Thursday, August 17, 2017

HuSTLe City: Seth Ferranti

A few weeks ago I was looking up reviews and discussion of the film Let Me Make You a Martyr on the eve of its release and found this interview with co-directors Corey Asraf and John Swab on Ozy. After reading the piece the author's name caught my eye - Seth Ferranti... Ferranti... Ferranti... Sounded familiar. I thought he must be a film critic I'd read before.

About an hour later it hit me - Seth Soul Man Ferranti? Holy shit!

I read my first Seth Ferranti piece in the Out of the Gutter #5 - the same issue I made my fiction debut in print with the story A Fuckload of Scotch Tape. It was a hell of an issue to be included in too alongside names I already knew and revered like Vicki Hendricks, Charlie Stella and Sophie Littlefield as well as a murderer's row of up and comers like Glenn Gray, Jordan Harper, David Cranmer, Greg Bardsley, Nolan Knight, Garnett Elliot, Nik Korpon, Matthew Louis and the late-great Mike Sheeter.

Seth's contribution, The Aryan Circle, was a non-fiction piece about the Texas prison gang (not to be confused with the Aryan Brotherhood). I dug the piece and was happy to discover he had something of a regular column about prison life in OOTG.

Turns out Seth was nearing the end of his own time in prison (he did 22 of a 25 year sentence on drug charges - he's got a lot to say about draconian measures taken in the war on drugs) where he had started his own publishing company Gorilla Convict. I found him on Crimespace and sent him an appreciative note. He sent me a reply some time later. It was polite, but brief, and didn't seem to be an invitation to further correspondence. So that was the last time I'd had any interaction with him.

Nine years later I see his name on the Ozy piece and had to look him up. I found his Twitter handle @SethFerranti and it listed his current residence as St. Louis.

So I looked him up and we had coffee a couple days later. I asked him what he was up to these days.

A lot, it turns out.

Gorrilla Convict is still publishing books and comics as well as true crime/culture pieces on the blog and Seth is a full time freelance writer with regular contributions to:
VICE
Ozy
Don Diva and
Penthouse to site just a few.

That's not all. He's making films too. Check out the trailer for the documentary White Boy about the case of White Boy Rick Wershe Jr. directed by Shawn Rech. Seth is a talking head in the trailer, but he's also a producer on the film and he's writing and directing a wild comedic crime saga The Easter Bunny Assassin in segments - check out the trailer for Chapter 2: Santa Claus Crack Dealer
Guy's got a serious work ethic, some great insights and a hell of a lot of time to make up for. I found out that all of his pieces and personal correspondence from prison had been hand-written by him and then typed up, edited and submitted for publication by his (now) wife because (duh) he didn't have access to the internet.

I let our earlier dropped communication slide.

St. Louis is sometimes called HuSTLe City and I think it's fitting Seth's making his home here now.

If true crime, gangsters, prison life or history are your thing, fucking check out the writing of Seth Ferranti. Go ahead and start with the latest issue of Penthouse you've been pretending to read.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Where's the Brief? Judas' Chariot

Judas' Chariot - w/d: John Swab, Corey Asraf (Vimeo link) - This prequel to Swab and Asraf's feature film directorial debut Let Me Make You a Martyr fleshes out the back story and matches the mood of the feature film. Cast includes Sam Quartin once again playing June and Gore Abrams in the Niko Nicotera role.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Farewell, Quarry, We Hardly Knew Ye

Finished up Quarry and dug that hard. Why? Fucking loved the setting, Memphis, music and seventies social vibrations. The treatment of the material was top notch too. I've enjoyed the Quarry books by Max Allan Collins that I've read, but they're pulpy and could be handled and delivered as such without complaint. The choices made by series creators Michael D. Fuller and Graham Gordy (both former writers on probably the most thoughtful show ever on and about the conditions and the people of the modern American South, Rectify) to roll slowly enough through the plot to develop informed emotional responses to each reveal and action are commendable and make all the difference between loving a show based on books I like and being annoyed by a show based on books I love (like Jack Taylor based on the books by Ken Bruen).

Standouts in the cast include solid turns by the always great Peter Mullan and Ann Dowd as well as a revelatory Damon Herriman dumping the Dewey Crowe schtick (which is always great and I was plenty happy to see him trot out again in Son of a Gun) for perhaps the most complex character in the whole show.

