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March in Review: 2011

by on 2011/03/31

Beware the Ides of March, indeed. When I wasn’t picking the multitudinous knives out of my back, I took some time to work through a teetering stack of neo noir.

For me, March is a dark month at the very best of times. This March was none more black. I journeyed deeper into the heart of darkness, watching so much midnight, rain-soaked melodrama that even my morning breakfast conversation became hardboiled.

In fact, the lingo is hard to shake, savvy?

My Noirch marathon was enough to make a broad or a gink down a gallon of tiger milk, throw a joe and take the Chicago overcoat. Here’s the five bangtails I’ve picked to win, place or show. Some had the bulge, others were just plain jingle brained.

So put yourself wise before you dangle.

Favourite Film:
Miller’s Crossing (1990)

“The Quaker Puffed Rice cereal box on a crooked boxer’s breakfast table. The slick tonic in a crime lord’s hair. The shimmer of a mink stole around a bad girl’s neck. The glossy shine on the shoe of a hired killer. The language of the streets, private clubs and hotel rooms: shmatte, eye-tie, yegge, twists, potato eaters, high hat. There are movies that create worlds so fully realized, constructed with such artful intricacy, that you are transported mind and body. Written, directed and produced by Joel and Ethan Coen, Miller’s Crossing is a world I like to visit often.”

Greatest Surprise:
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947)

“Straight-arrow detective Dick Tracy meets the face that launched a thousand shrieks. Boris Karloff, with his voice of monster green velvet, plays Gruesome, an ex-con who will stop at nothing to lay his gnarled hands on piles of filthy, filthy cash. You really can’t go wrong with Karloff. I could listen to Boris Karloff read slow-cooker recipes for hours on end and still be thoroughly entertained. And with Karloff driving the evil action, waving a gun and a vial of nerve gas in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, I wasn’t disappointed.”

Most Disappointing:
Dirty Harry (1971)

“Don’t get me wrong, Dirty Harry is a solid crime melodrama. Clint Eastwood just can’t turn in a bad performance, the script is interesting, the Lalo Schifrin score takes me back to the crime dramas of my childhood. I own the entire series and I like to think of it all as an entertaining, naive, over-the-top time capsule that spawned other vigilante series like Death Wish. But I like Dirty Harry, I don’t love him.”

Least Liked:
Cartoon Noir (1999)

“By now you’ve probably gathered I didn’t exactly *love* this collection. It scared me. It angered me. It made me a little ill. If art is something that makes you feel something, Cartoon Noir is art at its most gut-targetting effective. I appreciated it. I acknowledge Cartoon Noir‘s right to exist.

I’m going to go give my brain a light rinse now.”

Show Me
Touch of Evil (1958)

“From beginning to end, Welles’ stylish execution caught me, held me, and remains with me days later. High contrast black and white, a healthy balance of grain and detail, oscillating lights, long shadows, interesting angles, and the requisite chiaroscuro . . . even a reference to Little Caesar. …I could go on . . . and on . . . and on: the visceral rush afforded by a hood-mounted camera; the abundance of diegetic sources for Henry Mancini’s awesome score; the single most striking corpse discovery I’ve ever had gouged into my mind.”

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  1. Five Great Neo-Noirs « Geek vs Goth

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