It’s almost here… Noir City 16, that is. Although I’ll only be able to attend the first half of the festival, I’m so excited I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight (which may work to my advantage, since my flight is super early tomorrow morning). When I return, I plan on reporting back on the films I saw, the places I went, and the people I hope to reconnect with as well as those I hope to meet for the first time. But on to the films:
The Academy Awards nominations were announced yesterday and soon after followed rejoicing, anger, predictions and the inevitable oddsmakers. For many (including scores of movie lovers) this information means absolutely nothing. I’ve actually refused to watch the ceremony for years, but might have to give it a look this year. I’ll have more to say on the Oscars as we get closer to March 4, but in the meantime, I’m pleased to say that I’ve seen seven of the nine nominees for Best Picture and have reviewed five of them. You can find those links below. No predictions or favorites for now, just reviews:
Phantom Thread (2017)
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison, JoAnne Sellar, Daniel Lupi
Cinematography by Paul Thomas Anderson (uncredited)
Costume design by Mark Bridges
Music by Jonny Greenwood
Edited by Dylan Tichenor
Focus Features, Universal Pictures
AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center (2:10)
“Whatever you do, do it carefully.”
The same admonishment could’ve been used by Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) to one of his assistant dressmakers, or by his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) to one of her underlings, or by anyone in a position of authority over someone beneath that authority. I’m reminded of John 13:27 when Jesus spoke to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly,” knowing that Judas was going to betray him. It’s not quite the same as what Alma (Vicky Krieps) tells Reynolds early in the film, but the thought flashed through my mind while watching Phantom Thread: Who really holds the position of authority in this relationship?
As the years pile up, we sometimes need something a little extra to make those birthdays a bit easier to swallow. As always, I’m celebrating my birthday this year with some movie-related festivities and fun. Feel free to steal one or all of my ideas and please, share your own!
If you’re new to my monthly Film Noir Releases posts, welcome! My goal is to cover all the first-time releases to Blu-ray and DVD, usually passing over reissues unless there’s a good reason to include them. (I also tend to leave out “newer” films from the last several years.) Unless otherwise noted, the following are all North American Region A Blu-ray discs. I often use the terms “film noir” and “neo-noir” rather loosely, so while you may quibble with some of my choices, I hope these are films you’ll at least consider. As always, if you know of any film noir or neo-noir films I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments below. And thanks for reading.
February is a pretty light month, yet it contains at least one must-own film right off the bat. If you own it on DVD, it’s probably time for an upgrade. If you’ve been waiting for a Blu-ray (like me), wait no longer. Plus I’ll have a few other temptations for you. Let’s get started:
The Post (2017)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Produced by Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Amy Pascal
Written by Liz Hannah, Josh Singer
Music by John Williams
Cinematography by Janusz Kamiński
Edited by Michael Kahn, Sarah Broshar
DreamWorks Pictures, 20th Century Fox
Annapolis Bow Tie Harbour 9 (1:58)
One should never learn one’s history from the cinema, at least that’s what we’ve heard over and over ever since cameras first began documenting any era other than our own. Accurate historical narratives and pure entertainment simply have a difficult time co-existing. In most cases (unless we’re talking about documentaries – another discussion for another time), something’s got to give. Not only does Steven Spielberg’s The Post both entertain and give us a history lesson, it also invites (if not demands) us to examine our own times and situations in light of it. I’m not sure any film could tackle all three of those aspects and come out a winner in each category, but Spielberg gives it his best shot. The question is, is that shot good enough?
The Sea Wolf (1941)
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Hal B. Wallis, Jack L. Warner, Henry Blanke
Screenplay by Robert Rossen, based on the novel by Jack London
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cinematography by Sol Polito
Warner Archive Blu-ray (1:40)
The recent Blu-ray release of The Sea Wolf deserves at the very least a parade down the streets of Hollywood, or the 21st century equivalent: a potpourri of tweets, shares, postings, and good old fashioned word-of-mouth praise. Not only have the fine folks at Warner Archive given us a beautiful 4K scan of the film, they’ve also restored 14 minutes of missing footage cut from the film’s 1947 re-release. And let’s not forget that this release also provides us with yet another example of the greatness of director Michael Curtiz.
Once again I’m honored to be one of the contributors to the most recent issue of The Dark Pages: The Newsletter for Film Noir Lovers, edited by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry. The November/December 2017 issue is a GIANT edition focused primarily on the 1946 film The Postman Always Rings Twice. This giant-sized themed issue is always an exciting annual event and I am so fortunate to be included with some fantastic writers including Raquel Stecher from Out of the Past: A Classic Film Blog, Patricia Nolan-Hall at Caftan Woman, Amanda Garrett at Old Hollywood Films, Kristina Dijan at Speakeasy, and Karen Burroughs Hannsberry at Shadows and Satin. I hope you’ll explore these and the other great writers in the issue.
This November/December 2017 edition includes my article, “How MGM Went from Glamorous to Salacious with The Postman Always Rings Twice” as well as articles on the film’s adaptation from the James M. Cain novel, examinations of the film’s characters and actors, the film’s costume design, original reviews of the film, an impressive photo gallery, and much more. It’s a real treasure trove for film noir fans.
So if you love film noir and aren’t already subscribed to The Dark Pages, you’re really missing out. You can request a sample issue and subscribe here. You can also follow The Dark Pages Facebook page and Twitter feed @TheDarkPages. Embrace and enjoy the darkness!
What’s 2018 look like for you?
Happy New Year to you all! I hope it’s off to a good, safe start. As we say goodbye to 2017, I’d like to list a few movies I’ve seen since I completed my Best of 2017 lists, a way of finalizing the year and preparing for 2018. Like everyone else, I’ve made a few new goals, some of which might manifest themselves on the blog. Hopefully this will translate to more (and better) writing about individual movies.
So allow me to dump on you everything I’ve seen since late November with my first-time-to-watch favorites in bold: