Laura (1944)

Laura (1944) - Laura (1944) Photo (15751310) - Fanpop

With the close of both the Holiday Season and Awards Season, I move again to my series of reviews on American film noir in the 1940s.

Where Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon have survived into the 21st century with reputations intact as noir classics, Otto Preminger’s masterpiece Laura has been relatively forgotten outside of more expert circles.  Continue reading

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The 101 Greatest Film Scores

Lists, and not baseball, have become America’s favorite pastime, and for fifteen years now, I have been passing as much time as anybody I know.   Continue reading

30 Best Film Composers

As I stated in my “Brief Exposition on Movie Music”, 1939 was one of several watershed moments in film history, not only because of the sheer amount of great films that were pumped out of Hollywood that year, but also because it introduced forever the “thematic” elements of movie scores.  In particular, the Alfred Newman’s score in Wuthering Heights and Max Steiner’s work in Gone With the Wind were key players in this movement. Continue reading

“Ignorance, Sheer Ignorance”: The Audacity and Innovation of the Citizen Kane Experiment

gregg and orson

Note: before reading this post, I want to make an apology.  This post is designed to prove the optic innovation and aesthetic quality of Citizen KaneTo help you—the reader—see first-hand some of the innovations at hand, I have included clips from the movie.  Unfortunately, these clips are hosted through YouTube and other online sources that are subject to the fickleness of Internet connections and the variance of upload quality.  Because of this, the complete visual experience of Citizen Kane is not available in these clips alone, because they may be more blurry or slow than they would be watching a well-restored Blu-Ray or DVD release. 

In my last post, I attempted to make one point quite clear: the greatness of Citizen Kane lies in its duality.  It is part-drama, part-comedy.  It is based on truth, but shrouded in lies.  It’s a mystery with no resolution.  It is light.  It is dark.  It is black.  It is white. Continue reading

The Story of Citizen Kane: The Mercury Theatre and Other Players

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I hope that in reading the introduction to this series of essays on Citizen Kane, you—the reader—went and rented the movie and watched it, or at least wanted to.  I want to write so much about the movie; but to not watch the movie until I am done writing would, I think, be detrimental.  Part of that is because the movie is known for its important ending, which I would hate to spoil.  However, to not write about the ending would be to not write about the whole movie.  It puts me in an awkward situation.  So, go watch the movie.  Then, I won’t feel bad in throwing around some spoilers. Continue reading

Psycho (1960)

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You’ll hopefully notice the patterns.  We’re on our third Hitchcock-Coppola-Silent Film cycle.  We also just did a ten-thousand word analysis (complete with pictures) on montage theory.  Now, we will do a review on the “mother” of all Hitchcock films, one that includes the “mother” of all film montages.   Why is Psycho the “mother” of all Hitchcock films?  For those who have seen the film, the use of that word as qualifier is perfect.  This is most famous Hitchcock, containing some of the most iconic images and characters and featuring the most recognizable music.  Is it the best?  No.  Vertigo is.  But this film is certainly among his best.  While most movie critics decry its popularity because, while it is definitely a five-star film, Hitchcock has other five-star films that deserve more credit—like Notorious, Rebecca, or Rear Window.  However, I think it deserves its place.  My mood often changes, and it is most appropriate to say these films are all tied for first; but if you made me pick, Psycho would have to follow Vertigo if only for its cultural clout and haunting storyline.  It sticks with you, perhaps more than any other Hitchcock film (except Vertigo, but that holds far too many trump cards, and if I keep bringing it up, it will succeed in boxing out Psycho from its own review).  The whole nature of the film is haphazard, like a good haunted house, full of eery sounds, precipitous pictures, and a whole bunch of mentally-troubled characters.  Its very origin cries out its rawness. Continue reading

Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo+Kim+Novak

Alfred Hitchcock is considered by many voices in the industry to be the greatest director of all time.  It suffices to say that I agree with these voices.  For so many of us, Hitchcock represents the stunning collaborative effect of art, technique, and personality—a personality that was as complex as it was singularly driven; his self-awareness only heightening the depths to which he allowed himself to operate.  He has several stand-out films that define these many different facets of his personality.  Rear Window tackles the horrors of obsession and handicap.  Rebecca deals with the concept of haunting ghosts and tainted love.  Notorious challenges the cliches of a love affair and asks how far is one really willing to go to prove their devotion.  Psycho provides sheer terror and mental complexes, while Frenzy takes those to a new level before the backdrop of overt sexuality and social tension.  Dial “M” for Murder and Rope conquer the issues of a “perfect murder” and the moral relationship–and supposed ambiguity–of death and killing.  North by Northwest and The 39 Steps make evident to the greatest degree the patented Hitchcock-ian humor and wit. The Birds, like so many others, gives the viewer an iconic motif that will never be forgotten.  Sabotage and the Man Who Knew Too Much films deal with the horror of a murdered of endangered loved one.  Spellbound demonstrates the brilliance of artistic expression to terrify in its surrealist embrace of the subconscious.  Shadow of a Doubt and The Lady Vanishes permeate us with the actuality of what life is like when we are alone and are in very real danger–even when the threat is only perceived.  At the end of the day, watching a Hitchcock film is more an exploration of self than one would realize at first blush: he was as much an auteur as he was an exhibitionist, as much a psychoanalyst as he was a showman. Continue reading