Sunday, June 1, 2014

What Does it Mean to be a 'Real Man'? A Request and an Endorsement of the Great New Movie 'Cold in July'

Shilling for a movie that I think many of the readers of WARN would find of interest...

Yesterday, I watched the great new movie Cold in July. The film is directed by Jim Mickle with music by Jeff Grace. Cold in July features a wonderful ensemble cast comprised of Michael Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson.

Cold in July is a modern day western with noir and dark comedy elements. I was most impressed by how the film explores questions of violence, masculinity, and domesticity in a tightly woven anxiety producing plot where the music--a direct homage to John Carpenter's work--is central to the film. The music tells a story; it is not for ambiance or for cliche background effect. Cold in July is very inter-textual and self-aware: there are some nice winks to George Romero and Sam Peckinpah within the film. 

Because I do not want to ruin the story for potential viewers, Cold in July finds its energy from a simple premise: what happens when a "regular" man, a "family man", kills a burglar, and that deed is the beginning of his discovery of a world that "normal", average, everyday people, should avoid? 

Hitchcock apparently said that all of his stories, for the most part, are driven by how the main character's curiosity and nosiness leads to their own crises. Cold in July follows that rule.

Cold in July is based on the book of the same name. 

Have you ever enjoyed an adaptation and then felt compelled to seek out the source material? 

Immediately after watching Cold in July, I decided to buy the book by Joe. R. Lansdale. Authors have styles, of course, but some authors are just damn good writers who transcend a given genre or medium and tell good stories. What did I discover? He also wrote the short-story upon which Bubbahotep, one of my favorite movies, was based upon. 

Using these Internets, I looked up some of Lansdale's interviews

What else did I find out? 

Joe Lansdale is an accomplished martial artist and was recently inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of fame.

In his interviews, Lansdale routinely discusses how growing up in Texas, witnessing white racism and its horrible power to limit the life possibilities of black people during the end of Jim and Jane Crow, and trying to understand his father's racist behavior, influences the stories he tells. . 

The "diversity" in Joe Lansdale's stories are not forced: they are an accurate reflection of how the color line dominates--in different ways and to various degrees over time---American life and culture. Art, popular or otherwise, which is not honest about race, is by implication, not honest about the human experience...and should be assessed on those grounds.

We have some literate folks here on WARN. Because I like Joe Lansdale's work, who else would you recommend that I read? 

We have been talking a good amount about questions of masculinity this week, spurred on by Cold in July, do you have any suggestions for films or other works of fiction in any genre that explore "what it means to be a man" in a smart, meaningful, poignant, ironic, funny, or insightful way? 

[The recent Blue Ruin is on my list of must see films. I missed its limited run here in Chicago to much regret.]

A few that come to mind for me:

Blue Collar
Predator (yes, that Predator
American Beauty
Old Boy 
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Fading Gigolo


Buddy H said...

I haven't seen "Kill The Messenger" (it opens in October) but the trailer looks interesting. Story of a journalist who tries to find the source of the crack epidemic.

chauncey devega said...

I heard about this. Looks good. They need to also do a movie about the author of the expose Dark Alliance who was taken out for telling the truth about the CIA crack cocaine connection.

Niki said...

I always loved Boy's Life by Robert R. McCammon. It's about growing up, racism, friendship, and the magic of life. Well written novel.

chauncey devega said...

Will add it to the list. Any other suggestions?

Lkeke said...

I'd rec just about anything by Cormac McCarthy, if you truly enjoyed Lansdale's works. Cormac also writes about the intersections of masculinity and violence and the movie No Country For Old Men was based on his excellent novel.

As for male writers I've recc'd at the library ( yes, I'm a librarian), I really enjoy Robert Crais "Joe Pike" series. They have a sensitivity and depth I was not expecting in what I at first thought were typical adventure books. I've also recc'd Barry Eisler, and Elmore Leonard for a lot of my male friends.

And for something a little more like Bubba Hotep, you should try Charlie Huston's rather very dark and noirish "Joe Pitt" vampire series - Already Dead. The covers seem pretty pulpish but they're written in a completely straight manner. It was the world building that I found deeply funny.

I've been reading Lansdale since the first time I saw Bubba Hotep and found out it was based on his book. I do prefer his weird western short stories though.

chauncey devega said...

I love Cormac McCarthy's work. I also really really like Dennis Lehane. I will check out Already Dead for sure. What other things are folks looking for at the library?

Learning IS Eternal said...

A Bronx Tale.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky delves into masculinity without really talking about it. D is a great storyteller and can really develop characters and their desires. The story follows four brothers and their father through a tale of love and duplicity. Scenes of dueling and even a murder. It's quite captivating if you haven't ever read it.

There is a movie coming out directed by Richard Ayoade (Maurice Moss of IT Crowd) based on one of D's novels, The Double. I haven't read this book, but the movie plot seems great and related. A man who is a victim of his own internalized misery meets his doppleganger who has everything he wants in life.

Shady Grady said...

"Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" though the story is primarily told through the eyes of a young girl.

"Get on The Bus"
"The Great Santini"
"The Godfather"

joe manning said...

I liked Smashed, about an elementary school teacher who after much hard drinking finds that getting sober is just a first stage to solving personal problems. The characters are like real people.

chauncey devega said...

I have to cosign The Great Santini for sure.