I’m in a position to talk to these kids and they listen: the best of Eminem

When Eminem goes multi-platinum again soon, as few musicians do in 2017, he can’t point to my hard drive. I treated this list as an exercise on myself: how many of these performances can I stand to listen to, like, right now? I had trouble rounding up a dozen suspects. An impressive technician, a producer with a good ear for distorted loops and Latin-influenced keyboards, Marshall Mathers thought America was his and it owned him a living; if any artist spoke to the Trump base, it’s Em. I don’t blame him for it, but from “The Real Slim Shady” and “Just Lose It” to “The Monster” he’s steadily exhausted the possibilities. Grievances are okay when the targets are worth the expenditure of energy and the flexing of hate. I don’t laugh at a high school’s friend faggot joke about Justin Timberlake either. Yet “The Storm” is as precise a performance as we could’ve expected.

My top picks cover the technique and the imagination: “Forget About Dre,” with a guest rap as dazzling as a Sonny Rollins solo; and “Renegade,” in which he and Sean Carter become the Phil and Don Everly of forced hip-hop iconoclasm.

1. Forget About Dre (Dr. Dre featuring Eminem)
2. Renegade (with Jay-Z)
3. Lose Yourself
4. The Way I Am
5. 8 Mile.
6. My Dad’s Gone Crazy
7. Busa Rhyme (with Missy Elliott)
8. Cleanin’ Out My Closet
9. Stan
10. We As Americans
11. Rabbit Run
12. Like Toy Soldiers

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Singles 10/20

Jack Antonoff, whose beats powered 1989, does yeoman’s work on St. Vincent’s latest, but I’m not sure he could’ve saved “…Ready for It?” from ignominy. In a week when Sparks and Yaeji strove for aural spritz, I settled for Toni Braxton’s trad, staid “Deadwood,” sung gorgeously — you won’t find a more sumptuous vocal this year.

Click on links for full reviews.

Toni Braxton – Deadwood (8)
St. Vincent – Los Ageless (7)
Alice Merton – No Roots (6)
Yaeji – Drink I’m Sippin’ On (5)
Kimbra – Everybody Knows (5)
Sparks – Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me) (5)
Midland – Make a Little (4)
Sofia Carson – Ins and Outs (4)
Marcus & Martinus – Make You Believe in Love (3)
Macklemore ft. Kesha – Good Old Days (4)
Taylor Swift – …Ready For It? (3)
Rachel Platten – Broken Glass (2)
Max ft. Gnash – Lights Down Low (1)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

David Brooks, in search of heroes

Yesterday, David Brooks assembled sounds into phonemes that after hours of cogitation settled into sentence structures. Let’s look at them together.

It turns out that John McCain’s most important service to American democracy was not rendered in a P.O.W. camp in Vietnam. It’s being rendered right now in the U.S. Senate.

The experience as a POW was a horrifying one for McCain; I’m not sure how participation in the Vietnam War and his subsequent captivity contributed to American democracy. The second sentence is usual Brooksian filler, of the kind my students specialize, another way of consuming word count (“John McCain is a senator from Arizona.”).

In the first place, McCain seems to be the only member of Congress who insists on holding hearings and working toward compromise before passing major legislation. This would seem to be the very elemental prerequisite of good government — like a doctor seeking a diagnosis before performing surgery — but McCain appears to be the only member, or at least the only Republican, willing to risk unpopularity to insist upon a basic respect for our sacred institutions.

Democrats can’t hold hearings until they control the House and Senate; until then the ranking members of committees can request them. Also, I’m sure his colleagues Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray may disagree with him.

Second, McCain is one of very few Republicans willing to stand up for the American story. Human beings can be rallied around one of three things: religion, tribe or ideals.

“I’m alluding to Bobos in Paradise, available for a few bucks used on Amazon.”

Donald Trump and the campus multiculturalists want to organize people by ethnic tribe, which has always been the menacing temptation throughout our history. But McCain seeks to preserve our traditional rallying point — our ideals.

The Brooks column engages in the classic Smart Conservative bait and switch, also known as the Smart Con: although the headline and lead suggest an frontal assault on conservatism, the body establishes an equivalency between it and a liberal straw man. Conservatism may suck, but liberals suck too! “Multiculturalism” is sure doing a lot of work as portmanteau. How the Jewish Brooks can deny that black, indigenous, and Latino activists form no less a part of Our Ideals shows the extent to which the Smart Conservative will value order over even the faintest ripple.

