We’ve been watching the 2011 Mildred Pierce HBO series. It’s wonderful, but I am really cheesed off at Amazon Instant Video and the terrible quality that I pay money for. I guess the $99 a year for Prime is technically for shipping, but I use Instant Video and the Kindle Lending Library and lots of other services offered “free” with Prime at least as much as I use the “free” shipping (all the quotes are because I pay $99 a year for this “free” stuff) and I think I should be able to actually USE the services I pay for.
BUT NO. On Tuesday, we watched on the PS3 and the video paused to buffer or some shit literally every 30 seconds, making it totally unwatchable. When we’d been watching for over 30 minutes and had seen less than 15 minutes of the episode (it’s a 5-part mini-series), we turned it off. We tried again on Thursday night and it played just fine, but the picture was weird and blurry–the way it sometimes looks for the first few seconds, but forever. We switched to Amazon on the WiiU and the picture quality improved dramatically, but Will says it is often super terrible on his work computer, where he will often put something on while he does paperwork. So it’s not necessarily a Sony vs. Nintendo issue.
ANYWAY. The series is A++++++++++++++++ and has reminded me how much I hate
history fiction’s greatest monster, Veda Pierce. Evan Rachel Wood plays her in the final episode of the series (which we haven’t seen yet), but younger Veda is played brilliantly by Morgan Turner.
I’m having a hard time this week with feeling like my feelings don’t matter to anyone else, so it’s kind of hard to watch Veda being her monstrous self. Last night Grace sneered at the macaroni and cheese because “It’s homemade” (VEDA) and today Sam told me he’d rather wear a sweatshirt than a sweater I knitted, because sweaters “have holes.”
PITY, PARTY OF ONE.
At least Grace will wear things I knitted. Too bad Sam hates cheese.
Here’s what I’m up to this month:
We watched Laura, which we haven’t seen in…I dunno, fifteen years? It turns out that I had misremembered a major plot point, which made the actual reveal in the movie very interesting.
We watched Sunset Boulevard, which somehow neither of us had ever seen. It was…wow. Gloria Swanson is amazing. William Holden was also wonderful as the World’s No. 1 Manbaby. Ugh, I hated Joe so much.
I haven’t done much reading, but I did crack open A Century Of Noir and note which stories are written by women (only five of them, UGH). I’m starting with one by Leigh Brackett.
My big plans for the second half of the month:
Mildred Pierce is one of my favorite stories, and I love the 1945 version. I’m really looking forward to this one!
ETA: I totally forgot that Will and I are also planning to watch Gaslight. He gave me a copy last Valentine’s Day, because he is hilarious. I love this movie, and cannot fucking believe that Charles Boyer is credited about Ingrid Bergman.
I wish I could pretend that two books in one month is a lousy accomplishment, but these days it’s pretty good for me. And for both books to be recent roman noir, written by ladies?
Kim Cooper is the driving force behind the 1947 Project, which turned into Esotouric, the crime bus tours that someday I will have both the time and money to go on. Mary McCoy is a friend of a friend, with whom I bonded over Code Name Verity–I mentioned that I’d recently read a historical novel in which the characters knew how to knit and it wasn’t a thing because everyone knew how to knit, and she asked if perhaps it was Verity, and we became blood sisters on the spot (not really). Mary is a librarian and was a writer for Kim’s project On Bunker Hill.
Basically, these ladies are who I want to be when I grow up. And they’ve both written outstanding novels. The Kept Girl features a 1920s Raymond Chandler following a trail of money and missing persons and uncovering a strange cult. Dead To Me (out in March), set in the late 40s, is about a teenage girl investigating the attempted murder of her older sister, whom she hasn’t seen or heard from in four years. Both capture the voice and setting of period noir perfectly, give a great peek into Los Angeles past, and utterly captivated me.
a.k.a. white dude problems
Oh man, this movie has a lot of Australian men in it. It’s practically just an accent contest.
It also has zero women in it doing anything other than moving the men’s stories along.
And zero people of color doing anything other than being criminals or victims.
(There is one woman of color! She is there for two scenes: one naked and bloody after being gang raped, and one clothed where she admits she lied about what time the rape occurred. Three cheers for diversity.)
Putting that aside, this is a pretty great story of corruption and betrayal. The performances are SO FUCKING GREAT. Even Kim Basinger, whose resemblance to Veronica Lake is not great. And I know that shouldn’t bother me as much as it does–and honestly, this time around I was able to see it more–but damn. That’s a pretty huge leap to ask an audience to make, seeing as a good portion of the movie is devoted to people talking about her resemblance to Veronica Lake.
The lighting, while mostly natural, is very bright in this picture, and the film is color. Overall, I’d say it’s shot more like an action thriller (which is kind of is?) than film noir. But the feeling is certainly noiry.
I found the voice-over and on-screen typing in the opening pretty distracting. I don’t remember minding it any of the other times I’ve seen it. But this time, I wondered why we were getting the Hush-Hush version of the story, when the rest of the movie is from the cops’ perspective.
For all of these complaints, I really love this movie. I’d love it more if I felt like it either treated women like people or was making a point about the way women are treated, but it’s a great story full of great performances.
