Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon: Force of Evil

This is my contribution to the For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren. Please visit their sites for more great posts, and please consider donating to an extremely worthwhile cause by clicking here.

Even in 2011, Force of Evil is a relevant cautionary tale against the ambiguities of Capitalism and how certain individuals can manipulate that system for personal gain at the expense of others – in particular how the banking system in America can be compromised. It's not just that the film is an expertly crafted noir that plumbs the depths of moral ambiguity like all good noir pictures do; no, writer/director Abraham Polonsky was interested in making a film that was much more socially conscience than that. As we all know, film-noir was always a subgenre that allowed the freedom for certain iconoclasts to voice their displeasure with minor issues (the Hollywood studio system) or bigger issues (Capitalism and government). The best film-noir employs a voiceover to usher us through the murky, moral dilemmas our protagonist must face; however, the best noir employ striking visuals, too, to make us feel what the protagonist is feeling: like the world is crashing down on them. Perhaps no moment in Force of Evil better articulates this than the film's final moments where both narration and amazing visuals put us in the shoes of our protagonist Joe (John Garfield) whose world is, quite literally, spiraling down to the very nadir of his existence as he looks for his missing brother, Leo (Thomas Gomez), who has been taken by the very criminals Joe has been helping.

It is here that Polonsky's film doesn't quite give itself over to the nihilistic and pessimistic tendencies of noir (I dare say a little idealism and optimism creep in at the end) as Joe finds the horrifying results of his actions: his brother's dead body washed up on the rocks. This doesn't lead him – as most noirs would – to take the ill-gained money and run off with the girl; no, instead he leaves with girl to go turn himself into the police. It's an idealistic ending to an otherwise cynical movie; an ending that suggests we think about one more time in terms of Biblical allegory as Joe tries to atone for his sins by turning himself in.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Year in Review (Updated): Images from My Favorite Movies of 2010 and Three Years of Blogging

[Updated on 2/4/11: I've updated the post to include the title's to my favorite movies of 2010. Enjoy.]

As the blogosphere closes the door on showcasing films from 2010 (I won't be, though, since I still have a handful of releases I want to see), I'm left thinking about how hard it is becoming for me to see movies the year they are released. I also often wonder if I'm just wasting my time limiting myself to the year's releases when I do these year-in-review type posts when I should be showcasing all of the great films I see during the year (I like the way Ed Howard does his year-end lists). Looking at the list of films I missed, it's a wonder why I'm even trying to attempt to construct a "best of" list because I feel like I've missed way too much to even begin to make myself believe that I've seen enough for my opinion on the year to matter. However, these lists – as arbitrary as they are – are still fun to do for list-happy people like myself, and this year I figured I would switch up the format and just show images of my favorite films….this isn't a definitive list by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a good idea of the types of movies released in 2010 that I fell in love with. I decided on 14 films this year because I felt like I had 14 great movie experiences, and I didn't want to exclude any of them just because convention says we do a list of 10 or 20 or 25…

Now, I figured to kind make interesting the unveiling of the list I would compile screengrabs that wouldn't be too obvious for you to guess which movie they come from. The purpose? Let's have a little contest: Whoever gets all 16 images (the image that sits atop this post plus an extra one at the very end in addition to the 14 films I've chosen as my favorites of the year) I've placed in this post correct first will get a prize. We'll discuss the prize via email. No foolin'…a prize! It's my way of saying thanks for continuing to check this blog out after 3 years of inconsistency (both in quality and quantity of posts). I feel like this has been the best year yet, and, with my completion of Graduate School a mere two months away, I look forward to spending more time on the blog. I've loaded up the Netflix queue with tons of foreign films. It will be the year of Fellini, Pasolini, Antonioni, Bergman, and any other giant of foreign cinema I can think of on the blog…I'll also be mixing the sacred with the profane with more reviews of exploitation and Italian horror cinema. And this year – with no Grad School to worry about – I will host another Italian Horror Blogathon. So, it's going to be a fun year...I think. I look forward to more enriching conversation with you all. Thanks for reading!

Images after the jump…