A boy’s best friend is his mother.

Good evening.

I saw Hitchcock today. Just a few quick thoughts…

1. The nicest thing you can say about this movie was that it was witty and clever, but it’s ultimately very light fare. So much of this movie is fantasy – and not just the fantasy and daydream sequences – but it’s trivial aspects, imagined insights into the life of the filmmaker and his wife. A documentary about the making of Psycho and this era of Hitchcock’s career, with speculation from more informed opinions would’ve probably proved to be more interesting.

2. This movie has gotten mild Oscar buzz, and I guess it’s there, but primarily for the production design. The story is pretty formulaic, not giving the actors much to do other than say their lines competently.

3. Speaking of which, James Darcy does a fairly accurate seeming impression of Anthony Perkins. It’s funny to me that they make Perkins’ homosexuality not so much an unofficial secret throughout Hollywood, but something that a careful observer can pick up from a distance.

Just imagine the meeting of ScarJo and Bernard Herrmann.

4. This is second movie that I can think of that introduced a character played by ScarJo by doing a close up of her ass.

5. That said, it’s a film, it’s fantasy. The people are better looking. Helen Mirren is obviously much more attractive than the real life Alma Reville, and Anthony Hopkins, even under all the make up, probably still has a much more expressive face than the real Alfred Hitchcock. Also, Danny Huston is a villain in everything, right? That’s good casting.

6. Watching the film, of course, lead me to thinking about Psycho again. And that lead me to thinking about Delillo’s last novel, Point Omega, which has a prologue and epilogue set at the 24 Hour Psycho art installation by Douglas Gordon, which was at the Museum Of Modern Art in 2006. The installation took Hitchcock’s 109 minute movie and stretches it and slows it down so that it plays out over the course of 24 hours. The shower scene, for example, which lasts 45 seconds, takes a whole hour to play out.

In the novel, the 24 Hour Psycho stuff is a fascinating sequence that really informs the rest of the novel and how it deals with the perceptions missed perceptions of time passing. This little section always stuck out with me:

“The less there was to see, the harder he looked, the more he saw. This was the point. To see what’s here, finally to look and to know you’re looking, to feel time passing, to be alive to what is happening in the smallest registers of motion.”

If you’d like to check out an interesting book that takes a nice look back at Psycho, I would highly recommend A Long Hard Look At Psycho by Raymond Durgnat. It would make a nice companion piece to a film like Hitchock, really digging deeper than the fluff.

7. Something the film touches on, but only ever so briefly, is that great art can come from disturbed minds and from desires and fantasies that can’t be beaten and broken down into a box labeled “normal.” Obviously Alfred Hitchcock had some curious interests and obsessions and some continuing issues with women. The same could be said for Woody Allen. And Roman Polanski. There could be a lot of accurately negative things said for them as human beings, as well as a lot of accurately positive things said about their art. You need to pick your medium of release, because dark fantasies don’t have to spill over into reality. Sometimes creativity is born in the shit, and art has to be separated from the artist. Like I’ve repeated in one of my favorite quotes, there’s a difference between make believe and real life.

The difference between make believe and real life.

8. Now, I kind of want to watch that recent  HBO movie with Toby Jones as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren. Since it covers the making of The Birds and Marnie, it’ll be a kind of unofficial sequel to this movie. And it’ll get into some of the trivial parts of history that really interest us (and that Hitchcock only touches on sparingly): Hitch’s obsession and control over his leading ladies.

9. I’m not sure if this makes me really want to go see Bates Motel.

10. When you watch movies in December, and especially the second half of December, you kind of have to keep the idea of the Oscars always present in the back of your mind, right? I haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty yet but I suspect that the big Oscar buzz will be between that and probably The Life Of Pi. On the Time Travel Murder Mystery podcast Benjie and I talk about the padding you have to do to come up with 10 films to nominate, because at least four and sometimes five of those films have no chance whatsoever. I suspect that Hitchcock is one of those films. It’s a cute movie about a great director and his under appreciated wife and a mid-life crisis (well, slightly later than “mid-life”) and some marital scrapes. And through that time there came about a truly great piece of cinema. Psycho, that is, not Hitchcock.

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You know nothing, Jon Snow!

This is excellent:

A nice murder.

Nothing really important to say here, just that I’m mildly fascinated by the latest interest in things Hitchcockian… There was that HBO movie with Toby Jones and Sienna Miller, and there’s the new one with Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and ScarJo, which will probably get some mild Oscar buzz. And then there’s also a new TV show, a prequel to Psycho, starring Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga as Mama Bates. It has Carlton Cuse, from Lost, as its showrunner.

I remember when Brian DePalma did his best films in the 80s, which were all nu-Hitchcockian fare, and even Curtis Hanson did a decent riff on Hitchcock, The Bedroom Window, which starred Steve Gutenberg (LOL), Elizabeth McGovern, and Isabelle Huppert. Anyway, doing stuff in the style of Hitchcock is one thing, but all these movies about him… Just seems interesting to see competing projects of this nature.

Signal to noise.

I’m reading enjoying this new season of Mad Men – no surprise, that – but I especially enjoyed the most current episode, “Signal 30.”

Easily one of this show’s “instaclassics,” right? Pretty much on par with last season’s “The Suitcase.”

It especially fascinated me because it was a Pete-centric episode, especially since Pete was always my least favorite character. For the first season, he was the show’s villain du jour around the office, and his whole personality was always designed for you to love how much you hate him. Plus, I despised the actor by association of his character on Angel. And yet Pete is one of the realest depictions of what it’s like to work in an office like Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and try to stand beside the towering monolith of all things awesome which is Don Draper and try to survive with the comparison.

I think once upon a time Peggy was also that character for us, young and hungry, trying to learn from Don and become like him, to become something in the advertising industry in the 60s, to be admired by peers and to leave the office each day with some self worth, but I think that’s beyond Peggy now. Or, rather, Peggy is beyond that. I think the show’s done a pretty good job now at showing that whatever Peggy’s destiny is, it’s not to become the next Don Draper. It’s to become something different, something new in the changing world that Mad Men teeters on the brink of.

And then there’s Pete. And Lane. Two guys who will always be fish out of water, who work hard, but can’t shake the fact that they feel they’re owed some other kind of respect. There’s struggles and there’s loneliness and there’s a lot of stabs in the dark at connections with people that ultimately fail. And then there’s the loneliness again, and the passage of time and the moments that always slip away. This show is so good at showing at time is always moving, always getting away from you.

There’s an expression that I always used to hear as a kid (far too much, in fact) that went like this: “God always answers your prayers, but He does so in the order in which they’re received.” Once upon a time, Don Draper’s confident, self-assured life looked perfect to Pete. The wife, the kids, the suburbs. Pete went out and got that for himself, without taking the time to appreciate it, and now it feels even lonelier. Don’s happy little life slipped away from him and he found himself another one.

And again all Pete can do is look over there, angry and envious, feeling as if he has nothing, and therefore is nothing.

The only thing I think that Pete Campbell/Theon Greyjoy wants to be more than Don Draper is not himself.

He’s a guy from a family that once had privilege, but they gave it all away. Probably because they figured that they were sitting on an endless supply of it. Sadly, Pete inherited a lot of that thinking. And now he’s either out there, acting without thinking, trying to claim what he feels should have always been his, or he’s left alone, so alone, sitting on top of a mountain of thoughts about how everything should be is and yet, somehow, is not.

There’s something just amazing about this past episode to me. The rhythmic moving of the teenage girl’s sandaled feet, keeping in time with the dripping of the kitchen faucet that haunts Pete, keeping in time with the ticking of the clock. There’s a man on a clocktower picking off pregnant women with a rifle, and Pete’s life is mired with echoes and ghosts, all visible but intangible, all tasting of ash.

