Friday, July 5, 2019

June's Favorite Books (Movies, Too)

What with only weekly blog entries for the foreseeable future and hoping two a month are Diversity Friday posts, most months would be no more than one post for my favorite reads of the month prior and one would be the movies I’ve seen since last I mentioned them. We all know I’m too opinionated to keep them all to myself lest I burst, showering entrails across the countryside, so today we’llo see if combining the two allays the situation.

First, the books I liked best, because though never having been a journalist, I know better than to bury a lede. (And I know how to spell the cocksucker.) (Editor’s Note: Yes, he’s watching Deadwood again. Roll with it. It’ll fucking pass. Oops.)

Deadwood: Tales of theBlack Hills, David Milch. The companion to the series, written by The Man himself. Full of insights into history, drama, characterization, human frailty, and just about any other fucking thing you can find to say about such an immersive experience. I don’t believe in saying something is a “must read” or a “must have,” but if you’re looking for a peek into the experiences and mind that drove Deadwood, you ought to take a look. More than one.

Cheapskates, Charlie Stella. My favorite Stella, full of pitch perfect dialog and well-drawn but less than reverentially depicted characters with various plots and plans coming together in ways no one expects, least of all the characters. Stella hasn’t had a book out in a while, which is a shame, but Mr. Silver Lining here seized an opportunity to look back on what’s come before and be reminded how good it is.

And the movies…

The Highwaymen (2019) Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson play Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, Texas Rangers brought out of retirement to capture Bonnie and Clyde while a thousand-man dragnet foundered. Costner and Woody are prefect, their chemistry is perfect, the other casting and performances are perfect, and every other decision made by writer John Fusco and director John Lee Hancock works, too, to create a wonderful film. (Or whatever it is we’re supposed to call Netflicks.) Highly recommended.

L.A. Confidential (1997) Yes, again. I think it’s the first time this year, so be quiet. Yes, I’m talking to you, Mike Dennis.

Bosch (2019: Season 5) True, not a movie, but it’s my blog and I’ll put whatever I want in here. Bosch is a good solid show. The writing is good, the acting is exceptional, and the production values are first-rate. Limited run series like this are now my preferred way to encounter visual stories, as they allow for scope without worrying about padding. That said, the show also lacks the same things the Bosch books lack, at least for me. I know I’m in a minority here, but while Michael Connelly tells great stories, the books don’t sing. There’s little wit in the dialog and, frankly, Harry’s an asshole I wouldn’t mind seeing get taken down a peg. Even so, The Beloved Spouse™ and are looking forward to Season 6, though not with the same fervor as we did for Justified or The Sopranos.

Vice (2018) The most disappointing movie I’ve seen since Blade Runner 2049. I’m no fan of Dick Cheney, but Adam McKay’s hatchet job tends too often to use the blunt end rather than the blade. McKay’s touch was outstanding in The Big Short, but he had Michael Lewis’s brilliant book to work with. He tried a similar approach here, but wrote it himself from scratch and it shows. All told, I’d rather have watched Michael Moore direct a Cheney film, and Michael Moore embarrasses me as a liberal.

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) I occasionally let time pass before writing these capsules so my thoughts about a film can coalesce. It’s been two weeks and I can’t remember a single thing worth complimenting about this movie. So, there’s that.

Deadwood: The Movie (2019) Well, it’s about fucking time. Seth and Al and all those cocksuckers come back to add an element of closure to the series so unceremoniously ass-fucked by HBO thirteen years ago. The storytelling is a little different from the series because David Milch had only two hours to work with instead of twelve and HBO cut half an hour while adding some flashbacks for the hoople-heads who didn’t know what the fuck was transpiring back there. Still, it’s a more than worthy bow to tie off the series and an accomplishment on its own. A second viewing only enhanced its appeal and a third is in the offing as soon as we work our way through the series again.
The Choirboys (1977) This is such an execrable adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh’s masterpiece he completely disassociated himself from the film and sued to have his name removed from the credits. He was right to do so.

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