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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Alfred Hitchcock [DAY] and the Making of Psycho

March 12 is Alfred Hitchcock Day, and what better way to celebrate than rereading one of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject—namely Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.

I was super-psyched the first time I read Rebello’s riveting account, and no less so re-reading it!!!  Seriously, there are two masters at work here!!!

From the first time I watched my very first Hitchcock movie (Shadow of a Doubt), I was entranced—For the duration of the movie, the rest of the world ceased to exist—Sure, other movies have a similar effect on me…But with Hitchcock, it’s like every sense tingles; I’m suddenly super-hyper-aware of every word, every movement, every nuance, because everything leads to something else.  Watching a Hitchcock movie is like being in the eye of a tornado, and seeing the world spiraling out of control—Hitchcock brings his audience right to the edge of suspense…and keep you there.

Imagine my surprise to read about Mr. Rebello discussing his writing process, which so keenly mirrors my own experience as a reader:

In the months I spent researching this book—conversing with the gifted, generous men and women who actually created "Psycho," studying Alfred Hitchcock's decades-old personal notes, sketches, annotated screenplays, specifications for music cues—not only did it feel to me as if "Psycho" were being filmed right that minute but also that I was witnessing the full force of Hitchcock's genius at the height of his powers. The sensation was that powerful, immediate and exciting. My hope is that readers will feel a bit of what I did during the research and writing, that of being a time-traveler privileged to witness the birth pains of a ferocious and monumental piece of pop cultural history.

Mission. Accomplished.

The first time I read Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, it was as thrilling and captivating as watching Psycho for the very first time.  Rebello intimately captures the entire Hitchcock experience within the pages of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,  like nothing I've ever experienced beforeIt was an absolutely mesmerizing blend of Rebello’s own suspenseful storytelling with the incredible behind the scenes story of how Psycho came to be.  Stephen Rebello does such an amazing job of recreating all the intensity and suspense of Hitchcock.  

I’ve never read a book that so much felt like I watching a movie; so I’m especially excited to hear that Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho might be making its way to the big screen!?!?!??!

—Yeah, I’m kind of out of my mind—

I'm passionate about the art and commerce of moviemaking. For this book, I knew that I wanted to detail every aspect of the making of a particular Hitchcock film, one that upended my childhood ideas of what a moviegoing experience could be. "Psycho" didn't just startle, entertain and terrify me. It burned itself into my consciousness. Haunted my dreams. Took me into the heart of darkness. The movie never leaves me and, today, as I work with talented and creative people turning the book into a dramatic feature motion picture, "Psycho" looms as an even larger aspect of my creative life.

I’m crossing my fingers, because I think it would be a-ma-zing.

The ultimate movie-lover’s dream of a significant film combined with the movie’s own gripping journey from the heinous crimes of Ed Gein’s to Robert Bloch’s disturbing realization in his novel making its way to Alfred Hitchcock’s hands, into theaters and into film history.  I have no doubt of Rebello’s ability to capture and bring to movie audiences the same spellbinding quality that he has brought to readers with Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.

So while you’re all waiting for the movie, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho is a must-read for Hitchcock fans, movie-buffs, and anyone looking for a page-turner that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat!


Review copy courtesy of Open Road Media and NetGalley.

Stephen Rebello is a screenwriter, journalist, and the author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, which has been bought by Paramount Pictures and The Montecito Picture Company for production as a dramatic feature film. Get more Hitchcock news from Rebello on Twitter at @HitchandPsycho.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Midnight Matinee: The End of the Affair, 1999

Rated R, 102 minutes
*some nudity

So, midnight, I should be going to bed, because I’m tired, and it’s dark out, and the tired thing…But I just had this little mood I get sometimes, this movie craving… which leads to the inevitable watching of movies.—I didn't have anything in mind, but we just got netflix, so I started going through all the suggestions of “movies I might like” and somehow landed on The End of the Affair—actually, I know what it was, it had Stephen Rea, who I've totally had a crush on since I saw the movie Guinevere.—Incidentally, the movie has absolutely nothing to do with King Arthur or his knights, or that Guinevere; the main character is a complete womanizer and calls all of his girlfriends "Guinevere."  And it still made me completely fall in love with him.

