Tag Archives: Featured

Film Noir Friday: Quicksand

Quicksand 1950-500x500
Film Noir Friday

QUICKSAND (1950)

Mickey Rooney and Film Noir would seem to be another one of his bad marriages, and if it did happen it would be a Hollywood gimmick. It happened several times. After World War II, Rooney was looking to restart his career and present himself as some other than an aging child star. Film Noir might be Rooney’s proper vehicle. In anti-hero style, he made a fortune then, through multiple divorces, drinking, gambling and carousing with women he wasn’t married to, he lost a fortune. So, how did it go?

The credits are classic Noir; loud moody music, a night setting with waves crashing on the beach. Then comes the first scene and we wonder what’s going on. At Gus’ Place, a neighborhood diner, Dan Brady (Mickey Rooney) a mechanic, is having lunch with his friends, co-worker Chuck (Wally Cassell) and charter boat worker Buzz (Jimmie Dodd). They are talking about girls. Talking about girls with Chuck and Buzz. (Yikes.)

After four years in the navy, Dan doesn’t want an anchor, a respectable girl, he wants excitement. In walks a blonde with an I’m-not-in-your-league attitude. Vera (Jeanne Cagney) is the new cashier. She resists Dan’s charm until he invites her out to the Music Box to see Red Nichols and His Five Pennies (a real group).

Dan and Chuck return to work and Dan realizes that he’s broke. He calls Buzz to ask for the $20 he loaned him. (Multiply all dollars amounts by 10; $20 is about half a week’s wages.) Buzz can’t pay him until the next day. Unable to get any money, Dan puts his first foot into the quicksand. With an audit of his register two days off, Dan decides to take the money and replace it the next day.

Dressed and ready for a night out, Dan, in his jalopy, pulls up just as Vera is leaving work and with sexually charged banter, the Noir kicks in. Vera wants to go shopping. He drives her to shop window to see the $2000 mink coat she wants. Dan must be thinking, Screwy dame. The Music Box is closed on Mondays. Vera takes him to an arcade where she used to work.

There is obviously unpleasant history between the arcade owner Nick (Peter Lorre) and Vera. Nick catches her and Dan making out in the photo booth and runs them off. During a walk on the beach, Vera tells Dan that at sixteen she ran away from West Virginia. It seems that she might be a sympathetic character.

The next day, back at work, Dan finds that the bookkeeper has shown up two days early. Desperate, he runs down the street looking for a way to get money. At Jay Jewelry Store he buys a $100 watch for a dollar down and $10 a month. He immediately hocks it for $30 then manages to slip the $20 into the money bag satisfy the bookkeeper. Almost immediately a cop (John Gallaudet) shows up and, knowing what Dan did, explains that selling property with a lien holder is fraud. He gives Dan until noon tomorrow to pay of the watch.

Dan tries to hock his car to Jack For Your Old Hack but he isn’t offered enough so he does the logical thing and goes to a bar. Next to him, and very drunk, is a man called Shorty (Sidney Marion) who runs a bingo parlor and is carrying a lot of money. Dan follows the man into the parking lot, covers his face with a white handkerchief and robs him. Seen by a witness, he jumps a fence, removes the money and throws the wallet and the handkerchief in the garbage.

Hurrying out of the alley, he runs into Helen and her friend Millie (Patsy O’Connor). The girls separate so Helen can be with Dan. After buying Helen an ice cream, he runs off on her to join Vera.

In the Arcade, Dan finds Nick struggling with Vera, wanting the $50 he says she owes him. She claims it was a gift. Dan doesn’t want her owing him anything so he throws a fifty dollar bill at Nick. Dan takes Vera to the Music Bar, he claims to have won it playing craps. It’s common knowledge in the neighborhood that Shorty carries fifties and she has heard about the robbery. (Nick has also connected Dan to the robbery.)

The next day Dan pays off the watch. Nick found Dan’s mask and uses it for blackmail. He wants a new car from the garage where Dan works. Once again desperate, he leaves the bathroom window open, breaks in that night and gets the car to Nick.

