Blood Simple was a revelation for me when I saw it in a theater. It was scary and funny at the same time.
Ray is having an affair with his boss's wife (Abby). The boss (Marty) hires a private detective (Visser), to get proof of the affair. Ray and Abby prepare to run away together. Marty hires Visser to kill them.
Ray, a nice guy, winds up acting like a cold-blooded fiend. Marty, the vengeful husband, loses everything. Visser, a paid killer, ends up looking like a clown. Abby, a dependent woman, becomes the toughest of all.
Since everyone is keeping secrets, they sometimes work at cross-purposes. And accidents happen. Sometimes the surprises are scary, sometimes funny.
The filmmakers, Joel and Ethan Cohn, were certainly not the first to combine suspense and humor. Hitchcock always looked for humor in his stories and sometimes abandoned an idea if there was no humor in it. But the Cohn brothers made the scary parts scarier and the funny parts funnier.
I recently published a novel entitled The Con Man's Son, but I've just discovered a book which is apparently an important source of information on the type of criminal called a "confidence man."
First published in 1940, it offers a detailed study of con artists and their trade based on extensive interviews with practitioners.
It gives a historical survey of how simple street games like three-card monte developed into more elaborate "long cons" requiring establishment of a "store," a rented space set up to look like a betting parlor or stock brokerage.
There are also chapters on the crooks themselves, their social norms, the psychology of their victims, their cooperative relationships with law enforcement, and more.
Since the author was a linguist, the book makes use of the con-man's vocabulary ("rope a mark," "cop a heel," "steer against a store," etc.) and a glossary is provided.
I have no doubt The Big Con was a source for another book I have consulted, The Confidence Game. And anyone familiar with The Sting will recognize pages 31 through 52 as a description of the game operated by Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford).
More and more I am convinced that when writing fiction, it's helps to know the facts.
Run is the latest thriller from writer-director Aneesh Chaganty, who made Searching, which played in theaters in 2018. Run made its debut on Hulu, November, 2020.
Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson) does everything for her daughter, Chloe (Kiera Allen). Everything includes among other things managing a long list of medications, caring for a teenager bound to a wheelchair and motivating her to high academic achievement through home schooling.
The story begins, as so many good thrillers do, when Chloe notices some things that don't quite make sense. When she looks for answers, her mother restricts her access to those things. The exciting part of the movie is watching this "rebellious" teenager outwit her mother in her quest to take control of her life. The scary part of the movie is watching the mother go to ever greater lengths to control her.
Ultimately Chloe learns, as we've suspected all along, that her mother needed to do things for her more than Chloe needed to have them done. The ending is dark, but stops just this side of horror.
Like Searching this is a well-crafted machine that works through an average person's struggle to regain what matters most.
Since 1915, the station next to the Bay Bridge has been home to the San Francisco Fire Department's boats and firefighters who respond to fire alarms near the water's edge and calls for water rescues.
Last week it's replacement showed up, a new fire station built on a barge and brought to town from Treasure Island by a couple of tug boats.The new station is permanently moored and will float up and down with the changing tides. The old station will be maintained and used for storage.
In a way this is the latest phase of a process that began with the Gold Rush in 1849. A long wharf was built to cross the mud flats that separated dry land from the deep water where ships could anchor. Over time oyster shells and other refuse were used to fill in the flats and create dry land between the shore and the ships. Today, about seven city blocks separates the sea wall from the former shoreline.
Even in recent decades there have been proposals to fill more of the Bay to create valuable real estate next to downtown. They have all been rejected. But occupying more of the Bay by building barges looks like it may have a future.