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!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Extra, Extra! Noir City!

First, an extra extra for you—hang on, is that right amount of extras? OK, yeah, it is. Rosemarie and I are very happy to be the guests on the new episode of Noir Talk, the podcast dedicated to the Film Noir Foundation’s efforts and hosted by Haggai Elitzur. We talk about the Noir City film festivals, how issues of the magazine are assembled, and the Foundation’s role in inspiring the work of our mystery fiction-writing alter ego Renee Patrick. Tune in here.

Speaking of Noir City the magazine, the latest issue of the FNF’s house rag is out this week, boasting a glorious new layout courtesy of ace designer Michael Kronenberg and bursting with top-notch material. A sampling of the treasures contained therein—

Sharon Knolle’s cover story on psychiatrists as heavies onscreen and off in Hollywood;

FNF honcho and TCM host Eddie Muller on Tod Browning’s crime drama Outside the Law, which just wowed audiences at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival;

A double dose of Noir City mainstay Jake Hinkson, with a look back at Bruce Springsteen’s bruising masterpiece Nebraska and a consideration of Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s peerless domestic noir The Blank Wall and its two screen incarnations (The Reckless Moment and The Deep End);

A survey of Donald E. Westlake films by Ben Terrall, perfectly paired with novelist Danny Gardner’s appreciation of his favorite neo-noir, the Westlake-as-Richard-Stark-based The Outfit.

Plus we welcome back Noir City Sentinel scribe Eric Beetner with his new column The Dark Page. This look at noir fiction kicks off with an interview with the one and only Bill Crider. We also add whip-smart film writer Nathalie Atkinson to our roster of critics. And like all good meals there’s a sweet treat at the end in the form of a new book review from our ol’ pal Ray Banks.

Yes, I’m in it, too, with my usual Cocktails & Crime column. I also get in on the Westlake lovefest by recounting a favorite production story in our On The Set feature, spotlighting Point Blank.

How, you may ask, do I acquire such treasures for my own edification? Simply make a contribution to the Film Noir Foundation and all this, and more, can be yours!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Coast to Coast

I’ve trumpeted this news on both my social media feed and my alter ego’s, and I sing it here from the rooftops. Because it is, in my world, a pretty big deal.

Renee Patrick is going to be on Turner Classic Movies. This Sunday, June 11, to be precise.

Rosemarie and I will be the guests of our friend and Film Noir Foundation cohort Eddie Muller on his TCM show Noir Alley. Eddie will be showing the brilliant 1944 film Phantom Lady, directed by Robert Siodmak from the novel by Cornell Woolrich. This one packs a wallop, full of astounding visuals and one did-I-just-see-that? scene after another. It’s worth getting up for. As a bonus, you get me and the missus, talking about the essential role costume design plays in the story as well as the real-life Tinseltown mystery connected to the film.

The fun begins Sunday, June 11, at 10:00 am Eastern, 7:00 am Pacific. So set the alarm or the DVR and get in on the action.

And if you can’t wait that long to see us, last month we appeared on Book Lust with Nancy Pearl. It was a pleasure to sit down with Nancy—librarian, NPR mainstay, and novelist—and talk about how Rosemarie and I got into the Renee Patrick business. As of today, our episode of Book Lust is available on YouTube and is presented here for your delectation.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Rundown

Hang on, let me blow the dust off the—there we go. That’s better.

Things have been hectic lately, what with the launch of the second Lillian Frost & Edith Head novel from Renee Patrick Dangerous to Know. My co-alter ego has the scoop, and believe me when I say there’s more in the works. All kinds of fun and games are coming, including a few things I can’t believe. I’m popping in amidst the promo push to recommend a few items for your delectation.

Under the Midnight Sun, Keigo Higashino (2016). Here’s how busy it’s been: a new Chinese adaptation of Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X—easily my favorite mystery novel of the past 20 years—was playing two blocks for me and I missed my chance to see it. Higashino’s latest is also his most ambitious, at least of the novels that have been published in the United States. It’s a sprawling crime story-cum-social novel, spanning decades and touching on, among other things, the growth of the Japanese computer industry. In 1973, a man is murdered and a woman identified as the likely killer. Each has a child. Higashino tracks this pair through the years, but never as the viewpoint characters. Instead, they’re at a remove, always seen through the prism of others who fall into their orbits. It’s a daring structural choice that for the most part deepens the intrigue. As is so often the case with Higashino, any reservations are swept away by a climax at once elegant and charged with emotion. It’s not Suspect X, but then nothing is.

Five Came Back, Netflix. I raved about Mark Harris’s book, which cast a clear eye on a long-overlooked piece of Hollywood history. The three-part documentary based on it has the added advantage of film clips, and pairs contemporary filmmakers with some surprisingly simpatico predecessors (Guillermo del Toro and Frank Capra make an inspired match) who walked away from their Hollywood careers during World War II to make propaganda films.

