Quotes

December 20, 2007

Notting Hill

BLIND DATE (Emma Bernard): I’m a fruitarian.
WILL (Hugh Grant): And, um, what exactly is a fruitarian?
BLIND DATE: We believe fruits and vegetables have feelings so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have actually fallen off a tree or bush – that are, in fact, dead already.
WILL: Right… right. Interesting stuff. So these carrots…?
BLIND DATE: Have been murdered, yes.
WILL: Murdered? Poor carrots. How beastly.

For some inexplicable reason, the above quote in particular seems to come up quite often in conversation, where it is always endlessly funny. Must be something to do with those murdered carrots, poor things. Or the word “beastly.” (ah, British words) Or, um, the wine we’ve had with dinner. Whichever.

MARTIN (James Dreyfus): Did you know, and this is pretty amazing, but I once saw Ringo Starr.
WILL: Where was that?
MARTIN: Kensington High Street. At least I think it was Ringo… um, it could have been that guy from Fiddler on the Roof. You know, Toppy.
WILL: Topol.
MARTIN: Yes, yes… that’s right, Topol.
WILL: Um, actually, Ringo Starr doesn’t look at all like Topol.
MARTIN: Yes, but he was – he was quite a long way away from me.
WILL: So it actually could’ve been neither of them?
MARTIN: …yes, I suppose so.
WILL: It’s not really a classic anecdote, is it?
MARTIN: Not a classic, no.

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Movie travel destinations

December 12, 2007

Are you a set-jetter? And nope, I didn’t write that wrong. With the seemingly endless need these days for one-word sound bites and catchphrases – the interminable celebrity “blended name” phenomenon (wasn’t that supposed to burn out, like, 2 years ago?) and the constant barrage of new e-words like bacn (hint: it’s not spam) – there is even a cute little term for film tourism: set-jetting. Like jet-setting, but, you know, backwards, where “set” refers to a film set, and jet … well, you probably got all that long, long ago. It’s people who travel to visit places where movies were shot or take place, okay?

Um, anyway, if you are a set jetter, or one of your Christmas gift recipients is and that DVD package just won’t cut it this year (if they have the original release and the collector’s edition of that DVD, they probably don’t need the ultimate director’s cut special edition in a collectible painted tin as well, but that’s just a hunch), there are plenty of great destinations for you to try out.

Of course, one option is to just travel to famous film locations like New York, Paris, London, and so on, and see the sights yourself. Apparently, UK’s film board is hoping that many people think that way after this movie holiday season and will want to soon set-jet off to see the locations prominently displayed in new films like The Golden Compass and upcomers like the new James Bond and The Dark Knight.

Here are some fun film location activities you can do on your own:

The real “Hogwarts Express” in Scotland

Hogwarts Express (Harry Potter) – aka, the Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland
Pictured above.
(Approx. £29 round trip for an adult, second class. Less than 6 hrs round trip. For dates of operation, fares, timetables, and more, click here.)

I’m very excited, because I’ve actually done this one and can, you know, speak from experience, which is always a bonus. Steaming its way from the small Highland town of Ft. William in Western Scotland to the very small port village of Mallaig (try the Smoked Haddock Soup at one of the seafood restaurants during your 2 hr break in the town; trust me, it’s worth it), and then back, the Jacobite Steam Train and its route were both used in the Harry Potter films as subs for the gleaming Hogwarts Express and its journey to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Sadly, the interior is not quite Hogwarts material – and no magical candy cart! the indignity… – but the scenery on the ride is spectacular, and when else are you ever going to ride on a true steam train?

Bonus: Ft. William sits right next to the beautiful Glen Nevis, a location featured in Braveheart and also Harry Potter, among other films.

Cinderella’s palace (Ever After) – aka, Château Hautefort, France
Pictured below.
(Entrance fee is €8.50 for an adult. Click here for hours, directions and other information.)

Okay, while it’s not Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany or the (supposed Sleeping Beauty inspiration) Château d’Ussé in France, both of which helped inspire Disney’s original animated Cinderella, it does have the unique distinction of being the home of Drew Barrymore’s Prince Charming (Dougray Scott) in Ever After. Complete with drawbridge and turrets, the exterior and interior of Château Hautefort were used in many scenes in the film (that cool beamed room where Leo da Vinci paints? actually in the castle itself).

Not to mention the fact that it’s located in the gorgeous rolling hills and fields of the Périgord, kind of a lesser-known version of Provence if you will. Since it seems as if Périgord literally has a castle on every hill top, make sure to leave some time to see more than one, particularly the towering Beynac (a darn cool fortress built in the 12th century that was also used in Ever After) and the cute little village (used in Chocolat) that sits below the castle and along the Dordogne river. The Périgord area also has some pretty impressive caves (with cave drawings!), including Lascaux (or its replication anyway; the original is closed off to tourists, but the replication is startlingly authentic, minus that rubbery-style plastic floor, of course) and my personal favorite, Padirac (ever want to feel like you’re in that mythical boat that goes across the river Styx? now’s your chance!).

If you like this castle, you may definitely want to consider looking up Chatsworth in England, the Pemberley in Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice (and rumored to be the inspiration for the original Darcy abode in the classic Austen novel). For a complete Pride and Prejudice movie tour in England, check out this tour provided by British tours. And if you happen to be in India and have some free time, you might want to look up the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which was featured prominently in Bride and Prejudice (title similarity to Austen novel definitely not coincidental).

The Beach (The Beach) – aka, Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand
(I have no idea. Maybe Wikitravel knows?)

Enough with the cold places, I think. And for this one, I think I’ll let it speak for itself. Or rather, the pictures speak for themselves. It was the location of The Beach after all.

And I would recommend the so-called James Bond Island (from Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun), otherwise known as Khao Phing Kan, while you’re in Thailand, but I think that one may have already succumbed to mass set-jetting (i.e., tourism overload disorder).

Also check out other beautiful film locations, such as Malta and Tenerife, in Expedia UK’s Top ten film set locations list.

◊ ◊ Budget Travel does an excellent real world breakdown of various film spots and moments (including restaurants, shops, streets, mansions, trains, etc.) from 10 different movies released in ’07, such as The Bourne Ultimatum, Atonement and even Ratatouille (the more people-size side of things, though).

◊ ◊ At Ripple Effects: also make sure to check out Arti’s own beautiful photos of famous film locations like Petra (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but without the Holy Grail), Lacock (Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice miniseries – remember Meryton?) and Bath (Austen again). Scroll down for the Petra photos, which are definitely a not-miss.

Chateau Hautefort

♦ ♦ ♦

But let’s be honest, why go to all that effort when someone can just do all that troublesome “finding” and “researching” work for you? Here are some organized tours that will take you through everything you want to see. And yes, I know the distinction between some of these and the items in the previous list may be a bit hazy, but what can I say, I like living on the edge.

