26 August, 2010

Jarmusch and Astronomy

I had collected all the Wu-Tang vinyl with the instrumental B-sides, so I could say, like, "I like this floating, damaged beat. I like this stutter, this trippy slow thing." We decided that we won't do cues to the film. You'll hand me off music, I'll put it in the film, but don't score to certain sections. . . . One of the coolest times: He came in with ODB, and we spent the whole day with ODB watching the placement of the music. That was amazing. I think they were on mushrooms or something, though—they were acting very peculiar. Every five minutes or so, ODB would jump up and go, "Yo, yo! Stop the machine! Earth, Mars, Venus: Pick one!" And RZA would go, "I got this. Earth." And he'd go, "OK, start it up again." He was amazing. I wanted to go in and film him—we were going to go in when he was locked down. Go put a camera on ODB and let him talk about any fucking thing he wants. We never got to do it. That's a big regret.

--Jim Jarmusch on working with the Wu Tang Clan.

23 August, 2010

My Absolute Favorite!

What do you think Christopher Walken is doing right now?

Crazy things, I bet.

22 August, 2010

That's Quite a Damn Ways

A few months back a British sniper broke the world record for a sniper shot.
Craig Harrison's record breaking shots felled the insurgents with consecutive bullets - even though they were 3,200ft beyond the official range of his rifle.

The Household Cavalry veteran's kills from a distance of 8,120ft beat the previous record by 150ft.

He was using the British-built L115A3 Long Range Rifle, the Army's most powerful sniper weapon.

The best part about this whole situation is that the press photo the Daily Mail had on hand. It looks like it belongs in a year book somewhere, not alongside a recording breaking kill shot.

And in the sake of fairness, apparently there's a Taliban sniper bugging the US Marines in Afghanistan. It's an interesting and frightening story to think about until you realize that, as a rule, the Taliban can't shoot for shit and the legend of the Afghan marksman has yet to be repeated since 1842. Plus, they can't drop 500 pound bombs on anyone.

(found via Abu Muqawama.)

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

At a film festival, after ''Pat Garrett'' had become the latest of his films to be emasculated by a studio, he was asked if he would ever make a ''pure Peckinpah'' and he replied, ''I did 'Alfredo Garcia' and I did it exactly the way I wanted to. Good or bad, like it or not, that was my film.''

21 August, 2010

Words to Die By

19 August, 2010

In the Ghetto

There's a film that was just recently made of original German propaganda of the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.

The footage belongs to an unfinished propaganda film and say in a vault for almost ten years before it was discovered. Though, I guess it took another fifty to put it to any use.

I'd like to see this movie. So far it looks like an intriguing glimpse into the political mind of the Third Reich, but also how occupied Poland looked, if through the lens of a Nazi propagandist. I'll be using this for reference in the future, most definitely.

18 August, 2010

When They're Right, They're Right

Is it just me or does this guy look like a mix between Eric Roberts and Christian Bale? It can't just be me.

17 August, 2010

Seperated at Birth?


Shameless Self-Aggrandizement: NoKo Edition

I guess even North Korea has a twitter now. Time to shoot ourselves into space or just give up now. Or go insane. I don't know. Knowing that North Korea, the world's crazy shut-in uncle, has a twitter makes me feel like I want to both gnaw off my own leg and rejoice to the heavens at the same time.

I'll probably end up doing neither.

Recently, since I have fuck all going on with my life, I, like the militarized hermit state, have been thinking about how I can get my twitter to get traffic to my blog and my blog to get traffic to my twitter and my Facebook to my twitter and blah blah blah. Thinking about this type of crap makes me think of that one It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode where the gang tries to start its own economy by printing Paddy bucks. It's a lot like that. What I'm doing is basically trying to whip up nothing into something without spending any sort of energy or time, just like they did, but in my case its with a bit less laughter.

My point is A) Go to my twitter and follow it, and B) NoKo having a twitter can only result in making my day better.

I guess I should link NoKo's twitter, but fuck it, it's North Korea.


Top 5 Groups of People That Want to Kill My Dad

My dad is an old man. That isn't a relative judgment, the man is simply old and only getting older. He has has been for quite some time. What I've realized about him, though is that the older he gets the more people directly threaten his life in new an insidious ways. It's a cruel irony of life that all of the most terrible things in existence are invented in the last quarter of your life and that everything good in the world occupies the first quarter.

