Fresh Meat: <i>Broadchurch</i> by Erin Kelly Fresh Meat: Broadchurch by Erin Kelly Debbie Meldrum Two small-town cops team up over a boy's murder. Comment for a chance to win! Now Win <i>This</i>!: Can't Beat the Classics Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Can't Beat the Classics Sweepstakes Crime HQ They're classics for a reason... Fresh Meat: <i>Nine Days</i> by Minerva Koenig Fresh Meat: Nine Days by Minerva Koenig Angie Barry Under witness protection in rural TX, Julia's no innocent, but neither is anyone else... FM: <i>Virtue Falls</i> by Christina Dodd FM: Virtue Falls by Christina Dodd Laura K. Curtis An earthquake brings one family's history rushing to the surface.
From The Blog
September 15, 2014
Steve McQueen: The King of Cool Westerns
Edward A. Grainger
September 15, 2014
We'll All Be Seeing Hannibal's Therapist Regularly
Crime HQ
September 14, 2014
Mossad as Superspy: Is the Myth Slipping?
Lance Charnes
September 13, 2014
Bogie and Bacall: Key Largo (1948)
Jake Hinkson
September 12, 2014
Checking into The Knick 1.05: “They Capture the Heat”
Joe Brosnan
Showing posts by: Jake Hinkson click to see Jake Hinkson's profile
Sat
Sep 13 2014 2:00pm

Bogie and Bacall: Key Largo (1948)

In tribute to the late Lauren Bacall, we’re looking at the four classic films she made with husband and screen partner Humphrey Bogart between 1944 and 1948: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. Last week we looked at Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage. Today we’ll look at John Huston’s Key Largo.

I want to state this up front because I know that many people will disagree: Key Largo is not one of Humphrey Bogart’s best films.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s really, really good. Since I’ve seen it, oh, 20 times or so, it must be doing something right. Still, when you consider that his credits include Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, and In a Lonely Place, you realize that Bogart simply made so many masterpieces that even a film like Key Largo has to get bumped down to the second tier. There it joins films like The Enforcer and Dark Passage. And that ain’t  bad company.

[That's where I want to go...]

Sat
Sep 13 2014 11:00am

Bogie and Bacall: Dark Passage (1947)

In tribute to the late Lauren Bacall, we’re looking at the four classic films she made with husband and screen partner Humphrey Bogart between 1944 and 1948: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. Last week we looked at Hawks’ The Big Sleep. Today we’ll look at Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage.

Dark Passage doesn’t get any respect. It’s a fine film noir that has two things working against its reputation: 1) a hokey stylistic device, and 2) the fact that it is the least of the Bogart/Bacall vehicles.

I’ll deal with each of these criticisms in a moment. First however, the plot: Bogart plays Vincent Parry, a convict who has just busted out of prison when the film starts. He’s picked up by a talkative motorist named Baker (Clifton Young). It doesn’t take Baker long to figure out that Parry’s a fugitive, so Parry slugs him, takes off on foot and is picked up by another motorist. She’s Irene Jansen (Bacall), and surprisingly she already knows who Parry is and wants to help him. It turns out that Parry was convicted of killing his wife, and Irene followed his trial in the papers, convinced of his innocence. Before long, Parry undergoes a facelift and sets out to track down his wife’s killer.

[That's a tricky bit to pull off...]

Wed
Sep 10 2014 11:00am

Bogie and Bacall: The Big Sleep (1946)

In tribute to the late Lauren Bacall, we’re looking at the four classic films she made with husband and screen partner Humphrey Bogart between 1944 and 1948: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. Last week we looked at Howard Hawks’ To Have and Have Not. Today we’ll look at Hawks’ The Big Sleep.

The Big Sleep is a movie that is nearly universally beloved by movie buffs, but it is also the source of some debate among noir fans. Everyone agrees that it’s masterfully made, and everyone agrees that it contains one of Bogart’s great performances. But is it noir? Many people say no. One must admit, too, that there are strong arguments in support of this argument.

[But it's not that easy...]

Thu
Sep 4 2014 11:00am

Bogie and Bacall: To Have and Have Not (1944)

In tribute to the late Lauren Bacall, we’re looking at the four classic films she made with husband and screen partner Humphrey Bogart between 1944 and 1948: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. First up is Howard Hawks’ To Have and Have Not.

I have to be honest and declare right here at the beginning that I don’t think there’s a better movie than To Have and Have Not. There are greater films, and more profound films, and films of more ambition and more scope and more depth. But there’s not a better movie.

