30-Day Film Challenge: A Film By Your Favorite Director

Day 11
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Strangers on a Train (1951) by Amanda Salazar

When it comes to directors I am really only obsessed with one: Alfred Hitchcock. I definitely enjoy, respect, and appreciate others (P.T. Anderson, Christopher Nolan, to name a few) but I have not been as ardent a follower and as dedicated to their filmography as Hitchcock's. It is hard to choose a favorite when it comes to Alfred so I went with one of the first films that I saw of his and one that I often re-watch when I'm in the mood to see anything that he has done. 

Strangers on a Train is about Guy and Bruno, both men who meet on a train and would like to get rid of someone in their lives. Bruno wants to kill off his father and Guy is a high-profile tennis player that is having an affair and would like to be rid of his wife. Bruno comes up with the brilliant idea of murdering each other's "problems" so that no one will suspect them, but when Guy declines the offer, Bruno takes things into his own hands.

Hitchcock's films are so beautiful in how convoluted, deceptive and downright suspenseful they can become. He is considered the "Master of Suspense" for a reason and always does such a wonderful job at tapping into our subconscious fears as viewers. Hitchcock knows exactly how to affect his audience and has no problem manipulating anything to make sure that we enjoy the ride. From the tennis match scene to the way that Bruno murders Guy's wife, Hitchcock uses camera tricks, music, and action instead of dialogue to make the audience play into this sick game and come out of it just as exhausted as the characters. Hitchcock always knows how to leave an audience hanging (just watch the end of Psycho) and for me that makes me love him as a director even more.

Rear Window (1954) by Shawn Bourdo

By 1954 - my favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock, had been making films for over 40 years. He'd done silent films, early talkies, he'd transitioned to color and broke more rules than we even knew existed. I chose "Rear Window" because it brought out skills that he had developed over those years.

James Stewart and Grace Kelly turn this short story with few sets into one of Hitchcock's deepest pieces. I find lots to talk about with Psycho and Vertigo but this voyeurism picture has lots of levels. Stewart's sexual frustrations with his broken leg in regards to the sheer sexual power of Grace Kelly are amazing. Throw in Edith Head's great costuming and Franz Waxman's terrific score and this might be the must see movie by my favorite director.

2001 (1968) by El Bicho

Though a fan of many directors, Stanely Kubrick is the one whose films are always able to immerse me in the world he's creating no matter the genre. I was first introduced to 2001 as a freshman in high school by Jim Pacelli, teacher of Introduction to Physical Sciences. Towards the end of every year, Mr. Pacelli would run what I believe he claimed was his favorite movie over the course of three days.

Naturally, some kids would talk to each other, screw around, or catch a few Z's but I was captivated right from the start of "The Dawn of Man" sequence even with the lack of dialogue. Sure, at that age, we probably laughed more than we should have at the scene when those that learned about using tools beat one of the others to death, but to be fair, I still get amusement out it.

The "Jupiter Mission" sequence is a straightforward, sci-fi thriller with HAL's monotone delivery minimizing the danger he presented to the astronauts. The "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" sequence is a bit of a mind-blower for a viewer at any age, but at 14 it really opened up the brain to possibilites many had likely not been made aware of.

I've watched 2001 numerous times, including when I had Chemistry with Mr. Pacelli my junior year, and always enjoyed the things it made me think about.

Secret Honor (1984) by Dusty Somers

Robert Altman wasn't a filmmaker known for being technically or visually groundbreaking. Rather, Altman's directorial stamp exists far more in the realm of the intangible. His films are often loosely constructed, messy even, but Altman brought precision in his unique perspective, which makes nearly every one of his films (yes, even Dr. T and the Women) worthwhile and engaging.

Among his often-sprawling masterpieces (McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Nashville, 3 Women, The Player, Short Cuts, Gosford Park-- man, there are a lot of them) and his lesser, but no less interesting efforts (Brewster McCloud, Thieves Like Us, Popeye, A Prairie Home Companion) are small, very focused projects like Secret Honor, adapted from the play by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone.

This is not the kind of play that would seem to lend itself to becoming cinematic -- it only stars a single actor, here played by Philip Baker Hall, whose impact can't be overstated, in a brilliant turn.

Altman brings his intangible touch to the one-location film about Richard Nixon delivering an impassioned reflection on his presidency to himself. His camera subtly bobs and weaves over the study set, ensuring the film never drifts into stasis. He doesn't overplay his hand; the film's theatrical roots are certainly apparent. And yet, even if you can't exactly put a finger on it, the Altman touch is there -- it's a touch I'll always find thrilling.

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