Saturday, April 14, 2018

Podcast: Interview with Robert Leuci (1985)

NYPD detective and novelist Robert Leuci, aka "Prince of the City." (Photo by Don Hogan Charles/New York Times)

From 1981 to 1989, I was assistant producer and co-host of the radio show On the Arts, at CJRT-FM (today Jazz 91.1) in Toronto. With the late Tom Fulton, who was the show's prime host and producer, we did a half-hour interview program where we talked to writers and artists from all fields. In 1985, I sat down with former New York City police detective and novelist Robert "Bob" Leuci.

A police officer for the NYPD (working alongside officers like Frank Serpico), Leuci rose to national attention after becoming an informer for widespread investigation into police corruption in 1971. His controversial role in that investigation was documented in Robert Daley's 1978 book Prince of the City, which was later adapted into Sidney Lumet's 1981 film of the same name. (In the film, Treat Williams plays a fictionalized version of Leuci.) At the time of our conversation, Leuci had retired from the NYPD and had just published his first novel, Doyle's Disciples. He would publish seven more novels in the years to come, as well as a critically acclaimed 2004 memoir, All the Centurions, which chronicled his two decades as a narcotics detective. Robert Leuci passed away in 2015 at the age of 75.

– Kevin Courrier

Here is the full interview with Robert Leuci as it aired on CJRT-FM in 1985.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Assassination of Art Nuko by the Curator John O’Brian

Cruising down the Rideau in Ottawa by Carl Chaplin.

We are pleased to welcome a new critic, Kirk Tougas, to our group.

Obviously an exaggeration, but a Vancouver artist has been "disappeared" by guest curator John O’Brian in BOMBHEAD at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Rephrased, perhaps an alternate title could be Shadowboxing with History: How Curators Can Erase Artists, but between erasure and assassination, let’s settle on the latter.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Jaegermeisters – Pacific Rim: Uprising

Jaegers charge into battle in Pacific Rim: Uprising.

I have no cynicism in my heart for a film like Pacific Rim. Unlike most movies – even those that aren’t city-smashing kaiju-mecha blockbusters – it knows exactly what it is and what it aims to achieve, and does so with gleeful enthusiasm. It’s hard for that enthusiasm not to rub off on you as yet another one of Guillermo del Toro’s twisted fantasies splashes across the screen like a meteor of colour and violence, and even without del Toro’s direct involvement, a sequel set in the world he established in 2013 is a welcome addition to cineplexes trapped in the late-winter doldrums.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Quiet Place: Never Let Up

(from left) Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds and John Krasinski in A Quiet Place.

In the wittily titled post-apocalyptic horror picture A Quiet Place, most of humankind has been wiped out by blind monsters, fitted out with terrifying incisors and highly developed ears, that prey on anything they can hear. (These imaginatively designed creatures are the brainchild of animator Alberto Martínez Arce.) The focus of the screenplay by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and director John Krasinski is the Abbott family, who have managed to survive by living a silent existence in their house at the edge of the woods and foraging there and in deserted stores during the day. They haven’t completely evaded the monsters: one killed the youngest Abbott child when he couldn’t resist trying out a battery-operated airplane he’d found in the Walmart toy department. Since then Lee (Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), their daughter Regan (played by the talented young deaf actress Millicent Simonds, who was Rose, the little girl in Wonderstruck) and their son Marcus (Noah Jupe) have managed to steer clear of them, complying with the complicated procedures and warning systems Lee, a technology expert (the film doesn’t identify his actual profession), has put in place, while he spends part of every day in the basement, trying to locate other survivors and working on a hearing device for his daughter. Regan is very smart and has begun to rebel against her parents’ dictates, which, of course, increases the already heightened menace. She also feels responsible for her younger brother’s death – she gave the airplane to him, not realizing he would pocket the batteries as well – and is sure that Lee blames her.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mirror Mania: 68 and 18

Memphis March, Beale Street (Memphis, Tennessee, March 29, 1968).

“History may not repeat itself but it often rhymes.” – Samuel Clemens (supposedly)

“Now if 6 turned out to be 9, I don't mind . . . ” – Jimi Hendrix (definitely)
I know, it seems hauntingly familiar to me too: the year 1968 and its warped twin brother, 2018, appear to be the weird mirror images of something both good and bad at the same time. Like Chuck Dickens once almost said, it was the best of times and it is the worst of times. 1968 was already, all by itself, a totally paradoxical blend of the best that humanity was capable of as it faced a hopeful future and the worst it was still saddled with as it dragged its ragged past forward. Two images in particular sum up for me the bizarre irony of the state of Western civilization in that magical year, and because I suspect everything that occurs to us is the result of our own binary fixations and polarities, such dueling images often encapsulate our condition with woeful accuracy.

If the 20th century could stand up and walk into a psychiatrist’s office, lie down and describe its dreams, what would be the best way to determine its obvious neuroses and even its underlying psychoses? We might ask the 20th century, once it settles down on the couch, which might take a while considering how restive it was: by the way, whatever happened to beauty and harmony, what has become of some semblance of an orderly consensus on what constitutes truth or reality? Why does the contemporary world look and sound so strangely off-kilter, so inordinately stressed out and so . . . discombobulated? How could “we” be so advanced that we actually traveled to the moon and yet be so primitive that we still harboured mind-boggling racial hatreds?

Monday, April 9, 2018

Three Tall Women and Anna Christie: Pulitzer Prize Winners

Glenda Jackson, Alison Pill and Laurie Metcalf in Three Tall Women. (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe)

Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994, but the original production was off Broadway (at the Vineyard Theatre), and until Joe Mantello’s luminous new revival with Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill – in the roles created by Myra Carter, Marian Seldes and Jordan Baker – it has never been performed on Broadway. I saw the Vineyard show and liked it quite a bit, though I remember finding the writing in the second act rather theoretical and pre-arranged. In act one the three characters – one in her early nineties, one in her early fifties, and one in her late twenties – have specific, realist roles, despite the fact that Albee calls them A, B and C. A is a wealthy, fading widow, estranged until recently from her son, incontinent and subject to sudden tantrums, childlike behaviors and episodes of dementia. B is her caregiver, whose mordant humor buoys up her worn patience with A’s erratic conduct. C is an emissary from A’s lawyer’s office, summoned because C’s affairs are in deplorable order. But in act two the old woman has had a stroke and lies unconscious in her bed while A, B and C embody her as an ingénue, as middle-aged and as a dowager, the two older women warning the youngest one, with a mixture of wisdom and perhaps a little sadistic glee, what she’s in for.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

A Spy in the Family: Karen Cleveland’s Need to Know

 Karen Cleveland, author of Need to Know (Photo: Jessica Scharpf)

“If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” – E. M. Forster, "What I Believe" (1938)
I thought of E. M. Forster's controversial dictum while reading Karen Cleveland’s fast-paced and engrossing spy thriller, Need to Know (Doubleday Canada, 2018). In this instance, however, husband substitutes for "friend." Vivian Miller, a counterintelligence analyst for the CIA in Washington, has developed an algorithm which will enable her department to identify Russian sleepers. But she is plunged into a serious crisis when secretly navigating through the hacked computer of a mid-level Russian handler. Initially, she's thrilled to discover photographs of five agents until she realizes that one of the faces is that of her husband, Matt. At that moment, her world begins to spin out of control.