Hitchcock Haul: The Wrong Man (1956)

511M26LcwiL._SY445_The Wrong Man…more like the wrong movie (yikes). It’s been a while since I’ve really disliked a Hitchcock film that I’ve watched for this little project of mine, but wow did I disliked this one! The thesis of this film is, “all white men look the same.” This movie is bad. I was not only bored but also annoyed.

Hitchcock dips into true-ish crime with this one, basing the story off of the book The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero by Maxwell Anderson. Hitchcock would actually hire Anderson to also work on the screenplay for The Wrong Man as well as Vertigo. There is a bit of a similarity in vibe between the films, except Vertigo is amazing and this movie is trash.

The beginning of the film features an intro that would have felt familiar to fans of Hitchcock’s television series. Hitchcock himself appears to tell the expectant audience that the story that was about to unfold was more horrific and compelling than any he’d ever told before, that it was a truth stranger than fiction! At the time, positive reviews mentioned its gripping realism. Folks viewing The Wrong Man today (like myself) would actually call the story tired, in part due to Hitchcock’s own familiar use of the trope.

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Tanya Tagaq & ROSALÍA: The Keepers of Culture

This year I haven’t felt as connected to music as I usually do. Music has always been a huge part of my life, and when I was a teen I spent countless hours in my room scrolling through iTunes and music websites discovering new types of music, new artists in styles I already liked, and music from artists I already loved. This was, of course, before iTunes became a piling heap of steaming shit. I use Spotify for music discovery now. No regrets. Here is my account if you want to follow along.

I was feeling rather bad about my lack of music exploration in 2018, so I did what most normal people do. I checked out some Best Of 2018 lists. As I was working through NPR’s top 10 albums of the year, I became completely bewitched by ROSALÍA. Her new album El Mal Querer is #8. ROSALÍA is a Spanish-speaking singer from Catalonia, Spain and lends her stunning voice to haunting and beautiful flamenco guitar. Her earlier album from 2017, Los Angeles, shows a rather straight forward approach to flamenco, a style of music not usually being played on mainstream music radio.

As a fervent fan of the Gipsy Kings, who also perform Andalusian-style music, I immediately fell in love with ROSALÍA. While her new album still holds much of the classic flamenco style, it adds more modern and inventive production skills to amp up her sound. The effect is an interesting modernization of a very old and rich musical style. Flamenco is several centuries old and originates from Andalusia, Spain. It is itself born of an interesting blending of multiple cultures, including the Romani, Moors, Castilians, and Sephardi Jews. It is a performance of music, vocalizations, dance, and rhythm. ROSALÍA’s music is obviously not the full package, but I’ve never seen her live so maybe she has dancers or dances herself. I don’t know! I was not surprised when I saw her name pop up next to the likes of Solange and Cardi B on show tickets, but I was a bit surprised that flamenco has made its way to this particular arena.

What ROSALÍA seems to have done reminded me of another female artist: Tanya Tagaq. Tagaq is an Inuit throat singer whose music is haunting, aggressive, and incredibly visceral. Its jarring nature is not for everyone, but her music was recently featured on the soundtrack for the indie film Thoroughbreds. This well-deserved spotlight has highlighted her work and brought it to many people who probably have never heard of throat singing before. The unique thing about Tagaq’s music is that is is very modern. You could seamlessly play it in a club without anyone skipping a beat. But Inuit throat singing is an art that has been in existence for hundreds of years. It was banned for decades by religious communities and is only recently making a wide resurgence.

The amazing thing about Inuit throat singing is that it is primarily a women’s game. It was not originally seen as a type of music or performance, but as just interesting vocalizations and breath work. Traditionally, two women will face one another, and one will start off the roll of singing while the other repeats her as a kind of mimic or an improvised round. The sounds are continuous from both women and the game only stops when one of the women starts laughing or runs out of breath. It is meant to be a silly bit of fun, but can you imagine how metal and witchy it would be to see two women facing off, making what can only be described as primordial grunts and gasps? It’s incredibly badass.

When I consider both Tanya Tagaq and ROSALÍA, I see two young women fully embracing their culture and bringing it into the modern mainstream global culture. This culture has been dominated by American styles for a very long time, and both the elements of Flamenco and Inuit throat singing don’t fit those moulds…and yet they are some of the most beautiful forms of art I have had the privilege to enjoy thanks to Spotify (this is not supposed to be an ad for Spotify, it has its issues too).

