Rod Paddock's blog
One of the greatest horror films of all time is Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Just a few short months ago I hadn't seen this classic movie. I wrote up my experience watching it for Horror's Not Dead: Sins of Omission: Psycho. Little did I know then that a biopic was being filmed that would document the process of making this classic film. The biopic is called Hitchcock, and it opens in Austin theaters today.
Possessing a great cast and strong story, Hitchcock tells the story of Alfred Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville and the difficulty they experienced bringing Psycho to the big screen. While still under contract to Paramount Studios, one of Hitchcock's assistants brings a book to the director's attention: Robert Bloch's Psycho. Psycho is a fictional story based loosely on the life of the infamous serial killer Ed Gein. Soon after reading the book, Hitchcock decides it will be the foundation for his next film. When Paramount refuses to finance the film, Hitchcock decides to produce the film himself. After the director mortgages his house, production begins. The remainder of the movie is spent with Hitchcock as he's producing, casting, shooting and ultimately promoting his horror masterpiece.
The performances delivered by the film's lead actors are remarkable. Anthony Hopkins delivers a perfect representation of one of the world's greatest and most well known directors. Accompanying Hopkins on his journey are Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson. Mirren plays Hitchcock's wife and uncredited film making partner Alma Reville, and Scarlett Johansson plays Psycho's lead actress Janet Leigh. Both of these actresses deliver amicable performances in their respective roles.
Every generation has their boogeyman and these boogeymen often inspire the types of films being made. Films like Godzilla and Them were created because of our fear of The Bomb. Movies like Psycho and Easy Rider were reflections on our distrust of The Man or "our fellow man."
Then came the 1980s, a time of reflection for our decade about the time spent fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. Two films stand out: Red Dawn and Platoon. Platoon was a reflection of the hardship inflicted on the soldiers during the Vietnam conflict. Preceding Platoon by two years was Red Dawn. The 1984 film asked a question: What would happen if our country was invaded by a superior force, this force being the Soviet Union? The Viet Cong would be replaced with a bunch of high-school kids.
Here in 2012, the contemporary remake Red Dawn is a superficial representation about what would happen should another country -- in this case North Korea -- invade the United States.
Set in Spokane, Washington, the story centers around two brothers, Jed and Matt Eckert. Jed (Chris Hemsworth) is a Marine, home on leave after tours of duty in Afghanistan. Matt (Josh Peck) is Jed’s younger brother and quarterback of his high-school football team, the Wolverines. As the invasion begins, Jed, Matt and a small group of their friends escape the battle and head for the hills surrounding Spokane.
You all know the story of Abraham Lincoln. Born and raised in a log cabin -- shopkeeper, lawyer, U.S. Representative, Senator and finally 16th President of the United States of America. Lincoln's presidency was full of historic events: Prior to his inauguration, the South seceded. Within months of his inauguration, the Civil War begins and Lincoln is tasked with prosecuting a war to keep our young country intact. After winning a second term in a landslide, Lincoln begins the task that will define his presidency and our country's future: the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states:
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
Steven Spielberg's newest film Lincoln recreates the tumultuous time when the 13th Amendment was proposed, argued and finally passed by the both houses of Congress. Lincoln takes you to a time you think you know, but probably do not.
The movie does a faithful job of creating the world of mid-19th-century Washington, D.C. -- a crowded and dirty city, highly appropriate for the dirty business that is lawmaking. This is a city with rutted roads, slathered in mud occupied by people comfortable lying (literally and figuratively) in it. An appropriate setting for the passage of one of the most controversial amendments. The atmosphere for this film is a pillar of its success, it is immersive.
There is an old saying: "Show me a family, and I will show you dysfunction." Human beings living in close proximity are a formula for dysfunction, and The Oranges kicks open locked doors so we can take a look at this ailment firsthand.
The Oranges tells the story of two families, the Wallings and the Ostroffs, across-the-street neighbors in the small suburban town of Orange, New Jersey. One holiday season Nina Ostroff (Leighton Meester) returns home after a rough breakup with her fiancé and is thrown into the fetid routine she tried to escape. Almost immediately, Nina's mother attempts to set her daughter up with the dashing Toby Walling (Adam Brody). Things don't go as planned with Toby, and Nina finds herself falling for the head of the Walling clan, David Walling (Hugh Laurie). This is where a new level of dysfunction is reached. This "Lolita"-like relationship threatens to break apart decades of marriage and close friendships. We have The Oranges.
Fantastic Fest is an eight-day feast of genre film. Some films are the meat course and others are dessert. The opening-night movie at this year's festival, Frankenweenie, is a flavorful appetizer. With this animated feature, Tim Burton has recaptured the whimsical mojo that he exhibited with his seminal film Beetlejuice.
