I see all those happy, smiling faces on a certain social media site whose title rhymes with casebook – and wonder about all the secrets, lies, disappointments and half-forgotten dreams hiding just behind those smiles – and a line from Will Shakespeare comes to mind: “If you prick us, do we not bleed….“
I busted my left shoulder recently and had to wear a sling for awhile. Blame it on two pints of beer at four-thirty in the afternoon in a nearby town. I made it to the bus in time, travelled for about half an hour and then fumbled for the keys to my suite. That”s when it hit me like a runaway semi. I rocketed back, hit something solid and banged myself up fairly good.
This, regrettably, is not my first experience in which alcohol and injury has been combined. I have always had a glass jaw for the stuff.
During my youth I worked for several years as an all-nite DJ at a country music station and over a period of time acquired a fanbase of local musicians. Those guys could drink what seemed to be gallons of the stuff and still behave themselves.I tried to keep up, only to land face down on the floor. (Ever get carpet burns on your forehead?)
Folks who visited my place were always surprised that there was no beer in my fridge. Truth is, I didn’t like to drink alone. But as has become an all too familiar story, I drank in social situations in order to cope.
I haven’t been consuming alcohol on a regular basis in the last few years. In fact, outside of meeting a buddy at the pub once in awhile, I don’t drink booze or smoke weed (a habit I managed to kick a number of years ago.)
But. apparently, it doesn’t take much.
So, anyway, that’s the name of that tune. Hopefully, I can stick to non-alcoholic beverages from now on — and write in this blog a little more often.
Recently I read a glowing article about actor/musician Jamie Foxx in the paper. (Yes, I still read newspapers in the coffeeshop.) The article mentioned a Grammy-nominated album, a new movie and even a game show he is hosting.
But nowhere does it mention a movie called Sleepless. That’s not surprising.
Frankly, I hadn’t even heard of the movie until I spotted it in the DVD section of the library.
Adapted from a French thriller called Nuit Blancheby Andrea Berloff (one of the Oscar-winning screenwriters of Straight Outta Compton), Sleepless features Jamie as Vincent Downs, a Las Vegas cop with connections.(I refer to the performer by his first name because calling him Mr. Foxx sounds like an X-rated version of a Wes Anderson film).
He and his partner (played by rap star T.I.) are in possession of cocaine originally belonging to club owner/crook Stanley Rubino (played by an almost unrecognizable Dermot Mulroney – hey, I said almost unrecognizable.) Mr. Rubino is under pressure to recover the shipment since he promised to sell the drugs to a mobster named Novak (Scoot McNairy, who usually plays a good guy, so he is taking liberal advantage of the opportunity to play an especially nasty villain.)
With so much on the line (no pun intended) Mr. Rubino kidnaps Jamie’s, I mean, Vincent’s teen-age son (Octavius J. Johnson) to make sure that Vincent returns his cocaine. Plucky young Internal Affairs officer Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) is convinced Jamie’s character is dirty and is determined to get the goods on him. Meanwhile, Vincent’s ex (Gabrielle Union) keeps phoning from the hospital, where she works as a nurse, wondering where Junior is, because Jamie, I mean Vincent, doesn’t want to admit her son has been kidnapped.
The critical collective at the rottentomatoes.com gave this movie a wan 2i%. Audience “reviewers” scored it slightly higher at 36%. Obviously, they were not impressed either.
I blush to admit I actually liked the first 2/3 of the movie. Swiss/German director Baram bo Odar keeps putting the screws on our anti-hero to see which way he’ll jump. It reminded me of the final scenes of (the much better rated) 1995 flick GetShorty when all the pieces of Elmore Leonard’s jigsaw puzzle plot start to come together.
Unfortunately, something happens in Sleepless and I blame suits-in-the-editing-room or one of the performers using their clout to change the screenplay because at some point, this wannabe thriller falls as flat as a gateau in the oven. (I can almost hear the conversation now,”That may be what they do in Europe, Bo, but in America, audiences want action – y’know, fistfights, car chases, lots of guns …. “)
Y’think movie producers would learn something after the box office fails of American remakes of European hits like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Let The Right One In or even the U.K. TV hit Broadchurch but judging from the fate of this pic apparently not.
How can one of our finest living actors go from prestige pics like Howard’s End, Remains of the Day and Silence of the Lambs to straight to video (or,in this case, Netflix) dreck like Blackway in a few years?
That is the thought running through my mind as I watched Anthony Hopkins in Blackway as an aging sawmill worker (no, I don’t make this stuff up) who teams up with a young woman played by Julia Styles and a mentally slow but physically fiery young man (rising star Alexander Ludwig) to take down the town bully (Ray Liotta, who should be accustomed to playing villains in B-movies by now.)
