You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know the name Alfred Hitchcock. There are a few classic directors whose legacies have lived on long after their passing, but few can match the renown of "The Master of Suspense" himself. After all, can John Ford or Billy Wilder be recognized by their silhouettes alone? Hitch’s films read like a list of the thriller genre’s greatest hits. Though his prolific output provides ample room for discussion, many consider his best film to be 1960’s Psycho. Whether you find yourself in agreement with this appraisal, it’s no surprise that the first big screen biopic of Hitch centers around the production of the seminal horror movie.
And yet while we all know the name Hitchcock, recognize his famous profile, and are at least acquainted with a number of his films, there is so much of the man’s life that falls far outside the domain of common knowledge. Sacha Gervasi’s biopic Hitchcock aims to help inject some of those tidbits of this great artist’s personal life and trials into the public consciousness. That being said, the biopic doesn’t exactly spoon-feed the audience with exposition so there can be a sense of being thrown into the deep end for those who don’t count themselves among the Hitchcock literati. So here are a few things you’ll probably want to know before you see the movie. At the very least, it will help you better distinguish between what is fact and what might be dramatic embellishment.
Norman Bates is Based on Ed Gein
When contemporary audiences view Psycho, they may be quick to note the tameness of the violence. This is of course a function of the fact that it was produced in 1960, but it is also ironic considering the story basis for the film. Psycho was based on Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name. Though a fictionalized novel, it was largely influenced by the deeds of real-life psychopath Ed Gein.
In the late 50s, Ed Gein killed two women in his Wisconsin town and dug up a number of other corpses to fashion morbid trophies from their body parts. These trophies adorned his home when police later raided it. Gein was said to have dug up middle-aged women who reminded him of his deceased mother, with whom he had been exceedingly close. Within minutes of Hitchcock’s opening, you’ll understand why this information is valuable. Interesting side note, Gein also served as the blueprint for Leatherface and Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs.
Hitch’s Troubled Relationship with His Leading Ladies
Alfred Hitchcock, during the course of his career, had the great privilege to work with some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood history. Grace Kelly, Doris Day, Eva Marie Saint, and of course Psycho’s Janet Leigh. Though he may have preferred blondes, there has been much made of the fact that when it came to his relationship with his leading ladies, Hitch was no gentleman. He had a strange obsession with the glamour of starlets and was known to be rather rough and even cruel to them on set; conjectured to be an expression of his frustration at not being able to sleep with them.
One example of this involves Tippi Hedren, the star of Hitch’s The Birds as well as Marnie. Hedren has gone on record about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her director, noting that it seemed like he loved her except that most people don’t treat the people they love so badly. During the filming of The Birds, she was told repeatedly that her now iconic scene in the attic would involve only fake birds. It wasn’t until the day they were to shoot that scene that a crewmember let slip that the birds would be real. Hedren was beset by real birds, some of which were attached to her, for an entire week. While Hitch didn’t devise anything this malevolent for Janet Leigh, he did leave the prop corpse of Norman’s mother in her dressing room to get the right scream from her. This tendency toward obsession is important to understand going in, so that certain scenes in Hitchcock don’t feel awkwardly out of place.
The Studio Conflict
While Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most celebrated directors in the world by the time he started making movies in America, he was no stranger to having to battle studios and studio executives to accomplish his various visions. In 1940, David O. Selznick, the first American producer with whom he worked, re-edited Hitch’s Rebecca without his knowledge, and solely accepted the Oscar when the film won for Best Picture. This would be the only Academy Award Hitch would win until his lifetime achievement award in 1968. This rocky relationship with the studio system would persist well into his golden era.