And his former enemy, Ken Cosgrove, having himself surrendered in their rivalry, and somehow still doing better and happier with a successful career as a sci fi writer and married to TV’s Alex Mack. Kenny Cosgrove turns his dinners into drinks and he still finds time to write about robots who repair bridges, and meanwhile neither Lane nor Pete can maintain the ones they hope to link them to their fellow men. How can Pete learn to drive if everywhere he’d drive to is the same old shit that he brings himself wherever he goes? How much more irony and neat little metaphors can be packed in here?

I could go on and on, but bottom line: It was good. The episode had a sort of mesmerizing quality about it. The noble sadness of the normal guy, who is doomed to never appreciate what he has and something, something, something about a dog with two bones. Nice direction by John Slattery and an excellent script co-written by the writer of Dog Day Afternoon and Cool Hand Luke, I chuckled when I heard “Ode To Joy” playing.

Just like this season of Game Of Thrones continues it’s not too subtle quest to define power and where it comes from, the characters of Mad Men are just struggling to keep a little of it for themselves. Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future. They keep foreshadowing the death of Don Draper, which, in Mad Men language, I presume, will mean that someone close to Don will die this season rather than Don himself. No one wants to see Don Draper dead but we’d all like to see Don Draper deal with a loss so close to home, or so work, or to wherever his interior self lies.

So much of Game Of Thrones‘ story lays in its past, but the TV show nor the books (I’m only like 200 or so pages into the third book so careful on the spoilers, please) want to go back there. Mad Men will do flashbacks, sparingly, but it’s just to show you how much can change in so little time. The point of both shows is the same: This train is not stopping. It only goes faster. And we’re heading into the future.

One minute your dad is the Hand of the King and the next minute he’s getting his head chopped off and the sons of bitches all have crossbows pointed at you.

One minute every thing is fine and dandy at the whorehouse a few blocks from here and then the next a life, a marriage, and the hopes at landing that contracted are ruined by some bubblegum found on the pubis and we can only settle this one way…

Like men. In the medieval ways that we think men are supposed to act.

It’s hard to put one foot in front of the other when you have no idea where you’re going and no idea what you want out of the journey.

(of Mars.)

I didn’t see John Carter, the long burning adaption of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books, on its opening weekend.

But neither did you. And neither did a large chunk of the rest of North America.

I saw it today though, two weeks (perhaps?) or so into its run.

I’m going to wax ineloquently about its pros and cons, if you will, and I’ll do it as briefly as I can. I can already suspect that very little of what I’m going to say will be about the film itself.

PRO: The film is good. It is strong, and solid, and good. It is enjoyable, especially on a rainy Saturday afternoon, in the movie theater.

CON: It’s long. Not super long, no, but they could’ve cut about twenty minutes or so down and it would’ve felt like a sharper bullet fired at the audience (in the hopes of making a trilogy-sized wound?).

A somewhat similarly related CON: Another light breeze through the script could’ve helped. Michael Chabon does a decent job, definitely, but they should’ve brought in a seasoned script doctor (like Joss Whedon from the late 90s) and let them punch up the dialogue a little more, toss in a few more one liners.

Neither a PRO, nor a CON: It’s just funny to see McNulty in this movie. Does he only play incredibly sleazy bad dudes in his film work? I would’ve killed for a “What the fuck did I do?”

Also, neither a PRO, nor a CON: Ciarán Hinds and James Purefoy, reunited. Interesting. I wanted to scream, “CAESAR, LOOK OUT!” Purefoy’s only in the movie for about five and a half minutes, but he’s the only character really having a lot of fun, it seemed like. Which is weird because, at the same time, given the kind of characters that Purefoy usually plays, or doesn’t, I felt like he was ready and willing to take over Dominic West’s role in a heartbeat should he have felt ill or something.

Also, Polly Walker’s in the mix too. What a weird Rome reunion.

