Monday, November 26, 2018

Noir City Goes Global

That thump you heard in in-boxes just before Thanksgiving was the latest issue of Noir City, house rag of the Film Noir Foundation. The focus this time around is on international noir, to wit—

Imogen Sara Smith on the long history of Mexican noir; Jake Hinkson on the heartbreaking crime dramas of Japan’s YoshitarĂ´ Nomura (stream these wonders on FilmStruck before the service goes dark for good this week); the redoubtable Ray Banks takes on the villainous roles of Patrick McGoohan; Ehsan Khoshbakht on Iranian genre films; Nathalie Atkinson on the premier Canadian noir The Silent Partner; and more.

On the domestic front, we’ve got a killer 5 Favorites essay from comic book legend Jim Steranko; a look at the twinned noir careers of John Huston and Orson Welles by Brian J. Robb along with a review of their last collaboration The Other Side of the Wind from FNF honcho Eddie Muller himself; and, once again, more.

As for my humble efforts, I spoke to both Lawrence Block and artist John K. Snyder III about the recent adaptation of Larry’s landmark Matt Scudder mystery Eight Million Ways to Die into a graphic novel, bringing 1980s New York to raw, vivid life in a whole new way. Plus a pair of book reviews and my Cocktails & Crime column.

You know the drill, kids: donate to the Film Noir Foundation and have all this goodness delivered direct to you. Don’t miss out. Because the next issue? That’s one gonna be even better.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Noir City: Demon Dog, Modern Master

The cover story of the latest issue of the Film Noir Foundation’s magazine is a certifiable corker. Back in April, the FNF bestowed its second Modern Master Award on novelist James Ellroy in advance of a screening of the Oscar-winning masterpiece based on his novel L.A. Confidential. Included in the magazine is a transcript of his wild, jaw-dropping conversation with FNF honcho and master of ceremonies Eddie Muller. Trust me, you’re going to want to read this one.

ASIDE: don’t sleep on the latest work from the recipient of the inaugural Modern Master Award, director Stephen Frears. A Very English Scandal, written by Doctor Who’s Russell T. Davies and boasting sterling work from Ben Whishaw and a career-best Hugh Grant, is now streaming on Amazon Prime. Frears is still throwing heat at age 77. That’s the kind of person we honor at the FNF.

Elsewhere this issue, we’ve got the redoubtable Ray Banks on Britain’s first neo-noir Nowhere to Go (starring Maggie Smith!); Eddie Muller on the silent Japanese proto-noir Policeman (1933); an appraisal of forgotten Swedish master Hasse Ekman by Imogen Sara Smith; Farran Smith Nehme in conversation with Michael Curtiz biographer and Noir City stalwart Alan K. Rode; Jake Hinkson with some summer reading on the beach in noir; and much more.

Still, I know what you’re thinking. What about you, Vince? What did you do this time around?

I’ve got a feature on Baby Monkey, Private Eye, a gorgeous first reader for children written by Brian Selznick—whose previous books have been turned into films by Martin Scorsese and Todd Haynes—and David Serlin. My conversation with these two gentlemen was an absolute joy, and I hope some of the fun comes across in the article.

Plus I’ve contributed a troika of book reviews—on Thomas Doherty’s essential work of scholarship Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist; J. E. Smyth’s eye-opening Nobody’s Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood (Edith Head warrants her own chapter, natch); and a newly annotated edition of Chandler’s The Big Sleep—plus hot-off-the-presses hot takes on films from the Seattle International Film Festival including one of the year’s best movies, Denmark’s The Guilty. This installment of my Cocktails & Crime column includes an interview with Abigail Gullo, who’s put her acclaimed bartending skills to work creating a drink named for Joan Crawford’s crowning achievement Mildred Pierce.

Don’t miss out. Donate to the Film Noir Foundation to have this bounty delivered to your digital doorstep. The Demon Dog says so.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Noir City: Episode of Blonde

The latest issue of Noir City, the house rag of the Film Noir Foundation, went out to subscribers yesterday. I say as humbly as possible that it’s our best to date, boasting a broad range of subjects and contributors. I’ll double down on my candor: if you don’t like this installment of the magazine, address your complaints to me, because my fingerprints are all over it. And I’m proud of the result.

We didn’t plan for this to be our blonde issue. That’s just how it worked out, with a troika of fair-haired silver screen goddesses for you to (re)consider. Jake Hinkson kicks things off with our cover story on the noir films of Marilyn Monroe. Ray Banks follows up with a heartbreaker on Diana Dors. Then I (sort of) get into the act, interviewing Paul McGuigan, the filmmaker behind the BAFTA-nominated drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool about the sad final days of noir favorite Gloria Grahame.

Excuse me while I rant a moment, but I’ve got to get this off my chest: the botched release of Film Stars is the great cinematic crime of 2017. Annette Bening is transcendent as Gloria Grahame, giving hands down my favorite performance of the year. She’s perfectly paired with Jamie Bell as her much younger paramour Peter Turner, whose memoir provides the basis for the film. I loathe when movies are judged solely through the narrow lens of Academy Awards viability. But when a studio publicly declares an Oscar to be its goal and then can’t even make a worthy turn part of the conversation, well … someone screwed up. Probably multiple someones. Still, Bening’s work remains, to be discovered by audiences in due time. Years from now, people will marvel that her quicksilver brilliance paying tribute to another great actress went largely unrecognized at the time—except, of course, in the pages of Noir City.

