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The Importance of being PSYCHO

March 18, 2013

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hitchcock with truffautIn his time Alfred Hitchcock was never accorded the respect as a filmmaker that we bestow on him today.  He was a genre director who simply shocked and scared us all.  He wasn’t a director to analyze or respect.  Few critics saw any redeeming qualities in his work.  One of his biggest fans and life-long friend was Francois Truffaut, who was not just a fan of Hitch’s, but of all cinema.  Truffaut was on a constant hunt to be entertained and find new ways to communicate story through celluloid.  Truffaut opened my eyes years ago in his book Hitchcock/Truffaut, to the importance of Hitchcock simply being Hitchcock.

Amongst Hitchcock’s vast catalog of Films and TV accomplishments a handful of films stand out as true classics; Notorious, North by Northwest, Vertigo, Rear Window, and of course PSYCHO.  Psycho was released in 1960 to a fan frenzy, and quite frankly, it changed cinema forever.  Below I list merely a few ways in which this disturbingly wonderful film changed everything.

1. Psycho changed how we went to the movies.  Up to this point it was generally accepted to walk into a theater at any point in a film.  If you missed the first half, you could stay in your seat and wait for it to replay.  Hitchcock put his foot down and declared that there would be no admittance after the film had begun.  All theater-goers needed to see this film from the start.

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2.  Psycho and Hitch ignored and even challenged the Hollywood formula by literally slashing through the cookie cutter conformity of the 50s. To this day, not many filmmakers would have the guts to do what Psycho did, which is a complete transformation 47 minutes in.  What began as a Crime/ Love on the Run story, suddenly through a single act of violence is transformed into a new kind of horror film.  That horrific act also serves as a catalyst within the story to shift the focus of the film from the suddenly deceased main character protagonist over to the murderous antagonist through an eerie series of dissolves and transitions as one dies and the other reveals his/her true voyeuristic murderous nature.

3. The depiction of Norman cast a terrifyingly realistic light on mental illness.  Up to this point a psychopath in film was often portrayed as a foaming at the mouth irrational lunatic with no control over his actions who would KILL KILL KILL!  Norman Bates presented a new type of killer.  He was methodical.  He was nice.  He was polite.  He was innocent.  Wait, what?  Yes, I argue that the last scene exonerated him.  He is the poster boy for an insanity plea.  He hears his dead mother. I rest my case.

As much as I love the film Psycho, Bates Motel  on A&E might be a massive mistake.  Exploiting Hollywood classics to make a buck is common practice, unfortunately for A&E though, most of Hitchcock’s material works because of what happens off-screen.  He was a master of suspense, which involved not what he blatantly showed us, rather what he didn’t show.  The allusions to Norman’s younger years through a few  brief statements about Mother, and the really freaky image of the fetal position-body-shaped  dent in the bed of the master bedroom were all I needed for my imagination to run wild.  I don’t necessarily want someone to tell me that this is how Norman grew up.  I think Norman’s childhood is best left to our bad dreams and imagination.  It is way more frightening that way.

Then again, who am I kidding.  I’m going to watch it.  But, I can’t help but wonder, would Truffaut find something redeeming about this exercise in story?

More Zombie Tofu – The Blogging Dead!!!

February 12, 2013

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I’ve talked about this in the past.  Zombies are simply filler within the stories they exist in.

As an antagonist, they’re crap because they have no desire, no motivation other than eating BRAINS, no ability to make a decision.  They simply exist within the landscape to increase the stakes for all the living characters.  Further, their existence allows us as an audience to be open to believing pretty much anything that we are presented with beyond zombies.

In the world of the Walking Dead motivations for the living have changed.  In your regular 21st century film, a person is motivated by money, a prize, a car, romance, etc.  In the Walking dead, the characters have been forced to resort to primal instincts and needs.  They desire Food, Clothing, Shelter, Water, and other humans they can trust.

These changing priorities in a zombie filled world have caused a shift in what society deems acceptable.

The people of Woodbury seem like nice folks.  They have flower boxes in front of their houses.  Their cars are clean, washed and waxed.  They have a swell protective wall and lookouts posted all around the town.  The only indicator that there is something remotely wrong with these people, is  the gladiator style matches in the abandoned warehouse.  But hey, there’s no American Idol or Survivor on TV.  The masses need their entertainment.

Lori Zombie in lovely formal attire

Lori Zombie in lovely formal attire

The drama of this episode kicks off with the malicious Governor declaring that the Dixon Bros. will fight to the death!  That in itself is pretty exciting.  But wait!  Let’s add some zombie tofu!  A handful of zombies are pushed in to the ring!  Now this is getting good!

Rick and his crew attempt to rescue Darryl!  Let’s add Zombies!

Let’s argue on the side of the road!  Add Zombies!

Let’s have a breakdown in front of everyone in the prison!  Add a zombie ghost wife in formal gown!

Look at those zombies over there!  Add more Zombies!

You get the point.  Just add Zombies.   At its core, the Walking dead is a melodramatic story of survival.  Every character has lost a loved one.  Every character has had a requisite woe is me moment. Every scene is life or death.  This story could be told without zombies though.  The danger could easily be wolves, vampires, aliens, cold, heat, or radiation.   The Walking Dead could simply be about the dregs of the human race fighting for survival.  I have to admit though; I prefer it with the addition of zombie tofu.

For more BLOGGING DEAD entries click here -> ARRRRRGH!!!!!

The Blogging Dead!!! Walking Dead Returns!

February 10, 2013

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the_walking_dead_comicJust a few reminders and things to keep in mind as the Walking Dead returns.

1. If you don’t see a character die on screen, then they can return as the living or the dead.

2. The living on this show have proven on many occasions to be more dangerous than the dead.  Beware the living!

3. Lori wasn’t that bad.  It was a zombie Apocalypse.  She did what she needed to.  What would you do in the face of Zombigeddon?

4. The Governor is a scary SOB.

5. Rick is receiving imaginary phone calls.

6. Carl is a bad ass little kid.

7. This is an ongoing story of survival. But whose survival?  Who will be standing at the end?

Enjoy tonight’s episode!

 

Open Letter to NBC on How To Fix the TODAY SHOW

February 1, 2013

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To: Whom it may concern at NBC’s the Today Show,

RE: How to Fix the Today Show

Below are a series of thoughts on how to save the sinking ship known as NBC’s Today Show.

Stop Reporting about yourself.  Reporters are not the news.  Reporters do not make the news.  Reporters inform the populace on the news by gathering facts and sharing them with us,  especially in the 7am to 9am slots.  Nobody wants to hear what Matt Lauer did for Thanksgiving.  Nobody cares about the self-gratifying montage sequences that the Today Show prepares to showcase what happened on the Today Show set to the latest songs owned by the NBC Universal library of approved pop music.  Nobody cares about a backstage tour of your own studio. You are not the news.  You are not celebrities.  You only get to talk to celebrities.

Show some class.  We are in the midst of an economic crisis.  We are all tightening our belts and thinking long and hard about every penny we spend.  When The Today Show broadcasts ridiculous excess such as “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” or “Field Trip Friday” those of us in the world that can never afford to go where Matt Lauer goes can come to resent Matt Lauer…  Furthermore, I saw a segment recently called “Matt’s Day with Led Zeppelin.”  Was the title even necessary?  It further twists the I’m-not-as-lucky as Matt Lauer knife, because the rest of America will never spend the day with Led Zeppelin.  Just do the story.  Don’t rub the story in.

Stop being a 4 hour commercial – The Majority of The Today Show segments act as a commercial for NBC/Universal films, music, TV programming and affiliate programming.  Out of the 4 hours on the air each day, how much time is typically devoted to other NBC programming?  15 minutes?  30 minutes?  I’ve seen mornings where it was in excess of an hour and a half.  During the Olympics, the entire 4 hour program is devoted to the Olympics, which airs on NBC channels, which NBC sells advertising on… The way that NBC treats an NBC episode of The Voice or America’s got Talent  as if it is news is insanely ridiculous.  That is not news.  Edward R Murrow is changing the channel in journalism heaven now.  He’d probably watch Newsroom on HBO instead.  That fictional show gave us more cold hard facts than the Today Show.

Keep it moving – The interviews, particularly with celebrities, are borrrrring and lacks any journalistic approach.  Softball questions like “Tell us about your movie premiering this week…” or “Where do your ideas come from…” “How do you find the inspiration?…” are rampant.   It is obvious that the present celebrity is there to promote whatever film, album, TV show or book  they have hitting the theaters or store shelves that week.  Try this.  Actually See the film.  Read the book.  Listen to the song.  Then as a ‘Journalist’ you might actually discover that you have a question worth asking.  It is called research.  People can’t really do it for you.  You need to understand the context of the questions that are written for you by the Today Show Army.  Earn your insanely inflated salaries.  And if you can’t handle that, then just keep the interviews short and sweet.

Stop covering Viral Videos as if they are news –  I don’t care that Charlie bit his brother’s finger.  I don’t care that some guy proposed to his wife with a magic trick. I don’t’ care that a bus of high school kids danced to Call me Maybe.  In the grand scheme of things, it does not matter if a video gets 5 million viewers. Skip all you tube videos.  There is no news there.  You tube exists for one purpose; It wastes our time.

Stop covering Tweets as if they are news.  An uncensored celebrity in 140 characters or less is amusing, because the publicity and management team is no longer able to filter what their self-important uninformed out of touch with reality clients say, but it is not news.

Drop ‘the Professionals’ –   The segment is pointless.  Instead, grab four random people off the street to discuss a real issue every day for four minutes.  Give each of them 1 minute.  That would be really interesting, and it would give Joe Shmo from off the street the chance to get on TV for 60 seconds.  He’s tell that story for the rest of his life.

The Royals….  I don’t know what sort of payola deal NBC has with the UK Royals, but this is America.  We cut our ties with the Royals when we sent George III a Dear John letter.  Yet, the Today show feels the need to cover every move of the Royal Family.  Why? Please tell me why.

Lastly I think it is time for an anchor change.  Don’t you feel that Savannah Guthrie has been there a little long?

What? 

She’s been there less than a year? 

Maybe it is time to get someone new in the OTHER seat.

In closing, Today Show, If you adhere to these 9 very simple guidelines I’ve laid out for you, you’ll have a successful show.  I promise.

NBC Executives, if you’d like more input, I’d be open to discussing salary anytime.  I’m a mere 15 minute commute from midtown, and would love to run a morning talk show.  I’d be very good at it.  You can find me here at cinemafantastica@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

 

Robert Lee

Superhero Problems – Batman’s Got a Problem

January 8, 2013

Superhero Problems 2

Toy Considerations provided by my son.

You Wouldn’t Like me When I’m Angry and Watching Movies

January 2, 2013

 

looperAs a new dad my time is limited where entertainment is concerned.  I love movies, but can never find the time to watch them.  I love books but can’t find the time to read.  I like to draw, but my primary medium of late is coloring books.  I’m not complaining, it is simply a fact of life.

ruby sparksSo, when I find that rare 2-hour period to watch a film, I try to make the best possible choice.  In the past 2 weeks I’ve had three occasions to watch a new film; Django Unchained, Ruby Sparks, and Looper.  People would say it’s impossible to compare these three very different films, a period revenge fantasy, a time travel ‘would you kill Hitler given the opportunity’ film, and a romantic dramedy about a dream girl spontaneously created from one man’s imagination, but you’d be wrong.  It’s easy. All three endings  fall quite short of expectations when you consider their very ambitious plots.  All three films give in to the easy Hollywood ending.  In true American form, they give us a protagonist that gets the girl, the cash, the revenge, the treasure, and gets everything he or she ever wanted.  This is my biggest problem with American cinema of late.  There is no real fear, because Universal pictures, Sony, Disney, MGM,  will not let the protagonist lose.  Sure, the Police detective’s partner will always die, and it might seem like the couple will never get back together in time for the wedding, but you know they will.

