Entries in Hitchcock (8)
JA from MNPP here - The Film Experience is taking a look back at 1964 all this month and so it's the perfect time for our "Beauty Vs Beast" series to take a look at a movie that's turning 50 next month (it was released on July 22nd, 1964) and wades so deep into morally murky waters you're never quite sure which end of the screen you're rooting for (if any), making it perfect for this poll - I speak of Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie.
Starring Tippi Hedren as the titular troubled girl turned to theivery and Sean Connery as the businessman alternately turned on and repelled by that rascally blonde's baser instincts, Marnie's awash in dream symbols (so many snapping purses!) and psychiatry talk - too much of the latter by my count; like Hitch's film Spellbound I always find his movie's at their least interesting when they're explicitly spelling out his psychological obsessions. Give me the fluid illogic of Vertigo over it any day. But like the keys and key-holes that clutter every other frame of Marnie, the film is most interesting as far as the clues it further offers us towards an understanding of Alfred Hitchcock and his never not fascinating psychological profile. It shuffles some not-before-seen puzzle pieces into place.
Hitch was always putting the audience into morally compromising situations, getting us to side with bullies and lunatics - even his most well-intentioned heroes found themselves doing terrible things (think of the scene in the 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much where Jimmy Stewart drugs Doris Day without telling her so he can calm her down). But Marnie for me is the tipping point in Hitch's filmography where his characters become almost uniformly unlikeable; there's an angriness (or worse, an indfference) to the last decade and a half of his work (yes even in the so-called comedy of The Trouble With Harry) - it reaches its apex with Frenzy, a film I find exceedingly unpleasant to watch with its cast of shrewish women and sweaty men (it works as a horror film, but it makes me extraneously sad all the same), but the seeds are planted with Mark and Marnie, two people just a little too damaged and bizarre for me to ever find myself rooting for them in any way.
So why not force us to pick?!
You've got one week to vote and to sell us in the comments on the frigid blonde or the manly man that's come to beat some sanity into her. Choices, oh choices.
PREVIOUSLY And speaking of choices, with last week's poll pitting Natalie Portman's White Swan against Mila Kunis' Black Swan? Y'all couldn't make one! IT'S A TIE, YOU GUYS. 428 votes, split perfectly at 50/50. I can't even tell you how giddy that makes me - the movie about doubling and dopplegangers split us right down the middle. We look in the mirror and we see all of the faces. We are legion. I'll share to two quotes from y'all since we went both ways:
"Nina only cause I don't think Lily would take the loss as hard." -- SVG
"Team Lily because that fierce little Russki NEVER would have fallen flat on her ass on opening night. Get your shit together Nina!" -- TB
The Academy recently changed the name of the Best Makeup category to Best Makeup & Hairstyling but in truth hairstyling, wigs and whatnots have long been part of the diverse criteria for which Oscar voters are meant to reward Achievements in Makeup. But how does one define "achievement"? True to awards season in general (it's not just Oscar voters, mind you) the definition is usually "most=best". Sadly nearly almost all the golden statuettes in this category have gone to prosthetic effects -- werewolves, dwarves, you name it! It's the one category other than visual effects where genre films regularly lord it over more "noble-minded" efforts... (though strangely zombie pictures are the exception since they never even make the finalist list).
So, how refreshing would it be if the Oscar went to the Hair and Makeup team of Les Misérables this year? I was surprised to hear on the podcast that my co-conspirators were almost universally opposed to this particular nomination but I actually think it's the strongest nominee in this category. It's got a very consistent boldly stylized feel and a shit ton of traditional wigs and prosthetics work if you're also looking for "Most" in your "Best". They've aged Hugh Jackman and scarred him up, imagined really putrid diseased miserables of many sorts, made Cosette even prettier than usual, and even dipped Helena Bonham-Carter's wigs in coffee and tea for "more character" - though I suspect it's not the first time her head has been dipped in vats of dangerously hot liquids.
More traditional nominees can be found in The Hobbit and Hitchcock this year...