Third and most important, McCain still believes that paideia is essential for democracy. Paideia is the process by which we educate one another for citizenship. Paideia is based on the idea that a healthy democracy requires a certain sort of honorable citizen — that if we’re not willing to tell one another the truth, devote our lives to common purposes or defer to a shared moral order, then we’ll succumb to the shallowness of a purely commercial civilization, we’ll be torn asunder by the centrifugal forces of extreme individualism, we’ll rip one another to shreds in the naked struggle for power.

Ah — Greek, hijacked for the purpose of replacing one daddy figure (Trump) with another (McCain).

As the brilliant Spanish philosopher Javier Gomá Lanzón reminds us, most moral education happens by power of example.

The George “F.” Will Tag of Erudition.

McCain’s career has had its low moments, as all of ours do — a banking scandal, Sarah Palin — but he exemplifies a practical standard of excellence to an extraordinary degree: enduring in Vietnam, seeking compromise legislation on everything from immigration reform to campaign spending, condemning torture after 9/11.

The column’s weasel moment, an example of odious compression. The “ideals” for which this member of the Keating Five stood for he undercut if not destroyed by picking an ambitious imbecile as a running mate: a clear antecedent for the conservative enthusiasm for Roy Moore. And notice McCain’s “condemning” torture. Brooks knows McCain blasted the Bush administration for the use of torture as an instrument of anti-terrorism in the early post-9/11 period but yielded to a significant congressional dilution.

That is an essential bulwark in the age of Trump. That is what needs rebuilding. Books will someday be written on how Trump, this wounded and twisted man, became morally acceptable to tens of millions of Americans. But it must have something to do with the way over the past decades we have divorced private and public morality, as if private narcissism would have no effect on public conduct.

Okay, buddy.

It must have something to do with the great tide of moral libertarianism from Herbert Marcuse on down. This tide taught that progress meant emancipating the individual from shared moral orders. It taught transgression was always delightful and that morality was individual and optional.

“Both sides do it,” Diamond Dave mumbles again, thinking about the Twitter response from Russiabots.

The moral fabric of society is invisible but essential. Some use their public position to dissolve it so they can have an open space for their selfishness. McCain is one of the strongest reweavers we have, and one of our best and most stubborn teachers.

Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran. Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father. I’ll repeat: Sarah Palin.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

And soon they’ll carry him away: the best of George Jones

At its most potent an influence is everywhere and nowhere. When he died in 2013, George Jones could have pointed to Randy Travis and Nick Lowe, to Bobby Bare and and Don Williams. His rich vowel-heavy baritone projected a despair as felt as Ian Curtis’. He could sing anything and often would, hoping that, years after the rockabilly period ended and he lost interest in songwriting, the likes of Billy Sherrill could submerge him in the pathos Jones could summon a capella if necessary. The Cup of Loneliness anthology is the place to start and perhaps to end, but this means forgetting The Grand Tour and I Am What I Am. It means missing the Tammy Wynette duets. Life is long; so is despair. In songs no more than 2:30, Jones sketched both.

1. The Door
2. The Grand Tour
3. He Stopped Loving Her Today
4. Slave Lover
5. I Always Get Lucky With You
6. You’re Still On My Mind
7. Tender Years
8. Still Doin’ Time
9. Out of Control
10. Family Bible
11. Our Private Life
12. The Weatherman
13. If Drinkin’ Won’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)
14. If I Don’t Love You (Grits Ain’t Groceries)
15. White Lightning
16. She Thinks I Still Care
16. Cup of Loneliness
17. Big Harlan Taylor
18. Bartender’s Blues
19. Things Have Gone to Pieces
20. Accidentally on Purpose

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Don’t damn me/When I speak my mind: the best of Guns N’ Roses

