Remote Access

with George

Category: Required Viewing

Required Viewing | The Birds

(1963)

This movie is truly terrifying. It manages suspense so well. It scares you not by showing you the title creatures, but by hiding them from you.

Take for example the scene late in the movie which starts with what could be described as a tone of “calm after the storm”. Everyone is fine; the big thing has passed (for now). Melanie (played by Tippi Hedren) hears a noise upstairs. She knows she shouldn’t go up there, and so do we. But, of course, she does. Every step she takes just increases the “suspense factor”.

The Birds benefits from some great performances and some great, likable characters. Hedren doesn’t take those steps upstairs alone, because we are with her. We are with all of these people. We are as invested in their fates as they are.

Like many Hitchcock pictures, this one teases you. Birds are seen early in the film. Hedren’s character is hit by one. The chickens won’t settle down. Then, one normal morning, Lydia (Jessica Tandy), Rock Hudson‘s mother, discovers something wholly gruesome. And it just gets worse from there.

Alfred Hitchcock is probably my favorite director, and almost all of his (best) films are about normal people doing normal things turning into weird people, doing weird things, or having weird things happen to them. Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Notorious… their plots all stem from a degree of coincidence. The same goes for The Birds.

What if Hudson and Hedren never meet? What if Hedren never goes to Bodega Bay? What if Hitchcock never made this movie? I can only answer one of those (the last, of course). And the answer is sadness, on my part.

Required Viewing | Inception

(2010)

Roger Ebert once said that he envies people who have not yet seen his “Great Movies,” because they have the ability to watch such movies for the first time, while he does not, having already seen then. This is exactly how I feel about Inception.

No, this movie isn’t the greatest motion picture ever made (those of us familiar with cinema know that I Am Legend is). It wasn’t even my favorite film from 2010. But my first viewing experience with this film was as exhilarating, fresh, and thought-provoking as any other.

The film juggles between dream and reality while telling the story of an “extractor” (a term used more in this review than in the movie itself) named Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who has to complete “one last job” in order to get back to his kids. This heist/gangster movie setup only adds to the fun of the movie; especially since the characters aren’t stealing, but instead implanting something into their victim.

The rest of the fun, fine cast is filled by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who talks to himself too much in later sequences), Ken Watanabe (who adds heart), Ellen Page (whose character the film uses in order to explain things to us), Tom Hardy (I think he likes messing with Gordon-Levitt off-set too), and Dileep Rao (who literally makes it rain).

And then there’s Marion Cotillard. I can’t put her in the “fun” section, as you know if you’ve seen the film. She plays DiCaprio’s dead wife who keeps getting in the way with silly emotions. The end of her storyline was the one part of the film which was unsatisfying. Instead of allowing Cobb to get over his guilt himself, the film goes another direction, leaving that end unresolved.

The pacing and the music go hand-in-hand (as they should), the script is clever, and most of all, this film means something even before its successful foray into existentialism at the very end.

It just wouldn’t be right if a person couldn’t enjoy a movie as much as I enjoyed Inception the first time I saw it.