Thursday, September 21, 2023

1963 Alternate Oscars

Tonight at 8 PM Eastern, Turner Classic Movies is showing Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece of ornithological horror, The Birds — an apocalyptic tale of mother nature's revenge on the human race. Or as we refer to it in the 21st century, "Thursday."

If you haven't seen it, well good God man, what are you waiting for?

Richard Brody, film critic for the New Yorker magazine, had this to say about the film's star, Tippi Hedren:

[The Birds and Marnie] feature the performances of Tippi Hedren, which are not only the ultimate Hitchcock performances but—and especially that of “Marnie”—among the very best in the history of cinema. Nobody would mistake Hedren for Bette Davis in theatrical craft, but, of course, the cinema isn’t theatre, and the measure of performance is, rather, an aura, an expressive radiance which is sometimes even more present in varieties of inexpressivity, repression, opacity, which is exactly what Hedren delivers.

I completely agree with the sentiment that "cinema isn't theatre" — it's why I prefer Bogart to Olivier, and just about anybody to Meryl Streep, even the much undervalued Tippi Hedren.

I rewatched The Birds (and Marnie) the other day and while I think the growing cult of Marnie has overrated that picture (too much pop psychology, not enough story), the assessment of Tippi Hedren as an actress, especially in The Birds (reversing Brody's verdict), is spot on. Instead of playful and flirty in the opening scenes of The Birds — which is apparently how some critics want her to have played it — Hedren comes across as self-involved and maybe just mean enough to make you think the birds are reacting to her. I mean what kind of jerk uses innocent birds as props in an adolescent prank? No wonder the birds are miffed — she's the straw that broke the proverbial camel bird's back.

It's as if Majorie Taylor Greene showed up in Bodega Bay full of performative tomfoolery and flocks of left-wing birds (flying in left-hand circles, no doubt) launched a counterattack on humanity in retaliation. They've stood all they can stand and, like Popeye the Sailor, they can't stands no more. I'm cheering for the birds!

Of course, the person the birds really should have been attacking was Alfred Hitchcock. I love me some Hitchcock as you well know, but what he subjected Tippi Hedren to should have ended his career (never mind the sexual assault allegation which should have landed him in jail.) I guess you can argue a good director does whatever is necessary to get the performance he wants but a better one wouldn't have to. I think actors succeeded in Hitchcock's films not because of his antics but in spite of them, and when the star of a great motion picture almost gets her eyes pecked out to satisfy the sadistic whims of a warped, frustrated old man (no matter how great a director), she deserves some sort of medal.

But that's neither here nor there. Ultimately, the only thing that counts is what ended up on the screen, and I think what ended up on the screen in the case of Tippi Hedren is great — or anyway, unforgettable which is pretty much the same thing. She earns my vote for best actress of the year.

My choices are noted with a ★. A tie is indicated with a ✪. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ. A historical winner who won in a different category is noted with a ✱.

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