ameliajc

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  1. What fun to think about a next course. I think that a lot of effort has to go into any decision. As a teacher myself, I would be surprised if Prof Edwards would be comfortable picking a topic brand new to him, so my vote would be for an online version of a course that he's already tried out in his face-to-face teaching and has some resources assembled for. So, my first choice would be whatever is his first choice. I agree with those who would like to see the Film Noir course repeated. I think a lot of us would come back for another round, and that one was spread out over a longer time and was just Fridays, which might help out some of the obvious time crunch in this class. And now that Eddie Muller is involved so regularly with TCM, that collaboration would be pretty interesting, perhaps more like Wes Gehring has been in this class. A few participants in this course have also revealed that they teach or otherwise know their way around film history, so perhaps reaching out to some new professors would be a great idea. (Nothing against Prof Edwards.. and who says that there can't be more than one a year?) Of course you have to work with what TCM is willing and able to program, so another method might be to look at some of the upcoming featured themes or performers and see what might come from that. For years I have been impressed with the way that TCM would bring in very knowledgeable guest programmers -- including academics, practitioners, and super-fans -- to guide us through these themes. Most recently Gays in Hollywood, but I recall looking at Asians, Blacks, Women, pre-code. Last year was Trailblazing Women, with Ileana Douglas and a fab co-host line-up, but a few years earlier scholar Molly Haskell was on hand to help out. My own colleague Lloyd Michaels just came out with a book on Woody Allen and it made me see even those famiiar films in a different way -- I'd love to see him do an online course. Classic French films? German expressionist cinema? I think TCM has the most innovative programming going. (My favorite TCM evening is still the one in which every film featured someone who had been blind for at least a portion, but my husband was pretty psyched about the Hot Rod evening this last month.) One of the most difficult areas for me to get into has been the Silent Era, and so a course on that would really help me see what all the fuss is about. The material on Hitch's silent era production and how that expertise continued to serve him was one of my big take-aways in this course. Plus, TCM already schedules a lot of silents, so maybe just moving one or two to a featured weekday primetime in the summer plus supplementing them with the Sunday evening regular showings would work. In case folks haven't already figured it out, I'm a fan of these courses. Thanks again to everybody involved. The fact that they are free blows my mind. I'm not sure who said "you get what you pay for" in one of the more critical comment threads -- I think that's just wrong. We're getting So Much for our time investment. Plus, I'm assuming that Prof Edwards and others are compensated, and that TCM realizes how key this has become for educating and maintaining its fan base, so it's probably a bargain in terms of advertising costs. But still, what a deal! Definitely looking forward to the next one, Here's hoping that there IS a Next One. Cheers!
  2. I've often thought of David Lynch as we've discussed Hitchcockian techniques. Blue Velvet, with its working premise that the innocent-seeming middle-class suburbs are the true sites of horror, to say nothing of Isabella Rossellini as an homage to Ingrid Bergman. I also count Hitch as a leader among the many filmmakers who proceed with a Freudian (or Jungian) premise about the causes of crime -- starting with mothers and latent homosexuality. The "hidden" elements of horror in Hitch's world are often not external, but internal ones. I wouldn't count every one as being influenced by Hitch, but I tend to group these psychoanalytic thrillers together. Here I have to recommend the fine article in The Noir City e-mag No. 21 featuring "Headshrinkers" discussed a nice grouping of these, Phantom Lady, Possessed, White Heat, Angel Face, along with Hitchs Spellbound and Strangers on a Train. Because this kind of psychoanalysis works so easily with method acting, I'm always surprised, that Hitch disliked The Method so much, but I think the effectiveness of his Innocent Man Accused motif is a certain lack of self-awareness on the part of the hero, at least in his refusal to see his complicity in criminal situations.
  3. Thanks for your response, Professor. I have appreciated your observations during the live tweets, nearly always helping me better see the cinematographic techniques in play, or identify the ongoing motifs. Works better for some films than others. I can see that TCM's decision to show the films chronologically left very little wiggle room for choosing what would be shown at 8 pm on Fridays. In fact, because some of the films you featured ended up being shown at 3 am, I just have to watch them at a later date. Must add that my favorite part of your courses are the Daily Doses -- I really appreciate a close reading of a (signature) scene. Your live tweets continue that approach. So, again, thanks!
  4. I found myself thinking about this as I watched last night's TCM feature A Double Life, with Ronald Coleman in his Oscar-winning performance. Was it really that great? Not so sure. And so a lot of the previous comments ring true. There was a concerted campaign to promote this film and Coleman, who was definitely a studio favorite. Not only does the Academy not tend to like the genre films, i.e. thrillers, but they LOVE films about films and "acting", which this one definitely was. To the extent that Hitch was courting box-office success, perhaps he didn't fit the image of the professional that people (say they) admire. I don't think nominations are any less "political" than winners -- and I'm not sure what "political" means in this context, anyway. But the top 5 or 10 list is certainly meaningful and gives a broader sense of what is being done than just the final choice. I also think there's a certain anti-mystique about those who are frequently nominated and don't win (like Meryl Streep). There's an impression that they "always" get nominated and give it to somebody else for a change. (I'd say the Academy outright adores first-time, very young folks, at least among the actors). I find myself more impressed with Hitchcock after this course than when I started, with his penchant for constant innovation at the top of my list. That auteur-ship is the kind of quality that takes a while to emerge, and is marked by a number of "lifetime achievement" awards that he did win. I guess I don't know enough about each individual nomination to say whether they were intended as "snubs" or whether he just didn't win. But this is an interesting question as we look at his entire body of work.
  5. For me, the effect of this opening scene in Frenzy is one of drilling down. We start with the big picture and the pomp-and-circumstance music suggesting the grandeur of London / Britain, with its magnificence and authority. We come in over the water, with more details in the view -- iconic images to be sure, like the Tower Bridge, but also a certain dinginess to the water and ugly black smoke of the boat. As we narrow in on the crowd, it takes us a moment or two to figure out what the topic is, but the theme is cleaning up the pollution, implying what was already hinted, that the water is dirty and contains hidden contamination. The disruption over the dead body with Look! takes place just as the speaker is suggesting that there is something "foreign" in the water, and we end up with an overhead shot that focuses on a single floating body. One returning theme from Hitchcock is the idea that corruption lurks in places that seem not only normal, but admirably pure. Evil things are always just under the surface: dead things submerged in the water, contaminants hidden in the molecules, and, by implication, there are dark thoughts lurking in the mind, in the personality, or in Freudian terms, the id or the drives of libido. This focus is not unlike the view into the eye in Vertigo (gosh, great credit sequence there, as I noticed again last night). The Lodger's opening took us in a different direction, outward as the news spread, not inward. But the contagious and viral quality is still evoked. We might imagine the opening sequence of Frenzy reversed as the sensation of the dead body spreads. This sequence leads us from the general to the specific, from the world as we have it mapped in our mind into the unique story of one particular situation. As with other openings, Marnie in particular, this one urges us to be wary of appearances, because much is hidden. We learn that people will be trying to root out the dirt and reform the bad behavior, but that it's never easy, and perhaps impossible. As usual, it is a sensational story that piques our interest, and it is a lurid, eroticized body of the icy blonde heroine (not a traditional femme fatale, but Hitch's take on it.) Btw, I was also glad to see the Hitch cameo right away -- i find myself anxious until it appears -- I'm so worried I'll miss it. But I shouldn't have worried, since his penchant for self-promotion at this point means that he's hard to miss. In this case, he figures himself as one of the respectable British crowd, paying attention to what he's supposed to be paying attention to. No insider knowledge here -- just Himself.
  6. Can I talk about "Hitchcock Guilt" (not sure how this topic evolved to that). I'm not wild about Harry, but I found it interesting to watch how many people took on the guilt of his death. The evidence was circumstantial, to be sure, but rather than trying to get out of it, each one embraced their responsibility very straight-forwardly. it also reminded me of a comment somebody (Wes Gehring?) made about The Lady Vanishes -- each person lies about having seen the lady but each for their own idiosyncratic reason. It's wonderful how Hitch's secondary (or ensemble) casts are so richly developed that these various guilty motivations emerge so clearly and logically. It takes us back to the constant discussions of murder by his characters (Shadow of a Doubt). Hitchcock clearly believed that all of us are secretly --or openly-- fascinated by murder and imagine ourselves doing it or being done in by it all the time. I'm coming to identify this as one of the key components of his Touch. If somebody has read the Highsmith novel, I would also appreciate more comments on how that guilt is different.
  7. I have generally enjoyed the live tweeting experience in this class. At the very least it's a great way to experience the camaraderie of the group, and it gives shape to my Friday evening viewing. So many great comments -- funny, wise, insightful (and not least from our professor - thanks @redwards7 ). But I find I have mixed feelings here, because it's also like having people talking constantly throughout the film, which is hard to suppress but also totally annoying, right? In addition, I particularly found it difficult to tweet during Rear Window. More than any of the other films we've watched, this one is visually saturated. Every second on camera view showed a glimpse of some activity in the windows, some little moment that filled out the characters' lives. it was hard to miss the really big moments (we got plenty of opportunity to see Grace Kelly flashing the wedding ring, for example), but I felt obliged to rewind to get the Hitchcock cameo, because I had totally missed it (and again thanks to the prof for pointing it out). I'm wondering if live tweeting isn't best for people who are seeing the movie for the tenth time. It seems clear that many tweeters have prepared in advance -- the comments indicate anticipation of certain moments, or consist of posting still movie shots that have been culled ahead of time, or perhaps some of you even have a Twitter library of comic-book reaction images that you can insert at will (like a radio sound-effect library). I'm also not so quick using the Twitter app on my phone and wonder if I should be sitting in front of the TV with my computer -- but that feels like sacrilege to me. Is anyone else having a similar reaction? Do you experienced Tweeters have any advice on how best to use the back channel for those of us who are relatively new to the process? I admit that Rear Window might be the exception in terms of how packed it is with interesting visual information. (I might have positively welcomed some twitter distraction during Trouble With Harry.)
  8. Chris, this is great, even without the inserted video; I can imagine the juxtaposition. (And having the video removed for copyright reasons reminds us of all that behind-the-scenes work our course professors have to do to make all of this material available to us -- not possible without TCM etc. Thanks on that, too.) I appreciate the musicological, technical analysis. I guess that's why Hitchcock movies win so consistently in the technical categories, as opposed to his directorial ones. Cheers.
  9. This is a great scene, one of the sexiest seduction dialogues on record. Yes, there is minimal action in this scene, which helps us focus on the conversation and the small details. As someone else noted, R.O.T. is Thornhill's "trademark", which is significant in the advertising business presumably identifying him as his unique self. Cary Grant has loads of trademarks, too, and this role is vintage for his suave and debonair character type. It sets up the mistaken identity at several levels. How could anybody think this wasn't Roger Thornhill? How could we not know this is Cary Grant? Hitch is asking us not once but twice to get into the plot premise and "buy" the mistaken identity gambit. Just play along, you'll thank me later. One thing bugs me about this scene. Supposedly they're on a train going from New York to Chicago, therefore traveling more or less west, so that the view out the train window is south. So why are we getting primarily water and bridges over water out the window? is this supposed to be Lake Erie, or what? Why is it even so light out if it's supposed to be the overnight train? I've traveled that route many times, once even by train, and hate it that it's so unrealistic. We're not supposed to care, I know. Or am I missing something?
  10. The most powerful moment for me was when the spiral suddenly appears in the red face. The twirling had a sucking effect that drew me into the eye, into the mind behind the eye, and into that chaotic brain. After that point, the swirling dizzying effect never ceased. Earthshine mentioned a "pre-existing" condition that affected the response. Me, too. I am very susceptible to motion sickness, and the twirling effect very quickly began to make me nauseous. Added to that, the musical score felt to me like motion in water, and just irregular enough for me to feel quite woozy. The "vertigo" in the title was recreatedeasily in me by this opening sequence. And I'm wondering if a lot of us don't have some sort of "pre-existing" condition that would make us susceptible to this barrage of dizzying motions. Saul Bass knew what he was doing. You know you're getting into a disruptive experience, one possibly connected with a femme fatale, and that it would be unsettling.
  11. Well, it's a fabulous opening shot, introducing us to the Courtyard, which is the main character in the film, starting from Jeff's point of view out the window. We see every one of the neighbors that will be part of the story, with lots of little details that suggest the scenarios to come. Many masterful moments, as we start to follow the cat and the camera continues that creeping exploratory movement around the space. But I also couldn't help but notice a few narrative inconsistencies -- which I now realize come with the territory and didn't bother Hitch a bit! We start with Jeff's POV, but Jeff is actually asleep, so it's not what he is seeing in the moment. Thus from the beginning we recognize that the camera (and we) see more than he does. Hitch wanted to show everybody in action, and seems to have chosen a moment when everybody is waking up, with the alarm clock ringing on the sleeping porch, Miss Torso getting dressed and putting on her coffee. But is it really 94 degrees that early in the morning? I doubt it. And he was good at showing us the world beyond with the view through the alley into the street at the back, but in that street there are a bunch of kids splashing in the fire hydrant -- first thing in the morning? I doubt it. So the scene is comprehensive, but really combines at least two distinct times of day, the courtyard waking up in the early morning and later in the afternoon when the temperature is at its high point and the kids are out. But by now in this study of Hitch, we've learned to overlook these narrative inconsistencies. The key function of this scene is to introduce us to Jeff's world (a process that continues as we scan his leg cast and wall photos), we might not even notice. We're fully "in."
