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the lost weekend. [another day, another movie: noir #18]

Oh my God. This movie is amazing. The year it came out it won Oscars for best picture, actor, director, and screenplay, and it was one of those films that definitely deserved it. This was a throwaway choice for me. I put it on the list because it was on 12 lists on iCheckMovies, but otherwise I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, nor was it one of the films I was particularly looking forward to once the list was completed. It was such a wonderful surprise.

It stars Ray Milland as failing writer Don Birnam. Mostly he’s failing because he is an alcoholic, although he is also, in part, an alcoholic because he is failing. He is supposedly ten days off the sauce to open the film, preparing for a weekend away with his brother. He can think of nothing more than finding his next drink, so he manages to trick his girlfriend and his brother out for the afternoon so he can find his way to some alcohol. What follows is a weekend plunge into drunkenness, shame, pain, and humiliation as things just keep getting worse. Any hope he has is slowly whittled away by the grip alcohol has on his life.

Ray Milland is absolutely fantastic as our drunken protagonist. He’s an uncanny mash-up of Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant, which would be distracting if his acting in this film were any less gripping.

Also, the film marks the return of Billy Wilder to noir month. This is his third appearance as writer and director, and he’ll be back again before the month is through. Very soon in fact, when I rewatch Double Indemnity, another noir uber-classic.

This movie also hit really close to home. When Don would break down and share his darkest feelings, his shame and frustration at continuing to fail as a writer, his feelings of uselessness, that the people who care about him would be far better off if they’d never met him, realizing he peaked too young as a human being… it was like I wrote it myself. The only difference between us is that his mental illness is alcoholism, and mine are depression and insomnia. It only helped all the more to shoot this movie up into one of the more impressive films I’ve seen. By far the biggest surprise of the month. I would probably have changed the ending, but it is an otherwise perfect film.



in a lonely place. [another day, another movie: noir #17]

Seventeen movies in!

Bogart is back for In a Lonely Place, the story of a writer who winds up suspected of murder until a beautiful neighbor helps him alibi out. The two fall in love, but then she begins to doubt his innocence.

As far as weaknesses go, there are several. Brian and I spent this afternoon brainstorming what we might have done with the screenplay. Mostly, I would have included much more ambiguity in a number of places, as opposed to simply drastically changing a character part of the way through the movie.

As strengths go, the story is actually mostly entertaining, and the dialogue is fantastic. Bogart and Gloria Graham have so many amazing lines, perfectly delivered. I could watch Bogart in the first 40 minutes of this film on a loop indefinitely.

Also, in somewhat unrelated news, we found a story about Bogart and Bacall’s role in founding the Rat Pack. According to Bacall, the point of the group was to, “to drink a lot of bourbon and stay up late.” In other words, I was born in the wrong decade, because I was basically invented to be a member of the rat pack.


the postman always rings twice. [another day, another movie: noir #16]

Since the plan is to watch 32 noir films in 31 days, this marks the halfway point as far as films go. Sixteen in the books.

In The Postman Always Rings Twice, a drifter takes a job at a roadside cafe/gas station where a beautiful woman is married to a much older man. As is the case in noir, sparks fly, passion ensues, and the pair starts plotting how they might be able to kill the old man so that they can get rid of the third wheel without giving up the financial revenue of having their own roadside cafe/gas station.

If the private detective template from The Maltese Falcon is the one most people imitate when they are referencing a noir story, the template of this story, in which a couple plans someone’s murder for financial gain, is a close #2.

While I certainly have my complaints with some portions, it is none the less another impressive turn. The story is partly a morality tale about the fact that one never truly gets away with murder.


the maltese falcon. [another day, another movie: noir #15]

The Maltese Falcon is the third film I’d already seen entering noir month, so no surprises here one way or the other.

So much of the time, when people are paying homage to, parodying, or mimicking film noir, this is the film they are mimicking. The film opens in San Francisco, on Bogart, who plays Sam Spade, a private detective. His secretary comes in and lets him know there is “a knockout” in the waiting room. In comes our femme fatale, who gives our private eye a sob story about a sister who ran away from home with a man, a man she needs Spade and his partner Archer to follow. It’s not long before murder breaks out, mystery unfurls, and a group of seedy characters all wind up in a race to find a precious historical artifact: The Maltese Falcon. The falcon is really a bit of a MacGuffin, but there’s nothing wrong with  that when done responsibly. The characters circling around the MacGuffin make sense, albeit in a slightly cartoonish way quite common in the 40’s, even in noir.

The movie starts off alright, but grows more enjoyable as the minutes pass and the story unfolds. Not my favorite noir, but still a wonderful example of the genre. Obviously there is a reason I chose to watch it for a second time.

As a bonus, several cast members from Casablanca appear as major players in this film as well. If only they could have brought Ingrid Bergman with them.



‘world’s end’ gets a poster.

The third film in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s ‘Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy’ (aka, The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy) has gotten a teaser poster. The first two films in the trilogy are Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. 

The final installment will be a sci-fi, end of the world film, taking place while a group of friends are attempting a massive pub crawl.

You may remember from the first two films that cornetto ice cream treats are featured in both, and this will be no different, with flavors varying within each of the three films to represent the thematic backdrop of the film. Shaun of the Dead features strawberry: red wrapper (blood, gore, horror, zombies), Hot Fuzz features classic flavor: blue wrapper (cop buddy action), the third film will feature mint chocolate-chip: green wrapper (Someone will have to explain the connection to me, I’m out of the loop. Perhaps an environmental disaster causes the apocalypse?).

Filming is supposed to begin in October.


the killers. [another day, another movie: noir #14]

Yes. Yes. Yes.

This is what I had in mind when I decided to do a month of noir. An absolutely fantastic film, as well as a noir in the sense most of us think of when the idea comes to mind. I’ve been really glad to have my understanding of noir expanded over the month, but it was still  nice to get back to a film like this one. It’s a taut crime mystery, nearly every shot is a contrast between light and shadow, there are seedy characters throughout, we get a down the middle femme fatale, at the center of the mystery is a poor sap who gets pulled in over his head and loses everything, and the action is driven by an investigator who is sorting through the myriad clues to try and piece together what really happened as he follows the money.

The opening moments of the film, up until probably around the 20 minute mark, are based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway (one of his Nick Adams stories). The introduction alone is worth the price of admission. It’s amazing, electric, tense, and perfectly shot, as two hitmen blow into town on a contract, a man who turns out not to give much resistance to his coming demise. Then, the rest of the film is original, and no longer based on the short story, as an insurance investigator gets hooked by the case and keeps working the knot until the threads begin to loosen and the mystery unravels.

So good. Everyone in it is pitch-perfect. Especially Edmond O’Brien as the insurance investigator; Burt Lancaster as our ill-fated center of the action: The Swede; and Ava Gardner, who lights up the screen in her few short appearances as the film’s femme fatale. Seriously, though, everyone was really great.

I loved the writing, the acting, the cinematography, the direction, the pacing. This is a perfect noir film, instantly launched into my top three favorites so far this month.



shadow of a doubt. [another day, another movie: noir #13]

Shadow of a Doubt is the story of a young girl named Charlie, who adores her Uncle Charlie, after whom she is named. He comes to visit the family, to the delight of everyone, but is he actually a homicidal maniac?!? Dun dun dunnnnnnn!

After a brilliant start, I’ve reached a bit of a lull in this noir version of ‘Another Day, Another Movie.’ Well, whenever something like that happens, the wisest course of action is to apply some Hitchcock to the problem. That’s what I did by watching Shadow of a Doubt. 

It’s not the best movie of the month, but it is certainly a return back to engaging stories I actually enjoy watching. There are some silly leaps of logic, a pretty unclimactic climax, and some plot holes which can’t be looked at too closely, else they’ll crumble the whole thing… oh yeah, and a really creepy dynamic between uncle and niece early in the film.

Still, with this film we get Hitchcock’s technical wonders (my favorite shot is one where a character learns something terrible, and what begins as a close-up keeps panning out until the character is seen alone in a big, dark, empty room, with the shot pulled all the way out and up to show how isolated and far away the character is in that moment), along with some genuine emotion for once. We actually get some characters who make at least a little sense. Also, leave it to Hitchcock to be the guy who subverts all of the noir pitfalls regarding women when he makes a noir. The main character is a woman, and instead of being a femme fatale (which I’ve actually learned this month is exaggerated as a primary part of noir, there have actually only been a few in the 13 movies so far), she’s the one unraveling the story’s mystery. Also, the film features a little girl who spends all of her time reading, because she has taken a ‘sacred oath’ to read two books a week, the little girl looks down on her father for the silly crime novels and stories he reads. The main character is strong, smart, and independent, the leader of her family. While she does date a guy during the film, there is never any moment where we feel he is necessary to her, or completes or… **spoiler** he doesn’t even swoops in to save her in her moment of need. **spoiler ended**

Not the typical female characters you find in early 1940’s film.

I assume some don’t consider this one of Hitchcock’s lesser works. I do, but I think it just goes to show that even his lesser works are worth my time. Up with Alfred!!


gun crazy. [another day, another movie: noir #12]

Gun Crazy (also known as Deadly is the Female) is a precursor to 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, as the story of a man and a woman who fall in love (largely over a shared love of marksmanship), and wind up running around the country robbing people at gunpoint. Inevitably, things get deadly.

Gun Crazy was another film that was hit or miss all the way through. There are some really impressive technical achievements in the film, along with several things I imagine were being done for the first time. Most notable is a really impressive single shot filmed from the back seat of a car. The shot includes our bandits driving up to a bank, the guy going inside, a cop approaching outside, the woman distracting the cop, the guy running back out of the bank, and the pair getting back in the car and starting their escape. Not too shabby.

However, while much of the filming is impressive, I wasn’t particularly engaged by the story. I never felt any chemistry or heat between the leads, nor was their ever any believable passion that led up to any of the film’s murders. The beats were all pretty flat. It was also frustrating to watch the half-assed and misguided attempts to make everything her fault, but without actually including any ambiguity or believable build of tension or feeling.

As a lover of film history, I’m supposed to love this movie. I didn’t. Maybe I need to find a bonafide film historian to start watching movies with me.