Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Second Foray

I made my second foray into Detroit's Metro Times today. It's a quickie review of Flash Point but there's a promise of bigger things to come.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

David Goodis Film Festival in Berkeley, CA

In a bit of serendipity, the Pacific Film Archive at University of California Berkeley will be showing a series of films based on the works of David Goodis in August, 2008! Based on my article about the filmic adaptations of Goodis's work, I've been invited out to introduce a film. As noted on the schedule below, I'm going to be speaking a bit before Truffaut's SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER. I intend on doing a better job than when I introduced Eddie Muller at the Philly Festival earlier this month.

I'll be flogging this for a few months, just FYI.

Friday, August 1
Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947)
Introduced by Barry Gifford

The Unfaithful (Vincent Sherman, 1947)

Saturday, August 2
Shoot the Piano Player (Francois Truffaut 1960) - Brand New Print!
Introduced by Mike White

Tuesday, August 5
Shoot the Piano Player (Francois Truffaut 1960)

Thursday, August 7
Nightfall (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)
Introduced by Eddie Muller

The Burglar (Paul Wendkos, 1957)
Introduced by Eddie Muller

Sunday, August 10
Descent Into Hell Francis Girod, France, 1986)

Thursday, August 14
The Burglar / Le Casse (Henri Verneuil, France, 1971)

Thursday, August 21
The Professional Man x Two (Directed by Nicholas Kazan & Steven Soderbergh)
Introduced by Nicholas Kazan

And Hope to Die (Rene Clement, France/Canada/U.S., 1972)

Saturday, August 23
Moon in the Gutter (Jean-Jacques Beineix, France, 1983)

Why So Similar?

Not making any claims to the veracity of the above (need to go back and check the original preview -- but it's been burned upon my brain after 1989). Regardless, this is an interesting study of juxtaposition and marketing.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The State of Film Criticism

What: Panel discussion on the State of Film Criticism
Where: Tent City at the Maryland Film Festival (across from the Charles theater)
When: Sunday May 4th, 2008 in the Panel Tent
Who: Michael Sragow (Baltimore Sun), Chris Kaltenbach (Baltimore Sun), Lee Gardner (City Paper). Moderator: Mike White

Which brings us to "Why" -- Apparently there's something in the air at the moment as this discussion seems to key in well with a recent event at New York's Moving Image Institute which began an interesting dialog about this subject which I hope to follow up on during this panel discussion.

Check out some of the coverage of the event over at Shooting Down Pictures and SpoutBlog:

Compare the above to some of the speaking points I have jotted down (some may be cryptic but they make sense to me):

  • DIY criticism (blogs, imdb, amazon, forums, epinions, etc.)
  • Salon versus AICN
  • Magazines as collectibles (Lost, Dr Who, Star Trek, etc.)
  • Distribution systems suck. Are Magazines/journals on their last legs?
  • Books (tie ins, biographies, film guides, scripts, a few actual attempts at re-viewing. Intentional hyphen.)
  • Cheapening the "Brand" (continuity mistakes and Easter eggs, Top ten lists)
  • Criticism versus reviews versus theory versus semantic masturbation
  • Confusion of film reviews versus film criticism. Thumbs aren't theories.

Now that I know who the folks on the panel are, I'm going to have to do a little research. I've had the pleasure of listening to Kaltenbach in the past when he's introduced Sunday Movies at the Charles and I don't think he views himself as "Critical Royalty," but I'll be curious to ask him and the others about their attitudes when it comes to plebeian film reviewers.

I'm pretty sure that I fit into that category though I feel that I'm more in a grey area between the bloggers and the floggers, that I was in my little zine ghetto for so long that I missed the populist revolution while still in the mindset of "Kill Yr Idols" where I rejected many of the pillars of the film criticism pantheon while trying to hoe my own row. That's not to say that my bookshelves aren't littered with works by Gerald Peary, Molly Haskell, Andrew Sarris, etc. (three of the speakers at the MII event). There are writers whose works I enjoy, those who I respect, and even those who fit into both categories. I just never felt beholden to the Paulene Kaels of the world (though I'll hand it to the gal for also disliking SHOAH).

It's ironic that only now, after all these years, I finally have started to set my sights on trying to fit in with the misfits. I made a list of the few magazines who are still kicking and whose work I respect. I dropped them all a copy of Cashiers du Cinemart #15 and a cover letter asking about lending my pen to their pages. So far, the return tally has been exactly one. I'm hoping to hear from more of these fine rags soon though I have the fear that, like with CineAction and that I'll be too lowbrow for one publication but too highbrow for another. I need to find me a few good "midbrow" magazines who'll love my assbackwards awkward style.

Future X by Kent Smith

At NoirCon, I was lucky enough to see Gary Phillips discuss the works of Donald Goines, author of Dopefiend, Whoreson, et cetera. At one point there was discussion about the publisher that carried Goines's work, Holloway House Publishing Company. They also were famous for carrying the prose of Iceberg Slim (Pimp, Trick Baby, etc). Phillips discussed some of the other Holloway titles and mentioned Kent Smith's Future X. When he described the story, I knew I'd have to find this book and quick.

Future XThe year is 2073. The United States has been divided with parcels of land given to African Americans. These are institutionalized ghettos, surrounded by walls, guarded, and monitored heavily by police (called "Bruisers" for their love of inflicting pain). The story follows two men living in New Watts: Ashford and Zeke. Ashford is a radical actor who presents street plays based on outlawed books such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X (his great, great grandfather). Zeke works for The Man by day (for which he gets a pass outside of the city) while running a cell of Black Radicals by night.

It's only a matter of time until the two men's paths cross. As it is, the whole book becomes "a matter of time." From the opening scene which sets up a device used by law enforcement to reverse time after a crime has occurred (where the criminal would be arrested for something they intend to do), author Kent Smith introduces a science fiction element which sounds like it might rival the "pre-crime" scenario of Philip K. Dick's "Minority Report." When Ashford and Zeke team up, they decide to hijack the time travel device and use it for resetting history, going back to 1964 and encouraging Malcolm X to initiate a Black Revolution.

When Ashford finally sees his ancestor, it's the moment when Malcolm X is stabbed in an airport bathroom. Scared out of his wits, Ashleigh pulls off the greatest performance of his life, taking over the life of X. Black Power meets the Space Time Continuum in this insightful take which draws upon Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. Future X also strongly recalls Michael Moorcock's sci-fi classic, Behold the Man, in which a time traveler assumes the life of Jesus of Nazareth, bowing to a fate which seems predestined.

Holloway was a notoriously cheap publisher. It's obvious that they didn't spend much (if anything) on proofreading Smith's work. It's dotted with typos, occasional homonym abuse (perfectly understandable), and an occasional misspelling ("looser" rather than "loser"). Luckily, these are easy to overlook due to the story being so compelling.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Guatemalan Handshake Coming to DVD

The Great and Powerful Todd Rohal's first feature film, THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE, is getting a deluxe release from new kid on the DVD distro block, Benten Films on April 29, 2008. Packed with extras, this disc will fill your evenings with fun while keeping you out of the multiplex.

To read my interview with Todd Rohal click here.

My review from Cashiers du Cinemart #15:


Winner of the Grand Jury prize at Slamdance, this much-anticipated film by wunderkind Todd Rohal fulfills the promise of the writer/director’s potential. Picking up where his short films, KNUCKLEFACE JONES (1999) and HILLBILLY ROBOT (2001) left off, THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE serves as another voyage into the creative and colorful mind of Rohal.

THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE DVD Starring Will Oldham as Donald Turnipseed, the singer/songwriter is absent through a good deal of the film, though his presence haunts nearly every scene. Donald has gone missing after an accident at a local power plant. All that’s left of him is his father’s funny little electric car—which changes hands more often than a novice poker player—memories of him, and his unborn child. Sadie (Sheila Scullin) is the baby’s momma. She’s going into her third trimester as an outcast from her family after her father, the off-kilter Ivan (Ivan Dimitrov), kicks her out of the house for being a slut. Never mind that Ivan has to use a short bus to transport his fourteen illegitimate daughters.

