27 April 2012: Baseball, noir and Tennessee Williams

Posted: April 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

Yep, that’s the antidote for a foul-weather weekend. Since it’s still April, my baseball optimism remains high – at least for as long as the Dodgers keep on winning. Which they did last night, against the local Washington Nationals. Of course, I had to wait until 10 pm for the first pitch from Dodger Stadium (complete with Pat Sajak in the first row behind the plate). But it was worth it: Dodgers won. And today’s bonus game is the Cardinals-Brewers.

Got a chance to watch a very cool noir flick recently, The Woman in the Window. The entire noir genre can trace its roots back to a few movies like this one. And you can see why. It stars Edward G. Robinson and a willowy Joan Bennett, a good 20 years before she transformed into the stodgy Mrs. Stoddard on Dark Shadows.

Released in 1944, it’s – and I’m not exaggerating – a piece of art. The thing to remember about these noir movies is that, yes, they’re black and white – on purpose. Color films had been around for years by ’44, but these movies went for the black and white look, the textures, shadows and contrast. So, from a visual standpoint alone, it’s a thing of beauty. And, if you catch it, you’ll see a scene that is very reminiscent of a scene in Young Frankenstein, of all things (a movie that harkens back to the noir era).

The sets are simple – a dim street, a dark alley, a dame’s apartment, the police station. But even these standard set pieces are intricate and perfectly arranged. As are the actors. Robinson totally rocks the perfectly tailored three-piece, two-button suit like he’s on a GQ shoot. And I’m sure the blouse Bennett wore in the early part of the movie was scandalous in 1944 (see picture). She plays the femme fatale superbly and is a major reason why the tension works so well.

But noir films are also great storytelling. Director Fritz Lang had the pace and dialogue dead on the mark, and very subtly kept the tension ratched up for the entire 1 hour, 39 minutes. The story of how one mistake can completely derail an otherwise flawless life is compelling stuff. We’ve seen it since, and usually done well, but this take is worth the watch.

Ok, back to the so-called modern times. Also finally got a chance to see Super 8. That’s a snappy little film. I wasn’t expecting much, so I was pleased to enjoy it so much. If you’re a child of the ‘70s – and a fan of movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind – you owe yourself a trip down memory lane (luckily, with very little disco). Also, while waiting for the Dodgers game to start, I checked out Contagion (Matt Damon, Kate Winslet). It was … good. I enjoyed the focus on the lives of the people affected by a worldwide virus that decimates the planet’s population rather than the destruction of the virus itself, but at the end, my only reaction was, “Eh.”

That won’t be the case later today. Turner Classic Movies is running Streetcar Named Desire (which will be my entertainment before tonight’s Dodgers game). Stelllllla!

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