The Blue Dahlia (1946, Directed by George Marshall) English 8

Starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling, Hugh Beaumont, Tom Powers, Howard Freeman

William Bendix in 'The Blue Dahlia' | by Joe Sommerlad | Medium

(8-Exceptional Film)

Hardboiled. Stylish. Surprising.

Joyce Harwood: Why is it? You’ve never seen me before tonight.

Johnny Morrison: Every guy’s seen you before somewhere. The trick is to find you.

Raymond Chandler’s first foray into scriptwriting, The Blue Dahlia boasts all of his hallmarks: great dialogue, tough guys, beautiful but dangerous women, colorful supporting characters, and a convoluted plot. Alan Ladd plays Johnny Morrison, a war hero who returns to find his wife’s been unfaithful. When she winds up dead soon after, naturally, Johnny is the prime suspect and it’s up to him to prove his innocence. With the help of a beautiful stranger, Joyce Harwood (Lake), Johnny finds that his wife had plenty of enemies. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake really were great together and the supporting characters are perfectly cast. This film may not be as iconic as some of its contemporaries (The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon), but it’s one of the best of its kind.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Big Lebowski (1998, Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen) English 9

Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Tara Reid, David Huddleston, David Thewlis, Sam Elliot, John Turturro, Ben Gazzara, Peter Stormare, Jon Polito, Dom Irrera

Film Forum · Joel and Ethan Coen'sTHE BIG LEBOWSKI

(9-Great Film)

Funny. Eccentric. Original.

The Dude: [repeated line by The Dude and others] That rug really tied the room together.

Jeff Lebowski (Bridges), or “The Dude,” would seem to be the last person to get involved in an elaborate kidnapping plot. He doesn’t do much with his life but bowl, smoke weed, and drink White Russians. That is, until a couple of thugs soil his rug, mistaking him for another Lebowski, forcing The Dude to seek reimbursement and involving him with a lot of characters that use to populate Raymond Chandler novels. I love those Raymond Chandler novels and would like to see the Coen Bros. adapt one outright. That’s unlikely to happen, but The Big Lebowski, as offbeat as it is, still satisfies as a crime flick while working on so many other levels that its become a cult classic. Wildly original storytelling and characters with dozens of quotable lines.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,085)

White Men Can’t Jump (1992, Directed by Ron Shelton) English 6

Starring Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, Rosie Perez, Tyra Ferrell, Kadeem Hardison, Marques Johnson, Freeman Williams, Duane Martin

Pictures & Photos from White Men Can't Jump (1992) | Iconic movies, Tv show  couples, White man

(6-Good Film)

Fast. Fresh. Memorable.

Sidney Deane: [before winning a bet with him] Billy, listen to me. White men can’t jump.

White men can’t jump. Can clichés be iconic? The spirit of the film, the originality of its characters, and its cleverness went a long way to popularizing the myth that all white men aren’t athletic. It stars Woody Harrelson as a basketball hustler, Billy Hoyle, who doesn’t know how to walk away from a bet, much like Paul Newman’s Eddie Felson. Unlike Eddie, however, who always looked smooth and competent, Billy looks like a fool, and besides that, he’s white, so when he shows up to courts in southcentral L.A, the locals assume he can’t play. One of these locals, hardworking Sydney Deane (Snipes), sees the potential in Billy’s hustle and decides to team up with him. Rosie Perez plays Billy’s supportive but exhausted wife, Gloria, always studying for a chance on Jeopardy. White Men Can’t Jump isn’t a great movie in my estimation (despite being a favorite of Stanley Kubrick of all things). It’s not realistic enough for serious social commentary, it’s not a satire, and it’s not hilarious. I would also argue that basketball is one of the least compelling sports cinematically and one of the most difficult to portray accurately. What works are the characters who smart, fresh, and perfectly cast.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,082)

Babylon (1980, Directed by Franco Rosso) English/ Patois 7

Starring Brinsley Forde, Karl Howman, Trevor Laird, Archie Pool, Mel Smith, Brian Bovell, David N. Haynes

Babylon (1980) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

(7-Very Good Film)

Gritty. Compelling. Foreign.

Alan: You got too much of this.
[mouth]
Blue: Yeah?
Alan: Yeah.
Alan: Especially for a coon. I don’t like moneys who get too clever in my garage.

