WEIRDLAND: June 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dick Powell ("You Never Can Tell") video

Peggy Dow and Dick Powell in "You Never Can Tell" (1951) directed by Lou Breslow


A video featuring stills of Dick Powell (in films "Murder, My Sweet", "Cry Danger", "Johnny O'Clock", "Cornered", "Pitfall", "Dames", "Station West", "Meet the People", "I want a divorce", "It happened tomorrow", "Christmas in July", "The bad and the beautiful", "Susan slept here", etc.) and co-stars, wives: Joan Blondell, June Allyson, Claire Trevor, Lizabeth Scott, Gloria Grahame, Rhonda Fleming, Anne Shirley, Linda Darnell, Ruby Keeler, Ellen Drew, Lucille Ball, Jane Greer, Debbie Reynolds, etc.)

Songs "You Never Can Tell" by Chuck Berry and "Paradise" by Helen Forrest

Jake Gyllenhaal spotted at University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus

Jake Gyllenhaal on the set of "An Enemy" (2013) at the University of Toronto campus in Canada (June 24, 2012)

Jake Gyllenhaal is at University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus today, shooting An Enemy. Jakey G was spotted wearing his costume for the film, which includes a squared-off wool tie, and an untucked shirt. Kind of like a hotter version of Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson. Source: www.torontolife.com

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Double Indemnity" Blu-Ray, Dick Powell: an ambiguous hero in "Murder, My Sweet"

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity" (1944) directed by Billy Wilder

The classic, quintessential film noir, which set the standard for all future noirs, Double Indemnity is to be released in the UK as part of Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema Series on Blu-ray (Standard and SteelBook editions) on 25 June 2012.

“That’s a honey of an anklet you’re wearing, Mrs. Dietrichson.”

Double Indemnity is the dazzling, quintessential film noir whose enormous popular success and seven Oscar nominations catapulted Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot, Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment) into the very top tier of Hollywood’s writer-directors. Adapted from a novella by James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice), co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye), Double Indemnity remains the hardest-boiled of delectations.

SPECIAL BLU-RAY FEATURES:
Exclusive new high-definition restoration, officially licensed from Universal Pictures
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired
1950 Lux Radio Theater adaptation starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck
The original theatrical trailer
Shadows of Suspense — a 2006 documentary featuring film historians, directors, and authors discussing the making of Double Indemnity
PLUS: A 36-page booklet featuring rare articles, images, and more! Source: whatculture.com

In the early forties, Dick Powell campaigned in vain for the part of a murderous insurance agent in Billy Wilder’s noir landmark, Double Indemnity. But Fred MacMurray snagged the role. Undeterred, Powell approached RKO chief Charles Koerner, pleading to be cast against type in another noir. Koerner actually wanted Powell for RKO musicals, so he said yes. Source: suite101.com

Like Bogart, Powell fits so snugly into Marlowe's character that the audience is unaware that he is acting: his is the kind of style that conceals style. As Chandler's private eye, he is noir's perfect tough guy, yet the toughness is never insisted on, it is simply there as a natural part of the character. Powell as Marlowe has a rough time of it: he is hit over the head, duped by a devious woman trying to hide from her notorious past, drugged, locked up, suspected of murder by the police. Through it all, Powell remains a model of the Ernest Hemingway code of grace under pressure, his irony a shield against constant mischance.

"Murder, My Sweet" was among the most favorably received of all films noirs, and Powell decided to stay within the noir mode for the rest of the decade. From the hired professional detective of the Chandler film, he switched to playing a more impassioned investigator in "Cornered" (1945), where he is cast as an ex-soldier tracking down the gang responsible for killing his wife. Here, his search is not that of the disinterested sleuth but the personal quest of a man bent on vengeance; his performance is therefore more high-strung than in "Murder, My Sweet".

In Pitfall (1948), Powell becomes a noir victim, playing a straigh-laced insurance man (recalling Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity 1944) who makes a fatal choice to double-cross the company for which he has worked loyally. Like Bogart, then, Powell covers the noir keyboard from detached investigator to weak-minded bourgeois who slips into crime. His work is spare and subtly stylized, regardless of the kind of character he is playing, though like Bogart, Powell is at the top of his form as the ironic observer, maintaining a skeptical distance even from his own misfortunes as he trades cracks with his adversaries the police, and with the low-down, two-timing dames that he is wise to. -"Film Noir: The Dark Side of the Screen" by Foster Hirsch (2001)

Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming in "Cry Danger" (1951) directed by Robert Parrish

In the wake of Murder, My Sweet (1944), Dick Powell re-invented his screen persona as a world-weary, acid-tongued noir deadpan. He was more likely to deliver a devastating put-down than a gun-butt or upper-cut. In Cry Danger, Powell pushes this persona to its reasonable limits. As ex-convict Rocky Mulloy, he seems more like a displaced stand-up comedian than an underworld denizen.

Dick Powell’s Rocky Mulloy is among the biggest sour-pusses in film noir. He’s got a right to be sore. Five years in stir have taught him the fine art of tongue-lashing. He is, perhaps, too good at it. He drops verbal bombs left and right, not caring about their half-life—or their threat to his social standing. Powell digs into Rocky Mulloy. He plays him flat as pavement, and twice as hard. Source: www.noiroftheweek.com

Anne Shirley and Dick Powell in "Murder, My Sweet" (1945) directed by Edward Dmytryk

"Forget Humphrey Bogart, forget Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell really is Raymond Chandler's gritty, sharp-tongued detective, Phillip Marlowe. This is perhaps surprising considering that he was better known up to this point for playing the juvenile lead in backstage musicals (so much so that Chandler's originally title 'Farewell, My Lovely' was dropped for fear of causing disappointment with audiences expecting a romantic comedy). But no, this is the real thing. One of the defining examples of film noir; dark, bleak and alienated with a cast of sordid characters headed by an ambiguous hero.

Dick Powell and Claire Trevor playing Philip Marlowe and Helen Grayle in "Murder, My Sweet"

Of all the adaptations of Chandler novels, this film comes as close as any to matching their stylish first person narrative and has the cinematic skill and bravado of direction to carry it off. Since the '40s countless mystery and neo-noir films have been made in Hollywood and around the world. Murder, My Sweet is what they all aspire to be. Source: www2.eufs.org.uk

Murder, My Sweet complicates narrative to the point of extraneity, explicating it as the mere pretext for a poetic topography of mid-century L.A., as well as an elaboration of its quintessential resident - private eye Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell). Although Bogart may perfect Marlowe's iconic one-liners, Powell's background in musical comedy provides him with the requisite awareness, or assumption, of audience to ensure that his delivery is less solipsistic, more generous and, ultimately, closer to the wry self-deprecation of Chandler's original ("If I always knew what I meant, I'd be a genius"), if not its more embittered overtones. Source: www.afilmcanon.com

Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir by Gene D. Phillips (2000)

A comprehensive introduction to America’s foremost mystery writer.” -- Alain Silver, co-author of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles

With a Preface by Billy Wilder and a brief biography of Raymond Chandler, "Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir" offers Phillips's interpretation of the Chandler oeuvre in fiction, screenwriting, and film. Phillips analyzes, among many others, the three film versions of Farewell, My Lovely and the two film versions of The Big Sleep through extensive comparisons to Chandler's novels. Chandler despised Hollywood yet needed Tinseltown's lucre as a source of income, and Phillips is at his best as he describes how Chandler's screenplays, including Double Indemnity (directed by Billy Wilder) and Strangers on a Train (directed by Alfred Hitchcock), implicated him in torturous collaborations with the Hollywood elite. -Kirkus Reviews

"Murder, My Sweet" would be recognized as one of the first true noir films produced in Hollywood. Ray (Chandler) liked the picture. Dick Powell, he thought, came closest to his own conception of Marlowe - he was better even than Bogart, who would portrait him later. Although, Chandler thought Bogart was terrific, so much better than any other tough guy actor. Bogart had a sense of humor that fit with Marlowe. He had his sad good naturedness. -"The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved" (2007) by Judith Freeman

