The Long Goodbye (1973) Robert Altman

LongGoodbye_USHSc

Back in 1973, when I first saw The Long Goodbye, at the Trans-Lux East on 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, I did not like it. My mind set at that point in time was pure Bogart. I left the theater thinking Altman really missed the boat. I never watched the film again, that is, until just a few weeks ago. It took all these years to come to the realization that it wasn’t Robert Altman who missed the boat…but yours truly. Continue reading

The Unfaithful (1947) Vincent Sherman

The_Unfaithful-WA_DVD_TitleDavid Goodis is in the pantheon of pulp fiction’s great crime writers. Though not as well known, he’s up there right alongside Chandler, Cain and Hammett. For years Goodis’ work was serialized in magazines and published in book form. Serialized in The Saturday Evening Post, his novel, Dark Passage gave him his big break. Hollywood came a knocking and the result was a big time hit movie from Warner Brothers starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. That same year (1947), he co-wrote, with James Gunn, the screenplay for The Unfaithful, another WB production. Continue reading

Gone Girl (2014) David Fincher

Gonegilr1On the surface, Gone Girl appears to be nothing more than a trashy mystery. But, under the pretext of a thriller, both director David Fincher and author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn have created a complex noir like film; a dark, twisted venomous satire about marriage, childhood trauma, parents, illusions and the media. It brings to mind questions like, do you really know your spouse? Do married couples deceive each other? Deceive themselves? Do they deceive neighbors, friends and co-workers? Does anyone really know anyone? Is life a façade? Is love a fantasy that fades when life takes unexpected turns? For Nick and Amy Dunne the answer is yes. Continue reading

A Walk Among the Tomstones (2014) Scott Frank

walk A Walk Among the Tombstones has been receiving a wide mix of reviews. Criticized, correctly, for its brutal and nauseating treatment of its female victims. There are a few scenes early on of violent misogynistic behavior, verging on the pornographic, which certainly could have been handled with more taste. The film has also been slammed for Liam Neeson’s role with claims the actor is just repeating himself with a character similar to what he played in the two Taken films. This second claim is where I feel certain critics have missed the boat. Neeson’s Matt Scudder is a much more complex three dimensional  character with a depth lacking in many of todays films. There is a sadness to his flawed character. Scudder is a man who has seen much, too much, pain in his life and visually wears it.    Continue reading

Finding Vivian Maier (2014) John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

Vivian

It takes a certain quality to be street photographer. You need to get close enough to your subject in order to capture that decisive moment, yet manage to remain elusive, almost invisible to all. You always take the chance of offending someone for invading what may be considered a private moment. It’s a balancing act.

An unassuming woman, Vivian Maier, roamed the streets taking, and compiling, street scenes totaling more than 150,000 negatives and rolls of film. What may have helped Maier shoot her photographs without making eye contact was the type of camera she used. She always carried a Rolliflex which unlike a single lens reflex camera was the kind of camera you held at waist level, looked down at and thru the viewfinder. This meant, unlike with SLR’s you, the photographer, did not directly engage in eye (lens) to eye contact with the subject. It’s possible many of Maier’s subjects were not even aware they were being photographed. Continue reading

Dillinger (1945) Max Nosseck

Dillinger Title

Lawrence Tierney as John Dillinger is pure evil in this Poverty Row “epic” film from Monogram Pictures. From the opening moments right down to the expected final shoot out at Chicago’s Biograph theater there is not one second where you feel any sympathy for the infamous outlaw. It was a breakout role for the actor who would go on to play a series of criminal type roles in films like Badman’s Territory, Hoodlum and Born to Kill.  With the latter film, you knew you were on solid ground after reading New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther’s, infamous for hating many crime films now considered classic in the genre, scalding review. He called it “not only morally disgusting but an offense to normal intellect.” Continue reading

Celluloid Comfort Food

imagesJ0UJ5EBKThere is a certain reassurance in watching your favorite films over and over and over again. The act of repeated watching is like getting together with an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. You talk about the same old stories, you laugh or maybe even  cry about those bygone glory days. Similarly, when watching a favorite movie you know where the jokes are. You can anticipate those laughs long before they come on screen. If it’s an old gangster film, you know you have to watch just one more time as James Cagney takes that long final walk toward the electric chair. Either way, there is a level  of contentment  that flows in you with the familiarly of repeatedly watching a favorite film. You forget about the world outside, the troubles inside your head, for two hours and relax with pure celluloid comfort food.

In the traditional sense, we all have our comfort foods. For me, it a good chocolate chip cookie and I mean a “good” chocolate chip cookie and not just some run of the mill store bought cookie with the sort of chemical additives added into the ingredients that you cannot identify or even pronounce. If I am going to eat fattening stuff, it’s going to be the best.

But comfort food can come in various forms meaning not junk actual food. Recently I got into a mental funk and needed a few comforting movies to get over it. Whenever I am down, a movie, the right movie can help bring me back. However, it isn’t always easy to find the right film or films. I began by taking a took a look at my extensive collection and found nothing was appealing to me. I kept receiving these negative vibrations inside my head. No, not that! Don’t feel like that one. God, why did I even buy this one? All I wanted to do was watch a couple of films that I knew so well and enjoyed that I could just sit back in my chair and watch without having to think. This went on for a couple of days. I just could not find anything that was going to help. Continue reading