Monday, February 25, 2013


What a wild ride the Oscars were this year...I really enjoyed the ceremony and the feast I prepared.

But be prepared for a bit of gushing and a bit of ranting as I have things I loved and things that irked me!
To me the Oscars are about 5 things: the host, the show, the awards, the fashion, and the commentary.
The Host
Seth MacFarlane did good...there I said it...but you know, I knew he would.
Yes, he is mostly known for his crossing the line gags...of which you will find plenty if you watch Family Guy. But if you take time to pay attention to Family Guy, this is a show that loves Hollywood and Popular Culture...and not just the modern stuff either. I see so many brilliant references to classic film in it and for that, I will always forgive him for the toilet humour. There are always great musical numbers in it too, of which he writes, scores and sings...he is the ultimate renaissance man. And this is why I was thrilled to hear he was hosting. I also had seen him sing the Bing Crosby part of Did You Evah a few years back and thought he was lip syncing to Bing...he was that good!
So he met my expectations to a certain degree, but to be honest I wanted more...
The cheaper gags - some of which went down well, some not so much (it's the toughest room ever) - I believe were placed ironically as that is what people expected. Either way I loved The Boob Song (and the hand puppets), cause it's freakin' true...mind you a Penis song featuring Fassbender and McGregor would have been equally as spectacular ;)
I think they used Shatner to reinforce the 'bad' gags...I don't think they needed to. Having said that, I adore Captain Kirk so why the hell not!?!
But the proper, classic song and dance numbers was where Seth shone. Charlize Theron, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe adding an unexpected gravitas to the numbers.
And the fun with Sally Field was great, especially the get away in the Smokey and the Bandit car!
There may have been a closing number...but given Channel 9 abruptly ended the ceremony, who knows! (more on that later in commentary) I managed to catch it last night and it was a song about the losers with Kristin Chenoweth and was ok.
Yes, there were some misses, but mostly hits. I hope they get him back and make more use of that song and dance talent.
The Show
I liked how they grouped three Best Picture nominees together.
I liked the ensemble presenting - The Avengers and Chicago casts.
The presenting was hit and miss, odd coupling and bad writing, which is fairly normal, but seemed moreso this year...where is Ben Stiller when you need him!?!
I loved seeing a cut away to Jack in the front ain't The Oscars without him.
Not a huge fan of Aniston, but loved how relaxed she was, very carefree, and a wink at someone - George? - in the audience.
Then, of course, there was Kristin Stewart - I forgive her FU attitude, after having to work in such bad movies like that Twilight shite, do you blame her attitude...I don't! People are having a field day with her limp, bruise, undone hair and unimpressed facial expressions...give the kid a break!
Loved the Jaws theme as playoff music, made me laugh very loudly.
There was a 50 years of Bond clip presented by an ageless Halle Berry, but totally overshadowed by Shirley Bassey knocking it out of the park with Goldfinger - First WOW of the night! She was awe inspiring and sounded great.
John Travolta was rolled out to present a tribute to musicals section. I say rolled out as he looked so plastic and corpselike I was concerned. This was a great section but I think a tribute to film musicals should have had a homage to the real musicals from the 30s and 40s...but, you know, that's me. Catherine Zeta Jones was great reenacting All That Jazz (one of my fave songs) from Chicago. No mean feat to pull that off. (An aside: "I'm no ones wife, I love my life and All That Jazz" - best lyric ever!!!!!) Then Jennifer Hudson killed us...again...with a glass shattering retell of I'm telling you that I'm not going. And then the entire (yes, entire) cast of Les Miserables made me tear up again with a melody of songs from the film - extraordinary!
I noticed as they cut away to the ads, young candy girls in peppermint satin outfits including hats, going round to the audience with treats - so cute!
And then there was Adele...goddamn she is good!!
I am still upset they have moved the special awards to another ceremony you don't get to see. These are important and excluding them is disrespectful to real film lovers and the honorees themselves. The premise behind this exclusion is people don't like it and it doesn't appeal to younger viewers!?!?! I think this is bs, and if you fit into this category, you don't 'get' The Oscars and can bugger off anyway! I could write a whole blog about this, but I won't!
Always love seeing Clooney, especially as he is rocking a cool haircut and beard at present. The In Memoriam seemed somewhat short. However the arrival of Barbra smoothed everything over. I adore her but felt her voice was not in the best of form. She still sounded great and I lurve The Way We Were (film and song, it's a favourite), always makes me smile and cry...I did both.
Also lovely to see Norah Jones looking great, and singing the song from Ted.
Oh and yeah, Jack comes out to present Best Picture, does his schtick and boom, down comes a screen with Michelle Obama on it, looking fine I might!!
So all up, the in between bits were excellent, you couldn't fault any of it.
The Awards
I stuck to my average of 16. I messed up Director and Supporting Actor - but very happy with the results. Also animated feature, doco short, make up and hair, production, sound editing, and live action short - all ones that are hard to predict.
There were a lot of dudes with long white hair winning the minor awards...go The Gandalf! Rather bizarre and amusing. The dude from Life of Pi gave an excellent, surreal, spaced out speech for Best Cinematography. And a tie for sound editing, luckily I got it wrong anyway...quite the surprise!
The Chicago cast presented the music awards, can't believe it's been ten years. But what is going on with Renee Zellweger? I hope she is ok, not heard of her in ages or seen her in a movie and whilst her eyes have always been a little different, she seemed to be having trouble seeing. And Catherine Zeta Jones's face doesn't look like her...sad!
I loved the odd pairing of Hoffman and did Hoffman! I think the writing categories are the most important and was thinking exactly that when Quentin said it was a writer's year! Yes, I have QT living in my head! Love that he won too, cause he is awesome. I loved his passion for his writing and characters. He must be wonderful to work with.
Then there are the big 6. Waltz got his Supporting Actor nod early on. I loved that he won, I was torn between him and Dr Niro, he carried Django and was mesmerising for every second he was on screen. No surprises that Hathaway won Supporting Actress...though loved the cheers for Jackie Weaver.
So thrilled for Jennifer Lawrence, winning on her second nomination. She was gracious and honest, even after tripping up the stairs on the way to the stage...poor sweetie. Then Daniel Day Lewis gave a fabulously funny (who knew??) acceptance speech in the easiest no brainer of the night. All four winners gave extraordinary performances in an extraordinary year for acting (and writing).
Shock of the night was Ang Lee's Best Director nod. I was thrilled, I had my money on Spielberg (who I am not a fan of) cause I really thought he would win. He is the academy's demographic. But so pleased Ang Lee was rewarded for the impossible - making a stunning film of a stunning - but unfilmable - book. It's easily my favourite film this year. And Ang Lee's career has been so diverse. I loved Wedding Banquet so much.
And finally, no surprises with Best Picture Argo. Great speeches from the producer's including snubbed director Affleck. He was humble and honest...and you gotta love that!
The Commentary
Fasten your seatbelts...this is where it gets ranty! Firstly the commentary on MacFarlane...Theron looked was a shot taken from elsewhere and spliced in, ditto for Watts. Really!?! Are people that stupid??? Yes, he fell over with some gags, but by god I've seen and heard worse. The commentary leading up to it had me more these people not research their subjects before they slag them off. If they knew the capabilites of the performer they would understand immediately why he was a good choice...and he was.

