Recently, I flew to London to attend several days of the two-month-long The Genius of Hitchcock festival held at the British Film Institute’s Southbank campus.
Starting in June and ending after London’s yearly October film festival, the BFI pulled out all of the stops to honor one of their own…a British director who became an international sensation by helming such movies as Rear WindowVertigoNotorious and Psycho

The Genius of Hitchcock celebration caps off the year-long fund-raising push entitled Rescue the Hitchcock 9, a campaign to save nine of Hitchcock’s early British silent films.  These nine films are in dire need of restoration…without it, there is the chance they might be gone forever.
Being a BIT of a Hitchcock fan (OK…a little understatement —I’m obsessed), I would have loved to hunker down in London all four months, savoring classic after classic.  But, there is this little thing called WORK, not to mention MONEY, of which staying in London requires a lot.  So, alas, I settled on cramming in as many movies as I could in my limited time (five films, to be exact).
Have I seen all five before?  You betcha.  Do I own all five on DVD?  Yes, I do.  But, somehow, traveling over 3,700 miles to see movies I know by heart doesn’t seem all that silly to me.   Obsessed, I tell you!
Like I said, I saw five of Hitchcock’s masterpieces (sadly none of the restored “Hitchcock 9” were playing when I was there).  I watched a double feature of Shadow of a Doubt and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) on one night, followed by a double feature of Mr. and Mrs. Smith (no, not THAT one…the 1941 film with Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard…the only romantic comedy Hitchcock ever made) and Strangers on a Train on the next.

But, the crème de la crème, the pièce de résistance was the 3D showing of Dial M for Murder.  No, this is NOT NEW 3D…this is old, classic 3D.  This is when 3D was done for effect and not financial gain.  This is when 3D was not a marketing ploy.
I have a strong distain for the new wave of 3D films sweeping through Hollywood, though I am much more against 2D films being re-released in 3D, such as Titanic (1997) and Beauty and the Beast (1991).  When I saw Scorsese’s Hugo (which I heard nothing but great things about in 3D), I specifically sought out the 2D version.
Maybe I’m equating my lack of interest in modern 3D with my lack of interest in most contemporary animation.  Look at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs —imagine how tedious and superior the animation process was back in 1937 and compare that with today’s inferior “computer” animating.  So OK, modern 3D is not that bad…but, RE-RELEASING already-shot films just to capitalize on the 3D bandwagon is the last straw.  Where will it end?
Dial M for Murder is different.  Hitchcock filmed it in 3D but it was released in 1954 in mostly 2D.  Aside from a limited 3D re-release in the early 1980s, most people have not seen Dial M for Murder in the original 3D Hitchcock intended it to be shown.  And, among filmies, it is supposed to be one of the best, if not THE best, example of 3D filmmaking.  And, after seeing it, not only does it not disappoint but I would have to agree that the use of 3D was amazing.
Unlike much of 1950s’ Hollywood 3D, nothing here is done just for the 3D effect (such as no paddleballs bouncing at the screen, a la The House of Wax (1953)).  Everything here is done for a reason…the use of foregrounds and backgrounds become more of a 3D element than in-your-face effects.  In one scene, the infamous purse that becomes a key item in the plot stands boldly in the foreground, with character action going on behind it.  The purse, a simple inanimate object, looks as if it is right in the audience’s lap.  And that is how Hitchcock uses 3D throughout the entire movie…subtly but OH SO effectively.  But then again, would we expect anything less from the Master himself?
Keep in mind that as long as Hollywood keeps making money off of 3D, they will keep making these so-so 3D movies and…even worse, keep re-releasing existing 2D movies in 3D.  If The Bridge on the River Kwai in 3D comes out in cinemas, I’m moving to Mongolia and living in among the yak herders in a nice yurt!
Madness, Madness.  Soapbox over.

Facebook0Google+0Twitter0Pinterest0tumblrEmail

Be the first to comment!

I recently went on a short trip and with my trusty iPad in tow, I had a decision to make about what to read while on vacation.  I started off reading a book that I’m doing for a book discussion…a literary, dense book that I soon realized would not fly for vacation reading.  Even if vacation is not taken on or at the beach, “beach read” type books are always a must for my travels.  To clarify, a “beach read” is a not a book set AT the beach…but rather a FUN book…a guilty pleasure…a book you would not like to be caught reading by scholarly family or friends.