The threats to my father are very real and effect his life in blood-curdling ways. Every day of his life is full of threats to his life by jabbering hordes or barbarians just beyond our front gate. God help us if they ever figure out the side-gate's lock doesn't work.

I could go on and on about how and why and who his life is threatened by, but I'll let the internet's most original art form-- the list-- explain it all to you.

5. Afghans.

Here are what we know about the Afghans-- Fact: Since before time have tried to destroy the United States of America. Fact: An Afghan can keep you warm in winter and spice up a boring looking couch, but is not to be trusted. Fact: We don't know that the Afghan people aren't all Freemasons. Fact: Afghans need to be bombed.

We've been in Afghanistan (correctly pronounced "'Ghanstan") for nearly ten years and there doesn't seem to be any progress. We haven't taken any new territory in years and we yet to take the Taliban capital city (Barack Obama has had two years to take them out, why hasn't he done it yet!?). It is clear that this war can't be won by the liberal go to's of "building government" and "counter-insurgency." It is clear that we need to, as my father has pointed out on countless occasions "Bomb that whole place out."

Why the bureaucrats and intellectuals at the Department of Defense haven't thought this up yet is appalling and more than likely due to the Democratic legislature that's dominated the government since the beginning of the Bush administration. We need to drop nukes on the Afghans, it is the only reasonable way to save them from the threat of Czarist Russian marching over the Oxus River.

4. Iranians.
Iranian Muslims and their allies in Iraq are a new and frightening threat to America. We have never had a hand in the Middle East in any way shape or form and for some reason they want to kill us all and feed us all tabulleh until we start wanting more than one wife. Most of their problems can be laid at the feet of Jimmy Carter, who had the audacity not to attempt another autocratic coup like his better Dwight D. Eisnenhower. This is the only point in history in which the USA did something in the Middle East-- and even then we didn't do anything, so who looks crazy now, Iran?

The Iranians present a unique threat to my father and the American public by creating a two pronged assault on our values-- one by creating nuclear weaponry and the other by buying our restaurants and not paying rent. They both present equally nefarious threats and unfortunately with the nuclear threat, we can't just change the looks when they go away for the weekend.

Iran is also Muslim. That means that they are bad. What about Saudi Arabia, you say? No, they aren't Muslims. Who told you that? That is silly. If the Saudi Arabia was full of Muslims, then I think they'd have something to do with 9/11. Oh what's that? You were mistaken? Yeah, I thought so.

Right now an Iranian is trying to build a bomb. While I'm sure the Democrats in congress would love for them to have a fully functional bomb, what we need to do to save Israel and my dad is to get into a third land war in the Middle East. Luckily, unlike the past ten years, we have the man power and cash to fund a project like that. What's even better is that it will all be paid for and taken care of by the time my dad dies, preventing the Iranians from inflicting any sort of economic payback.

People forget about 9/11 because they don't care about our country as much as my dad does. My dad loves his country so much that during the Vietnam War, when he was asked to enlist, he signed up for the Reserve and valiantly protected his country for a week out of every four. Were there any VC sneak attacks between 1966-1968? Nope. Because a healthy mix of zeal and not wanting to leave the state.

Right now an Iranian is trying to build a mosque on Ground Zero, the holiest land in the United States, right after all of the churches and where ever else they attacked on 9/11 (I think it was a field of some kind). Muslims don't understand that Ground Zero is sacred, not unlike their wailing wall or that Cash to Gold place on Raymond Ave. Since all of New York is now a holy site, having been covered in ash, dust, and TV broadcasts of the 9/11 attacks, it is only fair that Muslims build their mosques under the East River, as our constitution dictates. That way Americans can live in safety, without any more Muslims trying to take over our country, possibly in conjunction with the Chinese or maybe rap music of some kind.

3. The Chinese
China wants to take us over. It's already and established fact that China is going to overpower us economically in ten years, forcing us up past being the number one economic power in the universe to last place. That is how lists work. I wish it were not as ugly as that, but it's a fact. China will stop at nothing to butt in line in front of us, which will only lead to a series of butts that will only stop when Zimbabwe or Czechoslovakia or some other country finally steps in front of us. When you start speaking Chinese one day, don't say that I didn't warn you. . . except that if you did say it, I wouldn't understand you, because I don't speak Chinese.

