Here are some Easter facts, enjoy!
Today is the National Alfred Hitchcock Day!
To celebrate I bring to you guys Stephen Rebello’s new article, “6 Great Reasons Why Hitchcock Is Still the Master of Suspense” and his 2 videos that he speaks about Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock, the director’s relationship with his wife, Alma, and the radical way that Psycho changed the way people see movies.
6 Great Reasons Why Hitchcock Is Still the Master of Suspense
by Stephen Rebello
Psycho. Vertigo. North by Northwest. The Birds. If Alfred Hitchcock had directed nothing more than that astonishing quartet, he’d still be considered the maestro of creating nail-biting suspense, romantic intrigue, and unforgettable thrills. But that incredible run of movies, released in theaters from 1958 to 1963, represents only a drop in the bloody bucket of Hitchcock’s masterworks, which stretch back to the 1920s and extend into the 1970s. If you need a reminder of why Hitchcock rules as the all-time master of suspense, and why he is considered the man who pretty much wrote the book on the genre, here’s your quick cheat sheet.
1) Hitchcock Made Us Scream in the Shower
From Boston to Bangkok, Hitchcock stunned 1960 audiences by doing the unheard-of in Psycho: brutally killing-off the film’s sympathetic heroine—and biggest star—less than half way through the action. Taking his cue from the source novel by Robert Bloch, Hitchcock blasted our notions of safety and privacy by staging the landmark murder scene in, of all places, the bathroom, that tight, white space where one feels most relaxed and vulnerable. Or, at least, used to. And not only did he film Psycho in black and white to help minimize all that blood-letting, but he and editor George Tomasini also employed then-revolutionary rapid-fire editing techniques that suggested nudity and violence. To put the whole thing over the top, he cranked up a shrieking all-strings musical score by Bernard Herrmann. Voila, Hitchcock, his star Janet Leigh, and his merry band of gifted collaborators set a standard for heart-stopping terror that has yet to be topped—but is endlessly imitated.
2) Hitchcock Brought Menace Out into the Open
Dark alleys? Shifty-eyed villains with twirling moustaches? Graveyards? Rain-slicked cobblestone streets? Haunted houses, rattling chains, and bats in the belfry? Hitchcock considered these clichés ripe for parody and, beginning with his British films of the 1920s, the director shone a bright light on terror and dark deeds. With Hitchcock, thrills can even erupt during a kid’s birthday party, as happens in Young and Innocent and The Birds. The sophisticated, stylish heroes and heroine of The 39 Steps and North by Northwest get chased by planes in broad daylight and open spaces; in those same films, and such other movies as Blackmail, Saboteur, and Hitchcock’s two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, dramatic action unfolds against the backdrop of tourist attractions and national monuments like the United Nations, Mount Rushmore, the British Museum, the Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall, and the Royal Albert Hall. When violence erupts in and around shower stalls, ski runs, telephone booths, attics, and mountain roads, the lesson is simple: There is nowhere to hide. Chaos and terror will find you, personified by the charming, attractive, and seductive villains of such Hitchcock thrillers as Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Stage Fright, Strangers on a Train, Psycho, Topaz, and Family Plot. Other films, from Charade right up through the Batman and Mission: Impossible have been following Hitchcock’s lead ever since.
3) Hitchcock Made Us Walk a Mile in His Heroes’ Shoes
Hitchcock often bragged to the press about how his films grabbed audiences by “making the viewer sweat” and “really putting them through it.” One of the most groundbreaking ways he put us through it was his frequent use of traveling point-of-view shots—that is, moving the camera in a way that places the viewer in the same position as the character on-screen. It’s a technique that makes us uneasy right along with James Stewart when we walk with him down ominous London streets in The Man Who Knew Too Much or when he obsessively stalks Kim Novak up and down hilly San Francisco in Vertigo. We’re jittery when we move slowly up the hill with Vera Miles in Psycho or when we glide along with her toward old Mrs. Bates sitting in a chair under a naked light bulb in a basement. And how about when we walk down a dock with Tippi Hedren, expecting her to be pecked by the birds, or when we hover with her outside the closed door of a room in which she is about to be engulfed by our feathered fiends? Hitchcock isn’t content with merely making us spectators. We’re full-on participants.
4) Hitchcock Tells His Audience More Than His Characters Know
Hitchcock and his screenwriters created some of the most dazzling moments in movie history by emphasizing agonizing suspense rather than simple, go-for-the-throat shock. The innocent little boy in Hitchcock’s ’30s thriller Sabotage thinks he’s carrying a harmless parcel through London; we know he’s carrying a bomb that is set to detonate at a certain time. In the Psycho shower scene, the audience is shown, through the opaque shower curtain, what Janet Leigh doesn’t see until it’s too late: the approaching shadow of a killer. Grace Kelly searches the empty apartment of a suspected wife killer in Rear Window while we, along with James Stewart, break into cold sweats watching the murderer make his way back home. The heroine of The Birds waits impatiently on a bench for a classroom of kids to be let out of school, unaware that flocks of malevolent birds are amassing slowly and silently behind her.
5) Hitchcock Kept Surprises As Surprises
It’s no exaggeration to credit Hitchcock with helping change the way we go to movies. Psycho was made back when the price of a movie ticket bought you a double feature, newsreel, short subjects, and trailers, and movie ticket-buyers tended to pop in and out of theaters whenever they pleased. With Psycho, Hitchcock wanted to create an event. So, he refused to hold any pre-release critics’ screenings, let alone a premiere. He forced movie-theater owners to sign contracts demanding zero tolerance of any moviegoer expecting to enter the theater once the film started. He launched the film’s release with a massive publicity campaign that stipulated in newspaper, radio, television ads, and posters in theater lobbies: “No one . . . but no one . . . will be admitted to the theater after the start of each performance of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.” He recorded announcements to broadcast on radio and through loudspeakers at theaters warning Psycho audiences not to reveal the ending to their friends. The public ate it up. They formed lines around the block, kept the movie’s secrets to themselves, and turned Psycho into a worldwide phenomenon. Can you imagine any of this happening in our era of wall-to-wall social media, instant gratification, and gleeful spoilers? Neither can we.
6) Hitchcock Revealed More by Showing Less
Hitchcock may be known best for cinematic suspense and thrills, but he was equally superb at finding suspense and thrills in eroticism. That long, long, long nuzzle and kiss between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in the ’40s spy thriller Notorious sizzles over six decades later. When gorgeous adventuress Grace Kelly slyly offers retired jewel thief Cary Grant his choice of leg or breast during a picnic above the French Riviera in To Catch a Thief, she’s offering a bit more than cold chicken. Sexy spy lady Eva Marie Saint seduces fugitive Cary Grant aboard a posh train, purring, “It’s going to be a long night . . . and I don’t particularly like the book I’ve started. You know what I mean?” Yeah, we do. And, without a bit of nudity or tawdry grappling, doesn’t Janet Leigh’s long lunch break tryst in a cheap hotel with boyfriend John Gavin in Psycho reek of backstreet eroticism? And the chilling spin Anthony Perkins as Psycho’s own Norman Bates puts on the line, “My mother and I were more than happy . . . ” tells you more than you need to know about that relationship.
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This sweet animation from Tony Miotto compares two of the world’s most brilliant cities, Paris and New York. Based on the book, Paris Versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities by Vahram Muratyan, it pitches JFK against Charles de Gaulle, cupcakes against macaroons and the subway against the metro. Watch with the sound on to get the full effect.
Question is, which is your favourite?
Today marks the 49th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
On August 28, 1963, Dr. King stood before the Lincoln Memorial Center to deliver some of the most iconic words in our country’s history. More than 250,000 people eagerly listened as the voices of Mahalia Jackson and Joan Baez rang throughout the Lincoln Memorial.