Bummed as hell to hear that the series got the axe, but I'm grateful we got what we did and pleased to say it had an ending that won't leave you hanging.

This decade's Terriers? Maybe.

Just finished my third watch of that show and it remains as sharp and moving as always. Why can't we have nice things?

So, before they slip away, lemme give a quick shout out to some other criminal TVs I've enjoyed of late.

The Americans - yeah I'm not saving this show, I think FX is committed to giving us the full and righteous send-off the series deserves, but I'm still a little confused by how little I see it getting talked about. Damn good show whose far-fetched series finale we seem to be living out in real time.

Better Call Saul - what an amazing job this show has done of re-framing the Saul Goodman character from Breaking Bad. Could Vince Gilligan and company turn him into an even bigger tragic figure than Walter White? Might they even pull it off whilst maintaining a tonally compelling mix of humor and pathos? Will it eclipse its origin? All possible.

Chance - I'm up to try anything based on Kem Nunn source material and got through the first season of Chance in a quick. Not really sure how it's going to hold up as a continuing series - I hope it resists getting deep into melodrama and instead really lets Ethan Suplee off the chain for some full-dark violence. Maybe that's just me. Holy crap though, what a great character.

Fargo - The biggest turnaround from my initial 'oh, fuck you' reaction when I first heard the series announced to my desire to work an extra job if it'll keep Noah Hawley churning out these wonderful, self-contained (and expansive) seasons of weirdly specific regional awfulness. Awfully good.

Hap & Leonard - thank fuck somebody finally made the medium  match the authorial voice rather than distorted what makes the books so appealing to make it fit what you can and can't do on television. The pace ebbs and flows episode to episode, the codas get their very own unhurried episodes, space is made for seasonal ensembles to get fleshed out rather than sticking always with the heroes. To think we almost got a Hoke show too.

Happy Valley - even the use of a serial killer plot in the second season couldn't derail what was so strongly started in the first. Sarah Lancashire's Catherine Cawood is probably my favorite on-screen cop at this point. She's tough and smart and decent just as much as she's vulnerable, has huge blind spots and is as humanly fallible as the rest of us. No idea how many seasons this one could go, but I suspect the main story arc could be one of the all-time greats.

Narcos - huge ambition meets with timely execution to tell a recent-history story that is still playing out. Wherever it goes it ain't gonna be pretty. With the death of Pablo Escobar in season two season three looks to get out from under what many probably thought was the Pablo show the same way Deadwood really got going once Wild Bill got got. That's my hope anyhow. Really hasn't been anything like it on American TV before (I know, 'cause it's not TV). Also - that Cypress Hill cut in the S3 trailer fucking rules.

Ozark - one season in and I'm excited for what it could become. The opening episode I found excruciatingly intense and I don't expect (or want) any show to keep that level of intensity up all the time, but I'd say my interest dipped a bit in the middle before picking back up at the end of the season. Jury's out on the show's legacy, but I'd say despite the lopsidedness of the casts Ozark easily bests Bloodline for quality crime stuffs. (Not sure I can get it up to finish Bloodline with a single season to go - lemme know if you think it's worth it).

Peaky Blinders - Steven Knight's period drama gets shat on for many of the reasons I most enjoy it - the top-down ultra stylized historical look including costumes, editing and anachronistic music cues - but it's consistently delivering the thrills and tragedy of criminal lifestyles in pursuit of the ultimate corrupt pursuit - legitimate business.

True Detective - In the last month I've rewatched both seasons and dug both even more than before especially in relation to each other. Cop show? Baaaarely. Crime show? Absolutely. Hardcore criminality mixed with surreal, hyper-reality flare and outrageous characters too weird not to feel authentic. I hope the resurrection rumors are true and they keep this shit up. David Milch coming aboard for S3? Hey, I'm all for it, but huge props to Nic Pizzolatto for what's already been delivered. Nothing left to prove, sir.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Where's the Brief? The Escape

The Escape - d: Neill Blomkamp w: Neill Blomkamp, David Carter - After too long a hiatus Clive Owen is back as The Driver in a new BMW commercial. This time Neill Blomkamp puts his eye for near-future sci-fi hardware to use in an extended chase sequence not bogged down by homage to Short Circuit. On the down side - no Hugh Jackman haircut.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Where's the Brief? When Susurrus Stirs

When Susurrus Stirs - d: Anthony Cousins w: Jeremy Robert Johnson Yeah, not exactly a crime short, but noirish? Maybe in its surrender. Horrific? Definitely. Some David Cronenberg-level body horror here. Some Glenn Gray shit.

