Films featuring
Simon Oakland

Psycho

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Psycho has, somewhat inaccurately, been credited with being the ancestor of what we now call the “slasher” film, despite having virtually nothing in common with modern horror films, in plot, theme or tone. It’s more of a godfather to that genre. At the very least, it gave birth to the horror movie tradition of the audience shouting to the characters on the screen, “Don’t go up those stairs!”

Rather than being a horror film in the traditional sense, Alfred Hitchcock‘s first film of the 1960’s is really a blood-soaked character study and that character is Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who single-handedly gave “momma’s boys” a bad name for a generation or more.

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The Sand Pebbles

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Day seven of my own little Robert Wise Film Festival

In 1966, the Vietnam war was just beginning in earnest and Robert Wise made The Sand Pebbles, an epic about another American intervention in Asia forty years earlier. After watching the film, it’s hard to judge whether the film was anti-Vietnam or just about an American gunboat in China in 1926, which is to its credit. Had Wise chosen to stack the deck politically, it would have weakened what was already a powerful story.

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West Side Story

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Day One of my own little Robert Wise Film Festival

It was just a coincidence that I had West Side Story in my DVD player the day that director Robert Wise passed away, but as long as I did, I thought it would be a good time to go through his films and include him in this diary. In the next few days, I’ll do The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Haunting, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Run Silent Run Deep, The Sand Pebbles, The Hindenburg, Citizen Kane and an update to my earlier review of The Andromeda Strain.

On with the review:

While I’m anything but a scholar on film musicals, it was instructive for me to watch West Side Story right after viewing Singin’ in the Rain earlier in the week. This wasn’t a conscious decision on my part. I use a computer program to track my DVD collection and it has the ability to spit out randomly picked titles that I haven’t watched recently. So, purely by coincidence, I watched the two most famous musicals in American movie history back to back (except for a few episodes of Lost in between).

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Bullitt

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Because of its legendary car chase through the streets of San Francisco, Bullitt probably has a reputation as a more action-packed movie than it really is. In reality, it’s a fairly realistic and low key cop drama about a witness protection detail that goes horribly wrong.

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Bullitt is also the film that makes the best use of the onscreen image of Steve McQueen. He remains, to this day, the quintessential embodiment of “cool.” Almost without effort, he exudes a presence that most actors would kill for and he does it with a minimalist style that sometimes makes Clint Eastwood look like Al Pacino in Heat.

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