In a time where discrimination and hate-crimes provoked the unthinkable, Dr. King stood before America and reminded an entire nation to dream. Often known by scholars as the “most important moment in civil rights history,” his words forever pressed upon us a hope for freedom and a world united in love rather than fear.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
On Sunday night here in London, the Olympic Games ended with closing ceremonies that reminded the world that, yes, a lot of popular music has come from Britain.
London was never going to out-Beijing Beijing, and the wisest decision was not even to attempt it. Instead, the organizers of London 2012 decided that Beijing could not out-Britain Britain, and that there was something of value for the Olympic movement and the world in that distinction.
The past 17 days have proven them right.
They have proven that the Olympics did come to their spiritual home in Britain – where rowing and fencing and tennis, not to mention the sporting ideals that underlie the entire Olympic movement, began.
They have proven that their city’s history and charm was more than enough to compensate for the lack of signature venue like the Bird’s Nest or Water Cube. Could any other city match the scenes at Horse Guards Parade or Wimbledon or the Mall?
But more than any of these things, London 2012 has proven, beyond the remotest doubt, that much if not most of Britain truly did want these Olympics in the end. Not for national pride, though that was in present in good regulation, but because it was a bloody brilliant time to be British.
“These were happy and glorious Games,” said International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge at the closing ceremonies, quoting a line from the British national anthem.
Now we wait four more years to see what Rio will bring us.
Theme song of Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Snapping impromptu photos of the latest clothing trends is nothing new. Over a century ago, a photographer named Edward Linley Sambourne did the same kind of photography on the streets of London and Paris using a concealed camera. His images form a beautiful historical record of what people wore that deviates from what people typically think of when they hear “Edwardian fashion“.
2012 Summer Olympics kicked off with a huge Opening Ceremony in London’s new Olympic Stadium, an event watched on television by an estimated 1 billion viewers. Performances paid tribute to British heritage and culture, from agrarian beginnings through pop culture successes like the Beatles and J.K. Rowling. Contingents from more than 200 nations marched in the athletes parade, and the evening was capped off by the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron, a performance by Paul McCartney, and a huge fireworks display. Collected below is just a glimpse ceremony, as the 2012 Olympics are now underway.
According to folklorists, there is no written evidence for a “Friday the 13th” superstition before the 19th century. The earliest known documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th.
He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that one Friday 13th of November he died.
Several theories have been proposed about the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition.
One theory states that it is a modern amalgamation of two older superstitions: that thirteen is an unlucky number and that Friday is an unlucky day.
• In numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the clock, twelve gods of Olympus, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles of Jesus, the 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam, etc., whereas the number thirteen was considered irregular, transgressing this completeness. There is also a superstition, thought by some to derive from the Last Supper or a Norse myth, that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners.
• Friday has been considered an unlucky day at least since the 14th century’s The Canterbury Tales, and many other professions have regarded Friday as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects. Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s.
• One author, noting that references are all but nonexistent before 1907 but frequently seen thereafter, has argued that its popularity derives from the publication that year of Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth, in which an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.
• Records of the superstition are rarely found before the 20th century, when it became extremely common. The connection between the Friday the 13th superstition and the Knights Templar was popularized in Dan Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and in John J. Robinson’s 1989 work Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry. On Friday, 13 October 1307, hundreds of the Knights Templar were arrested in France, an action apparently motivated financially and undertaken by the efficient royal bureaucracy to increase the prestige of the crown. Philip IV was the force behind this ruthless move, but it has also tarnished the historical reputation of Clement V. From the very day of Clement V’s coronation, the king falsely charged the Templars with heresy, immorality and abuses, and the scruples of the Pope were compromised by a growing sense that the burgeoning French State might not wait for the Church, but would proceed independently. However, experts agree that this is a relatively recent correlation, and most likely a modern-day invention.
Phobia names and etymology
The fear of Friday the 13th has been called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen), or paraskevidekatriaphobia a concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”) attached to phobía (φοβία, from phóbos, φόβος, meaning “fear”). The latter word was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a mainstream source in 1953.
Tuesday the 13th
In Spanish-speaking countries, instead of Friday, Tuesday the 13th (martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck.
The Greeks also consider Tuesday (and especially the 13th) to be an unlucky day. Tuesday is considered to be dominated by the influence of Ares (Mars), the god of war. A connection can be seen in the etymology of the name in some European languages (Mardi in French or martes in Spanish). The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans happened on Tuesday, May 29, 1453, fact that strengthens the superstition about Tuesday. In addition, in Greek the name of the day is Triti (Τρίτη) meaning literally the third (day of the week), adding weight to the superstition, since bad luck is said to “come in threes”.
Friday the 17th
In Italian popular culture, Friday the 17th (and not the 13th) is considered a day of bad luck. In fact, in Italy, 13 is generally considered a lucky number. However, due to Anglo-Saxon influence, young people consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky as well.
The 2000 parody film Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth was released in Italy with the title Shriek – Hai impegni per venerdì 17? (“Shriek – Do You Have Something to Do on Friday the 17th?”).
According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. “It’s been estimated that [US]$800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day”. Despite this, representatives for both Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines say that their airlines do not suffer from any noticeable drop in travel on those Fridays.
Rate of accidents
The Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (CVS) on June 12, 2008, stated that “fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.”
With the re-release of the Sex Pistols’ controversial song God Save the Queen, in time for the Diamond Jubilee, former bass player Glen Matlock says what the band’s message was.
Like Pistols frontman John Lydon (previously known as Johnny Rotten), Matlock does not agree with the decision by Universal Music to release a 2012 version of the classic punk track.
What seems inevitable is that God Save The Queen will not have the chart success it enjoyed in 1977 during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, despite a Facebook campaign to win it the number one spot. Nor will it shock to the same degree.
Thirty-five years ago, the Sex Pistols’ second single was controversial for two reasons: its cover and lyrics. The sleeve showed the monarch’s eyes and mouth obscured by the title and name of the band, with the words looking as though they had been taken from newspaper cuttings in the style of a ransom note.
It could have been worse: one of the other designs included placing swastikas over the Queen’s eyes and, in true punk style, a safety pin through her lips.
Unlike some other Pistols’ songs, there was no swearing, but queen was made to rhyme with “fascist regime” and we were told that “she ain’t no human being” and “there’s no future in England’s dreaming”.
The song was banned on the airwaves: the BBC and commercial TV and radio refused to play it and many record shops and high street chains Woolworths and WH Smith were unwilling to stock it. But it still made it to number two in the official charts, although it has been frequently and convincingly claimed that there was a fix to stop it making the number one spot.
The design of the sleeve, the work of artist Jamie Reid, led to it being named the greatest record cover of all time in 2001 by Q magazine, which a year later ranked it first in a list of the 50 most exciting tunes ever.
It may have been a clever marketing ploy to have the single ready for the jubilee (the original plan was for it to be released earlier, although events conspired against this), but what were the band saying? Did they really want to see the back of the monarchy?
John Lydon certainly wants nothing to do with the re-release, saying it “totally undermines what the Sex Pistols stood for”, before adding in a statement: “I am pleased that the Sex Pistols recordings are being put out there for a new generation, however, I wish for no part in the circus that is being built up around it.”
“We were so far up our own backsides, we just wanted to do what we wanted to do. We weren’t trying to build a guillotine.”
Lydon has explained that the song was written to stop the English people from being “mistreated”. A working-class boy, he has always been angered by Britain’s class system, criticising private schools for encouraging snobbery and cultivating a sense of superiority, and damning the upper classes for their tendency to “parasite off the population as their friends help them along”.
As the Pistols’ own website puts it: “The Pistols were inspired by anger and poverty, not art and poetry.”
And the song: “The nation was gripped by Royal fever. The Queen was a national treasure. Everyone loved her, everyone except the Sex Pistols. Or did they? ‘We love our Queen.’ The last sentence is taken from the song’s lyrics.
Reid has called it “probably the last public protest against the monarchy”. But Glen Matlock told Channel 4 News that a song created by four 19-year-olds should not be over-analysed.