Also in this issue: my interview with Laura Lippman, whose latest novel Sunburn is pure noir. Plus FNF founder Eddie Muller on the undiminished power of Steve De Jarnatt’s newly relevant Miracle Mile—and a bonus 5 Favorites from De Jarnatt himself. Then there’s Nathalie Atkinson on Agatha Christie for a new millennium; one legendary cartoonist (Trina Robbins) saluting another in TarpĂ© Mills; a look at the noir roots of Blade Runner and its sequel; profiles of filmmakers Vincent Sherman and the husband-and-wife team of Andrew and Virginia Stone; plus reviews, news, and my Cocktails & Crime column. All of it beautifully assembled by ace designer Michael Kronenberg.

Really, this issue is the son I’ll never have. Why aren’t you reading it now? Simply donate to the Film Noir Foundation and all this can be yours.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Noir City 2018

This year’s installment of Noir City Seattle just wrapped up. I usually write detailed play-by-play of the festival, but considering that Rosemarie and I—in the guise of Renee Patrick—had a bigger than usual role in the proceedings this time around, I decided to let Renee handle recap duties as well. Read it here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Keenan's Klassics: It's a Shane Black Christmas

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without this post from December 2009.

There I am at my favorite watering hole, talking with the staff, when the subject of Christmas movies is raised.

First suggestion, not made by me: the traditional double-bill of Die Hard and Die Hard II: Die Harder.

Thus giving me the tenor of the conversation. This is not the time, perhaps, to mention Remember the Night and Holiday Affair, two overlooked films (with noir connections!) that Turner Classic Movies has labored to turn into Yuletide staples. Although a mention of Blast of Silence, full of Wenceslas wetwork, might not be out of the question.

So I lobby for my own Christmas favorite, The Ref. And then observe, not for the first time, that the entire oeuvre of Shane Black – Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – is set at the most wonderful time of the year. (Editor's note, 2013: You can now add IRON MAN 3 to that roster. Editor’s note, 2016: And THE NICE GUYS. The Christmas trees are there if you look.)

Therefore, as you venture out for that last round of shopping, I offer, by popular demand, what has become a VKDC tradition. (“By popular demand” meaning Rosemarie asked, “Why haven’t you posted this yet?” And she did write most of it.) Here, once again, is Shane Black’s 12 Days of Christmas. Record your church group performing this and we’ll post the video here!

Twelve cars exploding
Eleven extras running
Ten tankers skidding
Nine strippers pole-ing
Eight Uzis firing
Seven henchmen scowling
Six choppers crashing

Five silver Glocks

Four ticking bombs
Three hand grenades
Two mortar shells
And a suitcase full of C-4


God bless us, everyone. Or else.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Media Blitz

Two posts in a month? Something big must be happening.


And it is. Renee Patrick returns to Turner Classic Movies. Tune in this Sunday, October 29, as Rosemarie and I once again join our friend Eddie Muller on his show Noir Alley. Gaze upon us in spellbound wonder as we talk about the extraordinary career of Edith Head both before and after one of her films, 1946’s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. Edith dressing not one but two red hot stone cold femmes fatale in Barbara Stanwyck and Lizabeth Scott, Kirk Douglas making his big-screen debut, and stories galore. That’s Sunday, October 29, at 10 am EST / 7 am PST.

A note on recording the show, especially if you’re on the West Coast. Strange Love runs 116 minutes. (Lots of twists.) Right now TCM has it in a two-hour time slot, so if you record that you’ll likely get the introduction but not the (shocking!) end of the film or the outro, where we dish about Edith some more. So you might want to set that DVR for an extra 15 minutes or so, just to be safe.

But that’s not all. While we were attending Bouchercon in Toronto, we had the pleasure of appearing on one of our favorite podcasts, Writer Types hosted by Eric Beetner and S.W. Lauden. It’s a jam-packed affair that includes friends like Bill Crider and our fellow Anthony Award nominees Bill Beverly, Art Taylor, and Jim Ziskin. Give a listen.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Extra, Extra! Noir City!

Back from an eventful trip to Bouchercon in Toronto, where Renee Patrick’s debut novel Design for Dying was nominated for both the Anthony and Macavity Awards. (Spoiler alert: we didn’t win.) My co-alter ego Renee posted photos.

While Rosemarie and I were abroad, the latest issue of Noir City, house rag of the Film Noir Foundation, dropped. Many in our stellar stable of contributors pull double duty for your edification—

Imogen Sara Smith cover stories Jean-Pierre Melville’s centenary and appraises a long-thought-lost silent Polish noir;

Jake Hinkson sizes up Georges Simenon as the ultimate noir scribe and offers a timely reconsideration of the rise of homegrown American fascism in All the King’s Men;

Sean Axmaker makes the case for both Peter Gunn as “the great small-screen incarnation of film noir” and the yuletide mayhem of The Ice Harvest as his favorite neo-noir.

What about me, you ask? Aren’t you kind to keep me in your thoughts. My column Cocktails & Crime is here, naturally, and Sean Axmaker and I tag-team the recent Seattle International Film Festival. But mainly I’m flexing my editorial muscle this time around, taking full credit for bringing you Ray Banks’ compelling overview of 1950s U.K. noir films that deal with racism, and Nathalie Atkinson’s look at Hard Case Crime’s foray into the world of comics.

Plus there’s Alan K. Rode on the Hollywood odyssey of writer Frank Fenton; Steve Kronenberg on the tragic tale of Linda Darnell; Brian Light on Vertigo, the book and the film; and much more. Honestly, it’s an embarrassment of riches, is what it is.

All that bounty, simply a donation to the Film Noir Foundation away. Get cracking!