Showing posts with label neo-noir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label neo-noir. Show all posts

Monday, September 20, 2021

PODCAST: "Miller's Crossing" (1990) - A Signal Watch Canon Episode w/ JimD and Ryan




Watched:  09/09/2021
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown (well over 30x)
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Coen Bros.



JimD looks in his heart and joins Ryan to discuss a shared canon film. It's the third from the Coen Bros. and one that is seemingly being forgotten by the current generation of film fans. Join us as we twist and turn, up is down, black is white. We're talkin' about friendship. We're talkin' about character. We're talkin' about - hell. listeners, I ain't embarrassed to use the word - we're talkin' about ethics.




Music:
Miller's Crossing Opening Titles -  by Carter Burwell
Miller's Crossing End Titles - by Carter Burwell




Signal Watch Canon:




Monday, August 30, 2021

PODCAST: "Shallow Grave" (1994) - a Signal Watch Canon Episode w. MBell, MRSHL and Ryan




Watched:  08/21/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  3rd or 4th
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Danny Boyle



What happens when three narcissistic jerks combine their powers and slowly turn against each other? You get a podcast! We welcome new contributor MBell to the podcast who brings us a suitcase full of surprises as we discuss the mid-90's Scottish indie film thriller that was a crucial bit of what was going on in the 90's cinema scene. Join us as we root around the attic of our minds and recall how this movie fit in for us as young adults and our appreciation of movies!




Music:
Shallow Grave Theme - Simon Boswell


Canon Episodes

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Noir Watch: Farewell, My Lovely (1975)




Watched:  08/09/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Dick Richards


I've read the Raymond Chandler novel upon which Farewell, My Lovely (1975) is based a couple of times, and seen the Dick Powell-starring 1944 film adaptation Murder, My Sweet (1944) a handful of times.  I do appreciate the 1970's neo-noir movement and the adaptations or interpretations I've seen, but there's always such a layer of 1960's or 1970's-ness all over the films, you feel like they can't get out of their own way making sure you know "we have updated this for modern times".

This movie, however, is a period piece, adhering as close to the source material as possible, with a definite romanticism for the genre, the book and the movies which it inspired.  While some updating occurs, the politics of the 1970's are only thinly layered on, and the story does take place just prior to WWII (the novel was released in 1940), but with the not insubstantial casting choice of a 58 year old Robert Mitchum.  And, look, you'll never catch me saying a negative thing about Mitchum, but this may be about 15 years too old for the character, no matter who that actor is.  The script changes the novel enough to take Mitchum's age into account here and there, and I absolutely get why the filmmakers were thrilled to get him.  Mitchum would have been ideal casting for a production from '50-'57.  

Friday, July 16, 2021

Neo-Noir Mitchum Watch: The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)




Watched:  07/16/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Peter Yates

I've been hearing about this one for a while, and I can see why.  Mitchum was in a weird period here where he was far older than in his prime two decades earlier, but his age and everything he'd done to himself for his adult life comes with him when he shows up in a role.  Add in his bona fides as part of the noir movement and his already naturalistic (if swaggerish) acting style, and he fits into the era well.  That said, I've not seen his outings as Marlowe, so that's soon, I think.

It's funny, I've definitely had the same thoughts that I saw reflected in this article from The Ringer that I read yesterday about the 1990's neo-noir movement.  Particularly the thought that resonated was that the 1990's noir movement had as much or more to do with filmmakers of the 1990's wanting to make movies like they grew up with in the 1970's than it had to do with anyone wanting to remake Kiss of Death (which they did, and is not the original, but it's fine).  And, likewise, the filmmakers of the 1970's using noir tropes to say something about the same world that insisted on Donnie and Marie.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Neo-Noir Watch: Remember My Name (1978)



Watched:  07/13/2021
Format:  TCM Underground on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Alan Rudolph

Into it.  

A late 1970's sorta-thriller where the viewer slowly puts the pieces together as you watch a clearly broken woman arrive in LA and then target a couple who don't seem to know her.  

Remember My Name (1978) stars Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie) as an ex-con who seems a bit off, even for the actions she's taking.  Frankly, Chaplin is pretty great here, working in a sort of breezy, Altman-esque manner (Altman produced the film).  Weirdly, Chaplin is still wildly prolific, but is working in corners that means I just haven't seen her in much - and didn't know who she was when I did see her.  

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Neo-Noir Heist Gangster Watch: No Sudden Move (2021)




Watched:  07/08/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Soderbergh

I'm not going to bother with a plot summary for this one.  It's too twisty-turny, and anything I'd say would spoil the damn thing.  Plus, I want to watch it again almost immediately.

What is weird is that I've never not thoroughly enjoyed a movie by director Steven Soderbergh, but I also don't seek them out.  I've maybe seen 1/3rd or less of his output in film, and pretty much zero of his television (I did watch the first season of The Knick), but - I'll rewatch the movies when they're on and basically acknowledge I like his stuff.  