Women usually do this work. Much like how our genes carry the exact data of our mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers etc., we tend to carry on our family and culture’s traditions. We tell the stories, make the food, teach the crafts and skills. We preserve and amplify. We pass it down to our children. This has generally been the case for thousands of years in human civilizations. Men have been known to do this work as well, and I don’t want to slight men like my father, who gathers and cares for his family’s genealogy, but overall on a grand scale this is a woman’s work. While it might seem unfair or a burden, I take it as a privilege, an honor, and a duty.

The Hitchcock Haul: Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

I really enjoyed this movie on many levels. I watched it a couple of times, actually, before surrendering it back to the library. If you enjoy Strangers on a Train or Rope, I highly recommend you give Shadow of a Doubt a watch.

This is a very Hitchcock film. It focuses on a perfect, typical, all-American family in Santa Rosa California and the evil that lurks where they least expect it. It’s a simple and exciting story (by Gordon McDonell, screenplay by Thorton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville) set in a small-feeling world. Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright), a young woman facing the complexities of adulthood, decides that the best thing to cure her existential dread is to invite her uncle Charlie (who she is named after, played by Joseph Cotton) to visit the family. She greatly admires her uncle and the excitement he brings. When she goes to send him a telegram, she is surprised to find one from him already waiting for her. He’s beaten her to the punch and has decided to come visit the family! She thinks it’s fate. But when Uncle Charlie arrives, things start to get weird. Two men suddenly show up, insisting they are surveying the typical American family and want to take pictures and write an article about the Newtons. They seem extra interested in Uncle Charlie, however, and Uncle Charlie’s odd behavior toward them tips Charlie off that something here isn’t right.

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Women’s Obsession with Death: Millennial and Victorian time-traveling sisters

order-of-the-good-deathA reading list on this topic is at the bottom of the post!

If you haven’t noticed an uptick in the true crime obsession of late, you must be a prepper who lives in the wilderness of Wyoming (which doesn’t exist, stay woke) and doesn’t have internet or electricity or neighbors. And in that case, you might be a serial killer yourself. The explosion of true crime and horror podcasts has been serious. So has the increase of murderous television, mystery thriller novels, the popularity of witchcraft, and support for the death positive movement. But why? Who? What? How?

The who is easy…women. It’s always been women, honestly, but millennial women are viciously gobbling up all things violent crime and creepy lore. While I could point to something like the insane popularity of authors such as Gillian Flynn or Paula Hawkins, it really took shape with the phenomenon of Serial. From there we got the massive hit My Favorite Murder, a true crime podcast hosted by a comedian and a YouTuber turned Food Channel personality. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark captured a moment. The shear volume of fan art, tattoos, and merch being generated…the memes!! Women tuning in felt like they were sitting down to a never ending glass of wine with their favorite girl friends, dishing about murder. The pod soon took off and became so much more than what it seemed. Karen and Georgia started using it as a way to preach about the benefits of therapy, self-care, and mental health awareness. They talk about women taking care of other women, and they face all of our worst nightmares with us. We cheer together when they tell the heroic tales of women breaking free from murderous men, or surviving against all odds. We cry with them when we lose another Sweet Baby Angel.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Stage Fright (1950)

Stage_FrightStage Fright was a fun surprise! I’m not sure how well known this Hitchcock film is, but wow is it fun. I watched it about a year ago, fully intending to write a post, but then grad school started up and I had no time for fun or life. But now I have a bit more time to do both (not like I do myself any favors with my schedule). If you want to see Marlene Dietrich at her most Marlene Dietrich-y, pick this bad boy up.

Although it’s based on the 1948 novel Man Running by Selwyn Jepson, Stage Fright mixes the story up in a few ways. I enjoyed the movie so much that I’m pretty interested in seeing what the novel is about! If you’re interested as well, just know that it was published under many different names over the years so it might be harder than usual to find.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Rope (1948)

rope-hitchcock-poster-1948Ahhh, Rope. I really love this movie. The first time I saw it was back in undergrad. A friend of mine reserved the common room in his dorm and we, budding film students, watched it completely enraptured by the story. We also were a little nerdy about Hitchcock’s attempt at one continuous shot throughout. Sadly, without digital technology, he had to stop to swap out film rolls every once in a while. But the technique Hitchcock used to hide this necessity was great and really led to the illusion that it was just one long sweeping shot.

The reason (I’m assuming) Hitchcock wanted to go for this stylistic choice was because Rope is an adaptation of the stage play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton, which came out in the late 1920s. This is very interesting to me, because it hearkens back to Hitchcock’s earlier work (like Juno and the Paycock) when he would take on more stage play adaptations and shot a room from one angle, creating the illusion that the audience was simply watching a play. I am not really a fan of this style (just read my Juno entry above), but luckily for me that is not what Hitchcock did with Rope. While the entire story plays out in one small apartment in one fluid camera shot, there are many camera moves and angles that feel much more modern. It’s a brilliantly updated way to pay homage to the stage play and retain some of that feel while also making it clear that this is a film meant to be seen on the big screen in a theater. I love it!

