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.