This Week We Serve Fans Of:
- Representation in acting
- Short stories
- Donald Westlake
- Cormac McCarthy
- Al Pacino
- and, of course, Neighbours
Thanks to Miller, Drunk Napoleon, and scb0212 for contributing this week. Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail, post articles from the past week below for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday!
At VHS Revival, Rob Kotecki considers the simple pleasures of 80s erotic Al Pacino thriller Sea of Love:
The movie opens with establishing shots of pre-Giuliani sleaze and hustle, and predictably, a murder. The title song, that Doo Wop classic, plays while a man grinds away in bed until we see a gun blow away the back of his skull. Then we’re off to meet Pacino as cop Frank Keller, hosting an elaborate sting operation of his own design. The NYPD invites dozens of folks with outstanding warrants to meet the Yankees, only to whip out their badges and load them into vans. It’s a big, rowdy scene, the kind that gets cut nowadays to save money on all those extras. Part of the movie’s charm is the scale of so humble a thriller. The cop parties are crowded. There’s a wedding in a space too small for all the guests. It’s not just filming on location, but understanding how New York feels, right down to the restaurant where the patrons’ elbows are always threatening to touch.
On the occasion The Godfather‘s 50th anniversary, the BBC’s Nicholas Barber asks whether its hyper-masculine reputation hides some of its key elements:
Besides, even though the men drive the plot in The Godfather, the women are vitally important to it. The bravura opening sequence is set at Connie’s wedding banquet in the Corleones’ family compound. Vito spends most of it in his shadowy study, fielding entreaties from his supplicants (an old Sicilian wedding tradition, apparently), and the dialogue keeps returning to the subject of masculinity. When Vito’s top enforcer, Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana), thanks the boss for his wedding invitation, he offers the bride and groom this faltering blessing: “And I hope that their first child be a masculine child.” Michael has a different perspective – at first, anyway. A decorated World War Two veteran, he brings his girlfriend Kay (Diane Keaton) to the wedding, shares the Corleones’ darkest secrets with her, and insists on her being included in a family photograph. But the trajectory charted by the film is his arc away from Kay and towards damnation. “[Women] will be saints in heaven while we men burn in hell,” says Vito in Puzo’s novel, and Coppola seems to agree.
Nick Kolokowski writes in CrimeReads about the many attempts to bring Donald Westlake’s character Parker to the big screen:
“Made in USA” (1966), directed by Jean-Luc Godard, based on “The Jugger” – Perhaps the oddest of the Richard Stark novels—Parker flies out to help an old friend out of a jam, an act of altruism stunningly out of character—was adapted into arguably the oddest of Jean-Luc Godard movies. That “Parker” has been transformed into a Frenchwoman (played by Anna Karina) isn’t even the strangest part of the whole endeavor—it’s that a relatively tight American crime novel has been turned into an existentialist New Wave experiment. According to Westlake himself, the rights to “The Jugger” were purchased by a French producer, who failed to make all the agreed-upon payments. However, Goddard mistakenly thought the producer had successfully acquired the property, and filmed a movie adaptation over the course of twelve weekends. “Godard had changed things around so much that [the producer] may have figured the film could be considered an original, but he didn’t tell Godard, who innocently blabbed,” Westlake said. The backstory sounds more intriguing than the film itself.
Ed Siegel at WBUR looks at allegations of “Jewface” and broader concerns over representation and portrayal:
To me, a work of art creates a world of its own which then sheds light on our world. And that’s what the first season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” did so well in investigating the proscribed life of a talented Jewish female comedian in the 1960s, one who’s torn between middle-class comforts and something more alluring and dangerous. Many people I know, Jewish and non, assumed that Brosnahan was a member of the tribe, but I’m saying that doesn’t matter. She was great in the role and if her mannerisms were exaggerated, would a young Barbra Streisand have been any less so? And isn’t exaggeration a mainstay of what comedy is about anyway?
At Literary Hub, Murray Carpenter tells of a book report by two high school students who actually manage to parlay a tenuous connection to Cormac McCarthy into an email interview with the reclusive author. His answers are predictably beautiful and elliptical:
McCarthy’s friend had replied with a kind email, transcribing the author’s answers to the students’ questions. It’s a fun exchange. Why so few punctuation marks in McCarthy’s text? They “just mess up the page.” Who is he writing for? “The reader in mind is me.” What does he think of rhetorically analyzing the book? It’s “a good way to ruin the reading experience.” [entire email exchange at link]
For Bitter Southerner, Michael A. Gonzalez writes about Diane Oliver, who wrote uneasy stories about Black experiences but died while still in college:
Her former teacher Peter Taylor, who The New York Times once described as “… the past century’s best American practitioner of the short story,” wrote a letter of recommendation. “He very much wished [Oliver] to go to Iowa so that ‘she not become preoccupied with the topical quarrels that completely dominate circles she might move in elsewhere,’” Taylor’s biographer, Hubert H. McAlexander, wrote. According to McAlexander, that meant the Civil Rights marches, sit-ins, and demonstrations, but, as we can read in her stories, she’d already been swayed.
Finally, we missed our chance to own Tom Hanks’ trailer. We failed to submit a winning bid when they auctioned the vehicles from Mad Max: Fury Road. But I think we can all agree there’s no better use of our collective money than to buy and live in Toadie’s house from Neighbours:
The Melbourne home that stars as Toadfish Rebecchi’s house in Neighbours has officially hit the market with a $1.3m-.$1.4m asking price and a few Easter eggs for fans. […] The Aussie expat bought the home for $867,000 in 2013 — about the same time Toadie (Ryan Moloney) and new wife Sonya’s (Eve Morey) on-screen wedding reception was ruined by a fatal gas-bottle explosion.