...wherein actors are heavily buried in prosthetics to appropriate the look of inhuman things: dwarves, orcs, master auteurs.
My advocacy for Les Miz might have a little to do with the fact that I love the film, but I do try and differentiate individual categories from overall feelings as much as I humanly can (as all awards voters should since great work is found in bad films and vice versa) but mostly it has to do with the actual achievement. And, as a bonus points, Les Miz also wins by virtue of my tiebreaker manifesto "Spread the Wealth!". I assume that The Hobbit is the frontrunner given voting habits in this category and yet I don't wish for the Oscars to become the Emmys and just hand the same statues to the same series each year as their small screen counterparts do. Given Peter Jackson's shameless story stretching for billions, this category could be tied up for decades if they keep handing Middle Earth Makeup Oscars (it's already won twice). Under the umbrella of "spread the wealth" it's also worth noting that the Les Miz team (Lisa Westcott & Julie Dartnell) is the only nominated team that has no Oscars among them*: Hitchcock's Howard Berger previously won the gold for The Chronicles of Narnia (as well as an Emmy for The Walking Dead); Peter King and Tami Lane on The Hobbit team both already have Oscars, his for this particular franchise and hers for The Chronicles of Narnia.
Q: Why does Lisa Westcott have no Oscars despite two nominations (Her Majesty Mrs Brown, Shakespeare in Love) prior to Les Miz?
A: Because she doesn't do werewolves or fantasy creatures.
Can we call a one year moratorium on dwarves, elves, monsters and prosthetic biopics in this category and give it to the zombie whores and scarred bread thieves for once !?!
We haven't talked Costume Design much this year -- course correct, course correct! -- so let's talk about two time Oscar nominee Julie Weiss and her work on Hitchcock. Hitchcock met with rather cool reception from critics and the public when it debuted last month. Part of that was, I think, due to its all encompassing title. While not a great picture, it self-sabotaged by allowing expectations of a factual and expansive biopic of the Master of Suspense when it actually only had plans on taking a lightly comic snapshot of one year in a famous Hollywood marriage.
Though inside showbiz pictures are rarely big hits, movie buffs and those who are actually inside showbiz tend to like them -- go figure! Julie Weiss is no exception. We spoke on the phone but I could swear her eyes were lighting up each time she talked about the honor she felt recreating Old Hollywood.
"That's what we want!" she told me emphatically. "We want the visitation rights to all of these worlds."
I wondered if she felt the need to let loose creatively in the non-Psycho scenes since she wouldn't have felt as restricted by previously established conography but her passionate response surprised me. She didn't feel hemmed in by Psycho at all.
"Fidelity is an interesting word when memory comes into view," she said explaining that exactitude wasn't the pressure at all. We certainly know Hitchcock but recreating the look of Psycho she reminds me was only part of her job. Especially since the legendary film was shot in black and white and this look back is in color. Color is a key factor in many costuming decisions and we spoke at length about the scene where Alma (Helen Mirren) and Janet (Scarlett Johannson) first meet, with Alma in her usual red and Janet in the palest of pinks.
"When the costume becomes clothing you know it's the actor becoming the character," Julie explained, describing fittings as crucial to her desire to help the actors transform. "I'm far more interested in watching an actor becoming a character than have a gown stand by itself."
"Scarlett Johansson playing Janet Leigh playing Marion Crane," in particular she describes poetically as a "prism that turned three times." Hitchcock proved a difficult assignment since it encompassed famous film costumes, movie premiere glamour, and everyday period wear in Hollywood and beyond (the Ed Gein sequences). She had to accomplish it all with with little prep time. "So difficult but worth it."
The only time Weiss seemed disappointed in her latest costuming gig was when the conversation turned briefly to the shower scene.
As a costume designer, I wished she were wearing something."
