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Entries in Double Indemnity (9)

Thursday
Jul112019

75th Anniversary: Double Indemnity

by Eric Blume

This week marked the 75th anniversary of Billy Wilder’s seven-times Oscar nominated noir classic Double Indemnity (1944).  If you haven’t seen this movie -- and I surprisingly never had, despite not one but two film noir courses in college -- rush post haste to view it:  it’s a classic noir that holds up powerfully.

Fred MacMurray is the patsy, an insurance guy who is convinced by Barbara Stanwyck to murder her husband and cash in on the double indemnity clause in the policy they conspire to have him secretly sign.  The performances by MacMurray, Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson (as the insurance boss) have incredible force.  Yes, this style of acting went out less than ten years later, but the raw power of their acting is undeniable...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jul232018

Beauty vs Beast: Live Without Masters

Jason from MNPP here with this week's "Beauty vs Beast" for you people to vote yourselves silly with -- did you know that today would have been the 51st birthday of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman? He's been gone over four years now and I ache to think of all the performances we've missed out on. No I wouldn't have given him that Oscar over Heath Ledger either, but he wasn't even nominated for the greatest film of the past two decades (that would be Synecdoche New York) so the injustices, they pile up.

But we're here to talk about another film, one I have come hard around on since its release - I was cool to Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master in 2012 but my affection for it has grown with time; I'm pretty keen on it now, with its medicinal greens and hard elbows. It's only right, it taking some time - it's not the sort of film that hugs you, at least not without wanting something back, making it much like its leading men...

 

PREVIOUSLY Naturally the actress prevailed and then some with last week's Double Indemnity poll - crossing Barabra Stanwyck was never a good idea, not when she's got that silver pistol in her pocketbook. Said cal roth:

"That was so easy... I love Stanwyck and MacMurray reunion in There's Always Tomorrow. I love Stanwyck, the most versatile movie goddess of all time. She could go from a Hawks screwball to two masterful perfomances in Sirk melodramas to westerns by Samuel Fuller and Anthony Mann (the director who got her best best performance ever, in The Furies)."

Monday
Jul162018

Beauty vs Beast: Never Trust A Dame In Sunglasses

Jason Adams from MNPP here on the 111th anniversary of my favorite lower-case dame's birthday - Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Stevens in Brooklyn NY on this day in 1908 and a rough-and-tumble 19 years later found herself making movies. Cut to 1944 she was one of the biggest stars there was or ever will be when she got what's probably her most famous role and the one that carved the Femme Fatale Archetype in stone - the unhappy wife with murder on her mind Phyllis Dietrichson, who wrangles the wranglable insurance salesman Walter Neff (a gloriously against-type Fred MacMurray) into doing her dirty work. And Billy Wilder's Noir classic Double Indeminity was born.

PREVIOUSLY Forrest Gump couldn't run fast enough last week to outrun his Jenny Girl - Robin Wright took 65% of your vote on the now controversial Oscar winner. Said Doctor Strange:

"I have hated Forrest Gump since it premiered, so I'm hardly a johnnie-come-lately hater. I find it manipulative, simplistic, and just plain unbelievable from beginning to end. It's got some very good performances that almost save it... but it's mostly a succession of cheap shots. I'm a boomer myself, but I was never blind to its self-aggrandizing convservatism and retrograde sexual politics."

Wednesday
Mar152017

On this day in history, the 1944 Oscars

Today in 1945, the 17th annual Academy Awards were held with Going My Way (1944) the big winner taking 7 Oscars. This year is a interesting for a couple of reasons...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Aug302014

Game of Links

Catching up on news & noteworthy we didn't cover the past couple of days...

Brangelina
Vanity Fair the details of the Brangelina marriage that we know. I'm really so happy for them as a longtime fan but...
Time knocks them for not keeping their promise to the gays. I knew this backlash would happen. But they did hold out a long time and they've done so much good for the world including for marriage equality that I think we should let it slide
Gawker asks the intriguing question: "Why is Angelina Jolia a movie star?"

Some of her movies have been well-received acting vehicles. Some of her movies have been gargantuan commercial products. There is no place where those circles overlap on the Venn diagram. 

It's worth pondering her atypical celebrity.

Absolute Must Read!
/bent has a fascinating long essay about HBO, Game of Thrones, and the distinct feeling that TV series are beginning to go for sex and violence just to have them rather than serve the story. It's a super interesting detailed piece that covers more than just Game of Thrones but past series as well and troubling gender politics and rape fantasies. 

More Linkage For Infotainment
Variety has intriguing film/stage news: Vincent Kartheiser of Mad Men fame will be playing the legendary filmmaker Billy Wilder on stage in a play about the making of Double Indemnity. Good luck finding someone who can pull off Barbara Stanwyck!
The Film Stage a new trailer for Stephen Daldry's Trash. You guys no matter what I do, I cannot remember to watch this. I didn't see the first one either. I still know nothing about this movie
Deadline the first Oscar FYC screener to go out is actually Snowpiercer. That's a fun surprise. They're pushing Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress. I can't find a large enough photo of the screener online to tell who else they're pushing though. 

/Film The Maze Runner is being shown in "Panoramic Projection" which is a new thing that's apparently descended from CinemaScope.  
In Contention Kate Winslet and a bunch of acclaimed actors are starring in John Hillcoat's (Lawless) next feature in 2015 called Triple Nine
Out profiles Belgian superstar Matthias Schoenaerts
Empire Charlie Hunnam to play King Arthur for Guy Ritchie
The Wire explains the messy chain of events of that Bryan Singer sexual abuse lawsuit, which has now been dismissed 
Variety The Art Directors Guild has expanded their annual awards categories. Lots of interesting things will be honored now like storyboard artists and such 
Gizmodo wonders how NYC would respond to an actual Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attack. 
/Film Actor Bill Hader shares a list of his 200 favorites  (I was super happy to see Trouble in Paradise, Nashville, and L'Atalante... let's just say he has really good taste)
Vulture talks to Jessica Chastain about yet another season of multiple movies and her love of movies, even the bad silly ones.

But tonight I'm going to the movies and I really go to the movies any chance I can... I love 'em all."

Small Screen
Decider looks back at a very special episode of "The Facts of Life". Weren't they all? 
Variety on why the Emmy rules are so hard to fix
Variety talks to Allison Janney about her career and double Emmy night
TV Line great news: Enver Gjokaj, so brilliant on Dollhouse and not as well employed as he should be is joining the Marvel Universe via that Agent Peggy Carter show 
Pajiba David Fincher's Gap commercials  

DISCUSSION TOPIC
Do you ever find yourself reading a blog post or essay or watching a conversation and one casual remark will totally throws you out of the piece until it's all you can think of? That's what happened to me with that Hilary Swank comment the other day. It happened twice more last night. I was watching an interview with the star of Obvious Child, Jenny Slate, where she was all "I miss romantic comedies where women are complex". Me too! But then her example of non-complex is shade thrown Kristen Wiig & Bridesmaids way? HUH? That's one of the only great romantic comedies of the past decade with complex female characterizations. Then I'm over at Film School Rejects reading a take on the Honorary Oscars and they're complaining about no "career tribute" style Oscar nomination for Maureen O'Hara in that John Candy movie Only the Lonely (1991). And then Christopher Campbell writes:

Did they really need to honor Juliette Lewis instead?

What-the-what-now? Juliette was the best one in her category that year! Plus, sucking Robert DeNiro's thumb is really going above and beyond for art on account of gross.

Has this happened to you recently where you just can't with one sentence? 

 

Thursday
May022013

Double Indemnity (Pre 'Body Heat' Post Coital) 

Hit Me With Your Best Shot Episode 4.8

Double bourbon is fine, Walter."

