June this year marked our first anniversary here at Celluloid Pop Culture Junkie. So to celebrate that occasion we’re re-watching my 15 must see film noirs and inviting you all to do the same, possibly to discover a new world of cinema gold you never knew existed; And I’m betting some of you will be blown away by the pure awesomeness of these films.
For the purpose of these articles we are going to be looking at the classic “Film Noirs” by definition, starting in the early 40’s spanning to the late 50’s; Slow exposure black and white film cinematography with strong shadows rooted in silent German expressionist films and stories derived mostly from anti-hero crime fiction of the great depression era . Really the term “Film Noir” wasn’t even adopted in America till the 70’s, many of the classics were referred to as Melodramas by US film historians and critics during their initial run. However the term was first used to describe Hollywood films in 1946 by a French critic Nino Frank.Believe it or not, there still is a debate amongst film enthusiasts and scholars alike whether “Film Noir” is an actual distinct genre within itself or not. In all honesty, who really gives a shit? It’s like arguing who the best captain on Star Trek was, it’s a stupid question that’s never ever going to get you laid. So forget it already and just enjoy the actual films with some sort of companion if possible. Now here are some great unforgettable pictures that everyone who loves the movies should see.
If you decide to give any of these a viewing, you’ll find something to fall in love with and will want to turn other humans onto for the rest of your life. I’m not going to rate where these stand in my opinion until the top 6, so the first few articles will be a general “must see” on my list for everyone. You will not be disappointed in any of the following films. All are super dupper cinema gold. Thanks to everyone who’s been following these articles and the blog. I’m sorry it took me so long to finish up this but so many changes in my life right now has side tracked me a bit, but finally here is my top 3 Super Special Fantastic Favorite Film Noirs That All Film Connoisseurs Should Soak Up And Love Like A Fine Wine.
#3-The Killing (1956) director Stanley Kubrick-At 27 years old Stanley Kubrick came to Hollywood to make his third feature film. This was the first time he had a real budget, full crew of experienced technicians and veteran actors that brought something special to the dialog and character that was written on the page. Even at this young age as a director Kubrick ruled the production with a superior studied technical knowledge. My absolute favorite story about the films production is about the first set up on the first day Kubrick told his Oscar winning director of photography Lucien Ballard the set up and shot he wanted with lens choice and position of the camera. After he had gone off to talk to the actors about the scene he had noticed that Lucien had put the camera and dolly track much closer than he had told him, also putting on a wider lens than requested. So, Kubrick went over and asked him what he was doing. The DP told him that it really didn’t matter about the exact position of the camera and he had set the shot up to make it easier for the focus puller and crew to execute the shot with the same effect. On top of that he said that the set up didn’t really change the perspective at all. Kubrick long being an expert photographer knew this was total bullshit and calmly asked Ballard to put the camera and dolly where he had asked for it, put the proper lens on or get off his set. And Kubrick was totally right on the matter. Even at this young age he gave us a brilliant race track robbery film that uses the “same story told from different views and characters” approach( like Kurosawa’s Rashomon before it). The mastery of light is very apparent at this point as well. Great shadows and atmosphere bring the film alive around a great cast of great Hollywood character actors. Lots to love and learn from this picture. Kubrick’s films and life are a true obsession with me and doesn’t look like it’s changing any time soon. Even his early films are something of greatness in themselves and only get better with multiple viewings, always seeing new things. LONG LIVE THE CULT OF KUBRICK.
- #2- The Lady From Shanghai (1947) director Orson Welles- Watching any Orson Welles film always feels like you’re in for a unique experience. One thing Welles had said in interviews in the late 70’s that he realized around and after the production of Lady from Shanghai, “that being so ahead of your time in Hollywood really means, you’re in trouble” . Having almost an hour cut out of any film by a studio obviously changes it completely. The fact that The Lady From Shanghai was a huge bomb, everyone hated it at the time and no one could even look Orson in the eyes when the subject came up amongst his peers , partly prompted him to leave Hollywood for a number of years in favor of work in Europe. The cut of The Lady From Shanghai we have on DVD, is just under an hour and a half and I still think it’s my favorite picture Welles directed. Just imagining the full cut fills me with such awe and wonder because with the film we have today I enjoy every part of so much and never figure it could be any better. I love the way it’s shot, odd angles, deep blacks, slow black and white film and amazing locations. All the weird off beat characters always seem to be playfully sinister and feel “real” in that great movie way. Rita Hayworth plays the perfect gorgeous dark predator/ damsel in distress role, paired with Welles worldly tough guy sailor sucker, the story engages you like very few newer movie can today. This for me has been watched 5-6 time a year minimum since I discovered it about 18 years ago. Just can’t get enough of the Orson Welles classics. My hope is that the Blu-Ray for this is treated with plenty of care by the studio that owns it (which I think is Sony/Columbia). Other wise I’d check it out ASAP if you have never seen this one and love the classics, this is one of the best no question..
- #1-White Heat (1950) director Raul Walsh- When I had first come to viewing White Heat I was in a place where I had seen way to many mediocre classic films. Working at a video store as a teenager I found myself picking whole sections of the store to view from A-Z and watching every single film on the shelf in alphabetical order. While I was in the classic cinema section getting to W was some what of a chore, having to go though a few months of viewing with only finding a handful of particularly great works. Then upon watching White Heat I woke up in a big way, finally realizing why James Cagney is considered one of the best actor ever to grace the screen and where some of my favorite gangster films had ganked a large portion of their DNA from. If the Gangster picture is your thing, this is required viewing and you will thank me for turning you on to this super charged classic noir. Director Raul Walsh takes his cast through one of the tightest fastest running stories in the classic genre, with great shots and an ending that could be the best for any anti-hero in film history, this is what great cinema is all about. I’m really looking forward to the Blu-ray of this title as well, Hoping it gets the attention in restoration it deserves, because I’ll be watching it for many years to come. Told You I’d Make It, Top Of The World Ma!
Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.
2011 was still a great year for the growth of Blu-ray , lots of old classics, odd obscure cult films and a long awaited sci-fi saga made their debut in HD. All of them looking better than ever in 1080p and showing the true latitude in the Blu-ray format solidifying it as simply the best true film experience available at home . Here is my top 13 Blu-rays of 2011, with all the great releases this year it was a struggle to get it down to just 13, Here’s part 2, enjoy kids…
7- TAXI DRIVER (1976) Director Martin Scorsese- I can’t remember the exact age I was when I first saw Taxi Driver, but I think it was in my early to mid teens. The first thing that struck me being a professional drummer at the time, was the opening credit sequence with the music of the great Bernard Hermann, such amazing tempo and mood to it. At the same time, the New York florescent like lights, the extreme grittiness of Michael Chapman’s cinematography and the rawness of De Niro/ Scorsese held my attention till the last frame. I always loved anti hero protagonists in stories that to be fully realized, the ending has to have weight and be really ironically messed up in the end. Taxi Driver hits every note that still resonates with lots of people till this day. It never gets old or dated and that is in part to the Scorsese/ De Niro dynamic that has work so well for many years after 1976. The real combined genius of the two can especially be seen in the scenes with a 14 year old Jodie Foster. All the character work done makes it so believable, like both these people actually live and breath in the real New York City of the late 70’s. The film looks the best at home it ever has in the Blu ray presentation. Without looking processed or enhanced in anyway by too much DNR the grain of the film transferred amazingly, bringing out the true beauty of the camera work and art direction. The real gem of the set it the 1987 Laser Disc commentary with Martin Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader that hasn’t been available on any release since the Criterion Laser disc in ’88, this is a must for any Scorsese fan. De Niro kicks ass as Travis Bickle like no anti hero quite has since. One of the great classics to see and enjoy over and over again in 1080p. Quite brilliant shit .