I’d like to offer some alternatives to these three films, where you might sit a little closer to the edge of your seat:

time crimesInstead of Looper watch Time Crimes (Los cronocrímenes), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0480669/ . Time Crimes explores the concept of paradoxes, fate, and avoidance of your fate through time travel in such tragic and moving ways.  When you get to the end, you’ll want to put it on again to see what you missed in the first half hour.  This film could very easily have been called Looper, and I’d be willing to say it out loops Looper at least three times over.

sliding doorsInstead of Ruby Sparks watch Sliding Doors.  Ruby Sparks, which was a wonderful film, is 104 minutes long.  It should have ended at 103 and it would have been perfect.  I’m not going to say anything beyond that, because it is a wonderful film, as I say again, and I do not want to spoil the end.   Sliding doors is another very engaging romantic comedy with a Sci-fi twist, which explores alternate universe possibilities for a woman played by Gwyneth Paltrow.  The film follows two timelines, using whether or not she makes it onto a train as the divergent moment.

Instead of Django Unchained watch The Great Silence (Il Grande Silenzio) – www.imdb.com/title/tt0063032/ –  directed by Sergio Corbucci . Really, you can go see any spaghetti western though.  Europeans, particularly Italian directors, were enamored with our wild west.  It was one of the last places on earth that ‘civilized’ man had yet great silenceto conquer in the 1800s.  It was a lawless place where men and women did what they needed to in order to survive.  Tarantino embraced the anarchy and grey morals of the spaghetti western, but then disregarded it quickly in favor of cartoonish violence … There was so much blood in one of the final scenes that I thought I was watching Evil Dead 2.

There is a formula to a Tarantino film.  The formula is as follows:

-Everybody wants something and is willing to kill for it.

-Everybody experiences small side adventures/ horrors on the way to what they want.

-Everybody still living converges on one location and has a witty conversation for about an hour.

-Everybody pulls out their guns.

-Everybody dies except for one (maybe two) people.

-A really cool retro song, which will enjoy a sales spike on itunes,  will bring the closing credits up as the survivors ride off into the sunset.

I’m not knocking Tarantino.  I  like the formula.  I like the witty dialogue.  I like his ability to take a character that should be a villain in any other film, and make the audience care about him or her.  All I’m saying is that there are other films that don’t adhere to his formula which might surprise you like The Great Silence.

Membrosia & Deathsticks: Star Wars Ep. VII?!?

December 20, 2012

Wes Anderson Star Wars

Star Wars Episode VII has quite a few fan boys and girls clamoring for information. Who will write? Who will direct? Will it pick up right from the end of Return of the Jedi?

I have none of these answers. What I do have are a few “What if?” scenarios considering how my favorite (and no-so-favorite) directors might tackle a film in the Star Wars Universe. So I wonder, what it would be like if Jim Jarmusch directed the next Star Wars Installment?

“Membrosia and Deathsticks” – Star Wars Episode VII by Jim Jarmusch

Jarmusch’s take on the Star Wars universe would be a veritable tour of the many galaxies touched by the Empire, the Rebellion and their seemingly never-ending war. The film would consist of four 1/2 hour scenes, each scene would feature the same conversations between two iconic SW characters as they meet and converse over membrosia, a Star Wars universe alcoholic beverage, and deathsticks, the Star Wars annoyingly obvious cigarette substitute. These conversations would focus on what each of the two characters think about the interim leadership of Luke Skywalker now that Emperor Palpatine is dead. The first scene would feature a bruised and battered Boba Fett, revealed to have blasted his way from the Sarlacc Pit’s digestive track talking with a Jawa, who is trying to sell a carbonite storage system on Tatooine. The second scene would feature Luke and Leia on Coruscant in the Jedi Temple arguing over who’s going to lead the Jedi. The third would be Ghost Yoda and Ghost Ben in the afterlife on Daghoba, and the last scene would feature Chewbacca and Wicket, both speaking their native languages, with no subtitles, over a game of holo-chess. All CG characters would be portrayed by Roberto Benigni. The script would be 15 pages, but the film would be exactly 120 minutes long. The credits would read “Jim Jarmusch thanks you for taking the time to watch his space movie.”

