Thursday 21 December 2017

HITCHCOCK: what we can learn from the Great Director

Alfred (Studio publicity photo, 1955, Wikipedia)
In the early 1970s that a friend took me to an art cinema in a seedy part of Los Angeles. It was a double bill: 'The 39 Steps' and 'The Lady Vanishes', both directed by Alfred Hitchcock. I was hooked. Loved some of his later movies, for instance, 'Rear Window' and 'Psycho', but it was the black and whites that I wanted to see. They were hard to find. Then one night I googled 'The Lady Vanishes' on youtube. A whole bunch of copies of the film showed up on the screen. I punched one and there it was, with a side-bar of more choices. I found at least 12 of his films. It was when I watched 'The Lady Vanishes' five times that I began to think I had to go into rehab. Then l I heard a Hitchcock lecture. Orsen Welles watched 'The Lady....' 11times. I found sites where he was interviewed about how, why and what he liked about making movies. He liked the planning. He didn't like when the actors came on board. He talked about mistakes he would never repeat (blowing up a kid on a bus), and how he accomplished certain scenes, such as the 'stabbing in the shower' in 'Psycho'. His genius was that he made art house movies that entertained and engaged the average viewer. Intellectuals and casual moviegoers were, and still are fans.

In 2017 there was a worldwide Hitchcock movie festival: Welcome Mr. Hitchcock', For me a dream come true. But at my art cinema, the choice was only half-good. Yes, the showed 'Psycho' and 'Vertigo' (along with 'The Birds', my least favorite). 'Jamaica Inn' – a minor movie. But they also show 'Young and Innocent' and 'Shadow of a Doubt', so the festival wasn't a total washout. Camilla, LMP story editor and Big Feminist always points out that Hitchcock was an infamous misogynist. His wife was his closest collaborator, but he had an obsession for beautiful blondes: for instance, Kim Novack, Tippi Hedren, Madelaine Carrol, Eva-Marie Saint.

His love-hate relationship with his female stars sometimes took an ugly turn. Tippi Hedren was put through hell when they were making 'Marnie'*. Some Hitchcock scholars think that 'Marnie', who gets raped by her husband on their wedding night was a Hitchcock fantasy. He could play cruel practical jokes on his cast and crew. Still, he had no trouble finding people who wanted to work with him. It was the meticulous planning of each project that sets him apart: each scene is a small gem and together they make a stunning whole. No detail was left to chance: dialogue (often sassy and sexy), the use of supporting players and animals for comic relief and to advance the plot, clothes, locations, lighting, camera angles which created suspense, unusual characters (often un-PC). This is where Erkki says 'Shut up Maggy'. The sad part is, we'll never see another new movie by him. But we're lucky to have a cache of old movies that still look fresh. You are always Welcome Mr. Hitchcock.

Source: Youtube
* 'Marnie' was made into an opera 

According to a google search, Hitchcock made 85 movies, here are 12 of my repeats.

Young and Innocent 1937
The Lady Vanishes 1938
The 39 Steps 1935
Shadow of a Doubt 1943
Saboteur 1942
Sabotage 1936
North By Northwest
Notorious 1946
Rear Window1054
Psycho 1960

PS: Littlemargie (and Erkki) will be on vacation for two weeks.

Maggy, I only tell you to shut up if you babble when I try to concentrate on something -  which does not apply this time ;-)

- Eki

Monday 18 December 2017

MOLESTARS: famous dudes sacked

Skip this paragraph, or in fact, the whole page, if you've heard and read all you want to know about celebrities caught in the sexual harassment net. But what keeps the story in the news is how long it took to happen. Two top US morning tv show hosts got the ax. Viewers were stunned.  Matt Lauer, NBC star and cash cow on the Today show, and Charlie Rose, the co-host of the CBS Morning Show vanished overnight.

The MolesSTAR club

Donald Trump, their MoleSTAR-in-Chief (12 women have gone on record accusing  President Trump of sexual abuse, including a former Miss Finland). He was caught on an open mic, bragging about how if you've got power, you can do anything.' Billy Bush, former Access Hollywood host and seven other people who were on that bus heard him say, 'You can grab their pussies'. They all laughed. Billy B. got fired for lending a gleeful ear to the locker-room-boy-talk. The next day Trump apologized. Sort of. And his wife Melania, in an interview, said that this locker-room talk was wrong. Then the whole thing died and the women, who accused Trump disappeared. He now says It's not my voice.What a bitter-sweet irony if the anti-sexual harassment revolution was ignited by the tainted president of the United States.

