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Vertigo (#110 of 23)

Jurassic Park as a Means of Discussing Fractals, Chaos Theory, and Scary Movies

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Jurassic Park as a Means of Discussing Fractals, Chaos Theory, and Scary Movies
Jurassic Park as a Means of Discussing Fractals, Chaos Theory, and Scary Movies

With the arrival of the 20th anniversary, 3D re-release of Jurassic Park, what I’d like to convince you of is that the film watered down, significantly, the soul of the novel from which it was based (and we’re talking about a Michael Crichton page-turner for Christ’s sake). Instead of being the kind of decadent, lost-in-the-jungle, labyrinthine cinematic fever dream it could’ve been—one in which the production of the film would’ve eerily re-enacted and factually re-performed the hallucinatory chaos of what it was trying to fictionally record (a la Coppola’s Apocalypse Now or Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, and their respective making-of docs, Hearts of Darkness and Burden of Dreams), Spielberg’s Jurassic Park instead played it safe, and did so in a way that was slick, corporate, and patronizing to its audience. And one of the ways it punted artistically was to almost entirely purge from Crichton’s novel its heavy theorizing about chaos theory and fractals, which, in those days (the late ’80s/early ’90s), had just made its way into the intellectual mainstream. I’d like to briefly make the point that this was a grievous mistake (for the movie), because chaos theory and fractals have everything to do with scary movies, and horror and terror and the kind of man-eating monstrosities Spielberg and his team put so much goddamned time and money into making look realistic.

Homosocialisms David Greven’s Psycho-Sexual: Male Desire in Hitchcock, De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin

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Homosocialisms: David Greven’s Psycho-Sexual: Male Desire in Hitchcock, De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin
Homosocialisms: David Greven’s Psycho-Sexual: Male Desire in Hitchcock, De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin

In an early scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, the panning camera reveals a framed photograph of a young, smiling blond woman—except, the image is on negative film, which serves as a presumable correlation for disabled protagonist Jeff’s (Jimmy Stewart) outlook on women, which is tested in his gaze and projected desire from a lofty apartment window throughout the film. The well-known premise of Rear Window serves as a basis for David Greven’s Psycho-Sexual: Male Desire in Hitchcock, De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin, a provocative monograph that examines often casually dismissed “negative” images of non-normative sexuality, while offering serious reconsideration of not just Hitchcock’s critical legacy as a misogynist filmmaker, but key works within the oeuvres of New Hollywood directors like Martin Scorsese, William Friedkin, and Brian De Palma, the latter of whom receives considerable analysis and discussion in relation to his intertextual engagement with Hitchcock, but also his treatment of women and use of melodrama. Primarily, however, Greven details how these New Hollywood filmmakers “seized upon Hitchcock’s radical decentering of heterosexual male dominance, devising contemporary narratives of heterosexual male ambivalence that allowed for, at time depended on, an investment in same-sex desire as well as an awareness of its dangerous, pernicious seductions.” The end result is a rigorously researched, personal, and passionate work, worthy in style and content of the frenzied films and filmmakers being engaged.

15 Famous Oscar Snubs

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15 Famous Oscar Snubs
15 Famous Oscar Snubs

No Kathryn Bigelow?! No Ben Affleck?! Yesterday’s Oscar nominations brought their fair share of shocking snubs, but it certainly wasn’t the first time the Academy stuck it to likely contenders. Looking back over Academy Awards history, there are many dumbfounding, surprising omissions to be found—realizations that underscore the belief that Oscar nods hardly indicate long-term quality. Be them unforgivable or just bewildering, we’ve selected 15 snubs that no doubt had people talking…heatedly.

15 Famous Movie Hotels

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15 Famous Movie Hotels
15 Famous Movie Hotels

This weekend offers a little something for the wee ones, in advance of everyone’s favorite make-believe holiday, Halloween (when, you know, you can wear stuff like this). Hotel Transylvania features the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, and CeeLo Green, and it tells the tale of a five-star resort where monsters can go to—get this—be safe from us humans. Hollywood loves to boost its products’ escapist qualities by setting them in get-away-from-it-all locales. From L.A. to Vegas to Thailand, the stops on our list boast some very memorable hotels, which vary in their abilities to accommodate, relax, and terrify.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Ballot Ted Pigeon’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Ted Pigeon’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Ted Pigeon’s Top 10 Films of All Time

For film critics, Top 10 lists are a fact of life. Yet, despite frequent complaints that Top 10s are a bore to compose at the end of each year, the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound poll is one of those rare lists to which most critics would love to be asked to contribute. It’s the Top 10. The lists themselves tend to represent each critic’s best effort to express the knowledge and creativity that the invitation supposes. You can imagine the arduousness, then, of limiting one’s selections of the greatest movies of all time to just 10 entries.

Given that my role in the larger critical dialogue is minute as compared to those participating in this year’s Sight & Sound poll, I took to the challenge of a personal Top 10 more in the spirit of fun than soul-searching. Indeed, I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about all of the films below in various capacities and stages of my life. Some meant more to me years ago than they do now, while others have lingered in my thoughts and memories beyond what seemed like an ordinary experience of watching them. Some are predictable, others perhaps naïve. But they each played an important part in my own development as a film lover, a writer, and a person.

So while individual Top 10 lists represent an opportunity for all of us to showcase our film knowledge, I see them more as a reflection of who we are as people. They are all unique, interesting, and flawed, both in concept and execution, which also makes them less significant than their epic design would suggest. That’s why I have opted for simplicity in deciding on the films for my list. While a certain amount of self-reflection is essential, some things are better felt than pondered. The following list is no doubt an expression of my personal tastes and knowledge about film, and perhaps even a statement about how I approach life. Then again, it is also a fairly arbitrary ordering of 10 films that mean a great deal to me.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Odie Henderson’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Odie “Odienator” Henderson’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Odie “Odienator” Henderson’s Top 10 Films of All Time

I’m a compulsive. It’s no surprise that my list is full of movies about compulsion. Whether it’s a man who must play God in his relationship, casting his beloved in an image of his design, or a guy who can’t stop working, whoring, and drugging, I find myself drawn to depictions of people trying to find order in chaos. I’ve discovered this has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. When I dug up my 2002 list of this type, I shuffled the order and kept eight of the titles. I dropped the most emotional and the most rigorously organized movies, replacing them with films that were twice as organized and emotional. By this rationale, I’ll drop four movies in 2022 and be driven bat-shit insane looking for replacements.

This isn’t a list of my favorite movies, though two of these would appear on that list. This is a list of movies that profoundly affected me more than any others. With that said, a caveat is in order: Movie lists always inspire grouchy comments reflecting what a person felt should have been on them. Let me stop you now. You have no say in what should or shouldn’t be here because you are not me. Thank your lucky stars for that.