Since I posted this there has been a huge backlash about the misogyny of MacFarlane. Remember the Oscars have a huge team of writers, some of which would be his regular writers, some are Academy chosen. There were jokes he seemed uncomfortable telling. I can see why some people would think that way. I still see the irony in it. And it's kinda true, this is what happens, is mentioning it worse or shining a light on something that still needs some equality. I was not offended by any of the comments last night. I saw the irony and the intent as harmless. I would hardly think anyone would deliberately mean to go on a telecast like that to be a complete arse. And I might add that if these same people are going to pick on such things, they might like to add in the almost overshadowing of the actual telecast with the red carpet and the overwhelming attention to women's looks which could also be considered misogynistic...if you wanted to look at it that way!
The commentary on who will win based on The Golden Globes...I've said it before and I'll say it again...The Golden Globes have absolutely no bearing on who will win an Oscar...different people voting for different awards!
The commentary on how badly Australian Actors were done by. Naomi Watts was never ever going to win in the field she was in. No one stood a chance against Daniel Day Lewis from the moment it was leaked he was cast as Lincoln, it was a done deal. Shame for Jackman, but it was never going to happen, he had to know that. Ditto for Jackie, against Sally Field and Anne Hathaway, the other ladies also didn't stand a chance, Weaver said this herself on the red carpet. What happened to it's an honour to be nominated...sigh...
And then there was the commentary afterwards...ahhh Channel Nine, you've done it again!!! (Mind you, it could never top the year, I tuned in to watch and they put a short news break on prior to the ceremony AND said who the big winners were...seriously!!!)
So, there was mention of a closing number...but we'll never know as Channel Nine in their usual stupidity shut it down and put on the 'news'. I don't watch a lot of free to air and never watch free to air news, so this was a new thing to me. Oh good god, give me strength, there were three dipsy women talking about the show and giving their very ill informed opinions, getting names, winners and all sorts of information totally wrong!!!!! Then they cross to their correspondant in LA, who was even more inept. So Channel 9 shows these pieces not once, but three f**king times (excuse my French, but I was shocked at how incredibly more incompetent this very incompetent station could be..and truth be told, didn't think I could think any lower of them...but there you go). You know, basically taking up enough time to have actually showed the entire ending of the show!!! Give me strength!!!!
If you are going to commentate the Oscars, you really need to know your stuff...not just this year (but geez, that would be a start) but past years, understand The Academy, how it works, have an appreciation for the Golden Years that shaped Hollywood and the need to get it right on the night. Otherwise please don't...
The Fashion
Yes it's frivolous and a little bit vacuous, but it adds glamour to the event and hopefully takes the viewer back to a day in the past where glamour and Hollywood were synonymous.
I still ache for the years when someone stands out - for good or for bad.
But this year, as in the past few years, sleek, red, blue and neutral ruled.
Here are my favourites:
Reese Witherspoon
Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Lawrence
Anne Hathaway
Runners Up:
Sally Field
Jennifer Aniston

Amanda Seyfreid

Catherine Zeta Jones
And a couple I am still unsure about:
Besties, Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman
And then there is always Helena and HushPuppy ;)


(PS, I am aware of the bad formatting of the photos, but Blogger and photos almost always don't like to play together and tonight is no exception...I'm tired and it's either fix it and loose my remaining sanity or leave it as is...I'm taking the later!)

