Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The Birds-1963-Alfred Hitchcock


As a lazy, midwestern suburbanite I have done the unthinkable. No, it is not what might come to mind, such as killing or something involving cannibalism. And before you even think it, yes I have seen Hitchcock's 1963 masterpiece The Birds. what I have done though or haven't might be the case, does involve that film. Alright, alright, I can hear your screams and whimpers "Get to the point!" I know, you don't read this blog to read blabbering, in fact you don't read this blog at all(This is my attempt at a Rodney Dangerfield type humor...not funny? I know, but I tried).

To get to the task at hand, answering the question I brought up in the first paragraph. While having seen The Birds, and trying to write a well versed in-depth analysis, I realized something. First, I must tell you, I did not get the chance to rewatch the film at hand. I thought to myself "Oh, Shawny boy, you've seen that film a few times, why would you need to rewatch?" "Well..." I said to myself, "We cannot simply go off a memory, and while I do some research ahead of time, such as names, dates and some incriminating plot details, I don't want to steal anyone's thoughts before I am able to assimulate my own." Then my wife walked in and saw me talking to myself in the mirror, totally nude, except my tube socks. It was a weird situation. So, where were we? Oh yes, The Birds. So I wanted to have my own clear and articulated thoughts, while also not taking the time out to rewatch the film. Why not rewatch the film? What's the harm? Well, while I am not the busiest person, I do have work, school, a wife, a friend or two, and various other activities I am involved in. This isn't to say I am not dedicated to this blog. Or is it? I guess that's up to the reader. But I do love to watch films and I really love to write about films, but there are so many I have not seen or ever written about that I wish to write about and see soon. I really need to catch up on those unseen films, and while I am working on that had decided not to rewatch The Birds.

So I will present you with some talking points I had already made up that I was already planning on writing about.

-While I do think that the woman of the story that surround the leading man have a major purpose in the story, also giving the name it's ironic title The Birds (in regards to the literal birds and the woman), I do not think that this is the main theme that Hitchcock is investigating. I simply say this because the story does not surround the man(as most Hitchcock films do).

-One major thing I always thought The Birds was was a metaphor for Melanie's guilt for the things she had done in the past. She seemed to be running away from something to follow this man to some random island, and her guilt followed her, and harmed other people. After her guilt finally got to her(in the famous bedroom attack scene) they were able to get away. I could be wrong about this though, but it was the first theme to manifest itself in my mind after initially seeing it a while ago.

-Hitchcock's uncanny ability to bring us in and not have to explain any extraneous details to us (i.e. where the hell these birds are coming from and why they are so hostile). Which is something many of his worshippers do not seem to understand(for a PERFECT example of this I give you M. Night Shayamalan's The Happening, which had a great premise and had to give us explanation after explanation leaving very little to the imagination).

-The atrocity that is Michael Bay(Armageddon)/Naomi Watts(Funny Games)/Martin Campbell(Casino Royale) planning a remake of The Birds for 2009.

This is only the tip of what I wished to speak of, but as you can tell, I was planning it out a bit and just ran out of time and well... just time really.

I hope this read was at the very least somewhat enjoyable.

I will for sure have a Strangers On A Train analysis up tomorrow as well as TS's (Screen Savour) analysis of Notorious.

Definitely be checking out TS's blog because for the entire month of October he will be going way, way in depth with Hitchcock and totally trumping anything I have done here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Without access to true chaos, we'll never have true peace. Unless everything can get worse, it won't get any better."

Choke-2008-Clark Gregg


"There is none righteous, no not one" Romans 3:10

It's interesting to note, how utterly different and totally similar an author's works can be. Chuck Palahniuk is one of the more famous modern authors around, mainly from the success of the film Fight Club(based on his debut novel). He has gotten to a generation that believe reading is for old people, and made reading something fun to do, as it should be. I praise him for this, and for his keen sense of knowing how to portray characters that are in any case abhorrent and in no way charming. Yet, somehow Palhniuk does it time and time again. It's no wonder so many people want to adapt his books (as I typed this there are talks of an adaptation of his novel Survivor). The main question anyone might be asking is, do they need to be made into films, will the message still work? In the case of the latest adaptation of his book Choke I would have to say yes and no.

Choke is about Victor Mancini. He is a sex addict. An unrepentant sex addict that is. He works a dead end job at some sort of old times amusement park of something. He is a med school drop out, and a con artist. He has a mother who is in a psychiatric ward and doesn't even know who he is(constantly referring to him as lawyers who are now dead, that she has had in the past). We follow Victor and his friend Denny through a journey of realizing what love really is. Victor's con that he pulls is an interesting one to say the least, and where the book/film derives it's name. Victor will eat out at a restaurant and force himself to choke on his food only to be saved by a stranger. Usually, he lies and gets some sort of money in the mail afterwards from his savior.

What I find most striking is Choke's unbelievably heart warming tale, amidst all of the vulgarity and dirtiness. Victor is a basket case. He wants love so much that he looks for it in all the wrong ways. His sexual exploits prove to be empty and void throughout, and he is able to acknowledge this. When Victor finally meets someone he actually has feelings for he is unable to perform, not because he doesn't want to, but simply because of the misconceptions he has placed around sex. It almost seems that throughout the story sex is a metaphor for love.

Now Victor has more reason's for doing the things he does than for mere personal gain. He reveals to us the rush he gets from choking and his favorite part(being held after being saved) shows his true need for love.

Denny, Victor's best friend, is a chronic masturbater. This could be used as a crotch for comedy, and occasionally is, but ultimately Denny is Victor's better half. He finds himself working through the problems and going through the steps that he learns from the sex addicts anonymous class victor and he takes.

Along the way, Choke reveals more and more about Victor's character. I was fascinated by the depth's a which his character dove, and Sam Rockwell's great performance also played a factor in that. It was clear that Clark Gregg, who is an actor himself (he plays Charlie in this film, hilariously I might add) knew how to direct the actors, but any depth or true film making technique is pushed aside. He simply pointed the cameras at the actors and said "okay guys now quote the book". Which is surprising because Tim Orr, one of my favorite cinematographers, shot this film, and it looks so bland.

Another fault I find in Choke, actually lies within the marketing of the film. It really isn't about the sex and tits and anal beads (although all are sadly present), it is about being able to love the unlovable, and that true love only comes when you are able to show love yourself.

In the picture above we see Victor and Denny trapped in a cage, but really they are outside of it, about to go in. What we don't know is how this marks the true change for Victor. Denny has a rock collection, to keep him from masturbating. Victor finds this stupid until one of the final moments, inside this cage where something happens that reveals exactly what the story is about.

It seems that Choke, has an interesting story that Clark Gregg realizes, but occasionally tries to exploit for the gain of who knows what? I guess sex sells better than stories of redemption and love. If you like either, this film could be right up your alley.


So, if you haven't noticed lately I have been slacking. I have two film analysis' due this weekend, and I am here to tell you they will be published either late monday night or tuesday morning. I won't be home basically at all this weekend so time has eluded me.

In regards to the current Hitchcock series. If you hadn't noticed I am up to date as I have published both North By Northwest and Rear Window, but they are out of order(Rear Window being the last one published. Thanks to anyone who is keeping up with the series.

In other news, I came across a really fun and interesing website called For The Reels. It is full of film-parody web comics and is generally very funny, Mel Brooks style stuff. I suggest checking on the Schindlers List, The Departed and V For Vendetta parodies for a healthy dose of laughing your butt off.

Until next time. Godspeed.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence." HITCHCOCK MARATHON

Rear Window-1954-Alfred Hitchcock


Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s most interesting films. It does something that Hitchcock did often, it limits the film to a confined space that we are trapped in for the entirety, but it does so in a different way than films such as Rope, or Lifeboat do. Instead of focusing on what is in our little space we are trapped in, we are put into the point of view of one character that is also trapped and we look out at the world around us.

As said in my comparative essay of Rear Window and Disturbia (here), Rear Window is one of the few occasions that a peeping tom is actually rewarded for peeping. In general, peeping toms are viewed by society as a bad thing. This can be in the case of a man looking out his window at his neighbors, or the government peeping into it’s citizens business. Either way, it is never looked upon as healthy, or in good standing within anyone’s moral code. Somehow, despite all of this, Hitchcock finds some way to get us to truly sympathize with L.B. Jeffries, A photographer (interesting choice of profession for someone so interested in the lives of others) who has been injured and forced to spend some time in a wheelchair. Here we have the usual Hitchcock leading man, who has some limiting flaw that is the basic premise upon which the rest of the story is based around. Without this, just as in Vertigo, the film simply wouldn’t work.

The plot in short is about L.B. Jefferies, trapped in his apartment due to his impairment. He grows bored and with nothing else to do, stares out the “rear window” at his neighbors and becomes interested in their lives. Most of them live out ordinarily mundane lives, that Jefferies enjoys watching for its familiarity or dramatic conclusion (in the case of the arguing couple.) But when Jefferies grows suspicious of one of the people he peeps on, he has to wrestle with his own mind. Has he really seen what he thinks he has, or is he creating stories out of boredom, or basic human paranoia?

To me, Rear Window continues to be Hitchcock’s most entertaining work. I wouldn’t call it flawless, or his best, but on a mere entertainment level, I could watch this film over and over again.
What’s most interesting is the idea of peeping that is shown to us at the end with Jefferies girlfriend, Lisa , reading a book, and when noticing Jefferies is asleep she picks up a magazine. I found this to be her way of peeping on the lives of others, much as her beau was doing out the rear window.

It seems to be a commentary, not only on the discernment between reality and fiction, but on the way our lives affect those who see them, and on the fascination we have with seeing other people live their lives.

This film couldn’t be more appropriate than for our current age. Reality TV has grown so popular it warrants its own cable station. The tabloids are our rear windows. But if in the end our peeping grew rewarding, as it does here in this film, than is Hitchcock really commenting on us in a bad way? Or could he be saying watching the lives of others is a good thing, as it keeps them on their toes?

This is merely a question, as to me, I find that he isn’t only saying that it could be good or bad, he is simply stating that we cannot help but do it. Being peeping toms seems to be in our nature, every person to their own extent. Some may even consider films, books, songs and plays as ways of us peeping on the lives of others, especially considering the amount of films, books and plays that are written about real people. In just a few weeks W. will open and I’m sure people will be watching it in anticipation of peeping on the current president’s life.

This film takes Hitchcock’s usual blonde bombshell, but uses it in a different way than usual. Jefferies is afraid of commitment and will not give in to her endless questions about marriage and relationships. One could make the assumption that Jefferies wheel chair is simply a metaphor for his fear of intimacy. It certainly says something about the public. I enjoy watching films and getting different perspectives on ways of life, but rarely do I ever go out and participate in all these forms of life, or even with the different types of people I fall in love with on screen. While Jefferies seems to be in love with the woman, he cannot overcome this fear.

This brings us back to paranoia. Just as he is paranoid that his neighbor has murdered his wife, he is paranoid that someone will screw up the relationship and it will end bad, or if he appears vulnerable, he may be unlovable. This is a common fear among men, due mainly to insecurity, which Jefferies obviously has a lot of. Notice Jefferies didn’t know these neighbors after all the time he lived there, but he did know them after watching them from a safe place without having to reveal any of himself or be intimate in any way.

Perhaps this is what Stella means when she says “We’ve become a race of peeping toms.”

"Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then, but I have tickets for the theatre this evening." HITCHCOCK MARATHON

North By Northwest-1959-Alfred Hitchcock


Mistaken identity.

Hitchcock's thrilling and totally entertaining chase film North By Northwest follows Roger Thornhill. A wealthy, but ordinary man, who is mistaken for a (fake) CIA officer named George Kaplan. He ultimately is chased throughout by foreign spies. The US must decide what to do, because they created the pseudonym of George Kaplan to throw off the enemy by booking hotel rooms across the country with such a name, without ever putting anyone into them. Thornhill happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and is not believed by anyone that he hasn't been to places or done certain things.

As in most Hitchcock films, Thornhill also has a mother complex, seemingly relying on her for everything and practically treating her like a girlfriend.

The thing I find truly interesting about North By Northwest though, is in how Hitchcock strips Thornhill of his identity little by little throughout the film. It begins with just a name being called and his response making it seem like he was 'Kaplan'. Then he takes his mother to the estate to prove to her he wasn't drunk driving on purpose, but the lady of the house calls him Kaplan and tells him he had to much to drink last night.

The strips come off even more when they head back to the hotel where Kaplan is supposed to be staying and break into his room. When the maid sees Thornhill she calls him Kaplan, not having ever seen Kaplan (since he is non-existent).

As the film goes on Thornhill is framed for murder. This is what allows the CIA to realize that someone has been mistaken for their non-existent decoy.

Professor: We do nothing...That's right, nothing. Oh, we could congratulate ourselves on a marvelous stroke of good fortune. Our non-existent decoy George Kaplan created to divert suspicion from our actual agent has fortuitously become a live decoy... What can we do to save him, without endangering our own agent?...We didn't invent our non-existent man and give him the name of George Kaplan, establish elaborate behavior patterns for him, move his prop belongings in and out of hotel rooms for our own private amusement. We created George Kaplan and labored successfully to convince Vandamm that this was our own agent hot on his trail for a desperately important reason...If we make the slightest move to suggest that there is no such agent as George Kaplan, give any hint to Vandamm that he's pursuing a decoy instead of our own agent, then our agent working right under Vandamm's very nose will immediately face suspicion, exposure and assassination, like the two others who went before

To which Mrs. Findlay add's; "Goodbye Mr. Thornhill, wherever you are."

Once Thornhill reaches the train and meets Eve, he lets us in on a major part of what his character is.
Eve: Roger O. Thornhill. What does the 'O' stand for?

Roger (shrugs): Nothing. (He lights her cigarette) I'd invite you to my bedroom if I had a bedroom.

What we then happen to find here is that in Roger's heart of hearts he is an empty individual. As we see in earlier scenes where he explains to his secretary that lying isn't bad, or makes excuses when he steals a cab from someone else. His reasoning is always empty, and shows his own selfishness. This is a film about the death of the old self and moving on to be a better, more fulfilled person.

This then brings us to another Hitchcock regular. The lying woman. Eve is working for Townsend(the spy) and is only using him, but in turn, falls in love with him. Just as in other Hitchcock classics(most notably Vertigo).

It seems Roger cares not about lying to others, but when he is lied to, it hurts. He tells Eve she has "no feelings to hurt" and leaves her, until he is informed that she actually works for the CIA but is also Townsend's mistress.
I just find it fascinating the way in which Hitchcock directs his films. The themes of many of his films could be soft, slow-paced indie drama's, but he infuses them with such vigorous, dramatic relevance that draws the viewer into the story and makes the film enjoyable in two ways. Either for just entertainment purposes, or for thematic study. You can watch a Hitchcock film and see only surface and be entertained. Or you can look deeper and realize that Hitchcock has placed his heart in the center and has allowed the film's rhythm and beat to follow the beat at which his heart allows it.

North By Northwest is about finding your place in life. We, as humans, can get to a point where we just become empty and filled with routine. We make excuses for our selfishness and seem to have a good reason for anything we do, that we don't think right for others. But life has a way of stripping away the layers and making us who we are meant to be.

Thornhill goes through a struggle of identity in North By Northwest. Not just mistaken identity, but he faces an identity crisis.

It seems that maybe his mother complex has led him to be a grown man-child. He bottles everything up inside, and is afraid of being hurt. But after the layers are stripped we find a different tune being played by Thornhill.

Eve: You're supposed to be critically wounded.

Roger: I never felt more alive.

Eve: Whose side are you on?

Roger: Yours always, darling.

Not only this but during the final chase scene Thornhill spouts about his past, and how he's changed.
Roger: If we ever get out of this alive, let's go back to New York on the train together, all right?

Eve: Is that a proposition?

Roger: It's a proposal, sweetie.

Eve: What happened to the first two marriages?

Roger: My wives divorced me.
Eve: Why?

Roger: Well, I think they said I led too dull a life.
The final chase, with Mount Rushmore involved, just seems to make me think of how Thornhill and Eve and the spies were dwarfed by the monument. They are dwarfed by history, and the past. While the spies cannot survive Roger and Eve are able to make it through the past and realize that although the past is bigger than them, they are to move on from it and learn from it. Another way to look at it would be for them to also have grown to understand their significance in this life is small, but important. There are bigger things in life (the world, history, politics,etc.) than themselves (as Roger overturns his selfishness) and moves on to more rewarding things.
In typical Hitchcock fashion the title , North By Northwest, has a lot more to do with the plot than meets the eye. It relates to Thornhill's identity crisis, as it is not only not seen on a compass, but it cannot make up it's mind in which direction it is truly going. To further the theme Hitchcock constantly had his characters go north and then west. Not only this, but when Thornhill is traveling he travels north by Northwest.

Hitchcock knew how to make smart, fun films that could be enjoyed by anyone and studied for ages to come, this is no exception.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"Dying together's even more personal than living together." HITCHCOCK MARATHON

Lifeboat-1944-Alfred Hitchcock


Lifeboat is easily read as a propaganda film. We were in World War II at the time and obviously the German’s were evil.

Upon watching I was hoping the German character would truly be noble, because it would be so unique for the time, so revolutionary. It’s just like today where we have Vantage Point or some other nameless action film with Middle Eastern terrorists. When are we going to realize that lumping a group of people together because of the foolishness of a few doesn’t do anyone any help?

Anyways, from ranting to reviewing.

Lifeboat begins with a boat being torpedoed by the Germans. The wreckage is monstrous and we get to see the aftermath. In the midst of all of this is a single lifeboat. On this lifeboat is a single woman. She seems to have no harm done to her whatsoever. Throughout the film, various people come aboard and leave, including a German Nazi. Those on the boat must try and trust the Nazi or give in to paranoia. They split on many decisions and just when you feel for the Nazi he does something horrible, but Hitchcock creates sympathy around this awful character, at least in my eyes, that I wanted to see him be good. Alas, he was not and the film was a bit worse off for it.

Lifeboat isn’t a bad film by any means. As a matter of fact it is a truly interesting character study. Much like 12 Angry Men, or The Mist, Or Dog Day Afternoon to some extent, we get characters thrown together in a tense situation forced to deal with one another. As usual it is an allegory for our lives, and the way we treat one another in the world.

The German isn’t always bad in the film. During a scene where a character needs a leg amputated, he is a trained surgeon and performs the surgery with the limited utensils they have. He doesn’t do anything wrong on purpose and actually performs it perfectly. It isn’t until later that we see this same character pushed into the ocean by the German. What is Hitch trying to tell us here? Did he have it all planned out when he was performing the surgery, or maybe he was just annoyed, or bored? The wonderful thing is that it isn’t telegraphed. We aren’t sure of every reason why every character does everything.

Something I loved about the film was the character Joe. Joe is a black man (played by Canada Lee) and although all the other characters were written by Jo Swerling, Canada Lee was able to write his own lines. This leads to some wonderful moments. One such moment happens when they are all trying to vote who the skipper of the boat is going to be, and when Joe is asked who he is going to vote for he simply replies “Do I get a vote?”

The suspense in this film is built between the tensions in the characters. Hitchcock uses the weather a lot, almost as a character itself. At their lowest moment, it suddenly rains, and they are forced to sit through it. This also brings the characters together, and some even fall in love (which seemed a bit forced to me.)

The truth is, while I did enjoy this film, and it does deserve some merit, Hitch just didn’t seem to pour his soul into this film as he did in his other classics. It seems like he had a lot he wanted to do that he kept at bay to make the audience happy. The overtones of science versus religion are also easily drawn. The German believes in science while the sympathetic, level headed Americans believe in religion. While this may have been true for the time, the way they paint the characters and the beliefs they uphold and then correlating that with the way the characters act, I am very disappointed. While I am a Christian myself, I do not stand by the belief that I am smarter than anyone who doesn’t follow my faith. I am actually positive there are many who know more than I do about any given thing, especially science. I also think we should be striving toward a world where religion and science can co-exist together, rather than being at each others throats. While this film was made over 60 years ago, I still think Hitch could have had better sense than to add silly little things such as these character traits into his film, that otherwise would have been pretty great.

In the end, I get the sense that Hitch used the medium of propaganda film to make a statement. While being paranoid is never a good thing, as shown by the way the characters act in the end when another German boards the ship, being gullible also is a terrible trait to have. The problem is we aren’t exactly shown a happy medium. Maybe there truly isn’t one. Maybe you either must be paranoid and realize that the world is a terrible place, with terrible people, or be gullible and think only the best of everyone. Could it be that when we think we are in between those two ends we are really tricking ourselves? These are the underlying questions that get pushed aside for the use of propaganda.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"If I let you change me, will that do it?" HITCHCOCK MARATHON

Vertigo-1958-Alfred Hitchcock


lfred Hitchcock’s films are at once entertaining and puzzling. He was able to draw things out of the cinematic language that so many directors forget, especially modern directors. All that needs to be done is a comparative look at Hitchcock’s Rear Window and DJ Caruso’s Disturbia to find out an idea can be portrayed differently through the language of cinema. Hitchcock uses subtlety and what the audience doesn’t see to create suspense and fear in the mind of the viewer.

For an example of Hitchcock and enigmatic I offer you Vertigo. A film that didn’t catch on in its own time, but is now required viewing for anyone interested in film.

If you don’t already know, Vertigo is the story of Detective John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson, played by Jimmy Stewart. He suffers an accident while on duty as a detective and is imbued with a case of vertigo. He retires from the force, but is asked by a friend (Gavin Elster) to follow his wife Madeleine, played by Kim Novak, to see where she goes all the time. He says she’ll be gone for hours and return and say she didn’t remember where she went. We find out she supposedly is being possessed by the her great grandma, Carlotta Valdes. After some convincing, Scottie, still hesitant agrees to help his old friend out. When it turns out that Madeleine’s real name is Judy and it was all a scam, Scottie tries to change Judy into Madeleine(his dream) and in the end realizes that life may really be “nothing but a dream”. What follows leaves the viewer asking what his vertigo has to do with the film, until the two key scenes where characters die.

The first thing to notice again is Hitchcock’s use of subtlety. When we open and see Scottie hanging from the side of the building and his partner falls to the ground and dies, we don’t get a shot of him getting back up, we only see him hanging and then are brought directly into the next scene, which seemingly has little to do with the incident we just witnessed.

When Scottie is chasing Madeleine up the tower and suffers vertigo and cannot reach the top, we see a body fall, but we aren’t told how it fell until later. Did she kill herself? Did she slip? Was she pushed? These linger in the mind of the viewer. It is thought that she jumped on her own volition but it is never thoroughly examined until later on in the film. Here Hitchcock only shows us Scottie’s reaction to Madeleine falling(or so we think) and then he runs to his car and leaves. We aren’t told where he goes or what he does afterwards, next we see him he is in court.

Having examined the tiniest bit of Hitchcock’s filmmaking technique, not even bringing up the pan/zoom shot he created specifically for this film that has been used by every subsequent director in the history of filmmaking, I cannot help but wonder what this film is trying to say.
The Woman:

The first step to examining Vertigo lies in the woman of the film.

They are all blonde and they all play different roles in John’s life.

The first woman we meet in Vertigo is Marjorie ‘Midge’ Wood.


Midge is Scotties only seemingly real friend in the film. Gavin uses Scottie for his own personal gain, but Midge just enjoys talking to Scottie and trying to help him out.

What Midge ultimately represents is a mother figure for Scottie.

Scottie: I'm a man of independent means as the saying goes. Fairly independent.
Midge: Hmm, mmm. Well, why don't you go away for a while?
Scottie: You mean to forget? Oh now, Midge, don't be so motherly. I'm not gonna crack up.

She seems to be trying to help him mature as well. The scene in which they discuss the bra she is working on she discuss’ how he’s a big boy he needs to know these things.

What happens next in the arc of Midge is a little unexpected, but needed. We eventually find out, from little shots of her, that she is in love with Scottie. Which reminds me of another Hitchcock film, Psycho, where the mother and son have a very oddly close relationship. This only further becomes a problem when Scottie falls in love with Madeleine. We see her jealousy in a discussion between Scottie and Midge when she first hears of what Scottie has been up to.

Midge: Is she pretty?
Scottie: Carlotta?
Midge: No, not Carlotta. Elster's wife.
Scottie: Yes, I guess you'd consider that she would...
Midge: I think I'll go and take a look at that portrait.

Furthermore she sees Madeleine exiting Scottie’s house after he rescued her from San Francisco Bay, and the jealousy escalates.

Midge: Well now, Johnny-O. Was it a ghost? Was it fun?
We can feel in her turn that she isn’t to happy with what has transpired and in a subsequent scene get further evidence of her longing for Scottie.

Scottie walks into Midge’s place and they plan on having dinner, while Midge tells him she took up painting, which was her first love(which hints back to her love of Scottie, because she painted the picture for him). When he looks at the picture it is her face on Carlotta Valdes’ body. Scottie leaves upset. This also represents her longing to be Madeleine because Scottie is in love with her. Midge is to Scottie what Scottie is to Madeleine

Lastly, Midge refers to herself as Scottie's mother in the Psychiatric ward scene.

Midge: Oh, Johnnie, Johnnie. Please try. Try, Johnnie. You're not lost. Mother's here...John
O, you don't even know I'm here, do you?


What Madeleine ultimately represents is Scotties dream woman. We constantly see her in soft colors and seemingly surrounded by a glossy, fogginess. Scottie becomes obsessed with her from the get go, because she isn’t real. He falls in love with her, but does he even know her? He says things like “Once you’ve saved a persons life, your responsible for it forever.” But what exactly does he mean by these things? What has he saved her from? Yes he saved her from the Bay, but is he going to save her from Galvin, from her “illness”. Furthermore, she seems to fall in love with him just as easily, while knowing just as little about him. Are they each other’s dream?

When Madeleine comments about history repeating itself it is a comment on the film and how things will repeat themselves. The women in Scotties life, the longing for love where it cannot be found, the death of Madeleine and the death of Judy are all signs of repetition.

Even when Scottie and Madeleine kiss it is so obviously staged, it is as if God was making a play, with the waves crashing behind them with each kiss, it’s just so perfect.

When the end of Madeleine approaches and she is running for the tower, Scottie yells, “No one possesses you.” What we may be able to gleam from this is Scottie’s ignorance to what is actually going on, or that no one but him can possess her. This is his dream getting away from him, just like his job did. He loses them both because of his illness. Or might they represent the same thing.


Judy is reality. She is a pretty, brunette girl, who is a little shy and not as easily taken as Madeleine. But Scottie pursues her because he reminds her so much of Madeleine, his dream. He so desperately wants to relive his dream that he will go to any lengths to change her to make her the way he wants her to be.
While she reluctantly agrees to go out with Scottie we discover that Judy was Madeleine while she stares in the mirror contemplating what had just happened. She only wants Scottie to love her for her, as she loves Scottie. But once Scottie arrives and they start dating, she becomes a possession to him. He first wants to find the dress that Madeleine wore, and then he wants her to dye her hair blonde as Madeleine's. Is Judy the portrait of the average woman, she feels like to please her man that she must be something she isn’t.

Judy is constantly seen in front of mirrors, whether it is when she is contemplating being with Scottie, or trying on what Scottie wants. It seems to always be when she isn’t being herself, but a mirrored image of herself.

When Judy finally makes the full transformation and she emerges for Scottie to see, we see her as we first saw Madeleine. The shot and her movement is precisely the same. Scottie is again enthralled with her, until he notices she is wearing the same necklace that Madeleine had. It was a one of a kind necklace that she received as a hand down from her family, he realizes this by looking at Judy in the mirror and seeing who she really is. Upon his realization, he decides to go back to the scene of the crime. Where his heart was broken and dreams shattered. When he tells Judy his reasoning, he is the one who is acting this time. The roles seem to have reversed. She is unwillingly going up the steps as he is making her, as it could be seen that Madeleine did to him in a sense.

When they reach the top of the tower and Scottie tells her he knew after he saw the necklace she is frightened, and although Scottie is hostile, nothing seems to be going wrong until a nun comes from the shadows. In the shadows the nun is shaped as the grim reaper, which because of Judy’s guilt, causes her to jump. Scottie again loses the girl. Could she have really been his dream girl if he let her? It lingers on.
What most stands out in Vertigo to me is the way Scottie goes from innocence to obsession to possession. The way the character shifts happens so seamlessly that it is hardly noticed at first. Some have said the woman in this film represent the typical Hitchcock woman; Blonde, beautiful, and mysterious. Could Hitchcock have been facing his own obsessions with this film. I like to think that directors choose, or write their work out of personal identification with that work. The easiest way to draw the line to Hitchcock is through the woman, as he always had a strong, blonde female lead.

Interestingly enough Scottie is obviously cured of his vertigo in the end because he is able to look over the edge and doesn’t seem slightly fazed by it at all. Could this mean that through the death of Judy, he is now able to move on from the past and onto something new?

I think a major underlying message of Vertigo is that fear is the cause of most death. Scottie’s fear of heights was hindering him, and led him into the situations he was in with Madeleine, Judy, Galvin. These things would not have happened had Scottie not been afraid of heights. The same goes for Judy, her fear of being without Scottie led her to her own death. But mainly her guilt and fear of what might happen caused her death when she thought she was seeing the grim reaper. Her fear led her to jump and lose her life, and it was foolish. Because of this maybe Scottie was able to get over his vertigo by realizing that being afraid of life only leads to death.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Report back to me when it makes sense."

The Coen Bro's are known for their quirky characters, off the wall plot twists and over the top style, So that might be the very reason that they seem to be almost phoning it in with their latest effort Burn After Reading. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty to like about this film; mainly some hilarious dialogue and situations these idiotic characters throw themselves into.

Upon seeing the trailer for Burn After Reading, it's easy to think this is going to be a goofy comedy, but what struck me was the way the actors were playing their parts. With the exception of Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand it seems all the actors are playing this thing totally straight. Sure what they say or do might be totally off the wall, but they don't seem to realize it. This to me, is a strength of the film. Too often are we given comedic actors playing for laughs.

Burn After Reading's plot follows Osborne Cox(played with bitterness by John Malkovich) as he is demoted, and subsequently quits his job in the CIA. He begins writing a memoir about his working days, but when his wife, Katie(Tilda Swinton), is looking to file for divorce, she must gather his things and bring them to the divorce attorney to make sure she gets her share. Due to a secretaries mishap the disc with Osbourne's notes for the memoir ends up at Hardbodies Fitness Center, where Linda Litzke and Chad Feldheimer(Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) work as fitness trainers. They find the CD and decide to bribe Osbourne to get some money so Linda can get some plastic surgery done. Somewhere in there Harry Pfarrer is sleeping with both Kaite and Linda(not at the same time).
The Film Doctor had an interesting theory on The Coen's ideology behind this film, and I think he is very much right. They seem to be satirizing American middle aged folk. They are body obsessed, money obsessed, self obsessed people who are easily amused and boring. Could they be satirizing themselves, their own films? It's hard to say. But just the thought of Linda and Chad taking the disc to the Russians is hilarious. The Coen's are either focusing on the fears of the new Russia and a new cold war, or on the stupidity of the characters to think that Russia is as big of a threat as they used to be.

In turn, Burn After Reading is very off balance. At once a character will be shot and killed, and it'll be cold blooded and messy, and then just minutes later we are expected to be laughing again. This can work, in fact it does in other Coen works like Fargo and No Country For Old Men, but here, where we are being sold a comedy with some drama, it feels they forgot how to mix the two as perfectly as they have in the past. It is a disappointment to say the least, but still a Superior film to a lot of what Hollywood has to offer.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm Going Back In Time...

Bring on Huey Lewis cause I'm going back to 1968 with Raymond Benson. I was invited to be a part of a series that Benson is doing over at Britannica where he is doing analysis' of his top ten films from forty years ago. I will be commenting on each of his posts with my own two cents. If you care to follow my comments or join along with the series just follow the link.

Hitchcock is coming up soon, along with Burn After Reading.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Always make the audience suffer as much as possible."

I know you all have been anxiously awaiting this moment, but my Hitchcock marathon has finally arrived. I have a few comments about my study first though.

I have placed on the side the scheduled dates for each film's analysis. If they do not happen to appear on that date expect them a day later, and if that happens I will try and post two that day if another is due that exact day.

I was unable to get my hands on Notorious or Rebecca which makes me upset since those were the two I was most looking forward to seeing.

Notorious will be analyzed by a guest writer, TS from Screen Savour has agreed to do so, and it'll be in correlation with his own Hitchcock marathon he is doing in October. I'm glad I beat him to the punch. =)

I really recommend checking out his blog, he does great write ups of many classic films, and puts me to shame.

As for Rebecca if someone wants to send me an essay on that film, I will gladly post it, otherwise there will be no write up on it.

So starting this Sunday(the 21st) with Vertigo and going through to October 8th with my look at how I feel all of these films reflect parts of Hitchcock and why he is considered such a legend.

A review of Burn After Reading should be expected soon, as well as the marathon.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

" And I Guess That's Your Accomplice in The Wood Chipper."

So a friend of mine was explaining to me how he is so disappointed, because every movie he was looking forward to seeing this year has now passed. I laughed, and said, "you have got to be kidding me? All the movies I wanted to see are just now about to start playing." He asked me which ones I wanted to see and my head grew blank. What did I want to see? Was I wrong and just thinking because its Oscar season that good films would be on the horizon.

I am glad to say that I have checked the facts and I was right, there are plenty of movies I am foaming at the mouth to see.
Burn After Reading/Coen Bros

I have been a Coen Brothers fan for quite some time now, but haven't enjoyed many of their films in the theatre. I was in awe when I saw No Country For Old Men in the theatre, and although this one looks more in the vain of Raising Arizona(which I love) I am extremely excited for it. Just look at Brad Pitt's hair. I would pay 10 bucks to see that hair. The trailer looks hilarious, and the Coen's always offer some nice surprises in their scripts.

Miracle At St. Anna/Spike Lee

I actually have seen very little of Spike Lee's films. This isn't to say I don't want to, just haven't gotten around to watching them. Do The Right Thing though, is one of the most emotional pieces of cinema I have watched and I am just a pudgy suburban pasty white dude. Anyways, I think this films plot seems really well integrated into the things Lee usually explores (race, culture) and real human based drama. The cast looks great as well, gotta love Joseph Gordon Levitt, Derek Luke, John Turturro, the list goes on...

Eagle Eye/DJ Caruso

I thought Disturbia was decent at best, but showed some glimpses of really good film making. The trailer for Eagle Eye shows more glimpses than the entirety of Disturbia. Caruso seems to want to follow Hitchcock's films pretty closely though, because I am sensing a lot of North By Northwest here, which isn't a bad thing as long as he does it right.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist/Peter Sollett

This doesn't really look outstandingly good or oscar worthy at all, but it does look like a fun movie. I would see it for the sheer presence of Michael Cera, especially to catch a glimpse of him out of Apatow/Arrested Development camps. The trailer has a feel of a sweet romantic comedy, and good music.Religulous/Larry Charles

So Larry Charles directed Borat, which was good, but not scathing and biting as it was purported. He is now here with Bill Maher and they are sending up religion. As a Christian I really disagree with a lot of what is actually being said here, but I too am skeptical of religion and I found the trailer to be humorous, while also trying a little to hard. Just as in Borat it looks like Charles is out to shock rather than show truth and honesty. There were glimpses of truth and honest in Borat, and from the reviews so far it seems this one is much more honest and thought provoking.

W./Oliver Stone

So I am gonna drop another film cred bomb. I haven't watched many Oliver Stone films either. They always seem a little too political, but I have recently grown an interest in them, and while this one doesnt seem to be setting itself up for the classic status that many of his previous films have it does look like an interesting, and humorous leap into the enigma that is George W.
Synecdoche, New York/Charlie Kaufman

How could anyone not want to see Kaufman's directorial debut. It has anything you could ask for in a film; a Kaufman penned script, his directing, PS Hoffman, a friggin crazy plot and ALOT of imagination. This may be my MOST anticipated. Note the caps. =)

Zach and Miri Make A Porno/Kevin Smith

As a few of you may know, I am a pretty big Kevin Smith fan. I am no apologist though, I understand he isn't the most innovative or creative director in the biz. I have an affinity for his films because to me they resonate deeply. I can relate to every Kevin Smith film better than most any other film I have seen. I know that he isn't the most popular choice for a favorite director, and I wouldn't exactly call him mine, but I do love him quite a bit.

On a note related to the movie, the trailer didn't make me laugh as much as I would have thought, and I am hoping Smith does more character and relational humor than gross out humor. I am glad Elizabeth Banks is a part of this for she is a talented and underrated(until recently) actress that I admire, and of course mr. Rogen's involvement peaks interest since Smith rarely works with "outsiders" to the Viewaskewniverse. Yeah, I am a nerd.

The Soloist/Joe Wright

Do I really need to explain why I have a cinematic boner for this?

The Road/John Hillcoat

Cormac McCarthy is of course, now famous for No Country For Old Men, but his most popular book(even Oprah recommends it, which normally isn't a good sign.) The Road is now being adapted and from the plot synopsis, pictures and cast it looks/sounds like the saddest movie this side of Schindlers List, but I don't mind crying like a baby, which I probably will. Don't judge me. =)
Milk/Gus Van Sant

Go ahead and watch the trailer and then try and tell me you aren't interested. I get goosebumps from the trailer alone. Sean Penn looks amazing, as does James Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch. Mr. Van Sant, where do I cash the check?The Brothers Bloom/Rian Johnson

If someone were to ask me who I thought this film and Rian Johnson's previous effort Brick were made by, I might think, at least for a second that those darn Coen's were at it again. Rian Johnson seems to be the brightest young director working today, and I couldn't be more excited to see this.The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button/David Fincher

Is it just me or is Fincher going home with some awards this year?

Other Notable films:
Slumdog Millionare
City Of Ember
Role Models
Body Of Lies
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Revolutionary Road
Righteous Kill
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
Yes Man
The Spirit

I know a lot of those could go either way, but I am excited for them all in some way, shape or form.

Let me know what your list would be, and where I am wrong.

"Well, It's Comfortable to Just Drift Here."

The Graduate/Mike Nichols/1967

The 1960’s were a time of change and growth for our nation. Not that I can speak first hand since I wouldn’t be alive for 20 more years but the youth made such an impact, they were the key to the 60’s being filled with change. With that being said all I can think is, are we really that different now? Or did the children of the 1960’s become exactly what they rebelled against?

In 1967 Mike Nichols made a film that would reflect that very frame of thought. The Graduate premiered and blew over audiences and critics alike and won Nichols a Best Director award at the Oscars that year. Why is this film so important? Why did this film strike such a chord, particularly with the youth? So much that it became part of the change of the 1960s? Could this film still be relevant to us today, or is it a time capsule stuck in the 60’s? Important films last. Important films stand on their own even when times change and new techniques are created to make films look better, they can still stand on their own.

The Graduate is a film that follows Benjamin Braddock (a young Dustin Hoffman in his feature film debut) just after he has graduated from college. He is confused about his future, but no one else seems to care. His family has thrown a huge graduation party for him, but he isn’t interested in attending. Ben has bigger things on his mind.

Mr. Braddock: What's the matter? The guests are all downstairs, Ben, waiting to see you

Ben: Look, Dad, could you explain to them that I have to be alone for a while?

Mr. Braddock: These are all our good friends, Ben. Most of them have known you since, well, practically since you were born. What is it, Ben?

Ben: I'm just...

Mr. Braddock: Worried?

Ben: Well…

Mr. Braddock: About what?

Ben: I guess about my future…

Mr. Braddock: What about it?

Ben: I don’t know…I want it to be

Mr. Braddock: To be what?

Ben: (looks at his father)….Different.

Ben is drowning, searching for a sense of anything. He is an empty person. Many shots of him are through his fish tank or right in front of his fish tank, he is often in the pool “just drifting” as well. We can feel his sense of hopelessness and it is only further felt through the claustrophobic scenes at the party his parents are throwing him. We almost lose him in the shuffle of all the people at the party, as he is seemingly losing himself in his own life. He is then pulled aside for some advice.

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word, just one word.

Ben: Yes sir

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Ben: Yes, I am.

Mr. McGuire: Plastics

Here Ben is presented his options. He can go on and live life like his parents and their friends and be “plastic” or he can become a real human being and live his life however he wants to live it. Here I think Ben is obviously representing the youth. He is representing the lost, drowning, and hopelessness experienced by the youth of the 60’s and its becoming more evident that’s where we are headed today.
Just after receiving his advice Ben is seduced by Mrs. Robinson, which leads to an affair that goes on for months. This is what sparks Ben to move forward in any direction. While before he was being presented his options, now he is presented a solution, or at least he thinks.

When Mrs. Robinson comes into Ben’s room and their relationship begins she represents the “plastics” while he is slowly becoming one. He tries to find meaning in their relationship beyond the physical, beyond the fake, but when trying to talk Mrs. Robinson she becomes monosyllabic and anti-social. All he wants is a connection but the world of “plastic” life is devoid of any type of human connection. Through this he realizes he has become more lost and hopeless now.
Ben is losing track of time and space as everything just seems to blend together. Without a cut he can be seen swimming in a swimming pool at his house and walking through the kitchen where his mom is cooking, and going through a door and it becoming his hotel room with Mrs. Robinson. This use of the long take is often used just as a paragraph would be used; there is nothing to distinct these two worlds (his home with his parents and his hotel room with Mrs. Robinson) from one another. Whether he is at home or the hotel it doesn’t matter because neither of them are real, in the sense that humanity, feelings and depth are real. Neither of these two worlds hold any bearing with the reality that Ben so desperately wants.

Ben eventually discovers Mrs. Robinson attended art school. You wouldn’t have known it now from looking at her and how she lacks any kind of humanity or a
bility to think for herself that she could even enjoy something that can transcend the fake. Through her we see exactly what Ben will become if he doesn’t do something, anything at all.

On the other hand Elaine is a symbol of hope. She is the catalyst for Bens change, but he is afraid of hope at first, it is a scary thing, especially when you are beginning to be wrapped up in “plastics” as he was. He tries to scare her away, but when he sees com
passion in her tears and sadness, he sees someone who can actually feel something. He sees someone who isn’t numb to the world and its surroundings. It’s not long before he falls in love with Elaine because he has finally found someone he can connect with, something he tried to do with Mrs. Robinson but just couldn’t. He finds through Elaine hope that he can grow in a better direction and not become a “plastic."

This could be where Ben’s story ends if he hadn’t already gotten wrapped up in “plastics.” When Mrs. Robinson threatens him, she will stop at nothing to keep her daughter from marrying Ben. Mrs. Robinson gets a hopeful feeling through Elaine as well and loves her daughter and doesn’t want her with Ben because she views him as weak willed. He has doubts about the kind of life he wants to live and the type of man he wants to be, therefore Elaine is too good for him. She will go to great lengths to keep her from being with Ben, even practically setting up a wedding with someone she barely knows just to keep Ben out of her life. This is the older generation fighting back. They see hope in someone’s eyes and they want to kill it. The world isn’t made for hope but for a let down. She wants her to marry Carl over Ben because Carl already is a “plastic.”

Throughout the film, all the adults are referred to as Mr. or Mrs. While the younger people are referred to by their first name only. This is also a represe
ntation of the huge gap felt between these two groups. Neither are willing to come together in anyway and the “plastics” aren’t going to be “disrespected.” This is a theory or perhaps Ben respects them all, and only refers to them as such for this very reason. Even though he doesn’t always treat them with respect there is always the sneaking feeling that he is bound to become just as they are.

Ben then boasts to his parents “I’m going to marry Elaine Robinson.” They show great excitement for this decision until finding out she doesn’t even know, and probably doesn’t even like him. Mr. Braddock tells Ben his idea is “half baked” but Ben assures him it is “fully baked.” Mr. Braddock has no faith in the situation. He has no hope that things could turn out good for Ben. What is the harm of him moving to Berkeley and trying to get her to marry
him anyway? This is instinctively always their thought, if it is not for sure than it is not fully baked, but Ben believes in hope, following his heart and not taking no for an answer.

His confronting of Elaine is him confronting his dreams. He tells her they should get married, but why does he want this so quickly, why marriage? Maybe because he doesn’t want to lose her or maybe because he is ready to settle down with her and become a “plastic” himself.

When Ben finds out Elaine’s parents had set up for her to marry Carl Smith, he will stop at nothing to stop the wedding. He drives to Berkeley first to find out the wedding is in Santa Barbara, while getting there he runs into the church and goes to the 2nd floor and looks down and sees the wedding. He begins banging on the glass he has always been stuck behind. As stated earlier when Ben is always seen through his fish tank or in the phone booth he can see the outer world but cannot become it because he is trapped behind the glass. All the while yelling “Elaine! Elaine! Elaine!” desperately hoping she will listen. When she runs to him he fights off everyone with a cross he grabbed from the wall and he and Elaine run out the door, locking the door behind them with the cross. Closing the “plastics” in and leaving tradition behind. The cross locking them in is showing their traditions are limiting them and holding them back, he isn’t so much banishing them as he is just leaving them to what they already know while he and Elaine have bucked tradition and are able to run freely.

In the final scene when Ben and Elaine sit in the back of the crowded bus, they are really alone, but together. They smile fervently excited for what they had done, only to grow into a blank stare later. The doubts begin flying through their heads, but they never look back, what’s done is done and even if it wasn’t the best way to do things, they finally did something with their lives and finally followed their hearts for wants rather than becoming “plastics” as their families and friends are.

Through this we get mixed feelings. Hopeful but still hopeless would be the best way to describe it. They fought for a change in their lives, as did the youth of the 60’s, but ultimately it seems that although they escaped lives as “plastics” in their youth, there is no fighting what’s coming to you.