By now, we’ve all heard the famous (and maybe even partially true) story of how Howard Hawks bet Ernest Hemingway that he could make a good movie out of Hemingway’s worst novel. He settled on To Have and Have Not as the biggest stinker and made a cinematic masterpiece by throwing out everything in the book and starting from scratch. There are a couple of things wrong with this anecdote, though. For one thing, the exact when and where and how of the story seemed to change every time Hawks retold it, sharpening and clarifying until it became a suitable testimony to his own prescience and talent. The other problem is that director Michael Curtiz actually adapted Hemingway’s original novel faithfully in 1950 and created the film noir masterpiece The Breaking Point starring John Garfield and Patricia Neal. Still, the core of Hawks’ anecdote nicely sums up his approach to the material. Hemingway’s novel was a story of moral defeat, of a man reaching, well, the breaking point. And that kind of thing had no place in the cinema of Howard Hawks.

[He had a much different interpretation...]

Fri
Aug 29 2014 11:00am

Batman at 25: Tim Burton’s Caped Crusader

Ah, 1989. It was a simpler time. Your faithful correspondent was 14 years old—amply pimpled, brazenly bemulleted, and already a devoted movie geek. The best thing that happened to me that year was that Lethal Weapon 2 came out. This was back when one could devote himself unequivocally to the hero worship of Mel Gibson. Like I said, it was a simpler time. Lethal Weapon 2 was a big hit that summer, as was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade which gave us the perfect ending to the career of the good Dr. Jones. (Again, I repeat, simpler time.) But these two monster hits were not the big news that year because 1989 was the year of Batman.

Looking back, it’s easy to see now that Tim Burton’s Batman wasn’t simply the biggest hit of that year (grossing 411 million at the worldwide box office against a budget of 35 million, which, adjusted for inflation, might well make Batman the most successful comic book movie in history); it was also the most influential. While Richard Donner’s Superman had legitimized the comic book movie as potential blockbuster material back in 1978, that franchise had been mismanaged by producers who didn’t appreciate the delicate combination of grandeur and humor Donner had brought to the material. By 1989, when producers Peter Gruber and Jon Peters brought the Dark Knight to the screen, the comic book movie was still a gamble.

[But did it ever pay off...]

Fri
Aug 15 2014 2:00pm

The Movies of 1944: When Strangers Marry

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of film noir’s landmark year, we’re looking at the six key noirs of 1944: Double Indemnity, Laura, Murder My Sweet, Phantom Lady, The Woman In the Window, and When Strangers Marry. Earlier this week we looked at Fritz Lang’s The Woman In the Window. Today we look at William Castle’s When Strangers Marry.

While many scholars peg Double Indemnity as the first fully formed noir in terms of both style and theme, you can see the genre’s style and ethos taking shape in earlier films like Stranger On The Third Floor (1940), I Wake Up Screaming (1941) and Street Of Chance (1942). By 1944 you can see all of this coming together in the low-budget mystery-romance When Strangers Marry. The film is an interesting specimen of the emerging noir style, but it is of particular importance because it launched the criminal career of noir’s greatest leading man.

[Everyone has to start somewhere...]

Mon
Aug 11 2014 4:00pm

The Movies of 1944: The Woman in the Window

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of film noir’s landmark year, we’re looking at the six key noirs of 1944: Double Indemnity, Laura, Murder My Sweet, Phantom Lady, When Strangers Marry, and The Woman In the Window. Last week we looked at Robert Siodmak’s Phantom Lady. Today we look at Fritz Lang’s The Woman In The Window.

The Woman In The Window is the kind of film that comes right up to the edge of greatness and then swerves at the last moment. In a sense, that’s a shame, but look at it this way: most movies come nowhere near greatness.

The film stands at the crossroads in the career of star Edward G. Robinson. In the thirties, he had been one of the premier tommy gun-toting hoodlums at Warner Brothers, but in the forties, as the gangster picture gave way to the film noir, Robinson moved on to play a far different kind of character. In 1944, he made the pivotal Double Indemnity, playing the fast-talking insurance investigator. But that same year he made The Woman In The Window, the first of his middle-aged loser roles.

[It was a role he'd get used to playing...]