Chandler was a romantic, more like F. Scott Fitzgerald than the worldly Hammett, and through the character of Marlowe he became a haunting poet of place, this place, Los Angeles, whose split personality of light and dark mirrored Chandler's own. He caught the glaring sun, the glittering swimming pools, the cigar-stinking lobbies of seedy hotels, the improbable mansions, the dismal apartment buildings, the sound of tires on asphalt and gravel, the sparkling air of the city after rain and how the fog smells at the beach at night.

Frank MacShane published the standard Chandler biography more than 30 years ago, and until now, no other book has made us view this great American writer afresh. "The Long Embrace" does. "To take care of Cissy. That was his driving life force," Freeman writes. Chandler worked in the oil business for Cissy, and he turned himself into a crime writer for his wife, while feeling he never "wrote a book worthy of dedicating to her." Source: articles.latimes.com

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jake Gyllenhaal photoshoot (USA Weekend Magazine outtakes)

Jake Gyllenhaal photoshoot (USA Weekend Magazine outtakes, 2010)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Scenes from "No Orchids For Miss Blandish" (1948) by St. John Legh Clowes



The opening, highly cinematic sequence of the British Noir "No Orchids For Miss Blandish" (1948) by St. John Legh Clowes from a novel by James Hadley Chase.

Controversial at the time of the film's initial release in Britain and the United States for its violence and sexual frankness, the movie was uneven--especially when some hapless English actors tried to speak with American accents and use American slang.

However, the film was beautifully photographed by Gerald Gibbs and heightened (at times melodramatically) by the lush score by George Melachrino, with a performance by American character actor Jack LaRue that was highly romantic (and clearly influenced by Humphrey Bogart). LaRue's career was blighted by his decision to appear in one of the most controversial films of the 1930s, a film version of William Faulkner's potboiler, The Story of Temple Drake (1933), which was far more harrowing as a story of depraved desire than Miss Blandish ever dreamed. Despite this, LaRue was a good actor, with a soulfulness and warmth that was only briefly glimpsed, if at all, in his many smaller roles as bad guys in over sixty movies. This is his best film and one that now seems almost ludicrously trying to break every taboo in one movie.

"Natural Born Killers" vs "God Bless America"

Happy 39th birthday, Juliette Lewis!

Juliette Lewis as Mallory Knox in "Natural Born Killers" (1994) directed by Oliver Stone

In "Natural Born Killers" (which was considered by Victor Bockris as the director's masterpiece, although bashed by some critics and intellectuals like Mario Vargas Llosa) Oliver Stone was undoubtedly well intentioned, but the volume was turned up so high that the film becomes an exercise in alienation, and ultimately as sensationalist as the subject it seeks to address. A dark and ultimately depressing (for reasons good and bad) travel across the contemporary American landscape, the film's technical virtuosity is matched by compelling performances from Juliette Lewis and Woody Harrelson.

Unfolding as a hallucinogenic nightmare, Stone switches, randomly it seems, between hyperkinetic cinematography, black-and-white documentary verité, surveillance video, garishly coloured psychedelia and even animation in an attempt to mirror the psychosis of the killers and the media-saturated culture that makes them popular heroes. The film's extreme and gory violence required copious edits to secure an R rating in America and became the focus for a heated debate as to whether Natural Born Killers glorified the activities of its protagonists, thus potentially inciting copycat incidents, or whether its shock tactics were an attempt to force the American media to acknowledge its responsibilities.

A frenetic look at the elevation to celebrity status of mass murderers by an unscrupulous and deviant American media, Oliver Stone's controversial film divided critics and audiences with its heady brew of over-the-top violence and bitter cultural satire. Viewed retrospectively, the film, though starting from an interesting premise, only occasionally hits its target, its melange of visual styles proving crude and ineffective at times.

Inspired in previous films such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Badlands (1973), the film sadly spawned a series of copycat variants of killers in and outside USA. Mickey (Harrelson) and Mallory (Lewis) are a young couple united by their desire for each other and their common love of violence. Together, they embark on a record-breaking, exceptionally gory killing spree that captivates the sensation-hungry tabloid media.

Their fame is ensured by one newsman, Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr), who reports on Mickey and Mallory for his show, 'American Maniacs'. Even the duo's eventual capture by the police, led by a twisted and perverted Tom Sizemore, only increases their notoriety, as Gale develops a plan for a Super Bowl Sunday interview that Mickey and Mallory twist to their own advantage.

Juliette Lewis as Bonnie Parker for BlackBook Magazine

Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker and Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow in "Bonnie & Clyde" (1967) directed by Arthur Penn

Stone considered Natural Born Killers his road film, specifically naming Bonnie and Clyde as a source of inspiration. The famous death scene in Bonnie and Clyde used innovative editing techniques provided by multiple cameras shot from different angles at different speeds; this sporadic interchange between fast-paced and slow-motion editing that concludes Arthur Penn's film is used throughout the entirety of Natural Born Killers.

God Bless America is Bobcat Goldthwait’s follow up to his criminally underseen dark comedy World’s Greatest Dad; the bitter middle aged Frank (Joel Murray) loses his job and is told he has inoperable brain cancer. On the verge of sinking into a deep depression while watching late-night television, Frank decides to use the opportunity to rid the world of a rich, snotty, self-entitled reality TV star who throws a fit on camera when her parents buy her the wrong car for her 16th birthday. But when High School outcast Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) sees Frank murder her hateful classmate, she begs him to let her join him, and the two go on a killing spree targeting “jerks,” developing into a kind of hybrid of Bonnie and Clyde meets Super. Source: tonightatthemovies.com

It stars Joel Murray (Freddy Rumsen from Mad Men, and Bill's brother) as a sad-sack angry loner who learns he is dying of a brain tumor, teams up with a sullen, violent teenage girl, and decides, essentially, to kill everyone on his television. The movie takes the form of a Natural Born Killers/Bonnie & Clyde-style road movie —though both killers take pains to point out that they're "platonic spree-killers"—but it's really just an excuse for Goldthwait to use the two characters as mouthpieces to vent his spleen about our rotting culture.

I might have lost track, but our murderous duo either kills, lambastes, or does both to the following people: anyone involved with reality television, viral Internet sensations, cable television hosts, people who drink energy drinks, people who high five, Glee ("it ruined Rocky Horror forever"), Diablo Cody ("The only stripper who suffers from too much self-esteem"), Woody Allen and his personal life, people who take up two parking spots, and people who say "Namaste" in casual conversation. I'll confess: When they shot a group of teenagers who are texting and talking in a movie theater (insanely, to the strains of Bjork's "It's Oh So Quiet"), I found it difficult not to cheer. Source: deadspin.com

Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr play Frank and Roxy in "God Bless America" (2011) directed by Bobcat Goldthwait

God Bless America may well be the defining movie of our generation. It’s not perfect, far from it, but as social commentary on the state of the American empire, it’s the most honest and truthful film in years. God Bless America cribs generously from “outlaw” movies like Bonnie & Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

That’s the amazing thing: despite the horrific acts they commit (and despite Goldthwait’s frantic backpedaling in interviews), Frank and Roxy come off as enormously more human and sympathetic than the people they kill. For example, both are partially motivated to go on their spree after witnessing a mentally retarded kid being humiliated on an American Idol-type show. Source: mattforney.com

Although Natural Born Killers suffered from an overdose of Stone's masturbatory directorial flourishes, it entertained similar themes about the public's entertainment appetite and the media's complicity in satisfying it. With the sense of self-importance stripped away and the application of a traditional filming approach, God Bless America hits more notes than it misses and leaves a stronger impression than Natural Born Killers.