And this movie is no exception.  

Released directly to HBOmax in this year of 2021 as WB wades through the echoes of the HBOmax launch, COVID and whatever the AT&T execs thought were swell ideas before realizing "oh, damn, we don't know what we're doing and we keep setting the place on fire" with WB and dumping it... this one is easy to access if you've already got your HBOmax subscription - so go watch it.  No, seriously.

No Sudden Move (2021) stars a dozen people you know and like, and you'll grow to know and like a few more along the ways (this film was a reminder to go back and watch Uncut Gems to see Julia Fox in another project).  

Don Cheadle, Del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Brenda Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Ray Liotta and Signal Watch fave Bill Duke.  And dozens and dozens more.  Standouts in an amazing cast include Amy Seimetz as Harbour's wife and young Noah Jupe as his teen son.  

What starts as a gangland picture becomes a heist picture, and all with a twinge of noirishness to it, more for some characters than others.  There's no small amount of commentary baked into the movie, so be ready for that - including the conflicts between ethnicities and races in 1950's Detroit - echoing through clearly to 2021.  It moves at a hell of a clip for a 2 hour film, and it's hard to know at the outset what's important and what's not - but assume it's all important.  Like most Soderbergh movies, it's satisfying because it uses all the parts of the animal in the stew.  

In an era where actors bemoan somehow having two Marvel movies per year means they can't get work or there's nothing else happening - it is a welcome change to see Soderbergh show up with his stock players and put on another show, even if it's not on the big screen.  

There's some technical choices made I have questions about, and I'm curious about, and we can discuss at some future date, but it was enough to make me wonder if I screwed up the settings on my TV.  

Anyhoo.  No Sudden Move is excellent.  I have no notes for the cast and crew.

And I have a question for anyone who wants to take the discussion offline.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Neo-Noir Watch: Night Moves (1975)




Watched:  07/03/2021
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Arthur Penn

46 years on, it's curious to watch a movie that was doing 1970's meta-commentary on hard-boiled detective stories of the 20's - 1950's in books and movies (and radio and early TV),  and know that we're about as far from 1975 as Night Moves was from the earliest Black Mask detective stories.  We've also processed and analyzed the 1970's movie era as much as any as directors leveraged the 1960's collapse of the studio system to tell stories TV could not, carrying with them the cynicism of the era.  

The obvious comparison is to The Long Goodbye, based on one of the final Chandler-penned Philip Marlowe novels.  But while that book was a metacommentary on... any number of things even in its 1950's release window and lended itself naturally to a 1970's adaptation, Night Moves exists in our world, in which everyone knows who Sam Spade is from the books and whatnot, and makes jokes about detectives thinking they're heroes of those books.*

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

New Wave Watch: Breathless (1960)




Watched:  06/08/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Godard

Sigh.  

Look, I don't dislike "New Wave" exactly, but the one time I watched a Godard movie previously it was so hilariously up it's own ass, it was pretty much unspoofable (for the record, it was Godard's King Lear).  

I've also been aware that thanks to Godard and his buddies, we even have the term "film noir".  They loved the same crime melodramas of the post-war period that I tend to enjoy.  They wrote about them and got people to think about that glut of crime movies in a different way.  

Monday, May 31, 2021

Parker Watch: Point Blank (1967)



Watched:  05/31/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1960's
Director:  John Boorman

It's been some time since I'd revisited Point Blank (1967), and I'm glad I'd had a few years in between.  I'd seen the movie years ago while I was reading the Parker cycle of novels by Richard Stark - maybe the only series I've ever read in its entirety - and this movie is based on the first in the series, The Hunter.  

But it's been a while since I read The Hunter, a book that obviously left an impression on me as I did read the subsequent 20-odd books, and I was able to better separate Point Blank and Boorman's ideas versus constantly running a mental check of how the film and movie differed.  And they absolutely do differ, saying different things.  There's a reason Richard Stark (better known as Donald Westlake) wouldn't allow anyone to use the name "Parker" in a movie, even as he let them adapt the plot and use supporting character names.  Lee Marvin's "Walker" isn't Parker.  And that's fine... It's good, in fact.  

Now, one day I *want* a straight HBO-style treatment of the Parker novels by someone who *gets* it.  Each one is probably worth 3 episodes of something.  But I dig what Boorman did here - that rather than operating from pure rage and cold revenge, Walker may not be exactly sure why he's doing this.  Rather than coming to life and changing motivations after being shot and betrayed, he really did leave something at Alcatraz.

Maybe borrowing from the quasi-non-linear standard of both noir and the Parker novels, Boorman does some interesting stuff here with flash-forwards and flash-backs, maybe stepping it up a bit to do in shorthand what noir traditionally would do in extended scenes.  There's a lot of exposition that has to be delivered, and it's a smooth way to do it - but in the case of the film versus the book, Walker seems to have had warmth at one point and feelings for Lynn.  He attends things like "reunions" and seems to have had loyalties and friendships - all of which is not in him when he escapes death.  He may have been fearsome before, but now he's something else, unrecognizable even to himself. 

Anyway, I'm sure I've talked about Point Blank a few times.  Several years ago I attended Noir City in San Francisco where they'd invited up Angie Dickinson who spoke about the movie and Lee Marvin (and looked like a million bucks).   It's just a favorite at this point, and I definitely recommend it.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Catch-Up Neo-Noir Watch: Layer Cake (2004)




Watched:  05/28/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Matthew Vaughn

For a moment there, Britain was exporting some hip crime movies that Americans decided were a pretty good idea.  For a number of reasons, I missed Layer Cake (2004) when it hit the States in the summer of 2005.  And just never saw it afterwards.  Which is crazy.  We're Daniel Craig fans in this house.

It's a plot-heavy, occasionally cheeky gangster movie that served as an accidentally good pairing with The Brothers Rico, which I'd watched the night before.  Both films are about guys who are doing well enough in legitimate business that they want to leave the life behind them - but in Layer Cake, we aren't there yet.  We're just considering retiring after years packaging and selling cocaine in London when our nameless lead, played by Daniel Craig (and - it's clear this is the movie that inspired someone to give him Bond), gets pulled in as an errand boy by his boss, to find a missing girl and to broker a deal with a wild-card hoodlum who has a million hits of ecstacy he's stumbled into and is looking to sell.  

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Neo-Noir Watch: The Limey (1999)



Watched:  05/16/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Steven Soderbergh

This is a catch-up watch, one of about ten crime movies from this era I didn't see because life is not always what it should be. 

Anyway, I was so distracted, I didn't know who was in the cast or that this was a Soderbergh movie - and I like Soderbergh movies.  All I knew was "Terence Stamp tearing shit up for 90 minutes".  And, indeed, that is true.  But, The Limey (1999) also features Peter Fonda, the perpetually underutilized Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzman, and an uncredited but terrific Bill Duke.  

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Neo-Noir Watch: The Grifters (1990)




Watched:  05/08/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Stephen Frears

Just in time for Mother's Day I finally (finally!) watched the 1990 film, The Grifters.

SPOILERS

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Legal Thriller Watch: Presumed Innocent (1990)




Watched  04/09/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Alan J. Pakula

It's fair to say, that when I saw this at age 16 or whatever it was (I would have been 15 upon the film's release, and didn't see it in the theater) I followed the plot, but I didn't "get" the film.  Recently I was discussing this film with some folks who said it was a good neo-noir, and I should give it a shot, so I did.  What the hell else am I doing?

I'd literally forgotten I'd seen the film until reading the synopsis on wikipedia, and realized I had, in fact, seen it, but didn't remember which of the circa 1990-era adult court mystery dramas I was thinking of when and if details from the movie crossed my mind.  Firstly "Presumed Innocent" is as untelling a title as what often gets applied to noir.  Second, until about 1997, I think every fifth movie coming out was an actor in a suit going to court for some reason or other.

So, yeah, seeing a film about betrayal in a marriage and the fallout wrapped up in a mystery, semi-erotic thriller works far better at age 46 and with 21 years of marriage under your belt.  Also, realizing how *good* everyone is in this movie was a delight.  And goddamn the early passing of Raul Julia, who was amazing here.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Neo-Noir Watch: Body Heat (1981)




Watched:  04/03/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Lawrence Kasdan

I'll go ahead and put this out there:  this may be the best of the neo-noirs I've seen, and most akin to the original noir movement.  

Also: finally watching Body Heat (1981) gives me a big clue as to how neo-noir took a left turn by the late 80's and saw a divergent strain that became the "erotic thriller", which, itself, had several branches on the movie cladogram.

Despite the popular vision of noir, it wasn't always sexy stuff with classy dames showing up in the offices of PI's desperate for help.  The movement encompassed a lot of takes on how things can go badly, and how lust could turn things sideways remarkably fast was just one (if a popular) angle.  Body Heat delivers a 1980's spin on the Joseph M. Cain flavor of crime melodrama that gave us Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.  No detectives here - just guys in over their head when they see a chance at romance with a woman out of their league (but aren't they all).

Monday, March 22, 2021

PODCAST: "The Long Good Friday" (1979) - a SimonUK Canon episode w/ Ryan



Watched:  03/16/2021
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1970's
Director:  John MacKenzie



We're still talking our personal canon, and SimonUK brings a favorite from the UK - and one hell of a film. We talk amazing performances, tight stories, and the real world of late-70's England that informed one of the hallmark films of the gangster genre. Join us for a long chat on a good movie.




