The MoFo Top 100 Neo-noir Countdown

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(1981, De Palma)

"Nobody wants to know about it. Nobody wants to know about conspiracy. I don't get it!"

I enjoy many of Brian De Palma's films, but for some reason, he isn't a director I tend to consciously gravitate to. He doesn't come to mind a lot when I'm thinking of directors I enjoy, even though he has made several films I enjoy a lot, like the first Mission: Impossible or Casualties of War. Blow Out is the kind of film that will make me raise my ears more often when I hear his name, and pay attention more closely to what he has made because it was really good.

Blow Out follows Jack Terry (John Travolta), a sound technician for cheap, slasher films that accidentally records the murder of a prominent politician. In the midst of the accident, he ends up rescuing Sally (Nancy Allen), who happened to be with the politician at the time of the murder. What they don't know at the time is that there are bigger forces involved in what happened, and they find themselves with a target on their back and stalked by Burke (John Lithgow), a professional hitman hired to tie the loose ends.

De Palma puts forth all the noir elements necessary in this film, but chooses to focus on the psyche of Jack and Sally, instead of the murder and the conspiracy themselves. As a matter of fact, both plotpoints end up being pretty much brushed aside as the film reaches its climax. Kinda reminded me of Hitchcock, whom I can't seem to escape now, and his MacGuffins. But the truth of the matter is that what we get, in terms of how Terry slowly unravels in his quest for truth, or how Sally comes around from being an accesory to the accident to probably its final victim is great.

Allen has a nice performance, but Travolta and Lithgow are the true stars, IMO. Loved both performances. De Palma also uses some neat camera tricks like a revolving camera in a particularly tense scene for Terry, or a high crane shot in, well, a particularly tense scene for Sally. He does loses a bit of his restraint in the final chase, as Terry drives through a parade, but the pay-off was more than worth it with its dark, bleak ending. So, Mr. De Palma, you have my attention.

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Jackie Brown was #44 on the MoFo Top 100 of the 1990s and Blow Out was #65 on the MoFo Top 100 of the 1980s.
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

Jackie Brown, Blow Out...Believe it or not, that's two more I haven't seen. When all is said and done and the countdown over I might just have seen the least amount of the 100 neo noirs.

Blow Out is #15 on my ballot. It's my third favorite De Palma behind Carlito's Way and Carrie.

I wrote something about it a few years ago on here. It has spoilers and it's slightly political (dun dun dun) so click here if you dare!

Both of these are great. I put Blow Out off for a long time thinking it wouldn’t be for me. It was though, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again soon.

Jackie Brown was my 4. We all know how we feel about Tarantino by now. Either you love him or you don’t. I do.

1 for 2 today. Have seen Jackie Brown and it's probably my favorite Tarantino mostly because it's based on an Elmore Leonard novel. It seems more mature and less gimmicky than his other films. Plus what movie lover isn't a Robert Forster or Pam Grier fan?

Have never seen Blow Out. I'm somewhat surprised it not only made the countdown but placed so high. It's never really been on my radar much. Of course the same could be said about other entries.This was the much harder countdown to figure out. There were just so many possibilities. I wonder if anyone will manage a complete 25 of 25 sweep? It certainly won't be me.

56 of 84 seen so far.

Both are very good movies but neither made my list. Jackie Brown is one of Tarantino's best and Blow Out is maybe De Palma's best(?). I don't know to be fair I've never been a huge fan of his work so haven't dug too deep in his filmography. This one is good though.
"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

So much love for the 90s in this countdown. I was just thinking, and I'm not meaning to derail the thread, just want to get in fellow Mofos heads, that 90s redux should be next up. Not hosted by me. It's been 10 years. Sure we know the top 10 or 20 but the rest could be fun.

Society ennobler, last seen in Medici's Florence
So much love for the 90s in this countdown. I was just thinking, and I'm not meaning to derail the thread, just want to get in fellow Mofos heads, that 90s redux should be next up. Not hosted by me. It's been 10 years. Sure we know the top 10 or 20 but the rest could be fun.

