Sunday, November 30, 2008

A few words before Hitchcock.

It is Sunday evening, and I am back in Berkeley with my wife/kid/dog after our trip down to LA, which was quite marvey, thankyouverymuch. Always great to see my family down there, and of course Thanksgiving is in itself such an awesome holiday, what with the yummylicious, gigantic heaps of food we gorge ourselves on. It's one of the only days of the year in which, even after you're already completely full, you still find yourself saying, "well I guess I *could* have a little more!" And then after that is dessert. Hooray for gluttony!

So now as we prepare for grim reality again tomorrow, we are going to ring out the long weekend with a to-be-determined Hitchcock movie from the boxed set we borrowed from Dana and Brian. Vertigo, maybe? The Man Who Knew Too Much? Rear Window? Such choices. And that's only the tip of the iceberg. All we know is: neither Psycho or The Birds. Just for now. Some other time.

My two faves, actually, are North by Northwest (the movie that turned me on to movies), and Vertigo. I'd likely put both in my top 10 of all time, from any director, and I certainly would have a hard time making a sophie's choice between the two. North by Northwest is in my mind the great American suspense film. It's a virtually perfect movie, in every respect, with a plot that jumpstarts itself in the first 2 minutes, with no fluff, and never lets go until the end. Cary Grant may only ever play Cary Grant in his movies, but in this one he's a god--funny, righteous, manly, suave, cunning, brave--a real movie star. (Bringing Up Baby is another one.) And James Mason provides one of the great bad guy roles of all time. There are only certain movies I can watch over and over and over and never get tired of them. City Lights is one. The Wages of Fear is another. The Big Lebowski--of course. But I don't know if I've seen any movie more than I've seen North by Northwest, and if you haven't seen it yet, just put it in yer queue right now and thank me later.

Best suspense movie ever made? Quite possibly.

Vertigo is my other big Hitchcock love (and I've seen pretty much everything by him multiple times except for a couple of the super early old British ones), but for totally different reasons than North by Northwest. In Vertigo, Hitchcock made a movie with a plot that is somewhat ludicrous when put down on paper, but as imagined by him on screen is a work of haunting, unforgettable poetry. The feeling of vertigo is in fact one you experience yourself as you watch James Stewart claw his way from one heartbreak to another, over and over, in this story of obsessive love, wrapped up in a "mystery" story. I love Jimmy Stewart (I also have--I will admit this in public--an unhealthy love for It's a Wonderful Life ) and this is without a doubt my favorite of his roles, just because of the aching vulnerability and weakness he is willing to show as he follows his obsession. There's really not much more to say about this one without getting into plot details, which just should not be done with this movie. But anyone who thinks Hitchcock "just" made suspense movies, and hasn't seen Vertigo yet, doesn't really know what they're talking about.

But this one might be his masterpiece.

Err, so anyway, those are the two Hitchcock movies we aren't watching tonight. Which really wasn't what I came here to blog about. I was actually going to write a music blog. But see, get me started on Hitchcock and then I just start blabbering away. This is one of the greatest things about being a parent, though: Once kids get old enough--and assuming you get lucky enough to catch them in a mood where they don't feel like rolling their eyes and going back to FaceBook--you can foist all your favorites onto them, as part of the ongoing cultural brainwashing that you start with them from birth. It doesn't always work (if she ever ends up appreciating Bob Dylan, it's gonna have to be later in life, discovered on her own---which is maybe as it should be), but when it does work ("OMG dad I love Talking Heads!"), well, you kinda feel like maybe your time on Earth was worth something indeed. Or at least it helps justify all the time and money you spent over the years obsessing about this junk.

Anyhoo: dinner and movie time has hit! Here's hoping your long weekend was a relaxing and restorative as mine was.


Joseph said...

Cary Grant sours NxNW for me, but I agree with you about Vertigo.

For the weekend, as a fun watch that's not *too* disturbing, I think you should go with Rear Window.


Reading from top to bottom:

Anonymous said...

after all that gluttony you should drink some green tea :)

R3vi3w3d said...

Notorious has always been my favorite--mainly because I've always had this thing for Ingrid Bergman--and Vertigo comes in as a close second.

Anonymous said...

it's been 3 months since you started this and i am surprised and happy that you're still doing it

otakudad said...

I love me some Vertigo. While I love Terry Gilliam anyway, it's one of the main reasons I fell absolutely in love with 13 Monkeys...because of the theater scenes that paid such tribute to Hitchcock. Happy watching, man!

Steve said...

North by Northwest is one of my favorite Hitchcocks. The Bernard Herrmann score is amazing.

Jeff Green said...

Rear Window it was! And it's still good many viewings later. But yeah Notorious rocks and Ingrid Bergman is my favorite actress of all time.

Glen Haupt said...

The one movie that I can watch anytime, over and over, is Twelve Angry Men. I don't know what it is about this movie that is so...appealing to me, but it is one of my all-time favorites.

Maybe I have a secret man-crush on Henry Fonda that it so secret that not even I know about it.

Applesauze said...

Have you seen Rope? It's one of my favorites. They way it was shot was amazing.

Anonymous said...

Nice, I have a Hitchcock box set as well, "9 essential movies" but they for some reason left out Psycho and North by Northwest. Luckily I have those as well. My parents decided I needed to see good movies, so they gave me Psycho and North by Northwest for my 10th birthday. Psycho scared the shit out of me. Also, I thought you were talking about the terrible Will Smith movie Hitchcock and I was about to warn you not to do it!

evilkumquat said...