I can think of a few moments when pop music frightened me. With its pummeling clusters of guuitar notes, the impressive solidness of its rhythm section, and demonic interpolations (YOU KNOW WHERE YOU AAAHHH? YOU’RE IN THE JUNGLE BABEE), “Weclome to the Jungle” sent this Robert Palmer fan scurrying to hide under his Algebra I textbook in fall ’88. I don’t remember anyone in high school hating Guns N’ Roses; as with the Beatles, there was a sense in which their sheer physical presence (was there an album more made for the treble-eh bass-heavy dynamics of the cassette?) overcame token resistance. When the band proffered smelling salts like “Patience,” we embraced them (to all those guys, let me point out, who think metal bands recorded ballads for their female fans, I distinctly remember women preferring “Paradise City” and “You Could Be Mine” to “Patience” and “Don’t Cry”; it was the teen boys who wanted to sell their empathy to the reluctant women they hit on. Anyway.). My buddy Greg, whom I love for many reasons but most obviously for introducing me to New Order and the janglier subsections of college rock, adored Metallica and GNR and saw no reason why pluralism wasn’t a virtue like any other.

By the time GNR released the Use Your Illusion albums the dudes were as inevitable as Izzy Stradlin’s solo career and a year later Bill Clinton’s victory. Released simultaneously to unreal expectations in October 1991, UYI volumes commanded the top two positions on the Billboard chart, sent “Don’t Cry” into the top ten after the Terminator 2: Judgment Day-baited “You Could Be Mine” served as an amuse-bouche, and then sat comfortably for months as several non-single album tracks dominated AOR radio — “Civil War,” “Estranged,” the Dylan and McCartney/Wings covers — before, a year later, “November Rain” reminded MTV devotees that, Kurt Cobain or no Kurt Cobain, there was only one Slash who could rock a guitar solo symphony on an arid mountain peak for the sake of his Axl. The definition of “uneven,” etiolated and often gross, especially when Izzy Stradlin writes several rubber doughnut variations on Exile on Main Street‘s “Rip This Joint” and “Casino Boogie,” UYI is to my ears an impressive collective achievement. This is how dangerous multi-platinum music could sound in the Poppy Bush era. And because used CDs are easy to find, I don’t see why you couldn’t rip at least a dozen tracks for a phone playlist.

It’s still difficult to describe Axl’s vocals. Embracing his emetic, slightly prissy high end, he often descended, simultaneously, into a lower register; he played bass and lead guitar with his voice. The triumph of this approach is “Don’t Damn Me,” in which he mimics Alice Cooper doing Steve Tyler before gulping like Tom Verlaine for the victory lap. The others, especially Duff McKagen and Izzy Stradlin, are up for the changes: by the time Axl squeals ALLLRIIIGHT as Slash tears up another junk guitar solo, I can sense the band’s excitement at pulling it off. But then Axl Rose was the guy who sent the Pet Shop Boys roses after an L.A. concert in 1991 and wondered why Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe hadn’t included “Being Boring” in their set list (the Boys’ “My October Symphony” inspired “November Rain”). And on stages across the land he still lurches. Don’t damn him.

1. Welcome to the Jungle
2. Patience
3. Civil War
4. Paradise City
5. Estranged
6. Sweet Child o’ Mine
7. Don’t Damn Me
8. Mr. Brownstone
9. Right Next Door to Hell
10. You Could Be Mine
11. Live and Let Die
12. Human Being
13. Get in the Ring
14. Nightrain
15. You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Best films of 1934

1934 was such a good year that if you told educated viewers unfamiliar with The Scarlet Empress that it was a German film redubbed in English they would believe you.

1. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo)
2. The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg)
3. It Happened One Night (Frank Capra)
4. It’s a Gift (Norman Taurog)
5. The Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke)
6. Little Man, What Now? (Frank Borzage)
7. Twentieth Century (Howard Hawks)
8. Man of Aran (Robert Flaherty)
9. Imitation of Life (John M. Stahl)
10. The Black Cat (Edgar G. Ulmer)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Roy Moore, the Republican Party’s death head

When MSNBC producers started inviting Jennifer Rubin on talk shows, I thought this Rubin was a pod person grown in Leonard Nimoy’s office in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The Rubin I knew as Washington Post columnist in the early 2010s defended every Mitt Romney flip flop with a chilling zealotry. Two years earlier, her paper rebuked her for retweeting a remark by a member of the Emergency Committee of Israel on Hamas’ release of a prisoner (“gilad is free and home. now round up his death-worshiping captors and turn them into food for sharks”).

