Angel Heart. Love the mood and atmosphere. A nice blend of noir and horror, sort of ambling along as our PI reluctantly goes where the clues take him. Mickey Rourke was super charismatic. Haven’t seen much with him aside from the recent stuff (Iron Man 2, The Wrestler, and the small bit in Man on Fire).
L.A. Confidential. I think I’ve re-watched this on accident two or three times. Somehow it just doesn’t stick, slides right out of my memory.
I Walk Alone. Spins out of control really nicely! Solid.
Thief. So great. This was the first time I’d noticed a couple cameos from Manhunter stars: Dennis Farina (Manhunter’s Jack Crawford) as a henchman and William Petersen (profiler Will Graham) as a bouncer at the bar where Caan is late for his date. A few other nice camera/editing odds and ends I appreciated this time around:
- During the diamond exchange in the diner, I like how he starts unwrapping one of the packages, then pauses, and the camera cuts away when the waitress arrives.
- After Caan barges into the office, the blocking follows the shifting of power. Caan moves from the visitor’s chair in the owner’s office, then parallel to the desk, then moves behind the desk and forces the owner into the guest’s chair.
- When using a tracking device to misdirect the cops, the camera tells the story as it zooms past three or four cars, then fixes on the bus.
- The wide shots of the monolithic safe at the big heist me of similar shots at the El Paso bank in For a Few Dollars More.
- Just about 99% of the movie is urban, but the final setting is in comfortable suburbia (the sort of life that Caan has been working toward). The climactic scene at the mob boss’s house is nearly silent up until the last moments, and then there’s a crane up into the trees…
One last bit of awesomeness is Willie Nelson’s character, Okla, dispensing some perfect life advice:
Lie to no one. If there’s somebody close to you, you’ll ruin it with a lie. If they’re a stranger, who the fuck are they you gotta lie to them?
Lost letters worth thousands. A family trying to uncover the truth about a man all mixed up in the glamour and the seediness of L.A. between the wars. And a Hollywood screenwriter who stood to gain a lot from any story I might write. This was L.A. noir.
Nightcrawler. This is at or near the top of my 2014 favorites. Gyllenhaal and Russo are great. A warning about the easy path from consumer to witness to amateur to professional to accomplice. Joblessness, economic precarity makes that transition even easier. Business theories unmoored from real flesh and blood humanity are worthless. Though the context here is metro network news, it also works as an indictment of CNN (et al.) and international affairs. Promote violence to sell more violence. Think globally, act locally. I love the moment during Bloom’s first monologue in the studio, where this laughably sentimental soundtrack eases in, cleverly undermining the creepster ravings. It’s a wink to the audience – “Can you believe this nut?“ Of course not. I think I might see this one again. It’d make a good L.A. nighttime adventure moral compromise double-feature with Collateral.
Pitfall. Aw, man. I watched this at the end of last month, so now everything is out of order. Anyway, really dug this one. A guy does some really dumb things while on the job, and the universe exacts its toll. Raymond Burr is so awesome – always loved him since watching Perry Mason as a kid. Reminds me of a portly cross between Kirk Douglas and Philip Seymour Hoffman. What a perfect weaselly creepy charmer.
Miami Vice. This second time around, I was more struck with 1) the noir-iness of the whole thing, and 2) the emphasis on non-verbal communication (gesture, expression, eye contact exchanges, posture, observation & reaction) instead of dialogue. It’s pretty compact storytelling. My first review – I might bump it to number 4 or 5 in my Michael Mann rankings now. Roderick Heath’s review is a must-read.
The show out-noired noir by recognizing that the most extreme context for modern alienation was not the mean streets of the detective story but a white-collar bureaucracy that extended infinitely above the main protagonists — literally into space — and that threatened to control them without their knowing how or why.
The Killing. I’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey four or five times at least, and it’s fantastic, but watching The Shining a few years ago really killed my interest in Stanley Kubrick’s work. This one resurrects it. Awesome camera and soundtrack and a great set of characters. Multiple perspectives and time cuts. Also touches on some of the practical aspects of dealing with piles and piles of money.