Wed
Aug 6 2014 11:00am

The Movies of 1944: Phantom Lady

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of film noir’s landmark year, we’re looking at the six key noirs of 1944: Double Indemnity, Laura, Murder My Sweet, Phantom Lady, When Strangers Marry, and The Woman In the Window. Last week we looked at Edward Dmytryk’s Murder, My Sweet. Today we look at Robert Siodmak’s Phantom Lady.

Sometimes when you’re watching a movie there comes a moment so wonderful that it strikes you like a revelation. You realize in an instant that you’ve lucked into something terrific. The first time I saw Phantom Lady, that moment hit me at about the ten minute mark. In the film Alan Curtis plays a civil engineer who has just had a fight with his wife. He heads to a bar for a drink, and while he’s there he meets a sad woman wearing a peculiar hat. She doesn’t seem to be in a mood to talk to anyone, but eventually Curtis convinces her to go to a show. She agrees, but on one condition: they will not exchange names. He agrees, pays for their drinks, and they take a cab to the show. Nothing much happens at the show and once it’s over, Curtis and the woman say goodnight.

[But the night doesn't end there...]

Sun
Aug 3 2014 12:00pm

The Movies of 1944: Murder, My Sweet

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of film noir’s landmark year, we’re looking at the six key noirs of 1944: Double Indemnity, Laura, Murder My Sweet, Phantom Lady, When Strangers Marry, and The Woman In the Window. Last week we looked at Otto Preminger’s adaptation of Vera Caspary’s Laura. Today we look at Edward Dmytryk’s Murder My Sweet.

Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe is the most famous private eye to ever walk the mean streets of American crime fiction. He’s gotten more traction than Sam Spade (who only headlined one novel and a handful of stories by Dashiell Hammet), and he’s outlasted his most famous successor, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. As a literary creation, he’s iconic: the raincoat and snap brim hat, the cigarettes, the smartass remarks, the office bottle, the tendency to get knocked over the head and wake up next to a dead body. He is a pivotal American heroic archetype, the lonely but honest private investigator. If the English have Sherlock Holmes, then Americans have Phillip Marlowe.

[USA! USA!]

Sun
Jul 27 2014 12:00pm

The Movies of 1944: Laura

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of film noir’s landmark year, we’re looking at the six key films of 1944: Double Indemnity, Laura, Murder My Sweet, Phantom Lady, When Strangers Marry, and The Woman In the Window. The first film we looked at Billy Wilder’s adaptation of James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity. Today we look at Otto Preminger’s film of Vera Caspary’s Laura.

[Let's go take a look...]

Wed
Jul 23 2014 1:00pm

The Movies of 1944: Double Indemnity

This year film noir turns 70. While there had been some intermittent films leading up to the birth of the classic noir, in 1944 the dahlia bloomed with six key films: Double Indemnity, Laura, Murder My Sweet, Phantom Lady, When Strangers Marry, and The Woman In the Window. In these films you have many of the key figures in noir making some of their first forays into the genre (directors Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, Fritz Lang, and Robert Siodmak; writers Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich, Vera Caspary, Phillip Yordan; actors Robert Mitchum, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Bennett, Dana Andrews—just to name a few). This onslaught of darkness came in the wake of the bleakest days (from the American perspective, anyway) of WWII. The basis of many of these films were older properties but it is the way these films came out—physically darker, psychologically denser, and ultimately more pessimistic—that marks the real birth of film noir. This post kicks off a new series which will explore these six landmark films.

[Up first, Double Indemnity...]

Sat
Jul 19 2014 12:00pm

Orange Is the New Black 2.13: Season Finale “We Have Manners. We’re Polite.”

Well, here we are at the end, my friends, and look how far we’ve come. Orange Is the New Black wraps up Season 2 by tying up most of its major plot threads: the rise and reign of Vee Parker, the war between Vee and Red, Piper’s attempts to bring down Fig, the upheaval between Taystee and Poussey, the transformation of Crazy Eyes into Vee’s enforcer, and Healy’s attempts to turn Pennsatucky into his sidekick. And more. Much more. The show does some of this well, but I have to be honest and report that this is, in many ways, the weakest episode of the season.

[It was still good, it's just been that strong of a season...]

Thu
Jul 17 2014 11:00am

Orange Is the New Black 2.12: “It Was the Change”

Let’s talk about Red. When you think about it, the scarlet-haired Russian began this series as villain. Way back in the first episode of the show, Piper—unaware that Red ran the kitchen— accidently insulted her by pointing out, not incorrectly, that the food at Litchfield is atrocious crap. Red retaliated by nearly starving her to death. That was way back when. Now here we are in the penultimate episode of Season 2, and Red is the person we’re all counting on to destroy Vee.