In the last year, Rubin has turned the sledgehammer on Donald Trump. As graceful as a aircraft carrier, her prose is “scorching” by the anodyne likes of a daily newspaper but I’ll take anybody who can write the following:

A party willing to stand behind Trump or Moore is a party that presumably would stand behind David Duke or Richard Spencer. It’s a party without a soul or decency, a party that puts partisanship about country and is willing to indulge bigots and constitutional idiots. It is quite simply irredeemable.

I would have dropped the two consecutive adverbs in the last sentence and, I hope, so would you. There is nothing simple about it. Since January 1981, the GOP has existed as a pathology, not a political party. Every time an amateur pundit like myself announces that this or that hack represents the nadir, the carcass of Roy Moore lumbers up to a microphone to remind us that we have an awful lot of nadir to go.

A self-professed constitutionalist who flouted his contempt for the Constitution in Alabama, Moore is the modern Republican Party in a bad suit and brandishing split infinitives. Not for him the prolix nothingness of Orrin Hatch, the Kiwanis Club sincerity of the Plankton with a Hair Piece, nor the bootleg, goobered libertarianism of Rand Paul. Like Ted Cruz, who coats his skin thickly with margarine before snipping his nose hair every morning, Moore doesn’t care how repellent he comes off or how insincere his insincerity is. His pretense to hypocrisy rests on his voters’ conviction that a principle is worth defenestrating oneself for if fealty to this principle throws every other principle out the window too. He wears a cowboy hat and waves a gun in the air. Homosexuals should be stoned to death. The Constitution itself is a sham. Roy Moore would set the Bible on fire in front of his death cult if it guaranteed his advancement.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Take your hat off, boy: The best of Throwing Muses and Belly

Stepsisters whose aesthetic affinities bespoke a symbiosis too fine for a band to contain, Tanya Donelly and Kristin Hersh wrote songs about feminine archetypes: harridan, mother, witch, angel. In Throwing Muses, Donelly sung the sweet-voiced tunes with the conventional pop hooks; the sentiments therein were about as sweet as classic Stevie Nicks, though, as her performance in 1991’s “Not Too Soon” demonstrated, a growl in happy search of a musical structure in which to express itself. On Belly’s debut Star (1993), Donelly and her mates reveled in the paradoxes of creating some of the tensest acoustic ballads and the quietest rockers of the nineties. With Star and the for too long ridiculously underrated follow-up King, Belly often surpassed Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath — a judgment this poetry-eating writer is comfortable pronouncing. After the surprise success of Star, the industry lined up to get Belly a top ten album; even the college audience base was fickle enough to drift away (college radio in early ’95 was a strange time; I remember a lot of Portishead and Pulp Fiction soundtrack cuts).

Blessed with a haughty gulp-yelp that complemented her guitar tunings,Hersh was the forthright one. Her songs, jagged yet coherent, reflected the fractured state of the harridans, mothers, witches, and angels who populated them. Throwing Muses’ self-titled 4AD debut won a cult following on northeastern college radio stations and in England but also inspired absurd caviling. “I’m rarely persuaded that verbal dissociation reflects any social problems but the poet’s own,” Robert Christgau wrote in 1986. Correct as literary criticism, but, as he knows, songs aren’t poems, and lyrics aren’t everything; often they aren’t even something, especially when “Rabbits Dying” and “Hate My Way” insist on their will to live on arrangements alone. With The Real Ramona, the first time Throwing Muses grazed outside the borders of the hinterlands where, I guess, fans of verbal dissociation dwell, Hersh competed with Donelly in the catchy-creepy department, resulting in “Counting Backwards” and the resigned “Two Step,” in which Hersh accepts her oddness. Even better was 1995’s University, on which the record label placed high hopes: it was a favorite of used CD stores through the mid 2000s. Reduced to a trio, Throwing Muses churn up their most vicious performances, to no avail; University, released in the same quarter as King, met the same fate. Their 2013 comeback album, however, is worth the immersion.

