Frank and Dr. Crain are back with a soft reboot of our Abel Ferrara Auteur series. This time we’re doing it right and starting off with Abel Ferrara’s short films: Nicky’s Film, The Hold Up, and Could This Be Love which are available and both screened by Frank and Patrick via the Cult Epics release that also includes the Driller Killer and the trailer for Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy. We also cover Abel Ferrara’s first feature, the adult film Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy which was beautifully released by Vinegar Syndrome.
Author: Frank Mengarelli
For Your Ears Only: Quantum of Solace
We’re pleased to bring you our latest discussion in our For You Ears Only series featuring Frank and Tom. This time, we’re joined with special guest playwright and actor Jeremy Kareken to discuss Daniel Craig’s second outing as James Bond in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which is a direct continuation of the storyline from Craig’s debut, Casino Royale. The film was directed by Marc Foster, and Neal Purvis and Robert Wade collaborated again with Paul Haggis, and the film also features Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, David Harbour, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Jesper Christensen, and Judi Dench.
Podcast: Actor’s Spotlight with Harry Northup
We are honored to present our latest conversation in our Actor’s Spotlight series. With this episode, Frank and Raymond Benson have a conversation with poet and actor Harry Northup who is living film history. Harry was featured in Martin Scorsese’s first six films WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR, BOXCAR BERTHA, MEAN STREETS, ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, TAXI DRIVER, and NEW YORK NEW YORK. Harry was also a frequent collaborator with maverick filmmakers Jonathan Demme and Jonathan Kaplan. Harry has been featured in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, TOM HORN, and OVER THE EDGE amongst many others. Harry recounts his very rich filmography, along with stories of working with actors Harvey Keitel, Richard Farnsworth, Billy Green Bush, Peter Boyle, and Steve McQueen.
Please checkout Harry’s poetry here.
No Country for Old Men: John G. Avildsen’s SAVE THE TIGER
John G. Avildsen has always been a champion of the underdog and his film SAVE THE TIGER is no exception; it is a beautiful tragedy of a man who has pushed himself mentally and physically past the point of no return and he’s fighting with all his might to claw back for a second chance. But does he deserve it; should he deserve it? He’s cheated, cooked the books, in arson negotiations – all to survive.
Jack Lemmon, in his Oscar winning performance, has never been better. He truly is heartbreaking as Harry Stoner. He navigates the waters of his hollow and inflated garment business, setting up buyers with kinky hookers, meeting with a mobster to burn his building down, and suffering from PTSD from his tour in Italy during WWII. Harry does all this, so he can survive one more year, because he is sure his business will recover – but what gain and what loss? Harry is positioning himself to enter into a never ending cycle of hustle where there isn’t a clear goal set before him – or at least one that is tangible.
Lemmon is not Jack Lemmon in this film. While his affability is certainly played on, Harry Stoner is a broken man with absolutely nothing left. His time in the sun is limited, and he knows it. Lemmon is on fire in this film, he chews up the dialogue, he briskly breezes by the camera; he is always on the move. He is looking down the barrel of his own extinction; there’s no stopping his character’s trajectory.
Steven Shagan pens a deeply layered and fertile script. It’s a construction of who Harry is as a man, while simultaneously deconstructing what it is to be a man. The dialogue written, particularly for Harry, is so stoic and to the point, he almost belongs in a hard noir genre picture, or at the very least a Michael Mann neo noir. The film is dark, perverse, and heartbreaking – yet rays of hope shine through the bleak world Avildsen creates.
There’s a kinship between SAVE THE TIGER and Avildsen’s seminal picture, JOE. While he had marked his career as the king of the underdogs, what’s more striking is a subsection of being the champion of the ones going extinct, the forgotten man. Harry Stoner’s world has rapidly evolved to him being phased out. The world doesn’t care about him, his patriotic sacrifices, or his struggles; yet all he ever wanted was a second chance.
Smokey Pastels and Decaying Wealth: Bob Rafelson’s BLOOD & WINE
Bob Rafelson’s BLOOD & WINE operates as the capstone at the end of a neo-noir resurgence in the 90s. Cut from the same whiskey and blood soaked cloth as James Foley’s AFTER DARK, MY SWEET and CITY OF INDUSTRY the hard lined revenge vehicle for Harvey Keitel; BLOOD & WINE is about lust, greed, and revenge set in the smokey backrooms and emptiness of decaying wealth.