What makes it even worse is that director Daniel Alfredson helmed Parts 2 & 3 of the original Swedish Lisbeth Salander trilogy (The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.)
So who is to blame for this almost lifeless wannabe thriller? Well, I could single out screenwriters Joe Gangemi and Gregory Jacobs who based their script on a novel called Go With Me ( by an author named Castle Freeman Jr.) and, according to website the playlist.net “we get all the plot beats of the novel, and none of the texture.” ( I haven’t read the book myself so I don’t wanna pretend I did.)
I could even assign part of the blame on Mr. Hopkins himself. He is listed as one of the producers, after all. and after working with Mr. Alfredson on the equally dismal The Kidnapping of Mr. Heineken he must have known what he was getting into. But I think the majority of the responsibility probably lies with the director.
After scanning the Internet Movie Database I notice Mr. Alfredson is back in Sweden filming a new trilogy. That is probably just as well since his adaptation of the Freeman novel, to quote a popular phrase, loses something in the translation.
At over 700 pages, By Gaslight, the second novel by the Victoria, British Columbia-based poet and fiction writer might have been a doorstopper. But like many of the lengthier films I have enjoyed over the years, I was never bored or visually fatigued thanks to the author’s vividly realized prose and memorable characters.
The novel is set in 1880s London (with flashbacks to the American Civil War and the diamond mines of South Africa) and it is a credit to Mr. Price’s impeccable research and richly detailed narrative that I had to keep reminding myself that this novel was written recently and not penned a number of decades ago. (I haven’t read a novel this rich in period detail which transported me back in time since Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan which was primarily set in 1939 Berlin and Paris – the novel also flashes forward to the early Nineties.)
The story centres around William Pinkerton, son of the crusty, larger-than-life authoritarian who founded the famed investigative organization, and his hunt in foggy London town for an elusive criminal whose very existence is questionable. There is also a gentleman grifter named Adam Foole, his lady love, Charlotte Reckitt, a giant named Fludd and Molly, a ten year old girl who is wise beyond her years (to say the least). Each of these characters are given humane and believable back stories, scrupulously sculpted by the author. The result is, yes, characters you both know and care about as well as (or better than) members of your own family.
You don’t have to be Fellini, to paraphrase an old George Carlin routine, to see themes of the often thorny relationship between fathers and sons, the futility and tragedy of war (any war) and the Rashomon – like nature of truth interwoven into the narrative.
Perhaps the ancient adage is true that a prophet (or, in this case, an author) is without honor in his own country because, in one of the first Canadian literary websites I logged onto, the highly respected quillandquire.com, while admitting that the novel is “an engrossing read“, the reviewer says “… nothing carries us beyond the characters to give their stories thematic resonance of the sort that motivates the great 19th-century novels to which By Gaslight is so indebted … “(Perhaps the writer of this review has been hanging around stuffy Ontario academics too long,)
I much prefer the enthusiastic, uncluttered response of America’s NPR (National Public Radio): ” … Intense … threaded through with a melancholy brilliance, it is an extravagant novel that takes inspiration from the classics and yet remains wholly itself.”
Perhaps the best description of the novel is on the back cover of the book itself: ” … darkly mesmerizing,” writes author Jacqueline Baker, “worthy of the great Victorian thriller writers, but Steven Price brings to his prose a sensibility and dazzling skill all his own … perfectly grounded in period and rich in incident and image. Haunting and deeply satisfying. “
Come to think of it, Stephen Price and Esi Edugyan are husband and wife. Could they be CanLit’s new Power Couple (even if they are not based in Toronto)?
But you already know that if you have seen Wendy and Lucy and Meek’s Cut-Off. If you are a newcomer to her highly personal and (some might say) idiosyncratic art Certain Women may not be the best introduction. See the two films above first and then see Certain Women and you should feel right at home.
You may have read about the slow food movement. Well, Reichardt’s films are what has been called “slow cinema”. And she determines the pace. (She has edited, written and directed all of the films listed above.)
Based on a series of short stories by Montana author Maile Meloy (sister of Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, by the way) Certain Women offers low key character studies of four women (Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern and Lily Gladstone), their humdrum existences, frustrations and small victories.
Reichardt’s films, like the slow food movement perhaps, are an acquired taste. The film recived a 92% per cent critical approval on the rottentomatoes.com site but fared less successfully among the audience reviewers (RT Audience Critic Phillip Price wrote in part “… There is a fine line between being understated and simply being uninteresting …. “
But as Ms. Reichardt told Nigel Smith of “theguardian.com”‘: “It all just seems everything is getting faster. Faster, faster, faster – we all want things faster. I guess there is a part of me that likes the pull against that … “