The film goes back and forth in time, focusing on a wide array of eccentric characters that live in anticipation, or dread, of a big demolition derby. Will Sadie drive Donald’s father’s car to victory? Will Ivan defeat her? Will Turkeylegs (Katy Haywood) ever be reunited with her friend Donald? Will Ethel Firecracker (Kathleen Kennedy) ever find her lost dog? These questions and more are woven into the rich fabric of THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE.

As to be expected from a Rohal film, nothing can be expected—with the exceptions that any boy scouts in the film will be malicious little punks and that the plot will follow logic of its own. THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE does not disappoint. It’s a pleasure cruise of an independent film.

> > Order Now

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cashiers du Cinemart: The Book?

Tonight I met with long-time CdC contributor Mike Thompson and cinephile/proofreader extraordinare Lori Higgins to discuss possibilities of a book version of Cashiers du Cinemart which would collect the "best" articles out of the last fifteen issues/fourteen years.

It was an interesting experience. I printed out a six page spreadsheet with the names and authors of every article that's been in CdC (and online-only articles, too). We had only a few groundrules going in with the biggest being: "No reprinting of articles of people who have fallen off the face of the Earth or who will give me a hard time." Otherwise, we tried to keep some themes in mind as pillars—STAR WARS, PLANET OF THE APES, Quentin Tarantino, overlooked films, interviews, unproduced screenplays, and alternate versions—and then anything else that caught our fancy. I killed most, if not all, of the book, music, and zine reviews.

I decimated a lot of the early issues, knowing that my writing back then was at its weakest (that's not to say that it's strong now). Mike had an interesting idea about the early pieces, however. He's asking that I not rewrite them in order to show some of the evolution of the magazine. Otherwise, I'd be rewriting a lot of things from the ground up. I'll already be combining and rewriting quite a lot of stuff. I also will be pulling out a few nuggets for pieces that I've been meaning to expand as well as doing some follow-ups to things that need updates.

In short, there's a lot of work ahead but it'll be a labor of love.

Monday, April 21, 2008

This Hurts

$3.47 a gallon at Costco on Sunday. I know that Americans have had it cheap for a long time but being a former gas jockey (when I was about 11 years old) this really hurts. I remember when people were freaking out over ˜$1.18 a gallon. Though, that was 25 years ago.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is It Just Me?


Is it just me or do Eric Bana and Corey Feldman have more than a passing resemblance to one another?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Definitely Groovy: Evil Dead The Musical

I've been trying to see Evil Dead, The Musical since I first heard about it but timing never allowed it. Also, I was a little bit afraid that it would be an absolute fanboy cheesefest with clunky songs that only worked to integrate dialog from Sam Raimi's classic film trilogy.

Luckily, there's nothing clunky about Evil Dead, The Musical. It's a rather inspired work that pulls together choice bits of the first two EVIL DEAD films with dialog from ARMY OF DARKNESS (the medieval dead) and the third film's American S-Mart denouement. The plot isn't anything new to EVIL DEAD fans -- a group of twentysomethings on vacation in the spooky woods in a creepy cottage that becomes sieged by evil forces. Everything is held together by a strong musical backbone of genuinely funny songs. There are clever moments of self-reflexive commentary about the EVIL DEAD films along with critiques of the musical form. My favorite bit had to be the ever-reliable Jake (Mike Nahrgang) discussing his lack of a Bobbi Jo character due to some redundancy she would bring to the story.

All of the performers are terrific with Ryan Ward standing out as a fitting, square-jawed Ash. He's got a great set of pipes, delivers his wry lines with proper panache, and shows a terrific physicality as he takes on the slapstick stunts required. I imagine that Evil Dead The Musical would fail without a strong Ash in the mix. With Ward on stage, that will never happen.

