Is Benjamin Marra An “American Psycho”?


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

In a way, I suppose, it makes sense that a cartoonist as image-conscious as Benjamin Marra would find “inspiration” in the ultimate story of excess and artifice, American Psycho, but for a guy who’s spent most of his career deliberately confounding readers as to how much of what he’s doing is sincere and how much is, as the Brits would say, a “piss-take,” his decision to do a bunch of pencil-and-ink drawings based not on Brett Easton Ellis’ novel but, specifically, on the Mary Harron cinematic adaptation starring Christian Bale is, if anything, too obvious — after all, when you strip away any pretense of “spoof” from Marra’s work, you rob it of a pretty good chunk of whatever ostensible “power” it may possess. “I just dig this shit” is an honest enough statement to make, however surreptitiously, but when you steadfastly refuse to answer the natural follow-up question…

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30 Days of Noir #29: Johnny O’Clock (dir by Robert Rossen)


The 1947 film, Johnny O’Clock, invites us to take a behind-the-scenes look at the sleazy and sordid world of casino management.  If that doesn’t intrigue you, just consider that the man character is named Johnny O’Clock.

Seriously, that’s a really kickass name.  I have to admit that, if my last name was O’Clock, I would be tempted to name my child Four Twenty.  But, that said, Johnny is a pretty good name too.  On the one hand, he’s got an all-American name like Johnny but he’s also got a last name — O’Clock — that promises mystery and danger.  Johnny O’Clock is also played by Dick Powell, who was always good at playing tough guys who had a heart of gold.  (Along with appearing in several noir films, Dick Powell was also the first actor to ever play the famed detective, Philip Marlowe.)

Johnny O’Clock is a partner in a casino with Guido Marchettis (Thomas Gomez).  Johnny and Guido are longtime business partners who find the future of their casino threatened when a hat-check girl named Harriet Hobson (Nina Foch) dies under mysterious circumstances.  Even though the crime scene was clearly set up to make it appear as if Harriet committed suicide, it doesn’t take Inspector Koch (Lee J. Cobb) long to figure out that Harriet was actually murdered.

Who killed Harriet?

Was it her boyfriend, Chuck Blayden (Jim Bannon)?  Chuck is a corrupt cop who has been trying to convince Guido to force Johnny out of the casino and instead hire Chuck instead.

Or is the murderer Guido’s wife, Nellie (Ellen Drew)?  Nellie used to be Johnny’s girlfriend and, as soon becomes obvious, she still has feelings for him.  When she attempted to give Johnny a romantic present, Johnny’s response was to give it to Harriet so that Harriet could return it.  Did Johnny’s rejection of Nellie push her over the edge and did she take her anger out on Harriet?

Or maybe the murderer was Guido.  Guido, after all, is a rather shady sort.  Maybe Harriet discovered something that she shouldn’t have.

Then again, you could also say the same thing about Johnny O’Clock….

Inspector Koch isn’t the only person determined to get to the truth!  Harriet’s sister, Nancy (Evelyn Keyes), also shows up and starts to investigate on her own.  Soon, she and Johnny are falling in love but Johnny knows that the situation is too dangerous for either him or Nancy to stick around the casino.  He starts to make plans to flee with her to South America but he’s got just a few things to do before they can leave….

Johnny O’Clock was the first film to be directed by Robert Rossen, who is often credited as being one of the most important filmmaers in development of American film noir.  A year after Johnny O’Clock was released, Rossen’s All The King’s Men would win best picture.  Rossen’s career was derailed when he was accused of being a communist and blacklisted in the 50s.  Like Elia Kazan, Rossen initially took the fifth but he later relented and “named names” to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.  Though Rossen would later direct the Oscar-nominated The Hustler in 1962, it can be argued that Rossen’s career never recovered from either being blacklisted or from naming names.

Clocking in at 93 minutes, Johnny O’Clock is probably about 20 minutes too long and the murder mystery is never really as intriguing as you might hope it would be.  On the positive side, the casino is stylish and the cast is full of noir talent.  Dick Powell is a likable, if occasionally bull-headed, protagonist and Lee J. Cobb is well-cast as Inspector Koch.  (The film has some fun contrasting the glitz of the casino with the shabbiness of Koch.)  Burnett Guffey’s black-and-white cinematography gives the film a properly noirish look and, while the pace may be slow, the occasional bursts of action are well-handled.  The scene where Johnny is nearly the victim of a drive-by shooting is particularly exciting.  Johnny O’Clock is a flawed noir but the cast is good enough to hold the interest of fans of the genre.

The New York Film Critics Circle Honors Roma, Hawke, and Hall!


The New York Film Critics Circle announced their picks for the best of 2018 earlier today.  The victories for Roma, Regina King, and Richard E. Grant are not surprising, as all three of them have been getting awards buzz for months.

Ethan Hawke’s victory for First Reformed is a bit more surprising because, even though his performance was widely acclaimed, I think a lot of people assumed that First Reformed came out too early in the year to be an awards contender.  (That’s proving to not be the case, which is a good thing because Hawke’s performance definitely deserves consideration.)

The biggest surprise was Regina Hall’s victory for Support the Girls, a film that I haven’t seen yet,  Is this going to lead to Oscar glory or is this going to be one of those fluke awards that occasionally happens during awards season?  Time will tell but it’s unexpected awards like this that make me love this time of year.

(And yes, I will be watching Support the Girls as soon as I can.  That’s another good thing about awards season.  It can inspire you to take a chance on movies that you might otherwise have missed.)

BEST PICTURE: “Roma” (Netflix)
BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma” (Netflix)
BEST ACTOR: Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed” (A24)
BEST ACTRESS: Regina Hall, “Support the Girls” (Magnolia Pictures)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk” (Annapurna Pictures)
BEST SCREENPLAY: “First Reformed” by Paul Schrader (A24)
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma” (Netflix)
BEST ANIMATED FILM: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman (Sony Pictures Animation)
BEST NON-FICTION AWARD: “Minding the Gap” by Bing Liu (Hulu)
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Cold War” by Pawel Pawlikowski – Poland (Amazon Studios)
BEST FIRST FILM: Bo Burnham, “Eighth Grade” (A24)
SPECIAL AWARD: David Schwartz, stepping down as Chief Film Curator at Museum of the Moving Image after 33 years AND Kino Classics Box Set “Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers”

 

Here Are The 2018 Satellite Nominations!


Awards season has just begun, which means that it’s time for the International Press Academy to announce their nominees for the 23rd Satellite Awards.  If you’ve never heard of the Satellite Awards, they’re like the Golden Globes, just with even less credibility.  For instance, the Satellite people are the one who nominated The Wolf of Wall Street for best picture, despite having not seen the film.

That said, the Satellite nominations are good way to gauge which films are currently getting awards buzz.  Let’s put it like this: getting a Satellite nomination is not going to automatically translate into Oscar recognition.  But it doesn’t hurt.

Below are the film nominations.  (In the interest of space, I’m only posting the film nominations.  If you want to see which tv shows picked up nominations, click here.)

Film

Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Major, Independent or International

  • Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
  • Glenn Close, “The Wife”
  • Viola Davis, “Widows”
  • Nicole Kidman, “Destroyer”
  • Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
  • Rosamund Pike, “Private War”

Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Major, Independent or International

  • Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
  • Ben Foster, “ Leave No Trace”
  • Ryan Gosling, “First Man
  • Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed”
  • Lucas Hedges, “Boy Erased”
  • Robert Redford, “The Old Man & the Gun”

Actress in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Major, Independent or International

  • Emily Blunt, “Mary Poppins Returns”
  • Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
  • Trine Dyrholm “Nico, 1988″
  • Elsie Fisher, “Eighth Grade”
  • Lady Gaga, “A Star is Born”
  • Constance Wu, “Crazy Rich Asians”

Actor in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Major, Independent or International

  • Bradley Cooper, “A Star is Born”
  • Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Mary Poppins Returns”
  • Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
  • Nick Robinson, “Love, Simon
  • John David Washington, “BlacKkKlansman”

Actress in a Supporting Role
Major, Independent, Comedy & Musical or International

  • Claire Foy, “First Man
  • Nicole Kidman, “Boy Erased”
  • Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Margot Robbie, “Mary Queen of Scots”
  • Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
  • Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Actor in a Supporting Role
Major, Independent, Comedy & Musical or International

  • Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
  • Timothée Chalamet, “Beautiful Boy”
  • Russell Crowe, “Boy Erased”
  • Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
  • Sam Elliott, “A Star is Born”
  • Richard Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Motion Picture, Drama
Major

  • Black Panther,” Walt Disney
  • First Man,” Universal
  • “Hereditary,” A24
  • “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Annapurna Pictures
  • “Mary Queen of Scots,” Focus Features
  • “Widows,”  Twentieth Century Fox

Motion Picture, Independent

  • “BlacKkKlansman,” Focus Features
  • “Eighth Grade,” A24
  • “First Reformed,” A24
  • “Leave No Trace,” Bleecker Street Media
  • “Private Life,” Netflix
  • “A Private War,” Aviron Pictures

Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Major, Independent or International

  • “Crazy Richard Asians,” Warner Bros.
  • “The Favourite,” Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • “Green Book,” Universal Pictures
  • “Mary Poppins Returns,” Walt Disney
  • “Nico, 1988,” Magnolia Pictures
  • “A Star is Born,” Warner Bros.

Motion Picture, International Film

  • “The Cakemaker,” Israel
  • “Cold War,” Poland
  • “The Guilty,” Denmark
  • “I Am Not A Witch,” United Kingdom
  • “Roma,” Mexico
  • “Shoplifters,” Japan

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media

  • “Incredibles 2,” Walt Disney
  • “Isle of Dogs,” Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • “Liz and the Blue Bird,” Eleven Arts
  • “Mirai,” GKIDS Films
  • “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Walt Disney
  • “Ruben Brandt, Collector,” Sony Pictures Classics

Motion Picture, Documentary

  • “Crime + Punishment,” Hulu
  • “Free Solo,” National Geographic
  • “Minding the Gap,” Hulu
  • “RBG,” Magnolia Pictures
  • “Three Identical Strangers,”  Focus Features
  • “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” Focus Features

Director

  • Bradley Cooper, “A Star is Born”
  • Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”
  • Peter Farrelly, “Green Book”
  • Barry Jenkins, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
  • Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”

Screenplay, Original

  • Bo Burnham, “Eighth Grade”
  • Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”
  • Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara, “The Favourite”
  • John Krasinski, Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, “A Quiet Place
  • Paul Schrader, “First Reformed”
  • Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie & Peter Farrelly, “Green Book”

Screenplay, Adapted

  • Bradley Cooper, Eric Roth, “A Star is Born”
  • Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, “Leave No Trace”
  • Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
  • Barry Jenkins, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows, “The Death of Stalin”
  • Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Wilmott, Charlie Wachtel, “BlacKkKlansman”

Original Score

  • Thomas Ades, “Colette”
  • Terence Blanchard, “BlacKkKlansman”
  • Nicholas Britell, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Alexandre Desplat, “The Sisters Brothers”
  • Justin Hurwitz, “First Man”
  • Hans Zimmer, “Widows”

Original Song

  • “All The Stars” from “Black Panther”
  • “Can You Imagine That?” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
  • “Requiem for a Private War” from “A Private War”
  • “Revelation” from “Boy Erased”
  • “Shallow” from “A Star is Born”
  • “Strawberries & Cigarettes” from “Love, Simon

Cinematography

  • Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”
  • James Laxton, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Matthew Libatique, “A Star is Born”
  • Robbie Ryan, “The Favourite”
  • Rachel Morrison, “Black Panther
  • Lukasz Zal, “Cold War”

Visual Effects

  •   “Avengers: Infinity War,” Walt Disney
  •   “Black Panther,” Walt Disney
  •   “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Warner Bros.
  •   “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” Universal
  •   “Rampage,” Warner Bros.
  •   “Ready Player One,” Warner Bros.

Film Editing

  • Barry Alexander Brown, “BlacKkKlansman”
  • Jay Cassidy, “A Star is Born”
  • Tom Cross, “First Man
  • Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”
  • Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Joe Walker, “Widows”

Sound (Editing and Mixing)

  • Black Panther,” Walt Disney
  • First Man,” Universal
  • “Mary Poppins Returns,” Walt Disney
  • A Quiet Place,” Paramount
  • “Roma,”  Netflix
  • “A Star Is Born,” Warner Bros.

Art Direction and Production Design

  • Black Panther,” Walt Disney
  • “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,”  Warner Bros.
  • “The Favourite,” Fox Searchlight
  • First Man,” Universal
  • “Mary Poppins Returns,” Walt Disney
  • “Roma,” Magnolia Pictures

Costume Design

  • Colleen Atwood, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”
  • Erin Benach, “A Star is Born”
  • Alexandra Byrne, “Mary Queen of Scots”
  • Ruth E. Carter, “Black Panther
  • Andrea Flesch, “Colette”
  • Sandy Powell, “The Favourite”

 

 

Heavy Hitter: THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK (Warner Brothers 1974)


cracked rear viewer


The last time we saw BILLY JACK , he was being hauled off to jail – and raking in about 60 million bucks at the box office! The eponymous hero of the surprise 1973 indie hit struck a chord with young audiences disillusioned with the Establishment’s endless wars and crushing their hobnail boots on the throats of dissidents (like I always say, the more things change…), and cheered as Billy Jack struck karate blows and Hapkido kicks in the cause of freedom. A sequel was inevitable, with Tom Laughlin returning as star/director/co-writer (along with wife Delores Taylor, who plays Jean) in a film loaded with political and spiritual philosophies designed to open those young moviegoers’ hearts and minds (not to mention wallets!).

But while BILLY JACK (and its predecessor, BORN LOSERS ) are fun flicks, THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK suffers from that dreaded disease many filmmakers are prone to…

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Music Video Of The Day: Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode (1990, directed by Anton Corbijn)


As the old saying goes, heavy is the head that wears the crown.

The video for Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence is simplicity in itself.  Dave Gahan plays a king who searches the world, deck chair in hand, for a little silence.  His quest takes him to the Scottish Highlands, the beaches of Portugal, and even the Swiss Alps.

This video was directed by Anton Corbijn, who has directed many videos for both Depeche Mode and U2 but who is probably destined to be forever remembered for directing the video for Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box.  Corbijn has also directed a handful of films, including the Ian Curtis biopic, Control, and Life, which was about the friendship between James Dean and Life photographer Dennis Stock.

As for Enjoy the Silence, it was Depeche Mode’s highest charting song in the U.S.  It was also later covered by the former First Lady of France, Carla Bruni.