A Hobo Camp Interview with Gabriel Ricard

The whole camp is thrilled that Gabriel Ricard took the time to answer these questions. One of the most entertaining writers about movies out there, Gabe is also a poet, actor, and ferret tamer. Enjoy this little back and forth, and please seek out his columns and his books!

Hobo Camp Review: You’re a writer, poet, film critic, and an actor, which leaves me with a lot of possible ways to interrogate you, but since this is a movie-themed issue, let’s start out with the film critic part of your life. What’s the first movie you wrote a review of, and why that movie?

Gabriel Ricard: This is why I have archives of everything! I’m sure I had written a review for something before 2003, but I can’t remember, so we’re going with 2003. That’s when I wrote two sample columns for a series I pitched to Unlikely Stories and Jonathan Penton. He passed on the columns, the first of which reviewed Lost in Translation, but I still wound up staying there for almost a decade.

Why Lost in Translation? It was certainly one of my favorite movies at the time. Beautifully shot, well-acted, a career best for Bill Murray on the comeback trail. It also spoke I think very intently to my continued desire to travel. I’d still like to visit Japan sometime.

I still enjoy Lost in Translation, but the column was crap and rightfully rejected, and I think I’ve expanded on the person who liked that film in the first place. Unlikely Stories eventually started publishing my occasional movie reviews around 2004, 2005, so I didn’t have to wait very long to start getting them published.


HCR: I see you posting frequently about the movies you watch, from an early morning start sometimes and running late into the night. About how many movies do you watch any given week? Is there a process you use to pick which ones you watch or is it just shooting from the hip, based on what you feel day to day?

Gabriel Ricard: I don’t know if there’s a way to explain all of this without sounding absolutely unhinged. Let’s give it a shot!

I’ve always been able to watch stuff and work at the same time. It really just depends on what I’m watching and what I’m working on. Certain movies or types of movies require a different degree of concentration, so I have to keep in mind what I’m doing. I can watch almost anything and write my columns, for example, but if I’m working on something like a short story or a poem then I prefer something I’ve seen before, and can therefore treat as basically background noise, or I’ll just stick to music/podcasts.

On average, I’d say I watch around 15-20 movies a week. I’d say probably 10 of those for any given week are movies new to me. The reason why I can watch so many movies is because I literally don’t watch anything else. “Did you see that new show, Gabe?” Nope. I was watching movies.

I’ve actually been taking a little time off from movies to catch up on YouTube of all things. I’ve basically ignored YouTube for the past 10 years, so there’s been a lot of catching up on my end.

I do prefer marathons of themes, directors etc, if only to make choosing stuff a little earlier. I tend to pick one streaming service and just stay there all day.


HCR: Do you find yourself going back and rewatching the work of a particular actor or director, or are you trying to watch as many new films as possible?

Gabriel Ricard: I don’t go back as much as I used to, certainly not as much as I should. Having a wealth of choice is a blessing and a curse, I guess, because my “to watch” list is longer than any human being who isn’t Martin Scorsese might consider reasonable.

Luckily, a lot of stuff I write in my columns forces me to go back and rewatch movies. I’ve been also making more of an effort with that since the pandemic started, if only for an excuse to keep busy. I do like going back to certain actors or directors though. Especially favorites like John Carpenter or Yasujiro Ozu. It’s good for you, but I’m often swayed by the things I haven’t seen yet.


HCR: What’s the film review (or column series) that you’re most proud of, and why?

Gabriel Ricard: Well, I’m pretty freaking proud of Captain Canada’s Movie Rodeo at Drunk Monkeys passing its tenth consecutive year of publication. I never thought it would run this long. I’m just as proud of Make the Case at Cultured Vultures entering its 9th year. I think there’s something about tracing the evolution of myself as not only a writer and a film critic, but in terms of how I watch and engage with the media I choose, that really pleases me.

If I had to choose a specific column, I’d go with my recent 10th anniversary column for Captain Canada. It was a fun opportunity to look back on 120+ columns and the 600+ movies I’ve covered across that. I’m also pretty fond of my Martin Scorsese worst to best ranking for Make the Case. When Make the Case started, it was a focus on actors. Eventually, I expanded to include thematic concepts, directors, or whatever I felt like, and writing a long piece on one of my favorite filmmakers really convinced that I had made the right decision to take the column further.


HCR: You also write fiction and poetry. Which one came first, and which do you feel has had a greater impact on who you are as a person?

Gabriel Ricard: I started on fiction first, and I was pretty young, too. I really did decide around 12 years old that I wanted to write for a living. I didn’t really think about how that would work, but that’s what I decided, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 25 years. I wrote fan fiction until I was 17, 18 or so, and then I shifted full time to original fiction. Then I started writing poetry around that time because I met a poet who quite frankly took my breath away with her work. I fell hard for the writing in particular, and I found myself wanting to emulate her blunt, emotionally charged style.

At the end of the day, although I know I have way more poetry books out than fiction, I think I still have to say fiction has had the greatest impact on me. I wanted to publish a short story collection when I was 12 because I found writers like Raymond Carver and Flannery O’Connor, and just built this whole dumb romantic impression of being someone who traveled and wrote short stories for a living. That more or less worked out.