Some people read romances as their “beach reads,” but I often read “chick lit” on vacation and in that genre, Madeleine Wickham always satisfies.  Her books are not completely mindless (like some chick lit) and she writes strong female characters with enough problems so the reading is fast, but not too many problems to bog down the story.  LIGHT is the key in a beach read and The Wedding Girl did not disappoint.  The characters were superficial (in a good way) and the story was breezy.  Wickham (who also writes under the pen name Sophie Kinsella) is one of my favorite vacation writers.

But, this time, I also read a thriller.  I’ve read Joy Fielding in the past and liked her…but The Wild Zone was completely different from her other books.  It is less thriller and more character study.  Not that this was too heavy for vacation…it was just unexpected.  I don’t expect all thrillers to get into the psychological aspects of their characters… especially with authors not known for those deeper character developments.  When I read the other Fielding books (Missing Pieces and Charley’s Web) they were solid thrillers, but not anything too intense or emotional.  The Wild Zone caught me off-guard with its slow-paced storyline, not to mention its surprise twist ending.  For Fielding die-hards, be prepared for an unusual novel.  For those unfamiliar with this author and with thrillers in general, this might be a good book to try and get your toes wet with another genre.

Facebook0Google+0Twitter0Pinterest0tumblrEmail

Be the first to comment!

This debut novel from Chicago Tribune journalist (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Julia Keller is gripping from page one…reeling the reader in with clear depictions of small town life, adolescence, and brutal, senseless violence.  Starting out shortly before a seemingly random shooting, the story introduces us to a mother and daughter who are both at odds with each other.  The mother, Bell, works too much, overly dedicated to her job as prosecuting attorney for a small, impoverished county in West Virginia. And her daughter Carla is knee-deep in full-blown teenage rebellion.  Actually, that rebellion sets the stage for the story…while waiting for her mother to pick her up from mandatory “anger management” class, Carla witness one of the most violent acts in Acker’s Gap, WV.  After this, Carla becomes even more of a problem…not only is she still a behavior problem but now she also has upsetting, conflicting issues with what she witnessed.  Bell, in addition to dealing with Carla and with the hunt for the murderer(s), also has other issues contending for space in her frantic world.  Keller, as in her Chicago Tribune articles, truly does have a way with words… bringing characters, places and scenarios to life with true, vivid imagery.  This was one of the best written mysteries I’ve read in ages!  Hopefully, Acker’s Gap, along with Bell, Carla and the other colorful characters of this small town, will be back soon. 

Facebook0Google+0Twitter0Pinterest0tumblrEmail

Be the first to comment!

From Chicago author Libby Fischer Hellmann, here’s a top-notch mystery with a strong female main character, Georgia Davis.  She’s feisty, proud, confident and able.  She’s a good PI who isn’t a “superhero” type…meaning she get afraid and is not ashamed to show it.  In Doubleback, Davis gets involved with a kidnapping/murder/financial malfeasance plot that takes her from Chicago to the Arizona-Mexico border.  Hellmann’s writing style is good, though I think sometimes she can be a bit choppy.  But, the great character construction and well-laid-out plot make up for this. Though the plot can be a bit far-fetched (as most thrillers and mysteries can be), Davis also seems believable in her role…meaning she doesn’t just happen to “fall” into situations, rather the escapades she finds herself in are essential to the plot.   I would read more tales about Georgia Davis and her sometimes partner-in-crime Ellie Foreman (Hellmann does a series with Foreman as more of a primary character too).

Facebook0Google+0Twitter0Pinterest0tumblrEmail

Be the first to comment!

A new London crime detective takes to the big city streets with a vengeance.  There is a little political intrigue mixed up with the murders John Carlyle is investigating…the case involves a former Cambridge University club filled with future politicos who are being killed off one by one years later. Carlyle is a believable London inspector who fights crime with a passion, though the writing could be a little better and the book does have its fair share of cliches.  Not the best British mystery (by a long shot) but far from the worst.  Definitely something for British mystery lovers to try. 

Facebook0Google+0Twitter0Pinterest0tumblrEmail

Be the first to comment!

Akin to titles by fellow Scandinavians Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, Norwegian author Nesbo spins an exciting, edge-of-your-seat thriller with a whole lot of punch.  The “creep” factor is high here so don’t read at bedtime…nightmares of snowmen staring through the window at you are almost guaranteed.  Telling the story of a serial killer who is hunting prey in Norway and leaving a snowman at or near the scenes of his crimes, Nesbo weaves terror and strong writing together to tell his teeth-clenching tale.  The police detective investigating, Harry Hole, becomes personally attached to the killer after Hole begins to get messages from the killer.  A solid, intense thriller by an author who will give fans of Mankell’s Wallander series and Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy a run for their money.
Facebook0Google+0Twitter0Pinterest0tumblrEmail

Be the first to comment!