Evil Dead The Musical has been held over at the Diesel Playhouse until at least June of 2008. I recommend you get your groove on and get over there pronto.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

More NoirCon

Be sure to check out the new podcasts at Out of the Past. I listened to the first one that other night and it really captures the feel of the festival. Good stuff!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Getting My Act Together

Maybe it's that Spring is finally in the air in Michigan. I'm finally getting my act together. I've been writing down some of the ideas I've had knocking around in my noggin for months (years?) and attempting to bring them to fruition.

Along with this, I've been asked to host a panel at the Maryland Film Festival on "The State of Film Criticism". Rather than just shooting from the hip (my usual modus operandi), I'm actually coming up with some (get this) "speaking points". How fucking professional is that, huh? "Speaking points." Yeah, I said it!

I went over to Borders today to look at the state of their film criticism books. It's a sad state. The film section -- three shelves wide -- consists of three subsections; criticism, star biographies, film guides. Yet, even these aren't as "pure" as their titles suggest. All three are sullied by quickie tie-in products, biographies of marginally-related "stars", and other effluvia. Worse, the criticism section is nearly just that. What's sorely lacking is film theory. The two aren't mutually exclusive and often go hand in hand. Apart from one book of collected essays, there was little that even smacked of film theory.

Despite my attempt to stop buying books, I picked up a few tomes (online, they weren't available at Borders) that may be the modern equivalent of film theory. Reviews sure to come.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ain't That a Kick in the Teeth?

Listening to David Schmid at NoirCon, I was reminded of my college days, reading great film criticism and film theory. It was in my Junior year that I had a bit of a breakthrough in my writing that allowed me to funnel my newfound appreciation for writers like Metz and Mulvay. In an essay for an American Lit class, I chose to compare two of our assigned books, Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury and Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. I looked at them as books about investigation and their portrayals of gender. Into the mix I added parallels between the two novels and Howard Hawks's THE BIG SLEEP and Roman Polanski's CHINATOWN. I wrapped everything up with a big bow, citing passages from film critic Molly Haskell (most likely quoting from From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies).

I don't have a copy of this paper anymore. I don't remember where I saved any of the papers I wrote in my first few years of college, if I saved them at all. I'm pretty sure I threw away the original as I was sorely disappointed in the grade I received. Rather than being impressed by my leveraging of Haskell, my professor was curious as to where my opinions lay. That was always the problem I had with my writing and one I hope I've managed to overcome since: I would present two ideas and hope that the reader would see the thrust of my argument rather than bashing them over the head with a third sentence that stated the obvious. I've since realized that there's nothing obvious to some people, especially pedagogues. It's always best to bring that train of thought to the station, rather than letting it continue rolling down the track.

Hearing Schmid's take about Noir and its heretics, I'm half tempted to revisit these four works and see what kind of trouble I could get into on my own (having no idea where my Haskell has ended up).

Schmid also helped crystallize the fact that I've not done a lot of theorizing in my writing lately. I might hide a nugget or two in there but I haven't jumped off the deep end and really taken a film apart the way I enjoy. I was on the verge of doing so at NoirCon as I watched the "Fallen Angels" version of "Professional Man." The recurring breaking of fingers could only lead me down a path where these stood in for castration images. I don't remember what other thing I hit upon in my discussion of the episode but I know I prefaced it with, "As a former film student, I like to draw wild conclusions over tiny details..." Nothing brightens my day as much.

Well, I'm off to watch OVER THE TOP and see if there's any kind of archetypes of masculinity to be found...

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Some of these were supposed to run later to tie in with upcoming DVD releases. Oh well.

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Gross Stuff


I don't know what was going on today but there were worms out in droves in the parking lot. I thought that they were twigs or leaves at first, but no. I lost count at fifty within the path from my car to the sidewalk (which was oddly bereft).

Sick Bastard

We're not in friggin' grade school around here but some asshole in the building where I work still thinks it is. Every few days the walls near the urinal get covered in bloody snot, wiped there by human fingers. I wish I knew who this person was, so I could break those human fingers.