Based on the short story of the same title by Jeremy Robert Johnson - you can read it in Entropy in Bloom. Watch the movie pictures here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ka-Boom

With Atomic Blonde dropping this weekend I think it's safe to call 2017 a standout year for high-gloss action flick fare that deserves art-house respect. Stuntmen turned producer/directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch brought John Wick to the world in 2014, but it was only a primer for this year's double-whammy of John Wick Chapter 2 (directed by Stahelski) and Atomic Blonde (directed by Leitch) both of which up the visuals beyond terrific stunt work with statuesque Charlize Theron strutting through Blonde's 80's neon grit-lit Berlin and chapter two of Wick's on-the-nose action finale set in an actual art house where Keanu Reeves turns the walls into his canvas and paints them red before moving on to possibly the greatest house of mirrors sequence since Orson Welles' Lady From Shanghai.

It gets psychedelic.

Knee caps and arm sockets aren't the only things popping in these flicks either. The editing, the fluidity of motion and sound is top-tier shit. The music - from the 1980s new wave pop of Atomic Blonde to the pulsing dance soundtrack of the John Wick flicks - is music to murder with a boner by (probably best used in the Red Circle sequence from JW chapter one).

John Wick Red Circle sequence
Imagine the demon dance club scene from Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon, but with gun-fu. Fuuuuuuck yes.

Now imagine Winding Refn's Drive or Only God Forgives only determined to deliver on genre goods, rather than subvert tropes. We've got fucking amazing artists making action flicks right now.

Y'know what else gets mentioned here? Edgar Wright's Baby Driver. This time out Wright isn't sending up a genre either - he's out to make a shining example of an action/crime flick instead of a parody. Which doesn't mean he isn't having fun. Baby Driver is as effervescent as soda pop and sticky-sweet to boot.

John Wick, Atomic Blonde and Baby Driver go for different tones, but they are essentially the same thing - super hero movies dressed up as crime flicks. They're about people so good at their jobs (hitman, spy, getaway driver) there's never any suspense about their ability to beat the odds they're up against. They're all flash and sizzle, rhythm and attitude. They're deep as a puddle, but damn, if you work up enough speed you can have a lot of fun gliding across the frozen surface.

Yeah, if all the crime flicks coming out were in this vein I'd get sick of 'em pretty quick, but when they're operating on the level these are you're damn right I'm going to enjoy the shit out of them and I suggest you do too.

Here are the mirror sequences for your back to back appreciation and comparison.

Lady From Shanghai
John Wick Chapter 2

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Brief History of My Gun: CriMemoir by Earl Javorsky

Today Earl Javorsky delivers a helluva CriMemoir piece you'll wanna brace yourself for. Seriously, sometimes I write back to contributors to make sure they're cool with this getting out into the world and Earl? He's good.

Give it a read and then check out his books Down Solo and Trust Me. Trust me, this piece'll whet your appetite.

A Brief History of My Gun
by Earl Javorsky

Jennifer was a piece of work. She was my connection’s girlfriend. Jim was the guy that got the ergotamine tartrate from Czechoslovakia, found the chemist in Ann Arbor, and had the tabbing machine in Woodland Hills. Best damn LSD in the ’70s. I would buy it in crystal form—four thousand hits to the gram—and turn it into pyramid-shaped windowpanes. Green for Connecticut. Red for Australia. Blue for LA. We made a lot of money.
 
One night I was supposed to have dinner at their house on the beach in Malibu. I lived nearby, up in one of the canyons. Jim called me and said Jennifer was at the Topanga market, buying food. He said she was running late but come over anyway.
 
It was late dusk, August, and muggy out. Northbound traffic was still heavy, but I was going the other way. About a mile from the house, I noticed a car in the dirt lane between the northbound lane and the dirt cliff that looms above it. I wasn’t sure, but it looked like Jim’s El Camino. I hadn’t seen it more than a few times—it belonged to his gallery at the MGM Grand in Vegas—but it had a distinctive look with its flatbed and its two-tone paint job. I did a U-turn and doubled back.