A lot of what God Bless America has to say is on-target and is presented in such a straightforward, unvarnished fashion that it's impossible to miss the honesty beneath the comedy. The movie is funny but it is also at times uncomfortable. It takes the ugliest possible view of today's society, looking at 2012 America through dark-tinted, cracked lenses. Source: www.reelviews.net

Frank: -"It's not nice to laugh at someone who's not all there. It's the same type of freak-show distraction that comes along every time a mighty empire starts collapsing. "American Superstarz" is the new colosseum and I won't participate in watching a show where the weak are torn apart every week for our entertainment. I mean, why have a civilization anymore if we no longer are interested in being civilized?"

In Freud's essay "Civilization and Is Discontents" in which he offers us the question: "why have men created a culture in which they live with such discomfort?"

Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction: "The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. As long as the charade is played, they do not have to consider how to combat what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of “inverted totalitarianism.” Inverted totalitarianism represents “the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry,” Wolin writes in “Democracy Incorporated.” Inverted totalitarianism differs from classical forms of totalitarianism, which revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader, and finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. Citizens, rather than participate in power, are allowed to have virtual opinions to preordained questions, a kind of participatory fascism as meaningless as voting on “American Idol.” Our transformation into an empire, as happened in ancient Athens and Rome, has seen the tyranny we practice abroad become the tyranny we practice at home."

How Democracy Dies: "The reason why the totalitarian regimes can get so far toward realizing a fictitious, topsy-turvy world is that the outside non-totalitarian world, which always comprises a great part of the population of the totalitarian country itself, indulges in wishful thinking and shirks reality in the face of real insanity...” Our gutless liberal class placates the enemies of democracy, hoping desperately to remain part of the ruling elite, rather than resist. And, in many ways, liberals, because they serve as a cover for these corporate extremists, are our greatest traitors." -"The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress (2011) by Chris Hedges

An important point I want to make is how curious is the fact both films "Natural Born Killers" and "God Bless America", despite their many similarities, they work out almost as reverse approachs to feminist interpretations based on the female characters Mallory (Juliette Lewis) and Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), following their respective arc transitions. Whereas in Natural Born Killers, Mallory's dysfunctional upbringing has made her a bitter victim of patriarchal violence, Roxy is a self-confident student who deliberately ignores the chauvinists pundits that most likely would call her a 'feminazi'.

What makes the audience sympathise with Mallory is the fact they are shown her father in the form of a vicious monster. This does not excuse her appetite for gratuitous violence on scene, however it does give the audience a certain rationale to the source of her hate and misanthropy.

Mickey: You know, the only thing that kills the demon... is love. That's why I know Mallory is my salvation. She was teaching me to love. (Mallory appears in the background whispering: "I forgive you baby"). It was just like being in the garden of Eden." This unreserved declaration of love towards Mallory amidst an opportunistic interview destinated to millions of viewers, gives us an insight into the couple's dynamic and transforms them into romantic killers before our eyes. In shutting down the accomplice media Stone excises the demon, and the violence (predominantly masculine) is redeemed by their love.

In "God Bless America", on the contrary, Roxy is never seen as a victim of a patriarchal system, whilst Frank is presented in the beginning of the film as an emasculated everyman: a victim of modern oppression manifested in a condescending treatment from his ex-wife and profuse female-oriented entertainment media that is re-enforced by nasty TV princesses as Chloe (who'll become his first victim).

In some ways, the gender dynamics in "God Bless America" result even more subversive than in "Natural Born Killers". Victimized somehow by a matriarchal society on the rise, the lead character Frank regains his control as a self-assured man by training a teenage girl to shoot guns. Furthermore, despite some increasing sexual tension between Frank and Roxy, the story denoument couldn't be more evidently anti-Hollywood (besides being anti-establishment).

Frank overcomes his impulses when he realises he doesn't want to rob Roxy of her youth years and sends her back home with her conventional parents (oblivious to her plight). When both arrive by separate ways at their inescapable finish line, it's Frank who recovers his lost leadership and pride, leading Roxy (who aspired to become Frank's girlfriend to no avail) to their demise together in the "American Superstaz" finale as an undeniable proof of her loyalty.