November 24 - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Martin McDonagh - The investigation into the murder of a small town girl has stalled and fizzled, but the mother of the victim is determined to keep the pain and shame of it all fresh in the minds of the entire community regardless the consequences to friends, family and enemies alike. Frances McDormand leads a ridiculously strong cast whose mission seems to be proving that real hurt can be felt by real assholes and that you'll really care. This one goes straight to the top of my favorite output by either McDonagh brother exemplifying the best qualities both possess - memorable and complex characters with a penchant for caustically profane self-expression and too-frequent-to-be-accidental moments of raw and acerbic humanity. I challenge you to find a member of the expansive cast of characters who's relegated to one-note, whose pain isn't real, faults aren't obvious and yet whose point of view doesn't make sense enough to illicit your sympathy for at least a moment before they do the next terrible thing they're bound to. The final moments offer either slight reprieve to the mounting tensions or a pause at the precipice of greater, fathomless darkness - you decide. Awards forthcoming for McDonagh, McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell if there's any justice in the world... but then it is a noir.
November 25 - Dog Eat Dog - Paul Schrader - Three career-criminals out of prison for the last time - because they all know the end is near - set for life or dead. Their last circles around the drain are wild and sloppy and do not break the first rule of film making: don't be boring.
November 26 - Brighton Rock - John Boulting - Richard Attenborough is a Brighton gangster whose problems include his own mates, a rival gang and an inconvenient murder witness. For reasons that seem simpler while under the films' sway he becomes romantically involved with the witness and even marries her in an attempt to prevent her being forced to testify against him. His living hell is her whirlwind romance and the audience gets to experience both all the way through the perfection of the picture's final moment full of quintessentially Graham Greene touches.
November 27 - Filth - Jon S. Baird - James McAvoy made a fan out of me with his go from broke performance as an utterly rotten human being and policeman exercising his demons with all the authority of his badge behind him. Messy and potent, man I respond to big wild swings at greatness more than I tend to measured, precise pokes in the right direction.
November 28 - The Crying Game -Neil Jordan - So there's this scorpion that wants to cross a river... Been a long time since I'd seen this one, so happy to report you don't have to be surprised by the plot to be surprised by the characters even when you realize they're only staying true to their nature... even when that's going to put them in danger and maybe get them killed.
November 29 - M - Fritz Lang - Jeez, Peter Lorre is creepy.
November 30 - Wind River - Taylor Sheridan - Appropriately moody and invested in its victims, but not really a noir... unless you take into account its fatalism about the populace of the titular Wyoming Indian reserve and treat it as a tour of life in the margins. It's a fine procedural that pulls one of the more hotly contentious moves Sheridan's script for Sicario also did, though this time it doesn't feel as jarring due to establishing Jeremy Renner as the main character.
November 11 - The Dark Corner - Henry Hathaway - Lucille Ball has top billing, but she's relegated to second banana as secretary and love interest to Clifton Webb's PI, but it's William Bendix who gets the best moment. Helpful hint - never do business in front of an open window.
November 12 - 99 River Street - Phil Karlson - This one's the goods. Everything you want in a noir film - seedy atmosphere, class resentment, sexual distrust, men who only know how to solve their problems with violence and the men and women who manipulate them, moody cinematography. Bonus points for depictions of probably the two most thematically essential film noir occupations: fighter and cab driver. Fuckin-A.
November 13 - Shamus - Buzz Kulik - A coitus-engaged couple are attacked by flamethrower from the skylight above them and then a two man team in flame-retardant outfits break into a safe in the room to steal some diamonds. That's just... damn, that's how you start a movie. If the rest of the movie was as great as the first 30 seconds, this would be the greatest movie of Reynolds' career. Unfortunately things get a lot more standard and pat from there. The best or worst thing about the whole endeavor though is that Burt clearly don't give a shit.