The El Camino’s lights were on. There was movement in the cab when I pulled up behind it. Something didn’t check out, but there was no reason Jennifer would be here; the location was past her house if she was coming back from Topanga. I got out of my car.
 
The El Camino’s windows were fogged. A kid was in the driver’s seat; I knocked on the window and he rolled it down. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he and his girlfriend  were having “a little, uh, you know.” I said, “No, I don’t know, can you come out here for a moment?” And he did. Surfy looking kid, about nineteen, stocky, a bit sweaty, standing there between me and the door. I caught a glimpse of someone seemingly passed out on the bench seat.
 
I told him I was sorry to bother him, but the car looked like my friend’s car. He said, “No, I’ve had this car since I got my license.” I said, “Is your girlfriend okay?” and he said, “Yeah, she took a couple of reds, I gotta get her home.” Kept his cool, he did. I sensed something was off, but couldn’t pin it down.

I told him I lived right up the street and would be checking him out, then I got back in my car and went to Jim’s. When I told him what happened he shrugged and said, “There’s lots of cars like that.” I said, “Just check your registration.”
 
Jim went to a back room and a minute later came charging out with his car keys and a shotgun. We jammed up the PCH in his 450SL and skidded to a stop behind the El Camino. The door was open, the kid was gone, and Jennifer stumbled out, her face bruised and bleeding. She had been beaten and raped. Jim ran up the now-quiet highway in the dark with the shotgun, as if to catch the kid, or reverse time, or just rage at the universe.
 
Malibu Sheriff pulled up. They took my report and called an ambulance for Jennifer. Nobody asked about the shotgun, which later turned out to have been stolen from a Highway Patrol car.

Jim and I went back to his place and started drinking. Or resumed drinking, who knows? Wondering why the kid was in the driver’s seat. Why there were no groceries. Why there, on the Pacific Coast Highway, in late rush-hour traffic? And where was the kid from? Local? The Valley?
 
Later that night, while Jim ranted about hunting down the little fuck and killing him, it occurred to me that I had told the kid I lived nearby and that he had seen my car, an older Mercedes grey-market import with an odd plastic cover over the sunroof—you could spot it from a mile away. And I was the guy that could put him away for a few years.

So the next day I went to a gun shop. I didn’t take long deciding; I pretty much went straight for the Walther P38K, mainly for its don’t-fuck-with-me look and manageable size.
 
A basement ran the length of the house I was renting. One night, loaded, I took the gun down there and fired at a paper bull’s eye someone had left on the far wall. It was a concrete wall, and the bullet bounced off and zinged toward where I was standing next to the water heater. That was the only time I ever shot the damned thing. I did aim it at a few people, highly intoxicated. Talk about an idiot with a gun.
 
I didn’t know that Jim had a heroin problem. It was early in my career in the chemical entertainment industry, and I couldn’t recognize the signs. One time, we flew to Europe on business: New York, London, Paris, and then Geneva. From there, we drove to Bern. On the flight to London, I came back from the bathroom to find Jim unconscious. He stayed that way for most of the flight. He claimed that he had had trouble pulling off his Tony Lamas and that when his foot finally came out his knee jerked up, hit him in the forehead, and knocked him out.
 
A few days after I arrived home, I got a call from a hotel manager in Milan, asking me to wire money for Jim’s bill. Apparently, Jim had nodded out in the bath and caught pneumonia when the water turned cold. He had run out of cash and was too sick to travel.

Some months went by. One day Jennifer called, hysterical, and told me that Jim had put a bullet in his brain. About a week later, I got a call from the cops, asking me to come to the station. When I got there, they gave me a manila envelope. The Walther was in it, and at the bottom, wedged in the corner, was a misshapen slug with visible organic matter stuck to it. I asked the officer why they were giving that to me and he said, “Well, it’s your property, isn’t it?
 
Years later, when things had turned really ugly, I got popped in a coke bust. The cops said I was reaching for the gun when they blasted through the door, which was a serious crock of shit. This time, they didn’t give it back.

Earl Javorsky is a writer, editor, and proofreader in San Diego. His novels include Down Solo and Trust Me. A sequel to Down Solo is due for release in September. For more, go to www.earljavorsky.com.