Friday, August 3, 2018

Outta Jail, Raisin Hell

Finally recovered from my N@B hangover and pleased to say the parts I remember were great. The first St. Louis N@B event in a couple trips around the sun kicked off with me reading from my contribution to the new anthology Blood & Gasoline (the Mario Acevedo edited collection that has me sharing space with Gary Phillips, Jon Bassoff, Gabino Iglesias, James R. Tuck and N@B alum Les Edgerton). Amanda Gowin followed that with a reading from her story Cellar's Dog which you can find in the anthology Gutted alongside horror nobodies like Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Coake, Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman and N@B alum Richard Thomas.

Chris Orlet got into trouble picking up two just-sprung cons and abandoning them to the wilds of southern Illinois in an early chapter from his brand new novel A Taste of Shotgun. You can and should find out what happens next by purchasing that shit right here.

Tawny Pike slew the room with the sexiest and bloodiest reading of the night. You can read part of it in the flash piece Death Dance at Shotgun Honey. The bulk of the story will be available in an upcoming issue of Switchblade - watch the site.

Max Booth III added a Peckerwood reference to a passage from The Nightly Disease, Jen Egan hooked me on her unpublished novel with the opening chapter about a medium learning about the danger inherent in scamming her clientele - at least the ones who are violent criminal types and Scott Phillips gave us a drug deal gone bad and the aftermath from his upcoming novel.

Was great to see other alum there too - Clayton Lindenmuth, Shaw L. Coney and Tim Lane were onhand and holy crap, it'd been too long since I'd seen any of them. If you, like me, can't get enough of Tim's shit - check out his new story B-Girl available on the new free streaming culture site byNWR.

If the initials don't give it away, is the brainchild of filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn and it features free content including 'lost' "bad taste movies"(two of which I watched this week Bert Williams's alternately hacky and innovative The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds and Joseph G. Prieto's amazingly titled Shanty Tramp).

I've been a Refn fan since the Pusher trilogy was released over here and was thrilled when his adaptation of James Sallis' Drive raised his profile astronomically. I was even more thrilled when, instead of being co-opted by a major studio franchise or high-profile remake, his next two films doubled and even tripled down on his weirdo fetishist-filmmaker identity. Shit, I'm still surprised Only God Forgives didn't land him in movie jail.

"Movie jail" is a place some of my favorite film makers have spent time or been threatened with after making career-killing films. It's also a place many cinematic offenders deserve to be. This week on the Do Some Damage podcast with Steve Weddle I talk about films by three directors who've been to movie jail.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout is the sixth in the ever-innovating and occasionally improving franchise. It's also the first time a director has made a second entry in the series. Christopher McQuarrie has been Tom Cruise's go-to guy (Fallout being the third film he's directed Cruise in and the sixth he's written for the star) in the last ten years.

McQuarrie made his name as the Academy Award nominated screenwriter of 1995's The Usual Suspects. In 2000 his directorial debut Way of the Gun obliterated all of the good will that twist-ended cool criminal movie had built him in exactly half a weekend. Never mind the amazing cast, nor the return of the funny-talking dude from the other movie - where the first flick was clever and slick the new one was really, deeply nasty and cruel and went out of its way to put the audience off their appetite for cheaply held life. The movie tanked hard and nobody helped McQuarrie back up. It would be twelve years before Tom Cruise bailed him out of movie jail by hiring him to write and direct the Lee Child adaptation, Jack Reacher. Way of the Gun is streaming now on Netflix.

Jennifer Lynch's career was nearly over before it began after the debacle that was her directorial debut Boxing Helena quite possibly made more money from Kim Basinger than the rest of the world combined. Basinger was sued for breach of contract when she dropped out of the titular role (following in the footsteps of Madonna in abandoning the project) and ended up paying millions of dollars for the decision. She may still think it was a good deal.

Helena is a strange horror fable with some genuinely weird notions, plus Art Garfunkel, but... yeah, not great.

Fast forward fifteen years to 2008's Surveillance - Lynch's next time behind a feature film. And damn, this one works. Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond play Federal agents poking around some brutal crimes committed in the middle of nowhere. They tangle a bit with the local law types (including Michael Ironside and a surprisingly strong French Stewart) while trying to get a clear story from a young child who might have some important information.

Everybody involved has a different agenda and things get bloody by the end. It's a film made by a director with vision and the chops to realize it. Glad to have Jennifer out of movie jail and hope we get more like this one. Surveillance is available to rent or buy on multiple streaming platforms.

You know who's still in movie jail? Martin Brest that's who. He appears to be in solitary confinement too. There are zero writing, producing or directing credits or even rumors of projects in development that I've heard since 2003's Gigli which... yeah pay a fine or something, but everybody else has moved on from that debacle and I wish the director of Beverly Hill Cop and the absolutely perfect and indispensable Midnight Run had a chance to take another shot.

But Jed, you say, Gigli was fucking awful. To which I'd reply - so was Wise Guys, but Brian De Palma never stopped directing (his next film was The Untouchables) and George Gallo's next writing credit was Midnight Run. I'd sit through a dozen forgettable clunkers on the off-chance something as sublime as Midnight Run was next.

If you've never seen it, get on that shit. This buddy comedy action road movie is one of the very first non-prestige, light entertainments Robert De Niro made after stepping down from the throne of serious acting and were it to be blamed for turning his career into the schlock-fest it's become I'd say it was well worth it because it remains one of the purest movie watching pleasures of my life and only seems to get better with age. 

The cast's chemistry is magic - go ahead and pick your favorite duo from: De Niro and Charles Grodin's odd couple bickering to Dennis Farina and Philip Baker Hall's old married couple dynamic, Joe Pantoliano and Jack Kehoe's schlubby, sleazy charm or Richard Foronjy and Robert Miranda's knockaround idiots - plus Yaphet Kotto and John Ashton's appearances are frequent and not often enough. Even Danny Elfman's original score has personality and is nearly unrecognizable from the autopilot setting he's been locked into for the last twenty five years.

My generation's Butch & Sundance is available to rent or buy on multiple streaming platforms. Don't say a fuckin word, Sidney.


Kent Gowran said...

Totally (obviously) agree on MIDNIGHT RUN.
Also... NEW SCOTT PHILLIPS NOVEL!!! I might be jonesing for a hit.

jedidiah ayres said...

iz gud!

Kent Gowran said...

Of that I have no doubt.