Vertigo

 

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Ugh. I don’t get the appeal of Alfred Hitchcock. He seems to hate women, loves improbable set-ups, and lets his movies trail on a half an hour longer than they need to. I cannot believe that Vertigo made it onto any “Best Of” lists. It is beautiful to look at, very colorful, but sweet holy Moses, it is a long, boring slog through ridiculous coincidences, plans that would never come together, and misogyny run rampant.

There are spoilers ahead. This movie is 59 years old, so if you haven’t seen it yet, well…save yourself. Otherwise, here goes.

James Stewart stars in this one. His female costars are half his age, so never let them tell you that that age disparities in casting much older men with young women in Hollywood  is a new thing. He plays a police officer who had a near death experience, leading him to suffer from  acrophobia–fear of heights. Not vertigo, which is the spinning feeling when you are not actually moving. But why worry about this detail when there are endless driving scenes to film?

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This woman does not matter. She is the most interesting person in this whole affair, but her character means nothing, and is completely forgotten half way through the film. Pay no attention to this interesting scene. It is best if you just forget that there were moments that were worth following. Bras. They are fascinating. More fascinating than this entire freaking movie.

Stewart’s character, Scottie, is recruited by an old college roommate to stalk his wife, who he believes is being possessed by the spirit of a long-dead woman. See? It’s ridiculous right off the bat. It might have been better to say, “Hey, my wife seems to be having dissociative episodes, and I am concerned about her safety. Can you help me out by trailing her to ensure she is okay?” Instead, he sets him up to follow his bride around San Francisco to determine if she is actually being possessed. Without ever having spoken to to Madeline, played by Kim Novak, Scottie falls in love and develops an obsession with her that goes way beyond what he is being paid for.

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It’s not “stalking” if you’re being paid for it!

 

So much driving around. Driving, driving, driving. Peering through car windows. More driving. Attempted suicide. Rescue. Obsession. Actual suicide. Inquest. Acquittal. Obsession. More driving.

Then, Scottie happens across a brunette who looks nothing like Madeline, but he becomes obsessed with her. Let me just say this: too much eyebrow filler is not a good thing. Yikes. His obsession with this new lady, Judy, becomes absolutely psychotic. He forces her to dress like the dead Madeline. He has her change her makeup so she looks like her. He makes her dye her hair, and style it like his dead obsession. Eventually, we get to the actual freaking plot: Judy is Madeline. We shift perspective from Scottie to a voice-over from Judy as she confesses, in a letter she never sends, to being paid by the recently possessed Madeline’s husband to facilitate a murder that looked like a suicide.

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Same woman. Ten times the eyebrows. 

Just ride that wave for a minute. It makes no sense, and she never gives him this information until the very end when he sees her wearing the dead woman’s necklace. Oops. It’s always something. Rule one of helping a rich man kill his wife: don’t get caught by the unfortunate witness to murder wearing the dead woman’s jewelry. It’ll get you every time. That’s just common sense.

More driving. Good thing gas was cheap because he puts on the miles. Returning to the scene of the murder/suicide, he basically forces Judy/Madeline to her actual death. It’s convoluted. It takes forever to get there. I think that the odds that he will get off for this crime are pretty small. After all, he made her change everything about herself so she could look like the woman whose unfortunate murder he witnessed/inadvertently participated in.

This movie gave me a headache. I do not like Alfred Hitchcock. We have four more movies to slog through this year that he made. I am dreading them. He hates women, and I feel like he thinks his audiences are the most idiotic people in the world. I want my time back. I want my future time back from when the four other movies get pulled from the jar. A movie being “pretty to look at” is simply not enough for me to put it in the win column.

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This bun is the star of the movie. It fights gravity and wins. 

 

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Bringing Up Baby

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Warning: Slapstick ahead!

I love Cary Grant. He had a great talent for using verbal asides and double-takes to send home a joke. Truly, so funny. It doesn’t hurt that he was gorgeous, and seemed like he was having a ball on this one. I am trying to assess this movie without relying on how much I love Cary Grant, because there was a lot of other stuff going on that probably deserves equal attention. There is a leopard named “Baby” that needs to be transported, and a museum that needs funding to keep working on rebuilding a brontosaurus. There is a wealthy woman who takes whatever she wants, and a woman planning to enter a sexless marriage for no apparent reason. Clothes are accidentally ripped, and leopards get loose, and are mistaken for each other. A dog steals a bone and buries it. Look, there is a lot of nonsense going on to get us to the best scene, pictured below. Cary Grant in a fur lined bathrobe. The end.

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Cary Grant in a furry bathrobe. The best moment of the movie. 

