Monday, February 21, 2011

The Roscoes

I was hoping to have written more, and more substantially, on film noir and preservation for the For the Love Of Film (Noir) Blog-a-Thon that dominated my blog feeds the past week, but it's just been impossible. I may still put up some more cogent thoughts, but let me just link to this tremendous interview with Czar of Noir Eddie Muller, and to my own contribution from last year, which has a more meaty discussion of some of the issues involved than I've had time to write this week.. More importantly, please donate to the fund to preserve the Cy Endfiled noir Try And Get Me a.k.a The Sound of Fury - I had to miss a very rare screening of the only known print of this film when it played Noir City 3 back in 2005, and I'd like to be able to make up for that with a chance to see it preserved in a print that can be played at a future Noir City event! I bet you would too, and even if you don't live near a Noir City locale, perhaps a successful preservation might lead to a DVD release like the one just scored for Joseph Losey's great The Prowler (pictured above), which also played Noir City 3, and then again at Noir City 6 in a newly restored print. I just donated to the Blog-A-Thon cause, so hopefully the paypal link will still work when you read this. Here it is again.

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Everyone knows the Academy Awards are just around the corner. Though I've seen more of the contending films than I usually have at this time in the cycle, I find myself without very strong opinions on many (any?) of the races. I don't even know where I'll be watching the show (if a house party invite doesn't come through, some other communal options include the Balboa, the Roxie and the Rafael).

Instead, I've been savoring the results of the 2011 Roscoe Awards. These are the awards selected by passholders from last month's Noir City Film Festival, put on by Eddie Muller, Anita Monga, and the Film Noir Foundation at the Castro Theatre. And there's no tawdry campaigning, no arcane eligibility requirements, no interpretive dances at the ceremony, and in fact no ceremony. That's because all the nominees and winners are from films more than a half-century old, which happened to be among the 24 films that played at this year's Noir City. Best Director and Best Director? Otto Preminger for 1952's Angel Face (pictured above), utterly deserved in my opinion, as this was the greatest masterpiece of the 2011 festival. Best Screenplay? Also a very well-deserved Lucille Fletcher for Sorry, Wrong Number. I was glad to see Barbara Stanwyck get cited as a nominee for that film as well, but agreed that another of her three festival performances, in The Lady Gambles, was the award-worthy one.

I didn't personally vote for Best Actor Roscoe winner Robert Ryan for Beware, My Lovely (I preferred Albert Dekker's sane twin/crazy twin dual role in Among The Living, though of the nominees I'd pick William Bendix in Crashout) but can't argue against it either. In fact, not having been able to catch Helene Thimig's Supporting Actress performance in Strangers in the Night or Stanley Cortez's Cinematography in Secret Beyond the Door (yes, I had to miss the Saturday afternoon screenings due to my work schedule), my opinion only fundamentally differed from the general consensus on the Supporting Actor category, where Charles McGraw took the non-existant trophy for his typed-to-a-tee turn as a hard-nosed insurance investigator in Loophole, a film which I found much more notable for its authentic Los Angeles location photography than for its stone soup approach to its performances. I'd have preferred any of the other nominees, but particularly Charles Bickford's haunting performance in the Woman on the Beach as an ex-painter married to Joan Bennett's title character, who is forced by Robert Ryan to take a sort of "witches trial" when Ryan doubts the authenticity of Bickford's blindness.

The above was intended to be the introduction to a longer piece on the Noir City 9 film festival and the preservation issues it epitomizes, but since I couldn't get that together, I'll just hope that reading about the Roscoes was interesting to anyone who stumbles across this post!

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