Mildred Pierce is an unusual film noir. It’s a woman’s story, entirely, in an era when women didn’t get to have their stories told. Made in 1945 and set in the early 30s, Mildred Pierce is about Mildred Pierce and nothing else. I can’t think of another film noir like it. Perhaps Gaslight?
The filmmaking styles are squarely noir, with the lighting and the shadows and the amazing camera work. Many of the tropes are present as well, most interesting of all the femme fatale in the form of her daughter, Veda. In most noir stories the femme fatale is met over the course of the story and turns everything upside down, so in that sense I suppose Beragon also fills the role. But Veda is the reason for everything and he is merely the catalyst. Ann Blythe is just wonderful as the least likeable character in a movie full of hateful jerks. (Shout out to Eve Arden, who plays the only likeable character, Ida. She is likeable enough for literally the entire rest of the cast.)
The director, Michael Curtiz, is also responsible for Casablanca, the Errol Flynn Robin Hood, and White Christmas, among many others. He’s practically Robert Wise.
I am rather desperate to watch the HBO version from 2011, which I believe follows the book more closely–this one is an amazing adaptation to film, and I have no objections to the way the story is told, but… Kate Winslet as Mildred? YES PLEASE. Joan Crawford is AMAZING but let’s be real; it’s hard to buy her as working class.
Notorious is not film noir. Some sources describe it as noir, and I hadn’t seen it in years, so I watched it to see. My conclusion is that it’s a romantic thriller. I don’t know if that’s a legit genre, but that’s what it is.
Some of the cinematography uses noir-ish techniques–Dutch angles, natural lighting. But the light is much brighter than typical noir. In general, it just looks like an Alfred Hitchcock film.
I saw at least one article claim that the film includes a femme fatale, the noirest of noir tropes, but I 100% disagree. Had the story been told from Alex’s (Claude Rains) point of view, Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) would be a femme fatale. As it follows her, she is not. I suppose Devlin (Cary Grant) fills that role…kind of.
Can we talk about how amazing Ingrid Bergman is in this movie? I mean, holy hell. She is so good. I’ve never cared much for Casablanca, and always loved Gaslight the most of her movies (at least those I’ve seen, which is surprisingly few). After this viewing of Notorious, I think Gaslight is #2.
Cary Grant plays Devlin so close that he’s stiff as a board. I much prefer his performance in Charade, which is a totally unfair comparison because Charade is a comedy (though also a romantic spy thriller!), but he does hide his affection for the leading lady in both, so.
Claude Rains may be the MVP. He is just so great. Apparently Hitchcock wanted Clifton Webb, whom I can’t quite picture in the role. I mean, I’m sure he would have been wonderful, but Claude Rains is so perfect. (Note to self: watch Laura again.)
Anyway. A+++++. With an extra + for the key design on the poster.
God damn. This is a great adaptation of a great novel. No great shock there, since it was adapted for the screen by Billy Wilder (who also directed) and Raymond Chandler, from James M. Cain’s novel. I mean, come on.
The choice to keep everything from Walter’s perspective, as the novel is, was a smart one. That first-person perspective adds to the feeling of desperation and closeness throughout. And who wouldn’t do murder for Phyllis? LOOK AT HER.
Unfortunately, one of the two female roles was cut down considerably, which bothered me. Not because I care about being true to the source material (different mediums require different storytelling, and anyway this is remarkably true to the source) but because jesus christ, there were only two ladies in the damn thing to begin with.
Barbara Stanwyck, though. Fred MacMurray. Oh man. Those two, with Edward G. Robinson to boot? UGH. I DIE. And as if that isn’t enough, one of my favorite character actors, Porter Hall, has a small role as the man on the train with Walter.
Apparently watching a film noir a day is a thing people do in November. SIGN ME UP.
I mean, I am not delusional; I’m sure I won’t make it through more than half a dozen films at best. But by gum, I am going to try!
Netflix isn’t much help, though. This is their film noir genre page:
Seriously, guys? At least I won’t have any trouble narrowing it down. Seeing as Double Indemnity is THE ONLY FILM NOIR ON THIS LIST. I’m trying not to be a purist, but most of these don’t fit even the loosest definition of neo-noir.
And of course, I don’t have much on DVD because that would be too easy.
I’ve been to Fox several times. I’ve seen screenings there, I’ve visited a certain guy who works there… but I’ve never set foot on the New York streets that make up part of the lot. You’d know them if you saw them. I mean, they look like New York. They look more like New York than New York does, because they look like movie New York.
I grew up in New York. I can tell the difference most of the time.
Today Grace wanted to walk in Little New York and we did and I freaked out. IT WAS JUST LIKE BEING IN NEW YORK. It felt like New York.
I mean, except that the only traffic was a studio golf cart.
See the first post in this series here.
Isn’t this a funny-looking little bit of fabric? I knitted it up for two purposes: to check my gauge (the number of stitches per inch, used to determine how many stitches are needed to get the correct size) and to test out the short row shaping I intend to use for the hat.
I experimented with a few different ways of picking up my wraps (that’s fancy knitter talk), and determined what I don’t want to do for the hat. Some designers might keep swatching until they’re sure what they do want to do, but I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Besides, I knew that the only way to be sure the shaping would look the way I want it to is to do it–a small square will never look like a full-sized hat no matter how much I squint.
Spoiler alert: I’ve started knitting the hat! In fact, I am past all of the short row shaping! You will get to see it in the next post.