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Posts tagged ‘Alfred Hitchcock’

Benjamin Walker Kills in Bloody Underpants in “American Psycho:The Musical”on Bway

American Pyscho 1I never really understood the ’80’s. The 1980s. They didn’t have the defined Gestalt of the ’60s(hippies), the ’70s(punk rock). Nor have any of the decades since then seem particularly definable to me. Just one big blur. Or is just life as we know it….continues…And “American Pyscho” tries its’ best to define the undefinable ’80s. And goes ahead to prove that New York City hasn’t changed that much. So it’s relatable.

It’s trying to be the ultimate New York ’80s Wall Street musical. And at that it does succeed. And it’s combining genres like mad.Which is very avant-garde of it, which I liked. It’s complex.

The rather unbelievable idea of trying to transform Brett Easton Ellis’ novel “American Psycho” into a musical comedy is indeed, er, dicey. And it veers widely in tone. Is it comic? Well, it’s funny, at times. It rhymes “ironic” with “Manolo Blahnik” and “mahi-mahi” with Issac Mizrahi. So it’s TRYING. And it tries too much. But what can you do with intractable, basically non-musical comedy material? Well, you put the comedy and the fantasy and the sex,(see above picture) front and center.

And it does this by having its’ incredibly comely leading man Benjamin Walker enter in his tighty-whiteys (see below)And pretty much keeps him there, unclothed, for most of the rest of the musical. And that’s a good thing.AMerican Psycho 2

It’s a great thing, really, because Mr. Walker, is an incredibly adept actor/singer/comic, who dances up a storm in Act Two particularly. And yes, again in his white underwear, that is now drenched with blood. In his incredibly long, monologish sequence in Act Two, he stays drenched in blood and singing, too, it is really a tour-de-force and to his credit, he’s never self-conscious, but always sexy. And yes, compelling. He acts OVER his underpants.

“American Psycho:The Musical” owes a lot to the late lesbian novelist Patricia Highsmith’s “Talented Mr. Ripley” and all her novels, including the Alfred Hitchcock-adaptation of her”Strangers on a Train.” Highsmith’s great achievement was always putting you INSIDE the murderer’s head, be it Tom Ripley or Bruno Anthony or any of them, and making you side with the psycho, which is exactly what “American Psycho” succeeds at, too.

“American Psycho” wants to put us all, as Patricia Highsmith did, inside the mind of serial killers.

But you see, Patrick Bateman is a Don Draper-look-alike, who is really a nerd. Nothing he ever says or does satisfies him. And New York and Wall Street particularly drive him crazy, and so he acts out, bloodily. Or does he?

Where “American Psycho:The Musical” also succeeds is abstracting all the violence. The French had a whole school of theatre called “Grand Guignol” and this is a perfect example of that. Blood was always everywhere as it is at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, where audiences are loving it! Es Devlin’s chiarascuro set aided by Finn Ross’ stunning scenic video projections are constantly turning the black and white Wall Street world of Patrick Bateman into a sea of red.

The first act was way too long by half, but by the time they got to “Mistletoe Alert” their Christmas number the show began to jell into the bloody aspic it becomes successfully in Act Two.

The fact that Patrick escapes to the Hamptons (see below) which he hates. (He also hates Christmas, btw.) And has to run back to New York, New York, where he feels “Safe,”made me begin to like this guy.American Psycho 3A seemingly impossible feat given the premise.

And oh yes, the chorus especially the men, are as buff as buff can be and as frequently shirtless as Benjamin Walker is. They form a very decorative set themselves.

Main among them I really liked Drew Moerlein’s Paul Owen, the perfectly slimy Wall Street a-hole, who is just BEGGING to be slaughtered by our serial-killer savior Bateman. (You see, he gets you on his murderous side, so you’re glad when he lowers quite a spectacularly bloody boom on the haplessly drunk and high Owen.)

Red-headed Jordan Dean also scores  as the closeted Wall Street-er who constantly is trying to seduce Bateman, in VERY physical ways.  His hands were all over Benjamin Walker’s superb physique rather constantly. I could relate.

Helene Yorke has the only stand-out female role as Bateman’s society-and-label-crazed fiance. And she keeps calling him “PA-TRUCK.” And Tony Winner Alice Ripley is totally wasted and unrecognizable as Pa-truck’s mother.

No. This is a show where the guyz, as you can see above, have it.

Benjamin Walker’s bravado turn just earned him an Outer Critics Circle nomination this past week. And so did Helene Yorke’s droller-than-droll deb.

The Drama Desk, btw, of which I am a voting member, announces their nominations on Thursday AM.  The Outer Critics gave “American Psycho:The Musical” the lions share of their nominations. Will the Drama Desk follow suit?

We’ll shall see. All I can say in conclusion is “AP:TM” is a bloody good time.

#American Psycho # Benjamin Walker # Outer Critics Circle # Patricia Highsmith # Talented Mr. Ripley # Alfred Hitchcock

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Year’s Ten Best Pt.2 #5-1 ~The Stephen Holt Show at Tavola!

And here’s the top five of my year’s Ten Best of 2012, the best of the best! With “Picnic”s Matthew Goodrich at Tavola, the hot new Italian restaurant. 488 9th Ave.
This has been one of the best year’s for movies in many, many years, soooo many grrreat films! If you’ve been following this blog, you probably know what I’ve picked before I announce it!

“Hitchcock” biopic moved into heat of Oscar Race! Fox Searchlight nervous about “Beasts”?”Sessions”?”Marigold”?

Alfred Hitchcock is back from the dead in a big way. He’s always been my Numero Uno Cinema hero since Forever, and now Fox Searchlight has startlingly announced that they are opening their biopic on Hitch on Nov.23! Right in the middle of the Awards Race and nearly right on top of “Silver Linings Playbook!”

This is a very bold, last-minute move on the part of Fox S. And I’m sensing it had to do with a perceived weakness in some of its’ own entrants. Which are “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, “The Sessions” and most importantly “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

In the Gold Derby podcast I mentioned a few days back, Tom O’ Neil and Pete Hammond really dug into the Oscar season so far in a substantive way. And particularly the tough, no-nonsense Pete Hammond. This is at http://www.goldderby.com

He announced at the start of his convo that “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, a critical favorite, was not going to play so well with the Academy, in his opinion. And while Tom O. was quite enthusiastic, he was also shocked by Pete’s rather stubborn insistence that “Beasts” wasn’t going to fly. Neither he nor Tom O. could pronounce Qu’venzhane Wallis’s name. Not a good sign. And they made a joke out of it calling her “Miss Unpronounceable”.

I’m sure Hammond’s podcast didn’t cause Fox Jr. to throw the over large corpse of “Hitchcock” into the ring. Or did it? Or was Hammond sensing what Fox 2.0 had already known for a while?

And Dame Judi Dench’s Best Actress campaign for “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” doesn’t seem to be catching on. And Miss Upronounceable Wallis may also be seen as a non-starter. I mean, she’s only six years old(when the film was shot). Hammond said flatly, “These are ACTORS voting.They are going to see a performance by a child THAT young as a manipulated one by the director.” Uh-oh. He may be right about that.

Fox-Searchlight also did something strange with “The Sessions,”  a film which I personally was very moved by. The story of a man in an iron lung for life and his desire to have sex with a surrogate may not have been playing as well as they hoped.

Purporting to have a full-on press junket in NYC next week, they now are not. And only junketing in LA! There’s a press DAY in NY, but that’s a much smaller, less expensive deal. Basically it means they are cancelling the A&B camera crews, and just doing print, wherein the journos come equipped with their own tape recorders…Cheap. For a Film they are supposedly campaigning for in all the categories possible, including Best Picture. John Hawkes is a slam-dunk for a Best Actor nomination, but now they are putting Helen Hunt in Supporting, as I said last week from TIFF.

A big come down. And this also paves the way for them spending more money on “Hitchcock” This is also their way of trying to draw the helium out of the “Silver Linings Playbook” balloon, since “Hitchcock” is also supposed to be a love story like SLP is. But Hitch and his wife Alma, played most likely quite wonderfully by Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren, is also a love story, it now turns out. And not just about the making of “Psycho.”

I think this move busts the whole race wide open again. Jeff Wells was saying in HIS podcast over at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com that he was suddenly feeling “trapped” by the “Silver Linings Playbook” s sudden ascension to front-runner as Best Picture and Best Actress and Best Director.

I’m sure he feels trapped no more.

This is also, I think, in response, to the rather weak reception the much heralded trailer of “Lincoln” got. Really quite tepid all ’round. Fox Searchlight saw this as a major new HOLE in the season, and they’ve run to plug it with Alfred Hitchcock’s huge self.

Directed by a documentary filmmaker, “Hitchcock” is his first feature. So I’m not seeing “Hitchock” as a Best Picture contender, but Anthony Hopkins could very well be. And on the weaker, constantly changing distaff side we now have Dame Helen’s Alma Hitchcock and also Scarlett Johansson’s Janet Leigh to figure out(which category we should put them in.)

It’s sounding more and more like “My Week with Marilyn”. Which was my #1 film of last year. Of course it didn’t get nominated for Best Picture, but Michelle Williams sure did as Best Actress. And Kenneth Branagh as Best Supporting Actor for his hilarious spot-on Sir Laurence Olivier.

To quote Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone on this hot topic “I can’t wait”!

“Vertigo” One of Hitchcock’s Best & Now Best Film of All Time

I just HAVE to write more about “Vertigo”s great ascendance to being named “The Best Film of All Time” by the British film mag “Sight and Sound.”

I first saw “Vertigo” in college. At a special stand-alone screening. That was introduced by a film “expert,” a professorial type, who made sure everyone got “notes.” It was like he was TEACHING this film. This I thought was ludicrous. Since when did they TEACH movies? Movies were just something you went to and enjoyed or not enjoyed. That was it.

Yes, that shows you how long ago this was. Back, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back before the dawn of film schools. It was my first film lecture. And I was eager to go, because it was a Hitchcock film that was new to me, that I had never even heard of.

And this eager older gentlemen seemed so earnest in his presentation, I remember. It was like we HAD to understand “Vertigo” HIS way.It was a “Very special film” and it “was not received well by critics when it first opened.”

And I remember he laid special emphasis on the scene in the bookshop where James Stewart and Barbara Bel Geddes went to find out about the history of Carlotta  Valdez, the mystery woman from the past, whose portrait Kim Novak’s character, Madelyn, keeps returning to gaze at, at a museum.

This guest lecturer, who was brought in from elsewhere, and who was NOT a teacher at my school, wanted us to particularly note how increasingly DARK that scene became, as the bookstore-keeper who reveled in San Fransisco history, kept talking and talking about just how tragic Carlotta Valdez’ life was. And the darkening room lighting, when it was not dark at all outside,( It was the middle of the afternoon. Out the window you could see bright sunshine),was Hitchcock’s way of ominously emphasizing how dark the film was going to get. And of course, it did.

He wanted us also to notice how Midge, the Bel Geddes character, was always surrounded by light. indicating mental and physical health and common sense. This meant(I can’t believe I remember all this!) that she, Midge, was the one we were supposed to listen to.  And Stewart and Novak, of course, were not, and they were often enveloped in fog.

I think it was unequivocally both Stewart’s and Novak’s career-best performances.

I remember that lecture situation to this day.It was such an anomaly back then. To see a film, as a subject for a lecture. It was treated as a Special Event, and it was shown at night. It was not part of my theater curriculum.

I guess it made a lasting impression, remembering it all these years later. I guess I was a cinephile even then. I didn’t know that but I knew I always loved Alfred Hitchcock’s scary movies.

And I remember that it was the first time I had ever seen “Vertigo.” And so when the climatic turn of events began to unfurl, and the TWO dives off the Spanish mission, San Juan Bautista’s bell tower occurred. I was utterly shocked and screamed bloody murder. Especially at the end. For those two of you who have never seen it, I’m not going to reveal it here.

But I guess suffice it to say, that that incredible short scene that ends the film is like being scared to death by nuns.

In one of the interviews which I started to look up last night on You Tube on Hitchcock, it was revealed that Hitchcock was taught by Jesuits. So he must have been Catholic. Something I did not know, and something that is barely mentioned in the immense amount of scholarly film criticism that has been heaped upon him and his ouevre and rightly so, since then.

And since I came to that first screening of “Vertigo” back at URI, the University of Rhode Island, where I had the misfortune to be an undergraduate in THEATRE(but that’s ANOTHER story) I remember how profoundly moved and shaken and absolutely scared to death I was by that double-twist ending.

I remember feeling just awful for Kim Novak’s character, Judy. And for James Stewart, too.

In his famous interviews with Francois Truffaut, of which there are podcasts available online somewhere…or there WERE…I remember Hitchcock not wanting to talk about “Vertigo.” I think he said something like “Mistake! Mistake! The film didn’t work!” and Truffaut asked in French through the translator “Why?” and Hitchcock said “The man was too old.” Meaning James Stewart, the policeman who had to retire because he had vertigo. Hence the title.

How wrong Hitchcock was!

I Always liked “Vertigo”Best! Now Named #1 Film, beating “Citizen Kane!”

I always liked “Vertigo”. I always liked it better than “Citizen Kane.” I never liked “Citizen Kane” THAT much. I saw it first in London at the National Film Theater around 1970, or so. I had stayed on in England, trying to get into the Drama Schools there, and become a British Actor, which is what I always thought was the best kind of actor you could possibly be.

And I was rejected by every single one.

Although I did get a call-back to the  Bristol Old Vic, and spent a lovely weekend, or at least an over-night in Bristol…and then was rejected by them, too.

I was always unimpressed, unmoved by “Citizen Kane.” It was named, at that time “The #1 Film of All Time” and I thought I was really going to see something when I saw it at the National Film Theater. But it left me sort of cold.

I loved and related to the Susan Alexander character, his second wife, who he tries to turn into an Opera Singer. But Kane? No. A bully. A blusterer. A millionaire. Who cared? Orson Welles was good. But when you’re supposed to care about him when Susan Alexander walks out on him, and he tears up her room, I just didn’t care ~ that much.

I was glad she left him.

And “Rosebud”? I thought that was always a very contrived device. One word to sum up a whole man’s life? Nonsense!

And Orson Welles. Well, there was “Citizen Kane” and that was about it.

Whereas Alfred Hitchcock was always my main movie idol, in terms of a filmmaker, whom I constantly revere, engage with, and watch and re-watch, on an almost daily basis.

I always thought “Vertigo” was very, very good. And it was grown in my estimation of it, as I have seen and re-seen it over the years. And “Citizen Kane” no matter how many times I have tried to watch it, and tried to love it, as “The Greatest Film of All Time,” I still can’t really warm to it.

I admire Gregg Toland’s amazing camera work. And the Bernard Herrman score. He wrote the “Vertigo” score, too. The one thing the two films now battling it out at the top of the Sight and Sound Best of All Time List, have in common. I have always loved Dorothy Cummingore’s bitter drunken Susan Alexander.

And as I became familiar with Orson Welles’ back-story, you can’t help but feel for him. And the talent stopped and wasted by his ostracism from the Hollywood community.

Whereas Alfred Hitchcock who made “Vertigo” so beautifully, made many, many, many films. In many eras spanning the silent films all the way up to the 1970s.

He was the ultimate craftsman. And I have mused for years on how someone so obsessed with the technique side of films could have made so many movies that have moved me so deeply, and not just scared me to death. His characters are really quite unforgettable, too.

I mean, Norman Bates in “Psycho”? An iconic name, too. And the Bates motel? That has passed from being a movie set into common parlance. Janet Leigh’s performance as Marion Crane earned her her only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress(She didn’t win)

And no matter what, Alfred Hitchcock kept making and making movie after movie after movie. He was NOT outside the studio system. Never. Like Welles became so quickly after William Randolph Hearst’s powerful press machine, the mightiest, it was said, at the time, decided to virtually halt his career in America…

Hitchcock never did anything like that. He NEVER challenged the studio heads. He worked with them, and bent them to his will.

