Put the X in Xmas! Tired of the kid friendly films? And you’ve already watched Hans Gruber fall this season? Here’s five holiday films that won’t overload the saccharine and might just give you a reason to smile.
THE THIN MAN: Thinly veiled portrait of Hammett and Hellman’s own hijinks. If you don’t love Myrna Loy and William Powell after this you have no soul!
THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER: Speaking of thinly veiled, allegedly a portrait of the cantankerous Alexander Woolcott with the fabulous Bette Davis and a great cast.
THE APARTMENT: Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine, romance without schmaltz.
BRAZIL: We’re all in this together. You might want to get used to the world of this film; we’re hurtling toward it.
IN BRUGES: Maybe you like to go on holiday abroad (while you still can). Martin McDonogh and the boys want you to have a real good time. If you like darkness, guilt and violence, this is the film for you, assuming you’ve already enjoyed THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT which I said I wasn’t going to bring up this time because I always mention it.
In the run up to the release of Drag Noir, we’re featuring a few spots to drum up the excitement because, well — we’re so excited! Here’s a story from skulk member Graham Wynd to give you a sense of the flavour of the collection. Consider it a “bonus track” for the anthology.
by Graham Wynd
Content alerts: salty language, guns, drugs, sexual shenanigans
I desperately turned every door handle along the corridor while swearing a blue streak, trying to figure out where it had all gone wrong. The image of Bomber’s face covered with blood still haunted my vision though I tried to push it aside long enough to think straight.
“We have to seize the means of production,” Bomber had said. I laughed at the memory of his words and gripped the handle of the French horn case even tighter. There had to be a way out of here.
At last a handle moved under my sweaty grip. I pushed through the door. A supply closet: stacks of cocktail napkins, swizzle sticks and whatnot filled the shelves. Dead end, I knew. But maybe I could hide out here while things calmed down.
I threw the case in the corner and shoved a few bigger boxes together to make a leaning tower of booze boxes, then ducked down behind it. I willed my breath to slow down, but the ragged rasp of it continued. The bellows of my lung threatened to give me away if anybody tried the door behind me.
Maybe no one had followed me down the corridor.
Bomber’s gory face swam into view again and I cursed his name. ‘Means of production,’ my aunt Fanny.
Both of them.
“What do you mean, ‘means of production’?” Moaning Murdoch had asked him. He’d had that unfortunate moniker since back in the kiddie days when we were wet enough to let girls drag us to Harry Potter films. No matter that he outgrew the round face, that the big specs were replaced by contacts and Murdoch himself landed a scholarship playing for the Danes as a fullback. He was still Moaning Murdoch.
Bomber smiled in that way he had that suggested he knew the inside track. His smugness had only grown since he switched his major to business. The original plan to be a rapper had been scuppered due to his inherent lack of talent (which we all could have told him before but never mind that, he wasn’t listening).
What is noir? You can Google the term and come up with a bunch of answers, but as librarians will ask you, are you sure you have the right one? I always say I’m a ‘duck test’ sort of person — an out-dated Americanism for recognising ‘communists’ viz. if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck (though Senator McCarthy might have been wise to have looked into more stringent methods).
Most people who like the genre of noir will point to the films with their bleak cityscapes, inky shadows and sudden gun shots. Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart frown with worry, Lauren Bacall and Gloria Grahame show their gams, while Farley Granger looks lost. In novels, Patricia Highsmith’s slippery Tom Rippley worms his way into people’s lives while keeping his intentions hidden, or Dashiell Hammet sends the Continental Op to a seedy location and the blood spills red down the walls.
When I think of ‘noir’ I tend to think of women who don’t see the options and men who make bad choices. The very gendered split of that thought is what led me to thinking about Drag Noir and how people might play with that divide. In the noir world, people invest in the gender divisions because it brings them some certainty in an uncertain and dangerous world.
Buddhists say desire is the beginning of suffering: noir is all about the suffering. And the desire — whether it’s for money or sex or something less certain. Fred MacMurray lusting for Barbara Stanwyck: we know the Double Indemnity story so well. But what about Lily Dillon in Jim Thompson’s The Grifters? Especially as embodied by Anjelica Huston in Frears’ film, she’s hungry and restless as a shark, but nothing really fills it for long. Sometimes there’s a hunger that can’t be fed.
Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it They carry it with them every step that they take
Till one day they just cut it loose Cut it loose or let it drag ’em down…
A writer of bleakly noirish tales with a bit of grim humour, Graham Wynd can be found in Dundee but would prefer you didn’t come looking. An English professor by day, Wynd grinds out darkly noir prose between trips to the local pub.
Drag is a broad concept; noir is a fairly narrow one. Drag can be a way of playing with gender or it can be a matter of survival. In the noir world, it can be almost anything: camouflage, deceit, truth — or a skin to be shed at will.
Otto Penzler has always been really strict in his idea of noir:
Look, noir is about losers. The characters in these existential, nihilistic tales are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should, as the life that awaits them is certain to be so ugly, so lost and lonely, that they’d be better off just curling up and getting it over with. And, let’s face it, they deserve it.
Pretty much everyone in a noir story (or film) is driven by greed, lust, jealousy or alienation, a path that inevitably sucks them into a downward spiral from which they cannot escape. They couldn’t find the exit from their personal highway to hell if flashing neon lights pointed to a town named Hope. It is their own lack of morality that blindly drives them to ruin.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but I think noir ends up being a fairly bleak place — one where any bit of glamour or adopted power can be worth the gamble of discovery. It may even be worth flaunting it.
As RuPaul advises,”When the going gets tough, the tough reinvent.”
That’s what we want for DRAG NOIR: this is a call for stories where glamour meets grit, where everyone’s wearing a disguise (whether they know it or not) and knowing the players takes a lot more than simply reading the score cards. Maybe everyone’s got something to hide, but they’ve got something to reveal, too. Scratch the surface and explore what secrets lie beneath — it’s bound to cost someone…a lot.
Formatted: Times New Roman, regular, 12 point; 1″ margins; 1 space after full stop; lines spaced 1.5; use paragraph formatting to indent first line not tabs; no header/footer
Identified with a title, your name (and pen name identified as such), working email address on the first page: file name should include your surname & the title
Submitted in RTF format via email to katelaity at gmail with your name, the story title and total word count included in the body of the email; make sure the Subject line includes “Submission: Drag Noir” + your name
Due by March 20, 2014.
We will ask for world-wide print & ebook rights for a year and pay £10 via Paypal plus a copy of the paperback. The fabulous Stephanie Johnson has been persuaded to create another fabulous cover image! We plan to launch the book in July 2014.
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