Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Miller's Crossing. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Miller's Crossing. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, November 14, 2011

and then there was the time I found out my favorite movie was "heavily borrowing" from another movie


This evening I finally watched the 1942 film The Glass Key, a movie I've been trying to see since I first watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) the pairing of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in This Gun for Hire.  Ms. Lake would have been 92 today, and so TCM was showing some of her films.

all movie posters are better when they feature William Bendix playing a little chin music

At age 15 I rented Miller's Crossing from my local video store. I had just seen The Godfather for the first time the previous summer thanks to my uncle's remarkably good movie selection (he also showed me Das Boot) and I was young, impressionable and learning about both gangster flicks and cinema. And so when Miller's Crossing landed in my VCR, I simply had never seen anything like it.  My entire world of gangster movies came from Godfather I & II and maybe The Untouchables.  I was utterly unfamiliar with the topsy, turvy world of the likes of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, etc...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Monday, March 18, 2013

Join Us: Miller's Crossing at The Drafthouse Ritz

If you knew me in college you knew two things about me:

  • I was probably up for getting some tacos
  • I never got over that first viewing of Miller's Crossing





The movie comes to The Alamo Ritz on March 28th.  Simon, Paul and I have our tickets, and we expect you'll be joining us (we're seats 7 - 10 on row 21 for reserved seating).

Put on your fedora or mink coat and come on out and join us to see the movie that sort of set me on the path of being into movies with guys in hats and a lifetime fascination with women in gowns who talk fast and maybe carry a gun.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Coen Bros.

Somebody asked which Coen Bros. movies I had seen and not seen, and which one I did not like.

Good questions.

I am mostly just "in" when it comes to the Coen Bros. I stumbled across Miller's Crossing and Raising Arizona around the ages of 14 and 16, and it was my first understanding of anything resembling auteur-ship.

At the end of the day, I think these guys are at their best when they work in the crime mega-genre, which is more or less where they work most of the time. And of late, since Big Lebwoski, I kind of keep my mouth shut about their movies for a day or so, because I want to wait for the movie to sort itself out a little more in my head. Most certainly Blood Simple is noir, and Miller's Crossing is pure American gangster picture. I'd argue that the Coen's played with noir with Fargo and No Country for Old Men, and that's where they're excelling. They've dropped some of the post-Sam Raimi early career eccentricities for more nuanced story-telling, and I don't mind the switch.

I, initially, didn't really groove to The Big Lebowski, but a week later, I feel like I'd given it time to marinate, and the whole "it's classic noir, just with a completely detached protagonist" joke the Coens were laying down finally really caught on the gears.

Similarly, the more I think about A Serious Man, the more I like that movie, too (and I read it as sort of a modern, Minnesota-based Book of Job).

Anyway, here's a fairly complete list, omitting movies where I think the Coens were only loosely involved as executive producers.

I should note: The two Coen Bros. movies I did not see came out when I lived in Arizona. The cinemas in Chandler absolutely would not have carried a Coen Bros. movie. It was a lot of Hillary Duff, Disney movies, whatever... but that's part of how I missed them. Also, again, when movies come out at Christmas, its very hard for me to get out to see them.

At the theatrical release, neither The Ladykillers nor Intolerable Cruelty were terribly loved either by reviews or word of mouth, and I just never bothered.

True Grit - plan to see it

2009 A Serious Man - seen it

2008 Burn After Reading - seen it

2007 No Country for Old Men - seen it

2004 The Ladykillers - did not see it

2003 Bad Santa - only producers on this, but I finally saw this last Christmas, and its really good

2003 Intolerable Cruelty - did not see it

2001 The Man Who Wasn't There - this is the one I didn't like, but I saw it

2000 O Brother, Where Art Thou? - seen it

1998 The Big Lebowski - seen it

1996 Fargo - who didn't see it?

1994 The Hudsucker Proxy - saw it for my 19th birthday in college

1991 Barton Fink - seen it

1990 Miller's Crossin - seen it

1987 Raising Arizona - seen it

1984 Blood Simple - seen it

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Noir Watch: The Glass Key (1942)

For reasons I don't quite understand, The Glass Key (1942) isn't discussed all that much and doesn't get the same hagiography as other pictures.  Nor has it been as readily available as other crime/ noir movies on home video, although I do note its available in a boxed set and a kind-of-pricey stand alone DVD.  That second-class-movie-citizen status is a shame, because the film is fantastic; a winding, complicated detective story taken on not by a private eye, but the right-hand man of a political boss.  Throw in some of my favorite talent (Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix), and you've got a good picture going.