Psycho became one of Hitch’s most acclaimed films as well as his most financially successful. But at the time, Paramount balked at Psycho’s content and its dark themes. They also expressed concern that Hitch was going too arty again, wanting to shoot in black-and-white, and were afraid of another financial flop like Vertigo. They didn’t want to produce it, and certainly did not want to finance it. It wasn’t until Hitch agreed to bankroll the movie himself that they agreed to at least distribute it, though they refused to let him shoot on the lot. The movie was instead filmed on the Universal backlot. Universal was only too happy to be back in the Hitchcock game. Since he had last made movies with them, they had been creatively stagnate and were deeply in debt. Keep this in mind when observing the various professional conflicts in the film.
The Importance of Alma
Though he was rumored to be obsessed with his leading ladies, there was no denying Hitch was thoroughly devoted to his wife Alma. She was not merely a loving companion and a source of inspiration, but also Hitch’s most important collaborator. At various points throughout his career, she was his screenwriter, his editor, and she also provided the final say on whether a proposed project was worthy of his time. In fact, if she didn’t like it a script that crossed Hitch’s desk, he didn’t bother moving forward with it. He revered her throughout their whole lives. When he was a young man, first working an entry-level job at a film studio in England, Alma was already established there and, because she held a higher position, Hitch considered it improper to speak to her. Her importance in his life is a central focus of the film.
Hitchcock Was Also a Master Showman
Though he would probably bristle at the comparison, Alfred Hitchcock was sort of the P.T. Barnum of the film world. The attraction he was selling was always himself. Even before he came over to the United States, marking his further meteoric rise, Hitch’s success in England prompted him to hire a team of people whose sole function was to promote Hitchcock; not just his films, but also the Hitchcock name. His marketing and theatrical stunts became the stuff of Hollywood lore. Spying the director’s inevitable cameo became part of the fun of seeing a new Hitchcock film. He also followed Walt Disney’s example and hosted his own television show: Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
For Psycho, he actually forced theater managers to disallow the admission of patrons who arrived late for fear that it would ruin the film’s frightening surprises. It was for this reason he also held no early screenings for the press; a risky gamble to be sure. He also recorded special radio advertisements and even sent manuals to theater owners explaining his gimmicks. Not only are these signature marketing tricks examined in Hitchcock, but Sir Anthony Hopkins, who plays Hitch in the film, actually appears in an ad running in theaters right now instructing audiences to turn off their cell phones. This meta approach would have made Hitch smile — to the extent that Hitch could smile, of course.
[Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight]
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You might recall, if you think back to the age-old era of 2011, the REELZ Network miniseries The Kennedys, the Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes starrer that chronicled the former First Family of the United States, strangers neither to glory nor tragedy. If you do remember the series, you'll likely also remember the none too favorable reviews it received from television critics. They weren't Guy Fieri bad, but they were nothing to write home about, either. Still, the family perseveres — REELZ is planning a sequel to The Kennedys, as announced by network President Stan E. Hubbard.
The second series will find source material in the book After Camelot: A Personal History of the Kennedy Family, written by J. Randy Taraborrelli. In a press release, Hubbard states, "With The Kennedys miniseries we saw tremendous response to powerful storytelling along with an intense interest in this remarkable family. In his book, J. Randy Taraborrelli tells the incredible true story of the Kennedys from 1968 to today."
Hubbard continues: "The Kennedy family continued to make an indelible mark on the life of America and the world after Robert Kennedy’s assassination, including universal healthcare and the creation of the Special Olympics."
As with the first series, the forthcoming sequel is being produced by Muse Entertainment.
[Photo Credit: Kennedys Productions (Ontario) Inc. and Zak Cassar/Reelz]
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The actor was drafted into the U.S. army in 1968 at the age of 19, and after he was released he launched a career in entertainment.
A short time later Delate's experiences as a soldier in Vietnam came back to haunt him in the form of terrifying flashbacks, and he signed up for intensive psychotherapy to control anxiety attacks.
But when two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City on 11 September, 2001, the nightmares returned, prompting the actor to seek further professional help.
