Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Shot in the Dark

The extended First Family is an unsavory one, but it does provide a good example of how family dynamics, history and economic status intersect -- as do several movies worth mentioning here.

1. HBO, the best subscription channel available (so far as I know), recently aired A Shot in the Dark (2002), an intelligent, compassionate documentary directed by Adrian Grenier (who stars as Vince Chase in HBO’s Entourage, 2004-2007). It follows Grenier as he tries to piece together exactly what happened with his parents, taking into account all sorts of differing points of view. Raised by his mother in New York, Grenier makes a journey to connect with his father in Ohio for the first time as an adult. Incidentally, Ari Gold, one of the credited cinematographers, is also the name of the movie agent (Jeremy Piven) working for Grenier’s character in Entourage.

2. In Junebug (2005), directed by Phil Morrison and written by Angus MacLachlan, a newly married couple drives from Chicago, where they live, to North Carolina (around Winston-Salem) to meet the husband’s family and sign up a folk artist. I love the detail, the feel of the film, and the way the characters interact. The accents are true (one of my beefs is poor imitation or mangling of accents, especially Southern ones).

3. Come Early Morning (2006), directed by Joey Lauren Adams, features Ashley Judd, Scott Wilson (playing her withdrawn father; he also plays the father in Junebug), and a small role for Stacey Keach. Also has an authentic rhythm and feel; filmed in Little Rock, Arkansas.

4. David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (2005), based on a graphic novel, focuses on a father and his family in Indiana when events draw shady characters out of the past. Dad, you see, had an earlier incarnation with the Philadelphia Mafia. There is mythic gun play, to be sure, but the core of the story remains with the family.

5. Affliction (1997), one of my all-time favorite films, came out when I first moved to Detroit. Directed by Paul Schrader and based on Russell Bank’s novel, it features riveting career performances by Nick Nolte and James Coburn, playing son and father. The whole cast, including Sissy Spacek and Willem Dafoe, is superb. Set in frigid New England, actually filmed in Québec.

And then of course, there's The Sopranos (1999-2007). Crescendo ending (as my father says).

Birthdays: Adam Smith (Julian calendar), Francisco Pancho Villa (b. Doroteo Arango Arámbula), John Maynard Keynes, Cornelius Ryan, Jacques Demy, Bill Moyers (b. Billy Don Moyers), Spalding Gray, Laurie Anderson, Mark Wahlberg.
Today's Rune: Fertility.



Johnny Yen said...

Thanks, as always, for your observations on cultura.

I just moved Junebug, which intrigued me, but got bad reviews, to the top of my Netflix queue, on your recommendation-- they've not failed me yet.

One of the things that a lot of people don't realize is that two white people (or any other ethnicity) can be married, and it can be a "mixed relationship."

I've also got "A History of Violence" on my queue, but didn't move it up-- I love Cronenberg's movies (starting with Scanners, one of my top ten movies-- a brilliant examination of dissent and differing perceptions in society, and how we treat it), but find I need to be ready to see and digest them.

Finally saw "Affliction" a few weeks ago-- a brilliant, rough movie. Not an easy one to watch, but filled with incredible performances.

Charles Gramlich said...

Man there are a lot of movies out there. These sound intriguing but I'm afraid I'm just going to have to give up the very idea of trying to keep up.

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks Johnny and Charles for the comms'.

Johnny, Ebert has a positive review for Junebug. I like it for the same reasons he did. I'm with you on Affliction -- rough, indeed.