Posts Tagged ‘Madonna’

md1

This week I noticed how many musical biographies I have on that little iDevice of mine, each one more educational than the last (history books teach us nothing, you hear me, nothing!). To help create snappy headlines for a catalog that I’m working on for my book publishers, I’ve relied heavily on lines from these musicals and amused myself in the process. To help promote a collection of books that have been translated into English, I stole from Yentl the line “Tell me where, where is it written?” to use as its headline. The wine titles and their purple covers will be promoted with the handle borrowed from Fiddler on the Roof, “To life, to life, l’chaim.” The list of books on climate change could very well end up under the header, “Don’t rain on my parade,” but I should go for subtlety here if I want to keep it up.

Biopics have also entered my watch history in the last few months, as I just wrapped up the brilliant miniseries, John Adams (2008), starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, two people who should be married in real life. It was such a gratifying and addictive series, that naturally I scoured my shelves in search of others from the same genre. Ranking one’s favorite biopics turned into wonderfully frustrating task, as feelings of neglect and betrayal surfaced with each resort. But we gave it a go . . .

 

15) Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen (2006)

Helen mirren_2

The movie itself, not my favorite, but with every hand gesture and tilt of her head, Helen Mirren unveils the broaches and emotions of Her Majesty The Queen, eventually taking home the Oscar.

 

 

14) Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, Mrs. Brown (1997)

mrsbrown2

“No one should think themselves wiser than me!” Dame Judi Dench is the aunt we all wish we had, am I right? I think her earrings move only in the direction that she commands – wind and gravity are nothing to this woman.

 

 

13) Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan, The Miracle Worker (1962)

mw1

As Helen Keller’s tutor, Anne Bancroft’s miraculous scenes with Patty Duke include only grunts of frustration instead of dialogue. Astounding, but once was enough.

 

 

12) Meryl Streep as Julia Child, Julie and Julia (2009)

Meryl Streep as "Julia Child" in Columbia Pictures' JULIE & JULIA.

Julia Child now looks like Meryl Streep to me, and Stanley Tucci is delicious, as always. Sandra Bullock seems like a lovely person, but in 2010 the Academy really should have given more thought to its choice in the Best Actress category.

 

 

11) William Powell as Florenz Ziegfeld, The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

ziegf1

It clocks in at just under three hours, but who could have too many helpings of William Powell? During the elaborate numbers of the Ziegfeld Follies, I could be found adding three different biographies on Flo to my wish list.

 

 

10) Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan, Boys Town (1938)

boystown1

In a pinch he can be tougher than you are, and I guess maybe this is the pinch.

 

 

9) Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne as Ike and Tina Turner, What’s Love Got to Do with It (1993)

tina1

Have you ever wanted to knock the television off its stand just to stop what’s happening in the movie? Taking logical action and switching it off won’t help a thing; the only way for me to save Tina from Ike is to throw that television to the floor with all my might. There were no instructions in the box telling me not to do this.

 

 

8) Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker, Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

bonniec1

Love for Mr. Beatty and all, but every shot (ha!) of Faye Dunaway in this film is exquisite and should be framed on my wall.

 

 

7) Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote, Capote (2005)

capote1

At Harper Lee’s party celebrating To Kill a Mockingbird, he sits at the bar and mutters, “I frankly don’t see what all the fuss is about.” Ten seconds in a film can be more heartbreaking than all of its seconds combined.

 

 

6) Jessica Lange as Frances Farmer, Frances (1982)

frances12

Reaching for the moon? No, just one little star . . . on a dressing room door. Once again, the supreme Jessica Lange gives voice to every rejection, deception, and ambition through which her audience itself has suffered. It must have been by one vote when Meryl took Oscar home that year for Sophie’s Choice.

 

 

5) Greta Garbo as Christina, Queen of Sweden, Queen Christina (1933)

garbochris

This list overflows with royalty, but Garbo was the Queen before them all, including Capote. Unconvinced that a queen requires a king for a successful rule, Christina promises that she will die a bachelor.

