Edited by Don Malcolm on 2/1/2018, 10:49 am
I might go back and look at your listings for you and tabulate, just because that is one of the things I find most interesting.
As far as opinion, I didn't want to weigh in without others either doing so or adding to the list. What with everything else going on right now, concocting a list of the films that does some kind of justice to how much has proliferated is beyond what I can budget time for. I'd like to see Gary Deane supply a list of films since 2007, as I know he is extremely diligent in keeping current.
I view the 60s and 70s as still noirs but late and distinctive. For me, neo-noir begins in 1980 as a growing body of work. It maybe has roots that the critics identify as 1967 Point Blank, but that kind of thing is a point observation and we're talking about the whole distribution.
I think we know that two strains of "post-noir" developed--the retro and the neo, and somewhere over time these became blurred in odd, recursive ways. Thriller, horror and sci-fi elements have also created harder generic/stylistic distinctions. It would be possible to use your lists and create some sub-groupings along those lines.
I find that the noirs are more un-self-conscious. Each one is more a whole or integral piece of work that integrates all the different aspects that go into a motion picture.
The neo-noirs tend to be more fake or concocted, more outrageous, more manipulative. They contain some amazing technical improvements or extensions, to be sure. The neo-noirs go out of their way to leave viewers in the dark or confuse them, but this doesn't always work to making these movies better.
This could be the difference between stories that try to sift through moral ambiguity (noir) and those that tend to settle for moral relativism (neo-noir).
Neo-noirs attempt often to be slick, cool, modernistic. They're more conscious and this hurts the artistic side of things.
Those films that try to update the style of cinematography found in classic noir have created a set of visual clichés that would make for a great essay.
Start with the credits at the start of neo-noirs. They're often drawn out too long. Beneath them quite often are glimpses of stuff that you can hardly make out.
The music is better in the noirs. It fits the situations better and it's more emotional, part of the integration aspect. A work of art is better in my book when it has an integral quality. I can only take repetitiousness, rock-based sounds, rap and hip-hop up to a limited point.
The audio in noirs is better than that in many neo-noirs. I use a lot of subtitles for neo-noirs because of the whispered lines. I never need it in noirs.
More fodder for clichés. I also think that, paradoxically, sound design for current movies is set up for theatre systems and they are tricky to recalibrate to home use. The TV material seems to be the exception to this, because its sound is designed for the specs of what people have at home, and that has to work at the most basic of those set-ups.
Dialog in noirs is far superior to neo-noirs in general. The ability to invest the lines with meaning and the acting ability to deliver them are superior in noirs.
The stars in the old movies are more mature and wear much more easily on us. The new cats often seem like teeny-boppers or immature. They often look lousy and act lousy. Acting has become more stilted and drawn out.
A school of writers who either adapted novels or wrote them themselves, vs. a group invested in slang and swear-words, who are also reminded that too many words slows down the action.
The group of stars who lived/served through WWII became mature beyond their years and brought that to the films they made after the war. It makes them stand out even more in comparison to the young actors of today, who are hired first for being in the 95th percentile of physical attractiveness.
Too much vulgarity in newer movies. Too much sex. There really is a lot of far out stuff, bloody and violent, being put up on the screen. The action movies have very far out stunts.
Blockbuster syndrome began with post-war spy films and has only become more prevalent--it has managed to affect/infect every genre in some way or another.
Cinematography in new movies is often superior. Amazing close-ups, vistas, flying shots, etc. Beautiful stuff, especially the out of doors. I like it a lot. But when I go back to the noirs, I see that their beauty is very great and it's in the service of the story and the whole movie. It's typically arranged and lit better. Set design is lovely and natural. In the neo-noirs, I get the feeling I'm looking at what someone arranged. In retros, the lipsticks are too red, the costumes too much, the old cars too bright.
The "industrial" aspect of classic Hollywood production did produce a "craft" effect that naturally integrated the various elements of filmmaking. It is so prevalent that the films which were made on the cheap or that cut corners in various ways tend to stick out like sore thumbs and are singled out for criticism (and were eventually defended by folks such as Manny Farber for what today is termed "transgressive elements").
One way to examine this would be to view all the films currently being screened at NC 16, which is giving us an ostensible dividing line between "A" and "B." The sample size is too tiny to be of much real use, but it leads us in the direction of your next point:
There is probably a structural distribution that is reasonably similar to what we see here for A-B in classic noir, but the difference in average score (84-77: 7 points) is not so much that the best or most interesting ("transgressive"?) B's will be of higher quality than many A's. The stodgiest of A's that Farber was dissing are in a different genre/style than the "termite-y" B's (virtually all noirs) that he was championing. This kind of thinking, taken to its extreme, is how the Cahiers du cinema group was able to push aside hundreds of excellent (and "edgy") films in the service of an aesthetic ideology that spawned its own lockstep approach to filmmaking.
If we pick the best of the neo-noirs, naturally they are going to hold up well. We're talking about the medians of the two distributions.
Only way to get to the median is to cover as much of the territory as possible. The lists you generated are the place for that, along with whatever others can bring to the table. Olson's list was just the first thing I came across while away from the office and not able to access reference books.
By the way, I disliked "Strange Days" a great deal. I do not like any of Bigelow's movies. "Chinatown" should make the top 25 list. If I made a list (who knows?), it would be quite different than Kevin Olson's. I might have two lists, for bigger productions and more modest movies. I like a good many of the modest movies more than the bigger ones.
There is no reason NOT to make those two lists, as they may tell us some other things about how neo-noir can find a way to translate itself into more fully-rounded filmmaking. It might be that "B neo-noir" actually gets to a more authentic place because the blockbuster syndrome has infected "A neo-noirs" in ways that have taken them beyond Farber's "white elephant" category all the way to "dinosaur"...