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BFI Hitchcock Season – Menagerie VI, The Sequences

As a great believer in recycling and as someone with little time on their hands you’ll forgive me for revising some previously published material for this post, I’ve simply got too much other material to construct from scratch and besides these clips still remain true, my favourite sequences and scenes from Hitchcock’s long and detailed career. You may be querying why one core film of the Fifties is omitted from this list, lets just say that I’m keeping my powder dry for an imminent revisit with a special guest Q&A – oh OK I’ll fess up its Martin Landau who’s also in town to support the release of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie – a suitable way to conclude the entire retrospective with such a prestigious guest and screening of the most ‘Hitchcockian of all the Hitchcocks’. So, inspired by such subterfuge here is a random collection of classic moments, amognst the best and memorable that he ever committed to screen;

From Marnie, the silence during this robbery is coolly handled by Sir. Alfred in order to build his tension shredding infrastructure, but when the pay-off arrives you suddenly realise why its been constructed in this manner – the cleaner is deaf which is revealed later in that extract. The semiotic use of colour for props, costume and make-up are also just as important for the film as the early edits in that clip amply illustrate.

Arguably the best of Hitchcock’s 1940’s films, this erotic moment between Cary Grant and Isabella Rossellini in Notorious was quite the controversial piece of disgusting pornography of its era, now it looks rather uncomfortably quaint, but expressive of the characters inner turmoil and tangles.

Ignoring the obvious parallels with being housebound and yearning for some distractions to whittle away the infinite, uncomfortable hours, you could pick just about any portion of Rear Window and be rewarded with brilliance, but here is one of the more anxious moments of the invalid masterpiece.

An early example of Hitch exploiting the symbolic, cultural aura of famous locales for his climactic set-pieces, here is the vertigo inducing finale of the rarely transmitted Saboteur.

From the second 1956 iteration of The Man Who Knew Too Much – Pure, virtuoso Hitchcock, a wordless procession of tension building sequences and images, built around the crescendo, climactic cymbal crash.

Foreign Correspondent – bruised by allegations that his decant to Hollywood to direct Rebecca in 1939 shirked his contribution to the war effort Hitch directed this light propaganda piece, with the 1940 SFX equivalent of ‘I can’t believe what I’m seeing’ at 2.57 when the plane hits the drink….

No, neither of the obvious murders from Psycho, I simply love this sequence where the momentum is screechingly sculpted by Marion relentlessly fleeing her crime, the swirl of Herrmann’s music as her guilty conscience constructs the non-diagetic voiceover of her colleagues and peers, only for the sign for the Bates Motel to loom out of the velvet soaked darkness like a neon tombstone, surely she will be safe to rest up here just for one night then turn herself in for the theft of the money and be absolved of her sin, right?

I love the ending of The Birds, the quiet, nail-biting movement through the placid beasts to the car then on to an uncertain apocalyptic future, here is an insight to some alternate plans that Hitch drew up for the conclusion of his final masterpiece.

And finally one of my all time favourite combinations of score and camerawork, it’s simply perfect and there is nothing I can add to its obvious brilliance of economy and beauty, that my friends is cinema – right there. Finally here’s a nice montage with an amusing soundtrack;

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Alan Partridge – Welcome To The Places In My Life

For all of you out there who refuse to support NewsCorp via a Sky subscriptions, here is last night’s revisit to the world of a certain Norwich based Z list celebrity. Get it while it’s hot, I’m sure it won’t stay up for long;

Funniest thing I’ve seen all year, up there to match Community Season 2 which is also excellent.


Where The Walkens Are….

‘maybe a suicide…..I dunno….’;

Happy Bank Holiday weekend y’all…..


Ulysses Reprise

After that dark and brooding take on Australian psychopaths let’s have some amusement to raise the spirits, I’m not usually one for tiresome nostalgia trawls but I must share this;

….so I can share this cluster of unmitigated, concentrated, sweded awesome;

Now there’s a kids TV show that would benefit from a 3D CGI heavy update. Speaking of kids stuff Hugo has been getting some amazing nods from the summaries I’ve skim read – one doesn’t read reviews until they’ve seen the film and one has collected ones own thoughts – but it looks like it’s visually dazzling and has a lot of submerged film nerd details to munch on. I’m really looking to forward to this now, thank god that horrendous trailer doesn’t (allegedly) reflect the final movie. We shall see….


The Stand

In the interests of nostalgia coupled with my second birthday on this blog I recently had a look back at some old posts and was exceptionally embarrassed to see that my embryonic approaches to this whole blogging phenomenon were not great. Who’d have thought eh? I hope that my commitment, content and organisation has somewhat improved over the past 100 or so weeks thus have decided to publish a one link post just to sabotage any pretence of actually appearing to know what I’m doing. So here it is, a fantastic and for me fascinating interview with Stephen King and the alleged prescience of his best novel, ‘The Stand’. Nuff’ said. 


CERN & The Cosmos

How’s that for a ambitious post title? I’ll be brief, just to say that I’m happy to be alive when one of the most incredible recent activities of our species is conducted even when we seem hellbent (excuse the religious references, it’s unavoidable Western indoctrination of language) on destroying our environmental infrastructure in the pursuit of short term profit. But I digress….

So here’s some links to the best science series ever made – well at least the best I’ve seen – Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. He has a point in this brief introduction – why do we find the sea, the ocean, the vastness so romantic, so alluring? Anyway, I have vague memories of seeing this when I was about ten and the Vangelis soundtrack has always lodged in the cranium, magnifying Sagan’s efforts to condense the entire history of existence into ten hours of education. The phrase ‘epic‘ seems reductive. 

Here’s some background on tomorrows historic event and some amusing commentary. Who knows, if CERN doesn’t envelop the planet in a mysterious apocalyptic glamor then maybe our shaved monkey race can move forward. May you live in interesting times indeed…

   

If you’re still here in twelve hours then go out tonight to your garden and have a look upward. See what you can see. Marvel at that.

Brilliant isn’t it?


Flotsam & Jetsam XII

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Almost certainly this will be the last miscellaneous post of the year. I’m trying to find the time to see ‘Southland Tales‘ before I fly off to ‘sunny’ Stockholm for Christmas as it would make a clean sweep of all the films I included in my Films to see in 2007 that actually got a UK release. The reviews have been uniformly negative – but it’s got Buffy playing a porn star, and therefore demands a bit of effort on my part. Purely for the curiosity value you understand.  

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There was a documentary on ‘Silent Clowns‘ on the BBC recently which was entertaining and got me thinking about silent cinema. I used to love Harold Lloyd and remember during my early secondary school days snuggling up to the TV with a mug of weak lemon squash at about 3.30pm on BBC2 it memory serves to catch his exploits. Here are some similar exploits by Buster Keaton – the inventiveness really is astounding for its age.

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Yes, I upgraded to the iphone and it is probably the best little gadget I’ve ever bought. I don’t want to turn this into a advertising channel for Steve Jobs but the touch interface is amazing, the web browser on it is awesome, and the interactivity between my new imac, phone and my Mac client membership is brilliant – I ‘needed’ to get a blackberry for work and this is essentially the same thing for me, I have all my agency and government contacts on it, can e-mail them and review their websites on the train, receive job information by mail, browse local authority website for information for work, update my blog if I want to plus it’s my phone and ipod. I can download and watch TV programmes on it and believe me that has helped with these winter commutes!! Oh, and it has Google Earth on it as well. And a Youtube link. And judging by the main screen, space for three more functions which I assume the mac boffins are beavering away on as we speak. As always with Mac the ergonomics are also beautiful, much like the imac. No clumsy, huge noisy base units – everything is self contained in the flat panel screen. Given that you now run Windows on Macs and therefore have access to all the games previously denied to Mac addicts I wonder why anyone remains with Microsoft. ‘Yes, please make the cheque out to Minty Enterprises Mr. Jobs, after all my enormous readership will of course lead to a dramatic upturn in sales for you now….’

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 I’ve finally finished uploading all my music to the new computer which is always a nostalgic experience as you blow the dust off some old CD’s loitering at the back of cupboards and hiding on shelves. This looks interesting, and makes your heart swell with pride to be British doesn’t it? That kind of leads me on to the recent Led Zeppelin reunion gig – I don’t know if you managed top catch any of the footage on youtube or elsewhere (it’s pretty much been ruthlessly taken down, so I doubt that some of these links will work) but the atmosphere looking fucking electric – there was one link of the very start and the crowd were going absolutely crazy and this was communicated through a poxy video phone. I’m not a huge fan, but I have some exceptionally fond memories of listening to ‘Immigrant Song‘ again and again and again one stormy evening back in about 1983 and ‘Kashmir‘ is one of my favourite songs ever, again it reminds me of a particulalrly windswept and rainy family holiday in Skegness, along with the film ‘The Eiger Sanction‘ – funny how things trigger long dormant memories eh? It looks like they really rocked it which does spark my interest at a possible tour next year, although I’m sure tickets would be a nightmare to get your hands on.