 

 

4) James Cagney as George M. Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

yankee1

Sometimes a gangster; sometimes a vaudevillian who can tap-dance down a staircase at the White House. As entertainer George Cohan, James Cagney was living proof that magic exists . . . no one can dance like that without assistance.

 

 

3) Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I, Elizabeth (1998)

elizabeth-1

I was torn between listing this or Blanchett’s Oscar-winning performance as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004). Her transformation into the Virgin Queen at the end of the film helped tip the scale.

 

 

2) Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, Milk (2008)

milk1

When I first saw Milk, I don’t think I said as much as two words after I left the theatre. When I saw it again, the second time at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, I had the same reaction. Luckily there were bars in every direction, and we sat for hours at Twin Peaks, drinking our drinks and smelling the fresh cookies next door until the words and tears came.

 

 

1) Madonna as Eva Perón, Evita (1996)

Madonna in Evita

Never been a lady loved as much as a desperate, misunderstood, driven woman who was hurt and disappointed by life at a young age. After the erotic, bedtime story days of the early 1990s, Madonna revealed more of herself in Evita than she ever showed us during those equally magnificent naked years. You must love her.

I’m always tickled when Little Magazine asks me to create a music playlist for them. Given a general theme, I begin compiling an overflowing list of possibilities, eventually seeking guidance from my taskmistress – often at 1am – in reference to the maximum number of songs that she will allow. Yet the stress of choosing and rating and sorting and resorting is a cakewalk compared to the stomach-punching anxiety that comes with permanently deleting a song. Every time I cut a song, a jukebox fairy dies.

The springtime playlist that I composed for Little Magazine provided an opportunity for a thorough review of my library; the hefty number of film and television soundtracks found in my archives was quite a shock to . . . well . . . no one. Typically I stay away from the alcohol when I write, but this lovely glass of Sofia Coppola rosé and I decided today to reveal our top-ten favorite movie soundtracks. Since we’re breaking our “no alcohol” rule, we came up with a few others to compensate:

1) We’re leaving out musical scores – not to be sniffed at, but we’d have to include all of our favorite Disney movies; Hitchcock would be all over the place (minus The Birds, of course); Jaws would have to be included in order for us to post this list guilt free; and Moonstruck . . . oh, Moonstruck.

2) We’re leaving out the musicals – way too easy, and way too hard. You want me to compare A Star Is Born to Cabaret? Too treacherous a road.

3) We’re leaving out words and phrases like “best” and “all-time greatest,” not because we’re ashamed of our choices, but because we’re afraid of you flinging disgusting objects in our direction (yes, I’m looking at you).

4) Sofia and I fought over this one – although not a musical, The Skeleton Twins (2014) may not be included just because of this magical moment:

sk

 

10) O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

obro

Despite two attempts, the deep, devoted love that so many feel for this Coen brothers film never blossomed in me, but I do find that Harry McClintock’s “Big Rock Candy Mountain” slips easily into many a playlist. And it must be the banjos of this bluegrass soundtrack that transport me immediately to the first few moments of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.

 

9) The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

pris2

After a binge watching of Ugly Betty, I came to the realization that “Save the Best for Last” should be played at least once a day. No offence to the drag queen hidden in the shadows of the closing credits, but I would have teared up if Vanessa Williams had made an appearance in this wickedly fun film. “Sometimes the snow comes down in June; Sometimes the sun goes round the moon” – poetry at its finest.

 

8) 200 Cigarettes (1999)

200cig

This cinematic masterpiece became the bible of one of my most treasured of friendships. Tunes of the sun-setting 1970s meet those emerging in the early 1980s, and together they skip down the streets of Manhattan on New Year’s Eve. Watch for an Oscar-snubbed Martha Plimpton – she’s ferocious, and she knows just it takes to make a pro blush.

