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noir month, #20-25. [another day, another movie.]

This post was getting a bit long for one post, so here is 20-25, which will be followed by one more concluding the month with the final six movies. I only have four more movies to watch, which is crazy. I can’t believe it went by so fast.


#20 – White Heat

White Heat brings James Cagney in on the noir month fun. I actually expected Cagney to be a bit of a John Wayne type situation, where I watch a particular sort of megastar from the past and can’t get into it at all. Yet, that wasn’t the case. He was actually pretty fun most of the time. White Heat is a great crime film, and far more violent than most movies from the time. There is violence in all these films, but it is more casual in this film. Four people are dead in the early moments just to show how bad the gang of thieves is.

It was tense, had an enjoyably intelligent cop as the hero, and Cagney was a wonderfully deranged villain. This is also a film with an iconic movie moment from film history, with Cagney’s final line, “”Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” It was a pretty great moment for our insane bad guy. It’s also pretty early on in heist film history, influencing those which came after. The heist film is something near and dear to my heart (even though it is so rarely done well).

Thumbs up all around!


#21 – The Sweet Smell of Success

This movie is damned near perfect. The dark story of a press agent trying to get back in the good graces of a powerfully influential, maniacally egotistical columnist. It works on every level: it’s a small, realistic, perfectly acted noir film; it’s an engaging time capsule of 1950’s New York; the jazzy score is far and away the best soundtrack so far this month; and it is a gripping and tense look at the interaction between corruption and innocence, power and weakness.

After a week or so of underwhelming films earlier in the month, the recent string of great movies has noir month back in a big way.


#22 – Scarlet Street

It was hard to watch this film much of the time, because I wanted to punch all of the characters in their faces regularly, especially the young paramour of the film’s leading lady. The plot developments didn’t feel particularly believable to me, and much of the time there wasn’t much basis for how characters were getting away with their stupid and immoral decisions.

I enjoy immoral characters who are complex, complicated, interesting. These characters just felt like stupid people to me.

However, the last fifteen minutes were much better than the rest of the film.


#23 – Touch of Evil

Ramon Miguel Vargas is a Mexican drug cop on a honeymoon with his American bride. A car bomb explodes, killing two people, just across the border into America. Worried about what this could mean for Mexico and border relations, Vargas uses his status (he’s kind of a big deal) to become involved with the case as an observer, but finds both his own life and that of his wife in danger as events continue taking one sinister turn after another.

To get the negative out of the way first: Right off the bat, the primary problem is that this movie was made in a time where a studio wouldn’t cast an actual Mexican-American actor to play the Mexican hero, so Charlton Heston painted brown did it instead. This is odd, because the movie actually has a pretty solid stance against racism, with the truly noble, heroic, honest, brave character being a Mexican police officer who spends most of this working hours trying to take down a major drug ring in Mexico, as well as a villain who was casually racist throughout. Also, the inclusion of an interracial marriage was no small matter at the time. It’s just disappointing this was the route they took. Charlton Heston playing a Mexican will always be absurd, and an embarrassing mark on American history, regardless of how strong his performance was.

However, beyond that, Welles takes over. He reworked the screenplay, directed the film, and costarred as the film’s villain. Right away, with the film’s three minute and twenty second single shot to open the film, you know this is turning into something special. It’s truly an amazing bit of filmmaking, with so many moving parts.

Welles was so remarkable. Even shots I didn’t like were impressive, they were all so bold and decisive. Also, Welles is a master of the noir style, so it was fun to watch him play in it for the duration of Touch of Evil. This film is a visual delight throughout.

The narrative was compelling, albeit with a few weak links here and there. I was genuinely worried for characters several times.

Another great example of what noir could be as a film style. As is the case with many of these movies, I haven’t seen Touch of Evil for the last time.

I’ve embedded the opening crane shot, because it’s worth just over three minutes of your time to see one of the greatest shots in film history.


#24 – The Asphalt Jungle

For the most part, The Asphalt Jungle is a solid, ordinary film noir. The story centers on a group of men who plan and carry out a jewel heist. Watching it from the lens of 2012, everything in it is pretty boilerplate, but this film was influential in the 50’s, thus it is largely responsible for what stands as boilerplate these days, especially in heist films.

Each character had their eye on something that the payday of this massive jewel take would provide. A way out, a way home, or a way to Mexico for retirement, each had a reason to undertake the venture, while each also had a vice that handicapped them from realizing their dream. At times, it goes a bit too far in hammering home a point. I also think more could have been done to increase the tension and desperation we felt in the characters, but this film really stands out for its cinematography anyway. Huston fit right in with that noir tradition that no shot should be ordinary. He would throw off an angle, or change the framing, or alter things just a bit to add noticeable style to each shot. I’d say it’s worth watching just for that, and the engaging story adds an extra bonus.


#25 – Mildred Pierce

Another great film, this one was recently remade as a miniseries for HBO starring Kate Winslet, Evan Rachel Wood, and Guy Pearce.

It begins with a murder, then the story unfolds from there as we learn what led up to the murder. It features a woman who is quite possibly the most hate-worthy character in the history of film. She is awful! Effectively so, of course, the character is supposed to be awful.

Great acting all around, as well as a compelling story which offers an enjoyable slant on noir tropes, make for a really great noir film.



bat for lashes – laura.

The woefully underappreciated Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Khan, don’t worry, not Wrath of Khan jokes here) is back with a new video. It’s beautifull shot and heartbreaking, even without a firm narrative structure of any kind.

The only downside, how do you have Marques Toliver in a video when he doesn’t get to perform? You just create unfulfilled longing in us all.

The new album, The Haunted Man, comes out on October.


two amazing albums.

It’s hard to believe album release dates anymore. They are often available for download long before they are supposed to be. However, two albums were “officially” released in wide format last Tuesday, and somehow, with these two albums, the heavens opened up and allowed two masterpieces to be unveiled on the world. Start to finish, these two albums are the real deal. You should use whatever means it is to download music to download these post haste!

Frank Ocean – Channel Orange


Nas – Life Is Good



So, I really need a rich friend to become overwhelmed with the desire to take me to Bestival 2012 in the UK this September. The lineup makes me want to cook meth in order to earn enough money to fly myself out to partake. Amongst the huge lineup, there are a number of personal favorites, including:

I want to go to there!!!


the rest of noir month.

I actually realized that since lots of people don’t read these posts, it makes more sense to have a big post all at once where I profile all the movies in one big list. So, that’s what I am going to do with the rest of noir month, finishing off all of them in a single post at the end of the month.

If anyone actually reads these, and prefers the original format, comment or email me or something. Otherwise, enjoy not having your blog RSS feed clogged with a series of posts you skip past!


double indemnity. [another day, another movie: noir #19]

There is no more important noir film than Double Indemnity. It is the story of an insurance salesman who works with the married woman he is seeing to plot her husband’s death, in such a way so that they both cash in on an accidental death payout.

It contains all of the themes that best represent noir, full of darkness, cynicism, passion, lust, betrayal, dishonesty, murder, and tragedy. The fast-talking characters are a joy to watch and listen to, each major character (and actor) electric with intelligence and wit. Barbara Stanwyck plays the ultimate femme fatale, a ruthless woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, with little care for human life, who uses her sexuality as a weapon. And Fred MacMurray, as the film’s protagonist, gives a performance upon which countless noir characters would be based moving forward. A noir protagonist is most often either an anti-hero (very frequently with a heart of gold), or a morally ambiguous character who does some truly evil things. MacMurray’s insurance man falls into the latter character, a man who doesn’t need much of a push (or really any push at all) from the femme fatale to make the transition into becoming a murderer.

I hadn’t seen this one since college, somewhere around 10 years ago. Watching it again, with different sensitivities and sensibilities, was really great. This film deserves all of the attention and praise which is lavished upon it. It pushed boundaries and challenged content codes, combining with the great filmmaking on display to earn its place firmly in the Hollywood canon.


don’t worry everyone, jeremy is good to be rid of this organization.

J.A. Adande wrote a story on ESPN about the fact that Lin is the big winner in this whole situation, because by heading to Houston he will be playing for a better organization with a better chance of winning sometime in the next five years. I didn’t read it, because I already knew this to be true.

Once Lin signed a poison pill contract with someone else, the Knicks did the right thing in letting him go. Because of how the luxury tax works, the third year of his contract would have cost the Knicks more money than any other has ever been paid to play NBA basketball. Lin is great, and I think he is far better than most analysts give him credit for. However, it still needs to be understood that he was a D-League player with almost no track record in the NBA other than his brief run with the Knicks. Is he worth the gamble of 14.8 mil the Rockets are throwing down in his third year? Yes. Is he worth the gamble of 30 million for one year? No.

However, that poison pill contract never would have happened if James Dolan & Co. knew how to run a franchise, because if they knew what they were doing, they never would have let Jeremy make it to the free agent market. He wanted to stay in NY, NY fans wanted him, and he deserved to be paid for the potential greatness he showed on the court. Even Bob Cousy gave rave reviews when asked what he saw in Lin on the court. He’s young, and the turnover issues would be fixed, that’s a normal young PG issue. I bet if the Knicks had offered Jeremy Lin a contract extension of, say, three or four years, at $5, $6, $9, or $5, $6, $8, $9, he would have taken it. Being a Harvard man, he would have known how much extra cash he could have made in the NY market. What would most likely have happened is that he would have made loads of cash, and the Knicks would have one of the best young PG in the league at a huge bargain. Instead, they let him hit free agency, knowing full well that he could be offered a poison pill offer sheet, which he might sign, tying the Knicks hands, since over the next few years they will be paying loads of money for a rapidly aging Amar’e Stoudemire.

Still, while he won’t have the NY market to cash in on, Jeremy Lin gets the great gift of NEVER HAVING TO DEAL WITH JAMES DOLAN AGAIN! That’s a big win if you ask me. The Knicks are remarkably disfunctional, and they probably would have self-sabotaged long before Lin had the chance to lead them to a title. Even if he plays at the highest possible projection of his talent.

As a Knicks fan, I’m sad to see him go. He was the only reason the Knicks were worth watching through most of this season. Yet, he seems like he’s about as good as athletes get in the character and likability department, and because of that, I’m glad he won’t be mired down by the ugliest, most poorly run, most useless organization in the NBA.

Good luck, Jeremy.