Frankenweenie is the story of young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) and his dog Sparky. Early in the film, Sparky is run over by a car, sending Victor into a tailspin. But in science class the next day, his teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) demonstrates the effect of electricity on a recently deceased frog. Victor is inspired! Armed with a potential solution to return his dog from the grave, Victor concocts his own science project. Victor digs up Sparky, sets up a lab in his home's attic and waits for a lightning storm. His wishes come true -- after receiving a high voltage charge, Sparky is reanimated.
David Ayer is the master of creating movies that explore the seedy underworld of police corruption. Ayer’s genesis of Detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day was genius enough to help Denzel Washington win an Academy Award. With End of Watch, Ayer takes us on an exploration of the white-hat side of law enforcement -- we get to hang out with the good guys this time.
End of Watch follows the life of Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña), two run-of-the-mill beat cops who patrol one of the rougher neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles. Taylor and Zavala find themselves in the crosshairs of a Mexican drug cartel after they arrest one of its members transporting narcotics and firearms.
Documentaries take us places. Some take us to places where creativity thrives, others take us to the halls of science, and some take us to unpleasant places, places we do not want to admit exist. The film The Ambassador, opening in Austin today, takes us to this latter place, a world where corruption and hypocrisy are woven into the fabric of everyday society.
The Ambassador takes us to the Central African Republic, a country bordered by Chad, Sudan and the Congo. A former French colony, the Central African Republic is rich in natural resources (diamonds, gold, oil), contrasted with one of the poorest populations in all of Africa. The Central African Republic is a place where the powerful make fortunes on the backs of the poor and unfortunate.
The documentary shines a light on the easily corrupted power structure of this impoverished nation. The creation of Danish journalist Mads Brügger, the movie seeks to expose the corruption found in the heart of nations like the Central African Republic.
"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."
This statement is a perfect metaphor for the documentary The Imposter, which screened at SXSW 2012 and returns to Austin theaters on Friday. The Imposter tells the story of Nicholas Barclay and Frederic Bourdin. Nicholas is a boy from San Antonio who disappeared one day in 1994 after playing basketball with friends. Frederic is a serial imposter who in 1997 managed to convince Barclay's family as well as authorities in Spain and the U.S. that he was Nicholas. This story would make an interesting piece of fiction if it were not true. It definitely makes for an interesting documentary.
The movie was directed by Bart Layton, who is known for creating the British TV series Locked Up Abroad. Layton's extensive experience making documentaries shows in this movie, his first feature. The Imposter uses a style similar to the one found in Locked Up Abroad (yes, I have seen a few). Extensive use of interviews as well as re-creations of events breathe life into Barclay and Bourdin's joint story.
We survived the travails of the first day of San Diego Comic-Con -- read Part One and Part Two for the saga. After successfully avoiding dietary calamities, exhaustion and depletion of resources, we prepared for the final stretch of our journey. We headed bravely into the maelstrom. We headed into Friday and Saturday braving the realm of Hall H!
As you learned from our last journal entry, Hall H is where the biggest of the biggest panels of Comic-Con occur. Friday and Saturday are the two biggest days of Comic-Con and this is the time when the studios bring out the big guns.
Friday was a big day for me and my daughter Krysta. We got in line again around 7 am to secure a seat for the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones panels. Yes, we waited another 4+ hours in order to see an hour and a half of content. The beauty of this strategy is that you see things you would normally not while camped in Hall H. In my case, the Paranorman panel provided insights I had not expected. I was blown away when I learned that Paranorman was created using stop-motion animation. For months I have seen trailers, and could have sworn that the movie was a CG operation. Count me impressed! You will be blown away by Paranorman.
You were forewarned. San Diego Comic-Con is not for the uninitiated. In Part One, you learned just how perilous it can be just to make it to Comic-Con. This time, you will discover what it is like to survive but one day of Comic-Con.
Line, Lines, Everywhere a Line ...
After acquiring shelter, badges, treasure and finally nourishment, rest was mandatory. We would be storming the walls of the infamous HALL H at Breaking Dawn. Actually we wanted to see the panel for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2, which required our weary band of travelers to be in line early to assure we'd get a seat.
Doing a calculation on our portable abacus, we learned that the optimal time to be in line was probably 7 am for festivities starting around 11 am. Four hours early? Yes, four hours early. The lines for Hall H are epic and it is wise to arrive that early in order to acquire a decent seat. The Hall H madness reached a crescendo in 2008 when the panel for the first Twilight panel hit the con. Why would this middle-age traveller brave such a line? The wee one! This Comic-Con would be my 14-year-old daughter's first, and we would not be missing this for all the shiny vampire sprinkles in the world.