It is clear by their increasing needs to express themselves freely and demands at more government transparency that the Chinese are just trying to lull us into a false sense of security. Once that is done, they'll club us over the head and take over our country just as the Russians did between the years 1956 and 1960 and the Fire Nation did between 1989 and 2003. We cannot let this happen again. The only possible way to prevent this is to warn people by telling them that the Chinese are taking us over. Say is as many times as you need to until the words lose all meaning. That is when you know the words are working.

If the Cold War taught us anything is that the nuances of human beliefs are just smoke screens to take over Vietnam. And we all know how that went. A Communist is a Communist, no matter how much trade he does with us or no matter how much debt of ours' that he owns. They aren't to be trusted and will stop at nothing to. . . do something.

I'm not entirely sure how the Chinese are going to take us over, but their military spending has increased from 13% of our military budget to 15.2% of our military budget in just thirty years. This rapid uptick in spending can only lead to one conclusion: The Chinese are going to take us over. Either by marching over the Bering Straight, into Alaska, then catching a ferry over to the mainland, or by hiding themselves piece by piece in to-go boxes, biding their time in our fridges, waiting for their moment to reassemble and strike us as one.

Also, the Chinese can't drive.

2. Mexicans.
Mexicans are as old of an enemy of America as the Freemasons or maybe the Jews, depending on what mood they're in.

Mexicans have been stealing jobs from Americans for years. The most obvious example of this dates way back to the 19th century, when a cobbler left his shop for the day. When he returned in the morning, he found that Mexicans had broken in and finished all of his cobbling in secret, without his permission. Typical Mexicans, stealing jobs out from under good, hard-working Americans. Also, the Mexicans played crappy accordion music and one of them might have had a baby in the bathroom.

"But, James," you say, sipping your espresso, readjusting the Afghan around your neck, "Mexicans contribute so much to our society."

Oh, do they? DO THEY REALLY?

Let's do a checklist on what these "Mexicans" have and haven't given us:
* Mexicans did not invent the light bulb. If it was up to them, we'd still be lighting candles like shnooks!
* Mexicans can't even get pitas right. A tortilla, more like tortilladon't. . . Wait, that's shit, give me a moment.
* Mexicans didn't win World War II. They didn't even lose World War II. Make up your mind, Mexico.
* Mexico didn't see one of the all-time, greatest films of all time, Scoot Pilgrim Versus the Universe. Mexico said "I'll wait until it's on DVD." How are we going to get a sequel if you don't see it the first weekend, huh?
* Mexicans might be lizardpeople.
* Wait, I got it, I got it. Tortilla, more like tortillyuck! Yeah. That's good punnery.
* Mexicans stole the pyramids from Egypt. You know what else they stole? My six-speed bike.
* My geography might be off, but if you replace "Visigoths" with "Mexicans," it becomes clear that the Mexican people destroyed the Roman Empire. Do you want us to become like Rome, bloated and vain, with wars in the middle east that we can't pay for, hobbled by ineffective government and cheap farm labor? Do you?
* Mel Gibson made a movie about ancient Mexicans. . . I guess that's one stroke in their favor.

There is no job a Mexican does that can't be filled by an Irishman, who's at least white and at least seem to speaks some kind of English.

1. Liberals.
Liberals are the single greatest threat to my dad and the American people. They're everywhere. They're in our schools, they're in our government, they're in our army (when they say we should stop spending/carpet bombing people), they're on our TV, they're in our Communist parties, they're in our key parties, they're in our key clubs, and they're the number one reason Coke doesn't taste like it used to.

The best presidents in US history have all been good, old-fashioned Conservatives, like Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, and all of our worst presidents have been infamous characters like Bill Clinton and his Magical Surplus Tour and Barack Obama, the single worst president in the history of the United States, including that one year a snake got into the Oval Office and we were forced to abandon the White House. No Liberal has done anything good for the people of the United States ever.

In your ignorance of these threats you might say, "But, wait a minute, didn't a Democratic president win World War II for us?" Well, nice try, but FDR only won that war by using "conservative values." It looks like egg is on your face. Oh, and the myth of FDR pulling us out of the Great Depression? Another liberal lie. The corollary to this should be obvious: Any time a Conservative did something wrong it was because he was being liberal (not to be confused with Liberal) or, possibly, his was crippled by a Liberal congress, like George Bush was time and time again. There is no dark chapter in American history that does not have the stink of the Liberals.