As the list shows, Donelly and Hersh have contributed more songs to my personal soundtrack than I was even prepared to admit last week. Hersh’s 1994 solo album Hips and Makers ranks with the best Muses material; imagine my shock when, following the unwritten precepts of early nineties multi-format teleology, the Michael Stipe duet “Your Ghost” appeared on the With Honors soundtrack. I couldn’t even include more than a tune from Donelly’s Lovesongs for Underdogs, which will upset my friend Pep

1. Hate My Way
2. Not Too Soon
3. Two Step
4. Call Me
5. Vicky’s Waiting
6. Feed the Tree
7. Your Ghost
8. Every Word
9. Firepile
10. Untitled And Unsung
11. Super-Connected
12. Bright Yellow Gun
13. Untogether
14. Flood
15. Sunray Venus
16. Hazing
17. Dizzy
18. Angel
19. King
20. Loon
21. Slow Dog
22. Rabbits Dying
23. Spaceboy
24. Counting Backwards
25. Pretty Deep

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

‘It feels surreal, being a Puerto Rican…’

“Puerto Rico” – as homeland, as concept – is personal for Miamians. Thousands of Cubans settled on the island after Fidel seized power, including my great great aunt, a San Juan resident until 1989. I’ve never visited its historical landmarks or beaches. In Javier Morillo’s erudite essay, the writer looks at the U.S. territory’s history: the two Jones Acts, granting Puerto Ricans American citizenship and restricting Puerto Rican ports from receiving any non-American ships in its ports. He uses One Hundred Years of Solitude as the prism through which to view his home’s peculiar limbo: not a sovereign country, whose culture amalgamates Latin America, Africa, and U.S. pop culture.

But reconsiderations must wait. Time stops for no one:

it feels surreal, being a Puerto Rican in the United States these days, seeing images of the devastation of an island I grew up on and that—despite not having lived there for three decades—I still call home. Like so many of the diaspora, even those born here and who never lived on the island, we feel our fates deeply intertwined with it. On the island, debates rage about those who are leaving, calling it quits on Puerto Rico. But for us in the diaspora, #YoNoMeQuito can feel incongruous, unsettling—because we haven’t quit Puerto Rico. We can’t quit. We, too, are Puerto Rico. We feel ourselves part of the volcanic rock, and in its despair we see our own uncertain reality in this country.

It feels surreal, being a Puerto Rican in the United States these days, talking to my mother on her cell phone when she occasionally has a signal. These talks add detail to my understanding of what has become the everyday normal: collecting rainwater to flush toilets and, now that they finally have running water in the house, boiling it for 10 minutes to make sure it is potable. Text exchanges with my sister feel incongruous, unsettling: ultramodern technologies are the vehicles through which I see a disaster that has pushed the island back to an antediluvian past, to the days of washing clothes in the river. “We have electricity now!” “Wait, that electricity we had for a few days is gone again!” Recovery efforts feel hopelessly slow and flawed. A ragtag group of Army vets, self-deployed on the island and looking like they stepped out of Duck Dynasty, decry FEMA’s ineptitude in regular social-media updates. Facebook and Twitter give us glimpses of the reality obscured by official death tolls that remain impossibly low.

Murillo also finds the space to explain how rapacious investors turned the island into a giant hedge fund and, worse, a punching bag for House Speaker Paul Ryan and our buffoon of a president, both of whom voted for or practiced policies, respectively, that led to the collapse.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘4 Days in France’ looks at 4 days of Grindr-ing

For several years French directors have made the most probing gay cinema, devoted to showing the less respectable and visible but no less essential components of queerness. Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake (2013) and Staying Vertical (2016) examined the intersection of aloneness, the politics of cruising, and translating one’s fantasies into reality. Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo queered the premise of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise.

Part road movie, part relationship drama, 4 Days in France is as up to the minute as a film can get. For no reason more compelling than wanderlust, Pierre (Pascal Cervo) quietly walks out of the apartment he shares with lover Paul (Arthur Igual) and into his Alfa Romeo, bound for rural France. The hook? Grindr is his compass and sextant. Jérôme Reybaud’s feature debut suggests a country where everyone, unwittingly or not, cruises everybody else; the hills are alive with the sound of app alerts. However, 4 Days in France doesn’t quite earn its two-hour-plus running time, and Reybaud writes stilted dialogue that sounds no better in French.