As a baby cinephile in the 1980s I grew up with Body Heat (1981) as my noir of choice. Before I had any biblical knowledge of my own, I was utterly enthralled by Kathleen Turner's come-hither challenge and roaming hands, William Hurt's 'not-too-smart' insatiable lust and that broken window in a sticky Florida summer. For reasons that seem immature/absurd now, I avoided Double Indemnity for many years afterwards feeling 'I'd already seen it'. Never mind that Body Heat was less a remake than an "inspired by" or that Body Heat's reign as the Best of the Neo Noirs does nothing to diminish the bewitching "rotten to the core" vortex of Double Indemnity's scheming plot and sexual shenanigans.

Different noirs for different eras. But the long shadow that Body Heat cast on my early views of this entire genre is probably why my choice for this week's "Best Shot" is this seemingly minor one from Billy Wilder's 1944 classic. 

Seemingly.

This shot occurs at the end of a long "love scene" early in the picture between Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck --  the collected Best Shot articles have many insightful comments about this unimproveable star turn) and Walter (Fred MacMurray) as they dance around their sexual and murderous desires. The scene is filled with talking in the shadows -- I could watch Stanwyck plot silently and minimistically for another two hours on loop --  and three bits of physical intimacy, an arm grab, a kiss and a 'comforting' embrace. The scene is then interrupted by a narrative flashforward. When we return to the scheming duo, they're presented to us like so. Phyllis side-eyes her willing rube, gazes at her hands (a repetitive gesture... just how much blood is on them?) and stands up to leave with this bit of disingenuously banal needinees...

will you phone me?

Double Indemnity has many gorgeous shot compositions involving diagonal shadows and I love all of them. But its visual prowess and ideas extends beyond venetian blinds. This is an atypical shot in the film's visual composition because, despite the square frame, it's very horizontal... as befits a post-coital tableau.

Yes, they've 100% just had sex even if they're still in the same clothes as before the flash-forward. We've never seen Walter with his guard this down though Phyllis, inscrutable Phyllis is still the exact same woman. Sealing the deal of this scene's brilliance for me is the costuming and cinematography: Phyllis has never before been clothed in such a tactile way (fuzzy sweaters must have equalled instant boners back in the 40s and 50s); and the lighting choice is provocatively counterintuitive since it's Phyllis, the not so innocent and virginal, who is bathed in soft light while Walter in shadow.

P.S. A runner up...

This shot, from the final confrontation between Phyllis and her conquest, could inspire novels out of context it's such rich and decadent. In context, which is what we should be talking about, it's a triump of both Art Direction and Cinematography; that same living room, which we've returned to multiple times, never feels as sinister in any other shot. The composition also allows Walter's shadow to enter the frame before him, which is telling, and then has both the regretful man and his dark shadow in frame, both separated. It's also my favorite example of Double Indemnity's great use of venetian blind shadows -- usually involving Walter -- and the diagonal tension they bring to each of his scenes withough the film having to resort to anything as crude as canted camera angles.

Straight Down The Link...
Aliston Tooey on Phyllis' spidery web
Amiresque "drive thru beer!"
Antagony & Ecstasy on Stanwyck's unparalleled femme fatale triumph
Cinesnatch this week's film coincides with some Best Picture Oscar revisionism here
Entertainment Junkie loves Stanwyck's satisfaction
Film Actually 'the stillness speaks volumes'
The Film's The Thing 'a messy bit of business in Aisle 3"
I Am Derreck on Walter's double secret life
Pussy Goes Grrr the scorpion and the frog
Victim of the Time considers the 'ugliness' of Double Indemnity
We Recycle Movies talks LA Architecture and venetian blinds

.... or see all the stills in chronological order

Next Week, Wednesday May 8th:
David Lean's Summertime (1955) with Katharine Hepburn in Venice. Join us by selecting your own choice for "best shot"