Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Finalizing Plans for the Noir Top 100

I know it’s been quiet around these parts lately. I’ve been recharging the creative and writing juices after completed the annual countdown and watching noirs like a madman in preparation for the next project. I’m just throwing up something now to kind of finalize plans and map out how I’m envisioning things playing out.

As I mentioned in the last post, the definition of “film noir” means different things to different people. Rather than trying to settle on one universal definition that everyone can agree with, I’m taking the advice of one of the greatest visitors of the blog, Samuel Wilson, and simply rolling with my own definition of noir. Some films will be included that others don’t feel qualify and I’m sure that I’ll also leave some out that others think should be in the countdown. But I think this is what can be incredibly interesting for those following things. As we get near the top spots, there can suspense about both the ordering of selections and even about whether certain “borderline noirs” will even be included.

Right now, the plan is for the countdown to begin after the holidays – I’m thinking that Monday January 4 sounds like a good starting point. It will proceed as I previously described, with extended (1-page) capsule reviews and analysis of one film per day. Similar to the Year’s Best Countdown, this will not really be a “greatest” noirs list, but will be more reflective of my personal taste – which, I’m guessing, will be much more interesting to people than the usual suspects being recycled. Of course, a lot of those films that appear on “greatest” lists are going to be found in my countdown as well, but not all of them. Some beloved and well-regarded noirs will not be among my Top 100. I actually think that the ranking is what will be most interesting to people. I don’t know that the countdown will feature an abundance of rare films or noirs that have been seen by very few people, although there will be a few of these. The most interesting aspect will be how I order things and how the debates ensue from the rankings.

And one other caveat is that I will not be bound by previous rankings I’ve made, such as my Top 100 of all time list… my tastes and preferences change far too often to be beholden to a list of just a few weeks ago! :)

Sound like a plan? I’m really looking forward to getting things going! I’ll be using the next few weeks before it starts to get in as many new noirs as I can so as to make my list as complete as possible. There are still so many hard-to-get noirs that I simply won’t be able to see before the countdown begins, but there will still be a number of excellent films to discuss.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Planning for the Film Noir List...

OK, it’s been a while since I have posted anything, but I’ve been taking something of a break from blogging and gearing up for the next project. After talking to folks here and seeing comments on the various propositions, I’m going to go ahead with plans for a 100-film countdown of noirs. I suppose you could call it a Top 100, but it’s essentially going to be my personal taste in countdown my favorites in the genre. I haven’t seen everything, as many noir aficionados on the ‘net have, but I’ve seen quite a bit and think that I can do some interesting things with. At the very least, I’ll highlight some overlooked favorites of mine that others may not have seen.

The major issue that comes up in beginning a countdown for film noir is how it is being defined. Is it the strict time frame of 1941-1958 as is often cited? Does it run all the way to the present and include all variety of neo-noirs? How do you handle Hitchcock – noir or not noir? Things like this are what I have been trying to work out in my mind over the last week or two. As was discussed in the last post, I’ve decided that I am for the most part not going to include neo-noirs, because there are many lesser-known classic noirs that I would rather make sure are included. I would rather like to look at the neo-noirs separately afterwards. At the same time, I don’t intend to force myself to stick to the traditional 1941-1958 time frame, and freely admit that movies like Sam Fuller’s Underworld U.S.A. are going to be included, despite falling outside of that period. Still, I don’t want to make so inclusive that many well-known classic films begin clogging things up. What I am leaning toward doing is if it is borderline whether or not a movie is “noir,” the way I can figure to get a resolute answer is to check if it is included in something like Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward’s Film Noir Encyclopedia. I know it sounds like an arbitrary selection as the final authority, but it would at least be consistent and make decisions on things like which Hitchcock should be included (Notorious, Strangers on a Train) and which should not (Vertigo). Would this system be perfect? Of course not, as I’m not so sure that Vertigo is not a noir in my opinion. But it at least sets a framework and ensures that something other than the usual suspects are in the Top 100. Any thoughts on this are definitely wanted.

As I also said in previous posts, I think the intention with these pieces will be that they are slightly shorter in length than some of the essays from the Year’s Best. In all honesty, my goal would be to try and do one single-spaced page for each film – enough to whet the appetite for those that haven’t seen it and to put in my two cents on why I am a fan. The shorter length in no way implies less quality, as is evidence by the outstanding work done by somebody like Allan at WitD or even Shubhajit with his insightful capsule reviews. The one-page goal would also allow me to attempt to try an everyday pace. Whether or not that is doable remains to be seen, but I think it’s certainly realistic. The ideal start time for me would be the New Year, as it allows the chaotic holidays to have run their course and to start everything fresh.

Thoughts, questions, concerns, issues… post ‘em all and we will proceed!