For many years the Liberals stole the newspaper off my dad's front lawn. Also, they once left the fridge open and all of the dairy products went bad. Another time, my dad left his shoe-shop for Classic Liberalism.

There is no conceding to the Liberal, there is no understanding or aid to be given to them, because they are inherently stupider than the rest of us, also they chose to be this way, so they deserve everything they got coming to them. So, it works both ways. Being a Liberal is the worst thing a human being can be and about the most despicable. America wasn't founded by these men. It was founded by hard-working men with old fashioned ideas like freedom of religion, right to representation, right to bare arms, and freedom of speech. Good Conservatives like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Payne all pitched in, using their traditional, Conservative values to campaign for

Liberals, unlike the Chinese, Mexicans, and Muslims, don't want to just take everything we have, but erode it completely. They want to take away our rights to destroy the Constitution. Democrats are the greatest threat that we face as a democracy. They want to change the letter of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by doing something. That's right, everyone, something!

Liberals don't care about the Constitution, that's why they pass laws to take away our rights. For example just look what Barack Obama has done! Just look at all of it! Taking away our rights! There was that one thing. Yeah. And that other thing! I bet you feel the pinch of the boot heel on that one. Oh, yeah, and his health care. Yeah! How about that. Taking away our rights by installing the most banal form of government health insurance imaginable! I bet in three months you'll be attatched to a government-created, life-support system that you have to feed your paycheck into just to buy another week of life. But what if you have a bi-weekly paycheck? Too bad. Welcome to Obama's America.

That isn't what our slave-owning, affair-having, rich, white, dieist forefathers had in mind when they wrote our Constitution in secret, having less than half of the approval of the American people for a revolution! They probably had something else in mind! Probably not this! And they probably had more wigs, too!

Also, our president is black! And gays might want basic civil rights! That kind of thing never used to fly in America and the trolley only cost a nickel. Now we don't even have a trolley and our nickle is made out of lead and crushed-up dreams.

If the Liberals had their way and the Constitution was undermined and changed the way they want it not only would slaves be legally treated like human beings and non-property payers be allowed to vote, but women and all kinds of minorities, as well-- including the Irish! Imagine that, a Catholic getting sworn into office! Not in my America. Not in George Washington's America.

So, when you vote this November, don't think of yourself, think of my poor father who's life is in direct and literal danger by the hordes of so and so's coming over the border/ocean/walls/congressional hearings/delis/Mexican restaurants. American liberty is in your hands American, don't fumble it.

Wow, This is Like Some Full-Blown Inception-Type Shit, Isn't It?

I finally saw Inception last week. As much as I feel and think about that movie, for whatever reason I want to keep that all to myself, keep it as this raw bundle of emotion that I would have to untangle if I wanted to talk about it. Plus, I figure you're about as fatigued on Inception yak as I am.

It's a good movie that did some pretty risky things and got away with it. I can leave it at that.

(Photo by Tsunehisa Kimura.)

Ignoring the blockbuster for a moment, the article below is pretty cool.

(found at Bldg Blog.)

13 August, 2010

My Wildest Dreams

What's better than killing Hitler?

Killing a dozen Hitlers.

12 August, 2010

This Certainly Looks Like Something

If you hadn't heard, the Irreversible guy has got a new movie coming out.

Should be horrifying.

11 August, 2010

Choo-choo! Here comes the hype train!

Apparently, I'm not the only person driven away by over-saturated marketing.

The backlash for me is my perception of somebody trying to get me to buy something. There's a large difference between a movie and a used car salesman, but my gut reaction is calibrated to recognize both of those things as the same threat. Or event. Whatever. I have an aversion to that kind of thing and I'm sure, in some way, most of you do, as well. The more desperate and bombastic a thing seems, the less likely I am to check it out. Either because I associate the movie with some annoying sales campaign or a say "Fuck it and fuck you" and not watch a movie out of spite.

If I had a friend who asked me to listen to his band every time we talked, I'd probably do the same thing. If I want to see or listen to something, I'll get around to it, but if you keep hectoring me about it, I'll make a point to avoid it out of principle. It's movies, not the Middle Eastern peace process, I can afford to be a little stubborn.