Bathroom Wall

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My New Favorite Show

I don't know why I picked up Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential (it was probably reviewed on NPR) but I devoured that book a few years ago. Apart from a slam against Baltimore's Club Charles, the mix of restaurant tips and tell-all autobiography told with Bourdain's distinct, cynical tone enchanted me.

I don't know why it took me so long to tune in to the Travel Channel's "No Reservations" but I only started watching it in the last few weeks. So far I've caught about twenty episodes and have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. The concept of the show is simple; Bourdain visits a locale, tries the local cuisine, and usually engages in some humiliating activities. The mix of adventurous food, travel, and Bourdain's distinct, cynical tone has made "No Reservations" my new favorite show.

Please don't confuse Anthony Bourdain with Andrew Zimmern. Often sandwiched between two tasty episodes of "No Reservations," the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" is a little bit like a freak show with host Andrew Zimmern trying the strangest (and often most unappetizing) foods as possible. This seems like a hamhanded attempt to duplicate Bourdain's success as the author often indulges in seemingly "bizarre" dishes during his travels.

Bourdain doesn't go out of his way for weird wonders but never exhibits problems with them. The few times I've watched Zimmern, he's tried and failed to eat stinky tofu (no, that's really the name of it) and durian. Meanwhile, I've seen Bourdain feasting on durian. Sure, no one would go near him while he ate the stinky fruit, but he's definitely not shy about trying unusual cuisine.

If you haven't checked out "No Reservations" or "Kitchen Confidential" (the book, not the TV sitcom of the same name), I suggest you change your ways.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chuck Palahnuik is Coming to Town

Though I've been dissed by Chuck Palahniuk's publicist (details here) and the last book, Rant, pretty much sucked, I'm still up for heading out to Ann Arbor on May 20 to see Chuck at a signing of his newest book, Snuff.

If you're a fellow Palahniuk fan, his other tour dates are available via Chuck And, if you're a Michigander, here's the scoop on the Ann Arbor date:

Tuesday, May 20, 7:00pm
612 E. Liberty
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Big Ole Update

Branching Out

With the demise of the print version of Cashiers du Cinemart, I've been attempting to branch out a bit. To that end, it looks like I'll be working with Detroit's Metro Times! My first piece went out this week. As part of their gala "Food Issue," I penned a piece on cannibal films. Click here to check it out, or pick it up at your favorite local haunts if you're in the Detroit area (page 39). (Oh, and please feel free to "Digg it").

Indy Request

I'm going to be revising an article from Cashiers du Cinemart #9, "Jonesing for the New Indy Film". What I really need to get my hands on is the elusive Frank Darabont draft of the Indy 4 script. Do any of you Hollywood Insiders have access to this? It's a bit of a holy grail. ;)

Archives Updated!

Just about every article from Cashiers du Cinemart #15 has been put up in the Archives section of

RIP: Jules Dassin

Little did I know that my review for Jules Dassin's RIFIFI would be running just a few short days after the director passed away.

Lunch with Me

Be sure to check out for a daily helping of lunchtime cult reviews. They've been running at noon. You can also sign up for email updates via my RSS Feed.

Upcoming Travel

For all my peeps in Toronto, Baltimore, and NYC; I'll be coming out to these fine locations over the next six weeks.

  • April 14-17 - Toronto
  • May 2-4 - Baltimore
  • May 29-June 1 - NYC

Hope to see you when I'm there!


BTW, I have a profile on Facebook. Feel free to befriend me! Just don't confuse me with the other Mike White.

Blast of Silence

One thing that really stuck in my craw (in a good way) was being told that I was "holding back" during my two public appearances at NoirCon. I was doing that, definitely. Some of it was due to my modesty, and not trying to upstage people. Some of it was due to the early morning of my panel discussion. And some was that I was truly holding back.

Most of what I wanted to say about BLAST OF SILENCE was found in the NoirCon program book, which is close to my review for The print shown was no print at all -- it was a digital projection of the new Criterion DVD release (available April 15, 2008). It was a gorgeous transfer. Sadly, I'm getting used to and even enjoying digital projection, even over film at times. What I would have liked to have gone into more was spotlighting the similarities between Baby Boy Frankie Bono and Travis Bickle.