Based on the Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name, The Glass Key feels distinctly like a Hammett novel, never over-simplified, with all of the characters existing in a moral gray area, all possible suspects when it comes to a murder.  Whether its The Thin Man or The Maltese Falcon, everyone has a motivation, and no one does.  Sorting out whodunnit has terrific implications, but everyone might also be happy to see it just go away.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

SW Watches: The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)


I'm not entirely clear on the reason, but The Hudsucker Proxy took a beating both critically and at the box office upon its release in 1994.  I saw it for my 19th birthday with JAL, and we loved the hell out of this thing.  It was immediately added to the list of highly quotable movies, and added the word "Dingus" to my vocabulary.  In '95, when we all showed up for the first day of the highly competitive film production program at UT and people asked what we wanted to make, I said something about Star Wars and then paused as all the folks who just talked about Truffaut and whatnot around the room glared at me, and said "You know...  for kids!".

JAL thought it was funny, at least.

Maybe the movie is too ambitious for it's own good.  Maybe it broke the Coen Bros' SOP a bit too much to work with a real budget and to have name stars like Paul Newman in the room.  The plot is less ambitious than Miller's Crossing, but perhaps too complicated for the light-comedy audience that doesn't want to keep up with the whole "circles and wheels of time" symbolism, metaphor, imagery, etc..  that absolutely permeates the film, right down to a Hula Hoop as the failure and success of a corporation's fortunes (and we can talk about throwing a disc out the window as the film' conclusion some other time).

I dunno.  But reviews at the time weren't good, and even when critics discuss the movie today, it's with a bit of a sigh, like Jennifer Jason Leigh doesn't totally kill it in every scene she's in.

Those critics can kind of go to hell, in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reading Comics: The Damned

The Damned, Volume 1: Three Days Dead
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Brian Hurtt




On Free Comic Book Day this year, I was fortunate enough to interview and then meet the creators of The Sixth Gun from Oni Press. At that time I picked up their previous effort from Oni, The Damned Vol. 1. I do want to acknowledge the generosity of writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt in previously submitting to an interview.

The Damned takes place is a world where the demons of the underworld (horned, bestial, but mostly roughly humanoid) are alive and well and have integrated seamlessly into the criminal underworld of a Prohibition-era America. Crime bosses tend to have ram-like horns and sign deals in blood. The narrative leaves it unclear in this volume exactly how long demons have been up to no good in the mortal world, or exactly how much John Q. Public knows about who, exactly, is running rackets in their city as "mortals" are seamlessly integrated into the mob. It's an open question, but the treatment of the topic is so matter-of-fact, exploring those issues was obviously planned to be left to later stories.

Our protagonist, a more-or-less-mortal named "Eddie" employs a unique talent, acquired when Eddie sold his soul for some favor and became cursed. He can be killed, and die, but the instant someone touches him, they take on his latest wound. Death has become an inconvenience for Eddie, and occasionally a useful tool in his profession. Hired by a mob boss to track down a missing demon in town to negotiate a deal between two gangs, Eddie stumbles onto a bit of a mystery that could result in the eruption of gang war.

Fans of The Coen Brothers film, Miller's Crossing, or readers of the works of Dashiell Hammett, will very quickly begin to recognize the style employed by Bunn, in structure, dialog and the types of characters that dominate the story. It's a risky choice to reflect works as beloved as Continental Op stories, or a film as well known as Miller's Crossing. Fortunately, Bunn's narrative doesn't simply follow the beats of better-known works, especially as the mix of plots includes a supernatural bent, and a distinctly supernatural B-plot you aren't going to find in a Hammett novel.

The tale isn't quite as overly complicated as, say, Red Harvest or The Dain Curse. It would be interesting to see Bunn flex his muscles and see how close he could get, but in comics there's always a page-count per-issue to worry about, as well as how many issues the publisher is willing to support. In the pages he's got, and with all of the balls that Bunn is juggling in the story, with multiple plots, characters and their relationships to detail, I think he does pretty darn well.

The dialog follows the snappy patter of the genre, including homage to the tough guy slang in other works, and I do like most of the characters, given the amount of time most have to establish themselves. Eddie is a bit of an open book, and its clear Bunn intended for his story to unravel in subsequent volumes. Like many crime-novel protagonists, he's an insider, and its hard not to like Eddie's cynical, world-weary (even in a world with horned mob bosses) acceptance of his lot, but, of course, Eddie's got a past and something of a heart, and those things don't usually help characters in stories like these.

