The Keeper

The Keeper

Director : Joe Brewster
With : Giancarlo Esposito, Regina Taylor

“The Keeper” is a solid little known low-budget New York psychological thriller. The film is shot similarly to a “Hill Street Blues” TV style police drama, with all sorts of quick cuts and sharp fades. It’s plot revolves around a Brooklyn prison guard played convincingly by Giancarlo Esposito, who is studying at night school to become a lawyer so that one day he can make “a difference.” His moralistic attitude towards his fellow guards and the prisoners they abuse, cause Esposito to become afflicted with a sort of double vision. While at the prison he befriends a Haitian prisoner who he believes to be wrongly accused of a rape charge and invites him to stay with he and his wife until he gets back on his feet.

Although the plot seems straight forward at first, the film oozes philosophically into the mind of Esposito’s character as he struggles with the delicate racial issues that arise at the prison and the precarious romantic triangle that begins to take shape while at home. Filmed in a few banal locations in Queens, “The Keeper” is an dark but tightly constructed and imagined film. In a way it watches like one of those TV shows would have been much better if it had been rated R for really Mature Content instead of the watered down versions the networks provide us with. It is the ideas that are the most disturbing and intriguing and when combined with the bleak low-budget Queens landscape “The Keeper” becomes a gripping urban drama.

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Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks – Orange Crate Art

Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks - Orange Crate Art
Label: Warner Brothers

With all the worthy, but often bandwagonesque attention being paid to Brian Wilson (circa “Pet Sounds”- of course) people often forget that he made a few other decent records with the Beach Boys right around that same time. The best post-“Pet Sounds” album is “Smile,” and was produced by rock composer Van Dyke Parks just over 30 years ago. “Smile” is a weird pop record, but also a very good one.

After having listened to so much Brian Wilson influenced music over the past year, a few months ago I decided to unearth a barely listened to copy of “Orange Crate Art.” For whatever reason I had picked up the album, listened to it once and then quickly lost track of it. Sometimes a surprise rediscovery can actually make an artist seem even better. “Orange Crate Art” is basically a album of songs written by Parks and sung by Wilson. On the surface the album sounds like a fusion of neo-Jimmy Buffet tropical cheese, and densely layored lyricism produced by a true studio genius.

Either way, it is nice to hear Wilson’s distinctive voice singing smart lyrics accompanied by a vaguely familiar structural style. For anyone smitten by the High Llamas, Eric Matthews, Richard Davies, Spooky Ruben or any of the other Pet Soundsian prodigy, “Orange Crate Art” is a curious and entertaining diversion.

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The Quincunx by Charles Pallister

The Quincunx by Charles Pallister

Coming in at 800 pages this very well may be one longest novels I have ever read (Ayn Rand novels excluded). This is a problem only because it is so very good, but so very long. It is a Dickensian tale about a young boy cheated out of an enormous inheritance in 18th century England. What unfolds is a novel filled with a cast of villains conspiring to cheat a small boy and his mother out of one of the largest estates in England. It begins with the mother an child living in comfortable secrecy in the country. Circumstances drive them to London where they are reduced to mere subsistence as their complicated story begins to unravel. Told through the eyes of sharp but innocent child, the momentum of this story carries you effortlessly through a wonderfully heavy book.

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The Full Monty + Brassed Off

Full Monty
Director : Mark Herman
With : Pete Postlethwaite, Ewan McGregor, Tara Fitzgerald

Why some films can make it big while others disappear anonymously I cannot fully understand. Let’s look at “Brassed Off” and “The Full Monty” as examples. Both films are set in blue collar English towns where unemployment, and its prospect, create all sorts of emotional conflicts and dysfunctional family situations. In “Brassed Off” the plot focuses on coal miners who play in a brass band, while in “The Full Monty” the cast are steel workers who attempt to become strippers. Both films are somewhat heartwarming and inspire the audience to really feel for the underdog protagonists. Both films star popular British film actors (Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor) but “The Full Monty” has grossed well over $100 million, while “Brassed Off” probably didn’t break $20 million.

“Brassed Off” seemed to me to be the better film, tackling more serious issues with the same casual and often comedic flare as “The Full Monty.” Both films depict a working class population that seems more at peace and more sophisticated than their counterparts in the states. And although I have even lived in Britain, it is hard to tell whether or not this portrayal is genuine or merely a cinematic creation.
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Rule Of The Bone by Russell

Rule Of The Bone by Russell

This is arguably one of the funniest books in recent history. A contemporary retelling of Huck Finn, Banks has turned Huck (named Bone) into a 14 year-old stoner from upstate New York, who drops out of high school and eventually meets the Jim character (called the I- Man) who is a 40 year-old Rastaman living in an abandoned school bus in Plattsburg, NY. Together they make a pilgrimage to Jamaica where Bone believes his father is living, and where I-Man can resume his life as a marijuana dealing shaman. Although the premise might sound a bit sophomoric, the story so neatly and creatively translates Twain’s classic into the modern world that you can’t help finding the time to read the whole thing in a day or two.

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