I would have also followed up on Eddie Muller's comments about BLAST not being the "last of the film noirs" but the first in another cycle. I tend to agree with him. BLAST is really more of a neorealist piece, or more along the lines of the French New Wave. It's funny to see how much the French and Americans were on the same page, even if they weren't directly speaking to each other via their films. Budgetary constraints surely lead to a lot of the stylistic conventions that already had been shaped by noir's early Poverty Row days.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Would You Like A Hertz Donut?

A scene from one of my favorite films, THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT. If you haven't seen it... why not?

Superb, Man

It was folly to think that I was the only person writing about the long, hard road from concept to screen for "SUPERMAN V" as I did in Cashiers du Cinemart #15 with my piece, "Superman: Grounded". The subject had been fodder for blogs and message boards for years prior. I suppose I was hoping to legitimize the subject as well as provide my obsessive-compulsive hand to the mix by hunting down every version of the proposed Superman scripts I could find. I didn't want to rely on second and third hand accounts of scrapped scripts from such unreliable sources as AICN.

Synchronicity has provided another take on the sordid history of Superman adaptations, Jake's Rossen's Superman Vs. Hollywood. In this tome from Chicago Review Press, Rossen gives equal weight to the multi-million dollar fiasco that brought Superman to the screen in 2007 that left actors, directors, and screenwriters in its wake. He also chronicles Superman's earlier incarnations across myriad multimedia (radio, serialized shorts, television shows, animation, etc).

Having been immersed in "all things Superman" for a while as I researched "Superman Grounded" as well as "Superman II: The Long Strange Trip", I wasn't expecting a lot of surprises from Rossen's book. Luckily, he managed to pull out the aces with chapters on "Superboy" and other incarnations of Kal-El that I'd never witnessed. I was tickled, too, by the author's swipes at the "militant geeks" at AICN, even discussing the payola perks that its portly poobah proffers in exchange for positive plugs.

For anyone even remotely interested in the fantastic story of Superman's use and abuse by the men who have owned his copyright over the years, Rossen's book is a must-read. And, though he and I tread a lot of the same ground, his book didn't render what I had to say about the Man of Steel completely moot.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Why I Don't Podcast

Listening to Clute and Edwards over at NoirCast, I got to thinking about why I'm not a podcaster. I think it boils down to two things: 1) I have a lousy voice and 2) Me no speakum good.

There are a lot of words that I mispronounce on purpose. There are no political motivations to these. Instead, I tend to do it to make fun of people in my past, even if no one around me has the slightest idea of what I'm talking about. I still say things like, "That's onbelievable!" in memory of an English teacher who couldn't ever say "un" correctly, even if it was in the middle of a word ("jar-gon"). I might even say, "shunt, coont, or wunt" rather than "shouldn't, couldn't, or wouldn't" in 'honor' of a music teacher who turned these contractions into single syllable terms. I'm sure there a many others. Worse, I mispronounce words that I've read for years but have never heard out loud. I can imagine that I'd just butcher English worse then Flavor Flav.

Though I've been told that I have a face for radio, I'll leave podcasting to the guys with the pipes.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Thank You, TSA!

The more I travel, the more I hate how fucked our airports have gotten. I'm waiting for the Pants Bomber to make those something else I need to take off and run through an X-ray machine (in a very particular way - only your pants can go in that bin, nothing in your pockets!). Perhaps, too, they'll outlaw anything over a 25" inseam, making it necessary to wear floods to the airport or suffer the pleasant staff cutting your pants down to size.

Do I sound bitter? If so, that's only because I didn't want to stand in a line on the way here to check my bag, resulting in my soap, toothpaste, and other sundries being confiscated for being over three fluid ounces. Of course, three fluid ounces are the exact right amount to prevent an attack. Four? You're fucked. Three? The world is a safer place.

