Sunday, June 30, 2019

River of Grass

Huge apologies to anybody expecting me to be witty and engaging on the latest episode of the Do Some Damage podcast. You see, while I was my sorta my typically half-assed prepared to talk about a couple of films, I found myself engaged in what I assumed was a private conversation with Steve Weddle about Charles Willeford. Steve's reading Willeford's most excellent first book of memoirs, I Was Looking For a Street (as should fucking you - it's so good!) and we talked about ol' Chuck and his work and habits for a good ten minutes.

Ten minutes that I was enjoying perfectly well when it was between pals, but dear reader, I apologize for subjecting you to my quarter-assed Willefordian musings. For the record the Robert Mitchum movie I am referring to is John Farrow's 1950 offering Where Danger Lives. If you don't care to listen to the whole ten minutes I will spare you some grief... Wild Wives is the book you'd want to compare to Where Danger Lives...
...and I assert that Willeford probably modeled Freddy in Miami Blues on (or at least his actions were inspired by) Robert Stack in Airplane!

Now check out Alec Baldwin as Freddy in George Armitage's 1990 adaptation of Willeford's Miami Blues
I can only kinda sort blame Steve for including the ramble because weirdly it ties into the two movies I had already picked out to discuss as they are both oddball Florida crime stories...

The first is Kelly Reichardt's feature debut River of Grass about a couple of especially low-rent lovers on the run (Lisa Donaldson and Larry Fessenden) who manage neither to love nor run after they are bound by murder.

The second is Victor Nunez's Coastlines. For every crime films of the seventies nut out there who moans that they don't make 'em like that anymore, might I insist you check this one out. It's a crime melodrama starring Timothy Olyphant, Josh Brolin, Sarah Wynter, William Forsythe, Josh Lucas and Scott Wilson and if that cast ain't enough to rouse your curiosity why the hell are you even reading this?

I've written more than once about Coastlines on this here blog and was super excited to find it (and River of Grass) available on Hulu. Hurry though, it looks like Coastlines is leaving soon! River of Grass is also available now on Prime. If you dig Coastlines check out Nunez's Ulee's Gold - another slow-burn thriller with a good central performance by Peter Fonda and shit, Reichardt is pretty much aces every time out, but crime-wise check out Night Moves and you could sorta tie Wendy & Lucy into that knot and her Meek's Cutoff is like a feature length western episode of the Twilight Zone.

If you're interested in more Willeford talk check out this collaborative Picture Books piece betwixt me and Johnny Shaw on the films based on Willford material (Monte Hellman's Cockfighter, George Armitage's Miami Blues and Robson Devor's The Woman Chaser). If you like what you read there be sure to check out Johnny's latest book The Upper Hand (and all his other shit, seriously).

And if you'd like to see me and Shaw finally become a single character might I suggest Mike McCreary's Genuinely Dangerous, a book I've had for three years, but only just read and found Jedidiah Shaw to be a character worth his own series. Mike's books are literary rocket fuel - not good for much but blasting off if that's what you feel like doing.

If you're looking for more Florida crime stuff's Matt Coleman at Book Riot has some solid recommendations including Miami Blues, Vicky Hendrick's Miami Purity, Ace Atkins' White Shadow, Elmore Leonard's Rum PunchSteph Post's Walk in the Fire and many more in honor of Alex Segura's fifth(?) Pete Fernandez title Miami Midnight.

And shit, if you wanna stick to the brilliance of Armitage's Miami Blues check out Travis Woods' usual bullshit at Bright Wall Dark Room on the matter.

And if the mention of Reichardt's Night Moves put you in mind of Arthur Penn's awesome Floridian film of the same name with Gene Hackman - check the fuck out Matthew Asprey Gear's new book on the film Moseby Confidential: Arthur Penn's Night Moves and the Rise of Neo Noir. Crackin.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Snabba Pax

I was on The Projection Booth podcast again - this time talking with Mike White and Rob St. Mary about Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall. Man, it's quite a feat to make a picture that is at once distinctly a Verhoeven joint, a perfect Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle and an entirely recognizable Philip K. Dick premise.

This movie rocks. Especially because it gave me the 'homework' excuse to watch an otherwise unlikely combination of materials.

And on the latest episode of Do Some Damage I'm recommending a trio of trilogies that make a good case for crime franchises having short, potent runs. Nicolas Winding Refn's Pusher trilogy take place in the same Copenhagen underworld and a couple of characters make return appearances, but each film stands alone and distinct from the others and I honestly can't decide which is my favorite. They all fucking rule. (First two are available for free on Tubi and all three are available to rent on other streaming platforms).

The Easy Money saga were made in quick succession and based on the Stockholm noir novels of Jens Lapidus. Directed by Daniel Espinosa, Babak Najafi and Jens Jonsson the films hold a consistent tone and weave a bloody, desperate tapestry out of tragically intersecting characters and story lines. This is the good shit. (The first is available to rent, Hard to Kill and Life Deluxe are free on Prime).

And the Red Riding trilogy from producer Michael Winterbottom were based on the novels (a quartet, rather than a trilogy) by David Peace and released more or less simultaneously (at least in the U.S.) allowing audiences to experience the whole depressing tale of the direct and collateral damage done by a serial murderer of children in England in the 70s and 80s. Grim, riveting, heartbreaking stuff directed by Julian Jarrold, James Marsh and Anand Tucker. Fuck me, I watched all three in a night and it just about did me in. And I think I'll do it again. All three films are available now on Hulu.

Speaking of the Red Riding books James Ellroy gave Peace a chance and discussed the books (as well as Don Winslow's Border trilogy) with Adrian McKinty who interviewed the Demon Dog on the occasion of the release of This Storm (book two in the new L.A. Quartet!) for Crimereads this week. Brand new books by all three gents (The Border by Winslow, The Chain by McKinty) will almost certainly be read by me soonish.

I'm a big fan of Ridley Scott's maligned masterpiece The Counselor writ by Cormac McCarthy starring Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Rosie Perez and Michael Fassbender as the titular douche who thinks he can get away with it. It made my year end picks when it came out in 2014, but was one of the most critically reviled films of the year. This piece at Cinephelia & Beyond by Tim Pelan is a pretty terrific read. Tim's another new discovery for me for thought-provoking and insightful deep dives on a bunch of my favorite film stuffs. Check him out.