Opening up about his story to the New York Daily News ahead of America's Veterans Day on Sunday (11Nov12), he says, "After 9/11, it just threw me right back into the nightmares. I would call them Picasso nightmares. Things were in pieces: an image of a friend of mine, but just his face, and right next to it would be some Vietnamese woman I didn't even know. I was almost shocked at what I was feeling and remembering. It was very chilling and dark."
Since then Delate has tried to help others cope with similar problems by producing his own movie, Soldier's Heart, which is about a veteran's struggle to readjust to post-war life, and he also participates in the annual Big Apple Veterans Day Parade.
He says, "It's such an honour and a privilege. It's so powerful because it is about remembrance and that's why I love it."
I'm always a little stunned when someone tells me they aren't excited for the Summer Olympics. Never mind that it finally gives us all something to watch in the midst of programming wasteland that is summer television, or that you can chant "USA! USA! USA!" without the slightest twinge of irony, the Olympics are the great unifier. In that, at some point, we're all going to get a little misty-eyed (or, full-on ugly cry sobs) watching history and drama unfold right before our eyes.
And there's nothing quite like those Olympics tears, are there? Whether its hearing your country's national anthem or connecting with an athlete whose story of perseverance not only inspires, but truly puts things in perspective. But even those people who are mostly indifferent to the Olympics would have to be completely made of stone to not be in awe of one of the young athletes heading to London this year.
Oscar Pistorius (pictured), a 25-year-old runner from South Africa, will compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics, and his inclusion will be a momentous one. Pistorius, a double-amputee who lost both of his legs before he turned one (he was born without a fibula in both of his legs), will be the first Paralympian to compete in an able-bodied track event.
Pistorius, who set his sight on the Olympics after competing and winning in the Paralympics, said in a statement on his website this week, "Today is truly one of the proudest days of my life. To have been selected to represent Team South Africa at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the individual 400m and the 4x400m relay is a real honour and I am so pleased that years of hard work, determination and sacrifice have all come together."
The athlete, who has specially-made prosthetic limbs, continued, "I have a phenomenal team behind me who have helped get me here and I, along with them, will now put everything we can into the final few weeks of preparations before the Olympic Games where I am aiming to race well, work well through the rounds, post good times and maybe even a personal best time on the biggest stage of them all. I am also hugely excited to then be competing to defend my three Paralympic titles at the Paralympic Games. I believe [we] will see some amazing times posted and I am very much looking forward to what will be an incredible Olympics and Paralympics in London."
No matter how Pistorius fares at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, there's no question that he will have the support of not only his team, but the entire world. That, in itself, is a thing of beauty. (Seriously, how can you not love the Olympics?)
Of course, Pistorius' story is just one of the many that can put a lump in your throat in the great history of the Summer Olympics. Here now, are some more of the most inspiring, amazing moments and athletes. And no, I'm not crying. I'm super crying.
Overcoming an Injury: When you fall, you've got to dust yourself off and get back up again. There's been no more dramatic reminder of that than Olympians whose years of hard work can come apart in a second when they are faced with the horror of an injury. U.S. gymnast Kerri Strug became a national treasure in 1996 and had one of the most memorable (not to mention parodied) moments in Olympics history when she came back from a vault injury to help her team, known as the Magnificent Seven, clinch the gold. But there may no more inspirational moment in the history of the Olympics, or all of sports for that matter, than during the 1992 Barcelona games when U.K. runner Derek Redmondsuffered a devastating tear to his hamstring. Redmond, in agony, got up to finish the race and was joined on the track by his father, who helped get him to the finish line. While Redmond, who was met with a standing ovation by the crowd of 65,000, was technically disqualified, to the world he still
Winning for a Loved One: It's an unimaginably heartbreaking scenario for the athletes who finally make it to the Olympics, only to lose a loved one who would never be able to see their triumph. At the 2008 Beijing games German weightlifter Mattias Steiner won the gold in the superheavyweight category a year after his wife passed away. Tragically, many athletes have had to go on just days after the death of a family member. In the 2010 games in Vancouver, Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette competed, nearly flawlessly, just four days after her mother died from a heart attack. She earned the bronze and dedicated the win to her late mother. In 1988 speed skater Dan Jansen's sister Jane died just before the games were underway. He promised to win for her, but tragically Jansen fell during his race. Then, six years later at the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Jansen, in a dramatic fashion made good on his word. The skater earned the gold and took a victory lap with his daughter, Jane. Watch a tribute video here:
Victory in the Face of Adversity: While the Olympics, at their core, are about unifying the world, we haven't always lived in a unified world. In the 1936 Berlin games in Berlin, runner Jesse Owens, an African-American, raced when Adolf Hitler attempted to prove Aryan supremacy. That did not happen. Owens proved that he was not inferior and the track and field star won four gold medals at the games. Overcoming racial divides made for one of the most iconic photos in history, not to mention one of the most significant moments in civil rights when U.S. track and field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos took to the podium at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics to get their gold and bronze medals, respectively. During the ceremony, Smith and Carlos raised their fists to the sky, signifying what was interpreted as the Black Power salute during a time when there was still great racial divide in America. Smith would later say that it was for human rights; the indelible image still speaks volumes today.