There's a lot of things like this. In almost all of these incidents it really isn't the movie's fault (or the TV show's or the book's fault) in any way. In fact, if it was a shitty work of art, I'd probably never hear about it again until I start scrolling through my Netflix recommendations. There's simply extenuating circumstances and I don't want to go into a movie-- for whatever reason-- with a loaded idea of what I'm going to get.

One of the best lessons I learned about watching movies-- and it probably carries on to anything in life-- is that the less you have it built up in your mind, the more satisfied you're going to be. That isn't to say that you expect something to be shitty and be happy you got it, because what's the point if that's the case? Instead, I try to judge a movie based on what I see, not on what an ad or a trailer wants me to think. It's probably why we typically trust the opinion of our friends over a critic (unless it's a critic we develope a rapport with), because our friend isn't trying to sell us anything (which only bad critics do, I realize).

I like to check out a trailer once or twice and just ignore the rest, because it doesn't help me as a viewer and it certainly doesn't help me mentally. Big expectations tend to allow for big letdowns. It's why I don't go to midnight showings any more (that and I'm broke), because there's no movie that is as good as waiting an hour in line and staying up 'til fuckass in the morning for. There's too much build up. If I can, I try to go into a blackout and wait for either more substantial news, or the movie itself. If a movie is good, I can wait for it.

And I suppose that's how I feel about all of the hyped up things I've made a point to avoid. Firefly, (probably) Scott Pilgrim, and more classic movies than I can name. I'll get around to those eventually, more than likely, but I want to watch them on my own terms without marketing, fans, or my own stupid prejudices buzzing in my ear and telling me how to think and feel. The thinking and feeling part comes naturally enough, it's all of the other junk I have to make an effort to avoid.

There's a reoccurring them I write and I talk about a lot, which is that you can often believe the right thing without doing the right thing. I see it in politics more often than not, because it's large, it's loud, and it's public. Even the smallest issues can get national press attention and become some kind of bludgeon. It's a natural consequence of human nature that the larger a group becomes, the more fucked up people are going to join up.

Lately the best example of this principle is the Tea Bagger movement. Lowering taxes and government spending is not an unreasonable argument, I don't think, and it's one Americans have historically been in favor of. In principle, it's fine, in practice, it's a headless chicken running around a living room, but somehow still knows how to squawk. Even the name is stupid. Tea Baggers. Really? No one consulted you on that one? I guess part of the problem is that there's no real leader of the movement/mob/ which is why it's lousy with paranoiacs and racists and people who see Hitler in their breakfast cereal. Wanting to give the government less money shouldn't be such a difficult issue to root for, but there you have it.

I guess on the left-end of the spectrum, you've got the anti-WTO protests. Now, I think we can all agree that most corporations would suck our blood dry if given the chance, so demonstrating against them is not entirely out of line. Kicking in a storefront and setting fire to city property is not a good way to get your point across. That makes you look like an asshole.

You get this all down the line, reasonable issues being undermined by the very morons that fight for it. Gun control is full of crybabies. Pro-weed people are stoners. The anti-gay movement is full of Ms. Carmodys. The pro-gay movement thinks a thong with glitter is formal wear. Joss Whedon fans are terrible. Film snobs make Ingmar Bergman far more painful than he's supposed to be. Etc. Etc. Etc.

There's some quote I'm probably stealing, but the greatest counter-argument against a moron is to let him speak. I guess a corollary of that is the surest way to make something good look bad is to never know when to shut up.

To answer the question every boy who has ever seen Taxi Driver has asked. . .

Yes, you can build a spring-loaded wrist holster for less than fifty bucks.

It's a crazy world out there and there's a whole group of people out there specifically working on spring-loaded wrist holsters because it's fun. I guess I'm glad I found this since it was for reference purposes, but I'm still a tad bit surprised at how easy this kind of thing was to figure out. Lord knows what I'd be like without an internet connection.

Research Material

Orange Sunshine: The Strange But True Story of the 'Hippie Mafia' from DANGEROUS MINDS on Vimeo.

Laguna Beach used to be the LSD center of Southern California. Who knew?

10 August, 2010

Words to Die By

07 August, 2010

Here's a New Addition to Your Vocabulary

Redsploitation (noun)-- Somewhere in the gray area between the noble savage and the savage-savage lies the Redsploitation film. These gems of schlock cinema feature Natives getting off their knees and kicking white ass all over the West.

