Saturday, November 30, 2019

30 Days Has Noirvember Recap

Thanks to everybody who participated in the 30 Days Has Noirvember series both as contributors and enthusiastic viewers and responders. I, for one, had a lot of fun, discovered a few movies I'd not even heard of and finally watched some that I'd had on my list for a long time. For folks who want it all in one-stop shopping, I'm going to list all the films recommended here in alphabetical order - but you really should go back and read the wonderful write ups a lot of these got. Also, a lot of contributors went with "underrated" for their lists, but others had very specific/nuanced criteria and qualifiers for their picks.

Ace in the Hole
Across 110th Street
After Dark, My Sweet 
The Anderson Tapes
Angel Heart (twice)
Animal Kingdom
The Apostle
Appointment With Danger
Asura: The City of Madness
At Close Range
Bad Boys
Bad Day for the Cut
Bedroom Window
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Betrayed Women
A Bittersweet Life
Blood & Wine
Blue Collar (twice)
The Blue Dahlia
Blues in the Night
Body Double
Boyz N the Hood
La Cérémonie 
City of God
City on Fire
City Streets
Coin Locker Girl
Crashout (twice)
Crime Wave (1953)
Crime Wave (1985)
The Crooked Way (twice)
Cry Tough
Cutter's Way
Dangerous Crossing
Darker Than Amber
Dead Again
Deep Cover
Dressed to Kill
Drive a Crooked Road
Drugstore Cowboy
Easy Rider
Electra Glide in Blue
Flesh & Bone
Follow Me Quietly
The French Connection II
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (twice)
The Fury of a Patient Man
A Gathering of Old Men
Get Carter
The Glass Key
Green Room
Hangin' With the Homeboys
He Ran All the Way
The Hit
The Hitcher
The Hot Spot
House By the River
In the Bedroom
The International
La Jetée 
Judas Kiss
Key Largo
The King of Marvin Gardens
The Kill-Off
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Kiss Me a Killer
Kiss of Death
Ladrones y Mentirosos
Lady Vengeance
The Last Seduction
A Life in the Balance
Light Sleeper (twice)
The Limey
Machine Gun McCain
The Man Who Wasn't There
Man Without a Map
Mean Guns
Menace II Society
Miller's Crossing
Murder by Contract
My Darling Clementine
Mystery Road
Narrow Margin
Near Dark
New World
Night of the Living Dead
No Way Out
One False Move (twice)
Open Secret
Panic in Year Zero
The Pawn Broker
Plunder Road (twice)
Private Property
Pusher II: With Blood On My Hands
Pusher III: I am the Angel of Death
The Rapture
Red Road
Red Rock West
River's Edge
Road to Nowhere
The Robber
The Sadist
The Saint of Fort Washington
The Salton Sea
Séance on a Wet Afternoon
Scene of the Crime
The Seven-Ups
Set it Off
The Set-Up
Shield For Murder (twice)
Short Eyes
Sling Blade
Split Second
Strange Illusion
Sun Don't Shine
Sweet Virginia
Take Out
Tall Tales
Los Tallos Amargos
Them That Follow
Tin Men
They Won't Believe Me
To Die For
To Live & Die in L.A.(twice)
Trouble in Mind (twice)
12 Monkeys
Two Hands
Two Step
U-Turn (three times)
Uptight! (twice)
The Vanishing
Way of the Gun
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Winter's Bone
The Yellow Sea
Zero Effect

Also, perhaps worth noting filmmakers who appeared repeatedly on the list: Paul Schrader (5 times), Sidney Lumet (4 times), Nicolas Winding Refn and Oliver Stone (3 times), The Coen BrothersHubert Cornfield, John Dahl, Jules Dassin, Brian De Palma, André De Toth, Richard Fleischer, Robert Florey, Lewis R. Foster, Carl Franklin, James Foley, William Friedkin, Alfred Hitchcock, Dennis Hopper, Tim Hunter, Howard Koch, Edmond O'Brien, Alan Parker, Richard Quine, Bob Rafelson, Alan Rudolph, Ivan Sen, Billy Bob Thornton, Gus Van Sant and Peter Yates (twice).