Defying the Odds: Do you believe in miracles? If you've ever watched the Olympics, you most certainly should. The unimaginable becomes a reality during the Olympic games, especially for the underdog. A Jamaican bobsled team brought in the viewers at 1988's Calgary games; although the team lost, it earned the respect of the world, and became the inspiration for the film Cool Runnings. At the 1984 Los Angeles games, 16-year-old Mary Lou Retton became a tiny forced to be reckoned with when she became the first American in history to win a gold in gymnastics. But the miracle to trump all sports miracles happened during the 1980 games at Lake Placid, when the United States' men's hockey team defeated the favored Soviet team. Heralded as one of greatest moments in sports and U.S. history, it remains the ultimate underdog victory tale and became the inspiration for its own film called, aptly, Miracle. Watch the dramatic win here:
Superhuman Strength: If an athlete makes it to the Olympics, there is no doubt they are an accomplished force already. They are world-class athletes, in every sense of the word. From the mind-boggling record-breaking runs from Michael Johnson and Usain Bolt to logic-defying turns by Jonny Moseley and Nadia Comaneci, the Olympics have given us some of the greatest athletes of our time. But no one proved to be a super-athlete quite like swimmer Michael Phelps did during the 2008 summer games. Winning eight gold medals in a single Olympiad, more than any other competitor in history, Phelps changed both the course of the Olympics, as well as what we imagine an athlete can do, in the span of 16 thrilling days. Watch:
The 2012 Summer Olympics kick off on Friday, July 27 in London.
[Photo credit: WENN.com]
The tough 60 Minutes regular passed away at a care centre in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Wallace interviewed the most famous people and leaders around the world in a television career which spanned over 50 years.
He won a stack of awards for his hard-hitting interviews with people including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Dr. Jack Kevorkian and Malcolm X.
After a successful triple bypass operation early in January 2008, he retired from public life.
Wallace made his national TV debut in America with The Mike Wallace Interview in 1957 after a series of hit local news shows in the New York area, where he became known as a tough newsman who asked the difficult questions of public figures.
He was picked to front 60 Minutes when the weekly CBS news programme debuted in September, 1968. After a slow start, the show became a hit among critics and when it switched to its regular Sunday night spot in 1977 it quickly became one of the most-watched shows in America.
Paying tribute to Wallace on Sunday (08Apr12), CBS network boss Leslie Moonves said, "It is with tremendous sadness that we mark the passing of Mike Wallace. His extraordinary contribution as a broadcaster is immeasurable and he has been a force within the television industry throughout its existence."
Hinzman was working as a cameraman on George Romero's 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead when the director cast him as a zombie in the film's opening scene.
The experience prompted him to sign up for more horror roles in films like Evil Ambitions, Santa Claws, Legion of the Night and Hungry Wives.
His last role came in 2011's River of Darkness.
