Thursday, September 22, 2011

Driver Wanted

Back to the regular grind this week after two weeks of travel and playing host - I think it may've been much easier on my poor wife if I'd actually been out of town the whole time, but I was coming through the door around three in the morning and leaving again five hours later. It's hard to quantify the work to your spouse taking care of two children by herself... honestly, Hon it was hard work hanging around in bars with writers 19 hours a day. But let's attempt a recap, huh?

Wednesday night's N@B event was a marathon cheered on by a tightly-packed crowd of boozy sardines with names similar to many writers I admire, but who surely hadn't ever heard of our tawdry little event. Still, you gotta admit it's a little too coincidental to have a single reading attended by people with names like Sophie Littlefield, Derek Nikitas, Jason Starr, Martyn Waites, John Connolly, Mark Tiedemann, Holly O'Neill West, Josh Stallings, Bryon Quertermos, Johnny Shaw and Bob Truluck, plus names that sounded Twitterish like Janet Rudolf, Sabrina Ogden, Ali Karim and on and on... But, when your lineup is some tight shit like we had that night, maybe it aint too hard to imagine that kind of interest.

Hilary Davidson kicked things off reading her story from D*CKED - which features a mix of violence and sex and dark humor setting the pitch perfectly for the evening. She was followed by Glenn Gray giving us a taste of what he's got in store for Needle readers soon. John Rector read a piece whose rejection letters were apparently closer to hate mail and threats, but that N@B was proud to feature, and Duane Swierczynski followed with the opening of a current work in progress - an infidelity meets baseball bats tale that I'm pissed I gotta wait for. Afterward Laura Benedict read a selection from her contribution to the Noir at the Bar anthology, Matthew C. Funk plunged us up to our elbows into a nasty situation and Matthew McBride encored his upcoming Beat to a Pulp: Round Two piece - Big Darlene the Sex Machine and John McGoran fucked up a whole family in about five minutes.

Over the next few days I spent a lot of, but not enough, time with Benjamin Whitmer, Cameron Ashley, Keith Rawson, Con Lehane, Dan O'Shea, Frank Wheeler, Peter Farris, Jonathan Woods, Jimmy Callaway, Greg Bardsley, Gary Phillips, Dennis Tafoya, Michael Wiley, Thomas Kaufmann, John Lutz, Robert Randisi, Christine Matthews, Chris Holm, Chad Rohrbacher, John Kenyon, Scott Montgomery, Mark Dischinger, Ron Earl, Kent Gowran, Owen Laukkanen, Thomas Pluck, Frank Bill, Aaron Michael Morales, Paul Oliver as well as N@B folks like McBride, Gray, Funk, Shaw, Quertermos and a growing list of blurry faces already receding from consciousness only to be recalled suddenly, jarringly, I'm sure later down the line when I'm on the wrong end of a restraining order, I'm sure.

Monday morning I went to see Nicolas Winding Refn's adaptation of James Sallis's Drive with Ashley and Scott Phillips before taking Crocodile Dundee to the airport. Since then, I've not been able to stop thinking about the film - apparently Refn's version of a 1980's era Michael Mann pic, or perhaps a contemporary version of Jean Pierre Melville's Le Samorai. It's a remarkably tangy slice of pulp fiction, alternately baiting genre fans with subversive aesthetic choices, (costume, music, props) and then delivering diamond-making sequences of tension that pay off bone-shattering moments of violence. Ryan Gosling seems to pose rather than act throughout the film as a future icon of criminal, masculine cool (like Alain Delon under Melville's direction), but that shouldn't be taken as a criticism. It's just one more deliberate choice made by a director in full command of the medium, and the visually haunting sequence where The Driver dons a rubber mask to stalk his prey seems - coupled with the so-on-the-nose-it's-subtle-okay-no-it's-not-it's-on-the-nose refrain of the soundtrack "real human being, and a real hero," - to (ahem) drive that home. You get all that plus Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman as the best cinema baddies in a beat. Think Ima go again.

Couple other quick crime film catch ups. I really enjoyed Daniel Monzon's Cell 211 - adapted from a novel by Francisco Perez Gandul - about a guard trapped inside a deadly prison riot - wasted no time plunging us into the plot. At 20 minutes in, we'd already gone through several twists and it occurred to me that in a typical American movie we probably wouldn't have even been inside the prison by that time - a great argument for the slicing of needless exposition. Also finally got to see Jeffrey Goodman's The Last Lullaby with Tom Sizemore playing Max Allan Collins's go-to hitman. Low-low budget is evident in a few shots and details, but a smart script by Collins and Peter Biegen and a really fantastic performance by Sizemore make this one well worth checking out. Seriously, next time you need to cast a world-weary bad man unable to completely ditch his soul, I nominate Tommy Boy, (I'd put this performance up against George Clooney's in The American or Syriana any day.)


Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Geeat recap. Sizemore? Thought he went of the deepend and was in the same boat as Daniel Baldwin (who was great in Tree's Lounge) He must be good, because Clooney was great in the movies you referenced.

Chris Rhatigan said...

Drive was ridiculously good. I've rarely seen violence depicted with more power than in this movie. And that anti-car chase car chase at the beginning? Freakin amazing.

jedidiah ayres said...

Sean - no slight to Clooney, but damn, Sizemore brought the heat

Chris - did you mean to say 'Friedkin amazing?'

Ben said...

I agree about DRIVE being amazing. That beach scene made me shit bricks and puke concrete. As over the top as Driver was for a character, he was rendered with a cold logic that made it great.