And it’s so strange to me that “Vertigo” was never until rather recently considered the great film that it is now acknowledged to be.

That LONNNNNNG car driving scene through the streets and up and down the hills of 1950s San Francisco, with the Bernard Herrman score pulsing underneath it as James Stewart  wordlessly follows Kim Novak’s car, the essence of “pure cinema” as Hitchcock himself would call it.

And since this “Vertigo” annointment, I’ve gone back to You Tube to search for just what people thought of it then. Interviewers like Tom Snyder never mentioned it. Never asked about it. Dick Cavett at least lists it…

What can you attribute the rise of “Vertigo” to? Well, for one thing, Francois Truffaut, and the Cahiers du Cinema, who recognized it and touted it long before others did.

More about this endlessly fascinating topic of Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, who I just called The Master soon.

And you know, he never won an Oscar?

Oscar Smear Campaigns ALWAYS backfire!

Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, S.T.Vanairsdale over at www.movieline.com has done it again on his Oscar Index, which just dropped tonight. Weekly, S.T. or Stu, is Dorothy Parker-witty and, of course, apt. Called this week “They Shoot Horses….Don’t They?” I was ROTFLMAO! As they say on the Internet.

And I think one  reason all this Oscar Talk has grown and grown in recent years, to something nearing a fever pitch, a fever that lasts all Oscar season, and right now is on the very verge of the Broadcast Film Critics(tonight) and the Golden Globes (Sunday), its’ noise is deafening.

As well it should be, really…

I think it’s GREAT that so many people and Oscar bloggers, like myself, can generate so much interest in the year’s best movies that they TALK ABOUT IT ALL DAY EVERY DAY!

And Stu is noting the demise of “War Horse”. Who isn’t? And he posits that AN ENEMY of “The Artist”s front-runner status PUT KIM NOVAK up to placing that Full Page “I was raped” Ad in Variety yesterday. Which is what I immediately thought, as I posted here. Where does she, a recluse, who hasn’t made a movie since 1991, get the money for that? Stu points a direct finger. Go to www.movieline.com and see who he thinks is the culprit.

I think, as Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone www.awardsdaily.com has posited, in a different context, that when these SMEAR CAMPAIGNS, which is what Roger Friedman calls it, happen, they actual strengthen the Academy’s feelings for the victim of the smear. And no, NOT Kim Novak. “The Artist.”

Similar tactics have been used in the past against the film “A Beautiful Mind”. It won anyway. And also recently against “The Hurt Locker” which also won Best Picture…

These things always backfire.

It’s going to make me look at “Vertigo” the next time I see it with new eyes. Yes, she IS really nuts in that movie, her character…The Ghost of Carlotta Valdez rises yet again.

Meanwhile, Stu V. also FINALLY notes another conclusion that I had reached WEEKS ago on this blog, but of course, doesn’t credit me. That Octavia Spenser’s front runner status is gonna run out with Jessica Chastain’s probable Supporting nod, also for “The Help.” Two actresses from one film cancel each other out. Usually.

And the winner is – Berenice Bejo! Something I’ve been saying for AGES! She, from “The Artist.” Unless SUDDENLY Vanessa Redgrave gets nominated and blows the whole category out of the water! THAT could happen!

And Corey Stoll has been everywhere, EVERYWHERE, this past week. Don’t rule him out for popping up in the Supporting Actor category. “Midnight in Paris” is gaining in strength every day.

Talking about ties. Stu has Meryl and Viola Davis TIED for First Place for Best Actress on his Oscar Index, which is hilarious! And you know what happens to ties? They’re broken. Allowing Michelle Williams to win for “My Week with Marilyn.”

Tom O’Neill of www.goldderby.com has been with me on this Michelle watch since we both fell in love with that movie. And he thinks, as I have been saying for a lonnnnng time, that Michelle will win the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, and will KNOCK IT OUT OF THE BALL PARK with a memorable acceptance speech, just like she just did at the Palm Springs Film Festival this week, wowing the AMPAS-packed crowd. At least, we sincerely HOPE she will.