He also directed gruesome hits FleshEater and The Majorettes, in which he starred, in the mid-1980s.
Hinzman, who was a regular hit at horror film conventions across America, died at his home in Pennsylvania on 5 February (12).
The celebrated writer died at her home in County Wicklow, Ireland on Monday (21Nov11) after suffering a stroke.
McCaffrey, born in Massachusetts, trained as an actress and a singer before she started writing science fiction for adults.
Her biggest work came in 1968 when she wrote Dragonflight, which kickstarted a series of books under the Dragonriders mantle, which were written over four decades and comprised of more than 20 novels.
She won several awards for the works, with The White Dragon book becoming one of the first sci-fi novels to appear on the New York Times Best Seller List. She was made a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 2005 and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2006.
Twentieth Century Fox’s latest re-boot of The Planet of the Apes franchise is neither a sequel nor a prequel but it does have the built in brand recognition from the original series of films spawned from the 1968 sci-fi classic starring Charlton Heston. Rise of the Planet of the Apes featuring James Franco is a fresh interpretation of the original series of films and has no connection to Fox’s 2001 Planet of the Apes re-boot which starred Mark Wahlberg. There was no monkeying around with these apes as they climbed to the top of the chart with a much bigger-than-expected $54 million this weekend. The film was also a hit internationally earning $23.4 million in just 25 markets and took first place in 9 of 11 markets (where rankings are available). The film expands in 15 new markets next weekend.
Sony Pictures Animation’s The Smurfs in 3-D nearly made some cantankerous cowboys very blue last weekend when they rustled up an unexpected tie for first place with Cowboys & Aliens. When the dust settled the little blue dudes landed in a close second place finish for the weekend, but led the midweek box office race and now have a higher North American gross than their high profile competitor. A very strong 41% second weekend hold gives the film $21 million for Friday through Sunday and a domestic gross of over $75 million. In just 10 days the film has generated $128.9 million worldwide with $52.7 million from the overseas markets.
The Universal/DreamWorks co-production of Cowboys & Aliens took the number one spot last weekend after a fierce battle against the tenacious Smurfs, but landed in third place with $15.7 million in this, its second weekend. Directed by Jon Favreau and boasting an impressive talent roster both in front of and behind the camera, the film will finish the weekend with around $67 million.
The sixth R-rated comedy to hit theaters this summer and the second starring the ubiquitous Jason Bateman, Universal’s The Change-Up co-starring Ryan Reynolds puts a new spin on an old twist with a debut gross of $13.5 million. From Freaky Friday to 17 Again and countless films in between, this time the formula gets the R-rated treatment and The Change-Up capitalized on solid date crowd appeal this weekend.
Fifth place played host to three potential contenders with Paramount’s Captain America: The First Avenger coming out on top with $13 million. Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 and PG-13 rated comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. were close behind with $12.2 million and $12.1 million respectively.
Good news for the industry with a solid month of up-trending box office that puts the summer-to-date revenue advantage 4.39% ahead of last year and attendance up by just over 2%.
Specialized film spotlight: After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the critical favorite Bellflower (Dist. by Oscilloscope Films) had its theatrical debut this weekend on 2 screens and performed well with a solid $28,000 for the weekend (including many sold-out shows). The film was also a hit at SXSW back in March and has gotten rave reviews from every major news outlet with each praising its innovative storytelling, unique visual style and terrific performances from the up and coming cast. Be sure to check out Bellflower directed by Evan Glodell as it expands to over 500 theaters through August and into September. I spoke with one of the producers and stars of the film Vincent Grashaw this morning and he seemed thrilled with the results and is looking forward to the expanded release of the film in the coming weeks.