06 August, 2010

Welcome to the Nightmare Dimension

This is a robot that simulates giving birth. You are welcome.

I have no more words for this.

Afghan Apples

Soldiers are a bit reserved, and you have to break the ice. It takes some time. But the only way to do it is to do just what they do, and never complain about anything. This is the only way to gain their respect. Slowly, they became more comfortable.

We went on patrols, and it’s gotten to the point where they would not look at me cautiously and I was able to get that intimacy that is required to produce good photographic journalistic work.

This day we were out on patrol in Paktika Province for about seven hours, and it was about 100 degrees. Thank God it was dry, but with the helmet and equipment it was exhausting.

So we decided to take a break. Some guys secured the perimeter and the rest of the group decided to have a five-minute break. And that’s when this guy sat and leaned against this apple tree. I saw my picture so I hit the dirt and took a couple pictures before he looked at me.

(via New York Times Lens.)

(photos from Dima Gavyrsh.)

Happy Atomic Warfare Day

65 years ago, on August 6th 1945, the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on the Imperial Japanese city of Hiroshima. Causalties directly and indirectly inflicted by the holocaust and whether or not it was entirely necessary will rage on until the end of time. What we can all agree one, regardless of our political, religious, or ethical grounds was that August 7th was an entirely different kind of day than all those that came before it.

So, as this anniversary passes by, take some time to look at documents of the only use of atomic weaponry during a war.

Vice has linked documentation of the incident by the Japanese and American government.

Or, I don't know, go rent Hiroshima, Mon Amor.

Or read Hiroshima.

Or watch this:

Now I'm Offended!

(Thanks for nothing, Cracked!)



05 August, 2010

Director Dthursday

I don't like Godard, but just look at that hair!

(via *Baubauhaus)

Whole Sale Theft

Alright, this is pretty cute, especially when you see how old and wrinkly the people in question are now.

Bekbosun and Bubakan on their 60th wedding anniversary surrounded by their family. Bubakan was kidnapped by Bekbosun on horseback on his 20th birthday as part of the Kyrgyz tradition of bride stealing. The practice of bride kidnapping, ‘ala kachuu’ was outlawed during the Soviet era and remains illegal under the Kyrgyz criminal code although kidnappers are rarely prosecuted. Since the Kyrgyz declaration of independence in 1991 incidents of ala kachuu have surged. Ala Kachuu has its roots in nomadic Kyrgyz traditions and today is seen as part of a national identity that was denied by Soviet rule

(via the PDN Photo of the Day.)

(or cut out the middle man and just go here.)

Cinecult: Film Noir!? I Hardly Know Her!

Film noir is probably something most of us here love, but I'm also willing to bet that it's something most of us are in the dark about (rim shot). It's a far larger and wider genre than people like Frank Miller present it to be. It's been around since the 1930's and it's as storied and respectable as any other genre, even though most of its source material can safely be considered pulp garbage (but what can't be, these days?).

With that said, I'm going to shoot my mouth off about it. Let's take a journey through film lore, shall we?

Film noir was created out of a few factors in the late 1930's. In general there was a malaise in the American public (and ditto abroad). It hadn't quite recovered from the Great Depression and Hitler's maneuvers half way across the world wasn't making anyone feel any better about their lot in life. Many of the movies were direct adaptations from the hard-boiled novels of the era. Authors like James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett (who wrote about the east coast), and Raymond Chandler (who wrote about the west coast). Even writers of proper literature like William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway could be folded into the heritage of film noir.


Another influence was the surge of German and European film makers fleeing Europe due to the specter of Nazi Germany. As a result, many talented film makers like Fritz Lang, who were a part of German expressionism took what they knew and moved it to Hollywood. While for many, their best work was behind them, the abstract, moody, and stylized lighting of the movement helped steer the genre into what it would become.

During the brief era that film noir were popular and numerous they weren't actually called anything more than B-movies or crime movies or distractions from the various horrors occurring in Europe and in the Pacific. It wasn't until WWII ended that the French discovered a whole crop of gritty, American crime dramas that weren't available for almost five years. It was then that a whole new audience began to notice the similarities of all of these American crime movies-- both good and bad.

So, French critics dubbed the movement "film noir," meaning "black film," which probably came from a combination of the low lighting prevalent in the movies (because why build a set when you could light it dramatically?), as well as the dark themes.

