Showing posts with label film noir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film noir. Show all posts

Friday, September 22, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Funny, You Don't Look Noirish

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, we will pair wines with three movies from the film noir department. 

Noir is a word which is near and dear to the hearts of movie lovers and wine lovers alike. Film noir puts the accent on that which is dark and maybe a bit mysterious. The movies in this category are generally moody, brooding, temperamental sorts. They aren't always black and white but they always depict a world that is made up of shadows.

In wine, noir is most commonly associated with the Pinot Noir grape. These wines are generally moody, brooding, temperamental sorts, too. They depict a wine world that is dark and mysterious, but they often lean into elegance. 

In Sideways, Miles describes Pinot Noir as "thin-skinned and temperamental," a grape that needs "constant care and attention," one that can't grow just anywhere or be grown by just anybody. Of course he is actually describing himself. 

You can also find Grenache Noir, although the noir there is used only to differentiate it from Grenache Blanc. Baco Noir is a North American hybrid grape from which wine is made largely in the Northeast and Canada. 

Johnny Eager is a 1941 film noir of the finest kind, full of treachery, lies and lust, coming at you from every angle. There is even a cruel twist of fate thrown in, just to underscore that what happened simply had to happen. That's film noir, Jake. Robert Taylor, Lana Turner and Van Heflin play off of each other like they were born to do so. 

A Pinot Noir to pair with Johnny Eager has to be as dark and brooding as the grape can get, with the slick panache of Taylor and the smoldering beauty of Turner. Migration Winery is in Napa but they drove south to pick grapes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria. That patch of ground is as close you get to a grand cru vineyard in the US of A. Their 2016 Pinot goes for $75, but they have already sold out of a handful of vintages so don't wait.

2011's Drive features Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood Jack-of-all-trades, one of those trades being a getaway driver for bad guys. When Gosling was a teenage Mouseketeer, more people probably pegged him as the future star of La La Land and Barbie rather than a moody criminal cohort. So much for typecasting. He plays dark really well. As an added bonus, Albert Brooks finally gets to play a guy who gets nobody's sympathy. 

Drive Wines started as a hobby, in a garage in Sonoma County. They were not driving getaways in their spare time, they were too busy making wine. Their $38 Quan Vineyard Pinot Noir hails from Los Carneros grapes. Drive, a garage, CARneros, this is fitting together too perfectly. 

The Big Sleep has Bogie and Bacall in their 1946 noir splendor. Everyone in this movie is running from someone else, except of course hard-boiled private eye Philip Marlowe. He's probably the man you see when you look over your shoulder. Humphrey Bogart makes murder and intrigue look about as hard as leaning against a wall and flipping a coin. Lauren Bacall sings "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" with just the right amount of hair-flip I don't care. 

Try The Big Sleep Cocktail: cognac, champagne, sugar and a squeeze of lemon. I hear it's pretty good. But we need something a bit darker, don't we? Talbott's Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir brings the magic of the Santa Lucia Highlands to us for a bit less than $40 a bottle. That AVA name, Santa Lucia Highlands, always makes me want to hear "The Happy Wanderer" on bagpipes, even though I know it's in Monterey County.

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Friday, August 4, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Double Acts

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, Blood of the Vines has double vision - three movies in which deuces are wild. Just one wine pairing for each film, though.

David Cronenberg's 1988 weirdness was Dead Ringers, starring Jeremy Irons, an actor who excels in every genre he chooses. The weirdness? Irons plays a dual role of identical twin brothers who are gynecologists. Where did Cronenberg ever get that idea? From two actual twin brother gynecologists. I kid you not. You could look it up. The script, however, is described as "highly fictionalized." It is, but not as much as you might expect.

Law & Order fans will note that Jill Hennessy got her big break in Dead Ringers, appearing, she and her twin sister, as double-your-pleasure prostitutes. 

Twice as nice is the Double Eagle Cabernet, from the Grieve Winery. Let's not focus on naming a company Grieve, even if that is your name. Let's focus on the $90 Napa Valley cult wine lookalike. Double your pleasure by making it a magnum, 1.5 liters instead of 750 milliliters. 