When he goes to work the next morning the garage owner, Markey (Art Smith), tells Dan that he knows he stole the car and he wants it back tomorrow or $3000 for a car that lists at $1950. Dan finds Vera at Gus’ Place, where she still works, and asks her to go to Texas with him. As he drives her home he tells her everything. She knows where they can get that kind of money; rob Nick. He keeps enough to cash paychecks.

While Vera waits by the car, she sends Dan in to get the money. Dan is not a practiced burglar. He makes enough noise to alert the night watchman. Dan gets shot at but makes an escape. Back at Vera’s room they count out $3610. The Landlady (Minerva Urecal) catches them together and runs Dan off.

The next day Dan makes arrangements to meet that night with Mackey in his office. When Dan is finally able find Vera, he meet her in her room. She is wearing the mink coat. She tells him that she bought it with her share of the money. Dan’s life is slipping from his control. Vera tells him to take what’s left and offer it to Mackey; she got a $2000 mink coat for $1800.

Dan takes what money is left and tells Mackey to take it or leave it. Mackey takes it then picks up the phone to call the police while holding a gun on Dan. Dan jumps across the desk and, in the fight, strangles Mackey.

Outside Vera’s, he runs into Chuck and Helen arm in arm. Chuck tells him that he quit Mackey because he accused him of stealing the car and he either wanted the car back or $3000.

In Vera’s room, Dan tells her what has happened and again she refuses to go to Texas. He sees her for what she is; selfish and corrupt. As he leaves, the cops are coming up the stairs; Dan runs the other way. While he is hiding on the ledge with Mackey’s gun, the police serve a search warrant on Vera. She assumes they’re looking for Dan. She rambles on about dead body; she doesn’t notice they’re looking through drawers. Thinking that Dan may be hiding in the closet, they find the mink coat. Vera tells them that she bought it with her own money and shows them the receipt. Nick figured she was involved in the robbery and the police work out that the $1800 was her half of the money.

Dan makes his way to his car where Helen is waiting. She too had figured out that he had robbed Shorty. He tries to get her to leave but she refuses. They are making plans to go to Mexico when the car breaks down. At a stoplight they jump in the back of a man’s car and Dan tells him to drive. The man turns out to be Harvey (Taylor Holmes), a sympathetic lawyer. Dan confesses to try and save Helen. Harvey raises the possibility that Mackey might not be dead.

Dan’s next plan is to catch Buzz’s boat at the Santa Monica Pier and get to Mexico by sea. Helen wants to go with him but he assures her that he will send for her after he’s established himself there. He leaves Helen with Harvey, who promises to wait a while before calling the police.

The police are at the boat questioning Buzz. Harvey and Helen turn on the radio. After a scare, hearing that all exits from the city are blocked, they here that they’re looking for a cop killer. The next report announces that Mackey survived and named Dan as his assailant.

Missing the boat, the police on the Pier come on Dan. After a frantic chase, where Dan drops his gun, Dan is shot in the shoulder. Harvey’s car to take Dan to the hospital. Once they catch Dan up on the events, Harvey figures that he’ll get from one to ten years, but as a first time offender, it will probably be closer to a year. Helen promises to wait. A year or two in prison is presented as a Hollywood happy ending.

Lacking in intensity and claustrophobic atmosphere, this movie is not a classic but watching it is not a waste of time. It does need to be pointed out that a body count of zero is nearly unheard of in the Land of Noir.

Film Noir Friday: Ascenseur pour l’échafaud

v1.bTsxMjE4OTIyNztqOzE3NDIxOzEyMDA7MTUzNjsyMDQ4
Film Noir Friday, written by William Peace

Ascenseur pour l’echafaud (1958)- a French Film Noir directed by Louis Malle. In the US: Elevator to the Gallows- Frantic; in the UK Lift to the Scaffold. It stars Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet.

In older movies it is often difficult to understand the context. To many of us, this isn’t the Jeanne Moreau we dream of; here she is the suburban type wife of a wealthy man and she is made up to fit the part. By this time she had been in 20 movies but she had not yet appeared in Jules et Jim.

Some movies of this era appeal only to cinephiles; this isn’t one of those. Most of the decisions made by the creative team behind the camera are exactly right. The pacing, the lighting, the editing fit the material. That said, the use of Ms Moreau: this is not the woman most men would want to surrender themselves to, but you could see her wanting to have an exciting lover and wanting to have her older husband’s wealth. But there she was, in the café, wondering what was happening, wondering if her lover, her husband’s friend, had went through with their plan. And you could see her hoping that he hadn’t; that her husband was still alive; that they could go away and live their lives- without money.

I won’t spend a lot of time discussing Jeanne Moreau, but this is not who she was to a lot of us who became aware of her when we were all so young.

This film is often discussed in the terms of the score by Miles Davis. This was an intensely creative time for him but his music does not overpower the movie, though some consider the movie groundbreaking for that reason only.

Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau) and Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) have decided that they have to murder Simon Carala (Jean Wall). Simon is a wealthy man and Julien’s boss. Julien uses his skills as an ex-Foreign Legion officer, a veteran of the Indochina and Algerian wars. Working late, Julien uses a rope to get into Carala’s office and arranges his murder to look like a suicide.

As Julien gets into his sporty convertible he sees the rope hanging from the building. He leaves the engine running and he hurries into the building and into the elevator. Going up in the elevator, the caretaker turns off the power and he is trapped between floors for the weekend.

Julien’s car is then stolen by a young couple; Louis, a small time crook, and flower shop assistant Veronique.

Waiting for Julien in a café, Florence sees the car past by; seeing only Veronique. To her, it appears that Julien has run off with a younger woman. Completely unnerved, Florence spends the night asking about Julien in the bars where he is known.

In Julien’s car, Louis puts on his gloves and begins to assume his identity; checking into a hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Julien Tavernier. At the hotel they meet a German couple on holiday; Horst and Frieda Bencker. Frieda uses Julien’s camera to take pictures of the party.

That night, Louis decides he is going to steal The Bencker’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SL gullwing. Horst catches them and when Louis sees Horst’s cigar tube, he assumes it is a gun, he kills the couple with Julien’s handgun. Louis and Veronique return to her apartment in Paris. Veronique convinces her boyfriend to join her in a suicide pact; which fails.

The dead bodies of the Bencker’s are discovered. With the evidence of Julien’s car, handgun and raincoat, he is the prime suspect; his picture in the morning newspapers.
Julien had spent the night in the elevator, calming trying to get himself out. When the power came on in the morning, he had managed to get himself out. Florence had spent the night trying to find him; even to the point where she had wandered into her husband’s friends and gotten herself arrested as a prostitute.

Then comes the point where Florence wants to find Veronique and clear Julien of the Bencker murders. After finding them woozy, Florence accuses them of killing the Benckers and calls the police. Believing that there is no evidence to connect them with the crime, Louis (the police detective) has the photographs developed and Florence and Julien are arrested.

The question is: Why didn’t Florence and Julien say that Simon didn’t kill himself because of the relationship between is best friend and wife? And why did Florence and Julien give themselves up so easily? The answer may be that it is easier to kill someone than to live with having killed someone. Maybe, after all the lies, Florence and Julien just wanted it to be over with.

More Than a Little Black Dress: Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and UNICEF

Audrey Hepburn, UNICEF ambassador in Ethiopia

What do you think of when you hear the name Audrey Hepburn? Most people will picture her in a little black dress with a slender cigarette holder between her fingers but we should see her as so much more. Before she was Holly Golightly, Hepburn appeared in many successful films including her first film and Oscar winning performance in Roman Holiday opposite Gregory Peck. She would appear with Humphrey Bogart and William Holden in Sabrina and dance with Fred Astaire in Funny Face. With a long and successful career, Hepburn can easily be seen as an overrated star considering the fact that it is her image in that black dress with a string of pearls around her neck that stands out. What should stand out is the work she did after her long film career. Audrey Hepburn was an ambassador for UNICEF. That was the work she was most proud of and that is how we should remember her.