Lord of the Rings – New Zealand

With the success of the epic trilogy, let’s just say it’s highly unsurprising (bordering on dull) that many New Zealand tour grips have developed their own specialized tours that guide your through the various (and quite breathtaking) sites used in Peter Jackson’s fantasy films. Activities could include everything from simply viewing the valley of Helms Deep to rafting the Anduin.

Here are a bunch of options. Costs, naturally, vary widely by trip and the trips last anywhere from half a day to over 2 weeks (for the truly dedicated fans, I’m guessing).

All things Dracula – Transylvania

Because nothing says “vacation” like a ritual killing of the living dead. Yep, that – along with a viewing of “Dracula’s castle,” a stop at Vlad the Impaler’s citadel and the consumption of something called a “Vampire dinner” (totally benign, I’m sure, this is Transylvania after all) – is included in Transylvania Live’s well-known Vampire in Transylvania: Dracula tour. Don’t worry, I’m, say, 86.5% sure that the ritual killing isn’t real.

Price is generally €1390 per person for a 7 day / 6 night trip (meals, entry fees, etc. included).

Steep? Well, good news, the site declares that the whole trip is available for free if:

You don’t have a reflection in the mirror,
You decompose when sun light strikes you,
You’re over 200 years old,
Can use your wings to fly to Transylvania,
[…] Come join your fellow vampires in Transylvania.
Blood treats not included

Transylvania Express (a railway tour company) also offers 4 and 5 day Dracula trips starting at €945 / €1994. They also offer special Dracula trips for groups.

Pirates of the Caribbean – Dominica, in the Caribbean Sea (appropriately enough)

I know what you’re thinking. Pirates? Really? Isn’t it time that someone finally pays attention to this film trilogy? Well, fortunately, at least the Tamarind Tree Hotel and Restaurant on the Caribbean isle of Dominica agrees with you! They’ve thought ahead of the curve to design a 7-day package that takes you to all those Depp-graced spots on the island.

For 2007-2008 rates and other information, click here.

Don’t want to stop there? Check out about.com’s look at some of the other Caribbean locales used in the Pirates film shoot.

… and much, much more – New York, San Francisco, Philly, and D.C.

Come to New York and you see a movie scene around every corner – isn’t that where Sally ate her (extremely) good sandwich? or where Sara ate her slightly-less-than serendipitous frozen hot chocolate? And sure, you can visit Katz’s Deli and Serendipity 3 yourself (and, well, brave the waits yourself as well – expect about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour wait at Serendipity on the weekends if you haven’t reserved, a little less if you have), but why not have a tour company take you to all the other sights you might not think of?

On Location Tours provides approx. 2 to 4 hour tours of movie (and TV) spots in the Big Apple (and Washington DC), with tours that specialize in everything from Sex and the City to just Central Park, for about $15 to $40 per person.

Washington Walks offers a Bus, Camera, Action! Reel Washington 3 hr tour for $30 of the national capital’s big movie spots, such as those seen in All the President’s Men and The Exorcist.

Not to be left out, San Francisco has its own handy tours, including these two Hitchcock-inspired tours (because what trip can really be fun without getting totally spooked out?) that guide you through those eerie (or they will be) sights from Vertigo and The Birds (which includes a Shadow of a Doubt sighting as well).

Also, while this is totally unguided (I know, I know, but this tour fits in so well in this section!), tourism organizations in Philadelphia and DC have banded together to produce a National Treasure guide to the two political capitals.

And for more of a fun list of sights in NY and the movies shot there (from the Central Park reservoir and Times Square to those oh-so-realistic, palatial Manhattan apartments – and just because you’re on TV, don’t think we’re not looking at you, Monica Gellar!), click here. For movie location mistakes in NY (that’s the NY subway??), and other cities, click here.


Fun end of the year lists

December 7, 2007

With the jury still out on whether I will finally beat this now seriously annoying cold, I have no choice but to hope my current state of woozy will be somehow beneficial to my writing (clearly I’ve reached the delusional stage). I’m thinking no such luck, but while I’m stuck inside watching the same Buffy episodes over and over again and eating junk food that I’m sure my pro-organic friends would disapprovingly frown over (and any self-respecting doctor), I do have some time to check out lots of movie articles.

Here’s what caught the attention of a tissue-loving girl:

It’s a Wonderful Life voted best Christmas film of all time

Now there’s a shocker. Nevertheless, I must protest: no A Christmas Story in the top ten? Sure, it can be corny at times, maybe we’re all a bit sick of it now and then (that annual 24-hour Christmas Day marathon on TV probably doesn’t help), and I know on some level we most likely all have a secret love-hate relationship with that persistently present leg lamp.

But be that as it may, you can’t deny the movie’s presence. I love Die Hard and all, but in the celluloid world of Christmas, I think A Christmas Story definitely deserves it No. 8 spot. I mean, I can see the need for popcorn escape on that day of all days, but really, Die Hard?? Nothing like adrenaline and action violence to bring a family together, I guess.

Top 10 Bizarre Movie-Star Interviews

Let’s just say some bathroom and drool issues are involved and leave it at that.

10 Things Movie Theaters Get Wrong

This isn’t a “the popcorn is too greasy” kinda list; think more aspect ratio stuff. But yep, I can definitely see why that incorrect frame turns Atonement into a whole ‘nother movie. Probably a movie that’s more appealing to teenage boys (and, okay, all men), but still not quite what the production team intended.


The religious supernatural in film: they walk among us

December 6, 2007

With the release of the famously controversial The Golden Compass (the least religiously-oriented of any of the books in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy) upon us, what better time to look at the use of religion in film?

I’m not talking The Ten Commandments or The Passion of the Christ here – after all, that’s just obvious Biblical stuff. No, what’s more interesting is the real world reinterpretations of Judaeo-Christian religious mythology on the big screen that are not taken directly from holy texts; films that look at what religious mythology would exist or appear as if seen face-to-face, directly, in “real life.” More Stigmata, less The Nativity Story.

In other words, if it’s all true, and the battle between Heaven and Hell is right here beside us (as John Constantine might say), what could you see around the corner tomorrow, when you thought you were just coming home from work?

Not surprisingly, or perhaps very much so, horror is the key proponent of religious mythology in film. From The Omen to The Devil’s Advocate and Constantine (the latter two both with whoa-man Keanu Reeves, but more on that later), the devil, Hell and all that implies have been a goldmine for thinking man’s horror and non-thinking man’s horror alike – and classic and classically horrible alike. What better way to instill fear than to tap into what we’re already afraid of, or at least what we already recognize as being evil?

Christian religion is a whole mythos full of extremely recognizable characters and tales, from exorcisms to the ten plagues of Egypt, with which to terrify eager audiences. Satan himself, naturally, is the most popular target, portrayed in film as everything from a powerful guy in a crisp white suit to a Wall Street banker to… a lawyer in a crisp New York suit. Hmm, I’m sensing a theme here – but it could just be me. Perhaps filmmakers just take that whole “sell your soul” for money thing a little too literally.

Not to be outdone, of course, the good side has its say as well, with angels making a rousing play for the dominance of Good on the big screen. Apart from Tilda Swinton as Gabriel in Constantine and Emmanuelle Béart as Angel (just the one name, like Madonna) in Date with an Angel, celluloid angels also seem to be predominantly male. Nicolas Cage (who kind of goes the other way in Ghost Rider – man, you never can tell about someone), John Travolta, Christopher Lloyd, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and European actors Otto Sander and Bruno Ganz have all played angels. Wow, male actors do get all the fun… and I thought actors liked the evil parts (rogue angels don’t count, Damon and Affleck).

And then there’s the epic, all-encompassing look – because someone has to do it, and high fantasy clearly has a head start on the whole supernatural war between good and evil shtick. The genre definitely takes its share, both in film and in print (I’m on to you, Tad Williams. A martyr nailed to a tree and the Mother Church? Plus a king named Prester John? Very subtle.). The classic example of course being C.S. Lewis’s Narnia epics, but Philip Pullman is now jumping into the fray as well with his trilogy’s move onto the big screen.

In the end, what this probably all comes down to is our intense desire to know – what’s out there, what the world is, if there is a God of some kind. And movies have swooped down to help fulfill that need in a more visual way, bringing oral and printed tales of deep-seated beliefs and fears to life.

Ahem, well, with all that “deep” stuff out of the way, let’s get to the lists. Here’s a quick guide to religious phenomena in film, through horror and fantasy, and even into romantic comedies (intriguingly, angels are more prominent here). Not everything is here, I know, but this isn’t just a film + religion = here kind of list. Nevertheless, hopefully it’s somewhat of a good overview. And hey, it looks like that reading of The Divine Comedy I did in college will finally come in handy.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.

– Dante’s Inferno

My personal favorites are marked with a *.

HORROR

Ah, the Devil, a principal character or idea in almost every movie in HORROR. Sadly, like all big stars these days, he’s decided to move on from the silver screen and star in his own comedy TV show: Reaper. And yes, he wears a suit in that one too.

Honorable mention achievement awards to Keanu Reeves and Gabriel Bryne, who both have two films a piece on this list. That Neo certainly likes films of biblical portent…

* Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – Starting off our trio of “um, I think there might be something wrong with my child” flicks, this Roman Polanski horrifier stars Mia Farrow as a mother suspicious that her unborn child might be, well, evil. Of course, they also live in a massive, Renaissance, anyone can tell I’m haunted apartment building in New York (the real-life The Dakota building in Manhattan), which can’t help.

* The Exorcist (1973) – Probably fairly obvious what this one’s about, if not from the title directly than from the impressive multitude of parodies, sequels, prequels, remakes, supposedly related films, mediocre comparisons, etc. etc. Infamously starring Linda Blair as the jointless possessed child, and directed by William Friedkin.

* The Omen (1976) – Finishing off the trio, this horror classic stars cute little Damien (Harvey Stephens) as pure EVIL. Ah, fun times. Also starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick as the child’s parents. Remade in 2006.

The Seventh Sign (1988) – Demi Moore is the only person who thinks the apocalypse is real. And it’s coming. Soon. Why can’t it ever be coming, like, 50 or so years from now?

* The Devil’s Advocate (1997) – Let’s just say that it’s not only an expression in this film. With Keanu Reeves as a newly hired Manhattan lawyer whose new boss might be a bit more than he seems – as he is played by Al Pacino, who do you think the boss really is? Also with Charlize Theron as the wife slowly going the Ophelia route (i.e., total insanity), and Gladiator‘s Connie Nielsen. Written by Michael Clayton director Tony Gilroy, who also wrote the Bourne films and the cult love story The Cutting Edge.

End of Days (1999) – In a world where the devil (Gabriel Bryne) walks among us, only one man can save us from eternal torment and he is… the governor of California.

Stigmata (1999) – Another Gabriel Bryne appearance in the same year (and, actually, this one was released a few months before End), but this time as a priest instead of Satan. Interesting. Patricia Arquette may be experiencing stigmata, or the physical manifestations of Christ’s wounds from the crucifixion. Determined not to be a one-note thriller, Stigmata was also a bit controversial with its none-too-positive view of organized religion (in other words, ever-popular target the Roman Catholic Church). If you know what The Golden Compass is about, same general idea, smaller scope.

The Ninth Gate (1999-2000) – Another Roman Polanski flick, but sadly, not quite Rosemary’s Baby. Nevertheless, it’s got Johnny Depp trafficking in mysterious rare books that may or may not (I’m going for “may”) summon the devil.

Lost Souls (2000) – Winona Ryder. The Antichrist. Mediocre entertainment unfolds.

* Constantine (2005) – I’ll admit it, I’m a closet Keanu Reeves fan. Scorn his acting abilities if you must, but he headlines a solid portion of my favorite films. The minimalism works for me. Plus, I clearly have a thing for Rachel Weisz horror, as I also have The Mummy on my repeat viewing list. And, okay, this isn’t exactly true to Alan Moore’s blond-haired antihero from the original comics, but it’s still cool thriller entertainment. Look for Shia LeBoeuf in his sidekick days (see I, Robot) as Reeves’s, well, sidekick. Also starring Swinton as Gabriel, Gavin Rossdale as Balthazar and Djimon Hounsou as Papa Midnite (that actually is his character’s name). Plot: Reeves is John Constantine, a chain-smoking cynic condemned to Hell who is trying to make amends by helping to send demons back where they came from. Weisz is a cop who doesn’t believe her sister really committed suicide. They cross paths. Coincidence? Ah… no.

The Reaping (2007) – Um, not the best… but it’s, ah, recent, and, um… about the ten plagues. With a 7% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Well, you can’t win ’em all, Hilary.

Other notable horror: Technically, The Mummy is about ancient Egypt, but it’s got a more interesting version of the ten plagues in it (sorry, Reaping), so why not. I would include Stargate as well, but I think that’s definitely stretching it. And it’s not really horror. Oh well.

FANTASY

The Chronicles of Narnia – With Disney’s release of the first installment in 2005 (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and Prince Caspian in 2008, C.S. Lewis’s Christianity-laced fantasy tales have been brought with much commercial success to the visual generation. Only five more left to go! Can’t deny I’m excited for a film version of Voyage of the Dawn Treader (est. 2010) with an actual budget… In any case, whether or not you like the religious layers in these stories, I have to say that when I read this series as a child, I had absolutely no idea of any religion at all (could the same be true for young readers of The Golden Compass?). And to be honest, I was disappointed and felt almost betrayed when I found out – my own little loss of innocence (things aren’t always exactly what they appear to be???) – although the last book in particular made a lot more sense.

The Golden Compass (2007) – The epic fantasy book gets a * but after an early glimpse at conflicting reviews for this film (UK’s Guardian vs. Times – may the person you agree with most win!), I’ll have to wait and see on the movie. For more on the plot, religion and controversy, click here.

OTHER COMICS-TO-FILMS

* Hellboy (2004) – Guillermo del Toro’s cult classic about a big red demon with horn issues who works for the government’s paranormal bureau – which, no, is not situated in Area 51 for once. Starring Selma Blair, John Hurt and Ron Perlman as Hellboy.

Ghost Rider (2007) – Well, if you make a deal with Mephistopheles, you gotta know weird things are gonna happen. Nicolas Cage gets to have a head that’s actually a skull which is constantly on fire (must be a burning bush kind of fire) and take people down. Doesn’t sound too bad.

COMEDY

* Wings of Desire (1987) – The Cannes award winner about two angels (Ganz and Sander) who wander unobserved through Berlin, this German film tells of Ganz’s angel’s growing love for a woman who can’t see him. Bonus points for including a character modeled on epic-maker Homer! Peter Falk (Columbo, The Princess Bride) also makes an appearance. If the plot sounds familiar to you but you don’t recall subtitles and/or German, see Angels, City of below.

Date with an Angel (1987) – This (literally) glowing movie stars Béart, Michael Knight and Phoebe Cates in a light (and regrettably dated) combo of Wings of Desire and Splash. Similar, at least in title: I Married an Angel, based on a play.

* Angels in the Outfield (1994) – A warm-hearted remake of the 1951 film of the same name, this Christopher Lloyd-starrer features a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young foster child who wishes his favorite baseball team, the Angels (get it?), would win the pennant. Angels, including Lloyd, respond to his request. Sigh, angels never respond to my requests.

Michael (1996) – As in, the Archangel Michael (John Travolta). With wings and everything, including a drinking problem. Also with William Hurt, Andie MacDowell (as the obligatory “expert” on angels), Bob Hoskins, Jean Stapleton, and Joey Lauren Adams. Directed by Nora Ephron of You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle fame.

The Preacher’s Wife (1996) – Another remake. An all-star cast (Whitney Houston, Courtney B. Vance, Gregory Hines, Lionel Richie) is featured alongside Washington’s turn as an angel named Dudley (played by Cary Grant in the original) who arrives to help “fix” the family’s problems. Unfortunately, the movie is not as good as the cast warrants.

Deconstructing Harry (1997) – A Woody Allen comedy that takes a detour into Hell, with Woody’s own unique vision of the levels in Dante’s Inferno. I think that pretty much explains the whole movie. Oh yes, and Billy Crystal is the devil with a devilishly sinister plan to ruin the world through air-conditioning.

* Dogma (1999) – Shockingly, another controversial one. And from Clerks auteur Kevin Smith? Who would’ve thought? No sailboats here, this comedy about some seriously annoyed angels on the warpath takes a bevy of stars (Damon, Affleck, Rock, Hayek, Carlin, Lee, Garofolo, Morissette, Rickman, Jay and Bob) and gives them lots and lots and lots to say about organized religion. Copious amounts of dialogue in a Smith film is odd, I know. Amid all the anger over its portrayal of Catholicism, and many thousands of hate mail letters, a disclaimer went up before the movie that, among other things, dissed the platypus (can you believe it? the nerve).

City of Angels (1998) – Wings of Desire, Meg Ryan-style. Cage shows up as the angel who falls in love.

Bedazzled (2000) – Besides Deconstructing Harry, this is the only comedy on the list that deals with the devil. Of course, Elizabeth Hurley as Satan isn’t exactly scary, or at least not in the typical horror genre sort of way. Brendan Fraser makes another appearance here as a schlub willing to sell his soul for the lively Frances O’Connor (Mansfield Park!). Without appearing desperate, naturally.

Down to Earth (2001) – Yep, it’s a remake. What a surprise. This one goes all out however, as it’s actually a remake of a remake of a play. Who said there were no new ideas. Chris Rock stars as a comedian who is accidentally killed and returns to earth as a loathed rich man. I have to say, Chazz Palminteri and Eugene Levy as angels? I’m a little afraid.

Bruce Almighty (not Evan Almighty, it’s just Noah’s Ark so I don’t want to hear it) – This 2003 film takes an amusing look at a few days in the life of God (Morgan Freeman), through the contortionist that is Jim Carrey. Jennifer Aniston also stars as the long-suffering love interest.

OTHER

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – If you’ve somehow managed to avoid this Frank Capra classic through countless holiday seasons, kudos to you. Either way, you probably know what this is about and, yep, that angels are indeed involved.

To see a more comprehensive list of angels in film, click here.

For more on Satan in pop culture, click here.

Pure and disposed to mount unto the stars.

– Dante’s Purgatorio


Enchanted

November 30, 2007

Poor James Marsden. As I mentioned in the Hairspray review, he seems to have become the go-to “the other guy” in many big screen love triangles. But, really, if you’ve gotta be the third wheel, you can’t pick your love triangles better than Marsden (ah, mixed metaphors, gotta luv ’em).

As Cyclops, he blindly (sorry) fought for Jean Gray against Hugh Jackman’s bad boy Wolverine in the X-Men films (and Wolverine also got the spin-off, ouch). He was the guy who tried to keep Rachel McAdams for himself in the epic weepy The Notebook – but was naturally no match for Ryan Gosling in a rain storm. And finally, he even went up again the Man of Steel himself for Lois Lane’s heart – now that’s nerve – in Superman Returns.

The man just has no luck in the romance department – but as they might say, unlucky in love, lucky at the box office. X-Men, The Notebook, Superman Returns, and also Hairspray (in which he simply didn’t have a love interest at all) weren’t exactly box office duds. And his new film, Disney’s Enchanted, raked in $49.1 million over the Thanksgiving weekend, attaining the comfortable height of second-highest Thanksgiving gross behind Toy Story 2, according to Box Office Mojo.

In Enchanted, Marsden actually plays Prince Charming himself and he still can’t get the girl (trust me, I’m not giving anything away here – did you really think McDreamy wasn’t the main love interest?). Nevertheless, he throws himself into the over the top role with abandon, as he always does, rounding out a very aesthetically pleasing cast that is clearly having fun in this enjoyable film.

In the movie, Amy Adams (Junebug, Catch Me If You Can, that handbag girl on The Office) plays Giselle, a literal fairy tale princess in the animated land of Andalasia (not quite as catchy as Never Never Land, but okay). Think the world of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, but not taking itself very seriously, and also kind of slow, and you’ve got the gist of the first ten minutes or so of the film. Seconds before her wedding to Prince Charming (Marsden), Giselle is cast out of Andalasia by – who else? – her soon-to-be stepmother (Susan Sarandon), who just happens to also be a Snow White-esque evil witch with an unhealthy apple obsession.

Popping out of a manhole in the middle of NYC’s Times Square, but with her sparkling white wedding dress fully intact (it’s a grimeless manhole, apparently), a now real life Giselle eventually falls, again literally, into the arms of the anti-Prince Charming, a divorce lawyer and single dad played by Grey’s Anatomy‘s Patrick Dempsey. Meanwhile, Prince Charming, along with one of the queen’s sycophants and Giselle’s squirrel pal, try to find Giselle in the real world. Many culture clashes ensue. West meets… well, further West, if you want to take Tolkien’s view of things. Or the other side of a magical wormhole, if you believe the film’s.

My boyfriend, a big foodie, often says that the best way to judge a restaurant is to see if it “accomplishes well what it sets out to do.” You can’t compare a neighborhood pizza joint to a four-star restaurant (or three-star, if you’re going the Michelin route), because clearly the pizza joint is not aiming for the same goal. The same holds true for Enchanted – it’s obviously not The English Patient, but it never set out to be. It’s not Beauty and the Beast either, but I, for one, did not expect it to be.

It’s light, fun, and it’s got some good chuckles (Dempsey’s daughter tells Giselle that boys only want one thing, but then isn’t sure what that one thing is; the queen’s servant tries to get Giselle to drink a poisoned apple martini). Plus, the music ain’t bad. They even got Disney music guru Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) to compose it.

Like any solid, middle-of-the-road romantic comedy, there are some unfortunate misses and some awkward, doesn’t quite work moments. Sure, having cockroaches and rats help Giselle clean up an apartment is clever – those are the kinds of animals available in NY, get it? no cuddly deer and bunnies there – but watching rats pour into a room is a lot less icky in Pixar animation. Nevertheless, it’s good, guilty pleasure entertainment. If you don’t come expecting Disney to make a sharp satire of itself, or definitely not a new Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for that matter, you won’t be disappointed. If you come looking for a fun, harmless, gentle (and feminist-ically modern! …or so it hopes to be anyway) romantic comedy, you’ll leave happy.

For you Wicked fans, look for Idina Menzel (the play’s original Wicked Witch), who looks a bit unsure of herself in her role as Dempsey’s “strong professional” girlfriend. And for any Bones fans out there, watch out for a seriously underutilized Michaela Conlin in a brief, probably no more than five second appearance at the end of the film. One can only hope her scenes were cut for time.


Pride and Prejudice miniseries cheat sheet

October 20, 2007

For the beloved, and faithful, 1995 miniseries from A&E / the BBC starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Not to be too stereotypical (but, okay, I’m definitely being stereotypical), but I assume this is mostly for guys. If guys at large are anything like the guys I know, they’d rather roll around in a bed of hot coals (like Dwight from The Office) than watch this 5 hour Jane Austen-athon. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe my boyfriend recently used the term “loathe” to describe his feelings for this miniseries – although if it wasn’t loathe, it was definitely something like detest or abhor (as a random aside, I just love the words “loathe” and “abhor” – they really sound like total hatred).

Now, as I consider the miniseries to be among my favorite movies of all time, I thought it might be a good idea to help those poor guys out there stuck with girlfriends or friends who are girls who love the film and want them to love, or at the very least watch, it too. And now… they can pretend to!

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT

(NOTE THAT THIS IS A CHEAT SHEET FOR THE 1995 MINISERIES, NOT THE BOOK)

Title

Pride and Prejudice

Useful trivia: Austen’s novel was originally entitled First Impressions.

Who?

Because things are just never that simple, there is unfortunately not just one person who is “pride” and one who is “prejudice.” Besides the two main characters, many of the other people in the story are shown as having both deep prejudices and faults of pride.

Back to those main characters though. They are Elizabeth Bennet, played by Jennifer Ehle, and Fitzwilliam Darcy (almost always referred to as Mr. Darcy), played by Colin Firth. Elizabeth is both proud and prejudiced – simply put, her pride is injured at the beginning of the story when she overhears Mr. Darcy saying that she is “only tolerable” (ouch), leading her to be prejudiced against him. Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, is accused of being proud throughout the book, and he is often prejudiced against those who are “beneath” him.

Nice and straightforward, right?

Technical details that will help verify you’ve actually seen it

Produced and released by the BBC and A&E. Never released in theaters. Written by Andrew Davies, who also wrote the movie version of Bridget Jones’s Diary.

300 minutes long (yep, that’s a solid, and to the unitiated possibly deadly, 5 hours). The miniseries is split up into 2 DVDs: the first one ends after Darcy’s proposal and Elizabeth’s rejection of it, and the second DVD starts with Darcy storming away after the rejection.

The bonus features are seriously lacking on the DVDs (no Firth or Ehle in the making-of?) so feel free to complain about them to your girlfriend.

If you can’t beat ‘em…

Like Clueless with Austen’s Emma, Bridget Jones’s Diary is essentially a modern-day update of Pride and Prejudice. The book version of Bridget Jones has more of the elements of the original Austen, but the film keeps the gist. As an added bonus, Colin Firth reprises his role as Darcy in Bridget Jones as well.

Sure, it’s still a chick flick, but a lot less painful than a 5 hour period drama with fancy language, no? Read through this cheat sheet and then watch Bridget Jones to get the general idea, and to see who that guy is (Firth) that all the girls are swooning over.

Keep in mind: Bridget Jones = Elizabeth Bennet (but without the confidence), Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) = George Wickham, and Mark Darcy = well, Mr. Darcy.

Other modern updates: Bride and Prejudice, the Bollywood take on the film starring former Miss World Aishwarya Rai as Lalita (aka, Elizabeth Bennet).

For more fun Austen connections, see my six degress of Austen post.

(Imaginary) modern day pitch

Think You’ve Got Mail mixed with Crossing Delancey combined with some of the tone from Shakespeare in Love, all set in 19th century England.

Who are all these people?

With so many people to keep track of, even those who have watched the miniseries all the way through can get confused.

Here’s a handy guide:

Pride and Prejudice character guide

(key: “Not known” – never mentioned in the film)

In PDF: Pride and Prejudice character guide

For The Republic of Pemberley’s complete list, with links to where the characters are mentioned in the novel, click here.

To see what some of the cast looks like, click here.

And where do they go?

Longbourn – where the Bennets live, a village in the area of Hertfordshire

Netherfield Park – the home that the Bingleys rent, also in Hertfordshire, near Longbourn

Meryton – a village one mile away from Longbourn, where the soldiers (including Wickham) are camped for a time

Pemberley – Darcy’s massive estate in the area of Derbyshire near the imaginary village of Lambton. Think the Chatsworth estate in England, where the scenes at Pemberley in the 2005 film with Keira Knightley were filmed. The estate, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, is thought to have perhaps been the original inspiration for Pemberley.

Rosings Park – Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s estate in Kent, in the village of Hunsford, which is where Mr. Collins is the rector.

Plot

The Bennet family of Longbourn, upper class, but not noble and poor compared to other gentry, are excited to hear that the wealthy Mr. Bingley, a single man, has rented out the nearby Netherfield Park. With five single daughters, Mrs. Bennet is desperate to get them married well, and hopes that he will marry one of them, particularly Jane, the eldest. Mr. Bingley, his sisters and his even wealthier friend Mr. Darcy soon attend a ball at Meryton. Although Bingley is liked and immediately taken with Jane, Darcy is thought to be haughty and proud. What’s more, Elizabeth and her best friend Charlotte Lucas overhear him telling Bingley that Elizabeth is not good enough for him.

Following the ball, Bingley continues to dote on Jane. Meanwhile, a cousin of the Bennets, Mr. Collins, comes to visit. A distant heir of Mr. Bennet, he will inherit the estate because Mr. Bennet has no male heirs of his own. Mr. Collins, who is obsessed with his patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, wants to marry one of the Bennet girls. As Jane seems to be “taken” by Mr. Bingley, he asks Elizabeth to marry him. She refuses, and he then proposes to Charlotte Lucas, who accepts him.

During all of this, Bingley has abruptly left for London and Elizabeth has met George Wickham, a handsome officer at Meryton. She is very attracted to him, and soon after they meet he tells her about his dealings with Mr. Darcy, claiming that although he was the steward of Mr. Darcy’s late father, Mr. Darcy refused to give him an inheritance that was due to him. This leads Elizabeth to now hate Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth goes to visit Charlotte at Hunsford and, while there, meets Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who, it turns out, is Mr. Darcy’s aunt. He comes to visit, with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Eventually, Darcy visits her at the Collins’s house when she is alone and proposes to her. She flat out refuses him and he storms away. However, the next day, he hands her a letter that explains how Wickham actually tried to elope with his 15-year-old sister, Georgiana, for her money, and that he did advise Bingley not to marry Jane, but he thought it was for the best.

Elizabeth returns home to Longbourn, shortly before Lydia leaves, invited to follow the soldiers (who are leaving Meryton) with her friend Mrs. Foster, the wife of the Colonel. Elizabeth leaves again for a trip through Derbyshire with the Gardiners. While there, they visit Pemberley and run into Darcy (who they think is away). He behaves very politely, without any sign of pride, and Elizabeth is very surprised and impressed by this behavior (and his extensive grounds). She also meets his sister, Georgiana, whom she likes very much.

Unfortunately, a letter soon arrives from Jane that says Lydia has run away with Wickham (very scandalous at the time, as they were not married). Elizabeth reveals this to Darcy, who is shocked and leaves, and Elizabeth thinks she will never see him again, since he hates Wickham and would never want to be associated with a family tied to him.

Elizabeth returns home to find the family in disarray. Her father has gone to London to try and find Lydia and Wickham. However, after her father has returned without luck, a letter arrives from the Gardiners, who live in London, saying that the two have been found and they will get married. Mr. Bennet thinks Mr. Gardiner paid Wickham to marry Lydia, but Elizabeth learns from Mrs. Gardiner that it was actually Mr. Darcy who found the couple and paid Wickham off.

Lydia returns to Longbourn to visit her family with Wickham, happily married (or in denial) and gloating that she has a husband, and then departs again almost immediately. Soon after, Bingley returns to Netherfield and begins to see Jane again. Darcy comes with him, but pays no attention to Elizabeth. Bingley eventually proposes to Jane and, of course, she accepts. Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed.

Shortly after the proposal, Lady Catherine comes to pay a visit and tells Elizabeth that she has heard that Mr. Darcy, her nephew, is going to marry Elizabeth. She wants Elizabeth to promise she won’t marry him. Elizabeth refuses. Lady Catherine communicates this to Mr. Darcy and, thinking Elizabeth might have changed her mind about him (since she refused not to marry him, get it?), Darcy stops by Longbourn with Bingley and he and Elizabeth end up going for a walk. He tells her he still wants to marry her and she accepts. They get married, and both couples live happily ever after (far away from Mrs. Bennet and Lydia).

Famous Scene

Something to do with a pond and a man’s shirt…

The wet shirt that launched a thousand sighs (and newspaper cover articles), this classic scene from the miniseries features Firth as Darcy plunging into a small pond on his estate, Pemberley, on his way back to his house, presumably to help him clear his mind of Elizabeth (this is after she’s already rejected him). Unaware that Elizabeth is currently visiting Pemberley, he walks back to his house soaking wet, in nothing but a wet white shirt and pants. They meet-cute on the grounds of his estate – he’s shocked and flustered, she’s horrified and embarrassed – and the rest is movie history.

The following scenes at Pemberley in general are crucial (and well-worn on my DVD), as a sort of turning point where Elizabeth starts falling for Darcy and he starts realizing she might not hate him anymore.

Crucial Quote

“She is tolerable I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

Darcy’s (unfortunately overheard) comment about Elizabeth, early on in the book. Remember, if you can’t say something nice about the girl you end up wanting to marry, probably best not to expect a great response to your marriage proposal. For instance:

“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner…

…I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed upon to marry!”

What Elizabeth says in response to Darcy’s first proposal. I think it means “no.” (of course, we all know what phrases like “the last man in the world I would ever…” eventually lead to at the end of a film)

Themes

Love, marriage, social class, status, vanity, family, money, reputation, and (I have to say it) pride and prejudice.

Gifts for the girl who loves P&P

Some other Austen films: Pride and Prejudice (2005), Emma, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Clueless, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Becoming Jane, Bride and Prejudice, Jane Austen Book Club

Other period romances: Possession (with Jennifer Ehle), Jane Eyre, Ever After, An Ideal Husband, Much Ado About Nothing

Other Colin Firth films: The Importance of Being Earnest, Shakespeare in Love, Bridget Jones and the Edge of Reason (and, of course, Bridget Jones’s Diary), Love Actually, The English Patient, Girl with a Pearl Earring, What a Girl Wants

Classy Conversation Starters

I was watching Pride and Prejudice last night, and…

You know, my friends often tell me that I’m a modern day Mr. Darcy.


Alfred Hitchcock cheat sheet

September 25, 2007

Sure, you know he’s famous, and you know his name is associated with some movie involving a shower, a knife and a crazy guy in a motel, but what else do you really know about Alfred Hitchcock and his movies?

And so Buttercups and Ravenwood presents… Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Bitty bio: Actually born before the turn of the century (1899), Alfred Hitchcock truly witnessed the entire evolution of cinema – from silent films, to talking black and white, to color. The British son of a Roman Catholic greengrocer, he first entered the film industry through art design and directed his first complete film in 1925, the commercial flop, The Pleasure Garden. He then went on to direct (and produce) more than 60 feature films. He also appeared in uncredited roles in many of his own films and ran a successful television show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents / The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (remember that silhouette?), for a decade.

As a classic director, he naturally never won an Academy Award for Best Director, although his film Rebecca did win the Oscar for Best Picture (he did not produce that film and thus, did not get the Oscar for it). He did, however, get that popular consolation prize, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, from the Academy for his efforts in 1968. He died in 1980. And by the way, that’s Sir Alfred Hitchcock to you.

Here (what I believe anyway) are his most classic and/or famous films, in chronological order:

For those who want to keep the ending a mystery…

The Man Who Knew Too Much – And you thought the title of that Bill Murray film was just a clever invention. This 1934 film (remade in 1956 by Hitchcock himself and with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day starring) concerns a vacationing couple (Bob and Jill) who are passed valuable information about an assassination plot from a dying spy. To prevent the couple from revealing what they know about the plot, the people behind it kidnap the couple’s daughter, Betty. The movie follows the couple’s attempts to get her back.

The 39 Steps – Based on a novel by John Buchanan, this is a classic tale from 1935 of espionage and an innocent man on the run from the law (no, not “The Fugitive”). It involves a Canadian man (Richard Hannay, played by Robert Donat), essentially an innocent bystander, who is swept up in a world of spies and assassins after witnessing a fight at a London theater. He is accused of killing Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim), a spy who was murdered while she was in his apartment, but not before she told him of an organisation called “The 39 Steps” that was out to get her.

Rebecca – Starring Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine as the new Mrs. de Winter, this 1940 adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic novel tells the story of a young woman who meets and soon marries the rich Maxim de Winter only to find his house haunted (figuratively but perhaps also literally) by the spirit of his late wife, Rebecca. The housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, in particular, loved Rebecca and does everything in her power to make Mrs. de Winter feel unwanted and, essentially, to drive her mad. As noted above, it won Best Picture (and Best Cinematography).

Shadow of a Doubt – Supposedly Hitchcock’s own favorite, this film noir from 1943 concerns Charlie Newton (short for Charlotte), played by Teresa Wright, who receives a visit from her favorite Uncle, Charlie Oakley (short for Charles), played by Joseph Cotton. After a detective reveals that her uncle is a suspected serial killer (the ominous-sounding “Merry Widow Murderer”), Charlie begins to become suspicious of her uncle’s increasingly condemning behavior.

Notorious – From 1946, this dark romance / spy film starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains concerns the wild daughter of a German spy (Bergman as Alicia Huberman) who is asked by a government agent (Grant as T.R. Devlin) to spy on her father’s Nazi friends in Brazil. Alicia falls in love with Devlin, but he needs her to marry one of the Nazis, Alex Sebastian (Rains). Agony ensues.

Strangers on a Train – Not just a CSI episode, this 1951 film (yet another literary adaptation, this time from Patricia Highsmith) tells of two, uh, strangers who meet on a (you guessed it!) train and discuss murder. Guy Haines (Farley Granger) will murder the father of Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) and Antony will murder Haines’s unwanted and unfaithful wife, thereby allowing them both to committ murder without getting caught (because neither one actually has a connection to their respective victims, get it?). Haines thinks it was just “idle” talk (yes, I can see how he would make that mistake…), but then his wife is murdered. Hmm.

Dial M for Murder – From 1954 and based on a play, this tale of suspense concerns ex-tennis player Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) and his extremely carefully planned plot to kill his wife, wealthy Margot Wendice (Grace Kelly), for her money and because of an old (now ended) affair with Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men… The movie was remade in 1998 as A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen (pre-Lord of the Rings, Mortensen actually also appeared in a remake of Psycho with Vince Vaughn later that same year).

Rear Window – The classic voyeur film, this 1954 movie (yes, based on a short story) stars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. While spying on his neighbors, Stewart as photographer Jeff (stuck in a room due to a broken leg) begins to think that a murder has occurred in one of the neighboring buildings. Kelly plays Jeff’s girlfriend, the model Lisa. For you trivia/remake people, this movie was remade in 1998 with Christopher Reeve as the friendly neighborhood peeping tom, and also inspired 2007’s Disturbia starring Shia LaBoeuf.

To Catch a Thief – Pretty light-hearted for a Hitchcock film, this romantic intrigue from 1955 is set on the French Riviera and deals with an ex-jewel thief, John “the Cat” Robie (Cary Grant), who doesn’t want to get blamed for a recent string of jewel thefts. To catch the actual culprit, he gets to know the people he suspects are the next victims, wealthy Jessie Stevens and her (surprise!) beautiful daughter Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly).

Alfred Hitchcock Presents… – Arguably one of the things Hitchcock is most famous for, the opening credits of this long-running show (the silhouette, the music, the somber “Good evening”) are iconic. Starting in 1955, the show was renamed The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1962 and extended to a full hour. It ended in 1965 (but lives on through iTunes!). Each episode was a different story of mystery or drama, and featured many famous (or soon-to-be-famous) guest stars, such as Dick Van Dyke, Bette Davis, Steve McQueen, Robert Redford (who just loves his classic mystery TV shows with famous opening sequences by the show’s creator – he also had a main role in an episode of The Twilight Zone a year later), and yes, William Shatner. You can listen to the show’s theme music, Funeral March of a Marionette, by playing the video below.

Vertigo – A head trip of a movie, this 1958 thriller with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak tells of retired, and acrophobic (really, really afraid of heights – in other words, someone who has height “vertigo”), detective John “Scottie” Ferguson and the favor he does for an old college friend, Gavin Elster. Elster believes that his wife Madeleine is possessed by the spirit of her dead great-grandmother, Carlotta Valdes, (yes, you heard right) and asks Scottie to follow Madeleine to confirm his suspicions. Scottie does, but gets a little too involved in this case. If you know what I mean. Which I’m sure you do.

