Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Down these mean streets — of London?

Raymond Chandler was born on July 23, 1888. On the 125th anniversary of his birth, we take a look at the origin of his most iconic phrase, "mean streets." Who actually coined it, and who used it in a story first?

By Lars Trodson

Raymond Chandler is almost always cited as the man who coined the phrase "mean streets." His essay, "The Simple Art Of Murder," contains the oft-repeated quote: "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid." The essay first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1944 and was reprinted in an anthology in 1950 under that same title.

The Library of America, on its page about Chandler, writes: "In his first novel, The Big Sleep (1939), the classic private eye finds his full-fledged form as Philip Marlowe: at once tough, independent, brash, disillusioned, and sensitive—and man of weary honor threading his way (in Chandler's phrase) "down these mean streets" among blackmailers, pornographers, and murderers for hire."

In an article published on June 5, 2013 in Los Angeles Magazine titled "The 10 Most Iconic Cop Shows SetIn the Mean Streets of L.A", the author writes: "'Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean...' Raymond Chandler, the patron saint of pulp noir, once wrote."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Is There Any Way To Breathe New Life Into "A Christmas Carol" — ?

By Lars Trodson

The thing that was going through my mind as I watched Jim Carrey’s version of “A Christmas Carol” when it was in theaters a few years back was whether that movie was finally going to put an end to any new filmed versions of the book. That 3D spectacle (produced by Disney) seemed so tired and spent, so devoid of any new ideas (I wondered if the screenwriters had actually read the book), that I thought it was the final nail in Jacob Marley. This turned out to be true. The versions that have come out in the four years since have been jokey, gimmicky, low-budget jobs (one has a character named Bob Crotchrot instead of Bob Cratchit, to give you an idea.)

But truth be told, the entire "Christmas Carol" franchise had already seemed to have grown damp and tired by 2009. The story had been repeated so many times, in so many way, that it no longer had any real power to surprise or delight. The novel is so slender that a 90 minute or two hour version pretty much contains everything that Dickens wrote. Even the classic half-hour version by Richard Williams from 1971 feels, in its own way, complete.

I think watching “A Christmas Carol” has become the tradition. We don't really have a transformative experience watching the story any more. We go through the motions; the viewing of the movie is now a bauble, an ornament, a connection to our past yuletide traditions. Scrooge opens his window and calls out to the boy ("A wonderful boy! An intelligent boy!") but it no longer moves us.