Weiss previously performed these old showbiz tricks with Hollywoodland (2006), the lower rent story of the mysterious death of past his prime Superman actor George Reeves played by Ben Affleck. But up until now Julie Weiss's most famous work came from three very different assignments: the dystopian hobo rags and space suits of Twelve Monkeys (1995, Oscar nomination) the pinata-colorful gowns of the art biopic Frida (2002, Oscar nomination) and the uniforms of suburban dysfunction within American Beauty.
I told her that my favorite costume from American Beauty was the navy sheath dress on Annette Bening that made her blend in with her prized vertical striped sofa.
"I'm so glad you noticed that. It means a lot when people notice," she said and shared that she was also made sure The Bening's gray dress matched the metallic of the gun. But before our chat spun into endless 'love your work' back-patting she poked at herself endearingly.
I still worry I should have put more dirt on her apron!"
This last comment was funny and telling. Julie Weiss was surprisingly self-effacing in the end. Despite a celebrated career with these unmissable peaks, she's really just there to help us win visitation rights to these other worlds.
"I love just standing back and watching that universe come to life. What you really want as a costume designer is that when the person walks out of the theater that they don't remember the costume against a white piece of paper but that they remember the scene and the world."
Buoyed by Twilight & 007 fanaticism, an abundance of newish Oscar contenders, and even a dusty remake for the crowd that doesn't care about Twilight or the Oscars or, you know, quality, there was something for everyone this Thanksgiving weekend! Moviegoers came out in droves for the biggest Thanksgiving at the movies ever.
So it's an extra long box office list today.
Box Office Top Twenty - Actuals
01 THE TWILIGHT SAGA FINALLY ENDS $43.6 (cum $227.3)
02 SKYFALL $35.5 (cum. $221.1) Review & Deborah's Review
03 LINCOLN $25.6 (cum. $62.8) Podcast Discussion
04 RISE OF THE GUARDIANS $23.7 *NEW* (cum $32.3) Capsule Review
05 THE LIFE OF PI $22.4 *NEW* (cum. $30.5)
06 WRECK-IT RALPH $16.5 (cum. $149.2)
07 RED DAWN $14.2 *NEW* (cum. $21.6)
08 FLIGHT $8.4 (cum $74.7) Review
09 SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK $4.3 (cum $6.2) Beau's Review
10 ARGO $3.8 (cum $98)
11 TAKEN 2 $.9 (cum. $136.4)
12 ANNA KARENINA $.8 (cum. $1.5) Capsule Review
13 PITCH PERFECT $.7 (cum. $62.5) Capsule Review
14 THE SESSIONS $.7 (cum $3.9) Review
15 JAB TAK HAI JAAN $.5 (cum. $3)
16 HERE COMES THE BOOM $.5 (cum. $42)
17 CLOUD ATLAS $.4 (cum $25.7)
18 THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER $.3 (cum $16.3) Capsule Review
19 HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA $.3 (cum $143.5)
20 LOOPER $.3 (cum. $65.5) Review
What did you see this weekend? If it's Here Comes The Boom, Red Dawn or Taken 2 eight weeks into its run please spend some time in the corner thinking about your life choices. If it was Hitchcock (just outside this list) my review is here but really I have to confess that I'm so deeply ashamed of it because JA wrote the most brilliant possible review anyone could have ever written about it. For real - read it!
This review was originally published in my column at Towleroad
The first thing HITCHCOCK gets right about Hitchcock is the humor. Director Sacha Gervasi's serio-comic adaptation of the book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" starts with a playful dodge, beginning not with a shot of that infamous house on the hill or the Bates Motel or even a Hollywood soundstage but in the rather humble yard of a Wisconsin farm. It's home to Ed Gein, the gruesome 1950s killer who inspired Psycho. The camera pans away from Gein's (fictional) murder to reveal the iconic plump suited figure of The Master of Suspense cooly observing him (Sir Anthony Hopkins in Sir Alfred Hitchcock drag).
Hopkins addresses the camera directly as if he's welcoming you to a very special edition of television's "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" or recording a promo for his latest cinematic thrill ride. He'll break the fourth wall again to bookend this film with an even better visual joke that's absurdly hokey.