Two homeless men, young, lay side by side in matching boxes, asleep in the dull rising light. The shallow boxes, flat and wide, looking like they had just been delivered for the morning rush, gave no warmth or shelter, no comfort of any kind, just a lip, an edge a few inches up, as if it might keep the bugs and dust out. I had walked almost a full block past before I realized I had to go back to take a picture.
It was a funny image, striking how they looked they had been delivered and slept so soundly for the people streaming past. I had my camera out as I turned around for the shot and saw the young man was awake. I was caught in an awkward stance, looking down at him, mocking him, and dropped my arms and continued past.
“Yeah, that’s right.” The young man muttered after my receding steps. “No pictures.”
It took me four years, two months and twelve days to get to this day: 100,000 views at mcphedranbadside.com. That’s good, right? Whatever it is, thanks for visiting whenever you do. I still have some gas left in the tank. We’ll see what’s next.
It’s not the story nor the setting nor even characters that make Howard Hawks’ 1948 Red River an epic, but the images of the cattle drive.
A herd of 9,000 used in shooting this iconic story element. Nothing compares to these images throughout the 133-minute film.
Except maybe Montgomery Cliff sucking poison out of Joanne Dru’s shoulder.
That’s pretty good too.
to and fro in shadow from inner to outer shadow
from impenetrable self to impenetrable unself by way of neither
as between two lit refuges whose doors once neared gently close, once away turned from gently part again
beckoned back and forth and turned away
heedless of the way, intent on the one gleam or the other
unheard footfalls only sound
till at last halt for good, absent for good from self and other
then no sound
then gently light unfading on that unheeded neither
Birth of a Nation had promise – a compelling narrative most of all – but fails. Instead of exploring the contorted depths of American history, Parker trains the camera on himself, too often in close-up, reacting to repetitive brutality. Violent images dominate – people’s teeth getting hammered out, exposed brains – when the story of a remarkable man, Nat Turner, could have been developed, asking who really spoke of this: As we pushed on to the house, I discovered some one run round the garden, and thinking it was some of the white family, I pursued them, but finding it was a servant girl belonging to the house, I returned to commence the work of death. The film does not elucidate nor does it have vision, as did Steve McQueen in 12 Years a Slave, but is solely a chronicle of violence, flat and tediously rendered, craft-less as anything of the Superhero genre.
The talking heads stare back, beleaguered, telling us of the ugliness, how unpresidential it has become. They count down the days in feigned exhaustion. Only 29 days until another president will be elected, and more importantly, when the spin cycle can begin anew and the next batch of ne’er-do-wells can be stoned.The talking heads say everything they can think of and they say it again and again – emails, rapists, locker room talk – except about how their ratings are only as good as the race is bad, that the crummier they make it, the more Viagra they sell. And so that’s what we do. We consume this reality TV, hoping that next season, in just four short years, the chosen one might appear and take care of us forever.