So I had seen the movie FAT CITY when it came out years ago and remember it as looking colorful, feeling dark and desperate, and kick ass acted (Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges and Susan Tyrell directed by John Huston). But I either didn't remember the book it was based on or never read it when my old friend Dale Herd gave me a copy of the new paperback edition a few days ago and said I should read it. So I did.
It's set in the late 1950s in Stockton, California, and was written by Leonard Gardner, who grew up there, and was first published in 1969 to great acclaim for it's depressing take on the world of lushes and SRO hotel occupants and basically the denizens of most skid rows back then, but the main milieu is the world of prize fighting, the lowest layer of that world.
It reads like the pulp fiction of that time but closer to the mastery of Elmore Leonard who wrote the book OUT OF SIGHT the movie is based on, which I caught on cable and am posting about for probably the third or fourth time since I started this blog, because every time I stumble across this caper flick on TV I can't stop watching it, it's so well constructed and directed (by Steven Soderbergh). It stars Jennifer Lopez at her most appealing and in her best role ever for my taste, and George Clooney, as he finally found his stride as the handsome charming bumbling n'er-do-well hero.
It's a classic to me because I always dig watching it. And then late tonight I caught a sci-fi flick (at least in that it has an attack by aliens) I'd read about and meant to catch when it came out last year ATTACK THE BLOCK. Set in a London working-class or out-of-work-class high rise which are called "blocks" (but are much nicer, at least in this flick, than comparable working and unable-to-find-work high rises in say Newark, called "projects" in the USA) a gang of mixed race, and mixed races, young teen boys fends off an attack by aliens in a story with some terrific twists, and a lot of engaging acting as well, even though some of the actors playing the teens are total newcomers with no previous acting experience.
I don't usually like these horror style sci-fi rampaging aliens flicks, but this one's so clever and fresh and successfully plotted and directed (by Joe Cornish who both wrote and directed it) it's another "classic"—i.e. a film I will be able to watch anytime and dig even though I know the ending. I don't want to see the movie of FAT CITY again, which Tyrell stole and now reading (or rereading) the novel I can see why, she brilliantly embodied the character from the novel in a way Bridges and Keach despite their acting chops could not.
The novel is violent and mostly depressing (and I believe shortchanges the kinds of poor and working people it's about to paint too bleak and hopeless a picture, for the most part) but the writing is so tight and quick and easy to register it moves along like each chapter is an old 45 record capturing the mood of a certain place and time in a way that somehow, despite the almost one dimensional characters, still brings that time and place to life and keeps you interested. Or it did me.
So, not bad for a few days of reading and viewing, three classics, in their various ways.