This transformation owes a lot to the evolution of the character of Red, of course, but it also owes something to the fact that, of all the characters on Orange Is the New Black, Vee is the closest we’ve come to a full on bad guy. Even despicable characters like Pornstache and Fig have some admirable qualities.  Pornstache is ready to go to jail for (he thinks) knocking up Diaz, while Fig dreams of one day acquiring power to do great things. Now, these commendable traits don’t absolve Pornstache and Fig of their sins, but it does show that, at least in their own minds, they are operating from good intentions. Vee, though…Vee is a goddamn super villain. She has about as many good intentions as Professor Moriarty.

[It takes a special kind of evil to stand out in a prison...]

Sat
Jul 12 2014 12:00pm

Orange Is the New Black 2.11: “Take a Break from Your Values”

Man, I do love me some radical left-wing nuns. I wasn’t raised Catholic, so I don’t have any of the strict, knuckle-rapping associations that have become the stuff of legend when it comes to women of the holy orders. I did teach at an all-girls Catholic school for a while, though, and I met some nuns there who were women with a serious bent toward social justice. And I do love me some radical left-wing nuns.

There’s something brilliant about including a nun among the inmates at Litchfield. When we first met Sister Jane (Beth Fowler), we were told that she was inside for protesting at a nuclear testing site. Now, in Episode 11, we learn her back story. We see her as a young woman (played by Aubrey Sinn), already committed to her life as Bride of Christ but also already straining against the confines of the church. She wants to get out in the world and make a difference, to serve, to turn faith into action. But this is, after all, Orange Is the New Black and in this world there is no such thing as a saint. (I don’t think there’s a saint to be found anywhere in the work of the show’s creator, Jenji Kohan.) As is so often the case, a character’s weakness grows out of her strength. Sister Jane is filled with righteous indignation, but it is so bound up in her own narcissism that it’s difficult to tell the difference. In the present day, we see her become a part of Soso’s hunger strike, but, before long, the whole affair becomes all about Sister Jane.  It’s difficult to have a leaderless movement when one member of your party is bound and determined to see herself as a martyr.

[Down with authority!]

Thu
Jul 10 2014 11:30am

Orange Is the New Black 2.10: “Little Mustachioed Shit”

After spending most of this season hopscotching between different characters, in Episode 10, Orange Is The New Black swings back around to Piper. She occupies both the flashback (which gives us some more details on her relationship with Alex) and the present day storyline (which concerns her relationship with Polly and Larry). These two storylines converge in a funny way, and “Little Mustachioed Shit” ends up illustrating something important about the character: Piper needs Alex.

Looking back on the season, you can pretty much chart the show’s interest in Piper in terms of Alex. The drama of the first episode came to a head when Alex betrayed Piper in court, but once she was back in Litchfield, Piper seemed to drift—and the show’s interest in her seemed to drift, as well. Even in Episode 9, which concerned her big furlough, the real focus was on Red and Vee. The reason for this, I think, is that Alex was missing. I’ve taken a number of shots at Larry in these recaps, but the truth of the matter is that the show sags whenever it focuses on the drama between Piper-Larry-Polly-Pete. Larry brings out Piper’s responsible side. Alex brings out Piper’s heedlessly romantic side. (In the universe of OITNB, romance and love and sex are always combustible emotions.) 

[And boy do they have a knack for exploding!]

Mon
Jul 7 2014 10:15am

Noir’s Goon Squad: Raymond Burr

I loved Perry Mason as a kid, and something that I always felt without ever quite being able to put my finger on it at the time was that Raymond Burr was kind of creepy. He was the hero of the show, sure, but was there ever a TV star who was less warm and cuddly? The man was intense. I grew up watching reruns of Perry Mason in the 80s, which meant that Matlock was also on the air at the same time. There’s a contrast for you. Compared to Andy Griffith’s warm country lawyer, Burr was like a wall of cold steel.  

What I didn’t know until sometime later was that Raymond Burr was pretty much THE face of evil in film noir. In the forties and fifties, he played masterminds, henchmen, and stone-cold psychos. The one element of all of them? That brooding stare which contained contempt for lesser beings. Everyone around him seemed to insult his intelligence.

[I get goosebumps just looking at him...]

Sat
Jul 5 2014 12:00pm

Orange Is the New Black 2.09: “40 OZ of Furlough”

Piper is awake in bed, waiting for the day to start. This is probably the first time she’s looked forward to facing a day since she came to Litchfield. The reason for her anticipation is simple: she gets to leave Litchfield today. She gets 48 hours to go home and bury her grandmother. What do you do with a two day respite from hell?

She mostly does what we would expect. She sets out to connect with family and friends. She tries to get laid. She tries to get drunk. Nothing works quite works out, though.

More on that later. For the most part, Episode Nine, “40 OZ of Furlough,” is a bridge episode. It’s primarily concerned with taking us from Episode 8 to Episode 10, or—to put it another way—it’s setting up bigger, more important developments, to come. As a piece of comedy/drama by itself, it doesn’t actually accomplish very much. It’s a measure of the skill of everyone involved, however, that this is as entertaining as any episode this season.

[Let's go back to the earlier days of Litchfield...]

Thu
Jul 3 2014 11:00am

Orange Is the New Black 2.08: “Appropriately Sized Pots”

One of the true classics of the prison genre flick is the 1947 Jules Dassin noir Brute Force. The movie helped establish many of the archetypes and motifs (and, yes, clichés) that we’ve seen in so many of the prison movies of the subsequent sixty-seven years. Like Orange Is the New Black, Brute Force introduced us to a prison community and then, via flashback, showed us the choices which led specific inmates to their present incarceration.

Great as it is, I bring up Brute Force to point out one of its weaknesses. In telling us the back stories of its characters, it cheats a little. None of the inmates it looks at are really gangsters or hoodlums or bad guys. They all seemed to have been swell fellas before some twist of fate landed them inside.

If Orange Is the New Black hasn’t made the same mistake, it’s probably because the show’s mastermind, Jenji Kohan, doesn’t seem to believe in swell fellas. You can see this in her previous series, Weeds, where pretty much every character was deeply, irredeemably, flawed. This isn’t to suggest that the characters on Orange aren’t lovable or funny or capable of kindness. Many of them—maybe even most of them—are. But they all have their flaws. Some, like Janae, are in jail because they made a profound mistake. Others, like Morello, are in jail because of some deep-seated, unaddressed problem.

[But we haven't met a bonafide criminal yet, until now...]

Sat
Jun 28 2014 12:00pm

Orange Is the New Black 2.07: “Comic Sans”

Up to this point in Orange Is The New Black, Cindy “Black Cindy” Hayes (Adrienne Moore) has primarily been a source of comic relief. She’s always mouthing off—“always clowning” as Vee observes. It’s a small stroke of genius that the episode that focuses on her, then, should be titled “Comic Sans.” Like the much maligned font itself—which is so maligned it has entire websites dedicated to its abolition–Cindy is seen as goofy and intrinsically unworthy of respect.

Like nearly every episode this season, however, “Comic Sans” burrows into the past, locating the instigating problem for Cindy. This is another episode where we don’t find out the inmate’s crime. As with Poussey in Episode 6, we don’t find out what landed her inside Litchfield. What we see, instead, is a callow young woman, working at the airport, smoking weed with ex-cons, swiping a pink iPad from a piece of luggage. We meet her mother and her adoring little sister, both of whom seem well-balanced and perplexed by this wayward young woman. There are revelations to come about Cindy—a hidden shame that explains some things about her—but it’s not as if we find “the answer.” Cindy is a mystery, and is a mystery to herself first and foremost.

[But not a mystery to Vee...]

Thu
Jun 26 2014 11:00am

Orange Is the New Black 2.06: “You Also Have a Pizza”

There’s a nice, tossed-off moment a few minutes into “You Also Have A Pizza” where the administrator Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow) is talking to the sweet prison guard, Susan Fischer (Lauren Lapkus) about the surveillance project she’s working on. Fischer’s job is to monitor phone calls made by prisoners. She plays him a particularly embarrassing recording and they share a laugh, but then Fischer gets serious and says, “It’s so interesting, all these lives. It’s like reading Dickens.”

A show that involves a sprawling cast of characters, each with her or his own hopes and fears, could do worse than to use the master of the novel as a guiding star. This season, in particular, has used the episodic nature of the series as a way to tell small stories within longer, more complex, plot arcs. (Lest we forget, Dickens originally published many of his works as serials that were structured to keep readers coming back.) We’ve seen the back stories of several characters this season, and for Episode 6 we get the story of Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley).

[Love is in the air...]