Hitchcock’s Marnie…

I watched Marnie last night for the first time. I thought it was a good movie, although probably not destined to become one of my favorites. The acting was impeccable, Sean Connery was incredibly easy on the eyes, and I enjoyed the self-conscious artificiality of the world Hitchcock created, especially his use of color.

Marnie

Does this look like a nice guy to you?

I have read that this film “proves” Hitchcock’s misogyny, but I couldn’t see it. Men come off worse than women in Marnie. Marnie is damaged, but Connery’s character Mark is perverse in his obsession with her and his desire to “fix” her that doesn’t seem to arise out of any pure intentions, but rather out of a need to possess and control her. Rather than proving Hitchcock’s hatred of women, Marnie is another dark, twisted view of humankind that characterizes all of his movies and is the primary reason why I am drawn to them.

Whatever Hitchcock’s feelings about women were in real life, I don’t want to know about them. I am sure they were more complex than a simple hatred of women. What I care about is his work. If misogyny did come through clearly in his films, that would turn me off of them. Hitchcock does not shy away from female characters who are immoral, self-serving, or shallow; certainly there are women who are like this. I think he is interested in male obsession with women, though, as can be seen in Marnie, Vertigo and possibly Notorious (which I need to rewatch soon). In all of those movies, though, I don’t see the man as a hero, as a portrayal of what Hitchcock thinks all men should be, no more than I see the woman as an indictment of what all women are. I see them as stories about people, stories that challenge our own exalted views of ourselves. This is why Hitchcock’s films continue to be so compelling.

Room 237…

I watched Room 237 last night on Netflix instant streaming and highly recommend it. It is a documentary that presents several theories on what is really going on in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. But wait! It is so much more than a geek-out about The Shining. (Although, to be fair, the film will be more enjoyable if you’ve seen The Shining, and read it, and seen all of Kubrick’s other movies.)

The brilliance of Room 237 is that, even though it’s a documentary, the people being interviewed are never shown in that classic talking-head documentary style. Instead, film clips constantly play as they explain their pet Shining theories, most of the clips from the film, the bulk of the rest from other Stanley Kubrick movies, and some from other films. These clips serve as a constant commentary on the voiceovers, so that Room 237 becomes more about how people become obsessed with films (or books or other works of art), fueling their obsession with every possible piece of evidence, however slight. My favorite part in the film is when the guy is explaining his theory of how Stanley Kubrick helped fake the Moon Landing, and points to Danny’s Apollo 11 sweater in a scene in The Shining as his aha! moment.

I actually have a theory on The Shining myself, but mine isn’t as far-out as the ones presented in Room 237 (or maybe it is, and I just think it’s normal). I think that Kubrick, as an artist, challenged himself to make films that were not only in a particular genre, but that transcended the genre and perhaps even defined it. He did this with 2001: A Space Odyssey in the science fiction genre, and with The Shining, he was trying to make the horror movie. Many of the clues and inconsistencies pointed out in Room 237 were probably deliberate, as Kubrick was an exacting director, but they aren’t signs of some uber meta-theory. Rather, Kubrick was trying to subtly unsettle his audience, have them feeling constantly off-kilter in small and large ways, in an attempt to truly horrify them, rather than just scare or shock them. This is why The Shining actually gets more disturbing the more you watch it, as you start to pick up on these subtle inconsistencies. The Shining is a movie about a place where the rules of reality no longer apply, and the rules of movie-making don’t apply in the film, and the inference is that maybe none of us can trust what we think is real. Now, that’s terrifying.

The Shining Movie Poster

Speaking of Stanley Kubrick, I read this essay yesterday too, and it made definitely me want to watch Eyes Wide Shut again. That film has a lot of parallels to The Shining, doesn’t it? I feel another theory coming on…

Zombies are the things that get us that we don’t see coming…

World War Z is getting a lot of coverage this weekend, but I would like to remind everyone that it is a pretty good novel. By all accounts, the book is different enough from the movie that it’s worth reading even after seeing the movie. I have been reading some profiles of the author, Max Brooks, this weekend. Things I did not know: He is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft; he tours the country giving lectures on zombie preparedness; and he doesn’t think zombies are funny. For him, zombies are those random things in life that get us that we don’t see coming–a car accident, cancer, random chance. Zombies are the personification of that old chestnut, “Life isn’t fair.”

By trying to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, something that we can feel reasonably sure is not ever going to happen, we prepare for the things we can’t control, that feel too big for us to take on. (Max Brooks wrote a survival manual for the zombie apocalypse before he wrote World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.) Maybe this is why I like to read apocalyptic fiction. There is literally very little I can do about climate change or peak oil, but I can read about people who go through worse, and survive it.

Alternate World War Z movie poster art found here.

Hitchcock films…

For Christmas, I got a great set of Alfred Hitchcock films, what I would consider to be his five best: Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, and North by Northwest. But of course, everyone knows these films. (If you don’t, you’ve got some watching to do!) After you’ve seen them, what next? This is what I would consider to be the next top 5 Hitchcock films:

  • Rope
  • The Trouble with Harry
  • Notorious
  • Shadow of a Doubt
  • Strangers on a Train

By the way, 2012 is the year that Vertigo knocked off Citizen Kane as the number-one movie of all time. We’re currently rewatching Vertigo, but it’s hard to beat this classic scene from North by Northwest:

Source: Chris Cattle | North By Northwest – James Hance.

For 2012 (the Movie)

2012 (film)

Image via Wikipedia

I was flipping channels the other night and got stuck watching the end of 2012. I can only compare it to the urge to slow down when passing a wreck on the road — the biggest wreck EVER! Whatever you want to say about 2012, no movie destroys the earth with as much maniacal glee. In fact, the first time I saw it, I wrote a poem about it, which I will share with you now.

Oh world
How many ways can I destroy you?

1. Drop LA into a bottomless chasm.
2. Explode Yellowstone with a volcanic spasm.
3. Coat Vegas in a layer of ash.
4. Wipe out Washington with a big splash.
5. Decimate Europe so everyone must leave it.
6. Drown the Himalayas (though no one will believe it).

It’s my world and I’ll do what I want to,
And all I want to do is destroy you.