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March 07, 2011

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Pete Segall

I realize I'm a little late for the Straight Time rally but I feel obligated to put in a parallel plug for the source material, No Beast So Fierce by Edward Bunker (hey, it's that dude who doesn't say much in Reservoir Dogs!). It was rereleased in the late 90s by Vintage Crime with the same slick, misrepresenting packaging they used for Jim Thompson's books. It's pretty rough stuff - the movie captures the book's tone well - but lovely in places.

And re the Coens: won't someone please think of The Man Who Wasn't There?

James Keepnews

Pete, I adore The Man Who Wasn't There -- talk about your aptly-titled films! Seems like no one speaks on it much, though it's up there as one of the Coen's loveliest works (respeck, Mr. Deakins), plus simultaneously one of their most enigmatic and saddest, as perfectly embodied in Billy Bob's introverted, involuted performance. Fine work by one and all, all around.

And I was gonna bring up Mr. Bunker and his brilliant career, as it were, esp. where his second novel ANIMAL FACTORY is concerned. It's something of an existential prequel to STRAIGHT TIME, and Steve Buscemi's film based on it is excellent, equally troubling and yet another rarely-discussed corker. Everyone's great in that, not least Messers. Defoe, Furlong and what is still my favorite performance by him to date, Mickey Rourke. I dasn't give away his character's characteristics if you're otherwise unaware, or much of a fan of the Mick, but if this doesn't change your opinion of the man's work, no amount of re-watching RUMBLE FISH will convince you.

Pete Segall

Thanks, James. It's one of my favorite Coens, up there with Fargo and Miller's Crossing. There's a level of understatement they've rarely sought and they pull it off beautifully (Deakins is just unstoppable here).

As for Bunker, I had no idea up until a moment ago that among his other credits is the (Americanized) script for Runaway Train, yet another needlessly neglected movie. Makes sense, though - it's as existentially agonized as Animal Factory.

Kent Jones

James, Grosbard was, is and for the forseeable future will continue to be an underrated filmmaker, because almost EVERYTHING happens in the spaces between the actors, the extremely delicate exchanges of emotions. GEORGIA and STRAIGHT TIME are both excellent films, but I think TRUE CONFESSIONS is the best. He was working from an extremely sharp script by Dunne and Didion, as spare and precise as the novel is overabundant. The movie was made at the tail end of a tremendous era that more or less began with the GODFATHER films and that idea of production design, cinematography, etc. The supporting cast is incredible - Durning at his absolute best, Burgess Meredith (never flintier, especially when he says "Show me a priest with a twinkle in his eye and I'll show you a moron"), Rose Gregorio (Ulu's wife), Kenneth McMillan, Ed Flanders, the amazing Cyril Cusack, Jeanette Nolan. And De Niro and Duvall's scenes together are almost supernatural, especially the passage where they're in the car on the way back from visiting their mother in the hospital. The structure - the memory beginning with the movement toward the window - is solid, and the VERY quiet intensity, which reaches maximum density in the scenes in the confessional booth, is sustained from start to finish.

Great movie.

Michael Adams

As good as True Confessions is, it lacks the humor of Dunne's novel and seems more judgmental about the characters. The performances and direction, however, are wonderful.

Tom Block

It's also flat-footed in a lot of places, but all of Grosbard's movies are. ("Harry Kellerman" is a nightmare on every count.)

That Fuzzy Bastard

@ Pete: Thirded! "Man" is quite possibly my favorite Coen's movie---arguably their richest, saddest, and most beautiful. And while all their movies end strong, there are few that can compete with Man's last 30 seconds.

lazarus

Agreed on TMWWT, especially the ending. I think it's just as poetic a conclusion as the final moments of No Country For Old Men, but in the previous film they used their own words instead of being able to simply quote Cormac McCarthy's. Thornton is perfect and I'm not sure if there is another living actor who could have deadpanned that whole film as perfectly as he did.

And Tony Shalhoub is a hoot.

Only Barton Fink stands taller in the Coens' filmography for me, and I rate most of them pretty damned high.

Tom Block

>I was gonna bring up Mr. Bunker and his brilliant career, as it were, esp. where his second novel ANIMAL FACTORY is concerned. It's something of an existential prequel to STRAIGHT TIME, and Steve Buscemi's film based on it is excellent, equally troubling and yet another rarely-discussed corker. Everyone's great in that, not least Messers. Defoe, Furlong and what is still my favorite performance by him to date, Mickey Rourke. I dasn't give away his character's characteristics if you're otherwise unaware, or much of a fan of the Mick, but if this doesn't change your opinion of the man's work, no amount of re-watching RUMBLE FISH will convince you

Based on this I watched "Animal Factory" this weekend--it's a great tip courtesy of Mr. Keepnews, if indeed that's his real name. The thing's dripping with great writing and acting (at least if you factor Tom Arnold out of the equation), and Rourke really does give a lyrical, very funny, and finally heartbreaking performance.

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