Psycho

When you boil it all down, it’s all subjective. Movie critics are really just people who are better at communicating their opinions clearly, but they aren’t perfect all of the time. Nor are they psychics in any way. Sometimes time (and audiences) won’t going to agree with them, and that’s okay. As the following ten movies show us, there are times when a film isn’t an instant classic. Some require a bit more time to be broken in. Today’s trash might be tomorrow’s classic.

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FSR is usually steeped in high-mindedness and moral fiber, but there’s no reason not to highlight something as cool as LEGO versions of iconic movies scenes. Consider it a Friday distraction tucked between a review of the latest Todd Solondz movie and (spoiler alert) breaking news about a possible new Jackass movie. Somehow it makes complete sense. Especially because these images are undeniable. The fine folks at BostInno discovered this internet wonder – a series of sharply photographed movies scenes (from Hitchcock to Tarantino) done with LEGO figures. There’s a LEGO movie in the works, there are movie scenes done in LEGO and the snake of culture continues to eat its tail. Check out the images for yourself:

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Shaun of the Dead

We all know what it feels like when a film touches on events yet to come. Usually it’s the best when it’s something that you could only pick up on after already watching the film once before – it’s like a little inside joke you get to have with the filmmakers, a reward for sitting through the movie more than once. At times it’s not even the fact that it foreshadows event in the films, but rather that it’s so subtle that it takes a few goes to even pick up on. Other times are less subtle, but just as fun. This is probably going to have spoilers in it. Just to be clear.

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Aural Fixation - Large

With Dark Shadows set to hit theaters this weekend, Warners hosted a small Q&A this past Tuesday to highlight what will be composer Danny Elfman and director Tim Burton’s fourteenth film together. I am notorious for getting lost on studio lots (I once accidentally wandered into a background shot during the filming of Private Practice while looking for a screening room), but I was pleased (and relieved) when I arrived and realized this event was being held outside making it easy to find (although the long line of Elfman fans flanking the venue was also a pretty clear indicator). It was a nice change of pace to be outside on a warm afternoon and seemed to put everyone in a good mood. While the Q&A was moderated, the goal of the afternoon was primarily to open the floor up to the fans and have them ask the questions. This can be a precarious opportunity when the questions are unfiltered (and sometimes cringe worthy) as anyone who has attended a Q&A can attest to. However this afternoon the questions (save for a few – no, Oingo Boingo will not be getting back together) were incredibly thoughtful and interesting. Elfman noted that doing events like this are something he gladly takes time to do as he loves interacting with fans and this was clear as he took every question seriously and gave each person his undivided attention when answering. The event was also to commemorate the release of Elfman and Burton’s 25th Anniversary […]

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Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Cabin in the Woods Carol J. Clover‘s 1992 book Men, Women, and Chainsaws was one of the rare academic books to become a hit amongst a larger, dedicated movie-going public. The book introduced the term “final girl” (the virginal “good” female who often becomes the final victim or lone survivor at during the final act of a horror film) into the zeitgeist, and it’s an idea that seems so obvious, and is so pervasive throughout the genre, that the fact that a similar term had never been popularized before was simply confounding. It’s also the central organizing conceit to Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods, the most overt act of genre deconstruction to enter multiplexes in quite some time. The final girl does not emerge in Cabin as it does in its normal generic form (as a narrative inevitability, a cliché), but rather Clover’s coined conceptualization of “the final girl” encompassingly structures the film – it is the critique of generic conceit, rather than the routine employment of a generic norm, that acts as Cabin’s narrative impetus.

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Since we first heard about director Sacha Gervasi’s (Anvil!: The Story of Anvil) upcoming look at the life and work of legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, quite a bit of important casting has seemingly gone down. Variety reports that not only are age-old rumblings of Anthony Hopkins being attached to play the title character still holding up, but also that Helen Mirren has signed on to play Hitchcock’s wife, Alma. That’s a lot of pedigree for one movie to have, both in cast and subject matter, but the news doesn’t stop there. Apparently the sweetest role in the pic is that of Janet Leigh, Hitchcock’s Psycho leading lady. Inside sources are saying that this is the sort of role that’s going to be grubbing for awards attention, like Michelle Williams’ turn as Marilyn Monroe did last year, and whoever lands it is bound to see their career get an uptick. So who’s getting the chance to play such a choice part? An actress who already has little trouble getting attention on her own, Scarlett Johansson.

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Jump Scare

If you’re anything like me you probably would take a good psychological scarring over some dick in a mask jumping out at you any day of the week – at least when it comes to horror films. Nowadays it seems like the best is behind us when it comes to the genre, and what’s left is less a collection of disturbing concepts and more so the movie equivalent of a carnival spook house. That being said – I do like carnival spook houses – a fleeting scare is good when it’s done right. Sure, in the end these scares don’t hold a candle to say, the end of Rosemary’s Baby, but we can’t deny them either. So that’s what this list is: me sucking it up and admitting that the dick in the mask totally got me. I should tell you that I don’t wish to demerit these films for having jump scares in them; most of them have plenty of psychological scarring as well… take number ten, for example.