 

7) Mermaids (1990)

mermaids5

Take it from me, she’s a better catch – outshining the original, Cher’s version of “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)” opens this assortment of classics, closing with Jimmy Soul’s “If You Wanna Be Happy.” A matchmaking service for ugly girls could never be played on the PC iStations of today.

 

6) Pulp Fiction (1994)

pulp-fiction

Bless Mr. Tarantino’s dark and bloody heart for introducing Dusty Springfield to a generation that may have never had the pleasure.

 

5) Dirty Dancing (1987)

dirtyda

You’ll find a decent amount of overlapping with the tunes from Mermaids, but seriously, what’s with the music industry? This nostalgic treasury should have launched Patrick Swayze’s singing career. Keep your eye out for one of Mom’s personal favorites – the cover of “You Don’t Own Me” by The Blow Monkeys changes absolutely everything about Lesley Gore’s original.

 

4) Footloose (1984)

footloose

With Sammy Hagar’s “The Girl Gets Around” blasting underneath me, I have no doubt that I could stand between two cars and play chicken with an 18-wheeler . . . and win. Please note that this soundtrack should be played only on cassette tape in a silver boombox and while wearing red boots.

 

3) The Big Chill (1983)

bigchill

Speaking of cassette tapes, when we were kids we drew a happy face on the side of the tape we liked and a frowning face on the other. Side “A” of The Big Chill ended with Three Dog Night “Joy to the World,” and Side “B” closed with “Tell Him” by The Exciters. The Big Chill was all smiles on all sides.

 

2) The Graduate (1967)

grad

“Put it in the pantry with your cupcakes.” I never knew – is that a dirty line? I’ll always take the side of the character in a leopard coat, but when Simon and Garfunkel generate an emotional apathy within Benjamin, my allegiance to Mrs. Robinson begins to crumble.

 

1) Dick Tracy (1990)

dicktracy2

Square jaw; ooo such a handsome face. Madonna’s I’m Breathless album not only blessed the world with the dance floor (and my kitchen floor) classic “Vogue” but also scored Stephen Sondheim an Academy Award for the song “Sooner or Later.”

Beauty’s where you find it:

ttc10

Full disclosure: I have very little memory of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956). On the last two Sabbath days I hunted for what those of us in publishing habitually call the physical copy (“pbook” when I’m in the office . . . feh!) of this film so I could schedule a revisit. My reliable used DVD shop is on its last leg these days, so it’s slim pickings over there. I hacked into Mom and Dad’s Netflix to see if I could do some streaming, but I knew that was an even riskier gamble to take. Two routes fruitless, the third was to explore other online options available to me, but those were certainly not to occur without a coupon or a gift card. Eventually I called off the hunt and accepted God’s honest truth – in a modern world divided between the physical and the digital, The Ten Commandments were nowhere to be found.

My search for Moses started a few days after a long weekend in Chicago. Many will agree that the bloodiest conflicts tend to revolve around religion; it’s true of world history, and it seems to be true of families. One of the greatest wars in family history involved getting me to Chicago in the glacial month of January to attend a distant relative’s bar mitzvah. Battles were fought on many fronts, and perhaps even a few were won, but in the end my troops forced to retreat, and I found myself in a window seat on United Airlines headed for O’Hare International Airport. Judaism felt like it been a part of my life three or four lifetimes ago, but it got me thinking . . .

My Jewish summer camp in Santa Cruz, CA, was being swallowed up slowly by the earth. As kids we were entertained by the fact that camp was built on a fault line, and the cabin floors were noticeably slanted. Left untouched, a laundry bag resting on the floor could very well end up on the other side of the cabin without any human interaction. Eventually the site was shut down, but not before generations of camp alumni were invited to revisit the grounds and walk around the sections that were not closed off with barricade tape. A five-minute walk from main camp was a beautiful building constructed as a Holocaust Memorial, and fortunately it was safe enough (or so they said) for us to visit. I remember walking up there alone and standing in the main room where I had spent many summer hours being educated on the rituals and customs of Reform Judaism.

