Saturday, April 30, 2011

Weekend TV: Life 2.14

When the lead singer of an 80s cover band is found dead, Crews and Reese must dig through a pool of posers to find the killer.

I haven't quite come to terms with what the zen subtext means to the noir character in this series, but there's a nice scene here with Charlie thinking about his own personal mystery while listening to a zen tape about taking life. There's a certain awareness here about the nature of transgression and the responsibility that comes with it. Certainly a note about self-determination within the noir landscape.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Weekend TV: Justified 2.7

Boyd is hired by the mine to act as security while a trial against them begins. Winona has to put the stolen money back in the evidence locker, but she's going to need Raylan's help to get it there.

But at its heart, this episode is about bonding through crime. Now that Raylan is complicit in Winona's crime, it has brought them closer together, while Raylan is espousing noir philosophy in this scene:

And here, Raylan synopsizes his relationship with Boyd and how, even though their paths normally collide instead of align, there is significant history. Pay attention to that last line:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Weekend TV: Life 2.13

Recovering from his shooting, Crews (and Reese) investigate the death of an astronaut that was somehow shot but still manages to land his plane. Meanwhile, Tidwell is interested in who shot Charlie and doesn't believe that Charlie doesn't remember...

This episode introduces an actual legal transgression for Charlie, which grows out of his investigation, which was a result of his being framed for three murders he didn't commit. This suggests a repeating cycle, where transgression begets retribution, which begets transgression. If noir is the exploration of the psychology of criminals, if it is a detailing of what pushes specific people to commit crimes, this is a very important scene. It at once becomes the event to which everything has been leading as well as the fulfillment of the role everyone has been expecting him to play based on the fact that he used to be in prison.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

And, of course, we had Sean Chercover provide an introduction for the film, and his insights were invaluable. Please enjoy...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Interview with Sean Chercover

We kicked off The Noir Series 2011 with a spectacular program featuring THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) and an interview with Shamus- and Anthony-winning author Sean Chercover. Sean's Ray Dudgeon PI novels BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD and TRIGGER CITY are classic tarnished knight tales in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Here he talks about his previous life as a PI, his books, and what the movies get right. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mildred Pierce (1945)

While Shannon was here, our audience here at the Dryden Theatre was treated to his introduction to the film playing that night, MILDRED PIERCE. Here he talks about its basis in hard-boiled fiction and a surprising theory about what the best performance in the film might be...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Interview with Shannon Clute

This Winter, I was lucky enough to have four great guests visit for The Noir Series 2011: Sean Chercover, Shannon Clute, Megan Abbott and Charles Benoit. I've finally gotten around to posting the video for these talks, and I hope that you'll check them out, both here and on YouTube at

Today, I'm featuring my talk with Shannon Clute, TCM employee, film noir scholar, and co-author of the upcoming tome THE MALTESE TOUCH OF EVIL: POTENTIAL CRITICISM AND FILM NOIR.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend TV: Justified 2.6

While Boyd is brought in to answer for the mine theft, Winona is caught in a bank robbery by an emphysemac and two bullies.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Weekend TV: Life 2.12

Crews and Reese investigate the murders of three Russian mobsters, which brings them back in contact with Roman Nevikov (the awesome Garrett Dillahunt).

Anytime I hear the words "dark" or "darkness," my ears prick up. In this case, Ted is being interviewed about Charlie and Rachel. It doesn't necessarily illuminate the noir in Charlie's character, but it does deepen the understanding of his loyalty to Rachel (or hers to him for that matter) and gives Charlie a possible means of climbing out of the darkness.

Another thing that caught my ear was a brief exchange that is similar to something I've heard before, but it does show the demonstrate the kind of person that might be more susceptible to falling into the abyss of noir. In this scene, Reese has fallen off the wagon and is getting her marching orders from her Captain/boyfriend Kevin Tidwell (the also awesome Donal Logue).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend TV: Justified 2.5

Boyd falls off the wagon of legality and participates in a payroll heist. Meanwhile, Raylan "kicks up a hornet's nest," as he calls it, when he investigates the cashing of a missing man's checks.

There's a lot to love about this series, from the writing to the performances, to the direction and originality of the work. But from a noir perspective, what I'm seeing now is that there are multiple archetypes of noir protagonists embedded in the series. Our main protagonist is Raylan Givens, the wounded anti-hero; the man who walks the line between light and dark, ostensibly on the side of the law, but attracted to the darkness, despite what "the words" on his badge might say (See Sam Spade, Mike Hammer). Then there's Boyd Crowder, a villain by profession and association, but not necessarily by soul. He is the bad man who realizes he is a bad man and is conflicted about how to make it right (See Victor Mature in KISS OF DEATH). Then there's the Bennett family (or the Crowders from Season 1). This dysfunctional criminal enterprise is the 21st-Century version of the back-stabbing crews of the 1950s (See THE ASPHALT JUNGLE and THE KILLING). With so much noir to go around, this series truly weaves a thick tapestry of doomed narrative. And the thing they all have in common is that they grew from a culture of criminality that pervaded their upbringing.

Hmm...So is it nature or nurture? Sociology or psychology? Or does one, perhaps, become the other...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weekend TV: Life 2.11

Crews and Reese investigate a tribute murder to a Manson-esque murderer. It was fun to go back and see guest star Michael Raymond-James and regular Donal Logue a year before they were cast together in TERRIERS.

Meanwhile, Charlie is still investigating Mickey Rayborn (William Atherton) and has this interesting exchange with him:

Mickey implies that "the dark" still haunts Charlie and that he'll never be clear of it, despite all "the words" Charlie might speak to the contrary.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Weekend TV: Justified 2.4

Okay, okay, so it's not exactly the weekend anymore. I admit it, I spent a lot of time watching and listening to baseball over the weekend. So shoot me.

But here is the next episode of JUSTIFIED, only a day later than normal. It features a guest appearance from RESCUE ME's Larenz Tate and is directed by John Dahl, who helmed films such as THE LAST SEDUCTION, RED ROCK WEST, UNFORGETTABLE and ROUNDERS before turning to TV and directing episodes of some of my favorite shows: LIFE, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, BREAKING BAD, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, CAPRICA, TERRIERS, DEXTER and, of course, JUSTIFIED. This dedication by FX to bring cinematic directors, particularly of crime dramas, to their series is something that should be applauded and a factor that goes into making their shows so good.

In this episode, Rachel has to track down here parolee brother-in-law who has just beaten his P.O. Meanwhile, Raylan visits representatives from both the Bennett family and the Dixie Mafia, and Boyd is courted by criminals with a plan.