Top Movies - For Weekend of August 5, 2011 (estimates)
Movie Weekend Gross Total to Date
1 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (PG13) $54.0M $54.0M
2 The Smurfs (PG) $21.0M $76.2M
3 Cowboys & Aliens (NR) $15.7M $67.4M
4 The Change-Up (R) $13.5M $13.5M
5 Captain America: The First Avenger (PG-13) $13.0M $143.2M
Today marks the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The film features, in addition to a rather long title with multiple modifiers, James Franco as a scientist and Andy “Gollum” Serkis—through a great deal of CG magic—as a genetically enhanced ape that leads a simian revolt that may bring about a planet where apes evolve from men. Those maniacs!
Rise of the Planet of the Apes marks the seventh film in the Planet of the Apes franchise, dating back to the original in 1968. While many people are probably aware that this film is an unofficial prequel to the original series, what may not be such a matter of public knowledge is that it is also a quasi-remake…of the fourth film in the original series.
There is a discrepancy between the chronology of the releases of the films in the original series and their order along the timeline of that franchise’s singular story arc. In other words, if you were to line up all the events that lead from where we are now as a society to a planet dominated by apes, the first film is actually the fourth of five benchmarks. If you haven’t seen any of the original films, now is the time to cease reading because this may get spoilery. Thanks!
Earth sends astronauts into space only to have that same capsule crash down a few years later piloted by fully evolved, articulate apes from the future. They tell us of the dystopian society from wince they came, and that gets some people to thinking that maybe these apes, one of which is pregnant, should be destroyed, as they may be the catalysts for the eventual downfall of the human race. While we succeed in killing the adult mates, their child survives.
Years pass and the ape kid, Caeser, ends up leading a revolt against the oppressive humans; inciting a nuclear war. Eons later, the astronauts launched from Earth at the beginning of this epic tale arrive in the future to discover humans have devolved and are now subjugated to the apes. Later, one of these humans manages to discover a breed of nuclear mutants living underground who worship a massive atomic weapon, which he then uses to destroy the Earth.
Whew, that was a hell of a ride. But understanding this timeline of plot points is essential to grasping the importance of the fourth film in the original series: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. This is the turning point, the moment when apes have reached the physicality and relative intelligence necessary to take control. All they needed was the right leader; an ape with enough intelligence to comprehend that his brethren were being unforgivably abused. Namely, Caesar. I count myself an enormous fan of the franchise and Conquest is far and away my favorite entry.
Forget the fact that Conquest was directed by 70s exploitation auteur, frequent Charles Bronson collaborator J. Lee Thompson and has some amazing action sequences. Forget the fact that it has Ricardo Montalban and Roddy McDowall playing the son of his own iconic Dr. Cornelius from the first film. The thing that makes Conquest so fascinating is how racially charged it is.
The film takes full advantage of the tumultuous time in which it was made and serves as a parallel for the struggle of African-Americans to obtain equality. In fact, many of the climatic battle scenes were modeled after the Watts Riots of the 1960s. So while on the surface, this is a campy sci-fi film that furthers the lineage of a campy sci-fi franchise, something far more interesting is at play here.
I would highly recommend picking up the Blu-ray of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and taking a gander at the unrated director’s cut. J. Lee Thompson takes the gloves completely off and creates a movie as violent and unsettling as was the climate of racial relations in America during that era. Seriously, this cut is mean. But, like it or not, it will give you unique insight into Rise of the Planet of the Apes which also centers on Caesar’s quest to topple the human race and prove which species truly rules the planet.
The car will go to the highest bidder as part of an upcoming Profiles in History movie and music memorabilia auction in Beverly Hills (14-15May11) - and Van Dyke, who got behind the wheel of the flying motor in the 1968 film, became one of the last people to drive it before it's claimed by a new owner, taking charge of the motor during an appearance on motor enthusiast Jay Leno's late night chat show in America.
The car, which is fully road-worthy, is expected to fetch up to $2 million (£1.25 million) when it goes under the hammer.
Other highlights from the auction include the Wicked Witch of the West's Crystal Ball from The Wizard of Oz, the original Discovery space suit chest pack from 2001: A Space Odyssey, John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and The Dude's cardigan from The Big Lebowski.