South London, 1980. A group of young men from immigrant backgrounds live and go about their days as their xenophobic neighbors tell them to get lost. Blue (Forde), their leader, chases his dream of being a reggae DJ while working a menial job at a repair shop. He, along with his group of friends, is about to be pushed to the limit. Babylon unfolds naturally and even though the course of the story follows along the same lines as popular melodrama, it always feels real; authentic. I suppose that’s in part because of the non-professional but excellent performances. It’s also a triumph of direction and writing. This is a fascinatingly foreign culture and setting to me and Babylon captures it well. If the film leads to a familiar conclusion, on the strength of the storytelling, I’d call it inevitable rather than predictable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,040)

The Killing (1956, Directed by Stanley Kubrick) English 9

Starring Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Vince Edwards, Coleen Gray, Jay C. Flippen, Timothy Carey

The Killing (1956) | The Criterion Collection

(9-Great Film)

Lean. Ferocious. Exciting.

Johnny Clay: None of these men are criminals in the usual sense. They’ve all got jobs. They all live seemingly normal, decent lives. But, they’ve got their problems and they’ve all got a little larceny in ’em.

Not a Stanley Kubrick scholar or a filmmaker, I can’t see much connection between The Killing (his first feature-length film) and the classics he made subsequently. Where his most famous films like The Shining or 2001: A Space Odyssey are epic and ambiguous, The Killing is almost the direct opposite. It’s a testament, then, to his skill that he directed these films, and that each one is, in its own way, a great one. The Killing follows a group of men, led by Johnny Clay (Hayden), who plan to knock off the local horse track in the middle of a race. Their planning is thorough, but even the best laid plans go astray, especially in crime flicks. This is one of the best; perhaps, it is the best. Efficient, striking, low-key, with the perfect faces to fit each role. Marie Windsor is rightfully famous among film buffs for her femme fatales. She’s just so hateful. Not a minute seems wasted on the way to a poignant finish.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,037)

Arabesque (1966, Directed by Stanley Donen) English 6

Starring Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren, Alan Badel, Carl Duering, Kieron Moore, John Merivale, Duncan Lamont

Film - Arabesque - Into Film

(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Vibrant. Superficial.

David Pollock: Let us through! That man’s about to be killed!

Policeman: I hardly think so, sir. This is England!

Written with Cary Grant in mind to star, Stanley Donen (the director), himself, admitted to the script not being very good, “Our only hope is to make it so visually exciting the audience will never have time to work out what the hell is going on.” I think his comments are spot on and I guess, with that in mind, he succeeded. Arabesque, off the heels of Donen’s Charade (which had a phenomenal script), is convoluted rather than clever, exciting rather than romantic. As far as I could work out, Peck plays a professor, David Pollock, asked to spy on a nefarious middle-eastern tycoon, Nejim Beshraavi (Badel), who wants him to crack a code. David gets tangled up with Beshraavi’s mistress, Yasmin (Loren), who is hard to trust but even harder to ignore. Arabesque is solid light entertainment but far from essential.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Leave Her to Heaven (1945, Directed by John M. Stahl) English 7

Starring Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman, Ray Collins, Gene Lockhart, Chill Wills, Mary Philips

Berlinale | Archive | Annual Archives | 2015 | Programme - Leave ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Sparkling. Maudlin. Chilling.

Ellen Berent Harland: I’ll never let you go. Never, never, never.

Novelist, Richard Harlan’s (Wilde) own story should be a cautionary tale. He fell in love after a brief flirtation with the beautiful Ellen Berent (Tierney), and they were married soon after. It’s only after they married that the dark side of her personality peaked through. Violently possessive, Ellen slowly destroys his life, and Harlan ends up in jail. The only problem with calling this a cautionary tale is that it’s hard to say what exactly Harlan’s mistakes were; at least, early on. There weren’t exactly any clear signs that Ellen was a psychopath. She was an enigma and that only made him more curious. I can’t blame him. Leave Her to Heaven is a brightly colored melodrama with an undercurrent of noir. Like its lead character, Ellen, the film’s dazzling superficial qualities belie its dark core. Tierney is unforgettable in her role; pristine, Barbie-doll looks, and an ice-cold manner. Her scene at the lake, shades on, staring off into the distance as something horrific happens right in front of her, is as chilling a scene as there ever was.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(988)

Detour (1945, Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer) English 7

Starring Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald, Esther Howard, Tim Ryan

Film Classics: Detour (1945) | The Frame

(7-Very Good Film)

Lean. Mean. Cheap.

