Noir In Color

So here we are … it is the end of November. This post was originally meant to be part of a series in association with the celebration known as “Noirvember” but alas life gets away from you sometimes and plans go awry.

But have no fear – I hereby present you with a condensed version of the series.

The idea being that while we often associate the film noir movement with stylized, moody expressionistic angles in black and white cinematography, there were more than a handful of gritty, evocative pieces during the peak period of this movement (I am looking at you, 1940s and 1950s) that were shot in color. The main thing is that these films evoke a mood

Here are just a few films that I feel are worth your consideration if noir is your thing:

 

Leave Her To Heaven (1945). I have mentioned this film on several occasions but it goes without saying that this is a must-see Technicolor piece noted by the wonderful performance of Gene Tierney that not only shows the full force of her acting powers but is really disturbing on so many levels.

LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN - American Poster 3

 

Niagara (1953). Two couples meet at the honeymooner’s paradise (especially at that time), but dreams are dashed when the merry holidaymaking becomes a murderous nightmare. Starring Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, and Jean Peters. Directed by Henry Hathaway.

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A Kiss Before Dying (1956). While not an absolute favorite of mine, this film is notable for being one of Joanne Woodward’s first films. In it, she plays an ill-fated heiress caught in the grasp of cunning, socially ambitious go-getter Robert Wagner. Also starring Jeffrey Hunter. An ill-advised and poorly received remake was made in 1991.

Poster - A Kiss Before Dying_01

 

In my “research” (yeah, I actually do a little digging around before my self-described ‘brain dumps’) there were other films (mostly Hitchcock thrillers) that while some may categorize them as “noir,” I chose not to include on the list for purely subjective reasons. But that is the thing — one of the many great issues of debate among cineastes and film scholars alike is how exactly does one define what is considered noir. As I mentioned in my 2014 piece on Leave Her to Heaven, I like the definition offered on AMC’s Filmsite Website. But note: various other opinions on the subject are available.

Seen any of these films? Think I am missing something? Hit the comments section and let me know what you think.

 

Scary Movie(s), Part 2: Friends and Family Edition

For the second part of my Scary Movie series, I decided to poll and troll those who are nearest and dearest to me, with the promise that their individual responses would be protected by anonymity.

I posed the very basic question to them:

Select a scary movie that you “love” and describe in a couple of sentences why this is so.

All in all I would say I was quite entertained, even by the scaredy-cats, who for various reasons, do not indulge in such films. If you will notice, I left the question very vague, because scares and frights mean different things, depending on the person. So without further ado, here are the responses I received:

Sinister – I am not expert, but I liked Ethan Hawke in this and the whole trail of killings and how it turned out they connected was well executed in the film. Paranormal Activity (the first one) – this gave me nightmares and the perspective they filmed were very realistic. (These are) Just my top two, but also like (The) Conjuring and am looking forward to seeing Annabel.

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The Shining: Redrum. Redrum. The scene where the costumed partygoers look at the boy in the bedroom still creeps me out to this day. And oh yeah, talking to an evil spirit in the mirror. Not exactly my idea of a festive scene.
Alien: “10 Little Indians” Meets Outer Space. This dark, brooding film was not only depressing visually, but the main antagonist, a 7-foot, reptile-like alien which doesn’t have eyes, is pretty eerie.
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The scene in The Ring when the girl crawls out of the TV is bananas. I have never seen anything like it. it was surreal, the black and white, the color, cinematography magic.
Idk if this is considered scary, but I cannot get enough of Silence of the Lambs. I loved the creepiness of the Anthony Hopkins character, Hannibal Lecter. How he could skin a man alive and not hurt a tiny hair on Clarice. I esp. loved crazy Buffalo Bill telling the governor’s daughter to put the f#$king lotion in the basket. (I love that this person realizes that my blog is PG-13)
Lastly, I think it was Texas Chainsaw Massacre (no I did not see the movie, just a scene). the girl was in the backseat of the car and they just shot a guy and his brains were all over the seat and they made her sit on it- ewwww
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Poltergeist 1.  It was one of the first scary movie I saw as a child. My sister and I forced our parents to lock the closet door for months after watching that movie.
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I don’t really like scary movies so I haven’t watched many of them. If I had to pick one, I would say my favorite scary movie is Aliens. Some people may say it is more suspenseful than scary, but I think all really good scary movies are also really suspenseful. But I love this movie because it has a great opening sequence to set up the movie and then a quiet, slow build up to the aliens.  The movie is tense throughout from the dark, wet setting, the eery music and the almost claustrophobic feeling.
So there you have it ladies and gents. And if truth be told, when I was deciding which images to post according to the responses, I was creeping myself out a bit (luckily I had Outlander: The Wedding playing in the background as a distraction). Especially with that scene from The Shining; but I surmised what better time to face my fears :). Well almost anyways, no way would I replicate The Ring or creepy preacher man from Poltergeist (“You’re gonna die…” or something to that effect).
Lovely readers, now is your turn. Post your favorite scary movies/moments in movies in the comments section below.

