Uncle Buck (1989) | Dir. John Hughes
In his review of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Armond White opens by declaring that “Neo-noir must be the worst movie genre. It’s an excuse for juvenile filmmakers to pretend cynicism while their imbecile audiences pretend sophistication.”
I can certainly see where he’s coming from. I haven’t seen A Dame to Kill For yet, but I have seen more than enough attempts at neo-noirs that think all there is to the genre is a femme fatale and an anti-hero in a trenchcoat. I’m talking about mediocre, flailing films like Max Payne—or worse, the attempts to bring noir to hip, younger settings like Assassination of a High School President and Lucky Number Slevin. They’re movies that look at the classics of the genre, fall in love with the aesthetic, but have no idea why or how that aesthetic works as it does. As Armond so aptly points out, Sin City and its ilk are all “pretending that it still means something to call a sexy woman ‘dame.’”
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Written by Jon Ronson & Peter Straughan
Sometimes all you need to see is a still from a movie and you know it’s worth watching. That’s how I felt about Frank—the imagery looked so unique that I knew I’d have to give it a shot. I mean come on, Michael Fassbender running around in a papier-mâché head making off-kilter electronic music? Say no more, I’m there.
Funny enough, the concept is not actually unique to the film. The giant mask frontman character is actually based off musician and comedian Chris Sievey, aka Frank Sidebottom, cult hero of 1980s Britain. Frank Sidebottom’s weird brand of humor seems to have inspired many—there’ evens a statue of him in his hometown of Timperley– not to mention the film’s co-writer, Jon Ronson, who was part of Sidebottom’s band for a time.
“The community that denies to a portion of its members their plain rights under the law has severed the only safe bond of social order and prosperity. The evil works from a bad center both ways. It demoralizes those who practice it and destroys the faith of those who suffer by it in the efficiency of the law as a safe protector.” – Benjamin Harrison, 1889
Let’s Be Cops (2014)
Directed by Luke Greenfield
Written by Luke Greenfield & Nicholas Thomas
Everyone’s first response to Let’s Be Cops is to wince at the timing—a film about frat boy cop antics released the week a town is besieged by a police paramilitia. But really, when you get right down to it, when would be good timing here? What is this movie’s best case scenario? America’s toughest week in a long time is really the only time this 21 Jump Street ripoff has anything more to offer us than tepid chuckles.
Interior. Leather Bar. (2013)
Directed by Travis Mathews & James Franco
Written by Travis Mathews
“Fuck Scripts.” – James Franco, Interior. Leather Bar.
There is no greater summation of this film than in this seemingly throwaway line, which Franco barely ekes out without smirking, in the scene from which I’ve grabbed the screenshot above. Within his delivery of it lies an acknowledgment of its hyperbolic untruthfulness, as well as its inherent truth—what he means is, ‘yes, of course scripts are important, but at the same time, they’re just scripts, and their being there or not being there isn’t worth worrying about’. And his mouth lets us know that he knows we can’t help but wondering anyway, and that this is the right reaction.