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The Greatest Movie & Movie Maker Ever

Hitchcock. The name is the stuff of Hollywood legends…and he remains one of the most intriguing personalities in Hollywood history.


Known as the Master of Suspense, Hitchcock was the Steven Spielberg of his day. Can you tell which is the real Hitchcock? Hint, he’s the one in black and white. Sir Anthony Hopkins (on the left) plays Hitchcock in the 2012 film of the same name.  

By the mid-1950s, Alfred Hitchcock was already acknowledged by Tinsel Town as a master of suspense and had created some of the best movies ever made.

Films like Notorious, Rear Window, and Suspicion put the director well above his peers of the day. The director also popularized the term “MacGuffin” and the technique. Recently the filmmaker returned to theaters, this time in the biopic Hitchcock, and while the movie hasn’t exactly set the box office on fire, it has gotten Hollywood talking about (another) Oscar nomination for Sir Anthony Hopkins and his co-star Helen Mirren.

So what’s the attraction to this old school filmmaker?

A Star on Both Sides of the Camera
Through his 1950s TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Hitchcock made himself a star. The tubby and bald Hitchcock (always dressed in a formal dark suit and tie, like a mortician) had a dry and wicked sense of humor.

He spoke in a thick British accent, and gracefully introduced each of the short thrillers his program showcased. He was unlike anything else American TV audiences had ever seen, and the show made him famous as a television host, completely independent of his fame as a director.


Film audiences already knew a Hitchcock in part from cameos in each of his suspense movies. TV audiences learned quickly the director could also be outrageously funny.

By the late 1950s Hitchcock was solidly established as one of Hollywood’s most dependable money-makers. So it may come as a shock to learn that Paramount Studios had virtually no faith in Hitchcock’s next project—an adaptation of a book about murder and madness in a rundown motel. In fact, it made no sense to any studio execs why the Robert Bloch novel shocker titled Psycho  was such a labor of love for Hitchcock.

That’s the story behind the new Hitchcock—the tension between “Hitch” and the studio honchos as Hitchcock tries to get his cinematic classic made. What will the master director risk in order to gamble on making a modern masterpiece? And how will the public react to such a risky piece of filmmaking?

How Psycho Broke the Mold
Psycho was revolutionary for Hollywood filmmaking on many levels. Here are a few ways Hitchcock challenged the format of the day:

  • The female is lead is killed off only a half hour into the film.
  • The movie boldly showed a bathroom shower scene (very daring for 1960) and the murder there.
  • It was a big-studio feature that chose black-and-white photography at a time when nearly all Hollywood films had switched to color.

 
Two years before Psycho Hitchcock made another future classic, the psychological drama Vertigo. The film, about a former police detective obsessed with the image of his late wife, has been championed by today’s most respected directors, including Martin Scorsese, who presided over a careful 1996 restoration of the original film. The film is probably best known for its dramatic use of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge as a setting for some of the movie’s key scenes.

The Greatest Movie…Ever?
Recently the respected British film magazine “Sight & Sound” announced the results of its 2012 poll of film directors and critics. Since 1952, and in each decade following, the magazine has conducted the poll, which asks film folks to list the greatest films ever made. Critic Roger Ebert has called it “by far the most respected of the countless polls of great movies—the only one most serious movie people take seriously.”


Hitchcock’s 1958 Vertigo was recently named the best all-time motion picture.

This year’s poll created a sensation when the long-established top film of all time, Orson Welles’ masterpiece Citizen Kane, was dethroned by a Hitchcock film—and it was not Psycho (which many fans consider his most powerful work). Instead, the film that was most universally admired in the “Sight & Sound” poll was 1958’s Vertigo, starring Hitchcock-favorite James Stewart and Kim Novak.

A Living Legacy
Alfred Hitchcock received a Lifetime Achievement Oscar, but never won a Best Director Oscar, nor did any of his films ever win “Best Picture.” No matter; for anyone interested in learning movie making and film production, Hitchcock remains an important and inspirational figure. The 57 films he made over the course of his 54-year career are treasured as some of Hollywood’s finest and most enduring creations.

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments

Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse

Zombies. The very thought of being chased relentlessly by the undead tends to unsettle people. Ever since the George A. Romero classic “Dawn of the Dead” first terrified moviegoers in 1968, zombies have been a staple of pop culture. And they’ve never been more popular.


This book sat atop the New York Times Bestseller List for months…

One of the hottest shows on televison, AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” tracks a band of survivors trying to stay a step ahead of the hungry undead. And a recent re-telling of a classic, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” became a New York Times bestseller. Zombies are popping up everywhere – giving you the creepy feeling that a “zombie apocalypse” might be imminent.

Preparing for Hordes
Benjamin Hermes has thought a lot about zombies. More specifically, how to take them out. And at the recent Maker Faire in San Jose, California, aspiring maker Ben set out to show the ways he’d developed to “incapacitate a zombie.” True to their name, “Zombie Bats” are baseball bats equipped with lots of extras – like an axe and a stun gun attached at the end of the bat, capable of delivering a 90,000-volt charge.

Another model of “Zombie Bat” trades out the axe for a samurai sword. And while the stun gun may seem like “overkill” to the uninitiated, Ben explains why it’s necessary. “The central nervous system of your average zombie is, because of the reanimation process, extra susceptible to electronic weapons.”


Batter up! Benjamin Hermes’ turnkey solution for eliminating the undead, on display at the 2011 Maker Faire in San Jose.

Zombies have been experiencing a real surge in popularity lately, and not just at events like Maker Faire. Recently even the Centers for Disease Control issued a guide on how to prepare yourself for the fictional zombie apocalypse. Or is it fictional? After all, why would the CDC – a noted government agency – issue a statement on how to protect yourself from zombies…unless there was a real reason for doing so?


A CDC ad promoting zombie preparedness.

DMA Studios Making a Zombie Movie
Maybe there’s more to this whole zombie thing than meets the eye. Digital Media Academy thinks so, too, and this summer, DMA Studios will make a short film featurette about – you guessed it – zombies! DMA Studios is a premier summer camp experience that puts you in the middle of a real studio production environment. Students in the two-week program come together as a working film production team to write, produce, shoot and edit the movie.

Director and instructor Seamus Harte explains, “We’re looking for experienced filmmakers who want to join our studio production team. Ideally, you’ve had some previous experience using Final Cut Studio or maybe have taken a DMA Film or Production course. The entire two weeks will be just like working on a real film production for a Hollywood studio: pre-production meetings, location scouting, casting, multiple shooting units, special effects teams…the whole nine yards.” This program is only offered at DMA’s Stanford University location and because of the structure of the program is limited to only 20 filmmakers. Register now for this exciting sci-fi moviemaking experience.

Who will live…and who will wind up at the bottom of the zombie food chain? Only DMA students will find out, when they spend summer making a zombie movie.

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