As a guy who likes to doodle, I can't really say how much I envy Brain Hurtt's style. While I have no doubt his work is slightly more detailed in The Sixth Gun, I continue to be wowed by his ability to stay on model with characters that skew cartoony (in comparison to, say, an Ivan Reis) while using the looseness of the style to articulate more with his characters than 90% of the heroic posing of DC's B-list hero books. I'm just a big fan of this guy, and need to re-crack my Queen & Country collections as he was responsible for art chores on some rotations through the series.

As a fan of the crime/ gangster genre, and someone known to read a fair amount of fantasy work, I found the book a fun read. While enough of a puzzle to keep it interesting, the story never feels bogged down by what could have been lots of exposition or set-up. The world Bunn and Hurtt create is an enticing one, and one that seems could carry on for a few more tales. The story seems to be arching its way toward a series by the conclusion of the first collection, and with or without Eddie along, its not too hard to imagine how Bunn and Hurtt could expand on the premise.

While they're currently set to work on The Sixth Gun, one must assume that a trade of the second run of The Damned comics is coming, which I look forward to picking up.

In the meantime, I recommend hitting your local comics shop to check out Bunn and Hurtt's comic for yourself.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Apparently, this is my 1000th Post Tagged "Movies"



I dunno.  I like milestones.  That seems significant.  1000 posts.  On movies.

There are 2865 published posts here, so I guess movies are mostly what we discuss.  That's not to say I've watched 1000 movies since starting The Signal Watch, but it also isn't to say we haven't.  I don't really know.  I've only done the "let us account for every movie we've watched" thing a few times.  And even then I left out things like Hallmark Christmas movies.

But I have been doing this blogging bit long enough that The Room has gone from a cult-movie bit of schadenfreude to fodder for an Oscar nominated picture and we've been through three Spider-Mans.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (audiobook)

This isn't the first time I have read Red Harvest (1929) by noted crime and detective author Dashiell Hammett.  In fact, it was the first Hammett I ever read, but it was about fifteen years ago and over the course of a few plane rides, and after reading my fair share of Hammett since, I could only remember snippets here and there and the general plot and tone.  But with Hammett's birthday recently passed, I decided that was my cue to revisit the book.



It would seem this novel inspired a whole lot of other stuff from general tone to dialog to whole films, but to my knowledge it has never been translated into a movie of the same name with the same characters.  And it's just as likely the things the book inspired were, in turn, the inspiration for other works.  There are certainly similarities to the book in the Kurosawa movie Yojimbo (but Kurosawa states he was inspired by The Glass Key, a different Hammet book turned into a movie with similar themes - and the movie has Veronica Lake, natch), which in turn would have inspired A Fistful of Dollars and the mediocre as hell Last Man Standing.

I'd argue that the Coen Bros. were obviously nuts for Hammett, and Miller's Crossing is essentially a particularly strong blend and distillation of Red Harvest and The Glass Key, in everything from plot similarities to character archetypes to Hammett's very specific dialog and use of slang.  Further, the term "Blood Simple" is used more than once in the book, and is - not coincidentally - the title of their debut film.

Hammett had a favorite character, a detective who refused to name himself (cough... Man With No Name... cough) in his narratives.  The character appeared in what must have been dozens of short works published in magazines like Black Mask and which are known as The Continental Op stories.  A private detective employed by The Continental Detective Agency usually solves crimes around the Bay Area during the 1920's - the period during which Hammett was writing (and drinking, one assumes).

Monday, March 18, 2013

And now... People re-enacting scenes from "Miller's Crossing" for some reason

In film school, some courses will ask you to reshoot a scene from a movie.  Folks get ambitious, and it's a hard lesson in how important things like good sound equipment, talented actors, rehearsal, and a knack for direction can actually be.  But it's an exercise a lot of schools have you do before you head out with your own material to butcher.

Below are what I think are likely YouTube videos of those class assignments.  I can see why you'd want these scenes.  Two people, both strong characters.  It's all right there on the page.  And you're only dealing with two actors.

Tom talks to Verna about the death of Rug Daniels...


I'm going to go on and say this: walking in heels in difficult. It's also something everyone who wants to be on TV or in movies should learn how to do. Also, don't outfit our actresses with a jingly purse, movie-people.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Your nickel discussion of this "The Thing" prequel

Tuesday evening SimonUK and I went and saw The Thing at the Ritz.  We'd both been anticipating the movie for some time, Si more than I, as John Carpenter's 1982 take on The Thing is sort of, I think to him, a bit like Miller's Crossing or Blade Runner are to myself.