The 1947 film noir A Double Life stars Ronald Colman in the role that netted him an Oscar. He plays an actor who leans a little too heavily into his characters. That's not so bad when he plays a well-meaning but befuddled man of the people. But when he plays, say, Othello - look out. He's a method man who is actually schizophrenic. 

His double life gets derailed by the double of a woman he is seeing. That is a perfect way to divide and conquer a split personality. Maybe he should have taken a part in A Midsummer Night's Dream instead of Othello.

Double Trouble is a Washington state blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from Charles & Charles. You probably won't get into as much trouble with this wine as Colman got into as Othello. 

The Black Room, a 1935 Boris Karloff film, has the horror king playing two roles - twin brothers in an Austrian castle. Oh, and there is a family curse which states that one of the brothers would kill the other in the castle's black room. That would be caution enough for me to stay away from it, hide out in the green room or the blue room. Or here's an idea: repaint the black room. But you know that's not where we're headed. 

Karloff made this film after scaring the nation witless with Frankenstein, The Mummy and Bride of Frankenstein, so he was on a bit of a major roll.

With the brothers as twins, it is no spoiler to mention that the killer twin assumes the identity of the other one. He is exposed in a way that reminds me of the Dr. John song, "How Come My Dog Don’t Bark When You Come Around." Except, of course, the dog does bark. Evil Karloff ends up hoist by his own petard, as it were. And if you look up the origin of the word "petard," you'll find out why Shakespeare was such a funny guy.

Pichetti Winery - in Cupertino, of all places - has a Brother's Blend which will be a lot kinder to you than evil Karloff was to his bro. Petit Verdot, Malbec and Syrah grapes join together to form a bridge from Bordeaux to the Rhône Valley, by way of California's Central Coast. It's a $43 petard. 

Friday, July 21, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Big City Blues

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, we have wine pairings for three movies about major metropoli. Well, two about The Big Apple and one about… Portland. Portland? 

There are plenty of films set in the exciting locales of L.A., Chicago, Philly or Phoenixville. That last one is the Pennsylvania burg where some of the shooting happened for The Blob. Well, we'll give NYC its due and try to imagine Portland as a concrete jungle.

Ah yes, the film so nice they named it twice. New York New York hit movie screens in 1977, with the answer to the question, "Can Martin Scorsese do no wrong?" The answer was yes. Wait, it was no. Ah, the syntax is so twisted I can't get a grip on it. Let's just say that movie-goers were less than wowed and critics were even less than that.

We have Di Niro and Minnelli, a pretty great theme song which was made even greater by a guy named Sinatra a couple years later, and a pretty grand version of Opus Number One. It may not be a great film, but you can sure have a good time watching it with a big barrel of over-buttered popcorn. And a barrel-aged Chardonnay.

Try my go-to white wine, the one I go to when I'm in the mood for a good ol' fashioned Cali Chardonnay. Edna Valley spares nary a stave when it comes to aging their Chardonnay, and it will be a perfect match with that buttery popcorn. Or that buttery scampi. 

Okay, so maybe I was a little harsh on Portland earlier. Their population was only about 600,000 in 1957, when Portland Exposé came out. It is more than two million now - in the top 25 - so they are a legitimately big city. 

Exposé was ripped from reality as a story about two crime gangs fighting over who gets the unions. A bar owner decides to install some pinball machines for the pleasure of his clientele, and that starts things hopping. Because pinball starts with p, and that rhymes with t, and that stands for trouble - in the form of gambling, drugs and prostitution.

The nice thing is that the union plays the part of the cavalry, riding to the rescue when the bar owner and an innocent young thing are kidnapped. I would like to think that should I ever be in a similar situation, I would see law enforcement officers on the scene, armed to the teeth, rather than my SAG-AFTRA rep. I mean, she's nice and all, but guns are better when you are on the lam from the syndicate. So I've been told.

