The Birds was Alfred Hitchcock’s last great film. Although Frenzy restored his reputation after three sub-par efforts, The Birds really feels like the end of his heyday. Including The Birds, it was as if he could do no wrong with a string of (now) classics under his belt including Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho. Following closely on the heels of Psycho, Hitchcock keeps the terror level high. I always find it amazing that a Hitchcock film (being comprised of suspense and terror – and sometimes murder) starts out on a very light-hearted, almost sunny tone. This of course is completely part of the plan. He wants you to settle in and be comfortable – and just like the birds, he begins to ‘peck away’ at that comfortableness until suddenly you are caught in his trap.
I had reservations about Tippi Hedren as the lead, but in the end she does an adequate job. I still cannot get over her first name and take it seriously. Hitchcock’s constant desire to find the next great leading blonde lady is one of his very few flaws. Focusing on the talent to be had instead of trying to find the next big star would have provided him with more and better performances from his leading actors and actresses. Here, his storytelling is superior as usual and the special effects are outstanding. The pet shop and rowboat scenes are borderline agonizingly long for some people, but in the end they are far superior to what can be seen in other lesser-revered films. Suspense, thy master is Hitchcock.
My introduction to the genius of Peter Sellers of course occurred while watching one of the Pink Panther films from the 1970s. It wasn’t until later that I discovered more of his earlier work from the 1960s (the original Pink Panther film as well as The Party). I only heard of Being There because he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. Over the years, I tried to see the film on TV but missed it several times and it wasn’t until the craze of VHS rentals hit that I eventually got to see it.
Peter Sellers is so subtle here that he stands out like a raving naked man in the middle of the street. I am of the school of a ‘less is more’ performance and you’ll find that I admire and prefer acting performances like these against over-the-top performances. There is so much more to a slight turn of the head, a widening of the eyes, a twitch of the fingers or silence. The tightly coiled, hidden emotion is more powerful than full blown rage. That type of acting, though effective and attractive to today’s audiences, is easy. Truly talented actors are those that use the power of subtly. Peter Sellers’ performance was one of these.
When a powerful businessman takes Chauncey’s simple one-word utterances out of context and into deep economic and political meaning, the film is truly right on the mark on making a statement about the state of economics and politics.
While perusing the internet for content to read about the latest Alberta snow storm, I came across the following post (below) on CBC that really sums up my feelings about the mentality of “some” of the drivers who possess the driver’s licenses they have because they were found at the bottom of Cracker Jack boxes. It was so well put and so well written that I have posted it below. I would like to take credit for writing it, but it was not me – surprising, because at first glance, it would seem that I wrote it. So thank you “GrandPa Grump” (his handle on CBC) whoever and wherever you are for taking the words out of my mouth… or the words from my fingertips and so competently saying what needs to be said. I’m glad it is not only me who thinks that Darwin was right.
“If you live in Alberta, here is a question for you to ponder……
Who, or what was the chief cause of these major accidents on highway # 2 today?
A) Really bad snow storm in area for last 24 hours,
B) Late 20’s to mid 30 something male driver, hopped up on Red Bulls & beef jerky,
C) Driving like an fool, at high speeds, too fast for the conditions present,
D) An “Oil Field” related 1 ton truck, jacked up on “Vehicular Steroids”, pushing 700 hp through 28 inch custom aluminum wheels sporting bald summer tires, loss of traction,
E) All of the above!!!!!
I watched as it happened from the south bound lanes. Someone driving a 1 Ton pick-up sporting custom rims & skinny rubber summer tires, bombing up Highway # 2 like it was a mid summers night, weaving in & out of traffic faster than a loom can produce a yard of material, with not a care about anyone around them.
With certainty that they own the road with their monster 4×4 “Mud Crusher”, they blindly pushed the speed limit further than most should, the rear wheels slipped out from under them and away they went, towards the toolies, taking out a few other travelers around them. Naturally, the couple of transport trucks that were in the immediate area flew in every direction, trying to avoid the smaller vehicles around them.
Some were lucky, others not so much. Carnage ensued, metal crushing fiberglass & plastics, cars spinning into ditches & each other. The chain reactions lasted about 3 minutes. After that, it was utter chaos trying to find the injured amongst those trying to stay in their vehicles for warmth, as the furious winter storm blows across the accident scene.”
Vimy Ridge helped to shape Canada into a country. The Battle of Vimy Ridge was part of the Battle of Arras in France during World War I. Four divisions of Canadians battled three divisions of Germans from April 9-12, 1917. The Canadians took control of the escarpment and in the process became the first symbol of national achievement and pride.