While not a Hitchcock fan (I do not hate him; I have just never made an effort to watch any of his films apart from Psycho), my favorite Mel Brooks movie is High Anxiety, a spoof of Hitchcock's films.

Brooks' take on the famous Norman Bates shower screek-screek-screek-screek is incredible!

Speaking of when we are proud of our kids for sharing our nerdiness, I was watching Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey the other day with my five-year-old and during the scene with Bill and Ted talking to the devil, I asked my boy if he recognized Satan's voice. Without hesitation, he said "Fred [from Scooby-Doo] and Dr. Claw". Being a huge... I mean HUGE... voice-over nerd, I was so proud at that moment, I was thrilled my wife did not keep her legs crossed back in 2002.

Derek said...

While I'll agree North by Northwest is a great movie, if The 39 Steps wasn't created 24 years prior, it wouldn't have been half of what people think it is.

If you can you should find this great movie (I think it was recently remastered and rereleased). Though when you watch it, forget about NxNW because you'll definitely compare the two.

Anonymous said...

Two of my favorites movies are Charade (with Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and a host of other famous names) and Indiscreet (Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman). The latter has one of my favorite movie lines: "There is no sincerity like a woman telling a lie."

Stray Neutrino said...

I loved James Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo but North by Northwest I can watch over and over.

Moll said...

I'll throw in another recommendation for Rope. It's an excellent story of the depravity and evil that lies just beneath the surface, right under your nose...

Brian said...

"...after our trip down to LA, which was quite marvey..."

Quite marvey? What kind of dork are you? Do you conform to the Riverdale Manual of Style or something?

You would look pretty sweet in a Jughead Jones cloth crown, I must say.

Jeff Green said...

Yep, 39 Steps is awesome too, as is Rope. There's only a few bad Hitchcock movies, but even those always have something cool or interesting going on.

Slapshot said...

I really liked The Birds.

That scene where they leave the house and the birds are all sitting there on the roof, telephone wires, etc, hauntingly silent, was just freaky.

Rob Zacny said...

Jeff, why do you write foolish things like "Cary Grant may only ever play Cary Grant" when you should know that's bunk? Cary Grant's David Huxley in Bringing Up Baby is an awkward, clueless man-child for the first half of the film. Compare how Grant is in that movie to who he is in Suspicion, where he is incredibly unnerving. Or his character in Notorious, where he's about as hard, cruel, and repressed as he ever gets.

Then there's the motormouth con artist in His Girl Friday, who is yet another incarnation. The only thing that links all these characters is the fact that they're played by Cary Grant, but they are different characters.

Anyway, that sounds like a great way to wrap up the weekend. My family's movie pick was We're No Angels which I highly recommend. It's a rare Bogart comedy role, and it's a really sweet Christmas comedy with a lot of great gallows humor.

And to anyone else who thinks that Psycho defines Alfred Hitchcok, just... no. If you're into Hitchcock, and a lot us are, you know that Psycho is really one of his 2nd-tier works. Famous and a good film, but nothing to the movies we've talked about here. You owe it to yourself to at least watch Rear Window or Shadow of a Doubt.

Jeff Green said...

Rob--yeah you're right. I was being a little to facile there about Grant's talent. I stand corrected!

Jeremy Steven said...

Heh, my 6 year old daughter got ahold of my MP3 player last month and started listening to Burnin' For You by Blue Oyster Cult for the first time. She got mad and said, "Daddy! How come you showed me this song before! It's soo good!"

J T 0 N said...

Cool that you're still doing this blog thing. Inspirational. I've only seen NxNW, but I would want to see the rest... soon.

Shoukanjuu said...

Bringing Up Baby is another one of those multi-rewatchables. My sister and I must have seen that one about a dozen times during our teens...

And "Oh, David!", and "I'll be with you in a minute, Mr. Peabody!" are two of the greatest funny quotables of all time.

Thierry said...

NxNW 4 lyfe yoz!

TheToiletDuck said...

I dunno, Vertigo is great but Rope is wayyy more stressful to watch. Hmmm, which i guess isn't a good thing when you wanna chill out.

Peter G said...

Strange coincidence - I just saw NxNW this sunday to - Danish time though so technically I beat you to it!

Brandon M. Smith, Esquire said...

Rear Window is my favorite and I can't really explain why. One of those situations where I can recognize some of the others as being better technically, but I just always have loved Rear Window the most, perhaps because it is the easiest to associate with for me.

I also had a lot of fun watching episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents with my pop. Damn did that show freak me out.

Jonathan said...

Have you tried Foreign Correspondent? One of Hitchcocks more underrated films. Also I recommend Pickup on South Street by Sam Fuller, its a cold heart that doesn't have a lump in their throat for Thelma Ritters character.

Also I think i have you all beat with my 17 film hitchcock boxset.

Glinkman said...

Vertigo would have to be on the top of my list. Kim Novak is hot! Best Cary Grant film was Father Goose!

Anonymous said...

You were a very apt pupil, too, weren't you? You were a very apt pupil

YK said...

I love that scene where Kim Novak sits on the motel bed, back lit by the thick green light of a nearby marquee.

Also, Jeff, William Friedkin made a solid remake of Wages of Fear called Sorcerer. Worth checking out.

Cithedril said...

Hasn't everyone storyboarded NxNW? Seriously, it has to be in my rotating top 5. And while I agree that Vertigo might be Hitchcock's masterpiece, NxNW is surely his blockbuster.

It was really the first American blockbuster and set the tone for years to come. You can easily compare it to others, like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Independence Day.

As far as importance goes, I think there is no greater Hitchcock movie than NxNw.

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