Seven Bridges Winery is in downtown Portland, just steps from the Willamette River. They do a nice Malbec and an even nicer Cabernet Franc, both of which will pair nicely with Portland Exposé.

While we’re noiring it, let's get back to the Big Apple, where they know how to make it dark. 1948's Naked City follows the cops as they investigate a homicide, decades before Law & Order made a cliche out of it. The persons of interest seem a little more engaged while being questioned than those on L&O. Those people find it hard to interrupt making toast for a police interrogation.

Naked City later squeezed its shadowy self into the small screen, giving America a weekly dose of those "eight million stories." They will never run out. Big cities are making new stories all the time.

We will strip down the wine pairing for Naked City. Naked Wines is a wine club of sorts which focuses on independent winemakers. They like to keep the quality high so you won't send any thugs out to break kneecaps in the middle of the night.

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Friday, January 27, 2023

Blood Of The Vines - Lurking With Lorre

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, we dig into a few movies featuring Peter Lorre - with wine pairings for each.

Peter Lorre was an amazing actor, we don't need to beat that horse to death. However, beyond his emotive skills was that voice - that incredible voice. His take as Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon is a superb example of the unconvincing convincer. When he tells Sam Spade to "kindly clasp your hands behind your neck" it’s no surprise that the table is turned faster than a Lazy Susan. There was a comic - I can't remember who - who did a quick impression of Lorre as a sportscaster, running down how one team killed, murdered… annihilated the other. In that voice. That incredible voice.

The Face Behind the Mask came to us in 1941 - prime time for film noir. Lorre stars as Johnny Szabo, a Hungarian immigrant who quickly learns the ropes in the US of A. Disfigured in a fire, he finds the only means of earning a living that's available to him is safecracking. If safecracking is in your toolbox to start with, it's possible that you aren't that nice a person anyway. However, if Lorre is in the role, you can expect that something is amiss somewhere. And something is.

There is a New England IPA called The Safecracker - who knows why. Oregon's Pheasant Run Winery used to have a Safecracker Syrah, but it seems that has been bumped in favor of their Bank Robber Red. That'll do in a pinch. We know whodunnit, we just won't say how.

From 1935, Mad Love started out as The Hands of Orlac, but what was no doubt a team of marketers somehow got Mad Love out of those words. You know how sometimes on your way home from work, they're doing a perp walk with a knife-throwing murderer down the street? Yeah? Well, that's what happens to Lorre in this film. He ends up in possession of the late murderer's hands and uses them in a transplant. "Just happen to have a couple in the laboratory." "But doctor, will I ever be able to throw a knife again?" "Yes, but your piano playing days are down the toilet, I'm afraid."

There are plenty of T-shirts for sale with funny bits like, "Just another wine drinker with a knife-throwing problem." The level of hilarity probably depends on whether you are the thrower or the throwee. In Texas, there is even a sub-culture of axe throwers, of which the less we know, the better. 

In the movie's frenzied climax, Lorre mistakes a real woman for a wax dummy, which makes one wonder how he managed to pull off a hand transplant. It's a good thing she didn't employ him to do a breast augmentation.

VineOh! - the name just rings of oeno-sincerity, doesn't it? - has a Mad Love Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a Mad Love sweet white blend. One of those has to be good for viewing this film.

The Beast With 5 Fingers gave 1946 a dose of Hollywood horror. It's the old "severed hand" trope brought back to life in grand fashion by Warner Brothers. The poster beckons, "Your flesh will creep at the hand that crawls!" However much they paid ad men back then, the one who wrote that log line earned his day's pay. Depending on your gullibility, it can be either the subject of those campfire tales about what happened in "the next town over" or an early glimpse of Cousin Itt. 

A dead piano player's hand comes back from the grave and tickles the ivories a little more, in between strangulations, of course. Lorre's character tries to end the five-fingered fiend by flinging it into the fire. Spoiler: He lives just long enough to regret it

In Washington's Columbia Valley there is a red blend known as Sinister Hand. I'm not one to point fingers, but soft, juicy, and vanilla doesn't sound all that sinister to me, but maybe I would feel differently with a hand crawling up my leg. 