And our contributors: Scott Adlerberg, Eric Beetner, Max Booth III, William Boyle, Heather Buckley, Angel Luis Colón, S.A. Cosby, Stephanie Crawford, Nikki Dolson, Pete Dragovich, Christa Faust, Michael A. Gonzales, Kent Gowran, Barry Graham, Jordan Harper, Tim Hennessy, Jake Hinkson, Blake Howard, Adam Howe, Ryan Jackson, Jen Johans, Minsoo Kang, Brian Lindenmuth, Marietta Miles, Andrew Nette, Gary Phillips, Ryan Prows, Johnny Shaw, Kieran Shea, Jay Stringer, Scout Tafoya and Travis Woods.

Now... strap in for the holiday series CrimesMas.

30 Days Has Noirvember: Barry Graham

Five underrated noirs

Pickpocket - Robert Bresson (1959) — a masterpiece that proves the Hollywood conventions of "explaining" and "motivation" are nonsense. Why does he pick pockets? Doesn't matter, so isn't explained. Why is he unable to face his mother? Because that's how it is, and we don't need to know why. He's a person, not an equation. The ending of this film is so powerful, Paul Schrader reproduced it as the end of American Gigolo.

The Robber - Benjamin Heisenberg (2010) — another film that doesn't dumb its story down to an explanation, this tale of an armed robber/marathon runner is one of the great modern films noir.

The Limey - Steven Soderbergh (1999) — the screenplay by Lem Dobbs is overwritten and packed with cliches. Soderbergh cut all of that, made the film from the skeleton of the screenplay, and it's elegant, brutal and heartbreaking. Perhaps Terence Stamp's best performance, and Peter Fonda's Peter Fonda-ness is put to good use.

Red Road - Andrea Arnold (2006) — One of the two greatest cinematic depictions of urban Scotland (the other is Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher), this film has a glaring plot hole (you can't just have someone on parole charged with rape, then drop the charge, without consequences) that it makes you overlook because its acting and writing are so convincing. A perfect depiction of the Glasgow I live in.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle - Peter Yates (1973) — I avoided seeing this film for many years, because the book it's based on, by George V. Higgins, is my favorite English-language novel. I needn't have worried, because the film is just as great, and Robert Mitchum inhabits, rather than acts as, the weary, kindly, criminal working stiff Eddie.

Barry Graham is a Zen Buddhist monk living in Glasgow. His novels include The Wrong Thing, One For My Baby, How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy? and When it All Comes Down to Dust. His non-fiction includes writing on Zen Buddhism (Kill Your Self: Life After Ego), social issues (Why I Watch People Die) and When the Light Bulb is Bare: Essays on Horror and Noir. He is an editor at Dockyard PressKeep up with him at his Website.

30 Days Has Noirvember: Brian Lindenmuth

Anyone who knows me knows that I have an expansive definition of what is noir. Here's five I would argue are noir, noir adjacent, or have noir tendencies. - Brian Lindenmuth

Blue Collar -  Paul Schrader - Given its pedigree, Blue Collar still tends to be a forgotten flick. Those that know me, are by used to my constant referencing to it. Blue Collar doesn't start off as a noir, but it becomes one. When the trio of auto workers decide to climb out of their socio-economic stations by pulling off a robbery, they aren't ready for the hell that comes their way. Made all the more memorable because the job that they pull was never a huge score, just one that was going to, maybe, keep their heads just a little above water just for a bit.

Boyz N the Hood - John Singleton - Boyz in the Hood has some noir tendencies. Partly because a chance encounter leads to a main character demise. Yet again we see larger systemic forces work to crush anyone with notions of rising above those systems.

Night of the Living Dead - George A. Romero - It's a bit of an outlier for this subject. But again, if you look at noirs as explorations of larger forces against the individual, Night of the Living Dead fits in its own way, simply because of the ending. It's not that, with the protagonist's death, the movie ends on a dark note, and is therefore noir. It's math isn't that elementary. It's the protagonist's death at the hands of a white mob, after surviving the previous night, and the time period the movie out. It may have been an unintended statement, but it became a powerful one nonetheless.

To Live and Die in L.A. - William Friedkin - For me, To Live and Die in  L.A. is the most classically noir film on this list. The protagonist makes a seemingly righteous chouce to step off the path, and take matrers into his own hands. Initially, the notion of getting revenge for the fallen partner is one that the audience gets behind. But that deviation from the norm, incrementally and increasingly becomes far more than originally expected. By the time the audience realizes how far doen the dark path they are, they're already strapped in for the rest of the ride.
Up Tight! - Jules Dassin - I only just watched this for the first time this year and I'm sorry it took me so long to watch it. It's simply a stunning movie. I include it here because of the character Tank. Again, he makes a choice that he is unable, or unwilling, to see the consequences of. And those consequences are dire.

