Wednesday, February 21, 2007

VANITY FAIR—Oscars Noir


Having just been roughed over by Eddie Muller—the Czar of Noir—and his one-two punch, first to the chin, then to the gut, you'd think I'd be nursing my noir bruises right around now; but, no. I guess I like it rough.


In steps Vanity Fair with their 13th annual Hollywood issue, which pays tribute to the Oscar hopefuls via a killer portfolio designed by Michael Roberts and executed by photographer Annie Lebovitz with help by Oscar-nominated Vilmos Zsigmond (The Black Dahlia). You'll have to buy the magazine to see Killers Kill, Dead Men Die, a storyboarded tour de force that pays tribute to the noir films of the 40s and 50s, "starring" Amy Adams, Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, Pedro Almodóvar, Alec Baldwin, Adam Beach, Jessica Biel, Abigail Breslin, Jennifer Connelly, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Robert De Niro, Robert Downey, Jr., Kirsten Dunst, Aaron Eckhart, James Franco, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Hudson, Anjelica Huston, Rinko Kikuchi, Diane Lane, Derek Luke, Tobey Maguire, James McAvoy, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Jack Nicholson, Bill Nighy, Ed Norton, Peter O'Toole, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, Kerry Washington, Naomi Watts, Forest Whitaker, Bruce Willis, Patrick Wilson, Kate Winslet, and Evan Rachel Wood.

Quite the cast, eh? And, believe me, quite the photo spread.

Though Killers Kill, Dead Men Die is not available online, Vanity Fair does offer up a behind-the-scenes slideshow by Vanity Fair photographers Kathryn MacLeod, Krista Smith, and Nick Rogers, as well as Annie Lebovitz's essay on "The Big Shoot" and Krista Smith's overview of the films associated with the "stars" of Killers Kill, Dead Men Die.


Then to place this neo-noir enterprise firmly within its historical setting, Vanity Fair appends Nathaniel Rich's guide to the top 10 classic noirs, the top 10 noir films you've probably never heard of, and (to cap it off) the top 3 worst noirs you've never heard of. Author of San Francisco Noir from 1940 to the Present, Nathaniel Rich is obviously writing to the unwashed masses who live outside Noir City, whose residents invariably have their own top 10, best and worst.


Regrettably, Vanity Fair's online offerings don't include the companion essay "Day Into Noir" by Ann Douglas, author of Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s, who opines—as Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter synopsizes—that the film noir genre "remains vital as an anecdote to American self-infatuation and is especially evident at times when a 'take-sides, either-or mentality' is in force."

Or related interest in the March 2007 Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair—and still another reason to slap down a five-spot for the physical magazine is a "Masters of Photography" reprisal of images of Oscar winners taken by Herb Ritts and remembered by Ingrid Sischy.

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