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Friday, July 29, 2022

Blood Of The Vines - Killers On The Loose

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌ ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ This week is a killer. Three killers, to be precise, and a wine pairing for each.

Back when I was a music director for a radio station, I would get a call every week from a record promoter who told me the same thing each time - "This record is deadly, Randy. Deadly. You gotta add it right away." I usually told him that we had few enough listeners as it was - I didn't need to be killing off any of them with a "deadly" record. Most of those records would probably only bore you to death, anyway. Our three movies this week all have a killer on the loose - and he's deadly. 

The 1956 film noir, The Killer is Loose, features Joseph Cotten, Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey. Cotten is a cop while Corey is a banker who is the inside man in a robbery of the institution where he works. Fleming is the cop's wife, who becomes the target of revenge after the bank teller escapes from the prison term he was serving for the heist.

The cop was no fool, except maybe for shooting the banker's wife dead by accident. The banker vowed revenge, killed a guard to break free and hightailed it to the cop's neighborhood. At this point, the cop was possibly a fool for leaving his desk job when the force asked him to help find the killer. He put his wife in hiding, to which she somehow took exception (fool) and came out into the open, acting as beautiful bait to lead the criminal to John Law.

The film was viewed rather favorably by critics of the day, and who can argue about the casting? I'll watch anything with Joseph Cotten in it, not to mention Fleming and Corey.

I ran across a photo from the '90s, showing Cotten and his real-life wife tasting sparkling wine at Henkell in Weisbaden. Today, the outfit is known as Henkell Freixenet, maker of German bubbles (sekt) as well as Spanish (cava) and Italian (Prosecco). These international sparklers are less expensive than Champagne, but just as much fun, if you ask me. Be careful where you aim that cork, killer.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, from 1976, was written and directed by John Cassavetes, so you know you're getting a work that is a little bit off the wall. Ben Gazzara stars as the owner of a Sunset Strip nightclub. Gazzara says the character has a deep appreciation for the art of his establishment, while the customers are mainly there for the naked ladies. He says the character has a lot of Cassavetes in him.

Gazzara’s Cosmo falls into a big debt while playing poker with the wrong crowd. The mobster to whom he owes the money assigns him to perform the task of the title, a job he's not supposed to survive. He does survive, however, although he takes a bullet for his trouble. Back at the club, he is inspired to give his troupe a pep talk, urging them to live their roles while giving the patrons a means of escape from their own troubles. Bullet or no bullet, the show must go on.

You may want to stop into Gil Turner's liquor store for a wine to pair with Bookie. Turner was once known as Mr. Sunset Strip, so the ad blurb says. The store stocks a ton of cult wines that would be welcome at the Riot House, many of which can be had for less than a hundy. 

1964's The Killers is a remake of the 1946 film noir classic of the same name. It was made for TV, but TV didn't want it. NBC deemed it too violent to air, so it was sent to movie theaters. What a cast: Lee Marvin, Clu Gulager, Angie Dickinson, Ronald Reagan, John Cassavetes, Claude Akins, Norman Fell - it's easy to see why people still like it, despite the violence. Or maybe it's because of the violence.

The story revolves around a robbery, a handful of killings, a double-cross, some brutal mistreatment of Dickinson's character and a suitcase full of missing money. If you can stomach it, it's a killer film.

Killer Drop wine owes more to surfing and snowboarding than actual killing, but let's pop a cork. The northern California Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah blend sounds like a killer combination. 

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Friday, June 11, 2021

Blood Of The Vines - Femme Noir

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ ‌‌‌‌‌movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌  This week we look at the dark side of the fair sex in a trio of Femme Noir films.

The one-sheet for 1947's Nora Prentiss says "Loving her once is once too often," and if the movie had been made a few decades later, I'd swear I knew her.  Ann Sheridan is the femme fatale while Kent Smith is the sucker who fakes his own death to be with her.  Claiming a dead guy's body as his own doesn't turn out so well for him, but didn't we all see that coming?  That's film noir, Jake.

Critics didn't respond well when Nora Prentiss was released, if you care what critics say.  However, time has been kind to the film, which is now generally viewed as a fine example of femme noir.

Oriel Winery used to have a Bordeaux rosé called Femme Fatale.  It could be hard to find now, as the company's website looks like an untended garden.  For Ann Sheridan, let's go to Washington's Yakima Valley and Sheridan Vineyard’s Mystique, a Cab-heavy red blend with lush Merlot in a supporting role.

Beverly Michaels gets the starring role in 1953's Wicked Woman, as a waitress who aims to take the place of her employer's drunk wife.  When their little secret gets out, well, you know what they say about the best laid plans - and the best planned lays.

Let's refer once again to the movie posters: "She’s nothing but trouble… every voluptuous inch of her."  "She uses sex the way a hoodlum uses a loaded gun."  "She lives up to every scarlet letter of her name."  "They called her wicked, but they didn’t know the half of it."  The writers had a blast with those movie posters.

Clouds Rest makes a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which bears the name Femme Fatale.  Be warned, it's expensive - as is any femme fatale worth her one-sheets.

Body Heat is the 1981 film that served as the launching pad for Kathleen Turner's career.  I hear that Body Heat was inspired by Double Indemnity, but there is also a taste of DI in our previous two Femme Noir films.  Noir often calls for a character like Walter Neff - or Ned Racine - guys who can’t resist the siren call of a woman they know to be trouble.

It was a hot summer there in Florida, but one ambulance chaser felt the need to turn up the heat a few degrees.  William Hurt played the shyster who stepped right into Turner's tangled web and took the fall.  Critics either panned it or praised it, but Body Heat became an icon of the eighties anyway.

Tessier Winery has a $28 Femme Fatale rosé.  Since Turner's character was so good at stepping on people to get what she wanted, the Pinot Noir grapes for the wine were foot-trampled as well.

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Friday, June 19, 2020

Blood Of The Vines - Murder USA

Pairing wine with movies!  See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell.  

This week's Blood of the Vines is a real killer.  "Murder USA" hangs over the trio of classic films which get the wine pairing treatment this time.  Hired henchmen who handle the dirty work for crime bosses - sounds like a job for Syrah.  Isn't that what California winemakers put in their Pinot? 

There could be good money in punching out an enemy - or punching up a Pinot Noir.  I wouldn’t know.  I tap out humorous "observations" just ahead of deadline.  I get paid in popcorn for writing these weekly musings.  Good thing I like popcorn.

The 1958 noir, Murder By Contract, stars Vince Edwards as a man who doesn't care how he makes his money, as long as he saves up for that cute little house over on Easy Street.  Edwards may be better remembered for his early '60s role as TV's Dr. Ben Casey - who earned his scratch by saving lives, not taking them.  Maybe his Ben Casey screen test was the Murder By Contract scene in which he impersonates a doctor.  "Just tell me where it hurts, I'll get back to you in a few years."

In Murder, our killer gets more than bargained for.  The target is a woman.  Hmmm.  Hired killer suddenly plagued by ethics?  He has to draw the line somewhere - doesn't he?  The storm drain shootout is as good a place as any.

Doffing my fedora to the feminine victim, I can't resist a bottle of Lady Wine with this film.  Marketed by the Kentucky winery under the phrase, "Weep no more my lady, welcome to the taste of Louisville," they can ship this sweet, ten-dollar wine to 43 states.  Unfortunately, California is one of them.

In 1995's To Die For, Nicole Kidman isn't the clueless target of murder.  She's the one hiring the job out.  In her world, husbands who stand in the way of wifey's rise to fame don't make it to the second reel.  He wants her to give up her celebrity status as a TV weatherwoman to make babies and wait tables.  Watch it, girlfriend.  The karmic wheel is a bitch when it comes back around.

Deerfield Ranch Winery has a Chardonnay for the occasion - Blonde Ambition.  This Russian River Valley bottling is dedicated to the winemaker's wife.  Had the hubby in To Die For been as thoughtful, he might have made it to the final scene.

