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February 18, 2019: Website updated and revised.

Film Review: “Papa Hemingway In Cuba” (2015)

Hemingway

 

 

Truth be told, I’ve never been a big Hemingway fan, although I was impressed by his early short stories when I read them as a young man. I thought his obsession with machismo was silly and didn’t admire his often vindictive attitude toward others (like the way he slagged Fitzgerald in his autobiography). That and the constant, grandiose bullshitting, both fueled by staggering quantities of alcohol consumed. Faulkner struck me as being a more profound novelist, with a deeper insight into the human  condition and what made the United States tick.

People presently forget the hold Hemingway had over the American imagination. He was world famous, one of the last and greatest literary celebrities. Even today, almost sixty years after his death, Hemingway’s legend still inspires with a case in point being this film. Deeply rooted in fact and shot in Cuba in Hemingway’s own (truly beautiful) home, Papa is a stunning work of verisimilitude, a “you are there,” fly on the wall gaze at the Nobel Prize winner in all his magnificent, pathetic, drunken, paranoid, abusive glory.

Adrian Sparks gives a masterful performance as Hemingway, alternately charming, fascinating, wonderfully entertaining and erudite and then in an instant turning mean, sodden, paranoid, and as one character puts it, into “the biggest son of a bitch you’d ever want to meet.” The other actors are also uniformly excellent with standout performances particularly by Joely Richardson as Mary, Hemingway’s long suffering third wife, and Giovanni Ribisi as the young journalist, Ed Myers, who befriends Hemingway late in  life. The film was shot from a screenplay written by Myers and many of the scenes have the absolute ring of truth, of real events simply transcribed.

As I noted before, Hemingway was a notorious bullshitter, prone to spinning yarns of derring-do, like the time he organized an unofficial military unit to participate in the 1944 invasion of France. To introduce suspense beyond Hemingway’s suicidal depression and cat and dog fights with his wife, a subplot deals with gunrunning and the revolutionary struggle against the corrupt and vicious Batista regime. I won’t give anything away, but this also ties in the Mafia and the FBI. Among his many personal tics, J. Edgar Hoover was deeply obsessed with Hemingway. He hated his left wing views and was jealous of Hemingway’s popularity, much greater than Hoover’s. He had Hemingway put under constant surveillance wherever he went. Hemingway complained about being spied on and having his phones tapped, but his friends dismissed it, attributing his suspicions to his intense paranoia and (again) his tendency to bullshit. Lo and behold, when the FBI files on Hemingway were made public, they proved Papa was right all the time. Someone had been following him.

This is a beautiful film to watch, with good shots of the Malecon and the Havana waterfront (basically unchanged since Hemingway’s day). The shots of rural Cuba are even more gorgeous, lush, green tropical plains. I recommend this film to Hemingway fans and admirers of serious, adult films.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2749282/?ref_=nv_sr_8?ref_=nv_sr_8

Film Review: “Room 37: The Mysterious Death Of Johnny Thunders”

JT

 

 

When I started watching this film, I thought I was going to see a documentary about the end of Johnny Thunders, famous, indeed legendary junkie rock’n’roller. Instead to my surprise, it turned out to be a horror movie and a pretty good one at that, a weird, druggy, violent riff on the last moments in New Orleans of the guy who basically epitomized the New Yawk RNR style (somebody whose look any number of stinker bands like Motley Crue copped).

Leo Ramsey is letter perfect as the protagonist, from the thick accent, the sharp suit, and the bantam rooster mullet. Most of all, he accurately and excruciatingly portrays the miseries of heroin withdrawal, as Johnny staggers around NO in an increasingly more desperate search for methadone. Despite his degenerate drug addiction, Thunders yearns to get clean and be reunited with his daughter. I really felt for him as it becomes increasingly more apparent he was on a downward spiral to hell, doomed never to see his family again. As I said, this is a horror film and Thunders is menaced on several fronts, from the mundane, having his luggage stolen, to the grotesque, being trapped in a hospital filled with homicidal maniacs. There are a number of violent or disturbing scenes.

This film was apparently shot on a pretty low budget, but still effectively done in my opinion, with a good evocation of the free and sleazy Big Easy atmosphere. A special kudos to the guy who played the redneck drug dealer that JT tried to score methadone from. He didn’t even rate a credit on IMDB, but he was very, very good at being very, very scary.

I won’t give out any spoilers here except to note that Johnny Thunders dies at the end, which you know anyway. If you like horror and rock’n’roll (and they usually go hand in hand), this film should be for you.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8912932/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1

 

Horror Sleaze Trash: Prose In Poor Taste Vol. 2 Now Out!

HSTDevoted blog readers may recall that not too long ago I announced that my cruel, but gleeful account of a hedge fund manager’s downfall, Fortune Teller, had appeared in the extreme horror magazine,  Horror Sleaze Trash. Now Editor Arthur Graham has decided to aggravate the offense (in both senses of the term) and put together a second print volume of HST selections to include Fortune Teller. The ever so tasteful cover is to the left. For $12.99, you get your money’s worth with over three hundred pages of sordid short stories with titles like Murderers I Have Known by Tom Leins and The Lust Peddlers by Leah Muller, to just give a sample. My more genteel readers (and I know I must have some somewhere) may want to steer clear of this fat joint, packed full of twisted yarns laced with PCP and heroin. Those with stronger stomachs and a taste for the bizarre and the raw should definitely check it out. I plan to read the paperback  and to review the other writers’ stories in Amazon and Goodreads.

This would be a good paperback to have when you’re alone, suffering from insomnia, and decide to add to the creepiness  that is the wee morning hours by reading it. Pour yourself a nice, stiff drink while you’re at it too, just to help yourself loosen up and get into the mood. I can’t give a better recommendation than that. HST: PIPT2 is available on Amazon as a paperback and also on Goodreads as a free download from Arthur Graham for all of you cheapskates out there. Scroll down to Community Reviews where Graham’s avatar is and you’ll see where to click. Go read it already!

 

https://www.amazon.com/Horror-Sleaze-Trash-Prose-Taste/dp/1074416082

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46350256-horror-sleaze-trash

Blue Skies Smiling At Me

Sol122

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sol Barbatus Rufus (Red Bearded Sun). A surprisingly optimistic solar orb. Wishing everyone Salutem, Bona Fortuna, and Dis Manibus.

Movie Review – “Men Of Corleone”

Three Criminal Sons Of Bitches

Three Criminal Sons Of Bitches

I saw this film on Amazon Prime and was surprised to learn afterward that no reviews were to be found online (at least in English). This is a good, hardboiled crime film with the added advantage of being based on real events. Add an effective score by a great film composer, Ennio Morricone, and it made gripping viewing for me.

By means of flashback and linear narrative, MOC tells the forty year chronicle of the Corleone gang, a pack of vicious thugs who rose from humble rural beginnings to dominate the Palermo real estate market in the ’80’s, expropriating property from owners by threats and violence.

The actors give excellent performances. Two particular standouts are, of course, the leads, David Coco as Bernado (“Binnu”) Provenzano, and Marcello Mazzarella as the fearsome Toto Riina. Mazzarella’s ability to project menace is powerful, a short man just itching to explode and murder someone. Even as an old man trapped in a prison cell, his eyes radiate viciousness and fury.

An even more impressive job is done by Coco in portraying the cool, cerebral Provenzano, the brains of the outfit. He convincingly shows the character’s state of mind as he marries and has children against his better judgment, in an attempt to have what he knows is forbidden to him, a happy, normal life. The attempt fails as it had to do, and the criminal mastermind ends up a hunted fugitive, hiding first in a monastery and finally a goatherd’s hut to avoid arrest.

The Corleone mob were noted for their savagery. Indifferent to outdated concepts like omertà, they not only murdered their enemies, but their families as well. As I said, this is a hardboiled film, with many violent incidents, with one shoot out taking place during a holy day procession that’s is particularly powerful visually, but also really gory. There was no end to the mob’s violence or their hubris, as they proved by murdering police officers and prosecuting attorneys, to include the notorious explosion that killed Judge Giovanni Falcone in 1992. A constant theme throughout the film is the danger of a criminal enterprise daring to strike against the state. The Corleone mob learns the truth of this adage the hard way, their members either shot dead by the police or thrown into prison for life.

All in all, even if it this was just made for Italian TV, I think this was a good movie. My only real criticism is that the old man make up for David Coco at the end looked incredibly fake. I recommend this to people who like films or shows about the Mafia, especially The Sopranos or The Godfather.

https://www.amazon.com/Men-Corleone-David-Coco/dp/B07GF79NDJ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=men+of+corleone&qid=1560473489&s=gateway&sr=8-1

 

De Chirico Degraded Yet Again By Yours Truly

De Chirico II121

 

With the most sincere apologies to Giorgio De Chirico and the Arch of Constantine. Anybody who can figure out the Latin inscription and gets back to me with the translation wins a prize: a genuine olive leaf victor’s wreath. PS: I fortuitously trimmed this piece so it fit exactly on the scanner platen. The Gods favor my endeavors!

In Which I Improve Upon De Chirico (Not Really)

De Chirico120Nothing like stealing a great master’s thunder to pep up your own pedestrian work. Here we have an almost empty, post-industrial, modern Italian landscape where a fictitious triumphal column rudely thrusts itself into the picture, a lurid reminder of an antiquity that never existed in the first place.

There’s about an  inch cropped off the top, due to my scanner’s dimensions. I’ll try to get the full image scanned later because it looks better that way. I’ve got to get a bigger scanner. Hope everyone’s feeling isolated, dissociative, and downright odd.

E il modo Italiano!

Into The Ruins Cover Preview

            This is the cover for the upcoming Summer 2019,  issue no. 13 of Into The Ruins, featuring a story by your less than humble author:

Is the bird clutching a snake or an entrail?

 

 

        Is the bird clutching a snake or an entrail? Quien sabe?

https://intotheruins.com/

Tribute To Dashiell Hammett

I was in Arlington Cemetery today and I visited the grave of Dashiell Hammett, the father of the hardboiled style in The Maltese Falcon and other works. Despite being blacklisted, branded as a Red, and sent to prison for refusing to rat anyone out in the ’50’s, Hammett still rated burial in the nation’s foremost military cemetery due to his loyal service during WWI and II.

Hammett 1

I hope that people will remember Hammett and his amazing writing long after the tiny minded, frightened, reactionary swine who persecuted him are forgotten. He laid one of the main foundations for noir, still a pervasive element in modern culture.

 

Hammett 2

Someday, Son, This Owl Will Be Yours

Owl119

I hope this is cryptic enough for everyone’s taste.