Watched Journal: February 2022
David Fincher's Zodiac, which premiered 15 years ago this February, is one of my all time favorite films and one of the best 'rewatchables.' To me, it is Fincher's greatest achievement, where a meticulous filmmaker meets his match in a tale of obsession. In telling the story of the hunt for the Zodiac killer, Fincher pays tribute to the paranoid style of '70's cinema, from David Shire's dread inducing score to the blending of Dirty Harry and All The President's Men as we follow Inspector Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) down the rabbit hole.
While the film posthumously convicts Toschi's favorite suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen (chillingly portrayed by John Carrol Lynch), in truth there is much doubt as to whether he was the actual Zodiac. On a recent episode of the Bret Easton Ellis Podcast, writer Jarret Kobek argues that Allen was not the killer (just a creep) and that he unintentionally stumbled upon a very convincing suspect: Paul Doerr. After listening to the interview, I popped my Zodiac Blu-ray in that evening. Once again, I was captivated by Fincher's masterpiece, just like I was the first time I watched it at the Birmingham 8 in 2007. But this time I was struck by one particular scene in Graysmith's home where a poster of Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Wrong Man' is displayed on the wall.
This obsession to nail the perpetrators of a crime is also portrayed very well in the under-seen procedural City of Lies starring Johnny Depp as LAPD detective Russell Poole, who was driven to madness in trying to solve the murder of Biggie Smalls. The unsolved murders of 2Pac and Biggie have contributed to a mountain of documentaries, books, television series and films. These crimes, like the Zodiac Killer case, have many compelling suspects but no convictions. And the more you learn, the less certain you become. Across many of these cases one common theme is that the killer narrowly escapes for a myriad of reasons: oversight, corruption, luck, antiquated procedures.
The true crime documentary series Children of Snow highlights a case that encapsulates all of the reasons killers get away. During the 1970s, in the outskirts of Detroit, a serial killer known as the Oakland County Child Killer (OCCK) abducted children off the seemingly safe suburban streets. The bodies were dumped shortly thereafter, leaving parents terrified that their children could be the next victims. Children of the Snow taps into the potential grand conspiracy at play in the OCCK case, with connections to pedophile rings and the ruling, elite class who preyed on victims at North Fox Island in what could be a precursor to Jeffrey Epstein's operation. The case remains "open and active."
The grand daddy of all conspiracies is the assassination of JFK, where most modern polls demonstrate that Americans don't believe the official story of lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald. In the second film of his 'paranoid trilogy', Alan J. Pakula's The Parallax View takes us behind the curtain and into the actual conspiracy, demonstrating just how insidious these forces can be. We follow reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) as he investigates the Parallax Corporation, a shadowy outfit that he believes he has successfully infiltrated to uncover their role behind political assassinations. What Frady doesn't realize is that they are setting him up to be the next patsy.
Like Zodiac, The Parallax View is one of my all time favorites and an incredible 'rewatchable' of its own. I always find new appreciation for Gordon Willis' masterful cinematography and Michael Small's haunting score and the way Pakula spins and lets loose Beatty's character, a man who doesn't realize he is being strung along until it's too late. Imprint's new Blu-ray sports the same meticulous transfer used by the Criterion Collection version, but features some ace special features including an excellent commentary track by podcaster Blake Howard. There are favorite films that I watch at least once a year and have multiple versions of, with The Parallax View being one of them.
What I watched in February:
2-2: Striking Distance [Hulu]
2-4: A Streetcar Named Desire [HBO]
2-8: The Parallax View [Blu-ray - Imprint]
2-9: The Verdict [TCM], The Drowning Pool [HBO]
2-12: The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021) [HBO], The Kingmaker [Showtime]
2-13: Drunken Master II [Blu-ray, Warner Archive]
2-14: The Way We Were [TCM], The Last of Sheila [Blu-ray, Warner Archive]
2-16: Light Sleeper [Criterion]
2-18: City of Lies [Amazon]
2-19: The Farmer (1977) [Blu-ray - Scorpion]
2-20: In The Heat of The Night [TCM]
2-22: Freebie and the Bean [Blu-ray - Warner Archive]
2-23: Children of the Snow [Hulu]
2-27: Zodiac [Blu-ray], Hairspray (1988) [Blu-ray]