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Culture Warrior

In a recent article from The Atlantic, business journalist Derek Thompson poses several compelling questions about the business model of contemporary theatrical distribution. Why, he asks, must we pay the same for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as we do for Young Adult at our local multiplex? Wouldn’t it make more sense if the comparably underperforming film, Young Adult, were distributed with lower ticket prices in order to cultivate greater competition against wintertime blockbusters, and thereby (perhaps) gain a slightly greater audience for a film whose appeal is limited by comparison? After all, movie studios don’t so much “give audiences what they want” as much as they calculate degrees success (if you don’t believe me, go ask your local AMC to bring A Separation or Carnage to your theater), so why don’t ticket prices reflect this already-transcribed fate? It’s an interesting scenario to imagine, but one that becomes more difficult to envision once one parses through the details. As the author points out in his #4 reason why we have “uniform pricing,” varied pricing would likely create an unwarranted stigma against less expensive films, much like straight-to-DVD films have. That said, two other assumptions informing Thompson’s provocative question warrant further exploration: 1) we as consumers already have varied pricing, and we have developed patterns of determining a film’s “worth” in our choosing of where and in what conditions we see a film, and 2) movies would largely benefit if the perceived value of the opening weekend lessened significantly.

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

When the calendar page turns to October, we Rejects have only one thought: horror. To celebrate this grandest and darkest of months, we’ll cover one excellent horror film a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 31 Films perfect for viewing on a dark, chilly, October night. If you, like us, love horror and Halloween, give us a Hell Yeah and keep coming every day this month for a new dose of adrenaline. Synopsis The sardonic millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) is throwing a party for his fourth wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), but this isn’t just any party. He’s invited five strangers into an ancient mansion with a troubled past, a ton of ghosts, and a few people bent on murder. Whoever survives the night gets $10,000 and their life to take home with them.

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Last week’s discussion on the sex appeal of animated characters sparked a little offline controversy. Why did we forget to include sexy villains in our list, when everyone knows they can be just as mouthwatering? Now we could spend an entire novel talking about the awkward crushes we have on certain animated villains, just as we could in the opposite direction, however I’m more interested in the modern rejection of Hollywood’s traditional “uglying up” the bad guy. See, this is where movies have always lost me. A true villain, one who is charming, relies on henchmen, and has a bevy of beauties would never be a disgusting, rotted, warted-up mess. In fact, no matter how determined a villain is to get his or her way, their tinge of crazy (read: psychotic levels) often makes them more attractive to those sharing screen time.  This is probably why you feel the need to shower after watching anything starring Vincent Cassel. But recently mainstream films have taken a page out of the indie playbook and started making their villains just a touch more delicious. Movies.com’s Jenni Miller wrote earlier this week about the sexification of the rapist in next month’s Straw Dogs remake. She discusses her discomfort with the film’s marketing decision to highlight the sexiness of the gang of deviants and how the film’s “down home” feel will get lost with such good looking villains. I have to disagree. Although Alexander Skarsgard (Charlie) has made a career of playing a hot Viking […]

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Typecasting is death in Hollywood. If you keep doing the same kinds of roles over and over A) you’ll go insane and B) people will get sick of your shit. But the sad paradox of Hollywood is that once you’ve established yourself as one kind of actor, you’re basically stuck that way because that’s all people will send you scripts for, turning the whole thing into a spiral of bullshit. It’s extremely difficult to break out of, and it’s ended numerous careers. (Some for the better.) Some actors get fed up with it, and then you get the roles where those actors try to break out of their type (often unsuccessfully) and as time goes by they end up looking like movies from some creepy alternate dimension or something. But what’s also weird is going back through an actor’s early filmography and finding insane gems where they’re going totally against their later-established type. For some more famous examples, just look at Keanu Reeves in the Bill & Ted movies or Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Neither of those guys would even put their cigarette out on those scripts now, and that’s what makes seeing them in those roles hilarious. So now, in a far from comprehensive list, we’re going to look at some of the weirdest roles that actors have done outside of their typical repertoire.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, author Stephen Rebello joins us to share the insight of “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” and Gallery 1988 co-founder Jensen Karp gets crazy for cult and explains what Edward Scissorhands is doing in a painting with Jack Skellington. Plus, our very own Fatguy Kevin Carr joins me to play Good News/Bad News and tries to envision a spy thriller directed by Edgar Wright. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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Last week (June 16th to be specific) was the 51st anniversary of the theatrical release of Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock’s most influential film has a legacy that cannot be understated, and I’ll be discussing that legacy on this week’s Reject Radio (which goes live tomorrow) with author Stephen Rebello. Rebello wrote the must-read “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” which most consider to be the authoritative text on the background, production history, and impact of the slasher from the master of suspense. It’s not a new book, but it’s an important one, and it’s new to the world of e-books. Fortunately, we’re lucky enough to have this exclusive excerpt from the text where we get introduced to Ed Gein – the killer that stood as inspiration for the original “Psycho” novel by Robert Bloch.

