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Entries in Alfred Hitchcock (67)


Exhuming Hitchcock's Grave... Again

Alfred Hitchcock was not above a remake. Or adaptations. Or self referencing. But this latest news is taking things too far in posthumous Hitchcock mania. A new show called Welcome to Hitchcock is going to "reimagine" Hitchcock stories one season-long mystery/crime at a time. The news gets worse: Chris Columbus will direct the pilot. Because, you know, Columbus has always excelled at taut psychologically provocative suspense (wtf?).

Sigh. After all the Hitchcock rip-offs and "sequels" and homages and "recreations" over the years, we do not need a ten episode reimagining of Psycho or Rear Window or Notorious; they're perfect the way they are. With the TV-making community scrambling to jump on the hot hot hot anthology train we all should have assumed that remakes were next. But if they must do this, let's hope they find a young director with an actual voice and gift for suspense to flesh out some of Hitchcock's less successful efforts instead. Any suggestions? 


Best Shot: Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955) 

To Catch a Thief (1955) is minor Hitchcock. Let's get that out of the way. But even minor works by an indisputed master can look awfully major when you stack them next to regular ol' films which is why we keep hitting Hitchcock in this series. There's a clickbait article going around (no I'm not linking) that argues that The Shallows (Blake Lively vs shark) is a better film than The Birds (Tippi Hedren vs, well, birds). Which is crazy talk but film twitter always always takes the bait.

True story: the last two films I screened were The Shallows (2016) and To Catch a Thief (1953) and I would have never thought to pair them until this silly shark vs birds kerfuffle which erupted immediately after I had just seen both of the movies. Truth bomb: The Shallows is a really good "B" movie (I don't mean grade, but yes: B) but it's awfully slight. It's just girl, shark, a few good scares, smart direction, and not much meat to chew on beyond "wow, that was kinda good." To Catch a Thief is a pretty good "A" movie (I don't mean grade) and it's somewhat slight. But here's the thing. People aren't going to be talking about The Shallows in 2070. Please note: People are still talking about Hitchcock's entire oeuvre a half-century plus later.

Even in a trifle like To Catch a Thief, which is maybe too long considering it's shy on plot and stakes, is a joy to watch for a number of reasons, the first of which is its surprisingly robust sense of humor. [More...]

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TV @ The Movies: "Bob's Burgers" and The Birds (1963)

Please tell me that you watch and love Bob's Burgers. (It's safe to assume that if you do the former you also do the latter.) The most recent episode "House of a 1000 Bounces" was a brilliant children's birthday party heist largely focused on the animated sitcom's superbly written kids: Tina, Louise, and Gene. The characterizations on this show never disappoint. Each Belcher family member and nearly every supporting character are so defined they're hi-res. And yet it's more than just broad strokes with flat colors. It's not one of those (many) sitcoms that rests on five variations of 1 joke for per character. Six seasons in the show is still strong with variety and invention.

In the B plot of this episode a pigeon inadvertently gets trapped inside the titular restaurant and Linda (Bob's wife) and Teddy (his self described best friend) are surprised to realize that Bob is terrified of pigeons. When they ask him to explain he flashes back to a childhood memory that looks and sounds all too familiar.

Let's alternate between Bob's false memories and the real fiction as it were. 

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AFI Fest: Hitchcock/Truffaut

Hitchcock/Truffaut has a kind of sacred place among film books. Though it's rarely assigned in class, since its original 1966 publication the collected interviews between Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut have unofficially defined auteurism, the role of the director in Western film, and - most obviously - public opinion about Hitchcock. The immediate result of the publication was to turn public opinion about the Master of Suspense from lowbrow entertainer to underappreciated artist, and to further solidify Francois Truffaut's image as critic-cum-creator, a critical distinction upon which the members of the French New Wave thrived. With a book this prominent in film history, a movie about the book is a lofty goal to say the least. Historian and director Kent Jones uses his movie as an unfocused if zealous love letter to Hitchcock, that ultimately falls short of its goals.

The movie Hitchcock/Truffaut attempts to be many things. On the one hand, it is a historical documentary which explains who Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut were and why their legendary interviews exhaustively analyzing every single one of Hitch's films was so important to film history. In this endeavor, Jones is primarily aided by the original recordings of the interviews. Unedited and untranslated Hitchcock is even more blunt and humorous than the published book let on. He gives a rather graphic explanation of the famous green-lit scene in Vertigo before suddenly cutting the interview short with a clipped "Off the record!" Jones includes the scenes that Hitchcock and Truffaut discuss, which allows the audience to observe critically with the directors' eyes and compare what Hitchcock says he's doing to the end result. It's a testament to Hitchcock's notorious control that there's little difference between what he describes and what appears onscreen.

This leads to Kent Jones's second goal in Hitchcock/Truffaut: a formal analysis of Alfred Hitchcock. As this was the primary motivation of the original book as well, parts of this can feel redundant. Jones brings in various directors to explain what they love in Hitchcock's films - Richard Linklater talks about time, Wes Anderson talks about precision, David Fincher talks about suspense, Scorsese talks about everything. The more directors Jones brings into the conversation, the more wide-reaching he reveals Hitchcock's influence to be. Directors who at first glance have little stylistically in common react with the same joy to discuss their favorite parts of Hitchcock's films. However, this formal analysis begins to drag, as very little new is discussed beyond what Hitch himself states.

That is the greatest flaw with Kent Jones's film: he doesn't add more to the conversation. Hitchcock/Truffaut was published nearly 50 years ago, but the movie doesn't have anything new to say about either the book or its subject. In trying to be too many things - a history, an analysis, a tribute - Jones's movie wanders aimlessly. 80 minutes spent with Hitchcock is never time wasted, but ultimately I wonder: why make this movie?

Grade: B

Oscar Chances: Low, though the Academy does like insider baseball.


Beauty vs Beast: Happy 65, Bill Murray

Jason from MNPP here nursing a slight Emmys hangover - my headache might be real but for once it's not from the terrible choices the Television Academy made; I for one was happy (or at least passably fine) with a lot of their picks! I mean yes Lisa Kudrow gave the best performance on television last year bar none so watching her go home empty-handed stung, but I can't really feel all that bad seeing one of the other best comediennes of all time get a little over-rewarded either.

But the brightest spot was all the love for my second-favorite 2014 Television Event (after The Comeback), the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge, which snatched up six worthy trophies... including one for birthday boy Bill Murray (typically a no-show at the ceremony), who's turning 65 today!

And this was totally the long way around but that brings me to this week's "Beauty vs Beast" which I'm devoting to his best performance (says me) in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, even though it doesn't entirely make sense for this series -- him & Scarlett are more of a duo that you're rooting for the whole time than much in the way of antagonists. But I'm gonna make you choose anyway because I love this movie more than silly logic.

PREVIOUSLY We headed to Bodega Bay last week where two gals pined for one hunky Momma's Boy amid a rain of seagulls from the sky - but unlike Mitch we tossed the Hitchcock Blonde right into that bay and went with doomed schoolteacher Annie (Suzanne Pleshette) instead. Said brookesboy:

"Pleshette plays my favorite character in this film. With everyone else teetering on the edge of hysteria, she conveys a calm, measured presence that is a consequence of a crushing sadness. Almost as if not even a force of nature--a flurry of birds--can lift away."


Beauty vs Beast: Worth Two In The Bush

Jason from MNPP here swooping down from the sky with this week's "Beauty vs Beast" -- I am aware that this series has been heavy on the Hitchcock so far (we've previously covered Psycho and Marnie and Vertigo and Rebecca, oh my) but when I heard TFE was celebrating 1963 all month I could hardly let the chance go by to celebrate one of my fave Hitch flicks, The Birds, which has up til now slipped thru the cracks. (Flown the coop?)

The Birds also features one of the hardest choices we've asked of you so far, if you ask me - I can't be the only one who was rooting for Suzanne Pleshette's sad seaside school-teacher Annie, right? In fact I think it's why she had to [spoiler] go [end spoiler], before the "happy couple" of Melanie & Mitch could head off into the sunset. (A sunset covered with murderous birds, natch.) Although, truer truth be told -- we were all just rooting for Melanie & Annie to ditch Mitch and take off together. Admit it! Well unfortunately that's not your choice today...

PREVIOUSLY Last week marked the 30th anniversary of Smooth Talk, with Laura Dern and Treat Williams playing out Joyce Carol Oates' sexual psychodrama, and y'all came down on the side of Dern, Dern, determinedly Dern, with a full 65% of your vote. We'll give today's quote to Nathaniel cuz why not:

"I saw it years and years ago in my first flush of Laura Dern obsession (so it must have been around Wild at Heart time frame. She's soooo good in it."


Curio: Getting Intimate With Ingrid

Alexa here with a curio in honor of Ingrid Bergman's centennial.  A few years ago, during a stop at Brooklyn thrift shop The Thing for some record shopping, I spied a paperback lying with a small pile of vintage books. There's nothing I love more than a pulpy celebrity biography, so I left the store without any LPs and with Ingrid Bergman: An Intimate Portrait in my bag instead.

It turned out to be perfect summer reading...

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