  12. The music fits the visuals so perfectly that it fades into the background -- I had to rewatch the clip just listening to the music in order to make sense of it. We see contrast in the two pairs of feet and legs, but I think the music is actually pretty similar, if not identical for each. As each new pair of feet come into view, we get a bombastic, brass heavy fanfare, that merges into a more playful theme as each alights from the taxi. This sets them up as equally important players in the scene. The rhythms fit the walking, what somebody else described as bustling urban music. When each goes through the ticket gate, we get the brass fanfare again: Bruno first, and we watch several other groups of people enter to uneventful music with the fanfare playing again as Guy goes through. We have no doubt who the main characters are. To describe one as heavy and the other as light isn't really there in the music. In fact, we could see it the other way around, since Bruno is very elegant and a kind of jazzy motif accompanies him out of the taxi, making him seem the light-hearted one. Except that the exact same theme is there for Guy also. It is interesting how the background music (non-diegetic sound) is complemented by the diegetic sound (generated from sources within the movie). At first, the bustling traffic is completely subordinated to the orchestral sound track. But as the walking stops, the train starts moving and the sounds of the train motion become the new rhythmic beat. Even this train sound fades into the background as our two protagonists finally meet, however. The orchestra punctuates the moments when one shoe hits the other, and then stops completely. The added music has faded, giving way to the internal sounds of the film's environment, finally giving pride of place to the conversation between the two men. First time through the clip, I was only aware suddenly that there was no score by the end. But by the end of the clip, it had done its job. It was the musical score that took us from our own world, where the Warner Brothers logo flashes on the screen and we were aware that we were settling into a movie, into that focused film space where only Guy and Bruno exist, having that conversation that would set them on the paths of their noir destiny.
  13. I tivo-ed most of the movies and only this afternoon got around to Number Seventeen (1932). Our charming hosts Ben Mankiewicz and Alexandre Philippe were kind in their introduction, but mostly dismissive, with their last positive evaluation being that at least it wasn't very long. But I found myself mesmerized from the first minute. And I think it was well worth watching in the context of our intense study of Hitch. Of course the second half is pure Hitch, the grand finale "train chase", with a real piling on of transportation as our cast of characters. But for those of us studying themes, the first part is equally revealing, since all of that action takes place on a staircase! Is there a single staircase trick Hitch missed? I doubt it. The views up and down, leaning over, falling over, dead people tumbling down, front door to roof garden, skylights. Somebody else mentioned the shadow play -- a lesson in how to film "noir." I found it a humorous, if not-quite-full-out slapstick as more and more characters kept entering the action, each with some sort of twist, pretending to be somebody else. In the slapstick course we talked about fake or over-the-top violence, which Hitch was certainly playing with here, as everybody seemed to bounce back even after being beaten severely. The film hasn't come up on the boards or in the course too much, but it's definitely worth a viewing, especially on a sleepy Sunday while we're all waiting for the next module. Nice programming, TCM! Anyone else willing to stick up for this little film?
  14. What a great comment! I agree - Love as the MacGuffin hits the nail on the head in terms of Cary Grant's dark character and his willingness to use her feelings (of love, of patriotism). Black and white contrast so beautifully in this scene, Bergman's stripes looking very jail-bird (among other associations), the view of Grant in negative silhouette. Supposedly these questions of loyalty and love are also "black and white", but of course they're not. I think what makes Claude Rains such a humane villain is that you sense that his patriotism is equally natural and justifiable to himself, whereas you get the feeling that Grant / Devlin just likes playing the spy game.
  15. This opening feels very different from previous ones. Instead of in a public place or outdoor setting, we are in that most private of places, the bedroom (albeit a large, luxurious suite) that is deliberately cluttered and claustrophobic. We hear about the couple's patterns of argument, their "rules," and their disregard for the claims of every day life (servants do the cooking, he can miss work). What is established here is that this is a tight little world of their own making, in which the two people essentially revolve around each other. At the movie's end, it will turn out that they will again choose each other. This seems to be the opposite of the previous situations in which people are accidentally thrust into situations of danger and romance. I confess that I have little interest in Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery as a couple. "Screwball comedy" is not to my taste -- I find ditzy women unappealing (despite De Vries comment that "scatter-brained women are wonderful if it's truly brains that they're scattering"...). Two attractive, rich people who seem made for each other, fighting over some silly thing and the cook is running out of dishes! Ho hum.

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