Anything in italics I added in this morning.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

OSCARS 2013 (2012)

I love my movies and I adore Oscar day, as I have said previously (tongue firmly planted in cheek...maybe!) it is my religion.
And so the time is near, tomorrow in fact and as always I will try and predict who will win along with who I would prefer to win.
I said last year was the hardest to predict in some time, and this year it ranges from easy lock ins to seriously hard to decide categories.
Please see previous posts on this subject if you are new to my musings on The Golden Boy:
The last link was my first post on the subject and a good background to my love of movies and Oscar.
So let's get down to the business at hand.
Best Picture: Argo
I have seen 6 of the 9 featured films this year and loved ALL of them. I have not seen Zero Dark Thirty, Amour or Argo.
However I really like Affeck's style of film making, it's the favourite and people love an underdog...he was not nominated for director.
Quite frankly, all are deserving, but if I am proven wrong I would love to see Life of Pi win or even Silver Linings Playbook - best films I've seen all year. But then Django is fabulous too, especially the first half of it which I deem masterpiece worthy.
While I am here, I will give a shout out to the astonishing Beasts of the Southern Wild...I only saw it this afternoon...a very unusual and wonderful little film, deserving to be on this list, but the honour for it will be in it's nomination.
Best Director: Steven Spielberg
Oh my, I am so divided here. It's between Ang Lee and Spielberg, from all I have read. People LOVE Spielberg...I don't but Lee directed an unfilmable book. My money is on Steven, but I bloody hope I am wrong!!!
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
This is a lock in from casting and the first still we saw of him. Nothing more to say.
No one else stands a chance, despite fine performances.
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
Despite strong competition from Jessica Chastain and Emmanuelle Riva. Jennifer killed this role, punching above her weight as the grieving widow in Silver Linings Playbook. She stole each scene from her fellow actors, including De that ain't easy. I want her to win and I suspect she will win.
Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro
I really think Christoph Waltz should win, he carried Django and was outstanding, but De Niro was the best I have seen him in forever. He wants it, people love him and quite frankly he is deserving. Anyone in this category could win, they've all won may well be the upset category, there is always one. But De Niro killed me in this...actually if i had my way it would be a tie, Waltz/De Niro...but the 'money' is on Bobby D.
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway
Again, this is a lock in, she will win and I want her to win. I am not ashamed to reveal my love of Anne Hathaway, great actress, amazing singer and I've never seen a dud performance from her. Plus she seems so very lovely. And she killed me in this, her single cut performance of I've Dreamed a Dream locked her in. Not even 30mins in she had me crying, and in a very small role, you never forgot Fantine throughout the entirety of Les Miserables. Outstanding.
Best Animated Feature Film: Wreck-it Ralph
I personally want to see Frankenweenie win, love Burton, but there is no buzz for it. The pundits are predicting Wreck-it Ralph and Brave, I've seen neither, but Wreck-it Ralph sounds good, so I'm picking it!
Best Foreign Film: Amour
Easiest bet of the night, nominated for best film, by the outstanding Michael Haneke, of whom I'm a fan. Go "Love".
Best Original Screenplay: Django Unchained
This is hard, I actually love the screenplay for Moonrise Kingdom more, but it and Flight have hardly been mentioned. The love is going to Amour, Quentin and Zero Dark Thirty. I'll go with Quentin...honestly have no idea who will win.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Argo
Usually goes with the Best Picture, and everyone is loving Argo, however don't count out Silver Linings Playbook or Life of Pi, I'd be happy to be proven wrong with either!
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina looked the most beautiful. Whilst the costumes in Les Mis and Lincoln were authentic but I think Russian ball gowns will be winners.
Best Original Song: Skyfall from Skyfall
Don't bet against Adele, a lock in!
Best Original Score: Life of Pi
Stunning music that matched the stunning film, want it to win, believe it will win.
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
The only two that feature in my reading are Sugar Man and How to survive a plague, but I love the story of Sugar Man, so going with it.
Best Documentary (Short): Open Heart
About cardiac surgery for needy Rwandans...sounds likely!
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: The Hobbit
Pretty much locked in I would think!?!
Best Production Design: Les Miserables
Formerly Art Direction, this is a hard one this year, each film has outstanding set design and I have absolutely no idea. They are all worthy. I think it will come down to the Hobbit or Les MIs, going with the one the academy has favoured more. But it could go to Life of Pi...
Best Film Editing: Argo
Almost always goes with Best Picture, so Argo it is.
Best Cinematography: Life of Pi
Can't go past the most stunningly filmed, Life of Pi.
Best Sound Editing: Argo, and Best Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
These usually go hand in hand unless a musical is involved and then the mixing always goes to the musical, so Les Mis it is. Will give the sound editing to Argo.
Best Visual Effect: Life of Pi
Locked in, if you haven't seen it, go and see it, you almost forget most of it is effects!!
Best Short Film (animated): Paperman
They all sound fabulous, Paperman is getting the buzz.
Best Short Film (Live Action): Henry
Again, they all sound great, the buzz is split between Henry, about dementia and Curfew, about suicide...going with Henry.
My best ever year was 20 predictions out of the 24 categories in 2009, although last year I hit 18, my second best result. I usually average around 15/ I wonder how I will go this year. Stay tuned for a follow up post later on in the week with fashion highlights, general loves and a bit of history.
Oh and while I am here, I am excited about Seth MacFarlane hosting...yes, he does potty humour and whilst I am sure there will be something contentious topics, he is also - maybe not as well -known as a Hollywood enthusiast, and is a great impersonator, especially in 30s/40s tunes. So I think (I hope) this will add more class than ummm ass (arse) this year...but I guess we will just have to wait and see...either way, he had better give us a classy song and dance number!!
So, who would you pick?
What films did you like this year?
What films do you think were forgotten?
Don't forget to pop some bubbles and enjoy The Oscars!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Alfred Hitchcock, Part 2

Welcome to Alfred Hitchcock, Part can read Part 1 here:

The Fifties
The 50s has Hitchcock making his finest and most well known films. Starting with the solid Stage Fright, Strangers on a train and I Confess, he moves from strength to strength with Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, The Trouble with Harry, The Man who Knew too Much, The Wrong Man, Vertigo and my personal favourite North by Northwest. It was also in the mid 50s he began his television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He was at the top of his game and an output many would find hard to match in a career let alone one decade.
I have a soft spot for Strangers on a Train. It's very clever and very edgy. Two strangers meet on a train, hence the title. They both want to be rid of someone in their lives, one suggests they murder the person they want rid of for each other. Crisscross Crisscross. The theory being, no one knows they know each other and it would be the perfect murder. The strangers are Robert Walker as the creepy Bruno and Farley Granger as the everyman Guy. Guy is amused but takes it all as a joke, until Bruno goes ahead with his side of the 'bargain'. Completely unhinged Bruno then begins to blackmail Guy, a tennis player, into his side of the 'bargain'. Hugely suspenseful, with a great scene at a tennis match, and sublimely shot. The murder as seen through a pair of sunglasses is subtle yet very clever and the huge climax at the carousel is incredible.
Dial M for Murder is another one people forget about. Grace Kelly is less glamorous, though still stunning, in this edgier role. She has been having an affair for about a year and doesn't realise her husband knows and is plotting her murder! I just realised her husband was a tennis player, so now can't remember if the aforementioned tennis scene is in Strangers on a Train or this one!?! Most of the action in Dial M for Murder takes place in an apartment, which gives an enclosed claustrophobic feeling. The thing I most remember about this film is one shot when Kelly is being attacked and she looked exactly like her daughter, Caroline, looked at the time I saw it. Was uncanny.
Hitchcock gets to expand on the feeling of claustrophobia with Rear Window. This is a simple story but shot in such detail and with such precision it requires careful and multiple viewing. Every time you see or find something else. Everyone knows this film (surely!?!), Jeff played by James Stewart is stuck in his apartment with a broken leg. He is bored and begins 'spying' on his neighbours in the apartment block opposite and believes he has witnessed a murder. Aided by his good girlfriend, Grace Kelly as the model Lisa, they begin to investigate what is going on. So incredibly layered with multiple storylines following many inhabitants of the apartment block; romance, humour, sadness and suspense are witnessed. There is also the story of the relationship between Lisa and Jeff which appears stuck, and of course, the supposed murder itself. Also great supporting performances by the fabulous Thelma Ritter as Jeff's nurse and Raymond Burr as the suspected murderer.
To Catch a Thief is less thriller and more romance and beauty. Filmed in the French Riviera and starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly it is the prettiest of Hitchcock's films. Lots of beautiful homes, fancy cars, amazing costumes (by Edith Head), stunning jewels and ballroom scenes. Grant is a retired cat burglar, trying to work out who is doing some copycat burgling of the rich and famous. Must watch scene, besides every costume change for Kelly, is where she is driving Grant very fast through the winding roads of the Riviera, especially given that is pretty much how she dies in real life years later.
The Trouble with Harry troubles a lot of Hitchcock fans as it seems out of place. To be honest I've only seen it once, cannot remember much except I did like it. A body is found in a small town and everyone suspects they could be involved. I believe it was meant to be intentionally funny, ironic even, but people didn't get that. It was not the usual subtle humour one expected from The Master. I do remember Shirley MacLaine being young and beautiful in it, her first film role, and the gorgeous young John Forsythe being...gorgeous! I must watch it again.
The Man who Knew too Much is the remake of his earlier film. Much more polished, you can see the changes and growth of Hitchcock. I like the grittiness of the earlier film, where this one seems a bit too polished. James Stewart and Doris Day star as parents holidaying in Morocco when their boy is kidnapped. They are both great, though Day is an odd choice. Blonde, yes, but possibly not the best choice. Though, playing a singer, we get the opportunity to hear her sing Que Sera Sera - which is gorgeous. Also in a small role, look out for the gorgeous Carolyn Jones (Mortica Addams).
Hitchcock rounds out the decade with the one, two punch of Vertigo and North by Northwest. Vertigo, now considered the greatest film ever made, requires multiple viewings. It is a complex plot and difficult to explain properly. In short, Scottie, played by James Stewart, is a retired detective asked to follow a friend's wife as he fears she may commit suicide. Many twists and psychological turns happen and Scottie falls in love with Madeleine, played beautifully by Kim Novak. But Madeleine dies, was it suicide, murder or indeed is she dead at all? Suspenseful, haunting and stunningly filmed using tricky shots and photography to encapsulate the drama. Whilst it's not my favourite film, it is definitely his masterpiece. And watch out for a beautiful, young Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing) as Scottie's friend Midge.