More on the details of the significance of Vimy Ridge can be found here.
One day, hopefully after I have some screen credit, I hope to be part of or at least begin work on a project that is very important – at least in a historical context to Canada. So far, there has been no film made documenting the Battle of Vimy Ridge besides some very well done documentaries. I think a filmed version of the events would be provide a natural document for the people of Canada to look upon as an important diary of the event that made Canada into what it is today.
Only recently has there been an attempt to capture a war event that Canadians played a large part – Passchendaele, conceived as a film by Paul Gross. It is unfortunate that Passchendaele failed to capture the hearts and minds of Canadians on a large scale. Yes, a lot of people saw the film, but I don’t see it as a war film that Canadians are willing to go back to again and again as a reference. Yes, it did make over $4 million but against an exorbitant budget of $20 million, it was a huge failure.
There is a severe lack of Canadian films that serve as documents to our history – especially as war documents. Cost is the most prohibitive factor. On the other hand, I don’t see the lack of funds as an issue. There are many wealthy Canadians – financiers if you will – or even Canadian companies that could come together as a conglomerate to finance such important documents. It is the will to get such stories produced that is the issue.
The Vimy Ridge film that I would like to see documented would be a straight forward telling of the story from the background of the battle to the end of the battle. The significance of the taking of Vimy Ridge both as important to the war and even more importantly to the history of Canada would be the underlying theme of the film. No romance – no time shifting – no other locales – no worried families on the home front – no present day memories – no politics – no social comment. Just an accurate re-telling of the battle and what it means for Canada.
There’s a film like this missing from Canada’s history. I would love there to be a film like this that Canadians (especially older secondary school students and post-secondary history students) could return to year after year when they want something to watch that treats the subject in an honorable, memorable, entertaining way that would make them feel proud to be Canadian and remember the sacrifices that those before them made. It needs to be accessible to all and speak to all Canadians in a respectful manner so that it can be something to turn to in times of patriotism.
The problem with historical fiction films is that there is always going to be criticism of historical events – at times, it can’t be avoided. The use of historians celebrated in their field to ensure that all important historical events are retold properly is essential. Historical accuracy is so important, from materials to political decisions to sets to costumes. Even then, when historical films have it right, there can still be criticism, especially in the portrayal of characters and what they do on screen. It’s important to note that even the best historical films have taken a certain creative license to make a dramatic and entertaining film.
So one day, I hope to see this film (or any other film with the same attributes) make it to screens not only in Canada, but to screens around the world. I think it is an important part of Canada’s history.
The more films I watch by Stanley Kubrick, the further he is pushed into the upper echelon of my list of favourite directors of all-time. I have now watched everything that he has directed since Paths of Glory. Films directed by him are some of the most cerebral, intellectually-challenging films to watch. He is deliberate. The pacing is at times infuriatingly slow. Sometimes, there appears to be no purpose to a scene but to satisfy his own artistry. What is happening on the screen is not necessarily what you think he is trying to convey. For people with no attention span, I say go see the latest teen slasher or smash ’em up. For others who want to be totally engrossed in a thoughtful, visually stunning film, I encourage them to see a Kubrick film.
The meaning of any of the elements that he incorporates into his films are up for interpretation – and that is how it should be. Seeing a film should not be a black or white experience. Kubrick’s films mean many different things to many people. That is the ultimate goal for any filmmaker. 2001 is one of these masterpieces.
The iconic music, the matter-of-fact sinister HAL 9000 (voiced by Canadian actor Douglas Rain), the incredible visuals and the use of silence and sound in place of dialogue make this film not only Kubrick’s best, but one of the all-time best. Probably the best believable homage to one of 2001’s many iconic images is the one shown on a two-part episode of The Bionic Woman titled Doomsday is Forever where HAL 9000 is recreated in the form of ALEX – a supercomputer that controls everything.
Like many of Kubrick’s films, 2001: A Space Odyssey is an enigma. There are too many different interpretations by too many people to possibly come to a conclusion about the film’s real meaning. Quite simply, it is a film that explores the relationships between humans, artificial intelligence, technology and extraterrestrials. The underlying themes of human evolution, birth and re-birth are also open to interpretation. Kubrick was a master at layering themes – at times too heavy for many people. Still, taken as a straight, serious science fiction film, 2001: A Space Odyssey is still the blueprint
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