“We were so far up our own backsides, we just wanted to do what we wanted to do,” he said. “We weren’t political like the Clash. To try to analyse it is specious. We weren’t trying to build a guillotine.
“Originally, the song wasn’t called God Save The Queen, it was called No Future. It coincided with the jubilee. John (Lydon) told me he didn’t realise it was the jubilee and was disinterested in the jubilee.” And the song’s message? “Don’t be taken like a bloody idiot.”
Nowadays, Matlock seems relaxed about the monarchy. “I like the flags, the pageantry of it all.”
Steve Dior, a musician who has played with all of the band’s members except Lydon, told Channel 4 News: “They were politically naive. They all had separate ideas. Being anti-Queen was just an easy target. But there was an awareness of people being privileged and under-privileged, that it wasn’t a fair system.
“We were definitely against the jubilee at that time. She wasn’t paying tax and was so privileged and we were supposed to be celebrating. There was no way it was fair.”
Punk rock, led by the Pistols, was “about frustration and wanting to change the status quo and it needed a very loud and angry voice to change it,” said Dior. “We wanted a chance and an opportunity – a chance to get on in the world, to not be on the dole and treated as useless – and we had to be obnoxious and in-your-face to get it. “
But he has now changed his tune on the monarchy. “Diana brought in change. Now we have the princes and they’re more accessible. It’s more palatable than it was. The benefits outweigh the negatives and I think they bring a lot to the table, out there promoting this country.”
Who wrote God Save The Queen?
Lydon, Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook are all credited with writing God Save The Queen. Dior, a friend of Matlock, believes the Pistols’ former bassist played the biggest part. But Jones has spoken scathingly abour Matlock’s contribution, saying in 2011 that he was “tired” of his claims that he had written the Pistols’ most famous songs.
“As much as he likes claiming he wrote God Save The Queen, Anarchy In The UK and Pretty Vacant, at the time he hated the words, which John (Lydon) wrote,” he told Hustler magazine.
So what is the truth? According to Matlock: “They were John’s lyrics and my music.”
Who released the song?
A&M had originally intended releasing God Save The Queen, but had a change of heart at the last moment, paying the trouble some Pistols £75,000 to go away and leave them alone.
That was not before some of the singles had been pressed. Their owners are very fortunate: they are now worth thousands of pounds if they are in good condition.
The Pistols then signed to Richard Branson’s Virgin, which released the single in May 1977, shortly before the jubilee.
Today is Big Ben’s 153rd birthday and to celebrate I give you a run-down of some choice facts about everyone’s favourite bell.
- Big Ben, and the tower it stands in (yes, we know the difference) were built after a fire partially destroyed the existing Palace of Westminster.
- Big Ben is a big boy. The original bell weighed in at over 16 tonnes and it took a trolley pulled by 16 horses to transport it from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to New Palace Yard, accompanied by cheering crowds.
- Big Ben is actually Big Ben the II. After all that effort, they broke the original bell in tests and had to make a new one. Within a few months Ben had broken again, but was repaired and still chimes today complete with crack.
- Big Ben was the biggest bell in Britain before being trumped by ‘Great Paul’, which hangs (predictably) in St Paul’s.
- There are disputes over who exactly is Ben’s namesake. Many believe it was named in honour of Sir Benjamin Hall who as the London commissioner of works oversaw the bell’s installation. Our preferred alternative is that Ben is named after the truly colossal heavyweight champ, Big Benjamin Caunt.
- BBC Radio Four transmits the chimes of Big Ben live every night before the six o’clock news. Why they don’t record them we’ll never know.
- Ben is a war hero. The bells were silenced and the clock face dimmed during WW1 but rang out clear and strong throughout WW2. The Palace of Westminster was hit on fourteen separate occasions over the course of WW2.
- UK residents can climb the tower by requesting a tour via their local MP.
- Big Ben is on twitter (unofficially), follow @big_ben_clock for the latest bongs.
Happy 153rd Birthday Big Ben!!!