Re: RARA-AVIS: Ice harvest

From: Terrill Lankford (
Date: 13 Dec 2005

-----Original Message----- From: Byron Roye <> Sent: Dec 12, 2005 9:01 PM To: "" <> Subject: RARA-AVIS: Ice harvest

I Finally saw Ice Harvest in the movie house and I was disappointed, not greatly disappointed but It was not worth the 8.50 per ticket I spent to see it. I hurts me that there are so many movies that are essentially B-movies that I would enjoy for what are, programmers to fill out a bill. But when those movies are billed as A-movies and are charging a full fare it hard to take. I realize that the economy of movie making is such that it can not support that type of distribution model. But it made it easier for the movie viewer to see many more minor movies that they would otherwise not see. I imagine that Straight-to-Video and cable provides that function today.

Back to the Ice Harvest, the movie and the book. I found the changes that were made in the movie were a drawback. By not setting the movie in the time period of the book which I believe was the early 70's created some problems. The first is that cell phones were not that prevalent and they would have easily eliminated the miscues and miscommunications between the characters. The whole Porno Titty bar angle seems anachronistic for the current time. Not that some Porno shops are still around but by far most of Porno sales are conducted via the internet. And most Titty bar if there are not upscale pretend to be. There both were sleazily appropriate for 1970's rather than now.

As I was reading the Ice Harvest I must admit that the structure for me was odd. The first two thirds of the novel was just a series of disjointed meetings, missed opportunities and one bacchanal after another in the middle of a Midwestern ice storm. If I did know that there was a crime involved from this listserve I would have mistook the novel for another Pointless New Yorker short story and given up on it. The details of how the two partners pulled off the heist is never given. I think that the ending of the novel is better if only because it promises a better follow on novel.

Wow. After almost ten years on rara-avis, I have to say this post is packed with more statements and ideas that I disagree with than any five posts I've ever seen here.

I saw THE ICE HARVEST last night and thought it was a very good, character driven comedy thriller. The kind of movie we don't get to see much of any more. Modest filmmaking with good writing, acting, and directing. If not being a blockbuster makes this a "B" movie (a term that doesn't even exist in the same form for which it was invented - B movies were originally the second half of a double bill), then this is a great B movie. (Which I will take any day over a crappy "A" movie.)

The book is one of my favorites of the last ten years. Frankly, as much as I love Scott Phillips and everything he writes, the first two thirds of the book - the "disjointed meetings, missed opportunities and one bacchanal after another" - made that book special, not just another by-the-numbers neo-noir exercise. The last third, while executed brilliantly, covered very familiar ground. Handled more conventionally, I doubt that book would have found the acclaim that it did. It was nominated for every single mystery prize for which it was eligible. And it WON the California Book Award.

The filmmakers behind ICE HARVEST concentrated on the thriller aspects of the novel, but infused the movie with enough of the loose, funky feel of the first part of the book to pack the structure with some interesting asides - which actually tied in quite brilliantly to their new ending. For the record, the filmmakers shot the book's ending and discarded it when it was universally hated by the test audiences. (Look for it on the Special Edition DVD.) I generally get queasy when moviemakers cater to the test cards, but I have to say that the new ending felt right to me - and even made me smile (you have no idea what a big accomplishment that is). I think it works for this movie. Even the novel's author, Scott Phillips, approves of the new ending.

A reviewer somewhere recently pointed out that this is the kind of movie we don't get to see enough of anymore - modestly budgeted, character driven fare. I completely agree. Certainly better than "Straight-to-Video" product. Was it better than the book? No way. But that would have been a very difficult task to pull off. It would have required a closer adherence to the book's structure and a far less sympathetic actor than Cusack in the lead. And the resulting movie probably would have played six art houses across the land and then been buried on cable, so I understand why the filmmakers made MOST of the choices they made. It's not perfect, but still, I'm glad they made this movie. It's unfortunate that anyone has to pay $8.50 to see ANY movie nowadays, but I feel like I got good value for the dollar, which is not how I usually feel after a trip to the movie house - even when I'm seeing one of those big "A" movies.

I've got two words that might soften the blow for Byron in the future: "Bargain Matinee."

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 13 Dec 2005 EST