Related, but neither a PRO or a CON: You really could’ve unleashed this story as an HBO show, especially in light of success with properties like A Song Of Ice And Fire on HBO and Spartacus on Starz. Everything seen here in this movie would’ve made for a very strong first season.

PRO (obviously): Andrew Stanton. The guy’s good.

I remember going into the theater to see the last Mission: Impossible film, humorously subtitled Ghost Protocol, with no real expectations at all, mostly because the trailers and advertising were so sub par. Obviously I liked The Incredibles and Brad Bird’s talent there was undeniable, but there was no real clear indication in the advertising for Ghost Protocol as to what that would look like in Bird’s live action debut.

Long story short, Ghost Protocol was good. A real solid, fun popcorn flick. Definitely worth watching. I walked out of that thinking that, rather than jerking us or themselves around, Tom Cruise and J. J. Abrams and their associates might as well just lock Brad Bird down for another Mission: Impossible film. Will they? Who knows. Probably not. He’ll probably return as a “producer,” but they should.

PRO (continued): A little of that though, that ambivalence, is why I just wasn’t jazzed to see John Carter. I read more good reviews than negative ones, but nothing in that trailer was making my cock stand up, you know what I mean? I mean, I’ll probably go and see The Hunger Games, and I’ll most likely hate it and curse Gary Ross’ name in the dark, but I’ll see it out of obligation. The flat out suck is more than apparent already in The Hunger Games‘ trailers. I’m going to go out on a limb and say right now that Gary Ross will probably have spent more time obsessing over weird costume designs and facial hair and shit than developing strong stories, interesting action sequences, or interesting characterizations.

The difference between that instance and the one I’m somewhat talking about here in this post is simple: Gary Ross is a fucking hack and Andrew Stanton is the real deal.

Spoiler for all The CONS listed in this post: The marketing and advertising for this movie is fucking terrible and all the blame for the film’s poor Box Office performance should reside squarely on their shoulders.

PRO: There’s about ten minutes of this film set in the Old West, and every bit of it was more exciting than the entirety of Cowboys And Aliens. I’m very glad that Jon Favreau got shown the door from this production.

PRO: You get the sense that Stanton gets film, gets how it should flow and feel, especially the big popcorn munching blockbuster, in a way that can only be viewed in another modern filmmaker in the likes of someone like the aforementioned J. J. Abrams. Their style is original, using the tools of today, but it also feels like a respectful homage to a 70s style as well, something from George Lucas or Spielberg. I don’t say that in a bad way though. They’re not like the average Tarantino beast, inserting 13% original creativity into a mutant wearing a t-shirt that says “BIG SLOPPY HOMAGE” on it. But I feel like Super 8 was just Abrams addressing the fact that he knew what he was doing, where his style was born. I feel like John Carter is doing that too, but in a much more quiet voice.

Thesis Statement of the PROs: About half way through the viewing of this movie I started to wonder if this film was the closet that I would get to watching the original Star Wars film as a kid.

Perhaps it was thinking that that completely kicked me into a higher gear of of enjoying this film. I mean, I have nitpicks, yeah.

Tons of them, in fact: Starting with cutting this film down a little bit, not in the editing room, but at the drawing board stage, just tightening some things up, some of the chases and what have you, and punching up some of the dialogue. Some diversification of the character designs, especially the warring civilizations, and primarily the “red people,” the humanoids from the warring city-states. There should’ve been a mindset in place for the fact that this movie should be for KIDS, and also adults who accompany them. And more of a mindset than just slapping the tiny little Disney logo on top of the posters.

I mean… Right?

PRO: Taylor Kitsch doesn’t seem like a very interesting entity to be pushing upon filmgoers, but I guess I like him better than Sam Worthington. That said, Kitsch (Sorry, that’s a terrible last name for an actor) does a fine job in this film, but the rest of its cast is fascinatingly seasoned:

Lynne Collins as Dejah Thoris, as well as Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, David Schwimmer, and Art Malik are in there with the aforementioned Hinds, Purefoy, Polly Walker, and Dominic West. And with a cameo by Jon Favreau. And thankfully no cameos whatsoever by Harry Knowles (taking the cheapest of shots here: we would’ve needed something a little bigger than IMAX for that).

