Monthly Archives: February 2011

Oscar Grouching ’10: Inception and Black Swan

The Oscars are almost almost here, and I’ve promised Ashley that I’ll shut up about them soon. But there’s so much I haven’t been able to talk about! So I’m going to make a last-ditch effort to address some of my lingering nominee-related thoughts.

First of all: Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which I discussed in an initial, wildly enthusiastic review and in my year-end wrap-up. My opinion of it has fluctuated over the past 6-7 months, and I recently revisited it to write a “Mix Tape” article for The Film Experience about the film’s use of Édith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” A few points stood out to me: first and most frustratingly, the film totally wastes a fantastic ensemble. Ellen Page and JG-L act as Cobb’s glorified assistants (and bounce exposition off of each other), while Cillian Murphy is a quirky, talented actor trapped in a bland nothing role.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting, meanwhile, leaves a lot to be desired since he’s supposed to be the film’s lead and emotional linchpin. He has two modes here—pedagogic and brooding—and neither is especially enthralling. Only Cotillard, Watanabe, and Hardy do anything much of interest, and even they are hampered by the film’s structure and dialogue. It’s emphatically not an actor’s movie. However, it is an art design and special effects wet dream, and redeemed by its moments of sheer visual spectacle. It also builds a creative, streamlined world out of old clichés and pieces of cultural detritus. Given this last attribute, I could imagine Inception 2 going in some cool directions.

For now, though, all we’ve got is Inception 1, which is occasionally awesome and fun, but nonetheless has plot holes big enough to drive a train through in the middle of its raison d’etre, the über-complicated shared dreaming technology. But I’m still excited for The Dark Knight Rises and whatever else Nolan wants to make; maybe we’ll get another Ledger-as-Joker-caliber performance out of his movies again. In the meantime, Inception certainly deserves a technical award or two. We’ll find out tonight!

It’s hard to separate the good and bad of Black Swan (see my initial review), and I think that’s just how Darren Aronofsky likes it. Is it gorgeous, intense, and sensual, unlike almost every other Best Picture nominee? Hell yes. Is it adolescent, prurient, trashy, and obsessed with Natalie Portman’s oh-so-romantic masochism for her art? Also hell yes. It’s an icky, atmospheric horror movie that would make a great double feature with Perfect Blue; it’s also comparatively simple-minded about sex and female performance, steeped as it is in hoary melodramatic tropes. (After all, it is an unofficial remake of everything from 42nd Street to Showgirls.)

To be frank, though, I love all the women in this. Portman (this year’s almost-certain Best Actress) is the film’s center which cannot hold, the diva around whom Ryder, Kunis, and Hershey orbit, and each one of them still gets a few juicy moments in the limelight. In the end, though, it’s all about Nina’s manic, transformative dance to the death. In that final scene, you either applaud Aronofsky’s gall, you ask “What the fuck is going on?!”, or both. To conclude, I’ve got a few fascinating and informative Black Swan-related links:

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Filed under Cinema, Sexuality

Link Dump: #24

In light of Lady Gaga’s recent high-profile cover of it, along with the music video’s director David Fincher being Oscar-nominated, we figured it was time to revisit Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” which features—you guessed it!—lots of kitties. And half-naked men. The best of all worlds, really. So! Sit back, listen to Madonna expressing herself, and read over some vintage links…

  • If you’re like me, you love reading about retro sex ed videos. Now’s your chance, thanks to a long, dense conversation about them recently conducted by Farran Smith Nehme and Vadim Rizov, two ultra-perceptive film folks!
  • The Australian has a fascinating interview with filmmaker and special effects expert Douglas Trumbull (of 2001 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind fame) that goes over his career and influence. I especially liked this part:

Projection in 3-D, he believes, should be reserved for “alternate reality”. “It’s great for a movie like Alice in Wonderland, but maybe not for a love story, or even The Great Gatsby.”

As far as search terms go, we had a few wacky, outlandish, and gross ones like “bread in a vagina” (speaking of yeast infections…) and “syringe douche anal mistress.” The search “fucking happily movies” could, I think, have a few different meanings: movies with happy fucking in them? Good movies to watch while fucking happily? Did they mistype “fucking happy movies”? Lastly, we had another search term in Arab, “سكس كرتون كايوتك,” which Google Translate renders as “Sex Cartoon Cayotk.” I still don’t know what that means.

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Filed under Body, Cinema, Feminism, Politics

The Power of Words!

In case you didn’t see it, USA Today recently published a total non-article by Susan Wloszczyna about screenwriting that actually includes this sentence: “A handful of other titles nominated for best picture—such as True Grit, The Social Network and The Kids Are All Right—are also putting their money where their mouth is with dialogue that amuses, touches or inspires.” Yes, that’s right: a professional writer actually wrote a full 1,500 words or so and her only point was that “many movies have screenplays, which feature writing.” YEAH.

In honor of this amusing piece of anti-journalism, I’m putting forth a fun little quote mix-and-match game! Celebrate “the power of words” with me by identifying the Best Picture nominees that contain these snippets of dialogue I love. (Of course, all of them can easily be googled, but it’s even better if you can guess them off the top of your head. Besides, just use the process of elimination!)

1. “What are we ever gonna do with you, baby girl?”

2. “Screw it. Let’s gut the friggin’ nerd.”

3. “No owners means no heartbreak!”

4. “I need your observations like I need a dick up my ass!”

5. “Was I good?”

6. “Wait a minute… are we trading again?”

7. “Stop calling me an MTV girl, whatever that means.”

8. “I bought the airline. It seemed neater.”

9. “I’m a thistle sifter…”

10. “You see, I’m something of a, uh, well, a big fucking hard hero.”

Comment below with your answers! [I’ll moderate comments initially so they’re not all spoiled.]


Filed under Cinema

It’s my party…

Today marks the 21st anniversary of my birth, and what better way to celebrate than with the gift that keeps on giving, cinephilia? I could’ve used images of drinking in film (you know, 21), but that seemed a little too easy, so I went with cinematic birthday parties instead. By sheer coincidence, all of these birthdays involve encounters with serial killers or life-changing traumas. (Witness above, the garish cake baked for Helen [Anna Massey] in Peeping Tom, just before she introduces herself to the psychotic Mark Lewis.) Hopefully mine involves neither!

Andy’s mom wants to surprise him with the (ironically named) Good Guy doll he so sorely desires. Unfortunately, said doll is also possessed by the spirit of Evil Brad Dourif. So Andy’s the target of a unrepentant murderer’s voodoo curse, but he also gets an awesome, self-activated talking doll. Some good, some bad… let’s call this birthday a wash. (Besides, he could’ve been attacked by the doll in Chester Novell Turner’s Black Devil Doll from Hell, so in that respect he’s lucky.)

Bette Davis’s Margo Channing is having a rough night, as the festivities for her boyfriend’s birthday turn into an occasion for jealousy and betrayal. She knows Eve’s a sneaky little bitch who’s trying to steal her friends and lifestyle, but nobody believes her. Thankfully for Margo, though, she gets one of cinema’s all-time great lines as she exits the scene: “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” One of this scene’s lessons is that you should never let your birthday party degenerate into a melee of brilliant, biting dialogue, back-stabbing, and suspicions. For that matter, just don’t invite Eve.

Finally, don’t vomit an oily black substance onto your cake. It’s just impolite to the guests. Wikus van de Merwe’s friends and family went to all the trouble of preparing this surprise party midway into District 9, and he just spoils it by getting all sick and starting to turn into a weird human/prawn hybrid. Look at this how lavish this party is, too! And he just spends the whole time wandering around, ears ringing, intermittently pausing to retch. Oh, poor Wikus. Your birthday may be ruined, but at least you’ll become the savior to a cat food-loving alien race stranded in South Africa! (Huh, District 9 sure was a weird movie, wasn’t it?)

There you have it: four birthdays that didn’t go so well. Let’s hope I can learn from their examples by 1) not befriending any serial killers, 2) not receiving any serial killers as gifts, 3) not engendering paranoia and tension in my significant other, and 4) not getting infected with an extraterrestrial disease. If I can manage that, this should be a very, very good day.


Filed under Cinema, Personal

Oscar Grouching ’10: The Kids Are All Right

Yeah, folks, it’s Oscar season. Not duck season, not wabbit season, but Oscar season. It’s that time of year when my love/hate relationship with the mainstream film industry rears its ugly head, and I have weird internal conversations that go like this: “But the Oscars are so meaningless! It’s all industry politics!” “Well, yeah, but industry politics still means something. And the right movies get awarded, sometimes. You liked No Country for Old Men, right?” “That’s not the point! It’s all masturbatory self-congratulation. It’s a fluke if awards go to quality films, and they don’t even recognize the Honorary Award winners during the ceremony.” “But they have montages, and banter, and pretty dresses…”

This conversation goes on for a while, and it never gets resolved. I end up regarding the Oscars like any other highly flawed but still significant method of judging films: with a grain of salt. Or should I say a pillar of salt. (A whole salt mine?) In short, I treat it like the dog-and-pony-and-James-Franco show it so clearly is. The ceremony is really an accurate if broad mediation of Hollywood culture, after all. It’s shallow, glamorous, expensive, ratings-obsessed, but all in all fairly entertaining. Beyond that, the awards represent a loose consensus. All the acting, writing, director, and picture nominees are contained within a pool of just 16 films and these, for better or worse, are what the American film community recognizes as 2010’s best. Take from that what you will.

Having said my piece, I now jump into my abbreviated, last-minute Oscar nominee coverage. Between now and Sunday, I’ll rush to discuss as many of this year’s Big Ten as I have time for. (Click here to read my thoughts from last year.) So let’s begin! Last summer I was delighted that my local multiplex was offering up Lisa Cholodenko’s Sundance favorite The Kids Are All Right. It’s such a summery movie, too, full of warm California locations and fertile greenery. “Fertility” is a major watchword in this movie, too, since it’s all premised on two births via artificial insemination that led over time to the growth of a beautiful, functional family… even if it does have a few issues to work out.

Mia Wasikowski is Joni, one of these two kids, and she’s more than all right. She’s only a few months older than me (I feel like I say that all the time now about burgeoning movie stars!) and she looks very delicate and pale, which makes her Biff Loman-style disillusionment toward the film’s end even more heartbreaking. Joni is cerebral and well-behaved, but wants to start asserting her independence now that she’s college-bound. Her half-brother Laser can be something of an asshole, but he’s got a good heart. He doesn’t want to tear his family apartment; he’s just curious about how it got started.

It’s perfectly understandable—just as it is when their brittle, authoritative mom Nic bristles at sperm donor Paul’s intrusion into their family unit. Annette Bening’s Nic may overreact to minor incidents and overdo it on the red wine, but she still feels so cool. She’s outspoken, she’s competent, and she’s passionate (about her work, her family, Joni Mitchell). She might not be that tactful, but neither is she a bitch. She feels like someone it would be fun to sit down to dinner with. For that matter, so does Julianne Moore as Nic’s wife Jules. Even if she’s a little flaky and flighty at times, she’s still fucking Julianne Moore.

Mark Ruffalo as Paul completes the triangle. He’s not a bad guy, although he does become a homewrecker, The Kids Are All Right‘s equivalent of the classical Hollywood melodrama’s “other woman.” I already wrote a piece over at The Film Experience about Paul’s introduction through a David Bowie-scored sex scene, and I’m still impressed by Ruffalo’s (deservingly Oscar-nominated) performance and how well it slides into the textures of the overall film. Out of all this year’s Best Picture nominees, The Kids Are All Right is one of only two that you could really call “sexy.” In scene after scene, Ruffalo’s nonchalant but intense sexuality is almost palpable through the screen.

This is what I really love about The Kids Are All Right: how the performances and writing collide to forge deep, powerful characterizations. It’s a consistently funny movie, but it’s also extremely moving, because it makes you invest so heavily in this family and the love it’s grounded in. Nic and Jules may not be perfect wives, but they don’t have to be. They visibly love each other, and so to see all the damage that Jules’s affair has wrought on their relationship is devastating. These two mothers and two kids are just so right for each other that it’d be a cinematic injustice to wrench them apart. In scope and style, it’s a small, light movie, but at its core is the highest of all stakes: two people are in love, and that love is threatened.

Granted, it’s not exactly visually stunning. It’s modest and attractive, privileging the performers within each frame. It also has some uncomfortable implications, both in Jules’s never-addressed, subtly racist treatment of Luis, the Mexican gardener she employs, and in her willingness to sleep with Paul at the first available moment, which some critics have seen as endorsing the old “deep down all lesbians really want a man” fallacy. I confess the film has some issues to work out, and it occasionally compromises its own progressive virtues, but I think that’s too simplistic a reading of her behavior. “Human sexuality,” as she tells her son, “is complicated.”

This is the film’s approach, to not just human sexuality but also marriage (which Jules says is “fucking hard”), parenting, working, socializing, saying hello, and saying goodbye. It’s a very humanistic film, assuming good intentions in all of its characters and not judging them too harshly when (inevitably) they fuck up. It’s also flawlessly calibrated to adjust my emotions like a faucet, and I do not begrudge it that.

Within deceptively unimposing, even generic packaging, The Kids Are All Right conceals five great performances that work together like the gears in a watch, bound together by the strength of the warm, witty screenplay. Family can be painful, as we’ll see with many of this year’s Best Picture nominees. At least this time, the ordeal ends with our two torn-apart lovers holding hands once again.


Filed under Cinema, Sexuality

Frozen: Wolves Are Pussies

[The following was written by both of us as part of the Final Girl Film Club; go check it out. Also note that spoilers are abundant, like wolves at a ski resort.]


So, Frozen! Or as I like to call it Poor Decisions: The Movie (or Douchey White Kids Doing Stupid Things and Paying For It: The Movie or I Don’t Give a Shit If These Characters Die: The Movie or Women Can’t Do Anything Right: The Movie or Nothing Happens for a While Then SOME WOLVES Then Nothing Happens for a While Then SOME FROSTBITE Then Nothing Happens for a While and Then MORE WOLVES and Then The End: The Movie). And now that I’ve stretched that joke to its logical extreme let’s talk about some assholes getting eaten by wolves!

Have you seen Open Water, my friend? It’s that movie that did for swimming what Jaws did for swimming, remember? About the couple who get left out in the middle of the goddamn ocean while scuba diving and [spoiler] totes get eaten by sharks. This is just like that! Just replace “ocean” with “ski lift” and “sharks” with “wolves” and you’ve got Frozen! Oh, and also replace “tension” with “hilarity” and “characters” with “place-holding dead meat” and “actual fear” with “oh-my-god-did-he-seriously-just-say-‘Wolves are pussies’?!?!?!” and then you have Frozen.

If you can’t tell from my endless well of snark, this movie is… well, bad. Really bad. Hilariously bad. Which makes it the kind of movie that Andreas and I just eat up with a big, goddamn, bad-dialogue-and-character-development spoon. We start out with some of the blandest, most boring (yet somehow completely unlikeable) characters ever as they attempt to bribe their way onto a swank ski resort’s lifts without paying full price for tickets. Our characters are as follows: Bro, Girlfriend, and Super Douchey Bro Who Is Jealous of Bro’s Girlfriend. They have real names, but do they really matter?

So Bro, Girlfriend and Douchey Bro (as he will be referred to from here on out) spend the day on the bunny slopes because Girlfriend is useless (you know, ’cause she has a vagina) and can’t even look at a snowboard without falling on her ass. Douchey Bro gets all up in arms about it and is all like “RWAR I WANNA DO SOME REAL MAN’S SNOWBOARDING NOT THIS GIRLY, PUSSY SHIT!” So, through a combination of Girlfriend’s guilt over intruding on precious, sacred Dood Time and both Girlfriend and Bro’s combined wish to appease the beast that is Douchey Bro’s butthurt-ness, they convince the lift operator they bribed earlier to let them take JUST ONE MORE RIDE, DUDE, COME ON, WE PAID YOU A HUNDRED BUCKS, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO NIGHT SKIING, GAWD!?

The operator gives them pretty damn good reasons why they shouldn’t: he’s not just being a killjoy, there’s some serious weather moving in, and motherfuckers need to go. But no amount of logic will stop stupid young adults who are under the impression that they can’t be eviscerated and have their entrails totally fucking eaten by wolves. So, through a series of stupid events, Bro, Girlfriend and Douchey Bro end up stranded hiiigh above the ground in the cold darkness.

So… yeah. They’re up there and it’s cold and junk. So they sit there and Douchey Bro is (surprisingly) acting like a douche. And okay, seriously, these people ARE SO FUCKING BORING. This part of the movie consists of Douchey Bro trying to play games like “Favorite Food” to distract himself from the biting cold (because it totally started  snowing like five seconds after all the lights went out and they became stranded). Is this really your tension building device, Frozen? Really? REALLY?

So finally Bro decides, FUCK IT, IMMA JUMP! This is probably the most interesting part of the whole movie simply because the movie is extraordinarily cruel to this character (who is the most likeable out of this incredibly unlikeable trio of assholes [and he’s only the most likeable because he doesn’t have defining characteristics such as ‘being useless and crying a lot’ or ‘being a dick hole’]). Earlier in the film, when our three fuckers are discussing what they think is the scariest ways to die are, Bro says that the scariest for him would be being eaten by an animal, just seeing it coming and knowing what will happen (movie uses FORESHADOWING! IT’S SUPER EFFECTIVE!). So Bro jumps and is totally 100% okay. J/k, his legs are all:

And so what do you think happens to our Bro? Eaten by wolves, motherfucker. (But not before Girlfriend and Douchey Bro THROW DOWN ARTICLES OF THEIR CLOTHING to try and SOMEHOW help Bro. They are smart, smart people.) And then Girlfriend is all:

And I’m just like “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.” Which is NOT how you’re supposed to respond to someone being eaten by wolves. And honestly, beyond this moment, the movie just really becomes a blur for me; a hodgepodge of obnoxious crying, pointless bickering, anti-climactic shots of frostbite, boring camerawork, and one incredibly, unnecessarily gratuitous shot of Girlfriend pissing herself. So, since my I think I’ve written more snark than even I can handle, I will hand the rest of the review over to Alice.


I admit I didn’t come into Frozen expecting visual poetry or nuanced characters; all I really wanted was a good people-trapped-in-a-scary-place movie that, perhaps, would prey on my fear of heights and disdain for the cold. (As a lifelong Minnesotan, I’ve basically been enduring an earthbound version of Frozen during my daily walks to class.) Under those fairly mild expectations, writer/director Adam Green’s third film is a qualified success. Only a handful of scenes actually scared me, but at least the rest of it was ridiculous and laughable enough to be entertaining. After all, as Ashley pointed out, “[wolves]’re pussies, man.”

Between the wolves, the broken legs, the frostbite, and the skin-coming-off-Parker’s-hands thing, Frozen did have some effective gross-out moments, but they were all pretty inert. When Parker (aka Girlfriend) tears her hands off the bar and sees all the congealed blood, she just gazes at them; it’s like she’s thinking, “Huh. I don’t remember them being like that.” In fact, it reminds a little me of Sharon’s brother and his skeletized hands in Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. (By the way, will someone please make Death Chairlift: The Chairlift That Eats?) In between these flashes of gore, we get lots of potentially suspenseful waiting. Yes, we as viewers are also trapped in the chairlift… unfortunately, we’re trapped there with fucking Parker and Lynch, as well as their inane, interminable dialogue.

Jesus Christ, Parker and Lynch. If given the choice, I think I’d rather be trapped in that elevator with the assholes from Devil. Or better yet, in that house from Saw II. (With Shawnee Smith! Sigh.) Up in that chairlift, you’re forced to listen to Douchey Bro Lynch prattle on about his past, his future, his hopes, his dreams, and man, is he a boring person! It’s like all of a sudden you’re watching an avant-garde production of Waiting for Godot, where Godot is a pack of wolves and “Shall we go?” — “Yes, let’s go,” is the conversation you’re having with your viewing companion. It’s not like I’m allergic to a little tension-building inactivity, but where was the tension? They were cold, then they continued being cold.

In fact, this cycle of “shot, reverse shot, anecdote, establishing shot” went on for so long that I made up a little song to bide the time. Which is to say that I came up with several new verses to Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like a Wolf,” featuring lines like

He fell to the ground,

It made a loud sound,

Then he got eaten by a wolf…

You get the idea.

Personally, I prefer the writing in Frozen‘s early scenes. Since Green isn’t trying to push the pathos button yet (“Oh no! Lynch was going to marry that girl he just met! Now I care about him!”), we get delightfully silly lines like, “Football games are more than ten minutes. They’re like lots of ten minuteses, you know?” or “I don’t know. She’s naked. Naked chicks are hot.” (Both courtesy of Douchey Bro Lynch.) I also loved the redundancy in Parker’s panicked screams when they realize they’re stuck: “We have to get out of these chairs! We can’t stay up in this chair! Why isn’t the goddamn chair moving, Dan?!” Hey, if Adam Green doesn’t take these characters seriously, why should I?

So rest assured, Frozen has enough of these bad-movie perks to make it worth your while. And at its best, it gets pretty scary: the characters may be loud-mouthed ciphers, but the climactic climb across the chairlift cables would put me on edge if it was being performed by a crash test dummy. As Douchey Bro Lynch would say, I’m a pussy when it comes to heights. The biggest tragedy of Frozen, though, is that it looks so boring. I understand the story’s inherent visual limitations, but seriously, that poster at the top is way more dynamic than the movie itself ever gets! It’s bad enough that the writing’s so painfully generic without having a palette that consists entirely of dull white and murky nighttime blue.

If you’re desperate for a people-trapped-in-a-scary-place horror movie fix, Frozen should suffice, but it’s pretty thin gruel. In closing, here’s a list of lessons I learned from Dan, Lynch, and Parker’s wacky misadventures:

  • Wolves are pussies. (But they will still nom your face off.)
  • In times of crisis, men yell things and do stupid shit. Women cry, piss themselves, and sleep with their skin against freezing metal. (These are called gender stereotypes.)
  • If you’re going skiing, bring a cellphone.
  • If you don’t bring a cellphone, at least let someone know where you are and when you’ll be back.
  • If you don’t do that, you’re one of the characters in Frozen. Dumbass.
  • Sarlacc > wolves.
  • Don’t itch at it, for chrissake!
  • Hang on to every warm article of clothing you have. A scarf hanging from a tree will not help save your boyfriend from wolves.
  • He ran down the slope, / There was a ray of hope, / But then he got eaten by a wolf…


Filed under Cinema

Five Reasons to Donate, for the Love of Film (Noir)

Over at Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films, the For the Love of Film (Noir) blogathon rages on, raising money for the Film Noir Foundation and the preservation of our dark cinematic heritage. However, despite all the gorgeous, noir-loving prose being churned out by the blogathon’s dozens of contributors, they’re still behind on donations. And not enough donations means they can’t save Cy Endfield’s The Sound of Fury. But all is not lost. You can help. Do you love film noir? Do you have any excess income whatsoever? Then donate. Please. I’m a poor, beleaguered college student and I still managed to scrounge up $5.

But I won’t waste your time just begging. I’ll prove to you why you should donate your hard-earned $$$ to this most worthy of charitable causes. So, properly illustrated with high-contrast images pulled from some of the best noirs that Netflix Instant has to offer, here they are: The Top Five Reasons You Should Donate to the Film Noir Foundation.

5) For the way Rita Hayworth’s curls bounce when she raises her head

And, by extension, for all the fiery, erotic moments tucked inside great film noirs. (By the way, did anyone ever resolve that pluralization problem?) This may just be a tiny, half-second-long gesture on Hayworth’s part, but it’s still one of those indelible introductions, as she vertically enters the frame (and our hearts) with an unmistakable mix of coyness and confidence. Regardless of the movie’s garbled sexual politics, we can all concur that Gilda is more than decent.

4) For narrow stairways and back alleys around the world

When the soon-to-be-blacklisted Endfield was making The Sound of Fury in America, Jules Dassin had already emigrated to England and made the grimy, beautiful Night and the City, starring Richard Widmark as cheap hustler Harry Fabian. Although it has some great demonstrations of betrayal and desperation, the film’s most memorable images are of Fabian racing across London like a trapped rat. We know he’s going to end up dead; it’s just a matter of when. Film noir has a way of taking the claustrophobia we feel on a day-to-day basis and distilling it into deliciously anxious cinema. Doesn’t that deserve your support?

3) For the eight million stories in the naked city

Noir may tend toward the pessimistic and the criminal, but it’s still a decidedly populist genre. By poking into the seedy underbelly of postwar society, noir filmmakers told stories about the have-nots who still desire, about how good people turn bad, and about what life is really like in dives and cramped apartments—albeit often through a distorted lens. It’s no coincidence that one of the first Italian neo-realist masterpieces was also a European variation on film noir, Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione. To varying degrees, film noir was about dismantling glossy Hollywood fictions and telling it straight.

(Also, I think the inclusion of two Jules Dassin movies on this list proves that Dassin is the man when it comes to noir. If Night and the City and The Naked City pique your interest, you should look into Brute Force and Thieves’ Highway as well!)

2) For future generations, so they can remember a long-gone era when men wore hats

The thugs, hoodlums, and crooked cops who populate John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle may be stuck in a cycle of violence and crime, but at least they have snazzy wardrobes! This is one of film noir’s big appeals: no matter miserable the characters are, they still make fantastic fashion choices. Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity might be riding that trolley to the end of the line (and have to wear that ugly wig), but that can’t stop her from donning angora sweaters and revealing nightgowns. Who doesn’t envy all those trench coats and fedoras? They might not be very comfy, but they look awesome.

1) For the expression on Orson Welles’s face after he realizes he’s been spotted

OK, I might be biased because The Third Man is easily amongst my three-or-so favorite films of all time. But just look at that face! Welles is so intensely charming, and that caught-with-his-hands-in-the-cookie-jar expression is the icing on the cake. (Whoops, just mixed some dessert-related metaphors there.) Add in Anton Karas strumming on the zither and a perplexed Joseph Cotten, and you’ve got a scene that single-handedly justifies donating money to the Film Noir Foundation.

So do it! Click on the Maltese falcon below and give your spare ducats to a needy cause! For the sex appeal, the rain-soaked streets, the untold stories, the 1940s apparel, and Orson Welles’s roguish grin… for the love of film noir, donate.


Filed under Cinema