Al Roberts: That’s life. Whichever way you turn, Fate sticks out a foot to trip you.

Al Roberts (Neal) hitchhikes his way from New York to Hollywood, or, at least, that was the plan. He’s got a great girl waiting for him in L.A that he intends to marry. His plans, however, get derailed by bad luck and bad accidents the way you hear him tell it. Sitting alone, ragged, vagrant, in a Reno diner, Al tells us his side of things. How he played no part in the death of Charles Haskell Jr. (a shady philanthropist of sorts, who offers him a ride). How he became mixed up with Lucifer in female form, also known as Vera (Savage). How he didn’t want to go along with her schemes and how the conclusion of their partnership was just one more trick of Fate that he had little control over. He mentions that the cops would never believe his story. I don’t, but that’s just part of what makes Detour such a fine, compelling noir despite its noticeable limitations. It’s dark, it’s clever. It gives its inexperienced actors one note a piece to play and they play it to perfection. Perhaps no noir, known for its use of narration, used the device better than this one.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(983)

Under the Silver Lake (2018, Directed by David Robert Mitchell) English 8

Starring Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Callie Hernandez, Riki Lindhome, Don McManus, Zosia Mamet, Jeremy Bobb, Patrick Fischler, Rex Linn, Jimmi Simpson, Grace Van Patten

Fade to Black: Under the Silver Lake (2018) - Morbidly Beautiful

(8-Exceptional Film)

Curious. Alluring. Puzzling.

Comic Fan: Our world is filled with codes, subliminal messages. From Silverlake to the Hollywood Hills.

Noir in cinema has been nearly synonymous with nighttime throughout the years. It’s a nighttime genre. In Under the Silver Lake, a noir-drenched puzzle box of a film, the parts that I comfortably consider noir occur during the day. At night, the film shifts into a surrealist horror flick, not unlike the director, David Robert Mitchell’s previous film, It Follows. I didn’t like It Follows. I’m pretty sure I love Under the Silver Lake. It’s hard to say for certain after one viewing because it’s hard to say what it’s about. Andrew Garfield plays Sam. Sam seems harmlessly middling; unimportant, uninterested in much. The latter part is where he unquestionably proves me wrong. He’s a conspiracy nut, constantly watching the world for clues. A brief romantic moment with his beautiful neighbor, Sarah (Keough), leads him to a labyrinthian circuit of clues essentially in his backyard. I haven’t pinned down anything about this film yet. I noticed and appreciated some of the influences. Rear Window is the most conspicuous (Sam even has a poster of it on his wall). Like James Stewart’s character in that movie, Sam, too, loves to spy on neighbors. Except here, it’s a little more sinister. What I understood of Under the Silver Lake, I loved. What I suspect lies in waiting on further viewings, I look forward to finding.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(980)

Woman on the Run (1950, Directed by Norman Foster) English 6

Starring Ann Sheridan, Dennis O’Keefe, Ross Elliot, Robert Keith, John Qualen, Frank Jenks, Steven Geray

Kennington Noir presents Woman on the Run (1950) on 35mm » The ...

(6-Good Film)

Efficient. Surprising. Nifty.

Maibus: So Frank is a fugitive from the law… that’s just like him!

Frank didn’t do anything wrong. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Witnessing a murder, the cops want him to be their lead witness, but he doesn’t relish the idea of risking his life to play informant so he runs. Now, the cops, the killer, a newspaperman, Dan Legget (O’Keefe), and his estranged wife, Eleanor (Sheridan), are looking all over San Francisco for him. This is a clever, ultra-efficient thriller with a neat trick or two up its sleeves. It’s also been pointed out to me how rare it is to have a noir featuring a woman as the lead. Sheridan plays the jaded, tough-talking dame who more than holds her own in this violent world she’s been thrust into. More proof that within the conventions of a noir and with the limited resources of a B-Picture, came many solid films (and some great ones).

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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