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Posts Tagged ‘Hitchcock

“Oh how Shakespeare would have loved cinema!”*…

 

Indiewire‘s list of  “The 50 Best Opening Credit Sequences Of All Time“– each with a video of the sequence, and followed by a bonus “starter list” of other candidates that might have made the cut… because after all, the point of lists like these is the arguments they provoke.

* Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge

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As we settle into our seats, we might spare a thought for Archibald Alexander Leach; he died on this date in 1986.  Known by his stage name, Cary Grant, he became one of the greatest stars in Hollywood history, the epitome of the “leading man,” famous for roles both comedic (e.g., Holiday, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story) and dramatic (Grant was Hitchcock’s favorite actor, for reasons obvious in Suspicion, North By Northwest, To Catch a Thief, and Notorious).

Living for much of his career “above the title,” Grant was the first actor of note to “go independent”– to refuse to sign a studio contract– which gave him control over roles and collaborators and a bigger piece of the action; he was one of the first actors to earn a percentage of his pictures’ gross revenues.

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Written by LW

November 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Nobody makes movies bad on purpose”*…

 

There are currently over 235,000 films on IMDb; their average rating is 6.31, with half the movies clustered with ratings between 5.5 and 7.2…  but someone (or in this case, something) has to come last; and in this case, it’s the Bollywood film Gunday, which weights in with a 1.4– the only film in the database with a rating lower than 1.8.

But Gunday was the top-grossing February movie in Bollywood history, and well-received by U.S. critics: The New York Times’ Rachel Saltz ended her review of Gunday by calling it “downright enjoyable.” RogerEbert.com gave it three out of four stars, and Variety called it “a boisterous and entertaining period crime drama.”   So how did it win the race to the floor against such formidable competition as Gigli, or Battlefield Earth, or Troll 2? FiveThirtyEight explains

The film made a misstep that has doomed it to the bottom of the IMDb pile. “Gunday” offended a huge, sensitive, organized and social-media-savvy group of people who were encouraged to mobilize to protest the movie by giving it the lowest rating possible on IMDb. Of “Gunday’s” ratings, 36,000 came from outside the U.S., and 91 percent of all reviewers gave it one star. The next lowest-rated movie on IMDb — 1.8 stars overall — has a more even distribution of ratings, with only 71 percent of reviewers giving it one star. The evidence suggests the push to down-vote “Gunday” was successful, and that shows just how vulnerable data can be, especially when it’s crowdsourced.

The protest against “Gunday” is the most recent cause célèbre of a Bangladeshi nationalist movement called Gonojagoron Moncho, or National Awakening Stage. Gonojagoron Moncho was founded in response to the trial of Abdul Quader Molla, a Bangladeshi Islamist leader who last year was found guilty of killing hundreds of civilians as part of a paramilitary wing during Bangladesh’s liberation war from Pakistan in 1971. He was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes by the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal. But many Bangladeshis found that sentence too lenient, and more than 100,000 of them gathered in Shahbag Square in the capital city of Dhaka to challenge it.

After months of protests and escalating violence from counter-protestors, Gonojagoron Moncho got its wish. Molla’s political party, Jammat-e-Islami, was banned from participating in future elections, and Molla himself was retried, sentenced to execution and hanged to death late last year.

Flush with success, the movement has since become an online alliance of bloggers focused on protecting Bangladesh’s history and promoting the country’s image. That includes protesting “Gunday,” because of the film’s reference to the Bangladesh Liberation War as the Indo-Pak war. In its first 11 minutes, the movie claims that India alone defeated Pakistan, and implies that an independent Bangladesh was simply a result of the fight.

On Twitter, activists used the hashtag #GundayHumiliatedHistoryOfBangladesh to get the word out about the protests and to ask supporters to bury the film on IMDb. (By using a quarter of their character allotment on the hashtag alone, though, there wasn’t much room for the activists to elaborate.) Facebook groups were formed specifically to encourage irate Bangladeshis and others to down-vote the movie. (A sample call to action: “If you’re a Bangladeshi and care enough to not let some Indian crappy movie distort our history of independence, let’s unite and boycott this movie!!!”)…

Read the tale in its entirety at “The Story Behind the Worst Movie on IMDb.”

* Roland Emmerich (who should know…)

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As we ponder the pointing of our thumbs, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo premiered in San Francisco, in which it was set.  Vertigo‘s critical arc was the opposite of Gunday‘s:  The film received mixed reviews in its initial release, but is now routinely cited as a defining work of the American auteur’s career.  Attracting significant scholarly attention, it replaced Citizen Kane as the best film of all time in the 2012 British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound critics’ poll, has appeared repeatedly in best film polls by the American Film Institute… and has an IMDb rating of 8.5.

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Written by LW

May 9, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Symbolize and summarize”*…

 

Saul Bass was one of America’s premiere graphic designers through the second half of the Twentieth Century. He created some of the best-remembered, most iconic logos in North America:  e.g., the Bell Telephone logo (1969) and the successor AT&T globe (1983), Continental Airlines (1968), Dixie (1969), United Airlines (1974), and Warner Communications (1974).  