Taking a smart note from the original Star Wars there is that you have a unique mixture of British pedigree there, all chewing on that Martian scenery.

CON: The shortened title. I get Stanton’s reasoning, that this film is about John Carter becoming of Mars. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah blah. But still. I don’t know how many Tarzan and/or John Carter and/or lovers of old pulpy sci fi were out there, horny with desire at the thought of this finally coming to the big screen, but still. The OF MARS at the end of the title would’ve really clued you into something going on there. Something different. Simply titling the film John Carter tells me one thing about this movie: I don’t know what this is. Is it a film about a high school basketball coach who applies tough love to his students? Is it about a guy who starts his own company and starts a relationship with a receptionist and also has cancer? Is this a lawyer and/or a doctor flick?

CON, continuing: Leaving the “Of Mars” at the end of the title should’ve lit a fire under the advertising people’s asses too. And perhaps the production design as well. No one on this production should’ve been afraid to go weird here. Obviously they weren’t too precious about the original source material (who is these days?)(other than the people adapting Game Of Thrones), which is fine, because there was nothing too precious in Burroughs’ source material, but there should’ve been some steps outside of the box.

Interlude to this CON: An example of them not being terribly, painfully faithful to the source material: the (would be titular) princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris.

from here.

I like Lynn Collins, and I’m glad with how they reinvented her character for this story. The original idea of Dejah Thoris in the books seems like a castoff wet dream from Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales, and can rightfully belong in the wet dream and basement apartments of fan boys. This is the real world. “Tits” and “Ridiculous nudity” are not character qualities.

The princess of Mars, by Bruce Timm, from here.

Sorry, CON, continued: There should’ve been more steps outside the box in every aspect of this film’s production, really.

There’s no denying that filmmaking has gotten so much lazier since the late 90s, but that goes hand in hand with how much lazier advertising these films has gotten since then. And yet, the advertising budgets for studios is getting bigger and bigger, going through the roof, even when they’re seemingly returning less and less profits. The budget for John Carter is supposedly $250 million dollars, which really means that it’s total budget with the marketing is, what, a minimum of $350 million? Ugh. I’m sure they’ll make that back, but not quickly enough.

But I guess you could say that the film was doomed by the time its first teaser was released.

CON, still continuing, becoming more and more of a bitch session about modern movie marketing and more of a circle jerk over the original Star Wars: The beauty of the original Star Wars as that, to then modern cinema-going audience, it was new. Sure, all that Joseph Campbell shit was old, but they didn’t know that, not consciously. All the fat little nerds weren’t sitting in movie theater lines in 1977 waxing poetic over the hero’s journey. No, they wanted to see a good story and some cool shit, and the film fucking delivered. George Lucas took stuff from primal storytelling archetypes and he took a little from classic pulpy sci fi and he managed to remix it into a very new style.

I’m guess I’m telling you that John Carter has a little of that (but not enough). I guess I’m telling you that we desperately need more of that. We need that potential and we need marketing that delivers the suggestion of a little of that to audiences.

PRO: Again, the movie just solid, and fun. Not perfect. Not a home run, but better than a lot of the shit that you could end up seeing in theaters these days. I’m going on and on about the sins of films these days and how they’re slaves to the advertising departments, but the thing I really want you to take from this is that John Carter is a pretty good movie, even if the trailer would’ve lead you to that assumption, or to any kind of assumption of what kind of movie it is.

One last CON: The ending. It ends somewhat ambiguously, but in a happy way. It wraps this story up in a way that works, even if it means that there will never be a sequel, which could very well be the case. I was somewhat reminded of the adaptation of The Golden Compass from a few years ago, which was not great. I’m a huge lover of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, of which The Golden Compass was the first entry, and I was ready to forgive a lot of the sins of that film adaptation, of which there were so fucking many, but the one I could never forgive was that they cut off the last thirty pages’ worth of the story’s ending, which they had filmed, with the intention of moving it to the beginning of the proposed sequel, which never happened.

Similar to what they did with the ending of The Two Towers, and how they moved its ending to the start of The Return Of The King.

And they did that because I guess they were afraid to end the film on a slightly downer of a cliffhanger. The fools. They needed that cliffhanger so badly. And The Golden Compass was edited like they weren’t expecting to be filming the follow up any time ever, so why not go for broke?

I’m not saying that John Carter needed to do that. They could’ve though. Rather than tying up the one last lingering plot point, such as they did, they could’ve thrown a mystery into your face. That’s another lesson Star Wars that a lot of the so called modern myth makers seem to not see: If you want to have a nice, large tapestry, it better have a lot of complex threads in it, any one of which could produce an interesting story. You walked out of A New Hope not quite sure of what was going on with that Darth Vader dude, or Luke’s dad, but you knew there would be an interesting story there if someone ever brought the story back to the movie theater near you…

“Politics is about people.”

I could not be more excited about Armando Iannucci’s new HBO series, Veep, which stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Well, I feel like “could not be more excited” might be inaccurate, so let that instead something along the lines of: This is something I need in my life right now. Also, the world/the country might need it in their lives as well. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus too, because her career deserves to survive the post-Seinfeld curse.

I never saw any of The Thick Of It, unfortunately, but In The Loop was so good, that I’m excited to see the same thing come to America, which was shown to be work just as well in that form, as presented by In The Loop.

In fact, I really hope that Anna My Girl! Chlumsky’s character in Veep is the same character from In The Loop, just a few years later and with a better job, and that the show exists in the same “universe,” because then there’s a good chance for an appearance by Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker.

And also, the timing is right for a show like this in this new post-Sarah Palin world and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, and with the primaries, and it being an election year and blah blah blah blah blah. And mainly: It wouldn’t kill us to have some good shows to care about again.

You could have it all.

Mad linkage:

What happens when the scary predictions of speculative fiction start to come true earlier than expected?

I guess you could say that I’m excited to see A Dangerous Method.

Best Coast and WAVVES.

An interesting interview with Steven Soderbergh about Contagion.

Did Chris Martin cheat on Gwyneth Paltrow?

J.J. Abrams is doing some cool new shit.

Science fiction magazines and The Joy Of Sex.

from here.

Noah Baumbach is developing Jonathan Franzen‘s The Corrections as an HBO series.

Post-apocalyptic porn. Sure, why not?

Matthew Fox could be in some trouble.

Saturn is beautiful.

The critics of Joan Didion.

This is Peanut St. Cosmo’s new favorite picture on the internet.

What does clitoral stimulation do to your brain?

Post-Sept. 11 Saudi Arabia is modernizing, slowly.

Mos Def will no longer be Mos Def.

Kitty Ravenhart’s selection for The Best Of Yahoo Answers.

Did you drain your balls at DragonCon?

More leaks from David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

from here.

A guy jerked off to me in the subway and the NYPD didn’t do a thing.”

I feel like with each passing day I’m a little more amazed that The Avengers movie is happening.

The beginning of the end for Yahoo?

Johnny Depp to star in another fucking remake, this time of The Thin Man.

Female blogger threatened with defamation suit after writing about TSA rape.

Jeff Tweedy and the Black Eyed Peas.

Tech company to build science ghost town.

A new story by Haruki Murakami.

Very cool fan art.

A huge list of deleted scenes that are awaiting you on the new Star Wars blu-rays.

Yelping with Cormac McCarthy.

NYC bans dogs from bars.

A movie about Keith Richards?

Reality as a failed state.