Katherine Hepburn was good. I am never certain how I am supposed to feel about her dialect. She’s from Connecticut, but she definitely leaned hard into that  Transatlantic Accent that was so popular in the 1930s. I found it to be so fake and off-putting that I was distracted during the entire film. I understand that it was an affect meant to indicate fine breeding and European roots, but every time she spoke, it took me right out of the story. I think the main takeaway for me from Bringing Up Baby is that I want to research why this accent happened, and how it eventually died. I don’t think that is necessarily a ringing endorsement for a movie that makes it into every “Top 100 Films to See Before You Die” list, but that was what made an impression on me.

Overall, it was quite a silly story. I think that this is probably not the kind of movie that the husband and I are going to pursue after watching this one. If this is the best slapstick comedy ever made, I think I have had my fill. There’s only so many tripping over tree branches and mistaken identity jokes that I can handle in my comedy.

Did I mention that Cary Grant is gorgeous? Especially with his smart “I am a zoologist” glasses.

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Sexiest actor ever?

Anatomy of a Murder

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This is the first movie we have watched that don’t feel equipped to write about the next day. I suppose I should start by saying that I loved the soundtrack. Duke Ellington won a Grammy for the album, and it was well deserved. For someone who generally feels anxiety while listening to jazz music, this is high praise. I mention the music right off the top because it was a constant presence in the film, and at times, it seemed a bit too light for the subject matter. But hearing Jimmy Stewart play piano by himself, and also sharing the bench with Ellington, was pretty amazing.

The cast was 90% dynamite. Jimmy Stewart was great. It was a bit startling to hear him talk in such a frank manner (for the time) about rape and sex, since I kept expecting him to say something corny about “The Old Building and Loan.” He was in top form, and man alive, I definitely plan to expand my experience with him. Ben Gazara has always been amazing. He was so unlikeable in this movie, and it really set up a lifetime of playing tough guys with low impulse control. George C. Scott had some electric courtroom moments. Stewart’s best friend and co-counsel, an alcoholic lawyer whose career had hit the skids, was played by an actor named Arthur O’Connell. Their relationship was pure joy to behold. You can tell they truly enjoyed playing with each other, and their shared scenes were incredibly fun to watch.

I could not look away from the kittenish Lee Remick. I never would have thought to compare her sexiness with Ann Margaret, but she certainly had “it.” Her portrayal of the “imperfect” rape victim should be shown in classes today to show how our society expects all rape victims to look and behave. She went to a bar alone. She wasn’t wearing a girdle, so she was intentionally jiggling her person about. She swished her hips. Her hair was loose, and flowing. She was barefoot, and wasn’t wearing nylons. She allowed the bartender to drive her home. After being punched in the face, she didn’t scream out for help while she was being raped. She had to convince her husband that she had truly been raped by volunteering to swear on a rosary. She didn’t call the police after she made her way home. In the days after she was raped, she wasn’t hysterically crying in a ball on the floor. She didn’t stop being a person who enjoyed being attractive. She continued to express her sensuality and flirtatiousness. In other words, she was not considered someone who could have been “legitimately raped.” In 1959, and in 2017, we still expect rape survivors to act in a definied manner that allows us to feel that they are contrite for whatever role they played in “allowing” their rape. We still use how much they had to drink, how much they flirted, what they were wearing, as reasons to discount their stories. In short, nothing has changed.

The rape was the trigger for the murder, and the movie really focuses on the level of awareness the husband had in killing his wife’s rapist. There is a lot of back and forth about “irrisistable impulse” and “temporary insanity.” And then, of course, there is the fact that the husband was a brute, himself, and didn’t really have control on any given day over the jealousy he felt about the attention his beautiful wife received.

There was a lot of courtroom language that seemed ridiculously dated, in particular, the scene with the entire gallery tittering wildly over the word “panties.” Absolutely ridiculous. But the movie also used a lot of reproductive words that were shocking to hear in a movie at that time, and would probably still shock your average Kansas farmer today. It definitely pushed some boundaries, and for a courtroom movie that seemed to have wildly innapropriate behavior by the prosecution and the defense, to hear them peppering their questioning with actual physical descriptions of the crime at hand brought the movie back to some level of realism.

I liked Anatomy of a Murder. I liked the actors, and the score. I liked that it showed the  way that the legal system deals with crimes against women. I liked that it portrayed a woman who had a sense of herself that didn’t diminish after she was beaten and raped. She was still in control of her own life. I am just not sure that I loved the movie. I wanted to. James Stewart was certainly fantastic. I may have to revisit it later in my life to see how I feel about it. This is the worst review I have written, but I did genuinely like the film. It just left me with some unanswered feelings that I am not ready to address.

Oh, almost forgot this detail: Principal McGee from Grease, Eve Arden, was Stewart’s long-suffering, unpaid secretary. I never thought of her as being in any other movie. I know that is silly because the gorgeous Joan Blondell was also in Grease. But seeing Arden in a different setting than a musical was a bit discombobulating. Her voice is very distinctive.