Rope is from 1948 - a good year for movies, Buicks and the Cleveland Indians.  It wasn't the best year for Alfred Hitchcock, since the movie sort of flopped.  Rope is now hailed as a taut masterpiece of noir.  Its long scenes give movie nerds a launching pad for discussions that put regular people to sleep.  Sort of like when wine nerds try to tell you about Riesling.

Rope features a "perfect murder" - committed not for money, but as a psychological exercise.  The perfection gets tarnished at a dinner party where the buffet table holds the dead body.  "Oh, no more for me, but that leg was delicious."

Hitchcock had a lavish getaway home in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where he reportedly grew Riesling grapes.  Called Heart O’ the Mountain, it is now a winery.  Their wine can be pricey, but the Chalone Pinot Noir goes for $25.  Tastes pretty good with popcorn, too.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Blood Of The Vines: Wine For "The Third Man"

Blood Of The Vines: The Third Man
Wine Goes To The Movies with 
Trailers From Hell and Now And Zin

When we talk about wine, the talk always turns to Pinot Noir.  It’s considered by many wine snobs to be the grape that’s hardest to get into the bottle, but the most expressive of the conditions from which it comes.  If you’d like the full-length lecture, just ask the nearest wine snob.  Make sure you have an hour or so to spare.

When you talk about movies, the talk always turns to film noir.  Film buffs, like wine snobs, love to show off their knowledge a bit.  An evening with a film noir fan leads to many dissertations on how the dark shadows of film noir best express the suspicion and doubt that permeated world events from World War II into the McCarthy ‘50s.  And, if you ask me, the 1960s could have used a lot more film noir.

Pinot Noir means “black Pinot” in French, which helps differentiate it from Pinot Grigio, which means “six-dollar house wine at Italian restaurants.”  Accordingly, film noir means “black film,” a fitting name for movies that live in the shadows and usually embrace the pulp crime fiction style of writing that sprang up in the 1930s.

In “The Third Man,” Joseph Cotten admits, ”I’m just a hack writer who drinks too much and falls in love with girls.  You?”  With an opener like that, it’s no wonder he didn’t end up making the springs on the Murphy bed squeak for their lives.  What woman couldn’t resist that come on?  Even if she did live in the shadows and have a tilty camera angle most of the time.

“The Third Man” makes great use of music, too.  A score by Anton Karas playing the zither provides a creepily exotic backdrop.  “He’ll have you in a dither with his zither,” blazes the trailer.  It’s good that Karas didn’t play the ocarina.  That’s an even tougher rhyme.

Orson Welles' Harry Lime is a black market racketeer in wartime Vienna who cares nothing for the victims of his methods.  He waters down penicillin for sick people.  God knows what he does to stretch a bottle of wine to six servings instead of three.  Oh, and his markup is brutal, too.  This guy should open a restaurant.

Lime cites the war and bloodshed Italy felt under the House of Borgia, while producing Michaelangelo, DaVinci and the Rennaissance.  “Switzerland’s 500 years of brotherly love,” he says, “only produced the cuckoo clock.”  I want an exit line like that.

The Third Man Wine comes from New Zealand’s Waipara Valley, and a lot of wine snobs are hitting up the NZ for their Pinot Noir.  I don’t see a real connection here - other than the name - but the flavors in The Third Man Sauvignon Blanc include... lime.  Cut, print.

Fourth and fifth man wines:

Hoepler’s Third Man Zweigelt comes straight from Vienna - well, southeast of Vienna - I wonder what sector that is?  The label for this great Austrian grape carries an image from the film, and word is it will never remind you of a chase through a sewer.  Can I see your papers, please?

Washington’s Gramercy Cellars takes the Third Man out of Austria altogether and transplants him to the Southern Rhone with a GSM - Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre - blend that’s heavy on the Grenache.