NoirCon Day Four

Day Four of the festival was very much a wrap-up, a little sigh. Few turned up but those who did were rewarded for braving the drizzle with some great presentations. Jay Gertzman started things off with his appreciation of Charles Willeford, wrapped up in an Estes Kefauver bow. He told a story of Congressional prosecution of Pulps while using Willeford's twisted prose as a perfect example of what had gotten "right thinking people" in an uproar.

I was reminded, as Gertzman described the practice of busting sellers of prurient material, of the '80s crackdown on music and the Dead Kennedy's Frankenchrist scandal. Tipper Gore and the PMRC definitely took tactics from the Kefauver playbook.

This was followed by a discussion of Carroll John Daly by Brooks Hefner who read a paper he had prepared about the elusive Black Mask scribe. Of all the pre-written presentations, Hefner delivered his with the most panache, displaying a knack for engaging the audience. I'd never heard of Daly before, which is surprising as it sounds right up the alley of some finer zinesters, such as John Marr from "Murder Can Be Fun."

The thought that plagued me more than once during NoirCon was just how poorly read I am. I've not read Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Thompson, Woolrich, or any number of other kings of pulp. When I get into an author, I usually get into them lock, stock, and barrel, making it difficult to even quit a writer who's lost his way. Writers like Willeford, Goodis, Fearing, Brautigan, Palahniuk, Ellroy, Bester, etc -- I tend not to own just one of their books but all of them, diving deep and reading as much of them as I can rather than being cursory. It's the rare author like Philip K. Dick or John D. MacDonald with whom I can pace myself. I don't want to read all of their stuff right now, choosing rather to savor it. That said, I fear tackling the aforementioned hardboiled scribes for fear of investing money, time, and sleepless nights in pursuit of every word. These are the times that I want a "guide" to lead me through the minefield of a bibliography to guide me surefootedly.

The long hours, drinking, and pandemic took their toll on a lot of people's health this weekend. Unfortunately it cost NoirCon the intriguing "Limp Dick Panel" -- a discussion of masculinity amongst Noir protagonists. I would have been keen to hear this, especially had Megan Abbott been able to chime in with some of the observations she made in her The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir (which I'm hoping to find used someday for a price less prohibitive than it's current going rate of $60-$300).

Instead, the festival wrapped up with some bullshitting (in a good way) from Ken Bruen, Reed Coleman, Bob Truluck, and Scott Phillips. I need to check out some stuff from Phillips and Christa Faust but quick to see if their works are as delightful as their personalities.

I was saddened to have to say farewell to everyone and make my way to the airport to stand pay for overpriced Wifi access after being abused by the Department of Homeland Security.

NoirCon Day Three

Finally sitting down in front of my laptop. The last few days I've been blogging from my phone and let's just say that leaves a lot to be desired. While I'm loving my iPhone, the typing interface makes me feel like I have boxing gloves on.

Day Three at NoirCon was my favorite so far and that's not just because I got to speak in front of the crowd both at the Society Hill Playhouse and at the Philadelphia International Film Festival. Truth be told, neither one was much of a full house when I was speaking -- the morning crowd at NoirCon was a little on the light side after some heavy duty partying on the night of Day Two. Likewise, the screening tonight wasn't too packed either. And... in the interest of full disclosure... I wasn't very eloquent and was outshone easily by my compatriots; Howard Rodman and Eddie Muller.

Howard had the group roaring at times as he regaled them with tales of his days on "Fallen Angels". A terrific public speaker, he moved from recollection to joke and back with ease. Meanwhile, I only elicited a few moans with my corny banter. The same went for tonight when I was completely flummoxed during my introduction to Eddie Muller. I thought of ten clever things to say afterwards. Nothing close to clever came out of my mouth during the time in which I spoke.

While those things didn't go so well for me (though the events themselves were a success in spite of my presence), today was finally the day that I managed to come out of my protective cocoon a little bit and talk to more than just the handful of folks that I had met last year at GoodisCon. I actually walked up to a few strangers and started conversations without bursting into flames or speaking in tongues (two of my greatest fears). This even lead to a great dinner over Afghani food with Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards of We bullshitted about movies, comic books, and other geeky subjects. It was a blast (and not of silence).