(By the way, if you ever want to be a know-it-all, if someone calls a book "noir" correct them by saying "Uh, actually, it's only noir if it's a film. Duh." Also, you'll get double points for pronouncing it as "new-ah.")

Putting a name on it, probably also helped hasten its end. Howard Hawks and Jules Dassin and all of the great directors never sought to make a movement or a genre or anything besides an interesting film. Once something like that becomes self aware, it's only so long before it starts to get too ornate or rigid for its own good and someone starts to parody it. Things can only become so baroque before they start too become gaudy and ridiculous.

The same thing happened to Spaghetti Westerns. Leone, more or less, started the movement copying and exaggerating the tropes of American Western directors like John Ford. In less than ten years the sub-genre was kaput, a victim of its own success, and by its end, even Leone himself was making parody movies

Film noir, as a movement started with Howard Hawkes' adaptation of The Maltese Falcon in 1941 and it ended with Orson Welles' Mexican border crime film Touch of Evil in 1958.

While the movement and its influences lasted well past the date of 1958, the golden age ended with Welles' butchered opus.

The classics of the era are numerous, but a brief list would include:

The Maltese Falcon.

Casablanca, a rare classic that is better than everyone says it is. The movie features one of the best screenplays of all time, as well as an incredible cast of characters, ranging from Syndey Greenstreet to Peter Lorre and, of course, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Touch of Evil, directed and starring Fat Orson Welles, along with Charlton Heston as the single most unbelievable Mexican in film history, it isn't a perfect movie, but it has more than a few moments that make it the last gasp of a great era-- including one of the longest and most impressive single-take crane shots in film history.

Double Indemnity had its screenplay written by Chandler (based off of a Cain novel) and was directed (and written) by one of the great directors of all time, Billy Wilder.

Then there's the French copycats and prototypes, which are equally numerous:

Elevator to the Gallows is an interesting movie, because it's both directly influenced by American film and by ugly pieces of French history like the Indochina War. What makes it stand out is its rather avant garde soundtrack by Miles Davis, who, as I recall, recorded the whole thing in one day. It's also a movie that shows that the French hate police officers.

Les Diaboliques, which was later remade in the 1990's. The film is directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, who is one of the great French directors that didn't make it to the New Wave.

When William Friedkin met Clouzot in the 70's, he told him that he'd be remaking his movie The Wages of Fear. Clouzot then said to him, "Well, it won't be as good."

Le Samourai. I've spoken about this movie a lot. In fact, it's been the subject of no less than three identical sig/avatar combos on this forum. It's the epitomy of cool. It's not a fast moving film, but Jean-Pierre Melville proves that he's a methodical director and that Alain Delon is more than just an obscure punchline in the first season of the British version of The Office (it's the episode where the guy throws the shoe on the roof). Also: Le Samourai was a heavy influence on John Woe-- The Killer is more or less the same exact plot.

Rififi, directed by American Jules Dassin, it's regarded as one of the greatest heist movies and French crime films of all time. It was later heavily borrowed from by Jean-Pierre Melville in his own fantastic movie, Le Cercle De Rouge (see image below).


There could be a whole other thread about the atavistic works and films that made film noir what it is, but if you boiled down the genre, what you would find are a few, basic tropes-- especially in the movies-- that define what film noir is.

There's the reluctant hero (or the plain anti-hero). In Westerns people like Gary Cooper and John Wayne did what was right and punished the bad guys. In film noir, more often than not, the protagonist would get his head kicked in by the sheriff. He doesn't want trouble and he doesn't care about it, it just finds him.

The doppleganger (which is much harder to express in a single still image so I'm going to skip it), but usually the guy is either framing the main character or being chased by him. This character more or less underpines the idea that being a hero isn't all that different from being a scumbag on the street.

And, of course, there's the femme fatale.
The femme fatale kind of gets a bad rap. While she is bound to the Production Code's rule that a sexy woman is evil, they're interesting because, often they're what starts the plot in most of these movies. It isn't Philip Marlowe that goes out looking for trouble, but rather, some crazy dame that-- somehow, every time-- gets him mixed up in everything. They aren't exactly paragons for the feminist movement, but having a women this powerful and this sexual in a genre as murky as film noir was an important part of

Some people like to drop film noir as an idea that went and died and are clever for bringing back, but film noir has always been with us. It's too good of an idea to be left by the wayside and, unlike the western, its nowhere near as costly or complicated to replicate.