Looking Ahead …

I am going to keep this one short and sweet. I am certain to see a lot more than this quick list I compiled, but just based on word of mouth and general interest, these are the films that I am most looking forward to as we hurdle towards the latter stages of the 2014 cinematic calendar.

2014 Movies Late Summer Fall

Interstellar – well just cuz Christopher Nolan and outer space.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them I really have no word for why I want to see this; I just do.
Frank – Looks a bit off beat and yes, … Fassbender sings!
The Two Faces of January – based on a Patricia Highsmith novel and starring Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst; the scenery looks absolutely lush.
Beyond the Lights – Is this a breakout year for Gugu Mbatha Raw? Anyone’s guess. But I am glad to see Gina Prince-Bythewood back on the big screen.
The Imitation Game – World War II espionage by way of Cumberbatch and Knightley. Matthew Goode and Charles Dance round out the cast.

So there you have it. Always good to have something to look forward to. Thoughts? Share below.

A (VERY) Late Mid Year Review of 2014 in Film

Honestly, when I started to think about this post, my initial thought was – Geez, this year has been rather “meh” film wise. The focus on the “event” film, or the 3D or just the blockbuster in general, left me feeling fatigued, so much so that I even missed the chance to see several of my favorite actors in the early summer release X-Men: Days of Future Past (MORE on that in general during my Guardians of the Galaxy review this Sunday/Monday — stay tuned).

2014 Mid Term

Try as I might I could not muster the will to drag myself to the local cinema and catch this one.

Or maybe it was the fading afterglow of having attended my first ever Sundance Film Festival. Yeah, I’ll buy that. 🙂

But actually after much thought I realized that actually, the period from January-June did offer up some cinematic delights, at least enough to allow give me a Top 5 list for 2014 … so far. And without further ado, here they are (in no particular order):

  • The One I Love – review pending (spoilers and stuff).
  • Boyhood – the one that almost got away, and so glad it didn’t.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier – one of the better formed comic book adapts for a minute.
  • Belle – being hailed as a Jane Austen/Regency/Georgian piece with depth, I think it is more (and different) than that label.
  • When the Garden was Eden – “My” New York Knicks in their glory days.
  • Honorable Mention to The Only Lovers Left Alive – a film whose experience was punctuated by my attending a midnight screening during Sundance. Also a film where I have warmed to it a lot more post-screening.

So what do I think the future holds? Stayed tuned later today for what I am looking forward to in this latter half of the cinematic calendar.

P.S. Thoughts? Hit the Comments section below.

Movies About Math (A π Day Celebration)

Happy Pi (π) Day everyone! As the child of a mathematics teacher, the number pi holds a very special place in my heart. Well, not really, but it sounds nice and a bit geeky!

Anywhoo, to commemorate the day I decided to compile a list of films that either deal directly with mathematics or it is handled prominently on the periphery. As I conducted research to build the list, I soon realized that I have not seen as many mathematically oriented films as I initially thought (and yes, this includes A Beautiful Mind).

good will huntng directed by gus van sant

As a result, I decided to take the following approach: I went over to the Wikipedia and “borrowed” their list and separated it into films that I have seen and the ones that I have yet to see. In the first list (seen) I have marked my recommendations with an asterisk (*). Note: Although included on the list, I took Jurassic Park and its sequel The Lost World off my list, because while the source material goes into some mathematic and scientific detail, the film does not really dig that deep into the subject.

What I Have Seen

  1. Enigma (2001) – Romantic, political and psychological intrigue set in Bletchley Park during the World War II. (*)
  2. Good Will Hunting (1997) – Mathematical genius Will Hunting (Matt Damon) begins to turn his downtrodden life around with the help of a psychologist and an MIT professor. (*)
  3. I.Q. (1994) – In this romantic comedy, Albert Einstein helps an auto mechanic pose as a physicist, all in an effort to capture the heart of Einstein’s niece. (*)
  4. Proof (2005) – The film based on the Broadway play about a father-daughter tandem of mathematical brilliance, mental illness and a disputed proof.
  5. Sneakers (1992) – A team of intellectual misfits is tasked with retrieving a code-breaking box developed by a rogue mathematician. (*)
  6. Stand and Deliver (1988) – True story of math teacher Jaime Escalante, who inspired the students in a school in an L.A. neighborhood. (*)
  7. Moneyball (2011) – This was my own addition, and not included on the original Wikipedia list. (*)