North by Northwest – You’ve probably all seen that scene of a guy running from a low-flying plane through a corn field at some point or another (or you’ve seen one of the many imitations of it). Well, that scene is from this iconic 1959 thriller starring Cary Grant as ad exec Roger Thornhill and Eva Marie Saint as the mysterious Eve Kendall (trivia: Saint won an Academy Award for her role in On the Waterfront and, yep, that was her as Martha Kent in Superman Returns). As a suspense thriller, this movie naturally has many twists and turns, but essentially it tells the story of Thornhill and his unfortunate escapades after being mistaken for government agent George Kaplan. Thornhill travels all across the country, pursued by policemen (who believe he has murdered someone), in an effort to find the real George Kaplan.

Psycho – Showing the lengths to which someone will go to win the coveted “Best Costume” award, someone actually dressed up as the “Shower Scene” from this classic Hitchcock horror film at a Halloween costume party I attended. I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say that fake blood, a shower curtain and a skin-colored body suit were involved. Although you may not have seen the film, almost everyone has heard of the fateful (and fatal) meeting between the owner of the Bates motel, Norman Bates as portrayed by Anthony Perkins, and Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane. This 1960 film was, naturally, based on a Robert Bloch novel, who actually based his own work on the real life of Ed Gein, a serial killer. The movie follows the investigation into the mysterious circumstances behind Marion’s and other disappearances at the Bates Motel.

The Birds – Continuing on his horror streak, this 1963 film is another (albeit loose) adaptation of a Daphne du Maurier story (see Rebecca for the other). Rich Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) encounters attorney Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) at a pet shop – they’re both, surprise surprise, buying birds – and ends up following him to his family home on the coast. Soon, the small town is being viciously attacked by flocks of birds. Trust me, it’s scarier than it sounds.

For a complete list of Hitchcock’s many titles, go to IMDB.com.

Alfred Hitchcock

SPOILER ALERT

SPOILER ALERT

…and those who don’t.

The Man Who Knew Too Much – (1934) The assassination attempt (of a diplomat, as it turns out) at Albert Hall in London is prevented by Jill, who screams, thereby distracting the shooter. The shooter escapes to his hideout, but is followed by the police, who lay siege to the place in a gunfight modeled on a real gun battle in London in 1911. Jill, an excellent shooter, kills one of the kidnappers holding Betty, the police breach the building, and Betty is saved.

The 39 Steps – Hannay, after a cross-country chase, ends up back at the same London theater watching the same show with Pamela, a woman he met while on the run (she doesn’t want to be with him and betrays him repeatedly to the police). He discovers that the man headlining the show (“Mr. Memory”) is actually part of the “39 Steps” organization, and gets him to reveal what the organization is and what their plans are (building a silent aircraft). One of the men behind the organization, Jordan, shoots Mr. Memory and tries to escape, unsuccessfully.

Rebecca – Maxim de Winter tells the story of the “real” Rebecca, a manipulative and unfaithful wife whom he did not love. Telling de Winter she was pregnant with someone else’s child, he wanted to kill her, but she fell and hit her head, dying by accident instead. Later it is discovered that she was not pregnant, but instead had learned she had cancer and wanted to provoke de Winter into killing her. After learning about Rebecca’s illness and that de Winter and his wife will be returning to the house, Mrs. Danvers sets fire to the mansion. The last shot is of the mansion, with the married couple outside and safe, being burned to the ground.

Shadow of a Doubt – Uncle Charlie is the serial killer. He attempts to kill his niece several times, eventually trying to throw her from a train bound for San Francisco. They fight, and Uncle Charlie is the one who falls off the train and dies under the wheels of a train coming from the other direction.

Notorious – Sebastian finds out about Alicia and gradually begins to poison her. However, Devlin discovers what he is doing and takes Alicia out of Sebastian’s house, warning him about what will happen if Sebastian’s friends find out what was going on (Alicia a spy and so on). As Devlin takes Alicia away, Sebastian is left to his fate at his friends’ hands, who would not hesitate to harm him.

Strangers on a Train – Antony stalks Haines, incessantly reminding him to keep up his part of the bargain. Eventually, Antony confides what’s going on to Anne, the woman he loves, as Antony tries to turn the police onto Haines as the murderer of his wife. In the end, Antony and Haines struggle and Antony dies, crushed by a merry-go-round. However, in his hand is a lighter, a piece of evidence that implicates him in the murder of Haines’s wife. The last scene is Anne and Haines on a train together, walking away from a stranger who is attempting to make conversation.

Dial M for Murder – Margot manages to kill Swan, the attacker hired by Tony, by stabbing him with scissors. To cover everything up, Tony then tries to make it look like Margot planned to kill Swan, rather than killing him in self-defense. However, the inspector on their case (Hubbard) discovers that Tony is the one behind it all when Tony accidentally reveals that he knows the hiding place of the key Swan used to get into the apartment.

Rear Window – Jeff was right and he did see a murder. The murderer throws Jeff out the window, attempting to kill him, and is then arrested by the police. Jeff doesn’t die, but breaks both of his legs, and lives happily ever after (or so I assume, but this is Hitchcock after all) with Lisa.

To Catch a Thief – Yes, John “catches the thief,” a young girl named Danielle. John is cleared and ends up together with Frances at his vineyards in the south of France.

Vertigo – Madeleine commits suicide from a bell tower and dies. Scottie tries to save her but can’t, due to his vertigo. Scottie goes into despair, and eventually becomes obsessed with a woman, Judy, who looks just like Madeleine. However, it is revealed that it was all a scam – Judy was actually hired by Gavin to pretend to be his wife and convince an esteemed detective, Scottie, that she was possessed and had committed suicide (when in fact, Gavin pushed the real Madeleine from the tower), so that Gavin could literally get away with murder. Scottie confronts Judy with the truth at the bell tower itself, and frightened by the appearance of a third person at the top of the tower (who turns out to be a nun), Judy stumbles and falls to her death. Scottie looks down at her body, his vertigo now gone.

North by Northwest – Oh dear. It’s very complicated. Essentially, Eve (revealed to be the bad guy’s girlfriend and then revealed again, this time for real!, to be a government agent) helps Thornhill get national secrets away from the bad guys. There is a struggle on Mt. Rushmore, the police shoot the bad guy, Thornhill saves Eve’s life, and they end up together.

Psycho – Although the murders seem to have been committed by Bates’s mother, it is revealed in a famous twist that it is in fact Bates, dressed up as his mother, who has committed them. His mother, whom he murdered, is now a preserved corpse in his basement. Nice and creepy, right? The movie ends with Bates in a prison cell, now totally crazy (as if he wasn’t already crazy enough).

The Birds – After several deaths, panick ensues. Mitch, Melanie, Mitch’s sister Cathy, and his mother Lydia board themselves up in a house and survive a massive bird attack, but Melanie is severely injured after they think the attack has ended. Mitch, Cathy and Lydia drive Melanie to the hospital, surrounded by a sea of birds. The birds do not attack and they drive off safely.