Anyway, I would totally recommend The End of the Affair, if you haven't seen it (or even if you have)—It also has Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore (kind of the stars)...and a small role with Jason Isaacs (for Harry Potter fans out there, that’s Lord Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy, respectively.)

It's not at all the kind of thing I usually pick out (even though I'll watch anything, really)...I’m not super big on Ralph Fiennes, either—He kind of scares me with all his über-intensity (Red Dragon, Maid in Manhattan, The Duchess)—Actually, he was kind of fantastic in all of those, but I just have a hard time watching him, like he’s about to explode, or something—but despite my normal misgivings, I thought I'd give it a try, anyway.  Even as it started, very kind of solemn, whispery, and rainy, I was on the edge of my seat, ready to look for a new movie—But it only took me a few of those captivating rainy, whispery seconds, to be hooked—I could feel something in the air, something about to happen, and that was all it took.

I could tell you that The End of the Affair is your classic war-time (WWII) love-triangle-tragedy, except there wasn’t anything traditional or predictable about it.  Sure, the wife (Julianne Moore) says her husband doesn’t really love her, understand her, need her…  Except her husband (Stephen Rea) doesn’t really understand her or need her, and even he doesn’t realize how much he loves her until it’s too late.  And of course her lover (Ralph Fiennes) is everything she needs, he understands her, and it would be one of those all-consuming fiery, swept-away combustible love affairs.

Combustible being the operative word, because Sarah’s lover is a very jealous man, of her stockings because “they kiss her leg” as he cannot, of her shoes because “they will take [her] away from [him],” and of her husband, Henry, because she will always go home to him.  Maurice is so jealous and needy, he can’t stop thinking about the end, about losing her, and the audience can’t help but think his jealousy is going to push her away.  Except, we meet Maurice two years after the end, and neither of us knows what happened, why she left him before he ever pushed her away.

We meet Maurice, perhaps just as he’s finally gotten on with his life, but by chance he happens to run into Henry, who seems lost, practically drowning in the rain.  Henry, who was apparently oblivious to the affair two years previous, is now fraught with worry that Sarah is seeing someone else.  And the jealous, abandoned lover, can’t help himself from wanting to find out about his replacement, whom he assumes must have caused the end of his affair—It’s what Maurice feared all along, that if she would cheat on Henry, that she would cheat on him, and his jealousy won’t let him stop until he discovers the truth, once and for all.

Henry suggests hiring a detective to follow Sarah, but Henry doesn’t want to follow through; he doesn’t want to believe that there really is an affair.  So, Maurice offers to hire the detective on his behalf, which Henry declines.  But Maurice does it anyway.

And even as Maurice has her followed, his and Sarah’s lives begin to intertwine again, they seem to seek each other out, and at the same time to keep missing each other… They seem almost meant to be.

But what secrets is Sarah hiding?  Why did she leave Maurice?

Based on the novel by Graham Greene, The End of the Affair is epic love-triangle-mystery-tragedy that will keep you riveted until the very end.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hooray for Hollywood!

For anyone who complains about the length of the Oscars, I’m curious how many of them were watching the Super Bowl last month? Or every Sunday and Monday for the last, um, 45 years? The Red Carpet is my pre-game show. So maybe the ads aren’t as good, but if I can put up with football season and basketball season and baseball season and hockey season, then I think all the haters can be quiet for one day and let me have my movie stars.

I SO HEART movies!  And I LOVE the Oscars!  However, I don’t generally try to predict the winners.  Mostly because wanting-something-to-win-really-bad-because-I-really-like-it has not really proven to be a great predictor of winners.  At least not for me.