Born Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1926 in Brussels, Belgium, Audrey Hepburn lived a privileged life during her younger years. Due to her father’s job, the family traveled and relocated several times before finally settling in Brussels. Eventually the family would help raise money for the British Union of Fascists before her father left the family for London where he would become more involved in Fascism. This was a turning point in young Audrey’s life and it began the downfall of the family. As World War II broke out, Audrey’s mother relocated the family to the Netherlands believing that they would stay neutral and no harm would come to them there. Sadly things didn’t go as planned. The Nazi’s invaded, her uncle was killed, one brother went to a work camp and the other went on the run. It’s these horrific happenings in her early life that would later inspire her and influence her work with UNICEF.

90d1e4b1ef059912c68a9ddb19beccd0

When the war ended in 1945, Hepburn moved with her family to Amsterdam where she began studying Ballet. Her aspirations to be a prima ballerina were lost when she was told that her height and weak constitution made it impossible. Hepburn decided to focus on acting and she moved to London. Here she would find success after work as a chorus girl when she was offered a role in her future Tony Award Winning performance in the Broadway adaptation of the film Gigi.

As 1953 rolled around, Audrey Hepburn’s life was looking better than ever. An appearance in Roman Holiday, the film that would win her the Academy Award, catapulted her to stardom. After her first Hollywood film, Audrey went on to have a successful career in the US. Popular among female audiences, Audrey’s most iconic role came in 1961 when she was cast as Holly Golightly in the adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her Holly is far different the novella’s Holly. The film traded in the book’s Teenage Blonde with a more appropriately aged brunette; and today we can’t imagine anyone else in the role.

NYHQ1989-0479

While Hepburn continued to work into the seventies it was her work in the eighties and to her death that should be what we remember her for. Her work with UNICEF has changed lives and spread the word for the wonderful organization. Her work in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Somalia, and Vietnam would lead to being awarded the Presidential Medal for Freedom. After a successful film career and a remarkable resume, the work we should remember is the efforts she put in to making the lives of starving children something we were all forced to see.

There is something that attracts so many young women to Audrey Hepburn. I have a picture of her on my wall. I love her movies and anytime I see her image I automatically take note. In the end, we should look past the surface and see the beautiful soul that lived inside this remarkable woman. If you want to honor her, do what you can to help those who are less fortunate. Remember money isn’t the only thing you can give. Your time is also valuable, as are the clothes in your closet you don’t wear and the books on your shelf you don’t read. I challenge you to look into the work Audrey and to research UNICEF for yourself. When you watch a film, or even think of her, share a link on your social media pages. The list of things we can do to help our fellow humans is long so let’s make Audrey Hepburn proud and participate in making this world a better place.

http://www.audreyhepburn.com, https://www.unicef.org

Netflix Pick of the Week: Rogue One

images
Rogue One, now on Netflix

If you are a big Star Wars fan chances are you have already seen this one in theaters. If you are a casual fan, chances are you’ve seen this one in theaters. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a Friday night in front to the TV chowing down on popcorn as you invest another two hours on this incredible movie with a diverse cast and a strong female lead.

Funny and full of information, Rogue One proves that these are the years for Star Wars movies to be made once again. Constantly the target of online trolls and sexist reviewers, the current movies in the franchise have had its fair share of backlash due to the diverse casting they now employ.

Standing alone from the new trilogy of films and a prequel to The Force Awakens, Rouge One follows Jyn as she joins the resistance to stop the building of the Death Star.

If you enjoyed The Force Awakens for its strength, answers and story, Rogue One should be another enjoyable adventure through the future. The new films in the franchise given us what the Prequels did not. While we had a few characters to entertain us there still lacked something to root for and with strong female leads like Rey and Jyn we are give woman that we and our little girls can look up to. With men of color like Cassian and Fin, men are given someone that resembles them on the screen. It is so easy to forget the importance of female leadership and diversity but for those who have been waiting a long time the casting of these film’s mean a lot more.

For lovers of strong female leads, diverse casts, sci-fi, Star Wars and adventure, a night in with Rogue One should mean a lot to you. I know it means a lot to me.

TV Tuesday: Wynonna Earp

wynonna-earp
Watch season two Fridays at 10 pm on Syfy

Syfy original series Wynonna Earp follows Wyatt Earp’s heir as she takes on the Earp curse. Now twenty-seven, Wynona must wield Wyatt’s Colt to shoot revenants (returned out-laws shot by him) while dealing with the town of Purgatory’s judgement.

Created by the Show Runner of Lost Girl, you can be sure that this show has a lot to offer. The age the Earp curse begins, Wynonna has returned home after many years away. She is on her way back for a funeral when her bus has a malfunction and a woman dies. She returns home on foot and soon becomes partners with a US Marshall who is a member of the black badge division. Now in possession of her great-great grandfathers Colt, Wynonna is able to kill demons by shooting them between the eyes and she is the only one that can wield the weapon.

Airing on Space in Canada and Syfy in the US, Wynonna Earp has carved out a little cult following for itself. Holding a huge following in the LGBTA community, Earp’s healthiest couple is  a bisexual and lesbian woman. The main female is a strong, complex woman with a difficult past and a wild life. Going into its second season, Wynonna has an even more diverse cast. The show has proved itself worthy of a following as it continues to listen to its audience and maintains a strict rule that woman are always badass, even when they show weakness.

For the fans of Supergirl who have promised to boycott the show after a reckless display of ignorance during Comic-Con, you have a new show you can jump to and trust. There is a hilarious cast of people that support and love the community that loves them. The stories are cheesy at times but it remains true to itself, laughs at itself and doesn’t take itself too seriously.. Wynonna Earp is a show for Syfy lovers, strong woman lovers and people who want to be supported.

Thanks to google I was able to do a little research that looked further into female representation on the small screen and female viewership. Over the past five years a lot has changed. There are more female centric shows on then ever and female viewership continues to grow. Women watch about four minutes more TV a day than men but their representation has been the decision of groups of mostly white males gathering in a conference room. Luckily we have those that have our backs, women who don’t take no for an answer and many ways to prove how much we really need something.

Via Comic-Con we found out that this feminist, female centered, LGBTQ representing, Sci-fi Drama was renewed for a third season. Ten years ago I may have been surprised that this show made it past the first season and in 2017 I am glad to say that I am not. Wynonna Earp deserves at least two more years under its belt for the many things that it offers its audience and that includes a safe space to spend a Friday night.

Watch season one on Netflix. Season two airs Fridays on Syfy. Wynonna Earp has been renewed for a third season.

 

Suspense Saturday: Strangers on a Train

strangers

 

One of my personal favorites, Strangers on a Train stars Farley Granger as Guy Haines and Robert Walker as Bruno Antony in an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel. Important viewing for all lovers of Hitchcock and avid viewers of suspense, Strangers encompasses a lot of what can make a movie stand out. The stand out actor is Robert Walker, who would never get to see the impact his character had. Farley Granger is a worthy co-star as the guy brought into the situation.
Guy Haines was not personally sought out by Anthony but he may has well been. The chance meeting on the train turns to chaos for the tennis star when Bruno proposes a switch. You kill my father, I’ll kill your ex-wife. It is a story known around the globe; constantly re-told in varying ways but nothing holds a candle to this Hitchcock adaptation of the novella.

 

 

strangers-1482806586-726x388
Farley Granger as Guy Haines and Robert Walker as Bruno Anthony

 

 

I have read about and viewed the film many times. One of the best to study, Strangers shows us our capabilities as story tellers and film makers. Many elements, like in all of Hitchcock’s films, create a hectic bow ready to be tied. The great suspense in this film belongs to our villain Bruno Antony, the man you want to win. It’s odd that in many Hitchcock films you root for the good guy but in Strangers you find yourself falling for the lovable psychopath who believes himself to be justified in getting rid of bad people.
A momma’s boy who disdains his father and dresses flamboyantly, many people have come to believe that Bruno is gay. In the end that does not matter. What I do think is important is that Antony’s strength lies in his unassuming femininity. If he were masculine the chances are people would have an easier time catching onto him. With his feminine ways, Anthony is seen as far weaker than he actually is. He is able to use what some may refer to as his weakness as his strength.
When you find yourself watching Strangers on a Train don’t forget to pay attention to everything. No detail is too insignificant. From the opening credits to the ending moments, Strangers on a Train has many elements that make up a great picture.

TV Tuesday: Riverdale

MV5BNTkzOTA4ODE3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODIzMTQzMTI@._V1_UY268_CR18,0,182,268_AL_
TV Tuesday, written by Ainsley Peace

For the first TV Tuesday I will talk about The CW’s hit neo-noir drama Riverdale; an adaptation of characters from the Archie Comics focusing on the town and its inhabitants. The first season revolves around the investigation into the murder of Jason Blossom and the affect it has on the less than picturesque town. These aren’t the characters we see in the comics. While fans of the comics may fear this to be “just another teen drama,” it has a lot more to offer. The mystery mixed with the complexity of the whole story, Riverdale gives us something to root for.

In Riverdale Archie is an oblivious brooding jock with a heart of gold. Always wanting to do the right thing, Archie often makes mistakes regarding his relationships but always tries to make it right. Torn between music and football, Archie is falling more in love with his musical side everyday and he might just leave the sport behind as he teams up with his musically inclined friends to pursue his dreams.

Archies best friend is Jughead Jones, most known for his love of hamburgers in the comics. However Riverdale’s Jughead is a little different then the character we know and love. While he spends the majority of his time at Pop’s, Juggie as Betty affectionally calls him spends more time consuming coffee then food. He is writing a book about Jason’s death and becomes a suspect in his murder early on. Still sporting his ever present hat, Jughead is the outcast of the town and who often has to deal with the many bullies Riverdale has to offer.

Betty begins the series as a lovelorn girl who wants to be more than friends with Archie. The Betty of Riverdale has a darker side that scares her but excites us none-the-less. Wanting to make a difference and tell the truth, Betty reopens the Blue and Gold at her school, gets revenge on Chuck Clayton for his slut-shaming behavior and joins the river vixens along side reformed mean girl Veronica Lodge.

One half of V & B is struggling to accept her new life and to live below the means she has become accustomed. While the version of Veronica in print is a rich white girl, Lodge at sixteen in Riverdale is a woman of color who’s rich father has gone to prison for Ponzie scheme antics. The cast is full of adapted characters including mean girl Cheryl Blossom, gay best friend Kevin Keller, Archies rival Reggie Mantel, front woman Josie McCoy, appearances by Jason Blossom, Dilton Doiely, Chuck Clayton, Ethel Muggs and a bevy of others.

Riverdale is a great show for women to sink their teeth into. The female characters may be role models but they are real. The female characters of Riverdale are people who change, grow and develop like the male characters of the show. They fight back, make mistakes and lose control without it being used to titilate the male audience. There is kissing and crushes but hardly any sex. The affair between Archie and his teacher Ms. Grundy, don’t worry she is younger than the white haired lady from the comics, made some cringe but it gave was a look at the female predator. In her exit we see who she really is. A woman devoid of remorse and any understanding of her actions and we the audience are devoid of sympathy for her.

The show contains great direction and cinematography. It is well written with witty dialogue and a slew of smart pop culture references. The cast members and the characters they play are perfect. While they mirror the characters in the comic universe, the Riverdale incarnations are more complex as are the relationships. You even sympathize with the bad girls and get mad at the good ones. The good guy has you livid at times and the bad guys have out root for them. Riverdale is how a teen drama should be written and how a comic book like Archie should be adapted.

At the end of the first season we learn who killed Jason Blossom but not everything is tied up with a bow. The actions of the first season and the last episode will spill over into season two. Character development will continue and relationships will struggle. New characters will be introduced and the darkness of Riverdale will remain. If you are looking for your typical teen drama, Riverdale is not for you but if you are looking for something with substance and intrigue you might want to give this show a shot.

Riverdale will return to The CW on Oct 11. Riverdale is available to stream on Netflix. Grab a milkshake, a burger and some fries and settle in to a night on the couch as you binge this teen drama with a twist.