The main room of the Holocaust Memorial building was primarily windowed; to the left I could see the trunks of the surrounding trees, and to the right I could see the tops of the trees. Beginnings and ends; young and old; growing and grown; I’m sure its point was drilled into my head at an age when I refused to accept any point made by a superior, but standing there that day looking left and looking right, I felt more spiritual than I have before or since. It was a connection to nature, a connection to my past and future, and a connection to the soul mates I was fortunately to have had in my life. The “camp” parts of camp were priceless, and I wouldn’t trade those days for all the Mae West DVD collections in the world. When it comes to the organized “stand now; sit now, pray now” aspects of Judaism, however, I’m afraid we have long since parted ways. And as it turns out, we were never that close. Spiritually comes in many forms, but for this guy, it never came from a scroll or a prayer book. An equally powerful moment returned years later, when Madonna performed “Like a Prayer” dressed as Joan of Arc, and for those seven minutes, I can guarantee that I was more soul than body. But would you like to know what experience has practically no amount of spirituality whatsoever? That would be Chicago in January.

ttc6

At 33 years old, my attention span in synagogue is essentially where was it was when I was a lad, possibly worse. A service that starts with a song is lovely, but to those of us who have seen the political sides of organized religion, we can’t help but snicker at an opening song that is simply a melodic repetition of the word “lie.” I’m sure the song book just leaves off the “e” in the transliteration of the soothing song, “Li, Li, Li.” Later on while the rabbi was jabbering on up there on his stage, I had a good Footloose moment and grinned slyly when I found myself examining my nails. I didn’t go as far as the minister’s daughter in Footloose and break out my nail polish during the sermon, but let’s be honest; we all know it crossed my mind. For two decades rabbis were the adults from Charles M. Schultz’s Peanuts, just an avalanche of incomprehensible noise that only they could understand. This particular rabbi didn’t seem like he wanted to be in the office that day (seriously, this guy should have been holding an “I Hate Mondays” coffee mug), but he did manage to get my attention at one point during the service – he brought up an old movie. Yes, I should have been paying closer attention in synagogue that day. I think my mind was more present when I was in Texas weeks earlier and a friend took me to church so she could take Communion. Now that was fascinating to a former-ish Reform Jew from California.

With Moses holding a gun to my head, I couldn’t map out the exact path that led us to Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments during that bar mitzvah, but there we were: temple movie trivia. The rabbi’s get-their-attention moment of his sermon called out the unresolved debate over who supplied the voice of God in The Ten Commandments. Some list Charlton Heston, while others claim it was DeMille himself who lent voice to the Almighty. Without a film credit (and who needs those, right Mrs. Hitchcock?), we can never know the true voice of God. I would have cast Katharine Hepburn, myself, but that’s just another one of Hollywood’s missed opportunities. I tuned out as quickly as I had tuned in, but for a brief moment there, the rabbi was speaking my language.

In college I was taught that a legend is a traditional tale handed down from earlier times and believed to have an historical basis. My beloved folklore professor, who looked a bit like Cecil B. DeMille, and to me, was the voice of God for three years, assigned a wonderful book that examined the Bible as one would a piece of folklore. And wouldn’t you know it; he turned out to be the author of said masterpiece. Accepting with gratitude any text he handed me and absorbing it as my religion, I powered through Holy Writ as Oral Lit, as it points out folkloristic aspects found in multiple translations of the Bible. I’m fairly certain that following the publication of certain works like these, my professor received death threats . . . God bless Your followers. I remember being at a house party in Orange County with some of those old soul-mate friends from camp around that time, and someone asked me what I was studying at school. When I mentioned the subject of my professor’s book to one young lady, she refused to continue the conversation and walked out of the room. It made about as much as sense to me as the thought of a gun-toting Heston playing the role of Moses. But it’s all just a movie, right? Right? Of course right!

ttc7

Academy Award for The Ten Commandments (1957): Best Special Effects

Add The Ten Commandments to your queue.

In the darkness two white lights travel slowly up the three black screens on stage. The sound of a single click-and-flash of the paparazzi is joined by a second, then a third, as together male and female models trickle on to the stage. Each is in a black-and-white outfit that suits his or her body to perfection, regardless of the gender for which the outfit may have been intended. As the two white lights brighten and merge into one before splitting again, a platform emerges above the models, delivering unto us once again a woman with a redesigned but very familiar pointed bust. Once again she demanded to know, “What are you lookin’ at?”

“Funny business, a woman’s career – the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you’ll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That’s one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we’ve got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we’ve had or wanted.”
— Margo Channing, All About Eve (1950)

In November of 2008, I saw Madonna perform “Vogue” live for the first time, and for a brief moment, Bette Davis stole her thunder. At that time I had just begun my journey into classic films and was working my way through each of Bette’s 11 Academy Award-nominated roles. As Madonna strutted down her catwalk and away from the audience, reciting all those names that I was beginning to know quite well, I could feel my voice was already beginning to go. Her back was to us all the way through this wonderful roll call, but suddenly she turned around and pointed (right at me, I know it!), as she said “Bette Davis, we love you.” And still, somehow, the night continued to improve.

I even made poor Louis take me on Crusade. How’s that for blasphemy? I dressed my maids as Amazons and rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure, and I damn near died of windburn . . . but the troops were dazzled.”
— Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Lion in Winter (1968)

An early week in October of 2012 brought Madonna back to me, as it did the loss of control I have over the majority of my body when I see her. The Masculine/Feminine portion of the show began with a performance of “Vogue,” and this time for me, it was all about Hepburn. When she got to the name-dropping that starts with Greta Garbo and Monroe (two other loves of mine, not to be sniffed at!), I felt a “hurry up and get to Katharine!” rise up in that old soul of mine. Dash it all, I couldn’t wait to say Katharine Hepburn’s name along with . . . yes WITH . . . Madonna. Right there between Lauren and Lana too was my beloved Katharine, whose name came out of me in one respectful syllable. Up went my hands, with or without the go-ahead from my brain; I watched my arms do their thing as both Hepburn and Madonna took complete control, as they tend to do.

Am I too much sometimes?

Nope, I’m just lucky that something as simple as hearing a first name can fill me with an unbelievable, lose-control-of-myself sense of joy; a joy that most of us don’t feel often enough. May you all have equal luck and know a place where you can get away . . .

“Bill’s 32. He looks 32. He looked it five years ago, he’ll look it 20 years from now. I hate men.” — Margo Channing

The night of November 1, 2008 flooded me with thousands of life’s greatest moments — for the first time in my 27 years, I saw Madonna perform live in concert. After tearing up Human Nature on her guitar, she already had me close to fainting, but then suddenly she hit me with “Ladies . . . ladies . . . ladies . . . with an attitude, fellas that were in the mood” and introduced new life to Vogue. Luckily for one of best friends who was with me, my immaculate joy outweighed any need to faint. To see and hear Madonna say “Bette Davis — we love you” is a shining rainbow of a moment that I will never forget!

I imagine it was on her birthday when she said “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” Happy birthday to the dynamite Miss Bette Davis!

“As long as I live, I’ll never take orders from anyone. I’m young and strong and nothing can touch me.” — Judith Traherne

“A woman is beautiful when she has eight hours’ sleep and goes to the beauty parlor every day. And bone structure has a lot to do with it too.” — Fanny Skeffington

“I’m not 20-ish, I’m not 30-ish. Three months ago I was 40 years old . . . 40 . . . Four O. That slipped out. I hadn’t quite made up my mind to admit it. Now I suddenly feel as if I’ve taken all my clothes off . . .” — Margo Channing

Add Bette Davis to your queue.

TheBirds1c

A few weeks ago, I treated myself to one of life’s sublimely perfect days. The sun and wind had a lovely harmony going, and I decided to spend the day outside, naturally with a book, a coffee, and my treasured spiral notebook. I found a dry spot in North Beach’s Washington Square, spread out my blanket, and settled in for a relaxing day of reading, writing, drinking, and absolutely no uninvited distractions. After a few hours I found a sidewalk table at a neighborhood restaurant and inhaled a sea bass that was so delicious, I sent a picture of it to my dear friend Sandy, creator of the food blog FancyFoodFancy. The North Beach restaurant’s owner and his wife sat and drank wine with me, and we had one of those enjoyable conversations reserved solely for Sunday afternoons. I went back to Washington Square for a bit more writing, but I found the wine flowing through me more than the creative juices. So after another round of drinks with one of my best friends and her boyfriend who happen to live in North Beach, I went home, watched a Madonna concert on DVD (the one I’d been lucky enough to see in-person), and fell asleep a little before 10pm. T’was a smooth yet spontaneous day to remember!

Days like those seem to have become part of my writing process, even if I go through the day without touching my pen. I had just finished my previous post on Psycho, which was a bit draining in a fantastic way, and I had pretty much settled on what film I was going to tackle next. I began writing about it, but for a number of reasons, I had to put that glorious film aside for the time being. As with many of us when we come to a mental crossroad, I looked up into the (mostly) clear blue sky, sure to find my inspiration, direction, or at least a cloud shaped like Bette Davis. Instead I saw a flock of San Francisco residents dance across the park’s ceiling, broadcasting to me the idea that had already been bubbling below the surface.

Like firetrucks with wings, one of these creatures’ most startling qualities is the fact that you can hear them heading towards you before they enter your eyesight. So on this, one of life’s close-to-perfect days, the teeter-tottering of birds across the afternoon sky revealed to me the reason why, hours earlier, I had chosen to reread George Orwell’s Animal Farm that day. You have to admire unconscious advanced planning . . .

Based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier, the author who also wrote Rebecca, The Birds was originally purchased by Mr. Alfred Hitchcock for his television show. There had been numerous newspaper articles about birds attacking humans for unknown reasons, but I’m not sure what the deciding factor was in terms of making the transition from television to a feature film. When the technical advisors were brought in so Mr. Hitchcock could see if making The Birds was in fact a possibility, one of them came up with a brilliant inspiration piece for the mood of the film — Munch’s The Scream. When it was decided that indeed yes it was possible to create this world of angry birds, Mr. Hitchcock set out to make what many refer to as his most technical film; a film that tallied a total of 371 trick shots after its completion. The explosion of birds from behind the schoolhouse never fails to tickle me, sort of in the same way my dear Wicked Witch of the West does when she takes off from her balcony for the Emerald City. Something wicked this way flies!

The cast, whose names I recognized in the opening credits but failed to pinpoint during my recent viewing, included Suzanne Pleshette and the great Miss Jessica Tandy, always a pleasure to watch. A young Veronica Cartwright plays Miss Tandy’s daughter, a sweet little girl here, but I can’t look at Miss Cartwright without thinking of her vomiting up the devil’s cherry pits in The Witches of Eastwick (1987). Mr. Rod Taylor rounds out the family as the ruggedly handsome son, brother, and ultimate love interest to one Miss Tippi Hedren. Miss Hedren, who had been modeling at the time, was offered the part of Melanie Daniels when, after a number of meetings and interviews, the Hitchcocks took her to dinner and gave a beautiful broach in the shape of three birds in flight.

It always takes me a few days to decide whether or not I enjoyed a Hitchcock film. Over the years I’ve noticed a number of people (many of whom are around my age) mention that they just can’t pay attention to the slow pace of many Hitchcock films. And I must admit that when I was younger, I felt that way about The Birds. Mr. Hitchcock has such a familiar formula of starting off slow, almost until, as Tippi Hedren described it, the audience just can’t stand it anymore. To me however, his cherished formula works perfectly in a film about multiple bird species that begin to attack humans for reasons unknown. So to my less-than-patient readers out there, I’d recommend just buckling down and getting through the beginning — everything Mr. Hitchcock does, he does for a reason. If there’s one thing to make you stick with it, hang on at least for one of my favorite compulsory Hitchcock cameos when he leaves a pet shop with two small white dogs. As rumor has it, the meals provided for those dogs outshone any that were given to the cast and crew.

TheBirds_hitchcameo2b

Slow start or not, he gets me every time . . . I know something is coming; I can hear the flap of the wings or the far-away screech that only seems to get closer instead of louder. And as powerful as Mr. Bernard Herrmann’s score was in the showers of the Bates Motel, his lack of sound in The Birds is what, I believe, makes it so terrifying. The frightening thought of animals taking back the world we believe we’ve dominated is further enhanced by the thought they absolutely have the right to do so! But I don’t feel the need to go too far in analyzing the symbolism of the birds or of Tippi Hedren’s sexuality and its bringing on the attacks; while those conversations are certainly entertaining, it’s one more approach that I feel has been done repeatedly.

Abstract symbolic analysis of The Birds always sounded like over-interpretation to me, especially when I figured Mr. Hitchcock went to great lengths to leave explanation out of the film. I used to love symbolic analysis, mostly when I studied folklore with a Freudian folklorist, and for some aspects of our culture, it seems to be a very useful approach. The more I write about films, however, the further I seem to move from interest in symbolism within the story itself. Absolutely nothing to sniff at, and I embrace interpretations of film on any level, but it’s interesting to notice how my eye has begun to shift. This is one of those movies I want to lay on the laps of my readers, rather than shove it down your throats, and say “well what do you think?”

I do get a kick out the ways in which my current movie of obsession enters my mind while I’m working on it. This one took me some time to get through for a number of reasons, but ever since I started thinking about it, I felt like the birds of the Bay Area had begun to keep their eyes on me. One morning on my way to work, I was sure a number of seagulls were shooting me dirty looks, as if to say “get on with it and write!” And I swear one of them swooped down towards my windshield, pivoting back up towards the sky at the last second. I mention this not to highlight the mechanical silliness of my brain but rather to show the power of a Hitchcock film, this one in particular. Whether I was writing or not, it was affecting me and stuck with me until I finally picked up my pen. But who’s to say that the simple act of writing changed how those birds were picking on me these past few weeks?

1083_RS630_014029.jpg

One other way The Birds nested in my brain was by bringing back a flock of memories that have to do with bird attacks. I’ve loved two “Catra’s” in my life, the first being a fabulously evil villain on the 1980s cartoon show She-Ra. She-Ra happened to be He-Man’s twin sister, and once again, my childhood psyche found itself drawn to the villain much more than to the heroine. Naturally when our neighbors gave us their cat because too many people in their house developed allergies, I knighted the beautiful young lady “Catra.” And yes, this regal beauty of ours had the hunter’s instinct . . . a number of “presents” were left on our doorstep throughout the years. I had always assumed that the birds lived in fear of our queen, but then we began to notice that one blue bird had no qualms about swooping down on Catra when she was outside. Of course our love for her kicked in and we wanted to protect her, but we also assumed she had messed with (and perhaps ate) the wrong bird family. So fearless was this bird that we truly believed Catra had done something to deserve such repeated attacks. Seeing these creatures that tend to scatter the moment you take a step towards them display such antagonistic behavior is frightening indeed.

The fact that these memories have sprung to mind feels like my personal hat tipping to Mr. Hitchcock and his craft. Creating a film that taps into even the dustiest of memory banks is what draws me in — he makes it real and forces me to acknowledge a few fears about which I may not have otherwise known. I’ve looked and listened to the birds of San Francisco with new sets of eyes and ears, wondering if they sense the new, but perhaps temporary, fear I have of them. While I was sitting in a café trying to sort through all my notes on The Birds, I glanced up to see a roof across the street that was absolutely crawling with pigeons. I felt my heart sank for a moment, and yet a peculiar smile slowly began to take over my face . . .

Thebirds7b

Add them to your queue.