Their masterpiece, probably. This one takes what they were going for with All Cats Are Grey and blasts it into outer space. I’ve seen them live five times and this is the song they’ve opened with every time.
This remains the only Cure album I’ve ever owned (on cassette!), and, though I loved it, I had basically forgotten about “Plainsong” until its use in the coronation scene of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, where it basically blew my mind. The scope of this song is incredible, and it makes me wish I liked The Cure a lot more than I do.
It rained like hell late Thursday night, and 24 hours later it has turned cold; the drop into the high 60s when you’ve had three months of 90+ degree days makes it seem even colder than it is. It’s nice.
I got up this morning and went for a drive. The sky is all clouded over and the color of graphite, and for whatever reason before I left the house I grabbed this Modest Mouse EP I haven’t listened to in years—I didn’t like it very much at the time, because there’s no obvious “hits” on it. But now, all these years later, it absolutely hit the spot. There’s almost nothing better than when the music you’re listening to perfectly soundtracks your actions. Which in this case means driving around on a cold and overcast day and looking around at the town you’ve spent the last decade in with something that you could call love.
I’ve been a big fan of David Gordon Green ever since I saw All The Real Girls, but I didn’t like Your Highness (did anyone?) and I had some grave misgivings about Prince Avalanche—I remember thinking it looked like his Wes Anderson movie—and so I never saw it. I didn’t even remember that movie The Sitter at all until just now, typing this up, but I remember figuring it wasn’t so good, and so I skipped it. I was afraid that after a promising start he was just sort of drifting off, losing the plot. I hadn’t written him off, but I was definitely looking for him to redeem himself, at least a little. You know, because he owes it to me.
Which means I was more or less happy with Joe, Green’s adaptation of Larry Brown’s 1991 novel. The screenplay is by Gary Hawkins, who wrote and directed the documentary The Rough South of Larry Brown, a movie whose crew features both young David Gordon Green and Jeff Nichols, another Southern director who mines a very similar aesthetic terrain, even going so far as to share the actor Tye Sheridan, who stars in both Joe and in Nichols’ own very good Mud.
(And here a word on Green and actors: he is an absolute genius at getting natural, unforced performances from his actors. Probably because he often uses amateurs—three significant roles in Joe are filled by people with little or absolutely no acting experience, and all three are great. Gary Poulter, whose completely realistic performance as the film’s villain, is especially mesmerizing.)
I was also sort of looking for a comeback for Nicolas Cage, who stars in the title role. Cage hasn’t been in anything that was much good since the unstoppable The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. He’s been long overdue for something worthy of his weird talents, and his showing in Joe was, I think, a good performance, but Cage seems to be at a point where if he’s not playing screaming, bug-eyed crazy—really Nick Caging it up—he doesn’t seem to know what to do, and becomes sort of dull. I remember seeing him awhile back in The Frozen Ground, a movie that was decent and well-meaning but also not terribly good, and I couldn’t help but notice how un-Cage his performance was: he was muted and sincere and quiet, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was good, other than on the most basic technical level—there was simply nothing compelling in the performance. Cage doesn’t always have to play a lunatic to be entertaining, but I wonder if maybe he’s beginning to think he does. His performance in Joe is not as restrained and mumbled as in The Frozen Ground, and on the whole I’d say it was pretty good, but I’m not entirely sure Cage was the best choice for the role. I’m also relieved that he didn’t try to do a Southern accent.
The movie itself is gorgeous. Green’s camera, as it has from his first feature, continues to drift over broken Southern magic-hour tableaux. There’s probably no reason to mention the obvious debt he owes to Terrence Malick, other than to say that maybe he should get some credit for being the first of a huge crop of younger directors—Andrew Dominik, Benh Zeitlin, David Lowery, Zach Goddamn Snyder of all people, and Green’s buddy Jeff Nichols— who have begun to openly ape Malick in the last decade or so. Like all of those mentioned, Green’s borrowings from Malick seem to be more visual than anything. None of the movies he has directed, with the possible exception of George Washington, are anywhere near as loose plotwise as Malick has increasingly become. Which could be a good thing, but an overreliance on plot is actually the single biggest issue I had with Joe. I don’t actually have a problem with a tightly scripted story, where things are happening, but increasingly I just find that sort of thing so boring—Joe is a beautiful enough story as it is, do we really need a gunfight at the end? Why can’t a movie just come to a natural end, rather than end with something that is both arbitrary and cliché as violence? I haven’t read Brown’s book, so I don’t know to what degree the movie differs from the source material, but Brown’s reliance on plot is, to my mind, his greatest flaw: as a writer he is completely honest with his characters and his portrayal of them, but then he can cripple the whole enterprise by trying to shackle everyone to the machinations of the story.
But who knows. What I’m trying to tell you here is that Joe is good, and it’s good to see both David Gordon Green and Nicolas Cage do something good again, and that’s good enough for now.
"…and though there will be no pile of leaves for me to kick by way of confirmation -no winding walk to a cider mill ahead in my afternoon, as in my Michigan youth—the color of the light shifting from flaring white to gold nonetheless bears out what our bones already know: that summer departs us now, leaving in its wake an invitation back into good work and toward a renewing of love’s strange oath of doubt and forgiveness.
I will meet the day and change the weather in my rooms by summoning this rumpled curmudgeon into the air like the reluctant genie he has been from the start. He has resisted his inheritance even though he is its executor -knowing better than most that Leadbelly said with a moan what Keats said in a word; and at the marriage of the two, the heavens can crack open."—JH
It was Van Morrison’s birthday a couple of days ago. It’s a big deal: I’ve written about my admiration of Morrison’s willingness to look absolutely foolish in pursuit of something sublime; I’ve written about how he often fails in that pursuit, and how that failure in no way lessens the nobility of the effort; I’ve written about how he made my favorite album. He’s one of the many stars I set my path by, and I owe him deeply.
Here is a clip of Morrison In Thrall To The Muse. You’ve got ten minutes to set aside. Trust me on this one.
I guess I missed Jack Kirby’s birthday the other day, which is too bad, because it would have given me a chance to post a picture of Galactus, eater of worlds, co-created by Kirby, and just, in general, the best.