Yeah! The 90's is the place where all current generations overlap.
"Population don't imitate art, population imitate bad television." W.A.
"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." M.T.


RT – 88%, IMDb – 7.5

Roger Ebert said:

"A lot of crime films play like they were written by crossword puzzle fans who fill in the easy words and then call the hot line for the solution. (The solution is always: Abandon the characters and end with a chase and a shootout.) Tarantino leaves the hardest questions for last, hides his moves, conceals his strategies in plain view, and gives his characters dialogue that is alive, authentic and spontaneous." (read full review here)
K. Austin Collins, from Rolling Stone, said:

"There’s a lo-fi L.A. noir feel to some of this movie, something sort of plain-clothed and gumshoe-y about Max Cherry, contra the danger and excitement of Jackie’s scheme." (read full review here)
@MovieMad16 said:

"This is easily Tarantino's best film by a long shot. For once, every character is different and not similar like in Tarantino's other films. Pam Grier plays a character with not much to lose, so she decides to go all out and get something for herself." (read full review here)


RT – 88%, IMDb – 7.4

Roger Ebert said:

"This movie is inhabited by a real cinematic intelligence. The audience isn't condescended to. In sequences like the one in which Travolta reconstructs a film and sound record of the accident, we're challenged and stimulated: We share the excitement of figuring out how things develop and unfold, when so often the movies only need us as passive witnesses." (read full review here)
Travis Woods, from Bright Wall/Dark Room, said:

"Blow Out, the singular moment in which the split in the screen between De Palma’s obsessions and his aesthetics, between the politics of his early films and the sleaze-noir terror of his erotic thrillers finally fell, merging in a high-low monument of cinematic purity that interrogates our need for comfort from movie narratives while offering that same succor in its devastatingly beautiful irresolution." (read full review here)
@Cobpyth said:

"I was glued to the screen during the whole movie and the ending was so wonderful and yet so horrifying that I sat through the whole credits, thinking about the shockingly beautiful final scenes. You just know a film was great when that happens." (read full review here)

I was not much of a fan of Brian De Palma’s stuff before Blow Out. Carrie worked for what it was and Phantom of the Paradise was over-the-top fun, but I found the others – Sisters, Obsession, The Fury, and Dressed to Kill – to be nothing more than working through his own Hitchcock fetish, adding bright red blood and naked t!ts to Vertigo and Psycho. He went right back to it with Body Double, a nearly X-rated take on Rear Window. But Blow Out is De Palma’s magnum opus, to that point in his career. He seemed to have exorcised some of the Hitchcockian demons and what remained was spectacular. Blow Out is a suspense film, so still generally Hitchcockian, but unlike the others it is not consciously restaging specific scenes from the Master over and over again. And those techniques and touches that were De Palmian from the very beginning, like split screen action, split focus diopteris, tracking overhead shots, and extreme angles, are utilized perfectly in this paranoid conspiratorial potboiler that is one part Blow-Up, one part The Conversation, and one part Zapruder Film mixed with De Palma’s gloriously crass sex and death and violence with no happy ending for anybody…except maybe the director who finally gets his great scream. It all comes together. To me it is De Palma’s masterpiece, far and away.

Assassination, prostitutes, and a sound man, oh my. Heartbreakingly bleak, as a Neo Noir should. I had it up at number eleven on my list, fifteen points.

4. Night Moves (#40)
5. High & Low (#19)
6. Nightcrawler (#21)
7. The Grifters (#45)
8. One False Move (#73)
9. Blast of Silence (#48)
11. Blow Out (#17)
12. To Live & Die in L.A. (#43)
13. The Naked Kiss (#51)
14. Angel Heart (#31)
15. Shallow Grave (#95)
17. Dead Again (#90)
22. The Hot Spot (#85)
24. Blue Ruin (#82)
25. Johnny Handsome (DNP)

Society ennobler, last seen in Medici's Florence

#18. Jackie Brown (1987) is my #3.