Rope was my favorite Hitchcock for years. It might still be, but I love so many of his (and keep discovering more that I enjoy) that it’s hard to say I have a favorite anymore. However, I cannot stress enough how badly you need to see this movie. It’s fucking amazing. GET READY FOR THE SPOILER TRAIN COMING TO TOWN CHOOCHOO!

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The Hitchcock Haul: Notorious (1946)

Notorious_1946Starring two of my very favorite Hitchcock regulars, Notorious is a visually stunning black and white espionage about a woman stuck between and rock and a Nazi. We all know what that’s like, right ladies? Ingrid Bergman stars (while wearing some fabulous outfits, I must say) as Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a convicted Nazi war criminal. Alicia is confronted by T.R. Devlin (a fabulously hansom Cary Grant) and asked to insert herself into a known Nazi ring now living in Brazil. That’s right, she is suckered into spy-work, a career I rather envy. Unfortunately, this career required Alicia to seduce an old friend of her Nazi-spy father’s, Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), who always had a creepy thing for her.

Alicia travels with Devlin to Rio in order to trap Sebastian, but in the process she ends up falling for Devlin and vice-versa. When Devlin then fails to get her out of her duties, he decides cold stoicism is the best way to deal with their messy emotions. This approach sparks an odd cat and mouse game between the two of them that leads Alicia even deeper into her Nazi rabbit hole.

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The Hitchcock Haul: Saboteur (1942)

220px-SaboteurposterIt’s been a while, but I’m back watching Hitchcock and writing about it! My recent move has put me right in the middle of a rather huge library system that has an excellent selection of Hitchcock films. I’ve nearly depleted my own collection, and have definitely seen everything Netflix and Amazon Prime have to offer, so it was becoming difficult for me to find films to watch without buying them.

The first two Hitchcock’s I checked out of the Carnegie Library were Saboteur, starring Robert Cummings (who also appears in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder) and Priscilla Lane, and Stage Fright (which I’ll get to later). It’s so nice to have so many to pick from again!

Saboteur is your classic Hitchcock innocent man accused of a crime he didn’t commit and forced to go on the run with a beautiful woman plot (see The 39 Steps, Young and Innocent, North by Northwest, etc, etc). What is interesting about the plot of this film is that it is a topic that is still very relevant today. Hitchcock spent a lot of time exploring sabotage, espionage, shadow organizations, and terrorism (both domestic and abroad). These things have been fresh on our minds for the past decade and a half.

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Geek Girl Brunch: Pittsburgh

ggb_brunchette_badgeI don’t plan on posting about this regularly because I’ll be updating the group blog and group specific social media, but I’ve recently become an officer of the Pittsburgh chapter of Geek Girl Brunch. GGB is a volunteer organization that “hopes to create a safe environment where identifying geek girls can be themselves to give voice, network, create friendships, inspire each other and hang out!”

The main point is to promote friendship amongst like-minded women. Those who identify as non-binary and gender fluid are also welcome, as long as their cool with taking on the geeky girl identity. GGB also challenges its brunchettes to do better (#GGBDoBetter). Go out in your community and make a difference, volunteer, help others, start something, make the world better.

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#OldBitchesattheBarre

About two years ago I decided I had to do something new. I was unhappy, feeling isolated, and fed up with what I had just accepted to be my reality. I was lazier, fatter, and sadder than I had ever been before, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell happened? This was a general wake-up call for me, and I began writing more, participated in NaNoWriMo, starting running regularly again, became more active in seeking out things I enjoy, and decided to pick something back up that I hadn’t had the guts to try in years: ballet.

IMG_0206 (1)I’ve always wished I continued with performance arts like acting, singing, comedy, or dance. Let me be clear, I was never good at any of these things. I’m a moderately decent musician, but that is the extend of my performance-oriented talent. Despite that, I really enjoy them. I was in drama club in high school, took voice lessons for a few years, and even gave stand-up a try in my early 20s. Ballet was something I started as a small kid and then dropped after a year or so because they suddenly wanted me to do more than twirl in my tutu. My aunt was my first ballet teacher as a kid. She herself was an incredible dancer with an impressive history, so I’m sure my yelling and screaming and refusal to do even half a barre really sat well with her.

A master of the art at a very young age

A master of the art at a very young age

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