Thanks to intelligent use of POV shots, often from inside the sports car, as leitmotif, 4 Days in France conveys a constant sense of movement, almost as if to the rhythm of the profiles Pierre scans while driving. While Paul, benumbed by the surprise exodus, figures things out, Pierre consorts with strangers, male and female, old and young. In their infinite variety, these people recall the real life villagers celebrated in Agnès Varda’s recent documentary Faces Places. If they’re not lonely, they’re charged with a surfeit of energy. A traveling businessman whom Pierre meets in a hotel parking lot asks if he can give the Alfa Romeo a spin; this results in a hilltop rumination on French towns and simultaneous masturbation later as they feel for each other from behind the wall separating their rooms. For members of the audience unfamiliar with Grindr, Reybaud hands the exposition to a woman looking for a ride after her Peugeot breaks down. When the app alert sounds she regards the phone as if it were a poisonous toad. In France, apparently, hitchhiking remains a safe enterprise, but this doesn’t mean that Pierre doesn’t court danger. Meeting a potential trick by the side of a road prompts a woman walking her dog Jeanjean to say, “You queers pollute us.” A butcher from whom Pierre buys a black pudding can’t hide, in a well-choreographed little scene, his condescension: “You’re from Paris? I can tell.” Meanwhile his young moon-faced son stares at Pierre, eyes wide with longing.

Eventually Paul figures out how to catch up with Pierre: getting on Grindr himself and following the trail of tricks. The middle third of 4 Days in France is a bit of a drag as Reybaud includes one shot too many of the road and the encounters get increasingly surrealistic. Although Reybaud stages them as wily and affect-free as a Tsai Ming-Liang, their declarations are silly; it’s hard to know whether the joke is on them, Pierre, or us; he’s not yet sophisticated enough a director for the tonal shifts. “I need silence to get hard – ignorance, distance, solitude, and a skin free of smells,” a restauranteur tells him (Pierre stinks from three days of travel). But as Pierre and Paul get closer together the tension increases – or the noose tightens, depending on how you interpret that ending.

GRADE: B

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Trump and Gold Star families

Well, now we know which story will dominate today’s news cycle. If what Congresswoman Frederica Wilson says it’s true, it’s more evidence that we got a pig in the Oval Office:

President Donald Trump denied Wednesday that he told the widow of a US serviceman killed in an ambush in Niger that “he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.”

“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” he tweeted. He did not immediately provide proof to back the claim.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, made the stunning claim Tuesday night, saying she was present when the call took place. Sgt. La David Johnson was among the four US soldiers killed by enemy fire in an October 4 ambush in Niger.

“I have proof, too: this man is a sick man,” Wilson said Wednesday morning on CNN’s “New Day,” responding to Trump’s tweet. She added that Johnson’s widow “broke down” after her call with Trump, saying the President “didn’t even know his name.”

A local story: David T. Johnson lived in Miami Gardens. Again, it’s a legislator’s word against Trump’s. Judging by his comments a couple days ago, however, in which he emphasized his difficulty making phone calls to the families of dead soldiers, and, of course, his contempt for the Gold Star family in 2016, Trump is guilty until proven innocent.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

If they move, kill’em: the best of Sam Peckinpah

The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Junior Bonner I hold up as examples of the gentleness of which Sam Peckinpah was capable. In the 2000s, I suspect, an imaginative producer would have hired him to film a Harry Potter film, and it would not have been a mercenary or cynical gesture on his part to accept the job — he would’ve understood how to stage the set pieces, how to deal with the children.

Discovering ci-ne-mah in the nineties, few Peckinpah films haunted local video store; I had to make do with The Wild Bunch, Ride the High Country, Straw Dogs, and The Getaway for many years. Around a dozen years ago Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia — a surrealist tone poem that marries violence and gutter humor — and the complete Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid started appearing in more conversations. I want to direct readers to the least seen of Peckinpah’s films: his adaptation of Katherine Ann Porter’s short novel Noon Wine, shot on an El Cheap-O budget but alert to the text’s subtleties, boasting career-high work by Jason Robards as the garrulous imbecile (Robards, not the most copacetic of actors, was so impressed with the results that he kept a print in his personal collection).

Finally, for all the justifiable acclaim earned by The Wild Bunch, it has obscured Peckinpah’s achievement in Ride the High Country, among the noblest and most graceful of Western; call it the G-rated The Wild Bunch. Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea have the kind of chemistry that inspires slash fiction.

1. Ride the High Country
2. The Ballad of Cable Hogue
3. The Wild Bunch
4. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
5. Junior Bonner
6. Straw Dogs
7. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
8. Noon Wine
9. The Getaway
10. Convoy

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment