SUNSET BOULEVARD (Paramount 1950): Film Noir or Hollywood Horror Story?

“Sunset Boulevard” airs tonight on TCM at 8:00pm EST

cracked rear viewer

“I AM big. It’s the pictures that got small”

  • -Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in SUNSET BOULEVARD

I hadn’t seen Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD for quite some time until a recent rewatching. I’ve told you before how much I love a good Hollywood behind-the-scenes movie, and this one is no exception. But as I watched the tale unfold, I began to see the film in a different light. SUNSET BOULEVARD is always called a film noir classic, but this go-round found me viewing it through a lens of horror.

It’s certainly got all the elements of film noir. There’s protagonist William Holden, trapped in a bottomless downward spiral. Gloria Swanson is the femme fatale who ensnares Holden and pulls him into her dark web. The cinematography of John F. Seitz portrays a shadow-world of despair. And we’ve got Billy Wilder directing, the man behind noir masterpiece DOUBLE INDEMNITY, working…

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Music Video Of The Day: Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) by Pink Floyd (1979, directed by Gerald Scarfe)

38 years ago today, Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) started a four week run at No.1 on the US singles chart.

When most people think about the video for Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2), they probably remember the scenes from Alan Parker’s Pink Floyd — The Wall, with the school children marching into the tunnel and being dropped into the meat grinder.  However, the “official” video came out shortly before the release of the Parker film.  It was directed by Gerald Scarfe, who was responsible for the film’s animated scenes.  (Clips from Scarfe’s animation for The Trial and Waiting for The Worms are prominently featured in the video.)  It also features the teacher puppet that was used whenever The Wall was performed in concert.

The children in the video are not the same children who sang on the track.  The children on the track were all students at Islington Green School.  When the track, with its chorus of “we don’t need no education/we don’t need no thought control,” was released, it proved to be so controversial that the head teacher at Islington Green forbade the students from performing the song on Top of The Pops and from appearing in the video.  In fact, the members of the chorus heard in the song did not even receive any royalties from its success until 2004.


Film Review: Tomb Raider (dir by Roar Uthaug)

It seems somewhat appropriate that the new Lara Croft is played by an actress best known for starring in a (very good) movie about artificial intelligence because the latest Tomb Raider film is so generic that it feels as if it could have been written by a robot.

Now, before I get too critical,I should acknowledge that the first 30 minutes of the film is actually a lot of fun.  When we first meet Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), she’s making her living a bike courier in London.  She delivers food to the hungry, except for when she’s boxing or engaging in bicycle races.  Despite the fact that she comes from a fabulously wealthy family, Lara refuses to accept her inheritance because accepting it would mean acknowledging that her missing father, explorer Richard Croft (Dominic West), is dead.  For those 30 minutes, the film has a fun, kinetic feel to it. As I watched those scenes, I realized that I’d actually be more than happy to watch a full-length film just about people racing around London on bicycles.

(Of course, there’d have to be some dancing, too.  There always has to be dancing.)

But then Kristin Scott-Thomas shows up and informs Lara that, unless she claims her inheritance, Andrew’s estate will be sold off.  At this point, the whole film starts to go downhill.  Naturally, before signing the papers that would declare Andrew to be deceased, Lara stumbles across one final message from her father.  In the message, he asks her to destroy all of his research.  Instead, Lara decides to go to Hong Kong so that she can investigate her father’s disappearance.

(Before she can leave, she has to get money from a pawnbroker who is played, in a rather lengthy cameo, by Nick Frost.  Frost mostly seems to be there so that the audience can go, “Hey, it’s Nick Frost!”)

You can probably already guess everything that happens once Lara arrives in Hong Kong.  It’s hardly a spoiler to inform you that Richard’s not dead and that he’s spent the last few years on an isolated island, trying to prevent the bad guys from tracking down an ancient tomb, one that Richard believes will destroy the world if it’s discovered.  It’s also not a spoiler to tell you that Lara spends a lot of time running through the jungle and trying to escape from collapsing caves.  That’s pretty much what you would expect from a movie called Tomb Raider but, even though the film is presumably giving the audience what they want, it just falls flat.

The problem is that, with the exception of those opening scenes in London, this version of Tomb Raider just isn’t much fun.  As good an actress as she is, Alicia Vikander never really seems comfortable in the role of being an action girl.  Vikander’s great when she’s racing around London and refusing her inheritance but, once she finds herself in the jungle, she just seems lost.  In fact, the only person who seems to be more lost than Alicia Vikander is Walton Goggins, who goes through the motion’s as the film’s villain but who never seems to be that invested in the character one way or the other.  Among the main cast, only Dominic West appears to be enjoying himself.  There’s nothing subtle about West’s performance but that’s exactly what a film like this needs.  Director Roar Uthaug is obviously comfortable with directing action scenes but there’s little of the wit or attention to detail necessary for this film to truly make an impression.

It’s not a terrible movie, don’t get me wrong.  Though it seems like it takes forever for Lara to actually reach it, the tomb is nicely realized and the film features a great score from Junkie XL.  But, ultimately, the most memorable thing about this new Tomb Raider is how forgettable it is.

Music Video of the Day: Call My Name by Priest (2018, dir by Courtney F. Sell)

Today’s music video of the day is the just-released video for Call My Name by Priest.  This song is taken from Priest’s latest album, New Flesh.

Reading the comments on YouTube, it would appear that several people are of the opinion that this video has a Girl With The Dragon Tattoo feel to it.  Myself, I’d say that this video has more in common with David Cronenberg than David Fincher.  I mean, just the title of the album brings to mind Cronenberg’s Videodrome.

That said, I have to admit that, for me, the imagery in the video mostly brought to mind Jean Rollin’s 1970 film, The Nude Vampire.  

Jean Rollin’s The Nude Vampire

As anyone who has regularly read this site over the years can tell you, reminding me of a Jean Rollin film is always a good thing.



Let Some Of Your Time Be Spent On Alex Nall’s “Let Some Word That Is Heard Be Yours”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

The day that I write this review, March 20th, 2018, marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of one of the kindest, most sincere, most genuinely good people this country — perhaps even this world — has ever produced. A man for whom the words “legend” and “icon” are, somehow, too small — even though he would no doubt balk at being referred to as either. A man with more genuine compassion and love in his heart than perhaps anyone we’ll ever see in the public sphere again. A man who cared for every child on the planet as if they were his own and who makes me want to believe that there really is a heaven for his soul to have ascended to after his death. I’m speaking, of course, of the singularly brilliant, compassionate, kind, and frankly beautiful (in the truest sense of the word) Fred Rogers, creator…

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