This is a proof that Tarantino knows what is a Literature and Art of Cinema. What a collection of masterfully created characters superbly choreographed in a great story. Robert Forster and Pam Grier are just... Wow! All of the others around them are top level too. For me, this film almost overthrown Pulp Fiction.
Seen it dozen of times and some fragments hundreds of times.


My Ballot

1. Angel Heart (1987) [#31]
3. Jackie Brown (1997) [#18]
4. The Driver (1978) [#79]
6. Red Rock West (1993) [#88]
7. The Hot Spot (1990) [#85]
8. Shallow Grave (1994) [#95]
9. Le Cercle Rouge (1970) [#23]
10. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) [#27]
14. Purple Noon (1960) [#94]
16. Thelma & Louise (1991) [#56]
19. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) [#36]
21. Mona Lisa (1986) [#78]
24. Pulp Fiction (1994) [#37]


Others in my radar:

The Ninth Gate (1999) [one-pointers]
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) [#96]
True Romance (1993) [#60]
Thief (1981) [#29]
The Conversation (1974) [#28]
Sin City (2005) [#26]

I only had Jackie Brown at #20, but that says nothing about my love for it. While I've long ago burned out on Pulp Fiction, I can still watch Jackie Brown any time and still happily dive into this story and hang out with these characters as they scheme and connive and try to outwit each other.

My List:
4. Memories of Murder (#25)
5. True Romance (#60)
9. Nightcrawler (#21)
11. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (#100)
12. Branded to Kill (#71)
13. The Man Who Wasn't There (#27)
14. Blast of Silence (#48)
16. Sin City (#26)
18. Following (#84)
20. Jackie Brown (#18)
21. Mother (#67)
22. Purple Noon (#94)
I may go back to hating you. It was more fun.

A system of cells interlinked
I also think Blow Out is easily DePalma's best film. DePalma is a creative director, but his films range from great to straight-up bad in my book. I recall seeing this back on VHS and thinking it was just so damned cool with all the cool cinematography and crazy shots. I was about 12, so I most likely had never even heard the term cinematography, but I liked it anyway! packed with fun and inventive sequences, and it absolutely does not cop out with the ending. I had it at #15 on my ballot.

I don't get the love for Jackie Brown. I think it's good, but not great, and I rank it in the bottom tier of Tarantino films.
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” ― Thomas Sowell

This is my list so far.
1 Not going to happen
2. You Were Never Really Here
3. Dog Day Afternoon
4 Not going to happen
5. Good possiblity
6. I'll have to double check it may already be on here
7. Klute
8. Cape Fear (1962)
9. Good possibility
10 The Hustler
11. The Talented Mr. Ripley
12. The Grifters
13. Maybe
14. Probably not
15. Probably not
16. Definitely not
17. Body Heat
18. Maybe already on there.
19. Probable
20. Gone Girl
21. Pulp Fiction
22. Nope
23. Bound
24. Maybe already on there
25. Swoon

I also think Blow Out is easily DePalma's best film.
It's a good scream.

I still haven't seen Jackie Brown. I should get that remedied soon.

Blow Out was #18 on my ballot. Here's what I wrote on it a while ago:

This film has been on my watchlist for a while, so I'm glad I finally got around to it. Like the other films I've seen from De Palma, the craft is really good. The standout sequences for me were when Jack pieced together the murder with the sound recording and the photographs of the crime. Like their equivalent sequence in Blow-Up, those scenes pack a ton of suspense and, even though I didn't understand all the logistics of what Jack was doing in those scenes, they were directed in a way which made them easy to follow. Other great sequences include the 360 pan shot inside Jack's apartment, the use of split screen in a few scenes, and the Liberty Day Parade in the final act. The film also avoids giving Jack and Sally a simple black and white morality and casts some grey into the mix. As a result, there's a subtle feeling of inevitability in the film that culminates with a powerful ending. I was initially bothered with a few medium to minor details such as Burke relying on trial and error to track down Sally, Jack eluding the police and the paramedics as easily as he did in the final act, and the final scene. Upon reflection though, I warmed up to most of those details. I'll have to rewatch Blow-Up to decide which film I prefer, but I imagine they'll be pretty close to each other.