But for your correspondent’s money, his major contribution was his extraordinary series of movie titles and posters, created for the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese.  Prior to Bass, movie title sequences had largely been a series of “credit cards,” functioning in effect as title pages.  Bass developed the opening as a way to set the emotional stage for the film to follow.  As screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi said of Bass and his second wife and collaborator Elaine, “you write a book of 300 to 400 pages and then you boil it down to a script of maybe 100 to 150 pages. Eventually you have the pleasure of seeing that the Basses have knocked you right out of the ballpark. They have boiled it down to four minutes flat.”

In the broadest sense, all modern opening title sequences that introduce the mood or theme of a film can be seen as descendent of Bass’s innovative work. In particular, though, one can detect the influence of Bass in the title sequences for some recent movies and television series (especially those set in the 1960s) that have purposely emulated the graphic style of his animated sequences from that era: e.g.,  Catch Me If You Can (2002), X-Men: First Class (2011), and the opening to the AMC series Mad Men.

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See a more complete frame board of Bass’ North By Northwest opening here; browse more of his extraordinary canon here— all courtesy of our old friend Christian Annyas.

* Saul Bass

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As we mute our cell phones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that Alfred Hitchcock’s muse, the Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly, became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco.

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Written by LW

April 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

“We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?”*…

 

Director Steven Soderbergh lovingly cut Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho together with Gus Van Zant’s shot-by-shot remake into a single film…

Marion Crane: Do you have any vacancies?

Norman Bates: Oh, we have 12 vacancies. 12 cabins, 12 vacancies.

See Psychos (“This… comes from a place of ‘total affection, openness, and honey bought directly from a beekeeper’”) here.  And browse “Salon des Refusés” for Soderbergh’s list of movies and TV shows seen, books read, and music heard in 2013, for his appreciation of Josef von Sternberg, and for gobs of other goodies…

* Norman Bates

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As we recall Norman’s adage that “a boy’s best friend is his mother,” we might spare a thought for comic genius Harold Clayton Lloyd, Sr.; he died on this date in 1971.  While your correspondent marginally prefers the extraordinary Buster Keaton, Lloyd has some real claim to being the finest physical comedian of the silent film era (even as his career extended to talkies and radio).  Like Keaton, Lloyd did his own stunts– many of them, breathtakingly dangerous.  Indeed, after 1919, he appears wearing a prosthetic glove, masking the loss of a thumb and index finger in a bomb explosion at Roach Studios.

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Written by LW

March 8, 2014 at 1:01 am

Mr. MacGuffin…

Domineering mothers, icy blondes, mistaken identities and wrongly accused men, erotic train tunnels, plunging spiral staircases (explored with long tracking shots), and, of course, good, old-fashioned murder– Alfred Hitchcock!  To celebrate his 114th birthday this month, Guardian designers Adam Frost and Zhenia Vasiliev channeled The Master’s go-to graphic designer, Saul Bass, to create the infographic from which the image above is excepted, quantifying all of Hitch’s idées fixes in one infographic.

Click here (and again) to see “The 39 Stats“; and here to read the backstory.

[MacGuffin]

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As we check into the Bates Motel, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959, one month after its release, that North By Northwest set a record for U.S. non-holiday box office gross.  One of Hitchcock’s tales of mistaken identity, NXNW has a 100% Critics rating and a 93% Audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and ranks #11 on their “Best Movies of All Time” list (based on each film’s Tomatometer Score); NXNW accounts for 20% of all of the DVD sales of Hitchcock’s films (The 39 Steps, for 13%; all of the 50 others, for the remaining 67%).

Release one-sheet (art work by Saul Bass)

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Written by LW

August 28, 2013 at 1:01 am

All Singing! All Dancing!– All Free!…

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From Chaplin and Keaton to Astaire and Olivier; from Kurosawa and Godard to von Sternberg and Tarkovsky; from Scorsese and Hitchcock to Ford and Huston– 300 Free Movies Online.

(Readers should be sure to look through the list to the very bottom, where they will find a list of links to more streaming riches…)

As we politely refuse butter, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were married; they celebrated their 50th anniversary just months before Newman succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 83.

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You must remember this…

From Paul Rogers on Drawger:  “Six drawings per movie, in sequence, no movie stars– Name that Movie.”

Consider, for example:

Though your correspondent doubts that it’s necessary, a hint:  (very) early Hitchcock…

See them all here.

As we celebrate celluloid splendor, we might buckle our swash, as it was for this date in 1825 that 23-year-old Alexandre Dumas arranged his first duel. His rival slept in and missed the appointed time, so it was slipped to the 6th

While he sustained no serious physical injury, his pride may have taken a dent when his pants fell down during the fight.   Perhaps compensatorily, he filled his novels of romantic adventure– The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo— with duels, battles, and daring escapades…  during which waistbands held firm.

Dumas in less dashing days

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