Thursday, October 11, 2012

Versus #1: Hitchcock vs. Hitckcock

This is a new feature titled "Versus", in which I will compare and contrast two similar items, whether it is movies (or the trailers for the movies), songs, books, stories, people, ideas, etc. Today, the battle of the Hitchcock biopics.

Two movies about the Master of Suspense will be released within several weeks apart this autumn. HBO's "The Girl", which chronicles Hitchcock's often sadistic relationship with actress Tippi Hedren premières on October 20. Veteran actor Toby Jones (The Hunger Games, Oliver Stone's version of George W. Bush in W., and Christopher and His Kind) is the egomaniac genius that is Hitchcock and Sienna Miller (Layer Cake, Jude Law's lame version of Alfie, and Interview) is the icy blonde that is Hedren.
With no previous acting experience, it was obvious that Hitchcock chose Hedren, who would later become the mother of actress Melanie Griffith, simply for her looks. She became the latest icy blonde that the director was obsessed about throughout his career (Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh). The major difference between Hedren's predecessors and herself is that they were actually trained in the dramatic arts. Three of the five actresses I just mentioned won an Academy Award, which often proves that the recipient of the statue could act his or her way out of a giant paper bag on fire.

 On November 23, Hitchcock hits theatres nationwide. Here we witness the struggles in bringing the now-cinematic masterpiece Psycho to the big screen, which at the time was considered career suicide for all involved. (It was unthinkable to kill off the lead actor, Janet Leigh, who was one of America's top box-office draws in the 1950s and early 1960s, in the first act, and have the then-wholesome, All-American Anthony Perkins as the unstable Norman Bates.) Anthony Hopkins does a remarkable job (according to the trailer) as the director. With an excellent cast that includes Helen Mirren as the Missus and Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, Hitchcock is already being shortlisted for the Academy Awards, especially for the actors performances.

Which has led to the Battle of the Hitchcocks, which sounds like a great sci-fi movie. Hitch could come back from the dead to direct.

Jones faced a similar dilemma several years when his Truman Capote biopic, Infamous, was released and mostly overlooked in the fall of 2006, a year after Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as the author, received all the critical acclaim, awards (Hoffman earned the Oscar, BAFTA, SAG Award, and Golden Globe for Best Actor) and Netflix rentals that a biopic about a short-stature man with a bigger-than-life persona and enough personal demons to occupy a dozen Tennessee William dramas could get. When Infamous came along, it was inevitably compared to the former and given little else. The only notable buzz the film received was that Daniel Craig, whose star shot through the roof at the time for his first outing as James Bond in Casino Royale, was in a supporting role as the killer Perry Smith, which earned him a nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards. (Sidebar: Around the same time, Craig became the first actor to earn a BAFTA Best Actor nomination for playing Bond.)

Originally Hopkins' Hitchcock was set to be released in 2013, which would have given Jones the opportunity he was denied in 2005-2006 to be in the spotlight for praise and awards recognition. Now if both actors at the ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel for the Golden Globes, Jones will be relegated to the guy who was "in the other Hitchcock movie on HBO."


An HBO feature, which is always good, given the prestige an HBO production has upon release and review. Even though the Emmys have passed, this could earn leads Toby Jones and Sienna Miller nominations from the Golden Globes, maybe be shortlisted for next year's Emmy Awards, unless HBO has a slew of projects ready to release next spring. Or BBC America pushes to finally get Matt Smith and David Tennant their first Emmy nominations for "Doctor Who" and "The Spies of Warsaw", respectively, therefore eliminating Jones' chances at Emmy recognition, since some Americans have to be nominated for something in that category.


Both Hopkins and Mirren are Oscar winners who have racked up multiple nominations in the past for portraying real-life people. (British-born and knighted Hopkins earned nods for portraying not one but two American presidents--Richard Nixon and John Quincy Adams--and Mirren earned nods for portraying the wives of King George III and Leo Tolstoy). Both seem to be guaranteed nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress. And Scarlett Johansson, who has earned mulitple Golden Globe nominations in the past and the Best Actress BAFTA for Lost in Translation, could finally score some serious awards-cred with her first nomination in the supporting actress category. If this occurs, Johansson could be the first person to be nominated for an Oscar for portraying a real-life actor who delivers a performance that was nominated for an Oscar. Mind-boggling stuff, I know.

While both men are remarkable actors, Hopkins has the edge here. He is a household name, he looks a lot more like Hitchcock than Jones does, and he does appear in a big-budget picture that will most likely become a box-office hit and Oscar-bait, a combo that Hitch was able to accomplish many times throughout his lengthy career in the movies.

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