Tuesday, April 24, 2007

DVD: Pulp (1972)

Get Carter isn’t just one of the great gangster movies. It topped at least one critics’ poll of the best British films of all time. A year after Carter’s release, star Michael Caine, writer/director Mike Hodges, and producer Michael Klinger reunited for Pulp. Which, to my knowledge, has never topped a critics’ list of any kind. A bare-bones DVD skulked onto the market last week. And while Pulp suffers in comparison to Carter – name a movie that wouldn’t – it’s still worth watching.

Caine plays an author of paperback thrillers, churning out titles like The Organ-Grinder under an array of pseudonyms (Guy Strange, Dan Wild). He agrees to ghostwrite the autobiography of a faded Hollywood star with alleged Mafia connections and soon finds himself neck-deep in the kind of plot he usually dictates into a tape recorder.

Hodges tries to pull off something difficult here, telling a noir tale while sending up the genre’s conventions. It doesn’t completely work, but there are enough smart moments to keep the action interesting. This is the Michael Caine that Craig Ferguson lovingly satirizes, in full ‘70s glory with wavy hair and thick-framed glasses. And while Mickey Rooney may not be believable as an Italian, he shines as the Cagneyesque actor driven by an aging male’s vanity and a celebrity’s narcissism.

One member of the Carter team not brought back is composer Roy Budd. ‘Carter Takes The Train’ is one of the indisputably great main themes, so much so that it was reprised in the 2000 Sylvester Stallone Carter remake, where it was easily the movie’s best feature. Budd had a nice career doing jazz-inflected scores for Euro thrillers of the ‘70s, many starring Caine (The Black Windmill, The Destructors). I’ve been listening to them a lot lately. Good stuff.

TV: Entourage

Naturally, I love this HBO show. It’s about a kid from Queens named Vince whose effortless talent makes him the center of his universe. Frankly, I deserve royalties.

I was willing to let Turtle’s fetishistic obsession with the Yankees go. There are a handful of Bronx Brombers fans in the Mets’ home borough. But I draw the line at this week’s episode, which featured a gratuitous anti-Mets joke. Vince Chase made a movie called Queens Boulevard, for Christ’s sake. There’s got to be at least one Amazins fan in his posse. If Jeremy Piven weren’t still bringing it as Ari Gold, I’d stop watching in protest. For one week.

Miscellaneous: Links

New York magazine’s new pop culture blog Vulture is fast becoming a regular stop. Roger Ebert shows what he’s made of. And personally, I would have looked for Superman first.