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If you pay attention to these things, you’d know that June 16th was the 51st anniversary of the release of Psycho – a movie that changed one man’s legacy, the fate of a genre, and the creation of a new subgenre. So why didn’t I post the trailer then? Probably the same reason I didn’t post anything at all yesterday: we all go a little crazy sometime. In this phenomenal, long-form teaser trailer, Alfred Hitchcock takes us on a tour around the Bates Motel as well as the house on the hill where he explains that a few horrific events have taken place. It’s a promise that we’ll get to see those events when the movie hits theaters. Yet, no one will be allowed in after the movie starts. (Another thing this movie changed forever.) If you dig this trailer (you will) and the movie (you do), you’ll enjoy this coming Wednesday’s episode of Reject Radio where I’ll be discussing Psycho‘s production and legacy with expert Stephen Rebello. Tune in and find out what Janet Leigh did to John Gavin on the bedroom set. For now, just enjoy Hitch’s soothing voice:

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You’ve stumbled upon Circle of Jerks, our sporadically published, weekly feature in which we ask the questions that really matter to our writers and readers. It’s a time to take a break from our busy lives and revel in the one thing that we all share: a deep, passionate love of movies. If you have a question you’d like answered by the FSR readers and staff, send us an email at editors@filmschoolrejects.com. The Oscars are coming up quick. Nominations are out this week. So, let’s say you have a time machine and can go back to any year to nominate a movie for Best Picture that didn’t get nominated. What would you pick? Me? Probably ALIEN. – Johnathan K.

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Psycho was a major change in the way movies are viewed by filmmakers, audiences and studios. Overstating its role in movie history is incredibly difficult because of how influential it was and how it hit at the exact moment to join a tide of evolutionary ideas in the world of movies. Enter the long-gestating project of filming “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of ‘Psycho.’ An iconic director at a turning point. It’s a great idea, and it needs a great director. I was fortunate enough to get to speak with director Sacha Gervasi during the press boost for Anvil!: The Story of Anvil. When I did, he was flying his way around twisting canyon roads while balancing a phone and effortlessly explaining his raw passion for the band Anvil and for the story he was telling. That’s exactly the man to take a small part of Hitchcock’s career and turn it into gold. Luckily, according to the LA Times, Gervasi is circling the project (probably while balancing a phone and screaming about his passions). The big question: who do you cast as Hitch?

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray, my usual role as expert tour guide through the wild and wonderful world of Blu-ray takes a back seat. Emerging in its place is my new role: guy who points out the obvious. For instance, if I told you that Criterion successfully put out an impressive version of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, I wouldn’t exactly blow chunks of your brain out of your skull and all over your office walls. If I said that Universal took great care in presenting Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in glorious high definition on its 50th anniversary, it wouldn’t slice through the fabric of your reality, revealing for you a fresh, unique worldview. And if I told you Robert Rodriguez’ Predators was just ok… well, you get the idea. The time is now for me to tell you that which you probably already know. But I will certainly try to do so with style.

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Criterion Files

I don’t know if you knew this, but it turns out the French have balls. Yes, they’re historically notorious for being risk-takers and innovators in the world of high art, but who knew they could beat Hollywood at its own game? Sure, France has had a great tradition of imitating and building off American genre cinema (look at Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows or Jean-Pierre Melville’s many films noirs), but what was truly surprising was when they proved they could dance toe-to-toe with us on our “lower” genres, that they could make their own B-horror flicks.

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Criterion Files

Every week in October, Criterion Files will be bringing you a horror movie from the archives of classic cinema or the hallways of the arthouse. This week’s entry takes a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s Hollywood debut, Rebecca (1940). While some would argue (and by “some” I mean Cole Abaius) that Hitchcock only made two films that could uncontestably be identified as horror – Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963) – Rebecca is an interesting point of inception for themes covered throughout the auteur’s American career and is a film that engages in literary forms of the horror genre. Especially when seen as a ghost story.

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The release of Catfish, a movie that will cause you to be beaten to death by the internet if you even mention its name, brings to mind a few movies of the recent past that we couldn’t talk about. These films were more than just big twists. They were entire experiences that audiences, in rare form, decided were too incredible to spoil for anyone. It seems we’re getting farther and farther away from that here in the Information Age, but Catfish (whether or not the hype is deserved) is a great reminder of films that gained mystique because you “had to see them for yourself.” Here are a few of those films.

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