Music:  

The Long Good Friday Theme, Extended Edition - Francis Monkman


Signal Watch Canon:

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Neo-Noir Erotic Thriller Madonna Watch Party Watch: Body of Evidence (1993)




When I was 17 years old, and a curious kid, and back when movies had all sorts of content in them - I saw all sorts of stuff on the big screen.  In general, I think it was actually a good thing.  I learned about the adult world, how sex looked under professional lighting, and that my ex-girlfriend was right about that nice lady in the Crying Game the second she showed up in the film.

And since the video for Lucky Star, I'd also thought that nice lady rolling around on the floor seemed like a pretty good idea.  By early 1993, the videos for Vogue and Express Yourself had done nothing to dissuade me of this opinion, let alone when my pal, Phil, taped the HBO concert special of Blonde Ambition for me. 

In 1992, Rob, Scott and I had gone to see a sold-out showing of Basic Instinct on opening night (I thought it was "meh" - and I have 10,000 words on what this did to the notion of noir for a decade), and at the time we did not anticipate that Hollywood would see gold in them thar hills and spend the early 90's trying to recapture the magic in a series of erotic thrillers.  

Simultaneously, Madonna had found she quite enjoyed freaking out America's moms via the Like A Prayer controversy (which seems both inappropriate and stupid rewatching the video now), and decided she would now say the word "sex" a lot, very much upsetting Tipper Gore.  She liked it so much, she made a picture book about how much she liked the word, and in a field trip to the Houston Public Library downtown, we got one of the people who was already 18 to get it for us to all look at at the reference desk.  And, man, were the librarians cheesed.

Monday, December 21, 2020

PODCAST: "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (2005) - a Xmas Genre Xrossover w/ Jamie and Ryan




Watched:  11/28/2020
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Shane Black


Jamie and Ryan talk the 2005 neo-noir by Shane Black and starring RDJ jr. and Val Kilmer. We hadn't seen it and were heartily surprised by the film - a noir murder mystery sort of thing with a lot of classic detective pulpy roots as both text and plot. 
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Intro and Titles - John Ottman

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Neo-Noir Watch: Nocturnal Animals (2016)



Watched:  08/29/2020
Format:  HBO
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Tom Ford

A lot of the coverage of the release of this film was that it was directed by Tom Ford, a fashion designer - which is an interesting idea.  One would assume a fashion designer has an eye for visuals, lifestyle cues, wardrobe and staging.  And - arguably, Ford delivers on all of these things.

He's cast beautiful people and dressed them well.  He's hired some beautiful people and dressed them down.  And, of course, there's the opening sequence which casts some (let's be honest) not gorgeous people and dressed them not at all.  For Ford - this is a hellish horror, absurd and tasteless, open to interpretation and meaningless, so awful its funny.  And knowingly hard to look at.  And... is, at best, a very small building block of what is arguably his point with the film, and set me to thinking about what and who a Tom Ford is and how that would set them for empathy and sympathy with characters in a story.

Monday, August 17, 2020

PODCAST: "Le Samourai" (1967) and "The Conformist" (1970) - a European Neonoir Watch w/ JAL and RYan



Watched:  Le Samourai 07/28, The Conformist 07/31
Format:  HBOmax/ BluRay
Viewing:  third for both, I believe
Decade:  1960's/ 1970's
Director:  Jean-Pierre Melville  & Bernardo Bertolucci

For more ways to listen


Justin and Ryan head to Europe for some neo-noir! We swing through France for a hitman film and over to Italy for... well, he's not much of a hitman, really. One of these is absolutely noir and the other, we're kind of calling a noir - and we're pretty excited about both of them. Join us as for a double-bill, continental style!





Music:

Le Samourai Title Theme - Fran├žois De Roubaix
The Conformist Title Theme - Georges Delerue


Playlist - Noir Watch:




Friday, June 19, 2020

Noir Watch: Backtrack (1990) and Murder by Contract (1958) w/ JAL & Ryan


Watched:  06/11/2020 (Backtrack) & 06/16/2020 (Contract)
Format:  Amazon Streaming and TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First / Second
Decade:  1990's/ 1950's
Director:  Dennis Hopper/ Irving Lerner

More ways to listen - choose an app


We're back with more noir - neo and otherwise! It's two movies about weirdo hitmen filmed 30 years apart. One is from the go-go 90's and has a lot of surprises, and the other is a cult classic of noir, about a man who just wants enough money to get that house he's had his eye on. Both have casts worth discussing and off-kilter approaches to their form. Join JAL and Ryan as we make our way through two features that don't get that many mentions.





Music:
The Executioner Theme - Perry Botkin, Murder By Contract score


Noir Playlist: