Question: Name a film that you always have to defend liking, and a film that you always have to defend not liking. Name them but don’t defend them. HE answer: For defending liking, Sydney Pollack‘s Castle Keep, Curtis Hanson‘s In Her Shoes or Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy. And for defending not liking, Billy Wilder‘s The Lost Weekend, A Foreign Affair or…ahh, screw it, pretty much any Wilder film after The Fortune Cookie. I’ve also never liked Johnny Guitar.
I was walking out of my local Gelson’s last week when I spotted a rather large, bulky-looking car parked next to mine. It looked like some kind of tank, like one of those heavy-bodied Detroit-made cars for old rich guys. Then I realized it was a Rolls Royce, and my first thought was “good God, even Rolls Royces have gone downmarket.” One of the main aesthetic tragedies of the 21st Century is that new money doesn’t get what was cool and classic about old-money styles and designs, and this is but one example.
In the old days Rolls Royces had a classic, elegant, upper-crust air. The new Rolls Royces look like they’re made to appeal, no offense, to guys who don’t get the hand-made British Empire aesthetic and who are maybe looking to bulletproof the windshield and the tires.
An 8.3.12 Guardian piece by David Shariatmadari about Alfred Hitchcock‘s North by Northwest delivers an assessment that reminds me in some ways of of Robin Wood’s much longer assessment of this 1959 classic, to wit:
“Life, most of the time, is matter of routine. We get up, go to work, pass the day as we have hundreds like it before. But this predictability is an illusion, because at any moment, the whole reassuring framework could collapse. An accident, an incredible stroke of luck, a crime: and suddenly everything has changed.
“Roger Thornhill’s life turns on a dime in the bar of the Plaza Hotel on 59th street, at the moment he calls over the bellboy. He’s an advertising executive – one of the original Mad Men – whose anxieties centre around keeping his women sweet (with gifts dispatched by an obliging secretary), his mother happy and the Skin Glow account ticking over. But that bellboy was looking for a certain George Kaplan, and he’s not the only one: a couple of shady characters waiting around the corner see Thornhill and think they’ve found their man. When he steps into the lobby for a moment, one of them presses a gun to his heart.
“He’s whisked out of his natural habitat — no more martinis for Roger, at least not quite yet — and into a world which no longer seems to be following the rules. Who are these men who keep insisting he’s Kaplan? Who threaten to kill him if he tries to escape? And why, having arrived at a well-appointed country house, is he asked how much he knows and how he knows it?
“At this point, we’re as baffled as Thornhill. Despite having been with him for only a couple of scenes, we feel all the disorientation – and the rising panic – of his having been taken for someone else. Hitchcock, as ever, taps a reservoir of primitive fear. How would it feel if no one believed you were you? And the harder you tried to convince them, the less they took you seriously?
“It baffles me that North by Northwest is regularly eclipsed in assessments of Hitchcock’s oeuvre, not least by the all-conquering Vertigo, which has been fetishised by critics since the 1960s. It received another boost earlier this week in Sight and Sound’s once-a-decade poll, while North by Northwest was nowhere to be found.
“Perhaps the lack of Freudian handwaving leads people to rate it poorly in comparison. But despite the preposterous (though seamlessly woven) plot, it’s a rather good psychological fable, and a lot less pretentious into the bargain. Thornhill is a man who can’t — or hasn’t had to — grow up. Eve saves him, but not before she breaks the bonds that have kept her in a terrifyingly subservient relationship. Hitchcock’s ability to conjure up that sense of a perfectly pleasant life going haywire is especially powerful.
“Our thrill is to see it all unfold, safe in the knowledge that at the end we’ll be able to return to the old routine. And even if things don’t always go as planned, perhaps we’ll be able to tackle them with a little of the old Thornhill panache.”
I’m a big Martin McDonagh fan (particularly his direction and writing of In Bruges and his B’way-produced A Behanding in Spokane), and so I was more than a little disappointed to read that Seven Psychopaths, a oddball noir-comedy of some kind with Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko and Zeljko Ivanek, won’t have a regular berth at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival but will be screened under Midnight Madness.
This ghetto-izes it, of course. At least to some extent. The suggestion is that Psychopaths is too manic or extreme to play along with the stolid mainstreamers, and that it might even be some kind of problem within its own realm and terms. If I was McDonagh I’d be pissed. (I meant to post this earlier but the dog ate my notes.)
Deadline‘s Pete Hammond is reporting that Fox Searchlight is thinking about playing it safe with the release date of Sacha Gervasi‘s Hitchcock, a mild-mannered drama (I read the script eons ago) about the making of Psycho. It looks and sounds like a perfect end-of-the-year film aimed at educated adults and a likely slamdunk for acting awards, but FS isn’t so sure, Hammond hears.
(l.) Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock in Sasha Gervasi’s Hitchcock; (r.) Toby Jones as Mr. Hitchcock in HBO’s The Girl.
The natural thing, of course, would be to release Hitchcock by the end of the year and thereby put Anthony Hopkins‘ portrayal of Alfred Hitchcock into possible Best Actor contention. A late 2012 release would also instill a healthy competitive spirit between Hitchcock and HBO’s The Girl, the “other” Hitchcock drama that will focus on the director’s lewd intentions toward Tippi Hedren during the making of The Birds and Marnie.
And yet Hitchcock editor Pamela Martin (The Fighter, Little Miss Sunshine) told Hammond a couple of days ago that “it is currently undetermined whether Searchlight will try for a late 2012 Oscar-qualifying release of Hitchcock…she says they are still doing the director’s cut and if they decide to get it out this year it will mean a big rush to get it ready in time.” Ahem….Hitchcock wrapped in June and it’ll be a “big rush” to get it out by late December? Otto Preminger‘s Anatomy of a Murder began shooting on 3.23.59, wrapped on 5.15.59 and opened on 7.2.59. So don’t even go there. Don’t use the word “big” and don’t use the word “rush.” Turning a film around in five months is nothing.
Martin, says Hammond, “has nothing but praise for the performances” and “singled out” Scarlet Johansson‘s performance as Janet Leigh, who played Marion Crane in Psycho. I’m sorry but I explained a little more than five months ago why Johansson is a bad casting choice to play Leigh, and I see no reason to change my mind.
You can tell that The Girl won’t be as good as Hitchcock because a set still shows Toby Jones‘ Hitchcock wearing an English bowler, and Hitchcock almost never wore a bowler, certainly not after he moved to California in 1939. The one exception (and correct me if I’m wrong) is a bowler-hatted appearance he made in a trailer for Frenzy (’72). That bowler is the blade of grass that tells you almost everything you need to know about The Girl. Mark my words.
Sienna Miller is playing Hedren in The Girl, by the way.
Fox Searchlight needs to man up and put Hitchcock into theatres before 12.31.12. And then release it more widely sometime in late January or February. Simple.
If there’d only been a couple of NRA members hanging around with handguns or rifles slung over their shoulders, they could have quick-drawed and gone into a bent-knee crouch and shot the shooter like Dirty Harry….blam! blam! blam! So what was the shooter’s deal? “There is something inherently disgusting about the media ‘clarifying’ that Sikhs are not Muslims. — Jeremy Cahill on Twitter, re-tweeted by Ray Pride.
“No force from outside, nor any pain, has finally proved stronger than her power to weigh down upon herself. If she has possibly been strangled once, then suffocated again in the life of the orphanage, and lived to be stifled by the studio and choked by the rages of marriage, she has kept in reaction a total control over her life, which is perhaps to say that she chooses to be in control of her death.
“And out there somewhere in the attractions of that eternity she has heard singing in her ears from childhood, she takes the leap to leave the pain of one deadened soul for the hope of life in another, she says good-bye to that world she conquered and could not use.” — excerpted from Norman Mailer‘s Marilyn Monroe biography, which originally hit stores in 1973 and has been republished a few times (and in two or three different forms) since.
Yesterday’s Clint Eastwood-endorses-Mitt Romney announcement led to an intense Twitter debate between Badass Digest‘s Devin Faraci and Hitfix‘s Drew McWeeeny. It quickly
devolved evolved into a discussion of the how to deal with the loony-tune right. I don’t want to over-simplify, but it seemed that Drew was basically mouthing a “let’s be civil and show respect” line and Faraci was basically saying “eff that noise.” Here’s some of what Faraci said:
“I don’t have to be tolerant of intolerance, and fuck elevating the conversation. This isn’t a conversation. It’s a war for the future of the world. Period. To pretend that this is about people having disagreements is INSANE at this point. They don’t believe in SCIENCE. You don’t win wars by being nice. You win wars by destroying the enemy. You lose wars by appeasing.
“Again, you’re treating this like it’s a gentleman’s disagreement. This is [about] hard-right hate groups taking over the nation. People are going to look back at what went down in this political period and refuse to believe [that this] shit ever got this out of hand. [And] you’re going to lose. You’re going to quietly allow these people to not only destroy this country but actually, and, this is not hyperbole, destroy life on this planet as they continue to ignore global warming. No, the problem is hard right anti-science hate mongers who have co-opted the GOP, and we all pretend like it’s not a big deal.
“I’m not interested in making people on the other side listen. I’m interested in defeating them thoroughly. I don’t care about changing their minds anymore. I care only about mitigating the harm they do. The problem is the idea that these people can be dealt with using some Marquess of Queensbury rules. They are not interested n reason or debate or discussion. They cannot be treated like equals or people who will be persuaded. They must be only beaten down. Just like nobody bothered trying to give Bull Connors a good talking to, these people must be legislated to the margins. Forever.
“So I’m okay with turning up the rancor. We should all be really rancorous that a GOP rep compared women’s health care to 9/11. If you’re trying to handle it ‘quietly’ and without rancor you’re pretending we’re past the point of no return. I’ve learned that you can’t have rational discussions with irrational people.”