DID YOU READ

“Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja,” Reviewed

“Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja,” Reviewed (photo)

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With “Cocaine Cowboys,” filmmaker Billy Corben simultaneously told the story of the South Florida drug trade of the 1970s and replicated some of the scene’s live-wire energy with twitchy editing and frenetic pacing. He didn’t just tell you what ’70s Miami was like; he gave you a tate of what it felt like too. Corben’s new film, “Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja,” takes a similar approach to South Florida’s pot smuggling trade of the same period. But in this case, Corben may have replicated his subject’s pharmaceutical effects a little too well. I’ve heard of movies for potheads; “Square Grouper” is movie as pothead: mellow, genial, and a little sleepy.

“Cowboys” weaved a massive tapestry of crime and vice across two continents, but “Square Grouper” is a small-scale anthology, three different stories of high times in the Florida lowlands. In the first and best segment, the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church combines intensely conservative religious beliefs with intensely liberal marijuana smoking. In the second, the “Black Tuna Gang” takes over Miami Beach with bold smuggling techniques. In the third, the residents of tiny Everglades City turns to ferrying marijuana to supplement their income after the government turned the waters around their fishing village into a protected national park. There’s no character crossover, unless you count the pot itself, which is smuggled into the country by boat or plane in giant bales known as “square grouper” because they became a common sight in the waters around South Florida when they were dumped out of planes or tossed overboard by cargo boats worried about police searches. The arc of each story is basically the same: some folks start bringing weed into the country, experience phenomenal financial success, attract the attention of the media and law enforcement, and are undone by their reckless greed and high-profile spending.

Corben is a terrific interviewer and his approach to the talking heads in “Square Grouper” — long, slow, gliding tracking shots — perfectly matches his subjects’ weedy, easy-going vibe. His storytelling reminds me a little of David Simon’s in the TV series “The Wire:” he examines his true crime stories from every perspective, from the crooks to the cops to the journalists who covered the story. Corben combines and congeals all the different threads together effortlessly but his technique’s at the mercy of his subjects, and in “Square Grouper,” most of them just aren’t all that memorable. There’s no Griselda Blanco, the psychopathic “Black Widow” of Medellin Cartel, or Jon Roberts and Mickey Munday, brilliant smugglers who had so much money they had to start burying it in their neighbors’ yards.

The Floridians of “Square Grouper” are decidedly more working class than the ones in “Cocaine Cowboys,” which makes it both a more and less interesting film. More because their struggles are immediately relatable, particularly in today’s economic climate, and less because their anecdotes lack “Cocaine Cowboys”‘ craziness. The lesson, I guess, is that there isn’t anything inherently cinematic about illegal activities. You still need great characters and stories. Drugs are plentiful in “Square Grouper” but truly compelling people and moments are in short supply.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.

via GIPHY

It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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