Archive for January 2011

One of the Best: John Barry

John Barry has died and though his scores, heavy on strings and sentimentality, went out of style in the seventies and eighties during the John Williams-centered universe of movie scoring, which itself went out of style with the song-oriented and electronica scores of the nineties on, I always loved his music. In fact, his scores for You Only Live Twice and Somewhere in Time are two of my favorites.

He was my favorite movie composer and the list of his scores that are among the best ever scored is too long for this space. Just go to his Wikipedia entry and look at the impressive number of films he scored and then, if you can, find as many as are available and listen to them.

Rest in Peace, John Barry.

UK Box Office 28-30 Jan

Disney shows it still dominates the family market with a spectacular opening for TANGLED, buoyed by 3D ticket prices and the lack of animation or child-friendly product out there. A superb £11k screen average. THE KING'S SPEECH shows no signs of letting up on its fourth week, with minimal drop in takings. Of the new releases, only macho actioneer THE MECHANIC showed any power, with HEREAFTER & HOW DO YOU KNOW? limping out of the gate. BIUTIFUL and BARNEY'S VERSION did OK business for arthouses.

1- TANGLED (£5,095,736) (New)
2- THE KING'S SPEECH (£3,623,234)(4 weeks, £24,894,347)
3- BLACK SWAN (£2,563,245) (2 weeks, total £7,299,437)
4- THE MECHANIC (£919,366) (New)
5- THE DILEMMA (£669,367) (2 weeks, total £2,292,011)
6- THE GREEN HORNET (£655,628) (3 weeks, total £4,909,200)
7- HEREAFTER (£598,686) (New)
8- GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (£581,849) (5 weeks, total £14,453,679)
9- 127 HOURS (£408,585)(4 weeks, total £6,604,451)
10- HOW DO YOU KNOW? (£374,340) (New)

The Conversations #23: True Grit

The latest installment of The Conversations has now been posted at The House Next Door. This time around, Jason Bellamy and I discuss the Coen brothers' new adaptation of Charles Portis' True Grit, and compare their take on the material to Henry Hathaway's iconic John Wayne-starring version of the same story. We talk violence, revenge, Wayne, Westerns, the place of this film in the Coens' oeuvre, and much more. Join us at the House and be sure to comment to continue the conversation.

Continue reading at The House Next Door


I know I haven't posted much in the past year (and I have been chastised repeatedly for it), and though I keep promising to come back for real, I really haven't.

I always think of things I want to post, almost daily, but I just haven't seemed to be able to do it. I finally realized that I just can't keep up with the Jones'. Which is to say, I don't really have the time, or any real incentive, to keep on all the film sites and alerts to post Black Cinema news every single, solitary day. But there are some very fine sites out there that can, and do.

As for me, I will be trying out something....weekly themes of sorts. I will be inspired to write about things that are in the news and at the theater, of course.....I have to. But I think if I stick to a theme a week, it'll make me post more, and then I won't get close to cursed out anymore, lol. I will also have a revamping of this blog design coming's past time.

Thanks guys, for sticking with me, even when you've seen the same crusty post day after day for weeks at a time. I'm on a mission to do better. In the meantime, you can peruse my other just as sometimey blog: Mantan In The City.


ps: the picture of melvin van peebles above has nothing to do with anything, but for some reason it came up when i googled "black cinema love" pics

Before They Were Films, They Were Sketches

Tom Walsh, President of the Art Directors Guild and I had the pleasure of being interviewed by
Susan Stamberg of NPR's Morning Edition this past week. The show focused on Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction and the NPR website did a wonderful accompanying piece on their website "Long Before Computers, How Movies Made Us Believe."

I love film art and thought you would enjoy a few renderings from the book. Above is production designer John De Cuir Sr.'s barge design for Cleopatra and below is the centerpiece set for Dr. Zhivago, the ice palace. Shot on set in Spain (and in the summer no doubt), production designer John Box literally placed wax on everything inside the dacha while a prop man dutifully followed him with a bucket of cold water and splashed the wax. Hence the look of ice cycles and one of the most memorable sets in Hollywood history.

Production designer Stephen Gooson's designs for the lamasery in Lost Horizons -- built and shot on the Columbia studio ranch. The film's version of Shangri La was built to scale in two months and the designers were strongly influenced by Buddhist buildings and the works of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Production designer William Cameron Menzies designed over 2000 sketches for the storyboards for Gone With the Wind. The watercolor of Tara below is by artist Dorothea Holt Redmond. Tara cost $12,000 to build on the Selznick backlot and telephone poles were wrapped to resemble trees. Sorry to spoil the grandeur of Tara.

Chinatown restaurant scene with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway above and continuity sketch below. The period film was designed by Richard Sylbert.

If you are in the Los Angeles area this week, I will be signing books on Thursday, February 3rd at Barnes and Noble, 1800 Crans Avenue in Manhattan Beach from 11-3 PM and Book Soup on Friday, February 4th at 7:00 PM in West Hollywood. I will also be speaking at the Beverly Hills Women's Club with a book signing to follow on Thursday evening at 6:30. For more information see their website here.

Photo Credits: Columbia Pictures, Paramount, MGM, Twentieth Century Fox, Art Directors Guild

Why Science Fiction No Longer Appeals to Me

I started writing this post before The Siren published her post on science fiction films she likes a couple of days ago. This was unexpected. Having a post on sci-fi coincide with a post by The Siren's Farran Smith Nehme on sci-fi movies is a bit like putting up a post on westerns only to have Arbogast put up a list of his ten favorite John Wayne/John Ford collaborations at the same time. It's not impossible but you figured this was one area in which you'd never have to compete. As such, I've slightly altered this post in response to what transpired at The Siren's place where, as is common, her post has already logged 12,847 comments, or something close. I was the first to comment on the post and made reference to how Star Wars was not sci-fi. I now feel the need to defend that statement here which, it turns out, I was going to do anyway, deep within the post itself but only as side thought. Now, however, I feel I must make it more of a "front and center" kind of a statement. With that in mind, let us now delve into the original post itself, altered only slightly in response to The Siren's post.


I have long since touted my love for science fiction on these pages and made clear that it was older sci-fi that appealed to me. In fact, so little modern sci-fi appeals to me that I have begun to wonder if I really love sci-fi at all or if I am simply nostalgic for the movies of my youth. At what point does saying sci-fi hasn't appealed to me in the last twenty years simply become an admission that I just don't like sci-fi or, at the very least, that it's not my favorite genre? But if it's not, why do I keep saying I love it so much?

Some of this question was answered for me the other day after I watched an episode of The Outer Limits, courtesy of my Amazon Video on Demand Library in combination with my Roku. And not just any episode but perhaps the most famous episode, Demon with a Glass Hand, written by Harlan Ellison. The episode is science fiction through and through. Most modern sci-fi isn't. I suppose the best place to start is by defining, to some degree, science fiction, at least to the degree to which we're discussing genre in film and television, not necessarily literature.

Genre definitions are often confused for setting by many people who associate tell-tale visuals with similar story lines. Genre, of course, is not setting, not location, but story and how that story is told. A musical has no setting, it can take place in Hollywood at the advent of the sound era (Singin' in the Rain), in Paris during the fifties (An American in Paris) or in Russia in 1905 (Fiddler on the Roof). The location's not the thing, it's the telling of the story through song that is. Similarly, a western can take place in the desert (Stagecoach), a mountain valley (Shane) or outer space (Outland). It doesn't have to be in the west, it has to tell its story in a certain way, although, unlike any other genre, its very title, Western, denotes a location. A horror movie can be about fantastical monsters or down to earth serial killers and it can take place any place, any time. Again, setting doesn't matter, story does.