Wes Anderson“Batch ST987 Star Wars Episode 7” would be about a batch of Storm Trooper clones that matured with a twist to their genetic soup. In the virtual education phase of their development before being assigned to the various tasks they would perform on the Death Star 3.0, they were exposed one wrong holodisc. What should have been alien languages R through U, was actually a collection of the galaxy’s best stand up performers. As a result, the empire experiences something which they never have before, laughter. The film will feature all of Anderson’s trademark camera moves; The Goddard swish pan, the Truffaut thoughtful pause, and the Fellini tracking shots. The proudest moment Anderson will experience will be during the long take featuring a built-to-scale cross-section of the Death Star 3.0 as he tracks a Storm trooper from level to level attempting to make it to the one comedy club on board before they close the list for performers that night. This scene will feature a classic Brigitte Bardot song ‘L’appareil à sous’ listen to it here à http://youtu.be/tMCfnLAKRl8

Paul Thomas Anderson will begin production on Star Wars Episode VII – working title “The Universe,” but will never complete it. It will devour the rest of his life as he is never satisfied with it. Feeling incomplete, he will continuously add more and more and more characters. Only one screening will ever occur after Paul Thomas Anderson’s mysterious death, and it will be for George Lucas, who will utter this phrase after seeing Star Wars – The Universe. “Jar Jar, I’m sorry. I didn’t know…”

Michael Bay’s episode VII “The Force” is about a race of robots from another space quadrant who are able to transform into x-wing fighters, star destroyers, land rovers, etc. This new race consists of both good and evil robots which have been locked in battle since their home planet Robotron was destroyed. The humanoid protagonists will be played by Shia Labeouf and some random model from the latest Victoria’s Secret fashion show. The Force will feature many swish panning cameras, explosions, and characters longingly staring at each other while the camera pans and things explode. It will gross all the money on the planet, but have no story whatsoever.

Wacky Wookie Weed....

Wacky Wookie Weed….

David Gordon Green‘s take, Falcon Express, would be about a process-server working for the new republic played by Danny McBride and Wicket, his Ewok marijuana dealer, who winds up on the run from Chewbacca after stealing the Millennium Falcon, after they witness a corrupt Storm trooper murder an even more corrupt Jedi while trying to serve papers to him. It’s a Sci-Fi Drama.

Hope you enjoyed my what ifs. Please feel free to share your own in the comments below.

(Some of these concepts were contributed by an awesome writer I know, Apryl Lee, my wife.)

Much Ado About a Release Date!

November 30, 2012

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Joss Whedon’s self-proclaimed ‘fancy’ film thrived in the film festival circuit and is on its way to a theater near you on June 7th 2013!  Being a bit of a Shakespeare nut, I can’t wait to see what one of my favorite superhero demon-fighter TV Movie writer directors is going to do with the Bard’s work.

Whedon’s Much Ado is a modern take and  will feature Whedon veteran players Like Amy Acker and Nathan Fillion along with some recent additions to the Whedon-verse such as Clark Gregg from the Avengers, and some even newer faces, like Jillian Morgese as Hero.

Given my love of comics, theater, TV and films, I think this might just be the perfect film for me.  I might not need to see another film ever again after this.

For more info: http://muchadothemovie.com/

 

Superhero Problems

November 19, 2012

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Krypton! With a C-R-I? Well, actually, it’s Krypton with a K-R-Y-P-T-O-N.

November 6, 2012

Krypton is real!  They’ve found it! Well, sort of.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium in New York City, was tasked by DC comics with finding an actual location that the planet Krypton could exist.  After some celestial searching, he found a planet orbiting  the red dwarf star LHS 2520, a cooler and smaller sun than ours.  As an added bonus, Tyson will appear in the next issue of Action Comics #14, titled “Star Light, Star Bright” which comes out Wednesday November 7th.

Up next hopefully we can find Themyscira, Atlantis, or the Bat Cave.

For a full article on the discovery of Krypton, please see: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=supermans-home-planet-krypton