Cork Dork, Bianca Bosker (2017). I was occasionally frustrated, frequently spellbound, and always fascinated by this memoir from a reporter-turned-sommelier. I remain a cocktail fanatic, but this opened my eyes (and nose) to vino in a way few books have.

Brockmire, IFC. What threatened to be a one-joke character is the centerpiece of a soulful if deeply, deeply profane comedy, thanks to Hank Azaria’s performance and a low-rent atmosphere out of Slap Shot. Granted, it helps knowing that lifelong Mets fan Azaria based Jim Brockmire in part on the team’s original announcers, specifically Lindsey Nelson’s wardrobe and Bob Murphy’s cadences. Hearing him wax rhapsodic about rye whiskey in that home run call voice is all my worlds colliding. And pontifidrinking is real. Not that I’ve done it or anything.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Around the Horn

I’m over at the Rap Sheet today, talking about a favorite Hollywood novel that’s not quite a Hollywood novel: Ellery Queen’s 1951 spellbinder The Origin of Evil. And my alter ego Renee Patrick has posted her schedule for the coming year, with more events still in the works.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Big Knockover Comes Home

It’s that time of year again, gang. The Seattle iteration of the Noir City film festival kicks off this evening at Capitol Hill’s Egyptian Theater. It’s the all-heist film edition. Seven straight days of double bills (with bonus matinees this holiday weekend!) equaling twenty, count ‘em, twenty capers. It all gets rolling tonight with a peerless pairing of The Asphalt Jungle and Criss Cross.

There’s so much to savor in this roster cooked up by Film Noir Foundation honcho and festival host Eddie Muller. My personal picks: Violent Saturday, in which pulp meets Douglas Sirk; my favorite movie of all time, the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, on the big screen at last; and El Aura, a film I’ve been touting for over ten years (and the subject of my first-ever Noir City contribution).

I’ll be living at the Egyptian for the next week—and possibly appearing on stage—so come on out and say hello. Live musical entertainment is on tap tonight and Saturday, as well. Given a battery of other commitments I won’t be doing daily recaps this year, but I’ll try to post updates as the fun unfurls.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Extra, Extra! Noir City!

One of the benefits of being on the masthead of Noir City, the magazine of the non-profit Film Noir Foundation, is pitching in on the planning. I’ve known about the all-TV issue, which went out to subscribers last weekend, for ages, and had my pick of subject matter. I could have cherry-picked a vintage series that provided a small screen home for the migrating talent responsible for the twisted cinematic crime dramas of the 1950s. Or I could have claimed the contemporary cable antihero of my choice. It’s good to be the king, or in this case the managing editor.

Instead I pitched the only story I wanted to write. Which is why the issue features a look back at HBO’s two Phil Lovecraft films. Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) somehow knew Raymond Chandler and H.P. Lovecraft were two great tastes that taste great together. The result is a sly salute to classic noir that’s also genuinely, consistently funny. The disappointing follow-up Witch Hunt (1994) is an object lesson in the powers that be preparing a sequel while not comprehending what makes the original work.

Joseph Dougherty wrote both films, and proved a funny and candid interview. An acclaimed playwright and TV hyphenate, he’s spent the past seven years working on Pretty Little Liars, which he describes as “mini-Hitchcock movies for teens.” Dougherty wrote and directed “Shadow Play,” a film noir-inspired episode that became a fan favorite. We did a second interview about that show, complete with the welcome news that PLL has introduced a new generation to classic cinema as well as Dougherty’s brilliant advice for penning dialogue for teenage girls: “think of them as a bomber crew in a Howard Hawks movie.”

I’ve also got my usual Cocktails & Crime column, plus reviews of a new Douglas Sirk/George Sanders Blu-ray set and Edward Sorel’s offbeat book Mary Astor’s Purple Diary, covered in the New York Times by some wet-behind-the-ears stringer named Woody Allen.

But I’m not the only person in this issue. You also get—

- A double dose of FNF honcho Eddie Muller, interviewing Warner Bros. Home Entertainment George Feltenstein and holding forth on the small screen-spawned Mulholland Dr.

- Cartoonist/illustrator Daniel Clowes’ one-of-a-kind list of his five favorite noir films

- Imogen Smith on the definitive noir TV show, The Fugitive

- Jazz aficionado supreme Brian Light’s appraisal of the offbeat Johnny Staccato

- Alan K. Rode charting the noir roots of Perry Mason

- Steve Kronenberg’s assessment of the noir episodes of The Twilight Zone and Thriller

- Danilo Castro’s remembrance of Fallen Angels, the ‘90s cable series that brought pulp to primetime

- Sharon Knolle on the recent bumper crop of noir on cable, including Quarry and Animal Kingdom

- Ben Terrall’s very personal history of the pulp origins of Shane Black’s The Nice Guys

And, believe it or not, even more. It’s a true gem of an issue, and it’s yours by making a contribution to the Film Noir Foundation.