Short fiction in particular is still my favorite to meet a fictional character, or drop into a strange world just long enough to really appreciate what I’m experiencing.

HCR: So…the ferrets. Did you cycle through weasels, minks, mongeese (mongooses?), and meercats before landing on the ferret? Or did you also see the ferret in Kindergarten Cop and think, “That’s awesome, I want one of those!”

Gabriel Ricard: I grew up with dozens and dozens of animals. We never had ferrets, but my folks at different times have had or still have dogs, cats, horses, box turtles, tortoises, parrots, budgies, hedgehogs, chickens, geese, ponies, turkeys, hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, pythons, cobras, iguanas, and so on.

I’ve always liked ferrets, but it never occurred to me that I would own one, let alone four. Cara took in a rescue that the previous owner didn’t want, who was Clyde. We kept Clyde in good health for his last couple of years, and we realized when he died that we did in fact enjoy having a ferret for a pet. They’re absurd, unpredictable, incredibly sweet animals who desperately need our care because we humans screwed them over royally with so much inbreeding. So we got another ferret, Lydia, and that was fine. Then we were asked to take in another rescue, so we did. Rocket and Lydia really hit it off, but Rocket died suddenly from organ failure, and Lydia didn’t handle it very well. SO we got another ferret, and that would be Beetlejuice, who has turned out to be one of the most remarkable animals I’ve ever known in my life. I love all of our deranged fur children, but Beetlejuice is something special.

I know, this is a long story, sorry.

Eventually, we took in two more rescues, so that puts us at four. I’m very, very, very content with just the four, but we’re always open to an emergency situation if it comes up. I hope not, quite frankly, but I try to be available to people or animals who need help.


HCR: What’s the best book you’ve read so far in 2022? Any books in your To Read pile that you’re dying to get to?

Gabriel Ricard: I have seriously fallen off with reading over the past couple of years. That’s oddly been one of the most significant pandemic “victims” in my own personal life. I just haven’t had as much drive. I’m still reading and sporadically reviewing for Drunk Monkeys though, so there’s a handful of books I’ve read this year that I’ve quite liked:

-Action-Packed Apartments! Novellas by Frank Conniff

-Dumb Dumb Dumb: My Mother’s Book Reviews by Mary Jo Pehl

-Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

-Future Noir by Paul F. Sammon

-Legends of Localization Book 2: EarthBound by Clyde Mandelin

-Dear Ted by Kim Vodicka

Sorry, but it’s basically impossible for me to pick just one thing. I guess I’m just too damn edgy for my own good.

HCR: What writing are you working on nowadays? New poetry? A novel? A misanthropic manifesto?

Gabriel Ricard: Can’t beat a good manifesto. Mine always come down to long internal monologs in which I prove that Arthur 2: On the Rocks is objectively a good movie, which luckily for everyone don’t make it into my column.

If I ever did release a manifesto, it would probably just be 100 different social media posts I’ve written being presented as a single thought. It’s like the cut-up method, but much, much dumber.

I’m stalling a little because I’m feeling a slight lull at the time of this interview. My new book Benny the Haunted Toymaker Grows Up has done pretty well, despite an unwillingness on my part to do too much traveling (which includes live readings) due to COVID. It was really gratifying to see another collection of fiction, and to have it be horror, get released. I haven’t set the world on fire, but I’ve been fortunate enough to get books published almost yearly since 2014. I’ve hit virtually every goal I set for myself as a writer and an artist.

So, I feel like I’m spinning my wheels a bit. I’m working on two new books, another poetry collection with Kevin Ridgeway, and a collection of my travel and film essays. I’m also struggling a bit to find time and spoons for a follow-up to Benny, although not for lack of ideas. These books are all moving along, but it’s this weird thing of also feeling stuck.

I’m excited for them though. Not so much the part where I try to find a publisher for the book Kevin and I are doing, which I think has some of the best poems I’ve ever written, but we’ll figure something out.


HCR: Let’s Quantum Leap this last question: You’re going on a two-week road trip with any three people who 1) you don’t already know personally, and 2) are alive now or were within your lifetime, but no one who died before you were born. Who are they, why them, and why are they not letting you pick the music in the car?

Gabriel Ricard: Okay, let’s break this down:

1.)  Orson Welles: I can’t imagine not wanting to at least have dinner with this guy. Two weeks on the road might get a little ridiculous, but it sure as hell wouldn’t be boring.
2.) Vincent Price: I’m choosing weird theater people who are also amazing cooks.
3.) Clarence Clemons: I don’t Orson to feel bad for being the only big guy in the car. Plus, no one mentioned above can play the saxophone or has seen Bruce Springsteen naked.

And they don’t get to pick the music because guess what, fuckers, I downloaded all 45 episodes of this show that goes through the PlayStation 1 game Xenogears beat by goddamn beat, so everyone just shut up and get ready to kill God.

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The views and opinions expressed throughout belong to the individual artists and may or may not coincide with those of the other artists (or editors) represented within the magazine. Hobo Camp Review supports a free-for-all atmosphere of artistic expression, so enjoy the poetry, fiction, opinions, and artwork within, read with an open mind, and comment wisely. Thanks for stopping by the Camp!