North by Northwest is my favourite. It has Cary Grant at his best, on the run, after a mistaken identity, which turns into being framed for murder. But really, none of that part of the plot is that important, they are merely catalysts for the humour, adventure, romance and action that ensues. It is a romp, a huge amount of fun and extremely suspenseful. There are so many iconic scenes in this film, as Grants' Roger O Thornhill - the O stands for nothing - crisscrosses across America, I have no idea where to start. There is the famous crop dusting scene, with Grant running away from the crop duster, the scene at the UN where Grant is framed for know the innocent man pulls the knife out of the dead man's back and people think he did it trick. Then there are scenes shot in a replica Frank Lloyd Wright house and the famous finale shot at Mount Rushmore. James Mason and Martina Landau are the 'baddies' and Eve Marie Saint is perfect as the mysterious woman Grant meets on a train. If you haven't seen this, you are truly missing out on a superb piece of entertainment.
The Sixties and Seventies
The sixties begin with Psycho, followed by The Birds two years later...moving more into the horror thriller style of film. They are followed by the underrated Marnie, and Torn Curtain. Then Topaz, followed by Frenzy and Family Plot, both in the 70s.
Films were starting to change and Hitch was looking for something new, he found the novel by Robert Bloch and started to make Psycho. The film was groundbreaking for many reasons and is now his most recognised and well known film. It's story was a secret, it was more horror than suspense, the lead actress was killed very early on, and the techniques used were outstanding and new. He famously advertised the film as one you were not allowed in to after it had started and to keep the plot a secret so as to surprise people who came to see it. Of course the shower scene is what it is famous for, the quick cuts, Marion's scream (played wonderfully by Janet Leigh), the eye, the shower plug hole and of course Bernstein's fabulous score.
I saw this when I was in my late teens, I did not like anything too scary, but started to watch it late one night. The shower scene, whilst atmospheric and shocking, did not scare me. I kept waiting, and got about halfway through, I was the only one up and it was dark and my imagination got the better of me, I put a tape in and recorded it. I watched the remainder the following day, and whilst the revelation at the end creeped me out, it was not the scary film I thought it was going to be...a little bit of a let down. I recently did a review of the film, Hitchcock, which is about the making of Psycho and led to these musings.
The Birds however, was always going to be scary for me! I was savagely attacked by a magpie when I was young, and have had quite the fear of birds ever since. The Birds is a great premise; Melanie (Tippi Hedren) follows a man, Mitch played by Rod Taylor, she met in San Francisco to Bodega Bay but then all these birds start to appear and attack people for no reason. The first time you see all these birds sitting on the electrical wires it is frightening, and then covering the plyground even worse. Hitch lets the tension build slowly, the scarier scenes are when nothing happens but you just know something is around the corner. Some of the visuals are quite brutal which adds to the horror and suspense. Look out for Jessica Tandy as the mother of Mitch.
Marnie is another underrated film. It's a psychological thriller and very layered. Tippi Hedren is outstanding as the deeply troubled Marnie, a seemingly bad girl intent on ruining her life. That is, until she meets and marries Mark, played by a young Sean Connery. On their honeymoon, she refuses Mark's advances and he realises there is something very wrong with her and hires a private investigator to find out about her past...of which she has been very shady about. I really like this and consider it his last great film.
I've only seen the final four films once each and early on in my Hitchcock experience but I remember being disappointed by them all. I must re-watch someday and see if that still holds true. They didn't seem like Hitchcock films, they were too modern, a little bit sleazy and had no glamour. Torn Curtain is the best of the bunch and a cold war film starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews who, while great, didn't seem right in a Hitchcock film. Topaz is based on the Leon Uris novel about the Cuban Missile Crisis and is set in Cuba and France. It is a good movie, but not a great Hitchcock movie. Frenzy is dark, about a serial killer in London, featuring a brutal rape scene. I didn't care for it and thought Hitch was grasping a straws to come up with a hit and he did not succeed. Family Plot has interweaving stories of crime involving kidnapping, theft, blackmail and fortune telling. It's a bit messy and sad that this was his final film.
The thing about the great Hitchcock films is they all hold up today. The plots, characters and suspense are being rediscovered over and over again and this is wonderful.
I've had two interesting Hitchcock experiences outside of his films. The first was in Sydney some years back when an exhibition of his memorabilia was at the MCA. There was some set pieces, books, writings, and films showing. It was a small exhibition but fabulous to be close to bits and pieces belonging to the great man. The second was touring Universal Studios in Orlando, seeing the replica Psycho house and touring an exhibit of memorabilia and seeing a 3D film on some of his scenes. There was also a section where miniature sets showed how he filmed scenes, the apartment in Rear Window, the carousel in Strangers on a Train and some of his camera 'tricks'.
I know these films will stay with me forever and I will continue to watch and rewatch them. Great Art is a wonderful thing, good for the soul and the brain. If you haven't had the opportunity to watch any Alfred Hitchcock I highly recommend you do and hope my ramblings here will help you choose a good one to start with.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Alfred Hitchcock, Part 1