Jamie Fox did that a couple of years back with his acceptance speech at the Globes for “Ray” and he’s never hit the emotional height that he hit that night ever since. But boy did he nail it to the floor that night! And that was the speech that won him his Oscar. The speech he gave at the Globes.

Stu still has “The Artist” on top of Best Picture Index and Michel H. for Best Director and Jean Dujardin for Best Actor. And Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor.

He has a LOT of compelling and amusing things to say this week too. He doesn’t disappoint with his Oscar Index. Unlike so many of the late breaking films have this year!

And now it’s on to the Broadcast Film Critics! And let’s see who wins there!

Kim Novak – Raped by ‘The Artist’! Ad claim ~ Idiotic!

Kim Novak, a big star once upon time, was always classified as a “dumb blonde,” and now we can see why. Reported more fully by Nikki Finke & crew  at www.deadlinehollywood.com Kim took out a full-page ad in one of the trade papers, saying, provocatively, “I want to report a rape.” And now that she’s got the readers’ attention, she goes on to explain why. There was music from her Best Film (and her first) “Vertigo” used at the end of “The Artist.”

And Novak claims this constituted a “violation of her body(of work).” I beg to differ. Somebody supporting one of the “Artist”s rivals for the Oscar, where it is STILL, miraculously, the front-runner, may have put Ms. Novak up to this. Those ads in the trade papers are VERY expensive. Does she at this late stage of her life have the money for something as pricey as AN AD?!? Makes you wonder.

It’s ridiculous. Many quotes from famous movie scores are used all the time. And of course, in this semi-recent one, well, er, 1958, there are licensing fees involved being paid to the late composer Bernard Herrman’s estate for its’ use. And they are probably hefty.

Kim Novak didn’t WRITE the music. She didn’t DIRECT the movie. That was Alfred Hitchcock, who must be rolling over in his grave, with laughter, at this.

And “Artist” director Michel Hazanaviscius, who just won a nomination from the prestigious Directors’ Guild, today issued a very dignified response. And you can read this in either Deadline Hollywood, or www.hollywoodreporter.com or www.movieline.com

Over at www.awardsdaily.com, Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone, has chosen to ignore this tempest in a teacup. At least last time I looked. Sasha is more excited, TRULY excited by her favorite director David Fincher’s getting the surprise nomination from the DGA. Add to this his CINEMATOGRAPHER getting recognized by the ASC nominators this morning, Sasha must be having a VERY good day.

And yes, the cinematography of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was sumptuous, in its’ own frozen ice-scape way.

And the Broadcast Film Critics’ Awards are TOMORROW night. Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, it’s the beginning of the end. Of awards season. Last year, the BFCA were very predictive of the Actors’ races, but I think not so much with Best Picture.

And I’ll also add kudos to Sasha for her trumpeting of “Dragon Tattoo.” I think she really did help Fincher get that out-of-the-blue nomination from the DGA. Replacing Steven Spielberg. And now the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers), ignored “War Horse” AGAIN! “Dragon Tattoo” seems to be effectively replacing it.

And some people,myself included, thought the cinematography of “War Horse” was one of its’ strongest suits.

Guess not.

But also don’t forget the Guilds aren’t THE ACADEMY. The largish, younger DGA is not at all like the super-small, very elite, mostly male and VERY old and somewhat conservative director’s branch of the Academy, who may turn around and put Spielberg right back in the race.

Last year’s BFCA started the four-strong lock step to the Oscars that mirrored the Golden Globes acting winners and the eventual Oscar winners exactly. They got the Best Picture wrong last year. And the year before Meryl Streep TIED with Sandra Bullock, lest not forget. For “Julie and Julia” and “The Blind Side” respectively. And the year before that didn’t the same Ms. Streep tie with Anne Hathaway for “Rachel Getting Married”? Is it wrong to not predict MS might tie AGAIN this year with a younger competitor like Michelle Williams? Since the BFCA does historically seem to be all tied up with its’ Best Actresses?

This year all the categories, except Best Supporting Actor, Christopher Plummer, are up in the air. Which is going to make for a VERY interesting evening!

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