But I still enjoy a good show.  I remember the excitement of watching Titanic sweep the Oscars; it was not unlike watching Michael Phelps swim race after race at the 2008 Olympics, wondering if he could pull it off—Although Michael Phelps only won 8 gold medals, while Titanic won 11 Oscars, something that had previously only been accomplished in 1959 by Ben-Hur.   (Ok, 8 gold medals is still pretty frackin’ A-MA-ZING)  And ok, so James Cameron did his “King-of-the-World!” proclamation, which was a little over-the-top, but hey, after 11 Oscars for one movie, he probably kind of earned it.  And it was definitely memorable.

I remember Ben Affleck and Matt Damon winning for Good Will 
Hunting (Best Writing, Screenplay), and remember thinking I’d never before heard the “F” word used so much in a movie (or actually, even in real life).  And I remember them saying that they’d basically ripped off Jodie Foster’s Little Man Tate.  I remember Billy Crystal hosting, and Robin Williams winning (Best Supporting Actor, also for Good Will Hunting).  There seemed to be a bit of Academy déjà-vu in the air, as Billy Crystal, on the side-lines, watched his friend, Robin Williams accepted the award, I couldn’t help but wonder if long-time and frequent  host (18 times), Bob Hope, didn’t have a similar sensation when his good friend Bing Crosby won Best Actor for Going My Way in 1944.  Before Goodwill Hunting, I don’t think many people pictured Robin Williams as Oscar caliber—I think Crystal probably captured the moment best with a semi-self-depreciating remark he made after Rabbi Marvin Hier won Best Documentary Feature with The Long Way Home—“What a night when even your Rabbi wins an Oscar!” (—I had to google the film, but that line always stuck with me, as if Crystal, too, should have won something, and not to count him out yet, that he will take home his own Oscar someday.)

I remember Kevin Spacey winning Best Actor for American Beauty, and wishing that Annette Bening would win Best Actress, because she was VERY pregnant (baby was born two weeks later).

I was in France watching with my host-family when Shakespeare In Love won Best Picture—My host-sister and I had just gone to see it in the theater, in French, and to this day, I’ve never seen it in English—But I got the gist.  And I think my host-family was practically as excited as Roberto Benigni when he won Best Actor for Life Is Beautiful.  We were all on our toes, watching him jump up on his seat, and then watching him jump from seat to seat after they announced his name.

Bjork wearing a swan. (might have been a little more appropriate this year)(Black Swan)

I remember Halle Berry and Denzel Washington winning for Best Actress and Actor (Monster’s Ball, Training Day)—With Halle’s emotional speech and BEAUTIFUL gown, and Julia Roberts standing weirdly close behind Denzel as he gave his speech.

And Adrian Brody kissing Halle Berry the next year, as he accepted his (other) award.

I remember the war-time speeches—the question of whether or not there would even be an Oscars, though, in the end, the show did go on.

I love the montages and the tributes, taking time to appreciate the best of an art form, to celebrate, to honor those who may have been overlooked, and to remember those who have been lost.

And this year, I’ll add Melissa Leo’s F-bomb-dropping speech to the list (apparently, and astonishingly, the first instance during an award acceptance speech!), along with Kirk Douglas’s frail, yet flirty presentation; Billy Crystal and the late Bob Hope’s tribute to CGI; David Seidler’s “Late bloomer” comment (Best Writing, Original Screenplay, The King’s Speech), Steven Spielberg’s moving speech, putting into perspective what an amazing honor it is JUST. TO. BE. NOMINATED.  and how my dvr stopped recording at the precise moment Spielberg pronounced:  And the Oscar goes to…

Don’t worry, I googled it.  Apparently the Oscar went to The King’s Speech.  I had actually been hoping for True Grit, a movie that left me with a feeling of awe, a feeling that this movie was in a class above all others.  However, I did go check out The King’s Speech the other day, and I don’t hesitate to say all of its awards are well-deserved.  I had the urge to applaud when it ended (but there were like nine other people there and I would have felt silly).  Definitely a year that is truly an honor just to be nominated.

Thanks for the memories... ;)