6- LE BELLE ET LA BÊTE (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) CRITERION COLLECTION (1946) Director Jean Cocteau- Again in 2011 Criterion scores super high points on there classic film Blu-ray releases. The 1946 live action french language adaptation of the Beauty and the Beast is my favorite telling of that story, the film is a more adult take. The physical lengths that actor Jean Marais’s went to in his portrayal as the beast was astonishing to say the least. 5 hours getting into make up everyday before shooting , having animal hair glued to every part his visible body with disastrous after effects to his skin. The make up is so amazing it is still stunning that it was done in ’46, along with Cocteau’s direction and expert trick photography FX, it’s a film that will have you thinking twice about what was being technically achieved in the silver age of movie making. True gold in the cinema world, cheers to Criterion for their work on bringing us this and other greats films to our homes on Blu-ray.
5- PATHS OF GLORY CRITERION COLLECTION (1957) Director Stanley Kubrick- Specking of other great films that Criterion is bringing to HD, the next two are some of my absolute favorite classic cinema by my favorite director. Even in the early days of Stanley Kubrick directing career he had no problem in going to great lengths to get the details he felt he needed. Already widely known as a perfectionist, he shot 68 takes of the doomed men’s “last meal” scene. Because the details of the scene required that the actors appear to be engaged in the act of eating, a new roast duck had to be prepared for almost every take. Also shooting in Germany, the prison scene where the men discuss their fates ran overtime on a Saturday. Kubrick could not get what he wanted, and producer James B. Harris came to the set to tell the director after take 63 that overtime was not allowed in Germany. Kubrick resisted stopping in a rare show of temper. He finally got what he wanted by take 74. It must have been abundantly clear even at that point that he was a master of photography, the use of light, shadow, blocking and movement have never been done quite so cinematicly perfect before. The depth of his black and white films are an amazing achievement realizing how slow the film and lens were in the late 50’s compared to today, that makes it so so much more difficult to get a balanced look and feel to a film. The transfer to Blu-ray is like a god send to me, I love Criterion for giving us a film that look unbelievably beautiful and rich compared to the DVD, which looks some what flat. There is no doubt in my head that this is how Paths Of Glory was intended to look by Kubrick himself. Long Live The Cult Of Kubrick.
4- THE KILLING CRITERION COLLECTION (1956) Director Stanley Kubrick- Kubrick’s great race track robbery picture and considered his first true professional film as far as cast, crew and studio financing, even though he had shot and released two independently done features already. My very favorite production story about The Killing is the relationship between Kubrick and the director of photography, this was the first film on which Stanley worked with a cinematographer. Award winning veteran DP Lucien Ballard was hired because Kubrick was officially working on a film union production for the first time which prevented him from using himself as the cinematographer, as he had done in the past. On one particular shot in the scene where the guys plan the robbery, Kubrick asked Lucien to put a dolly track down in a specific place to move though the apartment set and use a certain length lens on the camera; Stanley went over to deal with something else while the shot was being set up, he noticed that the track wasn’t being placed where he had specified, after future inspection he realized a different lens was being placed on a camera much closer to the set than he had asked for. Kubrick call over Ballard asked what he was doing with the set up he asked for, Ballard replied that having the dolly track closer with a wider lens would make it easier for the crew to pull off the tracking shot and that it really wouldn’t change the perspective he wanted that much; Kubrick already at 28 years old was a extremely accomplished 11 year professional photographer understanding lenses and composition better than most humans alive, he knew that Lucien was full of shit and was screwing with him, directly with out raising his voice Stanley said, put the dolly track where I told to with the lens on the camera I asked for or get off my set; And really the best thing about the whole story in that Kubrick was absolutely right, what Ballard wanted to do totally changes the perspective and look of the intended shot. Even at 28 Kubrick wasn’t afraid of some one 20 years his senor. One thing that will always be true in cinema is that the foundation/ guarantee of all Kubrick films is an almost magically shot image on every frame, very close to every single frame could be a beautiful still photo or painting perfectly lit for the subject they cover. As far as the Blu-ray, another brilliant presentation by Criterion. As a bonus feature, Killer’s Kiss Stanley’s 2nd film is included as well, If anything you could say the lighting and use of the New York City of the back drop is very impressive considering he did all his own camera work on that film. One last little bit of trivia is that Rodney Dangerfield reportedly appears as an extra in the racetrack fight scene. Pretty dam cool. Long Live The Cult Of Kubrick.
3- CITIZEN KANE (1941) Director Orson Welles- For some reason this film really only gets better with age. The brilliance of every aspect of the production stands forefront in the Blu-ray and should be required viewing by every student, movie lover and professional film maker a like. In a real way the relationship that Welles and his Oscar winning DP Gregg Toland had was the exact opposite of Kubrick’s and DP Ballard on The Killing; On the first day of shooting, the first day he was ever on a movie set, Welles had no idea that it wasn’t customarily the directors job to physically set the lights where he wanted them, cinematographer Toland walk closely behind the Orson making a “shhhh” motion to all technicians he approached, letting the director do as he would; Later, the DP when asked why he would let an amateur like Welles set his shots up for him, he cited that the only way that some one like him, a veteran in Hollywood, will learn something new is to watch someone who’s never done it before. Also later in the film when Orson asked Toland to teach him about lens and the camera more, he told Welles he could teach him everything he knew in a weekend. In the end, it was this film that really destroyed Orson Welle’s directing career even though he would go on to direct a number of get pictures, but on none of them was he given total creative control like on Citizen Kane. Now if you really are one of those people who don’t understand why this is regarded by many film makers as the “greatest film ever made”, the Blu-ray is loaded with supplements including a great commentary from director Peter Bogdanovich who knew Welles for the last 18 years of his life; Also the brilliant award winning documentary the Battle Over Citizen Kane will give you an idea of the chaos the director caused with the picture, almost having his films negative bought and burned by top Hollywood players, one of the best “making of ” Docs ever done; on top of that the HBO dramatic movie RKO 281 in included as well. So much is right about this film and the HD disc is something to enjoy for a long while to come.
2- BARRY LYNDON (1975) Director Stanley Kubrick- Really this might have been my first pick of the year had the disc had a documentary or commentary, something. With no extra at all it still takes a strong second place. Again here we have a case of a film that was made for viewing on Blu-ray, the visuals that Kubrick has achieved is likened to the Thomas Gainsborough and other 18th century paintings he emulated so perfectly in his period masterpiece. The tones and use of light is unparalleled, even till this day nothing else has been able to achieve the look and feel of the film. First thing that comes to mind when thinking about Barry Lyndon is the look of the scenes shot all by candle light. A 50mm Carl Zeiss lens specially build for a NASA satellite was borrowed and modified with the Kollmorgen adapter used in still cameras to shoot whole scenes with only candle light. At f/0.7, the aperture was the largest build ever for movie use, and I’m sure no one has tried to do the same thing again. Kubrick pushed the medium every time he shot a film, no one will make anything with quite so much attention to detail again. Mostly because he took quite a long time to complete a project, Lyndon took 200 days to shoot over over a 2 year period; and the studios let him work the way he worked because he was Kubrick. No one is going to get two or three hundred days to shot a movie anymore unless it’s considered a guaranteed hit, and there is almost nothing that is. It’s been turned into business driving art, or maybe I’m wrong and it’s always been money driven. In reality the attention to every part of his productions, Stanley Kubrick has left us with viewing experiences that can never be replicated by any other filmmaker again. At least we have the chance to view and take in his genius in the comfort of our homes at the highest quality ever available. Long Live The Cult Of Kubrick.
1- STAR WARS SAGA (1977-2005) Directors Lucas, Kirshner, Marquand- Most who knows me are aware of my love for Star Wars. As a child of the 70’s and early 80’s, I was in that perfect age group to have the OG trilogy capture my imagination, it’s one of the big reasons that I decided to make my living in the entertainment industry. Over the years Uncle George has tinkered with the films so many times that the original seen in theaters May 1977 has long been lost. It really use to get me pretty worked up to think of some of the changed done for the Special Editions, Greedo shooting first is so lame and wrong, the dewbacks moving scene looks like crappy CG from a video game and the Jabba stuff in the hanger bay stops the flow and pacing that worked so well in the beginning. A New Hope gets off fine compared to some of the shit in Jedi, god what a shit pile ending with Hayden Christensen’s ghost beside Kenobi and Yoda with that shitty new song choice ending the saga now, where’s my yub nub track now? Well as expected there is new tweaking and changes to all the films, and to my surprises no matter how absolutely shitty the new screaming of Vader “NOOOOOO!” as he throws the Emperor to his death in Jedi is, I actually had been able to step back in the first time in my life and just watch these films as they now exists, I fully realized that these are George Lucas’s films. No one else, no matter how much they bitch and moan will never be the inventor of this universe. Uncle George is, and he’ll continue to mess with his creation till the end of days and we will keep buying it up until the wookie factory stops turning out stories in our favorite galaxy far far away. As far as the Blu-ray presentation, this is by far the best these films have ever looked, great new commentaries, deleted scenes and new never before seen footage on the bonus disc is worth the price of the set alone to true OG trilogy geeks. Holy Grail stuff for anyone who’s followed the films since the start. This set is a great reason to get into Blu-ray if you haven’t done so already. I am really looking forward to seeing what surprises the format has coming up in 2012.
Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.
2011 was still a great year for the growth of Blu-ray , lots of old classics, odd obscure cult films and a long awaited sci-fi saga made their debut in HD. All of them looking better than ever in 1080p and showing the true latitude in the Blu-ray format solidifying it as simply the best true film experience available at home . Here is my top 13 Blu-rays of 2011, with all the great releases this year it was a struggle to get it down to just 13, enjoy part 1 kids…
13- THE HOLLY MOUNTAIN (1973) Director Alejandro Jodorowsky- This film is direct proof of massive drug use and counter culture taking over in the movie industry in the 70’s. It really is a type of film that just doesn’t get made anymore, filled with esoteric and religious symbolism, incredible psychedelic imagery and breaking every rule they say you should never break when making a film; but it’s a kind of brilliance that doesn’t get nurtured anymore by mainstream culture as it did by the flower power/rock n’ roll culture out of the 60’s into the 70’s. This true original film is unlike any other filled with amazing images that will affect you one way or another for a long while after viewing them. With the amazing job on the print transfer to HD I was blown away at the brilliance of Jodorowsky’s attention to detail and ability to hold your attention with only images and simple score. To say it is a vast improvement over the DVD transfers would be a true understatement. If you are a fan of this and El Topo you owe it to yourself to pick them both up. I truly love what the 70’s brought to the film world, this is one of the jewels.
12- ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951) Directors Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske- There’s only a few classic Disney animated films that really resonates with me for some reason, the 1951 Alice In Wonderland is definitely one of them. The colors, crazy characters, psychedelic imagery and great storytelling still hold up so well (kicks the shit out of the latest Burton/Depp shit bomb), It’s hard to believe it’s 61 years old. On Blu-ray these hand drawn films absolutely pop off the screen, the format was made for animation lovers. Pick up a few of these and you will want to own them all, this true classic is looking better than ever.
11- DUMBO (1941) Directors Samuel Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen, John Elliotte- Disney continues their superb effort this year with the ever brilliant Dumbo. I forgot how much this one taps into your inner child and upon viewing the bitter, worry ridden adult starts to melt away. No matter how much you don’t feel like watching it, the breath taking imagery done by the first animation masters of their craft will have you finding yourself lost in this film. The reason I love this one so much is the really odd dream montage with the surreal elephants and other experimental animation in the middle. So cool and out of character for Disney these days. Again the treatment of the material to HD is amazing. It’s very hard to believe something looks so good yet so natural made in 1941 and presented in a digital format. Love the Blu-ray.
10- PULP FICTION (1994) Director Quentin Tarantino- This is one of those films I never get tired of and as many times as I’ve seen it, it still has me laughing in all the same places. It’s about as good as mainstream American film making got in the 90’s. It started out a smaller independent film that changed the way things were done once again in the entertainment industry. A lot of people tried to come up with their own versions of what Pulp Fiction did so well, but no one succeeded in the same way as Quentin. Now after watching all his other films, you know no one does it like Tarantino a true American auteur director. Pulp has never looked better than in this release and we also get a “look back” doc that has some great insights from some of the players in the film. I especially like Travolta’s anecdotes about Quentin, very entertaining.
9- CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) Director John Milius- Some movies from when I was a young kid play a lot different on reviewing them 30 years later. A very few hold up to what my interpretation was of “good film making” at 5 to 10 years old, most are so shitty on a production stand point it’s hard to make it through them or even remember why I liked them so much as a youngling. There are those few and far between that hold up and even surpass my original memory. The 1982 “Conan The Barbarian” is one of those film experiences that to me hasn’t been done quite so raw, with dark humor and shot so close to the look of the Frazzetta paintings of the character since maverick American director John Milius went to Spain, with 20 million dollars and a virtually unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger to film the fantasy epic. Since this film was released on VHS video tape and on cable TV in the mid 80’s I must have seen it 25 times minimum and until the Blu-ray release I’ve never really grasped the true beauty of the photography of Conan. In a time before CG, the film to me plays much better than most fantasy adventure films up to the late 90’s. Schwarzenegger really does have a brilliant screen presence that for an actor who was unknown, his choices and physical confidence was unexpected and perfect for the character, and hasn’t been matched to this day. With a great array of classic moments from punching out the camel, drunken Conan and company, to the vicious sword play all the way though, I now remember why this film has stuck in my head for so many years and will continue to make the rounds into my Blu-ray player for many years to come. Arnold really did kick some serious ass in the 80’s, which is a hard act to follow especially if that act is yourself.
8- TRON (1982) Director Steven Lisberger- One of my favorite sci-fi movies of the 80’s and I think it holds up better and makes more sense today, than it did in 1982. The film was a financial bomb as far as Disney was concerned. Even though they did an amazing job with the 17 million dollar budget, the 33 million US theatrical gross wasn’t enough for another Tron film to be considered in the 80’s. With the advent of home video and a growing cult following, Tron had really found an audience and large enough fan base that Disney did a sequel 18 years later in 2010 and a third on its way in the next few years. This means they hit a chord that was so far ahead of its time, it took the rest of the world almost two decades to catch up to what most of my friends knew who saw the film at 6 years old. That shit kicks ass! Tron is absolutely the most brilliant sci-fi story telling which mirrors what is happening in society in the 80’s and more so today. The presentation on the Blu-ray is so amazing and so far ahead of the DVD image quality I can only imagine a 70mm projected version beating this viewing experience out. The documentaries are some of the best I’ve seen and enjoyed. This is a must own for all sci-fi and FX fans, and for you film nerds out there this is the first feature film to use CG imagery for entire sequences on screen. Neat stuff for sure.
Part 2 coming soon…
Till Next Time. Stay Tuned
Just when you thought you couldn’t squeeze any more out of a brand, the Wookie factory and Uncle George come up with this beautiful little number below:
That’s Right, Burgers! Seems like a logical move for Lucas Film, No? My biggest concern possibly being the color of the bun on the “Dark Vador” sandwich, pure black just like his heart. That might be great for a dark lord of the sith’s heart but I’m not sure consuming that much black food coloring would be anything near healthy for a human. Of course this is only in a few countries in Europe and I’m sure they’re just testing the waters for a possible North American assault on the fast food chains with Wookie burgers and black bunned “Dark Vador” novelty sandwiches for us all. You can only guess what Uncle George’s team and Skywalker ranch will come up with next. We all shutter in anticipation.
The Burgers really are being released from French and Belgian Quick fast food chains to celebrate Star Wars Episode I 3D being released in theaters soon. They will be available starting January 31, and will only be available for one month. So if you happen to be near a Quick this month please please try the black bunned “Dark Vador” burger and let us know here at Celluloid Pop Culture Junkie how it tastes or if anyone drops dead in the restaurant from consumption, whatever, it’s all good . I’m really dying to know all about it first hand.
Really truly unbelievable, humans are so so dumb…
Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.
Still really loving these video production blogs from the sets of the first Hobbit film. Here’s number 5 of the lot, enjoy.
Everything looking spot on to me production design wise so far. Can’t wait for this in IMAX late this year, should be great.
Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.