursued - by the consequences of it all. The human fallout.

C'mon, America, how many fucking amazing foreign crime films are we going to let go unanswered? I'm currently losing my shit over Aussie David Michod's Animal Kingdom which oughtta be arriving soon. Michod and pals Nash (director of The Square) and Joel Edgerton (writer on The Square as well as actor in that one and Animal Kingdom) appear ready to take on the world and I can only hope they can keep making crime dramas for a while and don't get co-opted into some fucking superhero/blockbuster franchise that they can never leave, (remember the Wachowski's made Bound first, Joe Carnahan once made Narc. Bryan Singer made The Usual Suspects. Chris Nolan made Following and Memento).

And I know there are exceptions. There are still good, small crime films coming out here, (I recently enjoyed Antwon Fuqua's Brooklyn's Finest and Brian Goodman's What Doesn't Kill You - both starring Ethan Hawke btw who was in one of the finest American crime films of the last ten year's - Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - when did the sniffly kid from Dead Poet's Society become this guy?) And The Nerd of Noir suggested a wicked recent 1/2 American double feature in Crimefactory 3.0 David Gordon Green's Snow Angels and James Marsh's The King But for every Shotgun Stories and Winter's Bone I seem to find three Pusher films. For exporting No Country For Old Men we import Amores Perros, Sin Nombre and City of God. For giving L.A. Confidential we receive Jerusalema and three Red Riding films.

But where is the American Baader Meinhof Complex or Il Divo? Surely James Ellroy has given us a template for this kind of fare. Who's got the balls to make them? How about Gomorrah? Or A Prophet? The gauntlet's been thrown, please please please, somebody score one for the home team.

To be fair though American television has answered the call. The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, Deadwood and Breaking Bad rank among the best crime fictions of any medium (and to a lesser extent, but still worthy of mention Brotherhood, Sons of Anarchy, Oz, Dexter and Justified are hold your head up moments for the USA). But dammit, we've lost our grip on the two-hour format. Put me in coach.

Okay, enough ranting.

To cleanse your pallet, may I suggest perusing Allan Guthrie's excellent list of favorite 200 noir books listed chronologically and stopping dead at a self imposed date of 1997. I'm officially intimidated.

Or how about checking out the all fiction supplement issue of Crimefactory (3.5) featuring stories by HBW friends Cullen Gallagher and Jason Dukes as well as Sophie Littlefield, Jonathan Woods, Jake Hinkson, John Kenyon, Garnett Elliot, Jay Stringer, Robert Crisman, Julia Madeline, Eric Beetner and Naomi Johnson.

Or better yet, go read John Rector's brand new The Cold Kiss. There's hope.

At Ransom Notes I'm talking about Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas. A full 100% better than Roman Polanski's film version The Ninth Gate starring Johnny Depp. Which is not to say I hate the movie, I enjoy it on a certain level, but it's a lousy representation of the book.


Mike Dennis said...

Good post, Jedidiah. I've ordered THE COLD KISS, and I'm eagerly awaiting it.

The Brits have done some pretty good crime films in the last 20 or so years. THE BANK JOB comes to mind, a film about a group of thoroughly second-rate criminals pulling off a monster heist. LAYER CAKE is another one. You're right that the USA films seem to offer only the "best" criminals. Myself, I prefer the more pedestrian, and that's what my novels center around.

jedidiah ayres said...

Yeah, The Bank Job was MUCH better than I originally thought it was going to be. Not a GREAT movie, but certainly one that I enjoyed and Layer Cake was a hell of an assured debut. Of course Matthew Vaughn is now wrapped up in Kick Ass and X-Men... what the hell is it with friggin superheros after crime films?

And Roger Donaldson is one of those guys I'll probably do a This Gun For Hire piece on. Uneven, but good stuff in his resume.

Dennis Tafoya said...

I was just saying the same thing, Jed. Nearly all the really interesting crime stuff is coming from overseas. When did we lose the knack? I REALLY want to make movies and the stuff I loved this year from France and Australia and Argentina is exactly the kind of stuff I'd love to do, but the American film makers I talk to seem to be clueless about how to put together a compelling film. Very bizarre, with the tools and techniques cheaper than ever.

jedidiah ayres said...

Hook me up with a crew, D and we'll do Dope Thief right. That's exactly the kinda thing American film makers need to tackle. I already got the shotgun battle around the truck choreographed.

Keith Rawson said...

The major issue I'm seeing with American cinema is that the studios are putting profit ahead of product. Studios know people will flock in drovesto see a superhero flick or the newest 3-D monstrosity. Thoughtful, well made films seem to be going out the door, which is a freaking shame.

And if you make a film of Dope Thief, I think I'd make a great dead biker.

Keep it in mind

jedidiah ayres said...

You know what's gonna bug me for a long time 'cause I didn't include it? MEAN CREEK. Yeah, go check out MEAN CREEK. There's hope.

Kieran Shea said...

Jed: Saw and enjoyed THE LOOKOUT over the weekend, and enjoyed it's slow brood.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt is positioning himself for the noir hero long haul, what with BRICK, KILLSHOT, MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA, INCEPTION, etc. I am hopeful.

jedidiah ayres said...

I enjoyed him in both The Lookout and Brick. I know a lot of you crime guys out there did not, but I did. In the end, Brick was an exercise in style and The Lookout was a gimmick - ala Memento - but I like both films. They don't do the crime thing head on, tho. Wish I could see more of that.

Kieran Shea said...

yeah, of course the MEMENTO gimmick in the LOOKOUT, but great performances from Goode and Daniels and Gordon-Levitt. Goode in particular as the asthmatic hood.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This summer for the first time I remember, I have not seen a single movie at the neighborhood multiplex. Even when the US makes a decent film, it does not get a wide release.
Why is a movie like WINTER'S BONE, A SOLITARY MAN and similar fare only show up at art houses. Sickening. And most people never have access to these films.

Dennis Tafoya said...

Okay, let's start here it here. A crime film collective. We all kick in a couple hundred bucks and get moving. We can call it Brute Force Films. Who's in?

jedidiah ayres said...

I'm there, D. But I just spent my fifty bucks on Novocaine. Gotta rethink my funding strategy.

Paul D. Brazill said...

I saw A Prophet the other week. Brilliant film. I fancy those Oz films too. .

Rod Norman said...

Dennis, Count me in ! I ran a art decco art house for 4 years in my little town of Effingham.Il. We playerd Layer Cake, Mean Creak, City of God & a ton of others that wouldn't have gotten within a couple hours of here. And after 4 years we went of business & it still sits empty. Its sad but simple..play super hero & kids films you stay open..show intelligent well made films & close. Whats that tell you about our society. I drove 75 to 100 miles to see Winters Bone, The Killer Indide Me, Leaves of Grass & both of The Girl With & The Girl Who Films, and Exit Through the Gift Shop & watched 1 movie at our 9 screen multiplex this year...so yeah Patti I feel your pain. Just picked up my copy of "Cold Kiss" & Jed cam I be an extra?

jedidiah ayres said...

Rod - how do you feel about being nude?