Arkansas: Filmology With Spoken Nerd

“I don’t care about America. I care about listening to the St. Louis Cardinals on the Radio” – Frog

The directorial debut from actor, comedian and Arkansas native, Clarke Duke explores the Southern Noir genre with a spectacular cast and a soundtrack from The Flaming Lips that packs nostalgia and style. With Liam Hemsworth playing the silent criminal, and Duke himself as the Zack Galafanakis-like comedic sidekick, the crime thriller is palatable for a wide audience. At first glance of the trailer I was reminded of the 1998 crime comedy, Clay Pigeons as both films feature Vince Vaughn, however, Arkansas is the lighter side of dark comedy.

As a person who has spent the majority of my life in the south, I appreciate the way that the characters were portrayed in Arkansas. While the story dealt with some seriousness, this was no call for a Faulkner-esque pretentiousness. Although the comedy goes down easy, it doesn’t lend itself to the ranks of hee-haw or country bumpkin stereotypes. Vince Vaughn plays a drug dealer at the top of his Ponzi who is unapologetically known as “Frog,” John Malkovich is “Bright”, a drug trafficker with a cover as a park ranger and a key part of Frog’s organization. Malkovich and Vaughn embody the bible belt with these roles so perfectly that I was reminded of some of my Dad’s friends from the town I grew up in. It is no wonder that this story resonates so strongly as it is based on a book by the Flannery O’ Conner inspired novelist, John Bradnon.

The first thing I did after finishing this movie was to attempt to locate a vinyl pressing of the soundtrack. The song selection played like a mixtape of the music I listened to with my family on fishing trips or on my way to swimming holes as a kid. When my hometown’s anthem, ‘Country Boy Can Survive’ performed by The Flaming Lips hit our sound system, I was floored. I actually spent a portion of my viewing trying to figure out who the singer sounded like when I finally said to my wife, “He sounds like Wayne Coyne”. Upon my google search, I discovered I was right. The score was awesome as well and appropriately referred to as Jailhouse Morricone.

I was impressed with Arkansas as an indie film and a directorial debut. Duke’s money was spent wisely with Malkovich and Vaughn. I was initially apprehensive about Liam Hemsworth, but by the end of the movie, I was sold. My palate has been impacted as I have renewed my interest in The Flaming Lips, I am nostalgic for St. Louis Cardinals baseball, and I have a strange urge to visit a state park. I also look forward to reading some of John Bradon’s novels. I would recommend this film to anyone. 

About Nathan Conrad:

He’s best known as the Nashville based Hip Hop/Indie Pop emcee Spoken Nerd, but this isn’t your typical rap project. He rhymes playfully at times, while sometimes playfully singing and/or rapping, he juxtaposes his style with real-life situations and subject matter. With six full-length albums into his career, the rapper has built a healthy catalog of music, which doesn’t include the number of EPs and singles released.