 

Films that Have Remained Unseen (for now):

  • 21 (2008)
  • 21 Grams (2003)
  • Agora (2009)
  • Antonia’s Line (1995)
  • A Beautiful Mind (2001)
  • The Bank (2001)
  • Fermat’s Room (2007)
  • Infinity (1996)
  • An Invisible Sign (2011)
  • It’s My Turn (1980)
  • The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
  • The Oxford Murders (2008)
  • Pi (1998)
  • Raising Genius (2004)
  • Stranger than Fiction (2006)
  • Straw Dogs (1971)
  • A Summer’s Tale (1996)
  • Tall Story (1960)
  • Traveling Salesman (2012)

Let me know if I missed any!

Out With the Old … (2013 in Review)

Overall I think this has been quite a good year for movies. What struck me most about the films is that for the most part, they were “smaller” films – not heavily reliant on huge box office stars or special effects to bring the audience in. That is my experience at the very least.

At my last tally, I averaged about 2-3 films per month (#NotTooShabby) for the year. Admittedly, my theater-going activities slowed down as the year drew to a close, but it was not for lack of trying.

As I pick up where I left off back in July, I have, at the time of this posting, (planning on seeing another tomorrow), seen the following films:

In looking at this list and the list I compiled in July, I asked myself the following question: What would I consider to be the best of the year?

My answer is not so simple. Frankly, I always have trouble with these types of things (“best of-s”) … mainly because I am pretty much a blank slate when  I enter the cinema.  With a few exceptions, I am not coming from a place of  “Oh yeah, this is a top ten film for the year.”

That said, I forged ahead and after much consideration and shuffling around, here are my top picks for 2013:

12 Years a Slave. I think this was the best film I saw this year. I have stated it several times on this blog that it was an emotionally evocative, sublime film going experience.

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Short Term 12. Featuring outstanding performances by young Keith Stanfield and Brie Larson, it was a small film with a big heart. See this.

brie_larson short term 12

Prisoners. Although there are tiny elements of the falling action that I felt were overwrought, overall this film had a perfect balance of twisty suspense and an intense family drama.

Prisoners-Jake-Gyllenhaal-Hugh-Jackman

Her. A late entry. I do not want to go into too much detail, as I feel the film deserves a write up, but let me just say I loved this film in so much as it entertains us and asks us some very interesting questions concerning the very nature of love itself.

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Before MidnightI came to this film trilogy kind of late, but I am ever grateful that I (eventually) showed up to the party.

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Twenty Feet From Stardom. The sole documentary entry in this list gives the audience personally stirring and music-filled accounts of some of rock and roll’s leading backup singers.

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Much Ado About Nothing. Arguably my favorite Shakespeare play. Arguably one of my favorite modern Shakespearean adaptations. Fine stuff from Mr. Whedon.

Much Ado Whedon Style

Honorable Mention Pacific Rim, Blue Caprice

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Stayed tuned in the coming days for a preview of what is to come in 2014 (In With the New …)!

2013 National Film Registry

Honestly I used to be must more on top of this. Luckily the thought just ‘popped’ into my head and I decided to venture over to the Library of Congress website to see if the 2013 list has come out. Sure enough, it has! Announced and posted yesterday, these 25 films were selected “as works of great cultural, historic or aesthetic significance to the nation’s cinematic heritage.” This annual honor means that the films “will be preserved as cinematic treasures for generations to come” (All images courtesy of the Library of Congress):

  • Bless Their Little Hearts (1984)

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  • Brandy in the Wilderness (1969)
  • Cicero March (1966)
  • Daughter of Dawn (1920)
  • Decasia (2002)
  • Ella Cinders (1926)
  • Forbidden Planet (1956)
  • Gilda (1946)
  • The Hole (1962)
  • Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
  • King of Jazz (1930)
  • The Lunch Date (1989)
  • The Magnificent Seven (1960)
  • Martha Graham Early Dance film (1931-44)
  • Mary Poppins (1964)
  • Men & Dust (1940)
  • Midnight (1939)

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  • Notes on the Port of St. Francis (1951)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • The Quiet Man (1952)
  • The Right Stuff (1983)
  • Roger & Me (1989)
  • A Virtuous Vamp (1919)
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)

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  • Wild Boys of the Road (1933)

This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 625. To check out the entire registry, click here.

Reactions? Post below.

For the Rest of 2013 … (Coming Soon)

Yeah, summer’s barely half way though, but let’s move ahead and see what’s in store for the rest of 2013, which invariably includes the all-important awards season. Here are 10 films on my radar with a short explanation for why I want to see the film in question. Enjoy!

