The streets were dark with something more than night…

Ahhhh, neo-noir, how I do love it.

As planned I’ve seen both Hollywoodland and The Black Dahlia in the past two weekends. Both movies that visit the sacred ground of Chandler, Hammett, and a hundred low-budget RKO crime pictures. That mythic Los Angeles of the 30s-50s, as it existed only in the imagination….beautiful but rotten inside. Sunbaked, but dark as sin. Where the Santa Ana winds blow the dirt and grime back into the city instead of cleansing it out. A place where people and dreams go to die and/or be killed in sordid and mysterious ways. Ahhhhhh…it makes me feel good all over…

But enough of that. I like the genre, you get the picture. ;)

Hollywoodland tells the story of George Reeves, tv’s Superman, and his sordid and mysterious death. It was ruled suicide at the time, but there were enough strange details to raise questions about possible murder. Hollywoodland presents a whole smorgasboard of possible suspects, motives, options, and outcomes, but leaves it all open-ended for the viewer to ponder and decide. If you want a tidy wrap-up, look elsewhere. But like the best of noir, the “solution” to the mystery isn’t the point…instead the beauty of the tale lies in the style of the telling, and Hollywoodland has style in buckets.

I couldn’t concentrate on the movie at first because I was so overwhelmed by the beauty and period accuracy of the set dressing, the clothes, the furniture, OMG it was so perfect….

And the actors had style, too. I don’t think Hollywoodland would have been half as good without it’s fine cast. These folks really helped to suck you in, make it real, keep you thinking about the movie well after it ended. I didn’t think I’d buy Adrien Brody as a p.i….he just doesn’t look like one. But he nailed it. His character, a down-on-his-luck investigator named Louis Simo, is a sleazeball, an opportunist, muck-raker, yet wounded. Brody allows the audience to see it all. Simo’s character is a parallel to George Reeves, who is also presented as a ruthless climber up the Hollywood ladder, who keeps getting kicked off of the rungs. Embarassed about his status as a kept man and a kiddie icon in a cheap TV series, his pride is his stumbling block. He takes the money from the Superman gig, but he hates himself for it. He thinks he should be a “serious Actor.” Not really suprisingly, Ben Affleck is perfect as Reeves. Big no-talent dope portrays big no-talent dope.

Speaking of losers, The Black Dahlia was a big disappointment. Brian DePalma should never be allowed to direct another movie. Or he should certainly never be allowed to direct noir. Noir requires subtlety. Whereas DePalma turned Dahlia into a big, loud (oh, the score was SO bad!), grotesque, garish, over-the-top mess. And boring on top of it all. And with bad acting. Hillary Swank behaves like a female female-impersonator. Josh and Scarlett, even though they are close in age to what Mitchum was when he made Out of the Past and Bacall when she made The Big Sleep, look like freshmen in a school play. It’s hard to believe how in 60 years, a 20 year old woman can go from being perceived as a mature adult (Bacall) to a sorority chick (Scarlett.) I don’t understand it, but it will make you fret about “those kids today.” It will also make you run to your DVD collection to watch some real noir to cleanse Black Dahlia from your mind. You don’t even have to go back that far in time to find a better movie. L.A. Confidential, also based upon a James Ellroy novel, is ten times the movie Black Dahlia is.

Oh to hell with it. I don’t even feel like bothering. Just read this guy’s review. Ok, I didn’t think it was THAT bad, but Lord, it wasn’t good.

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