Any filmmaker seeking to adapt a Cormac McCarthy novel faces the significant problem that a large part of the strength of each is the pure poetry of McCarthy’s prose. In No Country for Old Men the Coen brothers provide cinematography that serves as a suitable stand-in for the poetry of McCarthy’s prose. They back that up with a sharp attention to detail.Continue reading “Film: No Country for Old Men”
I have been on a bit of an Elmore Leonard kick here lately. His work has everything I like about country noir, but in an easily digestible, popcorn style and form. My gateway to Elmore Leonard was the great Justified (which I still need to buy on blu-ray, rewatch, and blog about extensively). I was admittedly thrown off by my first Elmore Leonard novel, Raylan. Raylan suffered from covering ground already covered by the show. But it really suffered from eastern Kentucky not being Leonard’s turf. His work is always better in Florida, I think.Continue reading “Short Review Roundup: Elmore Leonard Edition”
Merry Christmas! El Camino Christmas isn’t actually a Christmas movie. But it does take place on Christmas, and after Christmas Vacation and Elf you are surely Christmas movied out. Pick up this darkly comic country noir instead about an accidental hostage situation in a liquor store on Christmas Eve and Christmas.
I’ll start out by saying I’m not a purist. But if you’re going to take something as ain’t-broke as the Dukes of Hazzard, you daggum well better know what you’re doing when you try to fix it. This movie has a lot of changes. Some work well and some don’t, but the end product isn’t nearly as good as the source material. It is a lot of fun if you don’t think too hard about it. The show really was great, though, and I need to revisit it sooner rather than later.
Every trope in Smokey and the Bandit was done to death in the 70s. It’s easy to forget just how damned good Smokey and the Bandit is. It’s a car chase movie, but it’s not just a car chase movie, which elevates it above its closest competitors, Vanishing Point and the original Gone in 60 Seconds. Of course Vanishing Point wasn’t just a car chase movie either, and for all that Vanishing Point was my dad’s favorite movie, it is Smokey and the Bandit that is a movie about my people.
The premise is simple. Big and Little Enos Burdette bet legendary truck driver the Bandit that he can’t get from Atlanta to Texarkana and back, picking up a load of Coors beer in Texarkana, in 28 hours. That’s 900 miles each way, with 400 illegal cases of beer in the back for the entire return trip. That’s over 60 miles an hour for over 24 hours straight over 1970s highways. The law is broken as soon as the Coors beer crosses the Arkansas state line.
Bandit recruits his old running partner Cledus to drive the truck. He will run blocker in a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (a choice that would influence many of my high school classmates). Bandit provides Cledus with the perfect explanation of his motivation:
“How come we doing this?”
“Well, why not?”
“Well, they said it couldn’t be done.”
“Well that’s the reason, son”
Before I get into my review of the Deadwood movie, I have a confession to make: I like how the show ended. In fact, it is perfect. Deadwood is a show about carving a society out of the wilderness but at the same time attempting to stave off civilization. Robert E. Howard was wrong: civilization always wins. The show ends perfectly because it ends when free Deadwood ends. Time marches on, but the thing about the town that made it such a fascinating subject for a show no longer exists.
My thoughts are also colored by my view of season 3 more broadly. Deadwood started with the brilliance and heat of a raging wildfire. By season 3 it only smoldered. Elements outwore their welcome for me. The respective storylines for Calamity Jane, Cy Tolliver, and Steve the Drunk each consisted almost shouting epithets.
So how does the movie measure up? It does finally give Calamity Jane, criminal underused by the show, something to do. People die. A large chunk of the movie is extraordinarily tense storytelling. Its suffers, though, from the usual problems of reunion shows and it undercuts the show ending, all while providing no real closure.
I should really cover more history here. The history of the Scots-English border region is the history of hillbillies.
Netflix’s recently released Outlaw/King starring Chris Pine spurred me to finally pick up my old review copy of Michael Penman’s Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots. I haven’t gotten very far, but Penman’s book is focused on the Bruce’s reign after Bannockburn, so William Wallace appears relatively early. And I can’t read about William Wallace without pulling out Braveheart. I took advantage of needing to grade a giant stack of essays to watch Outlaw/King and rewatch Braveheart.
I love 70s movies. This is a topic I will return to. The most relevant reason for my love of 70s cinema is that it was the last time Hollywood dealt regularly and evenly with the rural working class. My original choice for this week was the Burt Reynolds vehicle Gator (available to stream for free with Amazon Prime), but I wound up rewatching Rush with my wife’s family, so Rush it is. Rush was made in 1991, but it is a 70s movie in more than setting. And it is a period piece that doesn’t commit the usual sin of getting cutesy and clever about it.
Rush takes place in 1975. Rush is based on a largely autobiographical novel inspired by Kim Wozencraft’s stint as a narc in Tyler, Texas, but the movie is set in an undisclosed location that is probably somewhere on the Gulf coast between Houston and Corpus.
Kristen Cates, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, is a rookie narcotics officer is paired up with veteran officer Jim Raynor, played by Jason Patric. Jim isn’t old, but after going for early-career Jim Morrison in The Lost Boys, Jason Patric goes for late-career Jim Morrison here, and like late-career Jim Morrison, Jim Raynor wears his years pretty damn heavy.