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So, we’re looking at sending a manned flight to Mars – can I be the first person to point out the obvious lunacy of this scheme? Hasn’t anyone read any 1950’s pulp SF or watched any of those ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians‘ movies? As some other bloggers have pointed out, it’s headlines like ‘Robot Drama on Mars‘ that really make me feel that I’m living in the 21st century, even if science still hasn’t developed hover cars, domestic jet packs or disintegration beams yet. Stupid science. I’m pretty sure that this is just about the only welcome announcement from the entire tenancy of Bush Jr. in the White House, and even then I reckon it’s just a counter to China’s recent strides into space exploration. We can’t have a space gap can we? Space gap? Eh? Oh no, I’ve confused myself again….

 

How cool would it be to be part of the crew who drafted the initial proposal ‘Manned Mars Mission’ document? SF nerds I’d wager, each and every one of ’em. Just looking at the logistics vaguely outlined in that article, I wouldn’t fancy being a project manager on that !! When I was working for Newham Council I once saw the Olympic Delivery Gant Chart which was so complex with its colour codes, key milestones, inter-relationship threads, engagement strands etc. I had to go and have a lie down in a quiet room for ten minutes. I bet the health and safety report would be amusing for the Mars mission – ‘In the event of being bombarded by cosmic rays or inadvertently teleported into an alternative para-dimension, be sure to record the details in the service incident book. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary procedures’……. 

 

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So, the end of another year. First time I’ve ever spent Christmas without my family and New Year in another country – it’ll be a bit strange but I’m sure I’ll cope.  Career wise this has just about been the most successful ever for me so I really can’t complain. At the start of the year I had in my mind a figure I would be billing clients on a weekly basis for my esteemed services, with the Tower Hamlets gig I’ve blown that figure out of the water and I’m up for a new assignment at Lambeth which  effectively pays double my target. Given my new influence and almighty power I shop at a higher class of website these days, it’s so difficult to get effective and loyal henchmen these days don’t you find? Who knows what lies in wait for 2008?

 

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Anyway, let’s finish the year with some comedy – I just love the tone of this and some of the comments that people have chipped in are priceless. A friend said I should chip-in and link to this sketch from the brilliant ‘Kids in the Hall‘ comedy show (1990’s Canadian Monty Python if you haven’t heard of ’em) but they’d locked the thread so I’ll just have to do it here.

 

 


30 Days of Night

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Its early winter, and we’re in the inhospitable North American town of Barrow, Alaska. It is swiftly revealed that the town (population a measly 152) annually suffers 30 days of perpetual darkness due to the seasonal fluctuations of the earth. As the film opens the town’s Sheriff Eben Olemaun investigates a series of unusual incidents (the town helicopter is sabotaged, satellite phones stolen, internet failure) which emerge to be the chilling preparations of a posse of vampires who are intent on murdering every human in the town, be they man or woman, young and old…

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Where to begin? Sketchy characterisation collides with some clumsy fore-shadowing (hmm, why look one guy drives a scythe-wielding industrial vehicle!! Ah, I see the town has a lethal shredder waste disposal compactor – I wonder if we’ll see them in action later on?) ensuring that you have just about enough emotional investment in the main players to care when the undead begin their gory rampage. Josh Harnett and Mellissa George are as usual pretty average but solid, with robust support from some genre supporting players. For me, the lack of any explanation or allusion to where the vampires have come from or who the leader is betrays a lack of imagination in the script – I haven’t read the graphic novel on which the film is based but I would think that the source material would take the time to develop the bad guys appropriately.

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I’ve always preferred my vampires to be perverted souls, unholy spirits divorced from god that we see in films like ‘Salem’s Lot’ or the classic Hammer ‘Dracula’ cycle, rather than the vampire as a different species, as animals that we see in the ‘Blade’ movies and in this effort. The vampire myth has always been a potent metaphor for other angles or areas – immigration, infection, sexual repression, AIDS etc etc. but none of this is apparent here. I know this all sounds negative (rhesus negative? Ho ho ho….) but I actually quite enjoyed this, it’s a Friday night, beer and pizza movie with no pretensions to be anything else. It’s genre cinema that you can let wash over you, by the numbers stuff that you can guess the outcomes off although to be fair this does have a nice touch toward the end which I don’t think I’ve seen before. Oh, (heh..) and I have to say it has the best decapitation scene I’ve seen for a long time. Enjoy !!

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For the record, my favourite vampire movies are probably ‘Nosferatu’ which is still genuinely eerie and creepy despite (or perhaps because of) its 85 years vintage, ‘Near Dark’, the aforementioned ‘Salem’s Lot’ (I still have vivid memories of Mr. Barlow making his gut wrenching appearance!!)  and this oddity – a Corman produced cheapo AIP picture from 1964 with the superb Vincent Price. It’s the third adaptation of one of the ultimate vampire novels ‘I am Legend‘ by Richard Matheson. In fact, we will be treated to the long gestating third version early next year with Will Smith taking the lead. The trailer looks…..OK but I’d ‘stake’ my life on the fact that they’ve jettisoned the gloomy ending of the novel. We shall see….


Flotsam & Jetsam IX

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 Well, thank god the tube strike has been suspended, getting to work has been tricky to say the least for the past few days, although delays have given me the opportunity to tear into the superb new William Gibson novel, ‘Spook Country‘. This is the first book he’s written set in the past – February 2006 to be exact – as Gibson feels that the speed of modern technological advancement renders future predictions redundant. The novel follows three divergent characters (typical of Gibson), a former rock star, a Cuban-Chinese criminal counterfeiter, and a pill popping addict mysteriously coerced into domestic espionage as they unearth a mystery concerning data exchanges on i-pods, contemporary virtual art, and a sinister cargo crate inbound from Iraq…

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For fans, it contains all the usual cool references to otaku, fringe and hipster culture, riffing on fashion, design, architecture, computing, technology, consumerism, advertising, linguistics and just about everything else – you can feel very smug with yourself if you ‘get’ half the references.  I missed Gibson’s London visit on his current book tour (ggrrr) but one of the regulars on his authorised website has put together a superb ‘Cyberspace guide to London‘ which isn’t as nerdish as it sounds – give it a look. Finally, here is a nice sypnosis of his first ‘sprawl’ trilogy of books.

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For this post’s movie scene I’ve opted for another Scorsese moment, but for a reason. I stumbled across a post about a couple of Scorsese documentaries they’re screening in New York, which lead to this, and then to this – hence my choice. That Steve chap is quite a character eh? Talk about a ‘colourful’ life. I’ve been looking for a copy of ‘American Boy‘ for years so it was quite a moment to see it unfold on YouTube. If you’re interested and get through all six parts, you’ll note a couple of stories that Tarantino has stolen, verbatum, for his movies.

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What if you were an alien, going about your space business in the wild lands of alpha centuri and this ricocheted off your windscreen? Would you know how it make it work? Yes, it’s a recreation of the gold disk on Voyager 1, now officially the most distant man made object in history. Great stuff, but any attempt to summarise human experience without a ‘Pixies’ track is woefully inadequate. You’d have thought <snigger>, that they’d have included ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ <guffaw> or perhaps, <chuckle> ‘Space Oddity’, oh dear, I kill myself sometimes. Seriously though, wasn’t it nice when we got together as a species and did things like this, like spend millions of dollars sending a gold record into space on a wild errand rather than bomb the fuck out of each other? <sigh>…..

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Speaking of music, anyone remember the Melody Maker? Was one of your favourite sections ‘Mr. Agreeable’ adjacent to the letters section? Well, he’s back and is as insultingly inventive as ever. I’m sure I read that Charlie Brooker was the man behind the facade, can anyone else back this up? Anyway, here is some more indie retro madness, some genius has uploaded a selection of extracts from the countdown’s on ‘The Chart Show‘ – it gets a bit samey, but contains some hilarious footage nonetheless – I’d forgotten ‘Birdland‘ existed….


Hollywood I

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 Well, I’m back. Been back for a couple of weeks as it happens, but have simply been too hellishly busy to post – especially since my home computer seems to have finally packed up. I have sent Steve Jobs an invoice for the inconvenience.

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 The holiday was absolutely fantastic, although the liver and bank balance well require some regeneration. I have many stories to tell, although most are not for circulation on a public website !! We were fortunate to hook up with some ‘naturals’ as I call them on our first night, and therefore had something of a new social life to explore as many of the people were local musicians, bar workers, wannabe stand up comics and actors (what a surprise..) so we got invites to many different events, gigs and clubs.

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Yes, that’s the real Warner Brothers water tower. I caught four movies whilst I was out there, ‘Spider-Man 3‘ (sucked), ‘28 Weeks Later‘ (good fun), an oldie called ‘Blue Collar‘ (at the famous Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood boulevard no less – site of the first official film premiere, ‘Robin Hood‘ in 1922) and the half superb, half terrible ‘Grindhouse‘ for which I will do justice with a proper post. The cinemas out there put us to shame – the size of the screens and sound quality were superb, and since I saw both ’28 Weeks Later’ and ‘Grindhouse’ in the Kodak Theatre (where they hold the Oscars and various AFI events) there was just a special vibe. The hotel was five minutes walk from here. Excellent.

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 I will draft a separate post on the film sightseeing that I did, the locations and museums visited, studio tours etc. but for now here are a couple of photos taken from the Hollywood Cemetery which is right next to Paramount Studios – I don’t think it was covered in the UK but an enormous bush fire started up in the hills when we were out there. I knew I should have put that cigarette out properly…. 

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Finally, nice of Jack to leave me a message, and on my first birthday no less. More to follow….