I know I’ve linked to this before, but this is a great time to revisit the ol’ YouTube of  Orson Welles for Paul Masson.  It’s still hard to watch Welles try to struggle through a TV commercial for this juice.  Masson let Welles go soon after the great one announced on television that he never drank the stuff, just shilled it.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Wine Tasting Event: Don't Be Afraid Of The Noir

Wine lovers and film fans will converge for a Hollywood Pinot Noir tasting event to celebrate film noir.  Trailers From Hell, Now And Zin and K&L Wines are pouring the Pinot Noir in association with the American Cinematheque's 14th Annual Noir City Film Festival.  Check that link for a full schedule of the films to be featured.

The event - Don't Be Afraid of the Noir - will be held Thursday April 26, 2012 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at K&L's Hollywood location, 1400 N. Vine Street.  Tickets cost $15 per person and will be available at the door.

Your hardworking Now And Zin correspondent has been invited to share in the hosting duties, which I have been led to believe involve standing around tasting wine and talking about it some.  That sounds like it’s right up my alley.  Some filmmakers have signed on for that gig as well, notably Dan Ireland, Chris Wilkinson, Adam Rifkin, Brian Trenchard-Smith and TFH chief guru Joe Dante.  Presumably, they were led to believe the job involves standing around tasting wine and talking about movies.

Here are the Pinots which will put us all in the noir mood, examined by our Film Noir Wine Critic, Robert Walter Parker-Neff:

Black Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir

"Black Ridge is made by ADS Wines, a red stained property in Lodi, owned and operated by the Scotto family.  They have been in the wine business since the 1940's, the heyday of film noir.  Come to think of it, it was the heyday of Lodi, too.  I'm going on the assumption that three generations of Scottos can't be wrong.  That's why they're still there.  The Pinot is soft and pretty, two things a man like me likes, especially when they arrive together.  It's also supple and juicy.  Things are looking up."

Jackhammer Central Coast Pinot Noir

"In a rare moment of clarity, the Los Angeles Times made this one a Wine of the Week.  They say it's all about the grapes, and the grapes for this Pinot come from cool Central Coast sites in the Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County, Santa Lucia Highlands, and Edna Valley.  That's a lot of ground to cover, but you get used to it selling door-to-door.  Aged in French oak barrels older than my suit, JackHammer brings the berries and spices forward with smooth tannins.  That's the way I like my tannins.  Smooth.  The Times calls it "delightful," which is odd because I'm used to hearing them break out the twenty-five cent words.  I'd pair it with a Mike Hammer movie, if you like that sort of thing."

Napa Cellars Napa Valley Pinot Noir

"The grapes for this Pinot Noir come from Napa Cellars' southerly Napa Valley vineyard north of San Pablo Bay.  I used to live there, a little room over a garage.  I couldn't see the grapes from there, but I sure could see the ocean fog.  They say that makes for a long growing season.  You ask me, driving a forklift around a winery for chump change, that makes for a long growing season.  Once, the fog cleared out just enough so I thought I saw Robert Mitchum stomping some grapes to a pulp.  The wine is fruity and accessible, not a bit like Mitchum.  But then nobody is."

Rickshaw Sonoma County Pinot Noir

"This Pinot reminds me of a dame I used to know, drenched in pretty cherry and wild strawberry aromas, accented by hints of clove.  She worked at a farmers market.  The palate is juicy, with a core of red fruit that carries you through to a spice-kissed finish.  Is it getting warm in here, or do I just need a cold beer?"

Windrun San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir

"Ken Brown made this wine, so now you know why he's in that line of work.  He loves to talk about the cool Burgundian climate of beautiful San Luis Obispo, cool like an ocean breeze.  I think it's more like he's talking about himself, but then, I'm suspicious by nature.  Oh, yeah, the wine.  Full of ripe cherries, raspberries, you know the drill.  One thing I like about it - it's drinkable now with or without food.  Most of the characters I know get along the same way.  I'll take mine with a steak that thick.  But that's how I take my bourbon, too, when I can get it."

Sounds like a great time coming, so get that $15 ready.  Don't Be Afraid of the Noir, Thursday April 26 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at K&L Wine, 1400 N. Vine Street in Hollywood.

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