CyberNoir Panel

Day Three wasn't all about me, of course. Today had some great panels including a discussion of gender roles in Noir, a discussion of Noir in the 21st Century (see above paragraph), tributes to Jim Thompson, Donald Goines, Georges Simenon, and some real "characters" that festival organizer Lou Boxer has a knack for finding. Along with reporter Gil Raevill--whose book Aftermath Inc has already been ordered (it's on for 76% off the cover price at the moment)--Day Three also played host to two other gentlemen, Frank Bender and William Fleisher, who both spun some incredible tales under the guise of discussing the Vidocq society. While they never got to why they named it "Vidocq," I'm sure that 95% of the audience probably got the reference to the French detective.

More Philly Photos

Small World Department

I realized last week that me and my longtime chum Mike Thompson have high school acquaintances that are starring in new television shows starting this week. He's got Elizabeth "SHOWGIRLS" Berkely (the pride of Farmington Hills) in Bravo's Step Up and Dance while I've got Riverview's favorite son, Bob "The Bachelor" Guiney, on TLC's Date My House.

Other "Small World" news includes finally meeting Megan Abbott at NoirCon. She used to work with Mike Thompson at "The Michigan Daily," the University of Michigan newspaper that I used to read on a (get this) daily basis. It was through "the Daily" that I first got to know Thompson and thought he was a complete asshole. He has yet to dissaude me from this opinion (sorry, it's expected that we abuse each other like this). "Midwest in the House!"

I need to confirm it, but I believe that another old friend of Thompson and Abbott's was thanked in the credits of Eddie Muller's THE GRAND INQUISITOR. I never met this elusive third Mike but apparently he's my doppleganger -- if not in looks, at least in opinion. I've been told that if we ever met that it would be like crossing the streams - all life as you know it would stop instantaneously and every molecule in your body would explode at the speed of light; total protonic reversal. That would be bad.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

NoirCon Day Two

Here's a little known fact; the cover of Cashiers du Cinemart #15 was based on a photo of 8th Street, taken outside the front door of the Society Hill Playhouse when I was here for GoodisCon. I sent that and a copy of the famous BIG COMBO silhouette shot to Ashley Zeltzer, the phenomenal artist who created the final image.

Day Two was am exhaustive and exhausting deep dive into the underground. The day began with an appreciation of George Lippard before veering into a discussion of more modern Philly noir. A panel discussion from publishers and editors of sundry publications fell on my sympathetic ears as they bemoaned how tough it is to find an audience in the print world as well as dealing with the nuts and bolts of the sordid business end of things.

Other highlights included an appreciation of Dorothy Hughes (prompting me to put In a Lonely Place on my Amazon Wishlist), a fascinating discussion of the Mafia by reporters George Anastasia and Anthony Bruno, and a rambling (in a good way) hour with publisher Dennis McMillan.

I have to admit, I just about crawled under my chair when I realized Don Herron was in attendance. I'm hoping he never read, doesn't remember, or found some validity in my lambasting of his "biography" of Charles Willeford (back in Cashiers du Cinemart #11). I wonder if it was for that reason that my revised version of Madness in the 20th Century was omitted from the program book.

No word yet on McMillan's reprint of Understudy for Death yet, Willeford fans, though the program for NoirCon boasts his A Necklace of Hickies -- a story as great as its title.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

NoirCon Day One

It's a grey day in Philadelphia. No rain slicked streets or inky shadows... Yet. I'm sitting at the Society Hill Playhouse eavesdropping on three guys talking Elmore Leonard and Detroit, trying desperately to remember stories of the Rouge River catching fire (thanks to it being more chemical waste than water).

Tonight's spotlight focuses on David Schmid. He calls into question the boundaries, canon, themes, and marketing of "noir". Schmid provides a striking thought starter for the conference and one I predict will echo through the speeches and discussions of the weekend.

This was followed up by a screening of THE ICE HARVEST, an overlooked (perhaps justly) thriller with eyes on Neonoir. More on this film later.