Thursday, February 27, 2003

Twelve Cabins, Twelve Vacancies

If I may, I would like to finish a defense of a certain film I began in my class today. We were comparing Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake of "Psycho" with Hitchcock's original. Now, I'm probably the only person who actually didn't hate the remake, but I think it has some legitimate merit that many critics do not appreciate.

The 1998 "Psycho" is not the pointless trifle many people make it out to be. First, Van Sant did the laudable service of pumping into theatres a classic cinematic experience that a younger generation may not have ever had a chance to appreciate. However, because this generation is one raised with the blessing of VCRs and Blockbuster, the defense is somewhat flimsy. A better, but related, defense of the film is that it renewed public interest in the original. Had someone never watched the original, he or she might have left the theatre wanting to go rent it, thus acquiring a great film to their experience of movie artistry. Had someone already seen the original, however, he or she might have wanted to watch it again to recall why he or she enjoyed it so much the first time. Either way, the line goes back to Hitchcock.

The third defense of the film is the crux of my argument. Van Sant made a shot-for-shot remake of a well-known and well-respected film. No one had ever done such a thing before. There is an inherent artistic merit to the painstaking recreation of every single scene in an already masterfully made film. Most phenomenally, however, Van Sant recreated the original faithfully while still using a bit of his own creativity.

Many people criticize the quality of the acting in Van Sant's "Psycho." I posit that the bolder characterizations are deliberate. While each character gets the same amount of face time in the modified version of the film, the overall impressions of their personalities are different. For example, Vince Vaughn's Norman is more obviously psychotic from his first meeting with Marion. He's more assertive, he's quicker to anger, and he's less shy, too. It seems unlikely that Vaughn’s lack of a stutter when pronouncing the word "falsity" would be an error when Van Sant was so careful in creating an exact replica. I think he’s actually making Norman a new man. Likewise, Marion is more obviously flighty and ditzy. Her psychological trauma, the emotional dysfunction that propels the story in the first place, is more readily apparent. Sam and Lila too are bolder in their developing mutual attraction as they search the old Bates house for any sign of poor Marion. Clearly, Van Sant is doing this with a definite purpose: he's drawing the original film’s characters out of the restrained early 60s. The remake does, after all, take place in 1998, so the characters' personalities should reflect the setting.

Van Sant's use of color only further elaborates this point. The creepy shadows of Hitchcock's original are pushed behind a hyper-colorized palette of reds, oranges, greens and blues. It’s almost like Van Sant is flaunting his destruction of certain elements of the original while preserving others. And even still, amid all the color, a sense of danger persists. It's a new, Argentoesque suspense: the garish, discordant, and the psychotic on the level of the psychedelic.

Even the cast's wardrobe reflects this impiety. Everyone — Sam and Marion, most notably — is wearing these obnoxiously retro clothes. In doing so, Van Sant audaciously renovates one aspect of the film, giving a dimension to the characters that Hitchcock never intended. Additionally, like the shocks of the original "Psycho," he creates a sense of horror than transcends the barriers of one decade or the other.

All of this Van Sant does while maintaining his safety within the boundaries of his shot-by-shot restraint. It's commendable, really, although I'd really hate to see more of such an idea in the future, though. Once was enough.

Friday, February 21, 2003


So it worked. That makes me happy like you couldn't know. This is another victory of mine over the internet.

To begin the meandering personal narrative, tonight should be a study night. Yes, I am one of those people who is so cool that he doesn't actually need to go out on friday to maintain his aura of awesome studly coolness. One of the roommates has got a group of her quasi-sorority sisters watching movies shot in soft focus with lots of hugging and crying. Or so I would imagine. Thus, I live in my room tonight. Writing this is my alternative to studying, which I have put off to do newspaper stuff. I've also taken a vow of sobriety for the remainder of the quarter. No more drinking -- unless there's a really, really good excuse. I just find that the pre-partying, partying, passing out, and morning-after recovery eats up too much of my time. The alternative would, of couse, be coke, which would allow for long-term partying and the ability to stay up for long amounts of time. I have weighed the risks, however, and decided that coke is, indeed, not it.

It's all about productivity people. The kind fueled by good ol' American go-to-itiveness.

The Trendburger

So I did it. I bit into a big juicy trendburger and got a blog. I guess some trends are not necessarily offensive, so I think I can reconcile this choice.

So why a blog? I'm not sure actually. I'd think I was published enough. But then I think about it and I decide that as many of my words get sent out into the world on a daily basis, I never write for myself. Writing is one way I can actually express myself, so maybe I should use it to sort out how I think about things instead of just letting these thoughts bounce around my head like so many ping-pong balls. Hopefully, people will stray across it and get some insight into why I'm doing the things I'm doing. Or at least get a good laugh.

If you're reading this and I know you, chances are I probably don't hate you. That's an interesting thought. Most of the people I don't like I don't talk to, so by virtue of having access to these words, you are acceptable. I wonder if that makes you feel special. Anyway, this doesn't factor in at all this blog's public status. So, I guess you could be someone I know — but don't like — who's just happening to come across this. So in that case, fuck off. You know who you are, people I don't like.

Let's see if I can get this to work now.