When I started this entire PopGap project over five years ago, film noir was one of several genres that I felt almost always underperformed relative to reputation. I was aware of a passionate noir fan-base and was certain that I wasn’t part of it. It could be that when I first watched many noir classics — playing on standard definition cable TV or even worse hissy VHS copies in the 1980s — the unrestored presentations failed to translate the movies’ proper qualities, or maybe I was just being an unwelcoming prick with an impenetrable “show me” attitude.” Whatever the case, over the last five years I have added many noirs to my mental register of favorite movies, from John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon to Otto Preminger’s Laura, and several in-between. I still may lack the thrill that this genre gives its most stalwart fans, but I think I finally get what it's all about.
They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? is a website known in film circles for its comprehensive collation of best-of-film lists — you might remember them from the first list in this movie challenge, The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films — and Travis Easton has asked me to next try streaking through TSPDT’s noir-focused list, “1,000 Noir Films: They Shot Dark Pictures, Didn’t They?,” using the chronological ordering over at this Letterboxd list.
Apparently, it’s a list-in-progress, as there are only 838 movies on it currently; of those, I’ve watched 190, and of those that I’ve watched, I generally like all but the last 25 or so. So this could turn out to be a pretty long streak. Then again, it’s chronological and not ordered by Letterboxd user ratings, so there’s potential for weaker titles to appear anywhere and early.
I know next to nothing about most of the movies near the top of the list — I spot a Bogart in the first two, and lots of familiar director names, but I’m going to try to go into each of these as cold as possible — so I’m just going to post their titles below without my usual comments.
I’ll watch the first two movies from each list, giving each participant the chance to avoid an instant exit and maybe even earn some free passes.
The first two movies on this list are: