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Monday, August 25, 2014

Neo-noir Film #6: L.A. Confidential

Good day good people!  Well, here we are at last, the final film of our summer neo-noir film series.  Last week we witnessed Roman Polanski's noir masterpiece, Chinatown, and I don't want to let you guys down so I decided to finish up the series with another entry that just oozes film noir greatness.  Made some 23 years after Chinatown, but in a very similar vein and setting, we come to Curtis Hanson's beautiful homage to the genre: LA Confidential.

L.A. Confidential is a 1997 neo-noir detective film based on James Ellroy's 1990 novel of the same title, the third book in his L.A. Quartet series.  Like the book, the film tells the story of a group of LAPD officers in the year 1953, and the intersection of police corruption and Hollywood celebrity.  The title refers to the 1950s scandal magazine Confidential, portrayed in the film as Hush-Hush.  The film adaptation was produced and directed by Curtis Hanson and co-written by Hanson and Brian Helgeland.

Critically acclaimed, the film holds a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as an aggregated rating of 90 on Metacritic.  It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning two:  Kim Basinger for Supporting Actress and Hanson and Helgeland for Best Adapted Screenplay; it lost every other category to Titanic.
Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars and later added it to his list of Great Movies and said this of the film, "L.A. Confidential is described as film noir, and so it is, but it is more: unusually for a crime film, it deals with the psychology of the characters...It contains all the elements of police action, but in a sharply clipped, more economical style; the action exists not for itself but to provide an arena for the personalities.  The dialogue is lovely; not the semi-parody of a lot of film noir, but the words of serious people trying to reveal or conceal themselves.  And when all of the threads are pulled together at the end, you really have to marvel at the way there was a plot after all, and it all makes sense, and it was all right there waiting for someone to discover it."

As I said, this film is a wonderful example of neo-noir made to replicate the feeling of the noirs of old, and it's a fantastic film.  We will be meeting Thursday, Aug. 28th at 6:15pm, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Neo-noir Film #5: Chinatown

A big thank you to everyone who was able to make it out to Fargo last week, we had a wonderful turnout!  This week in our Neo-noir series we will be entering into a little different territory.  Until now, just about all of our films were set in somewhat modern settings while employing the themes and techniques reminiscent of Film noir (hence, neo-noir).  This week's film (as well as next week's) fits into the neo-noir category because it was made after 1960, but is set in the late 1930s, when actual Film noir was being made.  Essentially it is a noir period piece.  This film comes to us from 1974, Roman Polanski's Chinatown.

Chinatown is a 1974 American neo-noir film, directed by Roman Polanski from a screenplay by Robert Towne, and starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.  The film was inspired by the California Water Wars, a series of disputes over southern California water at the beginning of the 20th century by which Los Angeles interests secured water rights in the Owens Valley.  The Robert Evans production, a Paramount Pictures release, was the director's last film in the United States, and features many elements of film noir, particularly a multi-layered story that is part mystery and part psychological drama.

In 1991 the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for films that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," and it is frequently listed among the greatest in world cinema.  The 1975 Academy Awards saw it nominated eleven times, with an Oscar going to Robert Towne for Best Original Screenplay.

The film currently holds a 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 60 reviews.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars and later added it to his list of Great Movies saying of the film, "Chinatown is not only a great entertainment, but something more, something I would have thought impossible:  It's a 1940s private-eye movie that doesn't depend on nostalgia or camp for its effect, but works because of the enduring strength of the genre itself.  In some respects, this movie actually could have been made in the 1940s.  It accepts its conventions and categories at face value and doesn't make them the object of satire or filter them through a modern sensibility...Here's a private-eye movie in which all the traditions, romantic as they may seem, are left intact."

This film and next weeks film are wonderful examples of neo-noir replicating the feel of actual 1930s and 40s film noir in a way we have not yet seen in our series, and you will not want to miss it.  We will be meeting Thursday, Aug. 21st at 6:15pm, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Neo-noir Film #4: Fargo

Greetings!  First, allow me a moment to thank everyone who was able to make it to Memento, hopefully you've had some time to think about what happened in the film because at the start of our next meeting there will be a test....ok, that isn't true, but I'm glad you all stuck with it, it can be a somewhat challenging film, but a challenging film is a film that makes you think!  Secondly, I'm here to announce the next title in our Summer Neo-noir film series!  This next film will be the second in our series directed by the masterful Joel and Ethan Coen (who directed our first film Blood Simple).  Fargo is perhaps the one film in our series that somewhat strays from the traditional dark and shadowy style generally found in noir and neo-noir (some others have but not as much), taking place in the blinding white of snowy Minneapolis, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota.  This being said, the film does maintin many of the themes we have seen in our other films in the series: kidnapping, murder, revenge, double crossing, criminal investigations, etc.

Fargo is a 1996 American dark comedy crime film written, produced, edited, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.  It stars Frances McDormand as a pregnant Minnesota police chief who investigates a series of local homicides, and William H. Macy as a struggling car salesman who hires two criminals to kidnap his wife.  The film also features Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, and Harve Presnell, as well as the work of one of my favorite cinematographers in business, Roger Deakins.  The film earned seven Academy Award nominations, winning two for Best Original Screenplay for the Coens and Best Actress in a Leading Role for McDormand.  In 2006, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and inducted into the United States National Film Registry for preservation, making it one of only five films to be preserved in its first year of eligibility.

Fargo was met with widespread critical acclaim, currently holding a 94% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 84 critics.  Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both named Fargo the best film of 1996.  It was also Ebert's fourth favorite of the 1990s.  He awarded the film 4/4 stars and later added it to his list of Great Movies.  In his original review he said this of the film: "Fargo begins with an absolutely dead-on familiarity with smalltown life in the frigid winter landscape of Minnesota and North Dakota.  Then it rotates its story through satire, comedy, suspense and violence, until it emerges as one of the best films I've ever seen....films like Fargo are why I love the movies."

We will be meeting Thursday, Aug. 14th at 6:15pm, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer: