Yearly Archives: 1999

Shot by Shot

Psycho (Gus van Sant), 1998

The chief question running through reviews of Gus van Sant’s remake of Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho has been a simple one: Why? The suggested answer has often been a cynical one: the film was financed as an easy way to cash in on the continuing popularity of horror movies and utilise the Psycho trademark now that the sequels have run their course. The response from most critics ranged from bewilderment to contempt.

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It Made Me Want to Sleep in Mummy’s Bed

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock), 1960

I’m told that a small boy who stayed up to be scared by this masterpiece said afterwards “I liked it, but it made me want to sleep in Mummy’s bed.” – Kenneth Tynan(1)

If you were to pick the most famous single scene from movie history, you’d probably have to choose the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Film buffs might shout “Odessa Steps” at you, but while Eisenstein’s bravura sequence is more important (if only for being earlier, and arguably a model for Hitchcock), I doubt any other moment in 100 years of cinema has been the subject of as many imitations, homages, and parodies. The whole film, in fact, has been so endlessly reworked, remade, and revisited, that today’s viewers will usually come to Psycho with much of the film already in their head.

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Star Trek: Imbroglio

Star Trek: Insurrection

The title’s the first big warning sign. Star Trek: Insurrection? Oh yeah. What’s next? Star Trek: Fracas? Star Trek: Imbroglio? Star Trek: Brouhaha?

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Hell’s Bells

Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino), 1980

This wasn’t “an unqualified disaster” or “a phenomenon.” This was just – a flop. – Steven Bach

Possibly the finest book written about the making of a film is Steven Bach’s Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, which chronicles the disastrous production of Michael Cimino’s epic western. It’s written from a rarely revealed insider perspective (Bach was a key executive at United Artist’s during the film’s preparation), but that isn’t its only appeal. It captures an important moment in film history: the last semblance of old-style moguls had been swept away (Arthur Krim departed UA in 1978 after 27 years) and the era of decentralised corporate ownership had begun.

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The Worst Day of My Life…

The Phantom Menace (George Lucas), 1999

I guess you have to start any review of the new Star Wars movie with a little prologue explaining how excited you were to see it, how you had opening night tickets, how you queued for hours, how much Star Wars has meant to you, and so on… Well, yeah, I had opening night tickets, and yeah, I was excited, and yeah, I grew up with Star Wars and am amongst those who think that George Lucas wrought a great and marvellous thing back in 1977. I also, for the record, think The Empire Strikes Back is an even better film: one of the truly great works of fantasy cinema. But I don’t want to give the impression I went into the cinema sucked in by the hype and expecting a masterpiece. I don’t want my negative comments about the film written off as the sour grapes of someone who had waited sixteen years and could never have been pleased by Episode 1.

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