Sunday, March 15, 2015

Flights Of Fancy: Turning du Maurier's "The Birds" Into Hitchcock's Nightmare


By Lars Trodson

Ed. Note: This is another in our occasional series examining short stories that have been adapted into feature films.



“The Birds” is Alfred Hitchcock’s most schizophrenic movie. It's certainly effective and memorable, but it features some of the worst acting in any film considered to be one of the director’s major efforts. It also has lapses in logic that would be inexcusable in other Hitchcock efforts. The special effects are terrific, but there are some scenes so obviously shot on a sound stage that they break the narrative spell. It could be that Hitchcock simply wasn’t interested in the human story; the primary challenge seemed to be in making sure the audience believed that flocks of birds could orchestrate a deliberate attack on human beings and kill us all. 

But it's also true that Hitchcock and his screenwriter, Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain), didn’t have much to start with. Daphne du Maurier’s 1952 short story on which the film is based (also called “The Birds”) focuses almost exclusively on the Hocken family— father Nat, his unnamed wife, and their two children, Jill and Johnny. Both story and film offer no explanation as to why the birds attack, but du Maurier presents the reader with some awkward Cold War symbolism as a way to give her little story more heft than it deserves, a touch that Hitchcock wisely discarded. His birds aren't Communists, they've just gone around the bend.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mad Men: Don Draper's Secret Goes Missing



By Lars Trodson

The final seven episodes of "Mad Men" are scheduled to begin on AMC on April 5, 2015.

What does it mean when two of the most creative people in the “Mad Men” cast of characters are insane? While most of the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper & Price (or, lately SC&P) are excellent and efficient at their jobs, it is Don Draper and copywriter Michael Ginsberg that have the spark of real imagination, creativity and wit, and both of them are clearly off their rockers. Draper is self-destructive in epic ways, and when Ginsberg needed a valve to vent the rhythms emanating from the new IBM computer in the office and were vibrating through his body, he cut off a nipple and presented it to Peggy Olson as a token of his love.

Why do writers see themselves in such a bad light?

I suppose I should be thinking of more immediate topics when watching the show, but there wasn't a single episode in the first half of "Mad Men"'s final season during which I didn't seek distraction. While the writer's neatly added some drama to the Burger Chef pitch by linking a successful moon landing to the fates of Don, Peggy and the rest of the creative team, the idea that there was any inherent drama in the search for a new client had clearly passed. There wasn't much in season seven that seemed terribly fresh. 


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The 2015 Razzies


It's no secret that 2014 was a good year for the film scene, and that includes the high number of real turkeys that were churned out this year.

Special recognition should go to Cameron Diaz, who starred in three duds: "The Other Woman," "Sex Tape," and the "Annie" remake. Adam Sandler distinguished himself with both "Blended" and "Men, Women and Children."

I saw two truly inept movies this year, "The Legend of Hercules," with The Rock, who deserves better, and "Into The Storm," which looked like the home movie it was trying to be.

Anyway, here are The Razzies! Enjoy!

http://www.razzies.com

— LT

Thursday, January 8, 2015

“Are you sure you want to give it to me?”


An Elvis memory, from 1974

By Patricia Trodson

On the day Elvis Presley died, there was an interview by a Boston reporter with an English classical music critic who wrote for a major London newspaper.

“What,” the reporter asked, “Caused people to call Elvis, a rock and roll singer, ‘The King?’”

“Because,” the Englishman replied, “He was the king. Elvis could turn glitz into royalty.”

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Birthday today: Zora Neale Hurston



Zora Neale Hurston was born on Jan. 7, 1891, and is best known for her 1937 novel, "Their Eyes Were Watching God."

Here are the first three paragraphs of that novel:

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of Men.

“Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.

“So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the sick of friends and ailing with the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead; their eyes flung wide open in judgment.”

These words, this matter-of-fact reportage of the heart has echoed down the years. It is the very template of the dreams of people who have no chance.


Zora Neale Hurston died in 1960.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Imitation Game's brilliant ad campaign

By Lars Trodson

Here you have a movie, "The Imitation Game," that takes place in Britain about 70 years ago that tells the story of a gay man trying to crack a Nazi code. That man is Alan Turing, who may be a legend but is no household name, no Robert Oppenheimer, no George S. Patton. The "code" is the infamous Enigma Code, and deciphering it is a key element in Allied victory. "The Imitation Game" stars a respected young actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, who is gaining wide-spread fame but has not proved yet to be a draw at the box office.

So how would a studio, in this case The Weinstein Company, market this film to that all-important younger ticket-buying demographic when the subject matter is so challenging?

Monday, December 29, 2014

“Elevation” and “Two Days, One Night”


Elevation from Roundtable Pictures on Vimeo.

Update: Marion Cotillard has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in the Dardennes' "Deux jours, une nuit."

The new film by the Dardenne brothers, “Deux jours, une nuit,” (“Two days, one night”) is causing quite a stir, mostly due to the rapturous reviews that Marion Cotillard is receiving for her portrayal of a working class woman who loses her job and tries to win it back. Cotillard is Sandra, who learns that her coworkers have been able to cover her shifts during a lengthy illness (she has a breakdown) and have been promised a bonus of 1,000 euros if they agree to lay her off. The two days and one night of the title describe the timespan that Sandra has to get her colleagues to change their minds. She needs her job, but they also could use the extra money.