In the 1974 Roman Polanski directed Chinatown, a tribute to the classic American detective movie. It was written by Robert Towne,.

Even though the movie didn't intend to bring anything back in and of itself, it did signal a new wave of films inspired by film noir.

Neo-noir, much like the creation of the modern action movie, established itself formally during the 80's. In many ways neo-noir shares a heritage with action movies (which didn't exist as we know them know until the 1980's).

America wanted (and needed) old fashioned films and something to rationalize the ugliness of the past twenty years. Action movies were the more direct way to deal with the failures of twenty years of bad government and in a way both the action movie and neo-noir were a way to deal with American losing its first war, the government transforming into a villain, having drugs run amok in the streets, JFK and MLK having their heads blown off. have feminism and civil rights and Indian rights and everything else turn the status quo on its head, not to mention Watergate, the fuel shortage, joblessness, and the general failure of the Great Society. Obviously the 60's and 70's were no picnic anywhere else in the world, but in America, I think the movies we got later were a symptom of this mass, disappointment with the world.

On the plus side, at least we didn't get another Shirley Temple.

So what movies count as neo-noir?

The original wave would include (but not be limited to):

Chinatown is as perfect as it is depressing. It might have been directed by a child raping, prison dodging goon, but the work itself is flawless. It's kind of ironic, now that I think about it.

Body Heat, which, like many movies on here, isn't great, but it's worth seeing if only for some crazy, hot, sweaty sex the likes of which is rare in American cinema. And as bonerlicious as it is, it's a rare movie (like Akira Kurosawa's Stray Dog) that makes you feel how muggy and unpleasant the weather in the movie is.

Blade Runner is a confluence of sci-fi and hard-boiled and the results aren't exactly perfect. It's one of my favorite movies of all time, but it's plagued with fiddling by the studio and didn't get a proper release until a few years ago in its full restored glory. Blade Runner mixes a lot of old LA noir tropes (like the Bradbury Building and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright) with the (then) fledgling come back of big special effects pictures.

No Country For Old Men. The movie was based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy and takes place on the Texas border in 1980. The movie mixes up a lot of ideas about Westerns along with the classic crime/thriller/chase movie. There's lots of things going on in this movie and it's one of the best to come out of the past ten years. The Coen Brothers directed the movie and one of the defining features of their work is that they always seem to be leaning heavily on past features (The Hudsucker Proxy was a throwback to the screwball comedy and O Brother Where Art Thou was based, in part, on Sullivan's Travels).

The Big Lebowski, The Man Who Wasn't There, and Blood Simple are also infused with film noir aesthetics and sensibilities, perhaps more apparently than the movie above.

The Killer Inside Me, which is also based off of a novel (have you seen a theme, yet?) by Jim Thompson which was written in 1952. While movie has received mixed reviews, mostly based off of its alleged misogyny, it's safe to say that with a subject matter like this, yeah, it's film noir.

And, of course, LA Confidential, which was based off of the novel by James Ellroy, a Los Angeles native and gifted crime writer. There's plenty of movies that attempt to copy that era of LA, but none have done it as well as this movie. It's impressive considering that most of the leads aren't from this country.

Genres are like anything else in art, they aren't rigidly defined and even though you can attach a definition and an understanding to them, there's so much bleed over and overlap that you can't ever fully get a grip on it. There's no real end to the Western, you see it in every TV show where someone has a revolver or wears a hat. The Simpsons still do musical numbers, even if it's probably much easier to wrangle a stray cell than a crappy dancer (Now that I think about it, Blazing Saddles was a Western and had a musical sequence). We still have "Women's Pictures" and melodramas, too (Tyler Perry is a fairly shitty replacement for , then again, most people are).

I'm tired now. Now you talk about film noir (feem newah).

Here's a great website for photos of film noir. It has a pretty appropriate title.

More of a Bonus! Here's a further link to shit I posted, but have no desire to reformat.

04 August, 2010

Great, Unironic Moments in Cinema

Ernest Borgnine, what do you have to say about Prop 8?

Thanks, Ernie!

From Elevator to the Gallows.
I've got a big entry on film noir for here, I've just to format it for HTML. Oh boy.

02 August, 2010

The Fall Will Kill You!

(via the Selvedge Yard.)

01 August, 2010

You Were Gentle

Happy the Future!