Film Review: Hitchcock (dir by Sacha Gervasi)

Alfred Hitchcock is one of those iconic cultural figures who will never go out of style.  Though he’s been dead longer than I’ve been alive, he’s still one of my favorite directors.  If I see a Hitchcock film listed in the TV schedule, I can guarantee that I will find the time to watch it.  Whether its The 39 Steps, Rebecca, Strangers On A Train, Topaz, or Frenzy, if it’s Hitchcock, I’m there. And I’m not alone as far as this is concerned.  If Hitchcock hadn’t made The Birds, James Nguyen would never have made Birdemic.  If Hitchcock hadn’t made Psycho, hundreds of low-budget horror films would never have had a chance to be distributed on DVD by Anchor Bay.

While it may have been Vertigo that was recently named the best film of all time by the Sight and Sound Poll, Psycho remains Hitchcock’s best known and most popular film.  Psycho is certainly my favorite Hitchcock film, which is why I was certainly curious when I first heard about Hitchcock, a new movie that claims to tell the true story behind the making of Psycho.

Hitchcock opens with 60 year-old Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) trying to figure out how to follow up the success of North By Northwest.  Hitchcock settles on adapting a little-regarded pulp novel that’s based on the true life crimes of serial killer Ed Gein.  Over the objections of the censors, the studio, and all of his associates, Hitchcock makes Psycho his next film.  At the same time, his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) deals with living in the shadow of her famous husband.  While Hitchcock devotes all of his time to his film and obsessing over his leading actresses, Alma find herself tempted by a slick screenwriter named Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston).

(Has anyone good ever been named Whitfield Cook?)

As a film, Hitchcock is likable but shallow.  Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren have great chemistry and they’re a lot of fun to watch but you never truly believe that you’re watching the true story of the making of a movie that changed cinematic history.  Whenever Hitchcock threatens to become truly insightful about the artistic process, the story abruptly cuts away to another scene of Alma writing on the beach with Whitfield Cook.  It doesn’t help that Danny Huston plays Cook as such an obvious cad that it actually diminishes Alma as character when she doesn’t immediately see through him.

Similarly, in the role of Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins gives a performance that is very likable and quite watchable but, in the end, still feels rather shallow.  His performance feels like a good and entertaining impersonation but it never quite feels real.  The closest that the film (and Hopkins) comes to suggesting any of Hitchcock’s inner demons is when he imagines having a conversation with Ed Gein (played by Michael Wincott).  These scenes feel terribly out-of-place when compared to the rest of the film.

The actresses playing the women in Hitchcock’s life fare a little bit better.  Jessica Biel and Scarlett Johansson are well-cast as Vera Miles and Janet Leigh, respectively.  Helen Mirren is widely expected to earn an Academy Award nomination for her performance as Alma and she does have several strong scenes in Hitchcock.  As I watched the film, I certainly could relate to Alma’s desire to be taken seriously as an individual and her frustration with being defined solely by the vows of marriage.  It’s a feeling that Mirren captures perfectly.

In the end, Mirren aside, Hitchcock is entertaining but forgettable.

I Got Your Golden Globes Right Here…

We’re halfway through Oscar season and that means that it’s time for the Golden Globes to weigh in.  To be honest, I think the Golden Globes are somewhat overrated as an Oscar precursor.  For the most part, the Golden Globes usually honors the films that are on everyone’s radar and then they come up with one or two nominations that nobody was expecting.  However, those surprise nominations rarely seem to translate into anything once it comes to time to announce the Oscar nominations.

So, while Salmon Fishing In The Yemen did receive a few surprise nominations (and those nominations were deserved, by the way), I doubt that we’ll see the movie mentioned on January 10th when the Oscar nominations are announced.

From the reaction that I’ve seen on the usual awards sites,  a lot of the usual suspects are upset that Beasts of the Southern Wild was completely snubbed.  Actually, they’re not just upset.  They’re about as outraged about this as they were when The Social Network lost best picture to King’s Speech.  The way they’re carrying on, you would think that someone had just informed them that David Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a thoroughly unneccessary rehash of an already brilliant film.  Seriously, the facade of Stone has fallen and tears are being shed.

Myself, I’m more annoyed that neither The Cabin In The Woods nor Anna Karenina are getting the love that they deserve.

Anyway, with all that in mind, here are the Golden Globe nominations!

“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Richard Gere, “Arbitrage”
John Hawkes, “The Sessions”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”

Marion Cotillard, “Rust and Bone”
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Helen Mirren, “Hitchcock”
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”
Rachel Weisz, “The Deep Blue Sea”

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
“Les Miserables”
“Moonrise Kingdom”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”

Jack Black, “Bernie”
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook,”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”
Ewan McGregor, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Bill Murray, “Hyde Park on Hudson”

Emily Blunt, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Judi Dench, “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Maggie Smith, “Quartet”
Meryl Streep, “Hope Springs”


Alan Arkin, “Argo”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Django Unchained”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”

Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Sally Field, “Lincoln”
Nicole Kidman, “The Paperboy”

Ben Affleck, “Argo”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”
Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”

“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Django Unchained”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

“Anna Karenina”
“Life of Pi”
“Cloud Atlas”

“For You” from “Act of Valor”
Music by: Monty Powell, Keith Urban Lyrics by: Monty Powell, Keith Urban

“Not Running Anymore” from “Stand Up Guys”
Music by: Jon Bon Jovi Lyrics by: Jon Bon Jovi

“Safe and Sound” from “The Hunger Games”
Music by: Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams, T Bone Burnett Lyrics by: Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams, T Bone Burnett

“Skyfall” form “Skyfall”
Music by: Adele, Paul Epworth Lyrics by: Adele, Paul Epworth

“Suddenly” from “Les Miserables”
Music by: Claude-Michel Schonberg Lyrics by: Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg

“Wreck-it Ralph”
“Rise of the Guardians”
“Hotel Transylvania”

“The Intouchables”
“A Royal Affair”
“Rust and Bone”

Trailer: Hitchcock

It seems appropriate that, during the time of year that is devoted to horror, Fox Searchlight should release a trailer for an upcoming film that claims to tell the “true” story about the making of Psycho, one of the scariest and most influential horror movies ever made.

I have to admit that I’ve had my doubts about Hitchock ever since the project was first announced and, watching this trailer, I still have my doubts.  While Helen Mirren looks to be as strong as always and Scarlett Johansson is an inspired choice to play Janet Leigh, I still have my doubts about Anthony Hopkins playing the role of Alfred Hitchcock.

From the evidence presented in this trailer, Hopkins’s interpretation of Hitchcock appears to be …. interesting, if nothing else.

Fox Searchlight, however, seems to have a lot of faith in Hitchcock as they’ve moved up the premiere date so that the film can premiere in November, at the start of Oscar season.