Rafelson assembles a marvelous cast that is able to navigate in and out of the faux royalty and seedy underbelly of Miami. Jack Nicholson, in his fifth and more than likely final collaboration with Rafelson, plays Alex who is a high end wine salesman with maxed out credit cards and a marriage that is imploding. Nicholson brings gravitas and menace and he transitions it in a very low key way, he’s a stalled out businessman and worn out salesman who is looking for a way out.
Stephen Dorff and Judy Davis are his packaged deal, makeshift family. Dorff as his stepson, and Davis his codeine induced wife who is self medicating her way through the last rung of their marriage. Jennifer Lopez, in one of her earliest performance, plays the love interest to both Nicholson and Dorff, which creates a rather rich and perverse subplot.
- BLOOD & WINE
- dir. Bob Rafelson
- feat. Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Judy Davis, Jennifer Lopez, Mike Starr, and Stephen Dorff
- ed. Digital Release
Michael Caine gives one of his most underappreciated performances as Victor, a tuberculosis ridden master thief who pairs with Nicholson to rob his most affluent wine client. Caine is remarkable in this picture, playing a man with little left to lose, who springs to life with terrifying intermittent bursts of rage who refuses to die without pulling others down to Hell with him.
Rafelson, whose career never quite rebounded from his landmark 70s pictures, constructs a very moody and treacherous film that lives in a world of double and triple crossing, a film plentiful of smoke absorbed pastels and cut throat men navigating a world that has left them behind. The film can be frustrating for some, because the axe never falls from the shadow, it stays in its place the entire film, even through the final frame. Which is the trick of the film, the axe doesn’t fall, it stays tightly in its place, and allows the story to continue even after it is over.
From Apathy to Vengeance: Sam Peckinpah’s BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA
Sam Peckinpah would have been ninety-six years old recently. For a guy whose legacy is nearly pushing 100, Peckinpah surely left his mark on cinema. He capitalized on telling the story of the forgotten man, or more specifically the man that time left behind. He often focused on the escapism to Mexico; the freedom of it. No laws, but more importantly it did not require the confinement and limitations of the society that lay just above of the border. More importantly, Peckinpah’s cinematic hallmark was nihilism wrapped in angst.
With BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, it starts off so mean, so angry. A Mexican gangster has one of his thugs break the arm of his pregnant daughter so she’ll tell him who the father is. When she screams in agony that it is Alfredo Garcia, what ensues is a strange odyssey that is propelled forward with a brilliant Warren Oates as a drunk piano man who lives in Mexico and his street walking girlfriend (magnificently played by Isela Vega) who are seeking Alfredo Garcia for a $10,000 reward. Along their antiheroes journey, they encounter bikers, two gay hitmen, and a host of other surreal obstacles – all so Oates can “start over”.
The overall character arc of Warren Oates’ Bennie is the traditional ronin narrative coupled with placing an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation. Of course Bennie is a rube, and Alfredo Garcia’s head is worth $1,000,000 and not just $10,000 – hence his revolving encounter with two presumably gay hitmen played by Robert Webber and Gig Young. The subtext of their relationship just accentuates the oddity that is the film.
Then along comes Kris Kristofferson, at the height of his musical star power, as a would-be rapist, who has his partner hold Oates at gunpoint, so he can take Vega off into the tall grass to rape her, all the while playing the part with a bashful vulnerability. The same sort of somber vulnerability that started the scene; Oates and Vega having a picnic, realizing that their plan to find Garcia’s head and run off with $10,000 is a noble, but ultimately futile plan. They both know the reality of their dead-end lives and share a beautiful moment together that is as bittersweet as tender where they silently acknowledge the reality of everything, together. Of course, Oates saves the day, shoots down Kristofferson and his partner, and he and Vega get back on the road to nowhere, seeking the head of Alfredo Garcia.
- BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA
- dir. Sam Peckinpah
- feat. Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Robert Webber, Gig Young, Emilio Fernandez, and Kris Kristofferson.
- ed. Arrow Video
The picture absolutely takes a tonal shift after Oates finds Alfredo’s grave, digs him up, and takes his head. As soon as that happens, the journey takes an absolute nose dive. Oates, who started out as this apathetic and fashionably tacky sap, then becomes a steamroller that is fueled by anger and sorrow. He has nothing left to lose, and lets go of any fear that weighed him down prior, he carries Alfredo Garcia’s head in a burlap sack filled with dry ice, and kills anything that stands in his way.
