Thursday, July 9, 2009

Off the Record ...

Kelli here.

The fact that I'm a huge fan of film noir isn't exactly a secret ... I write a column called Noir Bar for Pop Syndicate, and will bring up Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan and Fritz Lang and Edward Dmytryk and Joan Crawford and Otto Preminger and …. Well, you get the picture. Film noir is there whenever I can legitimately or illegitimately squeeze it in.

In the acknowledgements for NOX DORMIENDA, my first book, I tried to share a little of how inspirational noir maestro Eddie Muller has personally been for me, and how much I recharge my little battery of darkness at the Noir City film festival every year.

I'm an old-fashioned kind of girl ... as my fedora should tell you. So I don't think it will come as any surprise to those who know me when I choose as my favorite crime film of the past thirty years .... (drum roll, please ... No drum? OK, cue the blues piano) ...

L.A. Confidential (1997).

Wow. This movie is just jaw-droppingly superb. I mean, take a look at the cast:

Young, burly, in-shape and hellaciously ferocious Russell Crowe. As Catwoman would say, "mrrreeaow."

Gorgeous, fragile, sexy and vulnerable Kim Basinger in the role of her lifetime. She earns her Screen Goddess Crown with this movie. (Forget Never Say Never Again, OK?)

Angular, wiry, sculpted and edgy Guy Pearce, Aussie on the cusp of stardom, and never better than here. Perfectly cast.

Kevin Spacey. Nobody—and I mean nobody—ever played the charming sleaze as well as Spacey. The man is somehow believable as a ham, a wannabe celebrity, a good detective, an honest cop and the guy on the make … all at the same time. Powerhouse.

James Cromwell. And you thought you knew him in Babe.

Danny DeVito. And you thought you knew him in Taxi.

David Strathairn. Before Good Night and Good Luck, he turned in this riveting, memorable performance and again transcended the confines of a supporting role.

Add a top-notch, inventive and brilliant adaptation of an equally brilliant masterwork by the Demon Dog himself, James Ellroy, and superb, sensitive direction by the under-appreciated genius Curtis Hanson, and you have, ladies and gentleman, a modern noir classic.

Film noir was noted for the depth of quality of its character roles … I’ve sat in a darkened theater and witnessed the audience erupting into applause when Elisha Cook, Jr.'s title card pops up. Like the greats of old, L.A. Confidential exhibits such a depth of fine acting and perfect casting, such a taut and well-honed script, that it ranks up there with Out of the Past and Double Indemnity as not just one of the best crime movies of the past thirty years … but as one of the best of all time.

Pacing, plot, characterization. Cinematography, makeup, art direction. Anywhere you turn, it’s a great, great movie.

You can take that to the bank. If you haven’t seen it, treat yourself. Tell ‘em Kelli sent you. But keep it off the record, on the Q.T.  … and very hush-hush. ;)

 Kelli Stanley’s CITY OF DRAGONS is coming February 2, 2010.


Bobby Mangahas said...

Okay, Kelli. I am going to have to agree with you on this one. I LOVE LA Confidential. And I think one of the things (besides the story) that I really loved was that it was a TRUE ensemble piece. It didn't act as a star vehicle for any of the individual actors, which some ensemble pieces wind up doing.

Kelli Stanley said...

You're so right, RJ! That dynamic is one of the best things about LA Confidential!!

The Shawshank Redemption was my runner-up choice--another great film, but this one wins favorite. :)

Thanks for commenting, sweetie!


Bill Cameron said...

One thing this movie, Shawshank, and The Usual Suspects have in common is the breathtaking fusion of the mythic with the mundane. The source material is crucial to this, of course, but I think it gets pulled off on film through the alchemy of great yet understated performances, fabulous scores, and gorgeous cinematography. In terms of the acting in particular, I love the way its great without drawing attention to itself. None of the actors are saying, "Look at how damn brilliant I am."

Jen Forbus said...

Great choice, Kelli! I, too, love this movie for all the reasons you mentioned as well as the others mentioned here in the comments. Crime movies have so much to offer the big screen!

Unknown said...

The first time I saw Spacey was as the mugger on Heartbearn. In a throwaway role he managed to get some of the screen real estate away from Meryl Streep, a rare achievement.

Your fabulous posts are making me aware of my anti-LA prejudice. I'm going to have to give it up, I think. Cuz LA Confidential was a classic!