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Because of the way the film awards season works, January and February are largely void of new independent and art-house releases.  The studios want to give you plenty of time to see Silver Linings Playbook and Amour while Oscar fever grips your attention.

But now, the films of 2012 are breathing their last at a/perture.  This past weekend, we opened Emperor, our first film from 2013!  While we still have Quartet, technically a 2012 release, we are anxiously looking forward to some great films gracing our screens in the next few months.  Many think the beginning of the year has nothing much to offer; this year will prove them wrong.

With the major studios having so many heavyweights in the Oscar conversation, the smaller studios held back a lot of their prestige fare.  So many 2012 fall festival favorites are headed your way soon, as are some Sundance darlings.  In other words, there is a whole lot to look forward to at a/perture!

You’ll start seeing some other major 2013 films pretty soon, too.  If you’re a fan of Oldboy, then you have to come check out Stoker, director Park Chan-Wook’s English-language debut.  Acclaimed out of Sundance, it will creep into a/perture on March 22!

And just because they didn’t win their respective Oscars does not mean that The Gatekeepers and No are not worth seeing.  Both are important and timely political pieces, the former a documentary on Israeli-Palestinian relations and the latter a fictional film about the use of advertising to overthrow a dictator.  Look for these around April and then come on over for a history lesson and a show!

When it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last fall, many speculated The Place Beyond the Pines could shake up the Oscar season.  Well, Focus Features chose to wait until spring 2013 to release the film they bought for several million dollars.  Something tells me that we will still remember the towering performances of Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper come next winter.  And maybe this multi-generational crime epic will maintain its Best Picture buzz too.

Another TIFF title generating a lot of heat was director Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep, a film that has an ensemble cast with Oscars to spare.  This political thriller looks taut and intense … perhaps the new Argo?

Venice saw the premiere of To the Wonder, which had many scratching their heads in the same way as Malick’s last film, the Palme d’Or winner and Best Picture nominee The Tree of Life, did.  Some critics said it was even more experimental and avant-garde.  You have to come see it just to experience how on earth that is possible.

Then, before you know it, we will have SUMMER MOVIES!  No, I’m not talking about Iron Man 3, I’m talking about it’s art-house equivalent Frances Ha.  I’ve heard it described as Girls meets Woody Allen meets French New Wave.  In other words, pure bliss.  And it’s directed by the Noah Baumbach, a frequent Wes Anderson collaborator.

I’m So Excited will be coming later in the summer from Sony Pictures Classics, although this teaser trailer will surely show you that you will not be getting the same kind of Almodóvar film as The Skin I Live In.

Two others that you can expect in the summer have no video footage, but the production stills alone ought to excite you.  The first is for Before Midnight, the sequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.  Lawren and I have both seen the film – her at Sundance, myself at SXSW – and we both have nothing but praise for it.  You won’t want to miss it.

Before Midnight

Meanwhile, no one has seen Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen’s annual flick.  We don’t quite know what to make of this one.  The Cate Blanchett expression in the still hardly looks comedic, but the presence of comics like Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay in the cast lead us to believe it will be very funny.  So who knows?!  It’s a Woody Allen movie, so you have to come see it anyways!

Blue Jasmine

So if you haven’t started your freakout about what a great year we have ahead of us, start now.

Before it’s too late and no longer topical, I wanted to share a list that has been floating in my mind for a while.  On Sunday night, the Academy welcomed Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway into their club.  Now, they can join Daniel Day-Lewis and Christoph Waltz in adding the phrase “Oscar Winner” before their name is mentioned.

But within the next 10 years, who will join them in the pantheon of acting?  I have a few suggestions…

Male

Gatsby

Leonardo DiCaprio
3 Oscar nominations
9 Golden Globe nominations, 1 win
8 SAG Award nominations

COMMENTARY:  The question isn’t “if.”  It’s “when.”  And that could be as early as this year.

JGL

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
2 Golden Globe nominations
4 SAG Award nominations

COMMENTARY:  With the boy-next-door turning into a renaissance man as he heads behind the director’s chair, JGL is headed towards golden child status.  Now it’s just time for the Oscars to catch up.

Ryan Gosling in The Ides of March

Ryan Gosling
1 Oscar nomination
4 Golden Globe nominations
2 SAG Award nominations

COMMENTARY:  I don’t really think I need to elaborate here as Gosling is one of the emerging Hollywood leading men.  The only thing keeping him from an Oscar, in my mind, is his eclectic role selection.

Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Brad Pitt
4 Oscar nominations (3 as actor)
5 Golden Globe nominations, 1 win
5 SAG Award nominations, 1 win

COMMENTARY:  As one of the highest-wattage stars of the past decade moves into a slower, more retrospective phase of his career, the role that will land Brad Pitt his Oscar should materialize.

George Clooney

George Clooney
8 Oscar nominations (4 for acting), 2 wins (1 for acting)
12 Golden Globe nominations (8 for acting), 3 wins
13 SAG Award nominations, 4 wins

COMMENTARY:  Yes, Clooney has already won his Oscar(s).  But I am convinced he will win his trophy for a leading role as he is such a prominent leading man in Hollywood.

Female

Amy Adams

Amy Adams
4 Oscar nominations
4 Golden Globe nominations
5 SAG Award nominations

COMMENTARY: 4 nominations in 7 years.  That’s impressive.  It’s going to happen, soon.  Perhaps the first time she gets a big leading role?

Linney

Laura Linney
3 Oscar nominations
6 Golden Globe nominations, 2 wins
4 SAG Award nominations, 1 win
4 Primetime Emmy nominations, 3 wins

COMMENTARY:  Though as of late Linney has been more television oriented, I still don’t think the cinematic community is done paying its dues to this talented actress.

Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right

Julianne Moore
4 Oscar nominations
7 Golden Globe nominations, 1 win
10 SAG Award nominations, 1 win
1 Primetime Emmy win

COMMENTARY: If “Game Change” had been released in theaters and not on HBO, Moore would have her Oscar.  It’s been over a decade now since her last nomination, but I don’t think that means the impetus to give her award has disappeared.

10 for '10: Best Movies (The Challenge)

Emma Stone
1 Golden Globe nomination
1 SAG Award win

COMMENTARY: She’s a new Hollywood “It” girl.  Once she lands the big and flashy role, she will get an Oscar.  (Heck, they had her announce the nominations this year, something usually reserved for prior winners/nominees.)  She’s a beloved figure with all the charm and accessibility of Jennifer Lawrence with a little more polish and refinement.

Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams
3 Oscar nominations
3 Golden Globe nominations, 1 win
4 SAG Award nominations

COMMENTARY: Williams showed she had some serious range in “My Week with Marilyn.”  Not that her mopey characters weren’t good, but now we know she’s the real deal.

What do YOU think?  Who else is destined for Oscar glory in the next decade?

Well, folks, hard to believe that today is the Oscars.  The day we all await always manages to sneak up on us, blind us with an ephemeral flash of glory, and then recede to let us feel its impact for a year.  Tonight, the industry will speak about what they believed to be crowning achievements of cinema.

So today seemed like the perfect time for both myself and Lawren, a/perture’s curator, to weigh in on what we thought were the best films of 2012.  You are welcome to go to my own personal blog to see a more detailed analysis of what made these movies work for me and also get a numerical ranking.  For ease of reading today, however, we settled on a simple alphabetical ranking.

Enjoy the ceremony tonight and long live cinema!

l/awren’s top 10

Beasts of the Southern Wild Bernie Life of Pi

The Master Moonrise Kingdom Rust and Bone Searching for Sugar Man Silver Linings Playbook Starlet Zero Dark Thirty

m/arshall’s top 10:

Argo Bernie Hitchcock Killing Them Softly Les Miserables Looper The Master The Queen of Versailles 21 Jump Street Zero Dark Thirty

So often, films about illness and death are milked in a rather maudlin fashion for tears, sentimentality, and catharsis. None of those things interest Michael Haneke though. His latest film Amour is set almost entirely in an octogenarian couple’s apartment where the wife is slowly headed to the grave after a debilitating stroke. He chronicles the slow descent with patience and control through a deliberate and patient lens that doesn’t dare cut out the messiness, monotony, or misery.

Emmanuelle Riva in Amour

It’s the cinematic equivalent of a still-life as this film treads delicately amplifies the deliberate pace with long shots and even longer takes. While such a technique might infuriate a viewer if it were employed on a different subject matter, those willing to stick with the movie to the end should ultimately admire the tightly controlled and delicately constructed film. At times, it can be fairly difficult to watch … but how hunky-dory do you want movies about death to be? How can you even begin to comprehend the ennui of watching someone slowly lose their grip on life when you are treated to watch from a coolly removed distance?

What I found to be particularly interesting about the film was how Haneke shoots the film in such a straightforward and unambiguous fashion, an apparent change from the intricate machinery behind his puzzlers Caché and The White Ribbon. In a way, such a style wouldn’t make sense for Amour, but I do think it serves another purpose as well. It makes the audience complacent and allows Haneke to really put an emphatic exclamation point on the end of a cinematic sentence that doesn’t seem to require such an emphatic punctuation.

Jean Louis Trintignant in Amour

The performances from French veterans Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant as the ailing wife and her husband are impressive in their control and their naturalism, as is Haneke muse Isabelle Huppert as their grief-stricken daughter. But Amour is definitely a Haneke showcase above all, a movie that may seem familiar at first but inextricably bears his stamp.

This past weekend, I was watching what used to be my favorite show on television, Lena Dunham’s Girls.  I loved the unapologetic honesty and authenticity Dunham brought to the show.  Even though I have yet to reach the age requisite to have the kind of experiences she explores in such depth, I related so deeply to the characters and their struggles.

Girls

Season 2, on the other hand, has been an absolute nosedive to the point where I wonder why I even watch the show anymore.  After talking about it with some friends, I came a conclusion as to why I might be so averse to the show this year.  Dunham is totally pandering to her critics!

I don’t know how closely you followed the controversy surrounding the show last year, but its creator/director/writer/star faced accusations of narrow-mindedness, privilege, racism, and many other things.  And by introducing several gimmicks to address these concerns, she has addressed these concerns.  However, it has come at the cost of the integrity of the universe she created on Girls.

Homeland

I had similar issues with season 2 of Homeland.  While the first season was a slow burn leading up to a pulse-pounding finale of feature-length proportions, the second season was disappointing because it lost the tension.  The show and its fans got a taste of action, so now Homeland stuffs its face with it.

A part of me wonder if the vicious feedback loop of Twitter and other social media are to blame.  With more immediate access to viewer reactions than ever before, television shows can adapt to their audience in the blink of an eye.  Heck, CBS’ Hawaii Five-O just aired an episode where Twitter reactions decided the ending of the show in real time!

SLP

It would be a half-truth to claim that film is created in a vacuum.  There are plenty of times in the production process where audiences are given a chance to share their input; I experienced this personally over the summer when I got to see a rough cut of Silver Linings Playbook which was noticeably different than the version now playing at a/perture.  (And lest we forget, audience reaction and turnout largely determine what gets made in the first place.)

But there’s something about the completeness of a narrative without much audience intrusion that makes film such an exciting medium.  The artists get to make their products in much more of a vaccum, free from instantaneous opinion that can alter the entire course of the story.

Can you imagine if Twitter reactions determined the course of Silver Linings Playbook?  We might not have gotten a chance to see the soft side of Jennifer Lawerence’s Tiffany if she the audience initially despised her character!

So while I enjoy television shows, I will take a movie any day of the week.  Unless we are talking Breaking Bad, in which case the game changes totally.

If you haven’t come to see the Academy Award nominated short films at a/perture, you are really missing out.  It’s understandable if you need to catch up on your other Oscar nominees, like for Best Picture (Silver Linings Playbook has feelings too, as will Amour next week).

But when you are filling out that Oscar ballot, the three short film categories could make or break your picks for 2012, especially since so many categories are hotly contested.  Having a leg up on these categories could be give you bragging rights for a year.  Plus, don’t you want to say you’ve seen them and know which one actually deserves to win?

Beyond practical use of this knowledge, there are also plenty of aesthetic and artistic reasons why you should see these short films deemed worthy of a shot at Oscar glory.  It’s easy to discriminate or dismiss because they aren’t feature-length films.  Don’t get me wrong, 2012 Best Animated Short Film nominee Fresh Guacamole is fine craftsmanship, but do its two minutes even compare to the beauty of Rust and Bone?

That’s an easy way to write them off, but I encourage you to give them a chance and see what they have to offer.  Short films are often a great training ground for future talents.  Directors from Stanley Kubrick to Steven Spielberg to Paul Thomas Anderson got their start in short films; in a few years, who know what these nominees will accomplish.

For example, in 1978, Taylor Hackford won the Academy Award for Best Short Film (Live Action) for Teenage Father.  Within five years, he had directed An Officer and a Gentleman.

And if you complain about movies being “too long” as they are now, these short films will meet you where you are!  Sometimes, a narrative is best when it can be expressed in a few minutes.  Why spend two hours watching something develop when you have these superbly made films that pander to our short attention spans?  Enjoy the easy-going simplicity of Disney’s Paperman and feel the entire emotional experience of a film in six minutes!

Not to mention, plenty of important stories need to be told on film but simply do not have enough meat to sustain feature length.  Take last year’s nominee God is the Bigger Elvis – a fascinating short documentary that provided a satisfying and complete story in little more than 30 minutes!

So what are you waiting on?!  Get to a/perture to check out these Oscar-worthy films … we don’t want to get short with you or anything, but you really do need to see these!

Getting down to the core of our humanity (or the bone, if you will) is a difficult and unsavory task, but you may hardly notice just how rough it can be until Jacques Audiard has released you from his grasp when the credits of “Rust and Bone” roll.  His cinematic paean to the resilience of the human spirit takes two characters down to their most starkly naked vulnerability, putting them through an emotional and physical gauntlet that tries them as well as the audience.  The end of the tunnel may not be brightly lit or accompanied by tremendous fanfare, but it reinvigorates and revitalizes in a way that only a truly great movie can.

Rust and Bone (2)

With two phenomenal actors, Matthias Schoenaerts, on the way up after last year’s Oscar-nominated “Bullhead,” and Marion Cotillard, who continues to prove movie after movie that “La Vie En Rose” was no fluke, “Rust and Bone” aims for painful areas of the psyche.  Failure, loss, disappointment, desperation, and adversity are all sores opened by the movie, and it continues to stick a finger in them when it would be far less painful to just think about them being there.  Yet it is precisely this wrenching of the soul that gives the film power and emphasis.  In a cinematic climate where misfortune has evolved from beyond a niche and is moving towards an entire genre in and of itself, it takes a lot for a movie to distinguish itself from the pack.

And believe me, from now on when I think of films about the mettle it takes to overcome immense tribulations, “Rust and Bone” will shoot to the front of my mind.  And that’s not just because Marion Cotillard is proudly sporting two limbs instead of four for the majority of the film.  Audiard, who also co-wrote the film, finds a natural way to intertwine two disparate tales of suffering into a satisfying and believable romance without hokey stunts or sensationalism.

Rust and Bone

Her Stephanie is a former whale trainer at the French equivalent of SeaWorld turned Cannes penthouse-dweller after a tragic accident in the water.  His Alain is a well-meaning but deadbeat dad as well as street fighter for cash on the side just to get by.  They meet at the beginning of the film when Alain kicks Stephanie out of the bar after she starts a fight; while it’s a strange connection, apparently it was enough for her to call him when she gets lonely in her insurance claim-purchased apartment.

Sure, the precipitating event may be a little bit of a stretch, but what ensues as they build an incredible rapport to shelter each other from pain makes up for the lack of believability of their inception.  Cotillard and Schoenaerts don’t sport a typical romantic chemistry, but they feel all the more real and human because of it.  Both meet the emotional demands of the script, exposing themselves both spiritually and physically to each other and to the audience.  (Translation from serious movie critic pose: they are naked a lot, sometimes maybe even a little gratuitously.)  Together with their bold helmer Audiard, they boldly go where few will go and bring us out in a hardly glorious but nevertheless moving affirmation of the ability of humans to be courageous and to change.

When I was in Cannes this past summer, I was fortunate enough to see a rough cut of “Silver Linings Playbook.”  Although had you told me it was a final cut, I would have believed it.  The film felt totally complete and in no need of further tweaking.  In fact, I almost ran my review of that version when the film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, hoping people assumed I was there and saw the theatrical cut.

Now that I’ve seen the movie for a second time, I’m definitely glad I did not run a review on the rough cut.  The film improved by leaps and bounds over the four months in which David O. Russell and company worked out the kinks in the film, and most of the things I would have griped about in my review of the rough cut disappeared.

On the surface, everything is relatively the same: the story still plays out in the same way, the rhythm of the film kept in tact, among other things.  But I noticed a much more complex visual scheme, one that made “Silver Linings Playbook” feel like a David O. Russell film, not your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy.  Rather than the standard back-and-forth, he’s-talking-now-she’s-talking editing, Russell opts to go deeper and use the camera to probe his characters psychologically.  Rather than merely capturing the plot like the rough cut, Russell ultimately found ways to suggest levels of depth extending far below a single shot.

Russell is able to make the performances shine by keying off the wacky family dynamics that made “The Fighter” such a hoot (and also harkening back to the zaniness “Flirting with Disaster” –  for fans of Russell’s early work).  You wonder how these relationships can possibly function in any way other than what Jim Morrison called “mutual wierdness,” or love.  He draws us in with characters who wear their flaws on their sleeves yet keeps us engaged by continuing to show how they motivate the character at their core.

SLP

With the focus shifting towards the characters and away from the plot, which is entertaining but decidedly cursory on mental illness and other issues it raises, “Silver Linings Playbook” is a joy to watch (and will be to rewatch as well) because of the way we find ourselves in the characters.  Russell takes us through the fire with Bradley Cooper’s Pat Solitano in the first act, really managing to get us tense and high-strung along with the rest of his family as he attempts to reenter society after an eight-month stint in a psychiatric hospital.

While Pat is in a bit of a tailspin, we are also introduced to Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany, a widow who refuses to bear her pain in humble silence.  She opts instead to make everyone painfully aware of her every feeling and thought, facing life with a blunt honesty that jolts Pat’s insistence on positive thinking.  They butt heads at a dinner party with each’s unique stubbornness leading to low points for all.

But since rock bottom is the starting point for Pat and Tiffany, we root for them as they attempt to put their worst days past them and make each other better.  Now that Russell’s editing facilitates emotional rapport, the two feel like parts of ourselves that we usually try to pretend don’t exist.  But on screen and embodied by Cooper and Lawrence, we embrace them and allow them to illuminate the crazy that lives within us all.

JenLaw

Despite their 15 year age difference, the chemistry between the two leads is absolutely pitch-perfect.  It starts out with an appropriate skepticism, not utter repudiation as current genre convention dictates, and then gradually progresses into understanding and feeling.  Cooper and Lawrence expose such wonderful truths in each other and show such humor and heart through their interplay.

Cooper is surprising as he marches firmly and confidently into commanding leading man territory.  As Pat, his performance is slowly revelatory of great thought and depth, although it often manifests itself as ridiculously misplaced puppy love for his unfaithful ex-wife.  His funny bone, which we all knew was there from “The Hangover,” works for him here, but his strongest asset in “Silver Linings Playbook” is an almost theatrical sense of dramatic timing.  He knows when to tone down his performance and let his lack of manic action speak loudly.

Lawrence doesn’t really shut up, but in some ways, that just makes her performance that much better.  You can’t get enough of her when she’s on screen spinning Russell’s words into insightful gold.  In the hands of a lesser actress, Tiffany’s line about how there will always be a part of her that is sloppy and messy would lead you to dismiss her as a harlot.  But Lawrence not only prevents that outcome, she makes her character more real, more like us.

Perhaps its her very lack of traditional discipline, letting her mouth and emotions run wild, that draws us all the closer to Tiffany.  She’s brash, brazen, yet totally believable.  Whether she’s afraid or assertive, there’s some part of this character where Lawrence reflects a part of you.  The question she, through Tiffany, asks is whether you are comfortable enough to identify and associate with that very aspect.

DeNiro

Along with an ensemble cast of kooky characters, including Robert DeNiro as Pat’s obsessive-compulsive father in a very post-modernly introspective role, Cooper and Lawrence bring “Silver Linings Playbook” home for genre gold and pure moviegoing delight.  It may not pack the punch of “The Fighter,” but taking in mind the different tones and audiences, I think this will be the one I always stop to watch on television while I’m channel surfing on the weekends.

It’s such a magical feeling when a movie gets you intoxicated not only on itself but on the entire craft of cinema as well.  You go into a dark room and carry in whatever baggage from the day, but you emerge joyful, reinvigorated, and transformed.

That’s how I felt when I walked out of the theater after a rapturously good time with “Hitchcock.”  Sacha Gervasi’s slice-of-biopic flick, focusing on the time when the master of suspense struggled to get “Psycho” made, strikes the right chords throughout the film.  It respects the mastery of Hitchcock but does not fear him as an untouchable deity, treating him as a man and artist just like anyone else.

But Gervasi’s film is more than just about Hitchcock or even the artistic climate into which he released what is still one of the best horror films ever made.  Clear parallels are drawn to the current day world of film production.  You know, the world where an unambitious movie like “John Carter” gets greenlit and causes a $150 million write-down while a masterpiece like “Black Swan” has to scrap together a budget but reaps it back 25 times over.

We now know Alfred Hitchcock as the legendary Hitchcock, but in his time, he struggled to have studio support for a movie that did not fit neatly into convention – even when coming off the enormous success of “North by Northwest.”  Thankfully, Hitchcock had faith in his own vision and was willing to finance it himself at enormous financial risk.

And Gervasi has wielded the knife of excoriation to jab at executives who were only looking to make a profit out of movies.  There are also a number of well-placed ironic remarks about the supposed failure of “Vertigo.”  You know, that movie that recently replaced “Citizen Kane” as the best film of all time according to Sight and Sound.  The myopia of Hollywood is lade bare to be mocked and criticized.  History has repeat itself with a vengeance.

Hitchcock

But beyond an allegory for the trouble state of the movies, “Hitchcock” delights on a number of other levels.  It’s got that “My Week with Marilyn”-esque joie de vivre, a behind-the-scenes look at an iconic figure that explores the side of their profile hidden from public view.  We get to see Hitch’s marriage, his jealousy, the way he treated his actors (particularly cruelly to Scarlett Johansson’s Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel’s Vera Miles), and the way he ran a set.  Something tells me the next time I see “Psycho,” I’ll look at it in an entirely different manner.

The movie also boasts a very touching love story at its core between Hitchcock and his wife, Helen Mirren’s shrewd shrew Alma Reveille.  Unbeknownst to many, she was an integral part in crafting some of his most famous movies.  And she was always the opinion he valued most.

But in “Hitchcock,” tensions arises when Alma tries to create a screenplay for herself with Danny Huston’s slimy womanizer Whitfield Cook.  It leads to the surfacing of plenty of questions and frustrations that bubbled under their relationship for years, and they only get heightened by the agonizing process of getting “Psycho” filmed.  Their fights are compelling to watch as Mirren and Hopkins, both feted for their incredible powers of assertion on screen, manage to tear each other apart but somehow draw us inwards towards them all the more.

Yet through the struggle, they fall in love all over again.  And we fall head over heels for them – and movies too.

Plenty of movies have in jokes – that is, little Easter eggs or bits of humor that will only be recognizable to those who pick up on the clever references.  And part of the fun of Hitchcock, the biopic of the master of suspense opening December 14 here at a/perture, is that it rewards those who know their classics.  As such, I’m going to be publishing posts about four movies that are essential to the fully enjoyment of Hitchcock.

The first of which is Vertigo.  As you may or may note know, the once-a-decade poll in the prestigious British film journal Sight & Sound (the across-the-pond equivalent of Film Comment that we sell in the lobby) named it the best movie of all time.  Yes, even better than Citizen Kane, their perennial best for 50 years running.

James Stewart and Kim Novak in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo.

But Vertigo wasn’t always, well, Vertigo.  Upon release in 1958, it was greeted with mixed reception with critics.  In that time, there were no blogs and Internet sites for a multitude of film enthusiasts to voice their opinions, so only a few were heard … and their voice mattered a lot.  They were lukewarm on the film.  And audiences followed suit; the movie barely broke even.  For whatever reason, the film wound up getting re-evaluated and is now a beloved classic.

But in 1960, the film had yet to receive such a second glance.  And as Hitchcock struggles to get Psycho made, a number of studio executives can be heard importuning him not to make another Vertigo.  They refer to it as a flop, a dud, a disaster … among many things.  Little do they know, ironically pokes the film Hitchcock, what it will become.  How funny the past looks when viewed with the 20/20 perspective of hindsight.

Vertigo 2

But is Vertigo all that great?  Is it the best film ever made, as Sight & Sound would have us believe?  I’ve only seen the film once and definitely need to give it a second viewing before I fully make up my mind, but it is not nearly my favorite film directed by Hitchcock.

I went for an academic perspective and asked the director of the Film Studies department at Wake Forest, Dr. Woodrow Hood.  He prefers Citizen Kane to Vertigo.  “Vertigo is a rather mundane melodrama told brilliantly well.  Each shot and every moment builds most satisfyingly to its climactic finish.  The acting is riveting,” he said.  “Maybe the difference is that Vertigo is more satisfying as an audience experience.  But, as a person who has devoted a life to the study of film, performance, art, and design, I’m always voting for Citizen Kane.”

He also added: “We have a new film about the life of Hitchcock, not Welles.  That is significant.”

So I guess my take on Vertigo is as followed, and I’m fully prepared to take a lot of heat for what I’m about to say.  In fact, as I ponder making this statement in my head, I myself wonder if I’m a humongous hypocrite.  What I’m about to suggest could spark some serious outrage, perhaps on the level of suggesting Citizen Kane isn’t all that great.

I’d like to see Vertigo, with the same script, comparable actors, and the same Hitchcock penchant for filmmaking, be remade in the present day.

There, I said it.  It’s out there, I can’t take it back.  But while watching Vertigo, I was struck by the powerful and affecting portrait of a mentally disturbed policeman played by James Stewart.  I found Kim Novak’s work as the woman who claims to be possessed by the spirit of a dead woman to be frightening.  I felt Hitchcock’s masterful storytelling with the camera to be totally present.  I was totally engaged by the smart writing, which harkens to a mystery of almost mythical proportions.

Vertigo 3

Yet the visuals just felt so … outdated.  Yes, this is obvious given that the movie is over half a century old.  Obviously, it was about as good as it got back then.  But this is 2012, and when the camera is stuck in the past while the story remains timeless, it can’t help but be distracting.  In fact, it goes beyond that – it detracts.  The movie’s style now alienates us from the movie, pulling us out to remind us, “Oh, this is a movie, and this is how they could visually represent the fear of heights back then.”

So to maintain that pervasive sense of acrophobia, why not remake Vertigo with modern technology that would make this classic story work so much better for the audiences of today?  Isn’t that why we should be remaking movies?  Not just to be lazy or to sloppily “update” it to market to younger crowds, a remake of Vertigo that preserved the timeless integrity of the acting and storytelling would be perfect.  Because, perhaps with the exception of historic visual achievements, the look of a movie is something that should hold power no matter if it’s being shown in 1958 or 2012.  I’m convinced that it would have rocked me to my core had my eyes been borrowed from that era.

If you had Christopher Nolan directed a remake of Vertigo with say, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the Jimmy Stewart role, it would be absolutely incredible.  Although I don’t think we will ever see it since Gus Van Sant’s Psycho made Hitchcock’s ouvre untouchable.  Nolan has been exploring the themes of Vertigo for nearly 15 years in his work and could do an excellent job retelling it for a new generation.  But we’re romantically married to the film as nostalgia and a relic.