What started as what Bennie thought was a fast money job, evolves into a kinship between Bennie and Alfredo’s head. From the start Bennie knew that Alfredo had a relationship with his girlfriend. Whether he was a paying customer or not is a moot point, because Vega feels an absolutely fondness for Alfredo Garcia, which causes Bennie’s jealousy to erode to feeling a deep connection to Alfredo Garcia. Before the carnage of the third act begins, all that Bennie has left is Al’s head, and he is damn sure going to find out why all these people died just for Al’s head.
BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA showcases the best of 70s film. It was headlined by an unconventional leading man, conveyed society’s angst of 70s America, while also embracing the previous generations passing into society’s memory. The film is hard and mean, much like life, it isn’t fair and sometimes a shit hand gets dealt, but at the same time is beautiful and Peckinpah is here to say, ain’t life grand?
- Manhunter (1986)
- VFW (2002)
- Avatar (2009)
- Tombstone (1993)
- Public Enemies (2009)
- Gettysburg (1993)
- Beyond Glory (2015)
Raymond J. Barry
- Interview with the Assassin (2002)
- Year of the Dragon (1985)
- Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
- Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
- Training Day (2001)
- The Stuntman (1980)
- Ed Gein (2000)
- Lifeforce (1985)
- Helter Skelter (1976)
- In the Line of Fire (1993)
- The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
- The X-Files (1994)
- Barb Wire (1996)
- Touchy Feely (2013)
- Joker (2019)
- Ray Donovan (2013-2019)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
- Mrs. Fletcher (2019)
- Adventureland (2009)
- Motherless Brooklyn (2019)
- Mindhunter (2017-2019)
- Justice League (2017)
- Fight Club (1999)
- The Losers (2009)
- Lights Out (2011)
- Blackhat (2015)
- Shot Caller (2017)
- Gangster Squad (2013)
- Alien 3 (1992)
- Rough Riders (1997)
- Westworld (2016-2019)
- Longmire (2012-2016)
- True Detective (2014)
- True Blood (2014)
- Murder She Wrote (1989-1996)
- Pulp Fiction (1995)
- Cop Land (1997)
- King of New York (1990)
- Bosch ( 2017-2019)
- Four Rooms (1995)
- Boardwalk Empire (2014)
- Welcome to New York (2014)
- Bad Lieutenant (1992)
- Clockers (1995)
- Out of Sight (1998)
- 21 Grams (2003)
For Your Ears Only: Martin Campbell’s CASINO ROYALE
Welcome everyone to a very special episode of Podcasting Them Softly’s For Your Ears Only series. Today we are going to discuss Martin Campbell’s return to the Bond franchise with CASINO ROYALE. Released in 2006 this was Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond, based on Ian Flemings’s first Bond novel of the same name. Featuring an amazing cast coupled with Chris Cornell’s show-stopping title song, CASINO ROYALE had a worldwide box office total of 600 million and went on to win a bounty of BAFTA awards and Daniel Craig became the first actor to be nominated for a BAFTA for portraying James Bond.
What makes this episode so very special, is that we are joined with returning guest and one of our favorite filmmakers Wayne Kramer and actress Ivana Milicevic who co-starred in both CASINO ROYALE as Valenka – Mads Mikkelson’s girlfriend, and Wayne’s neo-noir masterpiece, RUNNING SCARED.
For Your Ears Only: DIE ANOTHER DAY
Join Frank, Mac and the esteemed Tom Zielinski as they discuss Pierce Brosnan’s final outing as 007 in Lee Tamahori’s DIE ANOTHER DAY. The film also features Halle Berry, Judi Dench, Toby Stephens, Will Yun Lee, Michael Madsen, John Cleese, and Rosamund Pike. The film grossed a little over 400 million at the global box office, which at the time was considered a box office success, yet the producers decided to take the franchise in another direction, released Brosnan, and then cast Daniel Craig to take the series in a new direction. For our next episode in the For Your Ears Only series, Frank and Tom will be joined with filmmaker Wayne Kramer and actress Ivana Milicevic to discuss CASINO ROYALE.
3 for 3: Sean Connery
Join Frank, Tom, and the esteemed Mac McSharry as we bring Podcasting Them Softly’s For Your Ears Only and 3 for 3 full circle! We discuss three “undercard” films of Sean Connery’s at length, discuss his contribution to film, along with some of our other non-Bond films that didn’t make our respective selections! Upcoming podcasts from the three of us include Pierce Brosnan’s final outing as James Bond in DIE ANOTHER DAY and then a brand new 3 for 3 where we discuss our three favorite character actors.