Monday, June 29, 2009

The Woman in the Window (1944)

I read an article last week about early films noir. It claimed the term "film noir" was applied to American films in French film magazines in 1946, the year when The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Laura (1944), Murder, My Sweet (1944), and The Woman in the Window were released in France. With such great company, I had to track this one down.

Directed by Fritz Lang and starring such noir stalwarts as Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, it tells the story of psychology professor Richard Wanley (Robinson). Wanley and his friends become obsessed with the portrait of a woman in the window next to their men's club. While admiring her portrait, Wanley meets the the subject, a Miss Alice Reed (Bennett), and strikes up a conversation with her. They end up in her apartment for talk and a few drinks. The woman's boyfriend bursts in, misinterprets Wanley's presence, attacks him. Wanley kills the boyfriend in self-defense and comes up with a plan to dump the body and help cover up the killing. Wanley slowly becomes a suspect as the police uncover more and more clues. To make matters worse, a blackmailer (Duryea) begins leaning on the woman.

Robinson gives a convincing performance as a middle-aged college professor. It’s obvious how easily he can fall for Bennett – who is dead sexy in the role. I can see how the film could be characterized as noir, but there are some un-noir elements in it. On the one hand, you have one mistake causing an ordinary man to fall deeper and deeper toward the bottom and the setting (city, nighttime, rain, etc). Bennett’s Alice Reed has the look and temperament of many a femme fatale, but her actions and her interactions with Robinson’s Wanley don’t fit the standard mold. Not to give too much away, but the ending is almost upbeat compared to the bleak ending of most noirs.

The cinematography is great. The story is tight. The acting is superb. If anyone else has seen it, let me know what you think. Noir or not?


Monday, June 22, 2009

Killshot (200?)

I got a chance to see the long delayed (and troubled) movie adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel Killshot.

Armand "Blackbird" Degas (Mickey Rourke) is a hitman for the Toronto Mafia. He hooks up with a young, hothead crook named Richie Nix (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) for a shakedown of a real estate agent. The job doesn't go according to plan, and the two leave behind witnesses in Carmen and Wayne Colson (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane). The Colsons are forced into Witness Protection while Blackbird and Nix hunt them down.

Rourke and Lane give solid performances. There are some areas that are a little choppy, probably because of all the edits (including removing the entire character played by Johnny Knoxville).

It doesn't quite capture the flare of Get Shorty or Out of Sight, but it's better than some of the Elmore adaptions out there. The movie's not great, but it's not bad. It certainly deserved a better fate than it got.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Comings and Goings

The past couple days, I've been playing with a couple ideas for upcoming stories. I have two that I'm currently working on. One has about 500 words already, the other is merely an idea.

It got me thinking again on the idea of markets. There are a lot of good flash fiction markets out there, but these stories probably won't be flash. For noir, A Twist of Noir seems like a good one.

Along my travels in the past week, I stumbled on this site called Duotrope's Digest (probably clicking on a link on Paulie Decibels's website, then another link, then another...). The Digest says it is "a free writers' resource listing over 2475 current Fiction and Poetry publications". Doing some quick searches, it looks pretty good. You can search by genre, length, type (web or print), payscale, you name it!

Even if your work isn't accepted, it's a good way to find new markets to read and even find some new writers.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Love Lost

Below is my entry for the latest Patti/Gerald/Aldo Flash Fiction Challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

There was something innately wrong about hotel bars. The lights were too bright. They were too nicely decorated. There was no reason to be bright and cheery when your primary clientele was traveling salesmen in cheap suits who smelled of desperation and women with dead eyes and inch thick makeup.

Kyle smiled and chuckled to himself as he polished off his third Sapphire tonic and ordered another. He was one of them now. He was King of the Losers. All because he lost Adrianna.

They met at a party in the fall. He found out later she had crashed the party. She had a habit of crashing parties. Kyle was grabbing an MGD from the fridge when she walked in. Adrianna was the kind of girl who when she walked into a room, you could feel it.

Kyle turned. Short black skirt. Spaghetti straps. Clasp bag in her left hand. They locked eyes. She crossed the room and jammed her tongue down his throat. She then whispered into his ear the two words that would change his life. Her ragged breath tickling his earlobe, sending shock waves through his body as she spoke that one simple sentence.

“Let’s dance.”

They spent the night bumping and grinding to the DJ’s beats. They spent the next two days in a hotel room bumping and grinding. Without music. And without clothes.

The things he would to for Adrianna just for the things he would do to Adrianna. Their second date ended with a night in jail. Their fourth, a trip to the burn ward. But, like a junkie, he rationalized that it was worth it. After a while, he recognized that continuing the relationship would be hazardous to his health, but her phone calls always had him jonesing for another fix.

Kyle surrendered himself to her. But then she stopped calling. She stopped returning his calls. He went to her apartment, but Adrianna had moved out. He broke in, just to get a faint reminder of her scent, but that was gone too. He cruised all their old haunts, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. The places they loved were all dull and boring without her by his side.

But then he found her. She had moved to another part of the state. She was now engaged to some mope named Scott. A weenie in khakis and shirts from Kohls.

Kyle finished his Sapphire tonic and walked upstairs to Ballroom B. The placard outside read “Wedding Reception for Scott and Adrianna Anderson”. He pushed the door open and and saw a room full of wedding guests. Buffet tables lined the one wall, leading to a four layer wedding cake by the large plate glass window. The evening sun was slowly setting over the lake.

Kyle saw the newly married couple dancing to Peter Gabriel’s “The Book of Love” in the center of the ballroom. The wedding dress what low cut and tight in all the right places. She wore her hair up. Why do they always wear their hair up?

She stopped dancing when she saw him. “What are you doing here?” she hissed.

“I’m crashing,” Kyle said with a grin.

“Please leave. You’re causing a scene.”

“A scene?” he said. “A scene? Look who’s worried about causing a scene all of a sudden. You never used to be worried about causing a scene. Remember the time you stripped naked and jumped in Ryan Thomas’s pool? Now that was a scene.”

Adrianna quickly walked over. “Stop it. Kyle, it’s over. It’s been over between us for a long time. Why can’t you just let it go?”

“Let it go? Let it go?” Kyle said. “How can you say that? All the good times we had together? We belong with each other”

Kyle pulled up his shirt to reveal a “Property of Adrianna” tattoo across his stomach. Adrianna’s hand shot up to her mouth. She said, “My God, Kyle. What did you do to yourself?”

“Nothing you yourself wouldn't do. Didn't you say it would be hot to have each other's names on our bodies when we were in the sack? That's right, Scott. I fucked your wife.”

“You need help, Kyle.”

Kyle said, “Oh, come on. This is just some elaborate prank, right. You're having a fake wedding to show how lame the whole concept is.”

Adrianna said, “No, Kyle. It's real. I love Scott and he loves me. I've grown up and so should you.”

“We belong together. You and I are the same.”

Kyle looked at all the faces staring at him. Shock, disgust, loathing. Then he looked at Adrianna. Was that pity he saw in her eyes? She was pitying him? He pitied her. Marrying a worthless schlub like Scott. He had to save her.

“If that’s the way you want to play it, fine. Just remember, you can’t have a wedding without a cake.”

Kyle broke into a run. His heard neither the yelling nor felt the people lunging or him. His whole world now was the cake and the window. His hands grasped the cold metal of the cake cart. He watched the cake smash through the window. The miniature couple on top of the cake wobbled, but didn’t fall.

Kyle felt more alive than he had in ages. He embraced the freedom of the skies until he felt a sickening crunch, bouncing off the cake cart that had fallen the two stories before he did.

The cake landed right side up in the center of the road – a pile of confectionery carnage.

With cracked and bloodied lips, Kyle smiled. “Fuck that bitch.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Black Lizard's Ross Macdonald

I've started buying the Black Lizard reprints of Ross Macdonald to fill the gaps in my library. First off, I love Black Lizard. Second off, these new editions are awesome. I've always loved Lizard's designs for books (all my Chandler books are from their collection), and the new Macdonald books are no exception.

FaceOut Books has pictures of the covers and a nice behind the scenes (including some rejected covers). Here's a quick look:

(hat tip to swierczy).