Robert Towne

Robert Towne

According to Variety, Robert Towne will be adding his Oscar pedigree to Mad Men for its final-two-seasons-that-they-are-calling-one-split-season. It’s an excellent merger of sensibilities, especially since it sees a guy who worked in television in the 60s writing for television set in the 60s. Towne’s accomplishment with Chinatown and his subsequent Oscar win have overshadowed an interesting career with three other Oscar nominations along the way, although his mainstream work tapered off after Mission: Impossible and its sequel in 2000. He’ll act as consulting producer for the show. Admittedly, it’s tough to tell if this is a great idea in practice, a great idea in theory, or if it’s just cool. On the other hand, since the show is practically fueled by cool, even that option seems largely viable. At any rate, we’re getting more writing from Towne, and that’s something to celebrate. And I wrote this all without quoting Chinatown. You’re welcome.

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Editor’s Note: Max Allan Collins has written over 50 novels and 17 movie tie-in books. He’s also the author of the Road to Perdition graphic novel, off which the film was based. With his new Mickey Spillane collaboration “Lady, Go Die” in great bookstores everywhere, we thought it would be fun to ask him for his ten best films noir. In true noir fashion, we bit off more than we could handle… We have to begin with a definition of noir, which is tricky, because nobody agrees on one. The historical roots are in French film criticism, borrowing the term noir (black) from the black-covered paperbacks in publisher Gallimard’s Serie Noire, which in 1945 began reprinting American crime writers such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Horace McCoy, Jim Thompson, Mickey Spillane, W.R. Burnett and many others. The films the term was first applied to were low-budget American crime thrillers made during the war and not seen in France till after it. The expressionistic lighting techniques of those films had as much to do with hiding low production values as setting mood. In publishing circles, the term has come to replace “hardboiled” because it sounds hipper and not old-fashioned. I tend to look at dark themes and expressionistic cinematography when I’m making such lists, which usually means black-and-white only; but three color films are represented below, all beyond the unofficial cut-off of the first noir cycle (Kiss Me Deadly, 1955). Mystery genre expert Otto Penzler has […]

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Robert Towne won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but what most don’t realize is that the original script for Chinatown was over 300 pages long. That would have made quite the shooting schedule. Roman Polanski‘s enduring noir classic is headed to Blu-ray soon which means seeing J.J. Gittes getting his nose cut in high definition. Plus, we’re giving a copy away, and the one we have has Robert Towne’s signature on it (thanks to the intrepid team at Dolby Labs who secured it legally). If you’re into that sort of thing. So how do you get your hands on it? Glad I made it seem like you asked.

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Your mission, if you choose to accept it… During an undercover mission in Prague, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) witnesses his spy team picked off one by one—including his mentor and friend, Jim Phelps (Jon Voight). With the blame of sabotage and treason on his head, Hunt goes on the run to clear his name, entrap the real conspirators and deliver the perfect dose of tentpole bravado.

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