Movies by two different directors monopolized my home viewing experiences from 2017. That’s not to say I didn’t watch a lot of other movies, but I did see a decent amount from the catalogs of Alfred Hitchcock and John Carpenter. Prior to 2017, I had already watched several films from both directors, but never pooled so closely together. Some of the films have been re-watches and some I’ve watched for the first time. In this post I will discuss my thoughts on both directors.
Alfred Hitchcock was truly a master of suspenseful storytelling. What impresses me most about Hitchcock is that he had a clear vision of how to make a movie-goer react, and could translate it to the screen seamlessly. Further, I don’t find his films to be dated, especially when it comes to his pacing. In my opinion, pacing is one of the major detractors for the modern viewer of most films from the Classical Hollywood Era. The other, in my opinion is acting-technique.
Here are the Hitchcock films I watched in 2017: Psycho, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, North By Northwest, Rope, and The Birds. Every one of these films is a solid 8/10 or more for me, and are truly worth a watch for anyone with a remote interest in watching classical pictures.
The best of the lot, in my opinion, was probably North By Northwest. It had all of the grandiose scope, wit from a leading role, and suspenseful action of the best James Bond films from the following decade. If you’ve seen the Connery Bond films, you’ll immediately spot their inspiration in this Hitchcock classic. You want to root for Cary Grant, who plays protagonist Roger Thornhill. He never fails to make a sly remark on his current situation, which is constantly in flux. Unlike most other films of the era, North by Northwest unfolds quickly, and you don’t want to divert your eyes for a moment. The airplane scene is iconic, and is one of my favorite scenes in all of cinema history.
What impressed me most in all of the Hitchcock films though, more so than anything related to the story-telling or presentation, was Grace Kelly’s ability to steal every second she was onscreen. I can’t name any other actor or actress with the screen presence of the Pennsylvania-born Princess. Perhaps the only others I can name with that level of on-screen charisma that even come close for me are Sean Connery or Harrison Ford. While it’s a shame for us that her film dossier is so short, good for her for pursuing the life of her choosing outside of Hollywood. I am eager to watch To Catch a Thief, but I almost don’t want to anytime soon as I enjoy having a Grace Kelly film to look forward to.
I was also able to watch and enjoy some films by John Carpenter during 2017. Among the Carpenter films I watched this year are: Escape from New York, Escape from L.A., The Thing, They Live, and Big Trouble in Little China. Apart from Escape from L.A., they are all quality without taking themselves too seriously. Escape from L.A. has some merit, but was poor overall, unless you’re into campy CGI surfing scenes, Do-or-Die basketball challenges, or another movie with Steve Buscemi in the ’90s. (What movie was Buscemi not in in the ’90s though?)
Carpenter’s scores ooze ’80s awesomeness, and his world-building is near unparalleled for me. I feel like there’s a strong desire for more of this ’80s aesthetic which can be seen in the success of properties like Stranger Things, Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy, or the It remake. While nostalgia always sells, there’s something apart from nostalgia that is mystifying and appealing about ’80s sci-fi and horror created in the vein of John Carpenter. I think we’re set to see more movies and TV shows looking to cash in on this audience desire in 2018.
Unfortunately, The Thing prequel made in 2011 (that Carpenter did not direct or give his blessing to) did not satisfy the thirst for more Carpenter awesomeness or ’80s nostalgia. I find it to be far worse than Psycho II (A film that Hitchcock was not around to give his blessing to). It’s rare that I just stop a movie without finishing, but that’s just what I did with The Thing (2011). And when I say rare, I mean like <.01% of films I’ve watched rar, as the only other movie I think that I haven’t finished on purpose is De Palma’s Black Dahlia. I even made it all of the way through Pixels, a movie that I think made me physically ill. At least it didn’t kill me, like Rotten Tomatoes just tried to do to John Carpenter.
Thanks for reading. Sorry I didn’t connect the dots between the two directors, but their end- products really couldn’t be more different in many ways. I just happened to enjoy both at the same time. In upcoming posts I plan to give some superlatives for films I watched in 2017 and finally vent my frustrations for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the most disappointing film in my life, even taking recency bias into account.