When I was writing about Hitchcock the film, I thought I should write about my love of Alfred Hitchcock and his films. As always with people of significance I found it difficult. Like The Beatles, what else is there to write that has not been written? And believe me, I have read most of it. So, I will share my history with the great man and what I love about his films!
I am not a fan of really scary movies. However a good thrill or mild scare is always a lot of fun, and Alfred Hitchcock seems to do it best. I guess that's why he's called The Master of Suspense.
I began enjoying his 'softer' films in my late teens, To catch a thief and Rear Window. They were glamorous and romantic, starred Grace Kelly, James Stewart and Cary Grant...what wasn't there to love? As I got older and had more means to seek out other films I began to devour his films and watch his television show. To this day he is my favourite director and North by Northwest one of my favourite films of all time. I have watched a lot of his films and many of them numerous times over.
Once I started to work in Libraries I had all these wonderful books about him and his movies at my hands. I read and reread them all, learning so much about the type of film making he established, such ground breaking work. This was over 20 years ago, and they've all melded into a 'super book' of information in my head, where 20 years later the information is not always easily retrieved but sometimes remembered at the most inopportune moments! Truffaut's Hitchcock is the seminal work in my opinion. Dan Auiler's Hitchcock's notebooks particularly interesting in terms of his work. And Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello is fascinating. This was a source for the film, Hitchcock.
I started to write about what I loved best as things entered my head, but it was too stream of consciousness.
So from a chronological list - thank you imdb, you are brilliant - I decided to write my thoughts on each film!
I can't remember what order I discovered the films in, so chronological seems the best way to mention them.
The Twenties
Of the 14 films Hitch directed during the 20s I have only seen 2, The Lodger and Blackmail. Both are very much of their time, with a little hint of the Hitch that was to come. They are melodramatic with minor thrills, though I'm sure for their day they were ground breaking. I recently had the good fortune to see The Lodger again but on the big screen as part of a silent film festival. It was great to see, we laughed a lot, though I am sure were not meant to. Casting the dishy Ivor Novello in the lead as the supposed murderer was brilliant, but many were not keen on it at the time apparently...went against type!
The Thirties
Between 1930 and 1934, Hitchcock made 9 films, Murder!, Rich and Strange, and Number 17 were much the same as the films from the 20s, basic plot, murder, a bit of a twist and happy resolution. But 1934s The Man who knew too much was the beginning of a change. A more nuanced film, with an assassination plot, a kidnapping, and starring the fabulously creepy Peter Lorre as the villain. Hitchcock remade this later in his career, but this is a grittier version and it's great.
Then came the more popular of his British films: The 39 Steps, Secret Agent, Sabotage, Young and Innocent, The Lady Vanishes, and Jamaica Inn. These are all outstanding films, with the weak link being Jamaica Inn. The 39 Steps would be the most well known and is a great romp of an innocent man on the run from the police after mistakenly being suspected for murder. Young and Innocent is pretty much a slightly different twist on the same story. My favs are The Lady Vanishes and Sabotage.
The Lady Vanishes is the first film that displays the subtle humour Hitch becomes known for. It has been there in previous films, but in this one it seems more intentional. Basic plot of a lady that disappears on a train, only noticed by one young girl. People don't believe her (a standard Hitch plotline) and the mystery begins.
Sabotage is much more serious, in fact probably the most shocking of his early films. Sylvia Sidney is amazing as the young girl who marries a mysterious older gentleman who is not as he appears. Hitch reveals everything early on, yet we watch as the drama unfolds in complete suspense. The couple own an old cinema which allows for some fabulous scenes. But a young boy, the younger brother of Sidney's character, steals the show with one of the most suspenseful scenes I've ever watched as he unwittingly carries a bomb through the city...would Hitchcock dare to let a bomb go off with a child carrying it?? Well, you have to watch to find out.
The Forties
He began the decade by moving to Hollywood and doing a quintessential British film, Rebecca. He made 12 films plus some shorts during this decade and they were hit and miss, but he was establishing himself and testing the boundaries in Hollywood. My favs are Rebecca, Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, Spellbound, Notorious and Rope.
Rebecca is the quintessential gothic romance, very British, beautifully filmed and acted. Not a typical Hitchcock film, but he needed this to be perfect to work his way into Hollywood, and he succeeded. Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier are perfectly cast, but Judith Anderson as the nasty Mrs Danvers runs away with the show! Rebecca is the only of his films to win Best Picture at the Oscars, shameful!
Suspicion is a great little film with Joan Fontaine and Cary Grant - Cary's first of 4 films with Hitch. Fontaine's Lina meets Grant's charming Johnnie on a train and is swept off her feet. They marry quickly and Lina realises Johnnie is not as he seems, could he be a murderer? Cary Grant playing a!?! This is a simple story but works well, mostly due to the superb casting of Grant and Fontaine. witty, romantic and suspenseful, Hitchcock continues to hone his craft.
Shadow of a doubt is a similar tale. Young Charlie (the gorgeous Teresa Wright) looks up to her Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton), but he is not as he appears. Again Hitchcock reveals to the audience before his characters find out and you squirm as things unfold. Also a great supporting cast of older Hollywood establishment. Wright is perfect as the young girl eager for a bit of excitement in her life, but unprepared for the reality and truth.
Spellbound is an odd one, the story has a lot of twists and convolution. It is based around Psychoanalysis and murder, with Gregory Peck's character possibly being framed by psychiatrists. Ingrid Bergman's Dr is keen to get to the bottom of the truth. Salvador Dali assisted Hitchcock in putting together a surreal dream sequence (to be seen, though alleged Hitch did not use all of Dali's ideas). But really it is the magnificent chemistry between Peck and Bergman that makes this movie worth seeing.
Notorious is probably my second favourite film after North by Northwest. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are at the top of their game in a world of Nazis, agents, spies and sex. Bergman's Alicia loses herself in men, gambling and alcohol after her German father is convicted of treason. Grant's agent, Devlin, uses her to convict more Nazis, all the while falling in love with her. The things Devlin makes her do are astonishing, especially for that time. But he is so utterly charming and persuasive, and she so desperate you can see why. Bergman is amazingly stoic and sensual as only she can be. Things build until Devlin makes a move, and you get one of the most sensual and erotic scenes shown on film for the time, possibly even ever. Each time I see this film I find something new, the way Hitch filmed this was remarkable. There are some tracking shots that are groundbreaking, or subtle shots that seemingly make no sense until much later...he gives away little hints all the time. Great supporting cast of Claude Rains and Leopoldine Konstantin as the horrid mother and son.
Rope is a stunning piece of film. Filmed in long single takes ( 5 or 6 I think ), this story, based on the Leopold and Loeb murders, appears like as a suspenseful play. Two young men murder a friend prior to a party, lock his body in trunk and continue to hold the party with family and friends of theirs and the deceased in the very same room. James Stewart stars as an old school teacher, and as the boys begin to give subtle hints as to how 'clever' they have been, Stewart begins to unravel what has happened. Again, the viewer knows everything, and the suspense is in whether they will be found out or get away with murder. Stewart is outstanding and holds the piece together. A seemingly logistical nightmare to shoot, it had been perfectly plotted from story, acting to props and movement, a masterpiece to be seen.
I didn't realise how long this piece would take to write or end up being, still finishing the 50s-70s, so stay tuned for Part 2!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