But I really like Carpenter's The Thing, too.  I'm not much of a horror fan (I was a delicate child and prone to getting easily freaked out), but I hold The Thing and The Shining in very, very high regard for their era.

Last year Si, StevenB and I all watched a digital restoration of the original, and it was a reminder of how darn well that movie holds up, in no small part because of performances by Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley.



The new movie is actually a prequel, and if you saw the 1980's version, you will likely remember the Norwegian Camp.  Well, this is that.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Star Trek IV" and "Gilda"

Yesterday we spent the day helping Wagner move into her new pad down here in South Austin, so by the evening, I wasn't excactly pressing Jamie to make sure we got a night out on the town.  An order to Domino's later, and we had our evening mapped out.

STIV: TVH

I'm no true Trekker (I'm more of a Trekkie), but I love some original-cast, original-series Star Trek.  For Christmas, Jamie had got me a Blu-Ray set of the first 6 Trek films, some of which I haven't watched in years. 

I think we all knew about Trek growing up, but I wasn't really sold on the premise until 1984, when my folks moved us to Austin and Trek ran every weekday afternoon on the local UHF channel, KBVO.  No need to recount much more here, as, thanks to the power of the internet and 8 years of blogging, I've already done so elsewhere. 


Kirk and Spock try to decide if Pier 39 is too touristy

But what I would recount here is that seeing Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in the theater was an eye-opening geek-tacular experience in my youth.  Yes, its the sit-com episode wherein the crew travels to 1987 to recruit some humpback whales in order to prevent an alien intelligence from accidentally destroying Earth with their megaphone.  But it was also the movie where people were so excited, they were cheering, standing up to applaud, etc...  really, pretty incredible.

The movie holds up remarkably well, and the Blu-Ray edition I have cleans up all the fx and optics that had gotten a little funky over the years.  The plot is, perhaps, a little silly, but its good, clean fun, and does what sci-fi does so well, and that's uses a metaphor to explain the issues of the day (ie: we need to be careful how we deal with our planet and the species we share it with, as we cannot predict the tragedy their loss will bring us). 

Also, it gives us all the line we use (inaccurately) when we see ourselves flying into the Bay Area:



Kids today won't get the scant Cold War references either as Chekov gets picked up as a Russian spy on our naval vessel, the USS Enterprise, nor the stalemate of Federation vs. Klingon that plays out in the bookend scenes. 

Its also unfortunate that we don't get a bit more time to explore the Enterprise crew dealing with the late 20th Century or get more cultural comment (and it is kind of hilarious that the single-use device, the communicator, is the size of a brick).  But I can say that to this day, when my computer at work does not do as I say, I still find myself repeating Scotty's condescending "hellllloooo, computer...".  (Yes, I work on Windows machines.  Don't judge me.)

Anyway, I still love this movie.


Oh my Goodness, Rita Hayworth
After Jamie toodled off to bed, I watched Gilda, a post WWII decidedly noirish flick about everything from tungsten cartels to romantic obsession, to philiosophizing men's room attendants.  Starring Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth, its a reminder of what an "A" noir looks like in comparison to, say, 5 Against the House

Not the most subtle advertising for why you should watch this flick
I'd pose the question of whether or not the movie would have been made without Casablanca as a predecessor, as it seems a product of somewhat similar setting, characters, etc... only without anybody having anything honorable to fight for, and sinking into noirish territory rather than the turn to the just-cause that Casablanca provides as the alternative. 

It does, however, feature Rita Hayworth as Gilda, the quickly-obtained wife of a shady night club owner, who has good reason to butt heads with his strong arm, Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford).  There are some comparisons one could make to the Coen's development of the Tom/ Verna/ Leo triangle in Miller's Crossing, although here its all a bit more...  tuxedo-clad. 

The role of Gilda is remarkably well-written, with some seriously snappy dialog, and became the role Hayworth would be associated with for the remainder of her life.  She would also inspire looks and other characters in countless movies afterward.  And I find it hard to believe Jessica Rabbit, and countless other "oh, that woman singing is trouble" scenes would have existed without Put the Blame on Mame


Its definitely a film I'll want to watch again, and not just because of Rita Hayworth.  There were a lot of plot threads, some things I'll want to see again as per how whole scenes were thought through (such as the use of disguises during the Carnival sequence), etc...  Its a smart, clever movie and I can see why it turns up in so many lists.