Brian Lindenmuth is a Bronzeville Books acquisitions team member and has been writing about crime fiction since 2006. He started off as the mystery/crime fiction editor for Mystery Book Spot and was the longtime non-fiction editor of Spinetingler Magazine. Additionally, his work has appeared in Crimespree Magazine, The Bronzeville Bee, Heliotrope Magazine, BSC Review, Mulholland Books website, and Galley Cat. He was the head of the reading committee for the annual Spinetingler Awards. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLindenmuth.

Friday, November 29, 2019

30 Days Has Noirvember: Max Booth III

I don't really know how underrated any of these are, but i seldom see them discussed online so fuck it, these are the first five to spring to mind. - Max Booth III

The Last Seduction - John Dahl - Fucking nobody's making good erotic noirs anymore and it's bullshit. This is one of the best.

The Vanishing - George Sluizer - Once considered a stone-cold classic, but I don't hear many people talking about this absolute mindfuck of a film anymore. Ignore the remake, stick with the original. Let it bleed into you.

RopeAlfred Hitchcock - One of the few Hitchcock films you'll never hear people discussing, yet it's probably his best, or at the very least tied there with Rear Window. Two people commit murder, then hide the body in the middle of a dinner party they're throwing just to see if they can. Hell yeah. Where's my invitation?

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie - John Cassavetes - Feels like it's four hours long and you hope it never ends. There's something intoxicating about the way Cassavetes portrays night, and I want to drink every ounce of it in.

Blue Collar - Paul Schrader - Maybe Schrader's best, featuring a heavy-weight tag-team of Harvey Keitel, Richard Pryor, and Yaphet Kotto. Fuck management and fuck capitalism and fuck everything.

Max Booth III doesn't know when to quit. He writes fucking books a fucking lot. I fucking loved The Nightly Disease and his latest is Carnivorous Lunar Activities. He does podcasts a fucking lot. Check out uh, Castle Rock Radio for starters. He puts out other people's books through Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and edits fucking cool ass anthologies and writes columns for LitReactor and now he hosts a variety show (hey, Austin folks, look for Something Indecent with Max Booth III). He does all of this when he should be sleeping. Follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth

30 Days Has Noirvember: Andrew Nette

Film noir has been so picked over, I am not sure any of the films that are part of it can be described anymore as unknown or underappreciated. But here are my five picks for the least known/appreciated entries in the body of film known as film noir.

Shield for Murder - Howard W. Koch, Edmond O’Brien - O'Brien stars in my favorite bad cop film noir.

Plunder Road - Hubert Cornfield - A great heist goes wrong film, clocking in at 72 minutes.

Crashout - Lewis R. Foster - A prison break film noir with a difference

House by the River - Fritz Lang - A terrifically twisted film about a crime writer who goe very bad

The Crooked Way - Robert Florey - I love amnesia in film noir

Andrew Nette is a fucking doctor you plebs. He is a fancy man who lives in Melbourne and writes crime fiction as well as scholarly shit about pulp culture. His latest non-fiction book, Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, is available to pre-order now. You won't be sorry if you follow him on Twitter @PulpCurry.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

30 Days Has Noirvember: Travis Woods

Like former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s 1964 description of pornography—“I know it when I see it”—the definition of film noir is both easy to grasp and arduous to articulate. It’s a loose tangle of specific influences and abstract tones often subsumed by a cultural shorthand of surface-level clichés—fedora’d men and sex kitten molls trading bullets and barbs on rain-stained city streets that always terminate with dead ends. And when you add to that the fact that, no matter what films noir or neo-noir that I might denote as “underrated” there’s always likely to be some slick fuck out there who will (probably rightly) note that everybody who’s anybody has already seen ‘em all already…so, well, putting together a list of underrated films noir is some tricky, onerous shit.

That said, I’ll always come running when Jed calls, and as such, we’re gonna roll with this series of double features: various duos of thematically interlaced noirdom that are underrated because I fucking say they are—maybe you’ve seen them, maybe you haven’t, but I believe them be some of the underappreciated jewels of the genre (ok, maybe not U-Turn, but it’s still a fun bit of business, they can’t all be winners, Jesus).

After Dark, My Sweet / The Hot Spot

1990 may well stand as neo-noir’s gloriously decadent apogee, with such heavy hitters as The Grifters, King of New York, Miller’s Crossing, Nikita, The Two Jakes, Wild at Heart, I Hired a Contract Killer, and Boiling Point all hitting screens at the dawn of that decade. Two films also released that year, but which seem only scant synaptic flickers in our cultural memory, are James Foley’s After Dark, My Sweet and Dennis Hopper’s The Hot Spot.

Two deliriously libidinous fuck-noirs based upon 1950s crime-pulped masterworks (Foley’s film is based on the 1955 Jim Thompson novel of the same name; The Hot Spot is based upon Charles William’s 1952 potboiler Hell Hath No Fury), both films featured a mysterious stranger drifting into rural desert towns and falling beneath the sway of damaged, damaging femme fatales—After Dark finds ex-boxer and possible madman “Kid” Collins (Jason Patric, giving his best performance) finding heavenly obliteration in the arms of drunken widow Fay Anderson (Rachel Ward, ditto), while The Hot Spot follows conman Harry Maddox (Don Johnson) as he creates his own hell by having an affair with the murderous, comically-oversexed Dolly Hershaw (Virginia Madsen). After Dark, My Sweet takes the very best of Thompson’s novels and becomes the very best of his adaptations with a nuanced, ambiguous portrait of humanity teetering on the high-wire between regret and redemption; The Hot Spot may be less artistically adroit, but it has so much more fun as its brain—and ball—burstingly horny series of double-, triple-, and quadruple-crosses adds up to quite possibly the purest distillation of ‘50s camp crime fiction on the big screen (additionally, The Hot Spot’s score—a series of duets between Miles Davis and John Lee Hooker—is a motherfucker. Find it and buy it).

At Close Range / U-Turn

Mirroring the double feature above, here’s another serious (and seriously amazing) James Foley noir drama followed with a rotgut chaser of pure, laceratingly noxious pulp. At Close Range features Sean Penn starring in the true story of a rural Pennsylvania crime family led by a terrifyingly dead-eyed Christopher Walken, and its two brutal, beautiful hours lay bare the ecstatic sweetness of youth’s innocence and the inchoate bleakness that comes with its loss.

Just over a decade later, Oliver Stone’s U-Turn finds Penn as a violently amoral drifter on the run from the Russian mob and stuck in a dead-end Arizona town dizzyingly overrun with murder, blackmail, double-crosses, incest, and copious roadkill in a film that snaps its own spine bending over backwards to out-Thompson big Jim himself. At Close Range is decidedly the better of the bunch and far more deserving of a reevaluation; that said, U-Turn, coming as it did on the honored heels of JFK, Heaven & Earth, Natural Born Killers, and Nixon, has always been an overlooked bit of gleeful nastiness in Stone’s 1990s hot streak, and is a double-barrel blast of unfairly forgotten ugly fun.

Darker Than Amber / Cutter's Way 

Two melancholy beach-bum noirs as sheened in beersweat as they are hazylazy sunlight, Darker Than Amber and Cutter’s Way are both detective novel adaptations transformed into end-of-the-decade elegies for times past and times lost. Darker Than Amber’s odd, loose-limbed take on John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee character is the lighter, more eccentric of the two, like a bawdy, brawling send-off to the sixties that’s too drunk to realize it’s depressed...

Cutter’s Way, however, is pure soul-black dread, a film so corrosively unhappy with the outcome of the 1970s that the only choice left in life seems to be the slow suicide of the bottle or the flashbang quickness of the gun. Both films begin with scathing portraiture of the way women are discarded by society, and both films pull their ostensible heroes into murky mystery, but only Cutter’s Way has an ending so devastating, so irrevocable and fucking desolate, as to cement its status as one of the greatest films ever made (Darker Than Amber does have the greatest fistfight of 1970s cinema, though, with stars Rod Taylor and William Smith beating the hell out of each other for a scene, and then losing their tempers and beating the hell out of each other for real, so hey, that’s something). Together, these two films sit on a brokenglass-strewn beach, the stinking foam of the ocean lapping at their feet, drinking themselves into oblivion as the sun of their respective decades sinks slow behind rolling horizon.

Travis Woods is an editor and staff writer for Bright Wall / Dark Room, contributing writer for The New Beverly Cinema and Cinephilia & Beyond, and the host of Increment Vice, a podcast exploring Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice one scene at a time. He lives and writes in Los Angeles. He has a dog and a tattoo of Elliott Gould smoking. Bob Dylan once clapped him on the back and whispered something incomprehensible. These are the only interesting things about him.