Monday, December 29, 2008
The first time I read Blood Meridian I got lost. I think a better word actually is overwhelmed. I hadn't read prose like that since my last foray through Middle Earth, only this time instead of hooming Ents and galloping wizards it was scalped natives with sun dried bones and slaughtered babies hanging from trees by their ankles. I loved the book but it caught me off guard and therefore was a bit tough to chew on, and that comes from a dude who digests graphic violence like kettle corn. Salty and sweet? "Woot" I say.
When it was first recommended to me my buddy said "This is the most violent book that has ever been written." I never categorized him as one to fib, but he could spin quite a yarn. Liar: no. Exaggerator: yes. Regardless of the level and potency of said violence, it had been writ to the menu. I brought my bib. But while I was fully equipped to put my brain through the mental meat grinder, what I wasn't expecting was the beautiful and eloquent delivery of such a horrifying story. Imagine Mary Poppins narrating The Road Warrior.
The second time I read Blood Meridian I was ready for it, and loved it even more. Long story short it's one of the best books I've read as an adult and despite the lack of any morality, hero, or other general goodness whatsoever I still connected to it on a level one can only describe as special. I still think about it daily. It's my new water mark, my Michael Jordan, My Sgt Pepper. Every book I read for the rest of my life will be compared to this one until it is dethroned and sent to the catacombs of lesser diction, not an event I see happening any time soon.
However, this post is not about "books" or "reading" or "smartness", it is about movies, because according to rumors painted true there is a Blood Meridian film in production. I have to come right out and say that it is completely impossible to accurately portray this story. It will change, probably very dramatically, in being imported to the film medium. As stated above there is no protagonist, there is no morality, there is no uplifting ending, there are no lessons learned or wrongs righted, or any other Hollywood film staple. There is only pain. The story follows a group of scalp hunters in the early years of America's development who ride through 'the west' in a literal path of destruction, slaughtering and destroying everything they come across. They murder, kill, rape, steal, kill, violate, murder, fornicate, rape, pilfer, pillage, destroy, kill, and massacre every-fucking-thing in their path without so much as a single "oops" or "sorry about that." You are disgusted with the characters for the entirety of the story, yet somehow you keep reading like the words are a trail of cookie crumbs. The only somewhat neutral character is Judge Holden, who is just as much an instrument of chaos as he is a balancing mechanism for the abandon with which the gang behaves. I'll spare you all the "Cliff's Notes", but the point I'm trying to make is clear: Using the Hollywood sheen on this story will not do it justice, and there is little to no room for compromise.
From what I hear a lot of people said the same thing about No Country For Old Men, and clearly the Cohens pulled that off like it was effing Fargo 2. But NCFOM was a much different story with a plot one could sympathize with and characters that could be seen in a positive light. Who wouldn't try to run with all that drug money? All of us can connect to that excited fantasy of happening across a shit fuck ton of money that has no rightful owner, making one's early retirement a mere address change away.
Ridley Scott was originally slated as the director for this, to which I heartily shrug. Yeah, Alien was good. So was Blade Runner, but after seeing American Gangster I pretty much wrote Scott off my "I care about this" list. Unless he was going to dress up Ruby Dee in cowboy boots and a neclace of dried Indain ears then he could get bent. But in a surprising display of wisdom, especially considering the success of McCarthy's material with No Country and the soon to arrive The Road, he apparently hates money and so backed out of the project. He was quoted saying the following just before officially withdrawing as director:
"It's written. I think it's a really tricky one, and maybe it's something that should be left as a novel. If you're going to do Blood Meridian you've got to go the whole nine yards into the blood bath, and there's no answer to the blood bath, that's part of the story, just the way it is and the way it was."
Cheers Mr. Scott. You are close to a pardon for American Gangster, although judging by the synopsis of Nottingham I will most likely be choking on these words this time next year.
So now we have Todd Field slated to direct the film. Who is Todd Field? You don't know, right? I don't know either. Todd fucking Field is a no name, bit actor, with about as much directing experience as I have from an afternoon with a digital camera, my cat, and a laptop. Todd Field has to be stoked. Todd Field is about to make my ever lengthening shit list with a fucking vengance... and a couple million dollars... for ruining art... real art... not a "painting of blue" or "poem about sex" "art"... but fucking art!
heh... butt fucking art.
So without further hatred slinging, I will meander to the point of this post: My picks for Blood Meridian cast and crew. Based on my own outlandishly narrow minded and jaded opinions of films and their participants, here is what I would consider the best bet to getting as close as possible to an honest portrayal of McCarthy's hell ride through the desert.
PRODUCER - Mel fucking Gibson
The movie is going to need people at the helm who aren't worried about showing too much violence or grossing out the audience. Few directors/producers have showed such a hearty commitment, nay, dedication to painting the screen red with drippy gibs than Mel Gibson. I still stand behind Passion of the Christ as an awesome movie, and I hate Jesus! That is the level this movie needs to be at in the violence department. No apologies and no consideration for the weak of stomach. A few authors consider McCarthy insane, and we all know Mel Gibson is bat shit, so this will totally work.
DIRECTOR - Werner Herzog
Gibson isn't allowed to direct because while he enjoys a good cerebral fountain of gore with his $9 ticket, he has too much bravado and is far too showy with his movie presentations. The story needs a director who can keep the film grounded, grim, and keep the Hollywood glitter to a non-existant minimum. Herzog is the man for the job, the key bullet point on his resume' being Aguirre: The Wrath of God. A pacing and delivery similar to that film would be perfect for Blood Meridian.
JUDGE HOLDEN - Gene Hackman
When I first pondered who might play the crucial role of The Judge, Gene Hackman briefly fluttered into my mind and I rejected it with flame and shield. The more I think about him though, the more I think he'd actually make the role seem real and not so super natural. In the book, The Judge almost comes off as omniscient or super human, and having Hackman take the role I really think he could convey that sense of power with the body and voice of a mortal. Not only that but he's a practical actor, he isn't going to over act the part or try and make it into something it isn't. He can take a character as exaggerated and large as The Judge, and make him exist as a real person within the period the story takes place. Plus it'd be awesome to see him dressed up like a hairless, naked albino.
THE KID - That skinny guy from 3:10 to Yuma
This role needs someone with a "look", rather than actual acting skills. The Kid has almost zero dialogue but is a central part to the story. Ben Foster has the right image for this part, and he's actually not that bad an actor either.
JOHN GLANTON - Kurt Russel
Glanton needs to be played by someone who can be an alcoholic hurricane, a drunk with zero conscience who completely allows his rage to drive him. I almost wanted to say Mickey Rourke but his face is out of control. I almost stopped at Michael Madsen, but he's a bit too "cool" for the part. Kurt Russel! And not Tombstone Kurt Russel, but R.J. MacCready, Stuntman Mike, fucking Snake Plisskin Kurt Russel.
TOADVINE - Sam Rockwell
Toadvine is a fucking scarred maniac. I can't remember any specific roles but for some reason Sam Rockwell stands out as being completely insane in a lot of movies (and no, I'm not thinking of Green Mile, asshole). I think he'd be awesome with no teeth, no ears, covered in mud and draped in scalps.
EX PRIEST TOBIN - Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Yeah yeah, I know everyone has a boner for the 'Hoff these days, but he pretty much already played this role in Cold Mountain.
THE IDIOT - Jack Black
I fucking hate Jack Black. Nothing would make me happier than to see him naked in a cage covered in his own shit... Goddammit, look at that asshole.
Posted by Jon at 2:41 PM