As easy as it is to just want to applaud Rita Hayworth for her Hayworthness, Glenn Ford and George Macready are also both really good as well.  I haven't seen all that much of Glenn Ford's work, but I can see why he was a popular actor.
I hear San Antonio residents will be able to see it on the big screen this summer as part of the TPR Summer Film series!  So, you know, go check that out when NathanC begins promoting the film season.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TV Watch: Fargo Season 2



I was on blogging hiatus during the first season of Fargo.  In the year since returning I haven't talked about the program a great deal, but if you're a regular reader (Hi, Dad!), you may have seen me make mention of the show and the Season 1 star, Allison Tolman.  Hollywood, find this person work.  She's great.

When the show came back on again this Fall, I didn't care to write about this season of Fargo on an episode-by-episode basis.  When writing about television with its weekly installments, with its endless trails of breadcrumbs leading you in to the next episode and into the next season, you wind up tallying plot points, punching holes, checking boxes and idly speculating.  I do it here all the time when I talk TV.  

But with programs like FX's Fargo in this new era of American television, we're getting a new form of the medium, something akin to the novel for motion pictures.  Obviously, TV has grown and changed.  In many corners its unrecognizable from the industry and story-telling I grew up with, and while I find the idea of "binging" a show kind of weird and self-defeating, I can understand the desire to move from chapter to chapter and stay up late to finish a good book.

Fargo the TV series was never going to be the film of the same name, and seemed a hugely risky endeavor, a tight-rope act of television.  It was to be produced by the Coens, but that's code for: they'd get a check, but have no real participation.  Instead, it was the creative vision of Noah Hawley, a guy who worked on Bones and some other shows, but who didn't seem to have made a name for himself, exactly.  Few modern filmmakers are as highly regarded as the Coen Bros., and few have been as routinely successful in plunging into new territory, film after film.  And while you can enjoy a Coen Bros. film upon a first viewing, they bear repeat viewings and never disappoint.  And the Coen Bros. are prolific. 

The movie of Fargo arrived in 1996 to well-deserved critical acclaim and solid box office.  A noir-ish tale of avarice, crime, and human monsters with the soft glint of decency still living on the edges, painting the warm bed and the mundanities of life as a refuge - a good thing - in a world that has darkness always lapping at the edges.  The film struck a chord with a wider audience than the Coen Bros. had previously enjoyed, even when the studios tried to push them front and center with Hudsucker Proxy.  Sure, a lot of folks went to see the cop movie with the funny accents, but they wound up seeing a pretty good picture, too.

So what could we expect out of a TV show with a seeming lack of participation from the Coens?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?

DC released the trailer today for Superman Vs. The Elite, a feature length film based upon the famous-among-Superman-fans Action Comics #775.  The name of the story in the issue was "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?"


Get More: MTV Shows

It's an interesting time for DC Entertainment to be releasing the film.

The story pitted Superman against a rough analog for The Authority, a team book from DC's acquired Wildstorm line.  The Authority had become popular circa 1999 thanks to what some at the time called a "realistic" approach to superheroes - as in that fact that in the Wildstorm U, protagonists didn't catch bad buys and take them to jail or Arkham Asylum, they tended to deal with them with a tremendous bit of finality that became the hallmark of the line.

I read the first couple of trades of The Authority, and toward mid-2001, I recall losing my taste for the series.  The fascistic undertones of the book had always sat sort of oddly with me as a reader, but I assumed the writers were trying to make a point about power in a world where power was out of control.  However, after it became clear that... no...  the writers are just writing the most over-the-top stories they can think of, and are going to treat death tolls in the 10's of thousands casually, I simply lost interest.

2001 was, I might add, five years after Kingdom Come, the miniseries that, like Dark Knight Returns, seemed to have a serious impact on the DCU as a whole.  Waid and Ross's Kingdom Come was a brilliant collaboration, summing up the state of the superhero comics industry at the time, but also working as a larger commentary upon the endgame of extremism, that in the end you're left with madness, and sooner or later something will come along that nobody wants to see happen in an attempt to quell the day-to-day madness.

I still think Warren Ellis was trying to make a point with The Authority about how very human we are and that power doesn't change necessarily change that, even as we try to make decisions or use what we have to do good by others.  And on a planetary scale, the effects can be devastating.  I'm not sure the audience went along for that that particular ride, but they certainly seemed to like that "Apollo and The Midnighter" (a Superman and Batman analog) kicked ass!*