Sixty-One Years On: Marveling at Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’

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Rear Window is just one of those movies: it has left an indelible imprint on the cultural landscape. And it will forever remain not only one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, but one of the most recognized and respected filmmaking achievements of all time.

In my couple of prior viewing experiences, the film had been presented to me as a thriller. One of the best thrillers of all time, in fact. In those other viewings, I think I was taken with the thrilling aspects, though perhaps only slightly given their comparative lightness to modern-day examples of the genre. The narrative is straight forward, the bad guy is the bad guy, and save for the climactic finale (which makes such excellent use of the protagonist and antagonist’s sensory experience) there is very little in the way of fear or anxiety. This is thriller-lite by Hitchcock’s standards.

At a recent screening—the first of those Fathom Events I’ve ever been to, though not for lack of interest—I was struck instead by the film’s singularness, by the limits and advantages of its restricted shooting style, and, most delightfully, by its humor.

So, rather than think of Rear Window as a straight thriller, I’d like to sit with its oddness, its off-kilter delight in the horror of its conceit, and its perfectly executed claustrophobia. In fact, I’d instead like to think of Rear Window as Hitchcock’s unique brand of homebound relationship dramedy-turned-horror. Let’s explore what makes this film so strange! Continue reading

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The 87th Annual Academy Awards: Hopes, Dreams, And Predictions

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On Sunday, the 87th Annual Academy Awards will be given to the actors, writers, designers, technicians, producers, and director of the “best films” of the year. Of course the Academy voting body gets it wrong (in this writer’s humble opinion) far too often. But film being a subjective art, those who care about the recognition received by our favorites hold out hope that this year—every year—things will be different.

The 2015 awards are shaping up to be a relatively unpredictable bunch. Birdman and Boyhood are fighting it out for the best picture and best director spots, the best actor race has Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne on the bubble, and the screenplay awards are impossible to predict with 100% certainty. Basically, it’s a fool’s errand, but I’m gonna lay my predictions out there anyway.

For each of the categories (save for the shorts and docs, about which I regrettably know next to nothing), I will list my prediction for who/what will win, who/what should win, and who/what should have been nominated.

For those who care to read on, here are my thoughts on the 87th Academy Awards: Continue reading

‘Brokeback’ & Me: A Brief History

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As this blog’s title suggests, I hold a cherished space in my heart for Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee’s 2005 masterpiece. I have written extensively about the film, discussing the positives (its beauty, simplicity, performances, and relative transgression of film-going audiences’ expectations) and negatives (the relatively poor translation of eroticism from short story to screenplay, an over-reliance on heteronormative tropes).

I often sense some hesitation on the part of my queer friends and colleagues when I explain that Brokeback is my favorite film. I imagine that it’s because it is so mainstream and, some would argue, hetero. Perhaps more frustrating, I am too often labeled as simply “the gay guy” or “the guy who loves gay movies” by straight people I encounter. Those things are obviously true, but my love for this film is not contained by those words.

“It hit me at just the right time,” is a refrain I use over and over when attempting to sum up my attitude about the unconventional and undefinable story of Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist. I wrote about this time in my life in my senior project, the one I have mentioned here before, about Vito Russo and the evolution of queer representation in film. It was important for me to find the ways in which Vito and I could connect, and one of them was through a shared lifelong passion for the stories we see on screen, and the ways they relate to our own lives at that moment.

I would like to use the anecdote I wrote as a point of connection with my readers as well. Perhaps it will explain a little better the ways I view films and just how meaningful they can be for me.

Continue reading

Welcome One And All!

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Here it is as last! I’ve roped you into reading my film blog! No, you probably haven’t been anticipating it. And no, you may not even care what I have to say. But trust me, this baby has been gestating for a few solid years and I am a proud, proud papa.

Let me explain the name I’ve chosen…

I Wish I Knew How To Quit Film: that’s a lie, and hopefully you’ll appreciate the irony. It’s also, of course, a take on a famous quote adapted to film in Brokeback Mountain, my go-to favorite movie, and a flawed one at that. I credit Brokeback with spurring my interest in cinema as a true art form, one as susceptible to critique and our undivided attention as any great aria, Van Gogh, or concerto. I saw it for the first time in ninth grade alongside my mom and sister (more writing about that to come), and was instantly infatuated with its images of male-male desire. Less so director Ang Lee’s restraint, its evocative score, and the deep sadness pervading stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performances.

Still, I carried the film with me through high school and into college at NYU. There, in my freshman year, I wrote an essay on the ways in which filmmakers and critics reinforced a homophobic and oddly romanticized attitude toward the film. I was forced to deal with some of the less-than-admirable qualities of the translation from short story to screen, including a severe reduction in homoeroticism (Lee commented at one point in the film’s press tour that it was far more erotic to watch men herding sheep than to watch them having sex) and a new emphasis on the hetero-home lives each man faces after coming down from Brokeback. From there on out, I critiqued and admired my favorite movie in equal measure. It somehow came out the other side wholly intact. Still my favorite and, taken to a sort-of extreme, worthy of tattooing on my leg, Brokeback Mountain hit me in the right place at the right time; I’m actually really happy I can’t seem to quit it.

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It seems fitting, then, that my first film blog should pay homage to Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, if only in title. The content, on the other hand, will be as diverse as the films I see.

For as long as I am able, I hope to use this space to write reviews, essays, and short musings of my own. I also sincerely hope that my blog can be a communal space; I’d relish contributions from other cinephiles, and comments from friends, family, and anyone else interested enough to care.

Film may be my obsession, but I am devoted to the notion that it is a populist art form: (relatively) accessible, interpretable by anyone, and, most importantly, a tool for camaraderie.

I’ll come back to that notion in a forthcoming post. For now, check out the scene (NSFW-language included) from Brokeback Mountain that gave my blog its title; it’s a doozy, but oh-so-wonderful!

And of course, thank you for reading. Feel free to subscribe for post updates and share as much and as often as you’d like.