January Round Up, Part 2

This second part of my January Round Up features short reviews of the books, movies, tv, and music I have consumed.
Books I've read
Manhattan Dreaming and Am I Black Enough For you, both by Anita Heiss. Such talent and range. Manhattan Dreaming is chick lit, and a romping good read with subtle messages about self worth, love and life...set in New York (one of my favourite cities in the world). Am I Black Enough For You is part memoir/part Aboriginal history and is outstanding. I love memoirs, and this is one of the best I have read. Fascinating and heart wrenching, I identified with so much of it, despite know, pasty white!
My hundred lovers by Susan Johnson, a fictional account of our heroine's 100 loves. Set in short chapters, some only paragraphs, some longer, this is beautifully written, sentimental (in the best possible way), sexy and clever...not all the 100 are men.
Then, at opposite ends of the spectrum, I devoured Audrey: the 60s by David Wills and Weird Al: the book by Nathan Rabin and Al Yankovic...both fabulous coffee table books with great photos. How can you not love either of these wonderful people!?!
I am back to listening to talking books in the car. I prefer non-fiction read by the authors themselves.
So, I have listened to My mother was nuts written and read by Penny Marshall. Penny, most widely known as Laverne from Laverne and Shirley and a director of Jumpin' Jack Flash, Big, A league of their own, has a distinctive voice and once you get used to that you are on a fabulous ride. I had absolutely no idea all the things she has done in her life, and what a life she has led. She pretty much knows everyone in Hollywood and from this tells some amazing stories. She is very deadpan about it all, and truly unaffected by any of it. She tells it like it is, I love that! Favourite story I did not know, that Robert De Niro was cast in Big because her first choice, Tom Hanks did not want it. The movie was not a 'big' enough vehicle for him...yet her friend Bobby was keen. Then when Tom heard that, he figured it might be ok after all, so Marshall had to sack De Niro!! Mind=blown!!!! She also has some fabulous phrases she uses, "clusterfuck of confusion" being my favourite...I shall use this one day, oh yes I will!
I moved on from the jarring voice of Penny to the dulcit tones of Bill Bryson. I adore Bill and have read most of his books many years ago, so have decided to renew my love. His humour is a subtle, dry humour, which I totally love, but listening to him narrate the story is perfection. I have nearly driven the car off the road laughing. I have started with his return to America after living in the UK for most of his life, I'm a stranger here myself.
DVDs I've watched
The Town, a gritty heist gone wrong film, directed and starring Ben Affleck. I liked this a lot, Ben is a great film maker with an eye for detail.
My nephew came to stay and it was one of those hot weekends so we devoured the Jurassic Park Trilogy and Batman: the movie. He had never seen Jurassic Park and loved it. I had not seen it in ages and appreciated the re-watch. The other 2 were nowhere near as good as the first. Batman: the movie is a personal favourite of both of us, we have watched it a lot. It is a movie that was made in the 60s with the TV cast and is superbly camp, we particularly love the shark that tries to eat be seen!!!
Extremely loud and incredibly close was one I was unsure about, but still has me thinking about it. I have not read the book, but it is a post 9/11 story about a boy trying to make a last connection with his father who was killed that day. I did feel manipulated, but the story resonated. Stunning performance from the lead and very subtle small roles by Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks as the parents.
Martha Marcy May Marlene is about a young girl who escapes from a cult and is as disturbing as it sounds. A little indie drama with stunning acting from Elizabeth Olsen and Sarah Pauley.
Steven Soderbergh's Haywire is a must see, my favourite of this bunch. Soderbergh wrote the film for professional boxer GIna Carano after meeting her. She stars as a black ops soldier seeking revenge after being betrayed during a mission. It is an action film, which I am normally not a fan of, but she steals the entire show and is amazing. Her supporting cast are Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Michael Fassbender.
TV I've been watching
I finally got around to watching Girls. And it's my new favourite show, 4 girls in their 20s trying to make sense of life in New York. It's real, gritty and honest...and very funny. Dunham writes, directs, produces and stars, what a talent. It's clever and edgy, a must see indeed!!
Dexter is winding up in it's second last season (S7) and I found it a tough one to get through. He is risking being caught, his sister has realised his secret and he is walking an incredibly fine tightrope. I adore Michael C. Hall and his fabulous Dexter, but I really struggled this season, and I think it's because I didn't like he might be caught, it made me feel, what that says about me, I am unsure. I prefer to put it down to fabulous writing and stunning acting!
Caught a live to air documentary on SBS called Venice 24/7. It was an amazing behind the scenes look at emergency services in Venice. So you got to see lots of gorgeous parts of the city. Some of the people involved were a bit bumbling, so I was glad I didn't take ill whilst I was there!
Castle is a formulaic cop show, and I normally do not go for such things. But Castle stars the divine Nathan Fillion (The Captain from Firefly) and has quirky storylines set in New York so what's not to love. S4 sucked me in as the previous seasons have.
Movies I went to
The Hobbit was my Boxing Day birthday movie. I loved it, and as I have recently read the book, it was exactly as I imagined. The little extra bits worked and helped tie it to Lord of the Rings better. I did feel it lagged in the middle and some of the journey and fight scenes were stretched out longer than necessary. Martin Freeman is perfectly cast as Bilbo and I especially loved Barry Humphries as The Goblin King. My favourite scenes were the exchange between Gollum and Bilbo, and the final scene with the big reveal.
Life of Pi is one of my favourite books. I never imagined it could be a film, but then I heard Ang Lee was attempting it and I knew it was in safe hands. He got it! It is a must see and especially in 3D, as it is simply stunning. The effects were so well done you never for a moment realised they were effects. It is a gentle ride with large subject matter and an underlying philosophical and religious thread...and then there is a turn that punches you so hard you're left in the book. This may seem like a simple fable, but like most fables there is something larger lying beneath the surface.
Hitchcock I have reviewed separately, see here
Monsieur Lazhur was our first Lighthouse Film. It was cancelled and played at a club a week later. (Man, has this weather been crazy or what!?!) What a beautiful film. French Canadian, it is about an Allgerian refugee who becomes the teacher to a class after their actual teacher commits suicide in the classroom. With his old fashioned and different ways he begins to help heal these children who have been traumatised and in turn helps heal himself. The story unfolds gently and whilst having difficult themes it uplifting and at times funny. The children are amazing and Mohamed Fellag as Lazhar is wonderful. Have tissues on hand, we sobbed as whilst uplifting it is still incredibly sad.
Paris Manhattan is the most delightful French romance. Alice has loved Woody Allen films since she was a teen and always turned to them and Woody for life advice. Her love life is always in ruins and her family are constantly trying to set her up with appropriate men. The movie plays like a good Woody Allen romance, with funny moments, great shots of Paris, and fabulous music. Alice Taglioni, who plays Alice, is a charismatic actress and perfect for the role. And then there is that scene towards the end of the movie where a door opens and...well, that would be telling you too much! Go and see the film, it sung to me, and in fact could have been written for me as a Woody Allen fan, I just loved, I lurved it!
Music I've been listening to
New Tori Amos - reworked versions of older songs, very easy to listen to.
Tempest, Bob Dylan - loving this, Bob just gets better and better.
Puberty Blues Soundtrack - lots of great 70s tunes.
I awake, Sarah Blasko - lovely haunting tunes as you would expect.
new Luka Bloom - sweet and melodic, always relaxing to listen to.
new Alicia Keyes - a range of styles, catchy and excellent.
I have bought heaps of new CDs this month, but not gotten around to listening to them properly yet.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

January Round Up, Part 1

February is here already, feels like it snuck up on me. But I have had a busy January as I have been steadily working on my 42 things to do while I'm 42. To be honest I have not been specifically trying to cross things off the list, I've just been busily going about my life and things have serendipitously sorted themselves out.
So let's see what I have managed so far:

4. Walk more and explore my own surroundings - this has been minor, but I did a rock pool walk at Boat Harbour. My sister and I took our niece and nephew while their parents were in Sydney. It was interesting and educational and a little bit challenging physically, plus I got to explore somewhere I had not been before. Mostly the extreme weather has been against me doing more exploring.

9. Go on a picnic - Yes!!! Up on Nobbys at the Lighthouse no less. And it was perfect...until the rain started.

17. Mini Breaks - one booked for Feb, I am meeting a friend in Port Macquarie for a weekend of girlie fun.

23. Spend more time with my niece and nephew - see Boat Harbour above and I had Mr 10 stay for the weekend mid Jan, we had heaps of fun.

26. Go to the Farmers Markets regularly - only been 2 at Lake Macquarie so far this year, one I went to, the other I worked.

30. Say no - Oh yes I have and I highly recommend as it felt amazing!

31. Have fun and laugh more at work - YES!!!
32. Live up to my Librarian of Leisure handle - pretty much, I have been busy but in a leisurely way.
33. Go to lots of fun social events - YES! The year has started well with a twitter lunch at The Landing with the most fabulous Anita Heiss. I've attended twitter breakfast at Peg's Cafe, dined out numerous times, gone to Summer Cinema at Nobbys, been to the movies, supped at Bar Petite, celebrated Australia Day at The Terrace bar, joined in a Drumming workshop and just had the most wondrous month.


34. Make sure those that mean the most to me know that they do - think I'm doing an ok job there. Let me know if you feel neglected!?!

36. Take time to do nothing and daydream more often - YES!
41. Have more fun - absolutely!
This is part 1, part 2 will let you know all the movies/DVDs I've seen, books I've read and music I've been listening to...stay tuned