 

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  1. Gravity – isolation in outer space looks pretty cool, especially when it involves George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.
  2. The Counselor – trailer looked rather intriguing and expansive. Oh yeah, and Fassbender’s in it.
  3. 12 Years a Slave – well I am reading the book right now so you can imagine how excited I am about this. I cannot wait to see how Steve McQueen handles some additional light being shone upon him. And AT LAST a moment for Chiwe to have his moment in the sun.
  4. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – another personal favorite (Idris Elba) getting some lead love as the iconic anti-apartheid leader. Naomie Harris co-stars. Check out the official trailer; it looks pretty good.

 

A DEFINITE MAYBE

  1. About Time – this looks like it would be interesting; I like (director) Richard Curtis well enough. Also, Rachel McAdams seems to like these time travelling movies, doesn’t she?
  2. Thor: the Dark World – I was pleasantly surprised by the first film. Although Branagh is not heading this second installment, I think the pieces are in place for a solid and exciting follow-up.
  3. The Best Man Holiday – the first film was a personal favorite from my post-college days so I have the slightest bit of curiosity to see where the story can go from here, over 15 years later.
  4. Grace of Monaco – two words really: Grace Kelly. Now I know that this will not cover her Hollywood years, but it still looks like a fascinating.

Film Title: About Time

 

HMM … WE’LL SEE …

  1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – I have to see the first one I suppose (and finish up the book).
  2. Black Nativity – may be just what the doctor ordered for the holiday season. And, Kasi Lemmons is a good director so may be well worth a look-see.

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What are you most looking forward to seeing?

 

2013 Mid Term Report …

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I am pretty sure that I have seen more than 25 first-run films at this point of the year but for whatever reason, that is the number that sticks in my head. Many of the films I have listed you may not have even heard of; I hope some of these titles are illuminating. In addition, some movies presented have been reviewed in this space, while others did not receive the full ILC treatment.

For the purposes of my recap, I grouping these 25 films according to how strongly I liked/disliked it. Pay no attention to the order; the movies are listed and categorized as I recalled them.

 

NUTTIN BUT LOVE

Love these movies! Definitely the cream of the crop for the Class of 2013.

  1. Man of Steel
  2. Much Ado About Nothing
  3. Central Park Five (2012)
  4. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
  5. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
  6. The Sapphires
  7. Teenage
  8. I’ve Got Something to Tell You
  9. Elaine Strich: Just Shoot Me!
  10. The Heat
  11. Pacific Rim
  12. Twenty Feet From Stardom
  13. Frances Ha
  14. 42
  15. Star Trek Into Darkness
  16. Before Midnight
  17. The Reluctant Fundamentalist

 

MEH

Can go either way for me; in the end, not too hot or cold about these films. Although I clearly liked some of the films more than others.

  1. Everybody Has a Plan
  2. Therese
  3. Let the Fire Burn
  4. Byzantium
  5. Iron Man 3

 

YIKES! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

I can’t even to be honest, I just can’t even.

  1. 10 Rules for Sleeping Around
  2. I’m So Excited
  3. At Any Price

Stay tuned tomorrow for my fall picks.

 

Summer Films (Plus My Overlooked Pick for the Week)

Folks we are truly and deeply into the summer now. So I decided to troll the internet and look at some of the lists of “best movies about summer.”

Confession Time: Dirty Dancing, a film that graces many of these lists, has never crossed my eyes. Is that a good or bad thing?

Child's Shovel and Pail at the Beach

Question: Can you think of any other films that did not make the list?

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Overlooked Film of the Week: SpaceCamp (1986)

After reviewing the list I was reminded of my one of my favorite films as a child, SpaceCamp. For a number of years, attending the real-life SpaceCamp was a dream of mine. Unfortunately that obsession eventually waned and all I was left with was the ability to live vicariously through the fictional characters. At the time, this film captured my imagination and desire to explore the stars. Even though I knew that they were not ACTUALLY in outer space, I was still quite envious of the cast’s experience in making this movie.

When it was released, SpaceCamp was both a critical and financial failure – due in part to what can only be described as bad timing: it was released six months after the Challenger disaster. In spite of this lack of fortune I think that in a world where there is a sufficient lack of young people (especially young women) pursuing STEM-based education, a movie like this can serve as an inspiration for further math, science and technology learnin’. My favorite character was/is Trish (played by Kelly Preston), who was the most remarkable (if not a bit unbelievable) genius one could possibly imagine. (Side Note:  they have SpaceCamp for adults, so the dream is still alive folks, the dream is still alive).

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Be sure to check out more overlooked/forgotten films, by visiting Todd Mason’s blog.