November 14 - Taboo - Chips Hardy, Tom Hardy, Steven Knight - Knight, the writer of Dirty Pretty Things and Easter Promises and creator of Peaky Blinders teams with Blinders co-star Hardy (as well as Hardy Jr.'s father) to bring another historical seamy London underworld tale with a lot of familiar elements in a bold new mix. Hardy plays James Delaney a prodigal son, believed long dead, who returns to London when his father dies and upends the lives of his everyone who was counting on controlling the fortune and assets left by the deceased. What follows is a revenge tale, with elements of espionage, black magic, cannibalism and incest/romance. I'll be checking out season 2.
November 15 - The Long Goodbye - Robert Altman - Altman and Gould have to be one of the least likely teams to make a satisfying Raymond Chandler adaptation, but they managed to make my favorite. Gould's Marlowe is a wise ass afloat in and amused by the cesspool he floats in, neither a part nor a judge of the hedonism and checked-outedness around him, he reserves his contempt for the elements in the power structure inside and outside of the law and positions himself as a protective barrier between those with and without power. He admires few people and only shows real emotion when betrayed. And it's in those rare moments of real hurt and anger when this film sizzles.
November 16 - Battles Without Honor and Humanity - Kinji Fukasaku - The first installment in Fukasaku's five-film Yakuza Papers kicks things off with a blast of chaotic post-war ultra-violence as competing yakuza families work out petty squabbles with the occasional practical business concern sprinkled in with bloody inefficiency. The blackly humorous tone and irreverence toward mythic yakuza cool and stoicism is still refreshing forty years later.
November 17 - Raman Raghav 2.0 - Anurag Kashyap - The connection between a compromised policeman and the killer he is chasing is slowly revealed in the neon-grunge of Mumbai. The enigmatic performance by Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Raman, a modern day killer who takes inspiration from a real serial murderer from the 1960s whose first name he shares, is the most compelling reason to watch this one, but atmosphere generated and sustained by Kashyap's camera and excellent locales sure help.
November 18 - Cure - Kiyoshi Kurosawa - Kôji Yakusho plays a detective investigating a series of gruesome killings committed by people without motive for or memory of their actions in this moody piece of cinematic terror.
November 19- Drunken Angel - Akira Kurosawa - Takashi Shimura is the titular character, a small town dctor who spends his time trying to save his neighbors from their toxic environment in nuclear-devastated Japan. It's an uphill battle he handles with a hot temper and warm heart, but he meets his match when he encounters Toshirô Mifune's yakuza with an appetite for self-destruction. Filmed and set during the United States' occupation of Japan it's a film disillusioned with tradition and skeptical of the future, but absolutely present in its human pain and determined to find a compass there that may lead somewhere worth being.
November 20 - A Colt is My Passport - Takashi Nomura - Released the same year as Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill (the better remembered yakuza picture also starring Jô Shishido) this one is a straight-forward hardboiled thriller full of romantic notions for codes of honor among gangsters. Shishido and Jerry Fujio are assassins and partners hired to kill the head of arival yakuza family, but upon completion of their mission find themselves trapped in a strange city and cut off from the support of their own organization whose leadership have struck a hasty new deal with the rival family and offered the killers up as a goodwill sacrifice for the new partnership. The pair of killers have only each other, their wits and their guts to help them survive.
November 21 - Fallen Angel -Otto Preminger - Classic mid-century noir elements here - a drifter/con-man broke and stranded in a small town becomes one point on a lusty triangle with two locals, one a hardbitten sexpot and the other a virgin with a money. He throws in with another local conman and hatches a plan to marry into money and steal the vixen's void where others have a heart. Pure pleasure with high marks for the cast, especially Linda Darnell and John Carradine.
November 22 - Ride the Pink Horse - Robert Montgomery - Another entry in the gringo noir subgenre adapted from the novel by Dorothy B. Hughes. A revenge tale set in a New Mexican border town, every character may be unreliable and all have mysterious motives. The atmosphere generated by the locale would make it a swell double feature with Touch of Evil, both of which, come to think of it, could have been AC/DC song titles.
November 23 - Born to Kill - Robert Wise - Lawrence Tierney as the epitome of masculine insecurity. He may be a cold, remorseless killer, but he is not without feelings. He'll drop the hammer on anybody any time if he thinks they've slighted him and he's easily manipulated to do so by those with nerve enough to be close to him. Pretty fuckin great.