A friend told she thinks women, especially, have to be aware and alert about sexual harassment. She worked at a film production company in New York City. Her boss asked her to take a script over to a producer staying at the Plaza hotel. She called his room from the front hotel desk and the producer told her to bring it up. When he opened the door he was wearing nothing but a towel and told her to come in. She handed him the script and said him she had to get back to the office. And got the hell out of there. Anything or nothing could have happened if she had gone into his room. #metoo can take a lot of credit for uniting and spotlighting the anti-sexual harassment movement, which has has been under the radar screen for eons.  Women from all over the world have tweeted their stories in 140 (now 280) characters. Time* magazine passed on Donald J. Trump for 'Person of the year' 2017, Instead, they chose the Silence Breakers  -  the women behind the anti-sexual harassment revolution.The PRESS and  The INTERNET ain't all Fake News.

PS:  We're want to hear what Camilla Karsh (the shark) has to say. She's our Big Feminist.

Sources: New York Times, Financial Times Weekend, Arizona Daily Star, CNN

Next Week: HITCHCOCK: what we can learn from the Great Director

We've had our own, perhaps smaller but still nasty #metoo scandal here in Finland, in the film industry. The names have not been publicized but they are supposedly a known secret in the industry circles. I guess I'm not insider enough to be in on the secret. Which is probably a good thing.

- Eki

Tuesday 5 December 2017

SOCIAL MEDIALAND: an evil empire? Or harmless useful tool?

Erkki, get out your BIG guns because I've got plenty of ammunition. User addiction to smartphones and social media like other hardcore drugs it's hard to kick the habit. They are designed to get you hooked.When I shot gottaGETinTOUCH, a rap video about cell phone addiction, almost all the subjects looked the same: heads bent, zoned-out, fingers dancing on the keyboard. Flesh and blood humanoids. The SM version of 'Night of the Living Dead'. I can hear Erkki say, 'Hey, wait a minute.' And give me a dozen examples of how the internet has changed the way we live for the better. True. Movements such as #metoo are perfect examples. And yes, the internet is a great way to keep in touch with family, friends, business contact, get news and information in nanoseconds. But, smartphones and social media are also designed to be addictive.
gottaGETinTOUCH (2016)

A whole new, sometimes weird culture has evolved. For instance, South Koreans, are among the world's most prolific texters. According to the New York Times, some of the most addicted users have developed bigger thumps. Thumbers are pros, Indexers are amateurs. The language of texters is acronyms. Of course, there's an online list. Your smartphone's predictive can write your bio: type 'I was born @therealbradg. JK Rowlings tied it. 2 million others tried it too. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google observed that every two days we generate as much information as was created in the entire history of civilization until 2003. When Erkki wants some info, he whips out his phone and talks to it (in English). It answers right back. People who can't navigate in this high technosphere are NETbehinders.

Two teenagers heard the lyrics to gottaGETinTOUCH. They screamed.'That's us, can we be in it'? I told them that I had read girls, on average, texted about 100 times a day.They said, 'At least.' (boys average around 60). Anyone with half a brain, knows kids are among vulnerable. Two books on social media have made the top of the New York Times non-fiction best-sellers list: 'Regaining Conversation' by Sherry Turkle, a media scholar at MIT (Massachusetts Institue of Technolgy) and 'Irresistible' by Adam Alter. If you're a parent buy them both. It's no secret that smartphones and SM sites encourage constant use by giving rewards for checking in all the time. According to USA TODAY, teenage suicides are rising – school and the internet are to blame. Many top tech execs enroll their children in private schools, such as WALDORF, where young students are not allowed any electronic device. One thing is as certain, we can't put this genie back into the bottle. Over to you Erkki.

PS: Erkki told me not to worry about typos and misspelled words. His computer has an automatic spellcheck. Whew. What a relief.

Sources: New York Times, Financial Times Weekend, The ECONOMIST, USAToday

Next week: MolestSTARS: how the internet helped bring some bad dudes down

I use Grammarly, which in addition to spell-checking does some rudimentary grammar checks: punctuation etc. It's pretty neat, IMO.

- Eki

Wednesday 29 November 2017

The answer is 'NO'

'DONALDdonald' was fun to make. A new kind of project for Erkki and me. And I wanted to do more with Trump - he has left a trail of trash talk to work with. In black and white, he looks smarmier than ever. Most people I know think this most un-presidential president has turned the US upside-down: black is white, lies are truth, fake is real. I had the the bright idea to keep the graphics and put more Trump words in his mouth. Maybe make him get smaller each t until he finally disappears.

I called Camilla Karsh, our story editor. When I told her my idea, the answer was, 'Hmm, uh, mmmm...' Translation: It stinks. I called Erkki and gave him my pitch. He didn't hem and haw. Right off the bat he said, 'No Maggy'. But I said, 'Trump has said so much stupid stuff we could go on and on.' He said, 'Not a good reason.' I'm lucky. It pays to have people on your team who are not afraid to say 'NO'.

Hercule Poirot
For instance, someone should have said 'NO' to Jim Jarmusch when he pitched PATTERSON, a death-by-boredom movie about a poet-bus driver named Patterson, who lives and works in Patterson, New Jersey. The movie is divided into days of the week and every day is the same. I left on Thursday. 'Parrerson' tanked at the box office. Taking in just a little over 2 million dollars worldwide. I would have said 'NO' to Kenneth Branagh when he decided to re-make Agatha Christie's 'MURDER on the ORIENT EXPRESS'. 

And I would have been dead wrong. It's a hit. But I suspect Agatha Christie's eternal popularity and that beautiful train has a lot to do with its success.When Erkki and I first started working together he told me to 'kill your little darlings'. The term is such an old saw that it sounds trite. But it's true. Still, I hate letting go of 'DONALADdonald'.

Re: Erkki's comments last week: Not fair.I can't exaggerate or embellish without Erki pointing it out. What fun is that?

Next week: SOCIAL MEDIALAND: an evil empire?

David Suchet is Hercule Poirot. No-one else should even think about acting the role. 


- Eki

Tuesday 21 November 2017

DONALDdonald: Trump talks

DONALDdonald (2017)
When I showed Erkki the ballpoint pen a pal in St. Louis, Mo sent me, he said, “Let's shoot it.” The pen has a red, white and blue stem and a PRESIDENT TRUMP'S head. The head talked in his own voice when you pressed it down. It said all sorts of silly stuff that people eat up. Including me. Erkki tied a long string around Trump's neck and strung it up between two poles in the studio and shot it. Trump looked terrific on screen. - smarmy, with pouty lips. Erkki recorded his dialogue. We made up a ditzy, obsessed fan - BETTY BOOB. BB's dumb dialogue matches Trump's. I did the voice-over. Erkki directed. He kept saying higher, higher, softer, breathier, sexier. We did it over and over. And then let the whole thing rest to do another project.

Sharon Pettus, the pen pal sender and I decided to go to Washington D.C. to check out the scene in the capital. We stayed at the Willard Hotel, the turn-of-the-20th-century icon, where the word lobbyists got its start. President Teddy Roosevelt hung out there. So did a lot of people who wanted to promote their company, their country, their cause, or just wanted to be where the power was. They made the lobby their meeting place hoping for a chance to make a pitch to the President. The new 'place-to-see-and-be-seen is the Trump International Hotel. We went there for a farewell drink. Wine is 27 dollars a glass, but worth it. Just to see all the BEs and WANNABEs waiting for President Trump to show up. His only go-to place in the capital.

Back in Helsinki Erkki took in all the footage from Washington. I asked Sharon for her ideas. She suggested Trump's head be in black and white. And the American flag turned upside-down, as a symbol of the topsy-turvy Trump administration. Erkki and I liked it. But the surreal made the real look banal. We dumped the Washington footage. And started all over. One minute on screen took about ten hours in the studio. And Erkki did the animation and other corrections later. The first person who saw it said, “What the fuck.” God bless America.

Maggy has a flair for good stories, and she has never let reality get in the way when telling them. The way i remember the session, Maggy had everything figured out pretty well before she came to the studio. So sure, i said "let's shoot it", but only after she asked me to. So, i can't take much credit for the idea, other than simplifying it quite a bit in the editing session - Humpty Trumpty on the wall (making a great fall) got tossed out, along many other ideas, all in the name of being concise.