And so, while watching and enjoying Demon with the Glass Hand I couldn't help but think about science fiction and how it too relies on story, not location. Science fiction, to take its most basic definition straight from the first line of its entry on Wikipedia, "is a genre of fiction dealing with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology, often in a futuristic setting." Demon with a Glass Hand deals with technology directly as the thrust of its story. A man, Trent (Robert Culp), is being pursued by an alien race who want control of a glass computer attached to his wrist in the form of a hand. This alien race attacked earth 1,000 years into the future and have now chased Trent back through time to acquire the computer because only it knows what happened to humanity: all humans vanished without a trace after the invasion and the aliens began to mysteriously die off.

Demon with a Glass Hand takes place in the present day and almost entirely inside an abandoned office building. The location doesn't make it science fiction, the story does. To help understand that statement better, let's use Star Wars as an example.

Star Wars takes place in space, on distant planets and, most famously, in a galaxy far, far away. This has caused many to confuse location with story but the story is clearly one of mythological fantasy, not science fiction. The story is about dark lords and princesses and knights, not technology turned against man ala Blade Runner or The Terminal Man. It's not about the exploration of alien races ala 2001: A Space Odyssey or Close Encounters of the Third Kind although it clearly does include alien races of all kinds. But the story - the story - isn't about anything technical or scientific, it's about mythology.

Most people wouldn't look at a movie that takes place in France, say, Les Diaboliques, and happily claim, "It's a musical!"

"Why," you might ask.

"Because," they respond, "it takes place in France. Like Can-Can, Gigi, An American in Paris, Les Miserables..."

They continue because, well, a lot of musicals take place in France. But just because a movie takes place in France, that doesn't mean it's a musical, does it?

Star Wars runs into this same problem. "How's it not sci-fi? It takes place in space!" Yes. Yes, it does. But it's story is rooted in fantasy, adventure and mythology. It's comparable to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, not The Matrix trilogy. As Ebeneezer Scrooge might say, "There's more Mists of Avalon than Avatar about you."

But what does any of this have to do with me not liking science fiction. Because science fiction tends to mix the fantasy/mythological/action elements in these days and less the pure sci-fi. Star Wars goddamn space setting all but assured that the sci-fi of 2001: A Space Odyssey would take a back seat to sci-fi more concerned with action than ideas.

None of this is to say that a generous portion of sci-fi hasn't always done this anyway, but for every action-filled War of the Worlds there was a Destination Moon, Forbidden Planet, Day the Earth Stood Still or The Incredible Shrinking Man. Special effects played into all of those but it was the ideas held the movies together, not the action. When it comes to the ideas holding everything together it seems television is the last holdout for sci-fi purists (literature, of course, remains free of this problem).

Television gave us Star Trek (in all of its permutations), Space 1999, The X-Files and Lost which all concentrated on story over action. The cinema continues to deliver sci-fi but even the best of it, like Terminator (which borrows heavily from Ellison's Soldier episode of The Outer Limits), tends to cross genres and end up more as an action/thriller than pure sci-fi. Probably the best sci-fi movie I've seen in the last twenty years would be Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence which took a science fiction story and didn't back away from it by injecting large amounts of action and adventure. Another Spielberg sci-fi, Minority Report, does an excellent job as well but definitely leans more towards being classified as a mystery/thriller than science fiction. A.I. is pure sci-fi, and maybe that's why it's among my favorites in the genre even if movies like A.I. don't come along very often anymore.

So, do I still like science fiction movies? Yes, very much. I just don't like the more action/thriller oriented sci-fi movies of today, I suppose, which is kind of like being a fan of a dead language. I like it but no one uses it anymore and finding it in its pure form seems harder and harder, although it does exist (Moon, Primer). But for better or worse, most cinematic sci-fi now means sci-fi/action/thriller with no signs of turning back. As Caesar might say, "Alea iacta est."


Since I only mention the Star Wars genre mash-up briefly, I thought it might be of help to link to another article that covers it completely. It wasn't hard to find one and this one, Star Wars is not Science Fiction, seems to cover it more thoroughly than any other I found. It delves into sci-fi literature as well and raises many of the same points I raise here about location and setting but goes a bit further into what makes a story "science fictional" in its telling. I recommend it highly as a deeper examination of what I only touched on here.

The Town

Ben Affleck really likes Michael Mann's Heat. Like, really, really loves it. Like, it's his favorite movie ever. How do I know this? Because Affleck's second directorial feature, The Town, follows the template of Heat so closely, is so deeply indebted to its example in every way, that it might as well be a remake. Affleck plays Doug MacRay, the brains behind a gang of Boston bank robbers who run briskly paced jobs that could be mistaken for professional robberies if you ignore all the idiotic things that the script has these supposed crack thieves do over the course of the film. Heat was driven by the grudging professional respect and mutual intelligence of Robert De Niro's ace thief and Al Pacino's dogged police detective, so Affleck tries to develop a similar rivalry/bond between MacRay and the FBI agent trying to catch him, Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm). In some ways this is doomed to failure — Affleck and Hamm is simply not De Niro and Pacino, and there's nothing anyone can do about that — but the problems run deeper than that. Affleck can't develop the same epic but intimate scale that Mann so effortlessly infuses into his films, where the canvas might be sprawling but the characters within it are sharply defined. The characters of The Town lack that definition, and the relationships between them are consequently shallow. When Frawley half-admiringly calls his adversaries "the not-fucking-around crew" — after an armored car robbery that went so spectacularly, laughably wrong that the crooks ultimately escape only because the script says they must — it doesn't feel earned, it doesn't feel organic.

That's the case with a lot of things here. The Town isn't as deep or as smart as it clearly thinks it is, but it does have its charms. Affleck has a good feel for action, and his robbery scenes have energy and vigor to spare. Taken as a lightweight heist flick — its obvious cribbing from Heat aside — it's at least mildly enjoyable, and does a good job of conveying the hopeless cycle of these poor Boston guys who seem to have crime passed down to them in their blood from their equally lowlife fathers. As the Irish gangster Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite) tells MacRay's gang at one point, he looks at them and sees their fathers; he's an old guy who's been in this racket long enough to see gangs of sons replace their fathers. That's probably the film's most compelling subtext, this emphasis on the continuity of crime from one generation to the next within this cramped part of Boston that no one ever really gets out of.

Less compelling is the budding romance between MacRay and the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), who his gang had briefly taken hostage during the robbery that opens the film. Affleck seems to be going for the unlikely but surprisingly tender romance between De Niro and Amy Brenneman in Heat, but Mann developed those characters so that they were disarmingly right together. The romance in The Town just consistently feels unlikely and silly, despite a warm and nuanced performance from Hall as her character deals with the stress of the bank robbery's fallout. The drama is, in general, rather generic, just stock bits of childhood trauma that provide the characters an opportunity for ponderous soul-baring speeches. MacRay's mother left him when he was a kid, and Claire had a brother who died when she was young, though this bit of information then becomes merely a source for the clever catch phrase that Claire uses to alert MacRay to the feds' presence in her apartment when Affleck decides to rip off the farewell scene between Val Kilmer and Ashley Judd in, you guessed it, Heat.

That's not all he rips off. The film frequently feels like a collection of scenes and scenarios from Mann's heist classic. The final robbery, at Boston's Fenway Park, degenerates into a street battle between cops and crooks, with assault rifles blaring. In the midst of this chaos, the final run of MacRay's best friend James (Jeremy Renner, giving an edgy, slightly sinister performance that deepens the character far more than the script does) feels more than a little like a recreation of the final moments of Tom Sizemore's character in Heat. In the film's final act, MacRay even develops a thirst for vengeance that drives him much as De Niro's Neil McCauley in Heat.

But this is precisely where the biggest difference between The Town and its source arises. It's obvious, from his film's denouement, that Affleck is more of a romantic than Mann. Virtually no one could watch the final act of Heat without desperately hoping that Neil makes it out alive, that's he's able to evade capture and find his private paradise with the woman he loves, away from the life of violence and crime he'd made for himself. And virtually no one could watch the final act of Heat without knowing that Neil is doomed anyway, that his mythical "one last gig" will not be his last because he's gone into hiding on some tropical island. Neil is such a compelling character, as defined by Mann and De Niro, that one always wants to see him make it, even knowing he won't, and even despite everything's he done in his life. Affleck obviously watches Heat with that same yearning for Neil's success, and this is doubtless why he decided to give his own film a kind of happy ending for his own character — as though he could vicariously live out the escape and rebirth denied to Neil. Neil's desire for vengeance undid him, but MacRay is able to get his vengeance, he's able to get his escape, he's able to get his redemption by using his stolen money for good, he's even implicitly able to get his girl, who may come join him in his exile someday. Affleck is ducking away from darkness and complexity, delivering a would-be heartwarming ending in which the longtime crook redeems himself and gets away clean. It's singularly unsatisfying, and not only because of the cheesy sunset shot of a bearded MacRay looking out over a lake from his remote cabin.

What's obvious is that Affleck wanted to remake Heat without dealing with the complicated morality or deep, contradictory characters of Mann's film. The Town still has its moments, like the way James takes a sip of soda from a discarded fast food drink before making his suicidal final run at the cops: the kind of small, surprising, humanizing detail that is sorely needed in this film. The performances are largely solid, particularly Renner's James, who has an at times creepy bond with his childhood friend, and Postlethwaite as the kind of sinister, subtly nasty hood who might have fit well in one of Guy Ritchie's first couple of films. The only real exception is Blake Lively, as James' sister Krista, delivering a mumbling, over-the-top performance of such spectacular awfulness that her big dramatic moments induce only giggles. The problem with the film is not the cast, however, but the generic unoriginality of its script and the lack of anything substantial or un-borrowed to flesh out these clichés.

Films I Love #50: Cat's Cradle (Stan Brakhage, 1959)

Stan Brakhage's prolific and esoteric career as an avant-garde filmmaker is so packed with masterful works of art that it's difficult to pick a single film to represent him. The six-minute Cat's Cradle is only one of his great shorts, but it is perhaps the densest and most compact expression of what makes Brakhage's work so profound — and so profoundly moving. The film is an evocative montage of a single morning, comprised of repeating images shot in Brakhage's home: wallpaper, bedsheets, his cat, his wife Jane, himself, some friends, lamps, vases. Each image is onscreen for only seconds at a time, and yet each one has a potent sensual impact created by Brakhage's intuitive handling of light and color, and his feel for the frantic pace of his visual streams. The film is dominated by sensual reds and oranges, by images of golden light playing across a bed or a foot. Brakhage's camera dips in for intimate, hazy closeups of his wife or his cat, paying equal attention to the folds in Jane's clothes, the shadows etched into her face, or the wiry strands of whiskers projecting from the cat's cheeks.

The film is both visceral and meditative. Its rapid montage ensures that no single image ever lasts for very long; each precise yet casual framing is there and then gone again before it has fully registered. And yet the cumulative mood of the film is languid rather than frenetic, despite the pace of the editing. It creates a vivid and powerfully felt impression of a lazy morning, of lovers lounging around the house, enjoying one another's company, doing routine chores or doing nothing. The repetition of images enhances this impression: the same shots of Brakhage and Jane recur again and again, reinforcing the languor of this morning. This is a deeply affecting film, an ode to domesticity. It is sensual without being explicitly sexual; its pleasures, as in many of Brakhage's best films, are the pleasures of the world, the pleasures especially of vision and sensation.

My Take On The Busters *cough* Oscars...

OK, after months of speculation, the Oscar nominees have arrived. How many of you were satisfied with the lists?

I, for one, have stopped taking the Oscars seriously years ago; it is such an elitist and "inside" group, and we all should know by now that the politics involved have people winning awards that really have no business doing so. They throw out a bone every few years to someone that is Black, and it is always hailed and regaled as a "victory" to open doors, but afterward we are once again subjected to a few more years of complete and total white-washing. But it has gone beyond that...where are the accolades for Latinos? For Asians? For Eastern Indians?

Hollywood never, ever, EVER seems to understand that diversity makes life (and their lame awards show) interesting. Everyone remembers Monique winning last year, but can you name three others (be honest)?

There is an old saying that I have always remembered, taken from an ancient Chinese philosophy book, and it applies to the Academy in volumes:

"Diversity is actually an important and necessary ingredient, which adds creative spice to a group."

Film is universal! The stories told in ANY film are relevant to a good portion of the population, regardless of race. Until Hollywood and the Academy can get this through their heads, I am down with the mission of AFFRM. If you don't know what AFFRM is, please click here and support! And oh yeah, I will NOT be watching the show this year...cheers!

Please check out CNN's article on this issue...the comments over there are sincerely pathetic and sad, and will boggle the mind. I am convinced, more than ever before, that we are completely unsupported in Hollywood, and must step away from the studios and an intolerant audience in order to have a system that allows us to create and be heard. Racism in conventional Hollywood is apparently NOT disappearing anytime soon, and has zero interest in doing so:

Congratulations Are in Order

The Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Costume were announced this morning and several of the lucky winners will soon be clearing space off the mantel. And yes, above is Vivien Leigh finding a spot for her Oscar for Gone With the Wind (1939).

And the nominees are...

Best Costume

The King's Speech:  Jenny Beavan, Costume Designer

This nomination was totally expected as the costumes are impeccable, well designed and researched and most importantly, not distracting. Of special note were the King's bespoke suits and the Queen Mum's hats. (I am also hoping vintage fur was used). This is not Beavan's first time at bat as she brought home the gold for A Room With a View.

True Grit:   Mary Zophres, Costume Designer

The perfect costume can immediately help an actor get into character and Zophres's designs for Rooster Cogburn's overcoat, Lucky Ned's wooly angora chaps  and La Boeuf's buckskin were as realistic as possible.  As Jeff Bridges notes, "You didn't have to do much acting to feel as if you were in those times."

The Tempest:  Sandy Powell, Costume Designer

Powell's  courtly attire gives a lush feel to the Julie Taymor's adapation of the Shakespearean play. Powell won her third Oscar last year for her period designs for The Young Victoria (prior awards include Shakespeare in Love and The Aviator).

Alice in Wonderland: Colleen Atwood, Costume Designer

Actors Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen) and Anne Hathaway (White Queen) were almost unrecognizable as they were transformed into characters of the beloved Lewis Carroll classic.  Colleen Atwood wanted a more authentic look with Elizabethan and Victorian references in the costumes.

I Am Love: Antonnella Cannarozzi, Costume Designer

Cannarozzi collaborated with Jil Sander and Fendi for sheer perfection. The tailor made suits, Swinton's tangerine sheaths, Berenson in mink cape and Hermes were very fitting for this period drama of a wealthy Milanese family at the turn of the century.

Best Art Direction

The King's Speech: Eve Stewart, Production Designer and Judy Farr, Set Decorator

The Academy loves a period film and this nomination is certainly well deserved. Stewart had the
difficult  task of designing the world of the royals and commoners on a budget. From Logue's shabby/chic artist's studio to the stately rooms of Buckingham and Balmoral Palaces, Stewart and
have created some of the most memorable interiors of the year.

Alice in Wonderland:  Robert Stromberg, Production Designer and Karen O'Hara, Set Decorator

The Academy also tends to award fantasy films and this year proved to be one of the most fruitful with director Tim Burton's Alice and Wonderland leading the pack. Designed by Robert Stromberg (who won for last year's highly inventive designs for Avatar), the effects are pure "Burtonesque", alot of colorful digital eye candy as seen in Wonderland the Underland (think beneath the rabbit hole).

Inception: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Production Designer and Larry Dias and Doug Mowat, Set Decorator

Is it a dream or is it reality? That was the challenge Dyas faced in designing the sets for Inception who literally conceived the plans on the walls of director Christopher Nolan's garage. From the dream city built by Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) in his own mind to the Japanese castle, 20th century architecture played a major role.

True Grit:  Jess Gonchor, Production Designer and Nancy Haigh, Set Decorator

No swinging saloon doors here, Gonchor and   meticulously designed a post Civil War town (Granger, Texas became Fort Smith, Arkansas) to represent "America on the uprise" which meant brick buildings with awnings and balconies.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part One,  Stuart Craig, Production Designer and Stephanie McMillen, Set Decorator

The ceremony will be telecast on Sunday, February 27th. Good luck to all!

Photo Credits: The Weinstein Company, Magnolia Pictures, Miramax, Walt Disney, Paramount, Fox Searchlight, Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures

Oscar Nominations

The Oscar nominations were announced just over an hour ago, and no big surprises were revealed, with THE KING'S SPEECH leading the way with twelve nods, including Best Picture, Actor and Director. THE SOCIAL NETWORK picked up ten nominations and TRUE GRIT eight. Nice to see WINTER"S BONE on the Best Picture list.

The full list:





















In the Cutting Room

It's been a week since I posted here and I guess I should have mentioned this earlier but I didn't think it would take this long. I'm working on a couple of short movies right now (montage/commercial for one, pointless short subject for the other) and that's kept me away from writing. Should just be another week.

For the commercial, I'm attempting to bring together some noir elements in a short montage to promote the For the Love of Film Blogathon coming up very soon, hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren. It's been a difficult process. Last year, I put together two commercials for the blogathon but, frankly, that was a lot easier. We were fundraising to restore one or more of the films located in a New Zealand film archive and all I had to do was piece together some footage that the National Film Preservation Foundation sent me, lay down a track of my own music for one and Beethoven's for the other, edit them to about a minute in length and I was good to go.

This time, however, it's film noir and everyone knows film noir. Do I try to include a clip from every famous noir? No, simply not possible unless I want the commercial to run twenty minutes and lose my mind in the process. How about picking and choosing then? Well, I have to but what to choose? The initial problem came down to this: How inclusive do I want to be? Should I just do classic black and white noir from the forties and fifties or include color films from the time (Niagara) as well as modern noirs from later (Chinatown, The Long Goodbye, The Conversation, Body Heat)? How about sci-fi noir like Blade Runner? Shouldn't Mullholland Dr be in there somewhere? Finally, to keep the aesthetic consistent within the piece, I decided to go with just the classic black and white noir of the forties and fifties, the kind most readily associated with the genre. It makes for a better visual presentation of ideas than trying to get everything into one mix.

Then I wondered about the music. Should it be the kind of cool jazz one associates with noir but, oddly, never really appeared in much or any of it in the forties and early fifties? No, I felt that limited the piece in tone when I was going for something more expansive and broad. So I decided on a modern piece of electronica instead, kind of a compromise in leaving out the modern stuff but including music that spoke to the piece emotionally.

Now I just have to finish the damn thing and hope the music I've chosen doesn't cause it to be removed immediately upon completion because if it does I don't have any backup. I haven't written any music that really works with it and don't want to have to although I'm sure I could tin-pan-alley my way through a composition in a day or so if need be.

So, that's what I'm doing.

And that short subject? My answer film to Warhol's Empire. I call it, Chrysler. Here's what I've got so far. Just need twenty more hours of this and I'm golden. See you later in the week!