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Psycho  

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  1. 1. Are there any AFI vacancies for Psycho?

    • We have 100 vacancies. 100 spots. 100 vacancies.
      8
    • Psych-no!
      1

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  • Poll closed on 10/18/18 at 03:49 PM

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30 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

There also a subtle hint after it fades out from Norman's face in the last scene -- you can faintly see the skull of his mother's corpse superimposed over his own face.

 

They didn’t bring that up in the episode? Weird.  I know I have to listen so I don’t have too much right to criticize, but just from what I’ve read, it feels like they missed quite a lot. Like, I guess they questioned why she took a shower after deciding to come clean and someone on Twitter had to explain that it was Marion literally washing away her sins. I mean, I don’t think Psycho is heavy-handed necessarily, but it’s not exactly that subtle. 

To assume she’s just taking a shower to take a shower is like assuming William Carlos Williams’ “This is Just to Say” is about plums or Moby Dick is a about a whale.

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1 hour ago, Cameron H. said:

They didn’t bring that up in the episode? Weird.  I know I have to listen so I don’t have too much right to criticize, but just from what I’ve read, it feels like they missed quite a lot. Like, I guess they questioned why she took a shower after deciding to come clean and someone on Twitter had to explain that it was Marion literally washing away her sins. I mean, I don’t think Psycho is heavy-handed necessarily, but it’s not exactly that subtle. 

To assume she’s just taking a shower to take a shower is like assuming William Carlos Williams’ “This is Just to Say” is about plums or Moby Dick is a about a whale.

I don't think the skull dissolve was specifically mentioned, no. I'm not sure this podcast tends to get into specific filmmaking techniques like that very often.

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I've loved Psycho since my teens, and I think it deserves to be the highest rated Hitchcock film on AFI's list given its widespread influence, but personally it's not my favorite of his films. Rear Window takes that crown, and I look forward to that Unspooled episode. BTW, kudos to Paul for mentioning Rope, such an underrated gem. 

Also, with regards to Vera Miles, Twilight Zone fans may recognize her from the episode "Mirror Image". 

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Another correction: Psycho was the highest rated Hitchcock on the original AFI list in 1998. On the 2007 list, Vertigo is higher.

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I was so glad when Amy referred to Psycho as a masterpiece scene surrounded by packing peanuts.  Great analogy, and I couldn't agree more.  Psycho will most likely be the lowest Hitchcock on my personal list, as it's probably not in my top 5 favorite Hitchcocks.

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32 minutes ago, bleary said:

I was so glad when Amy referred to Psycho as a masterpiece scene surrounded by packing peanuts.  Great analogy, and I couldn't agree more.  Psycho will most likely be the lowest Hitchcock on my personal list, as it's probably not in my top 5 favorite Hitchcocks.

I understand why Psycho was genius at the time, but it left me cold.   As everyone has said (including in the podcast), you can't see it fresh so it's tough to guess exactly how big a deal it would have been to see it in theaters during its initial release.  Among other things, I saw the shower scene in Mel Brooks' High Anxiety before I saw Psycho.

I was thinking that there might be ten Hitchcock films I personally prefer, though I can't really advocate that they be on someone else's all-time-most-important film list.  I've been a huge Hitchcock fan since I was a child -- my mom was a huge fan.  I've never liked Vertigo as much as critics either (though I like it much more than Psycho).  With Vertigo I think the problem is that it was one of the last well-known Hitchcock movies I saw and by the time I saw it I'd heard that it was a masterpiece and maybe nothing could have lived up to the hype.  

It's been a bit of a slog for me in the last few weeks so I'm glad that it's Raiders next week.  That's a perfect film.  :) 

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I find the Gus Van Sant remake to be even more pointless because Psycho was remade in 1980 by Brian De Palma - it's called Dressed to Kill.

I know most people say Dressed to Kill references Psycho, or that De Palma is generally influenced by Hitchcock, but I'm convinced that this is actually a variation of the same movie. Basically, it's a successful version of the experiment that Van Sant failed at.

Consider the similarities (spoilers for a 38-year old movie): each character has a parallel version. Michael Caine=Norman Bates. Angie Dickinson=Marion Crane. Nancy Allen=Vera Miles.  Guy from Back to School and Christine=Sam Loomis/Arbogast. The first act focuses on a red herring that resulted from an affair (in Psycho it's the stolen money, in Dressed to Kill it's the results of a venereal disease test). The "main character" is killed after 30 minutes in an enclosed space by a transvestite (1960:shower::1980:elevator). Although Angie Dickenson also dreams of getting murdered in the shower. In the middle of the film there is a misdirect scene that convinces you that the murderer and the main suspect are two different people. In Psycho, it's the overhead shot of Norman carrying his mother down the stairs. In DTK, it's Michael Caine listening to the message on his voicemail left by the killer. I'm sure there are other comparisons, but that's what I remember from just one viewing a while ago.

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8 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I am struck by what Paul said about just checking a box to be like 'yes to Psycho' was something I absolutely considered too, and maybe even try to wrestle with every week on these movies. I saw a lot of Letterboxd ratings of this beforehand, everyone has it 5 stars, and I hadn't seen it in over years.  Is it my inclination to be like 'yes like it too' or do I really?  I'm trying my best to step back when I think of these movies.  Do I like it because I should, or because I do? (I came out on this one that I do.)

I think you hit upon the fundamental question that arrives from ranking movies by anyone and that is enjoyment over art. If some is great art but not universally enjoyable, does that prevent it from being great? If some is universally enjoyable but poorly made, does that prevent it from being great? Does it have to do both to qualify? That's why there are so many criteria in the AFI list and the important one I think people forget is the cultural impact. That's the reason I think Psycho deserves a high place on the list. Even if we isolate it to the shower scene that is something that everybody knows. People who have never seen the movie know this scene. It is part of the cultural. On top of that it a movie made with excellent craft in every possible field. While personally I wouldn't say Psycho is my favourite Hitchcock movie there is denying the craft that went into this film and is probably his best made movie after Vertigo.

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Just to throw in the list comparison posts

AFI (2007 | 1997): 14th | 18th

BFI Critic's poll, 2012 (ranking, US filtered ranking, votes): 34th (all), 12th (US), 35 votes

BFI Director's poll, 2012 (ranking, US filtered ranking, votes): 48th, (all) 19th (US), 11 votes

IMDB (rank, rating): 39th, 8.5 rating

Metascore: 97

TSFDT (ranking, US filtered ranking): 26th, TBD

Oscar BP status: not nominated, winner The Apartment

Box Office Ranking* (rank, amount | highest grossing movie, HGM amount): 3rd, 29.4 million | Swiss Family Robinson, 37.1 million

*: https://www.ultimatemovierankings.com/1960-top-box-office-movies/ had to use this instead of BO mojo for this year for some reason.

 

comment: I don't have the interest in doing the US filtered version of the IMDB list, so I don't know if its 39th place will translate to upteenth-ranked film, but overall, the rankings seem pretty similar between all the lists on this one.

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13 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Maybe I missed a moment or two in the pod, but I think you guys are misinterpreting the second half comments.  I took them as just a comment that the main 'memes' of the film are the ones that stick in our minds: the shower, Janet Leigh, Norman/mother.  We don't remember the sister.  Or the private inspector.  They are not in our cultural memory very much at all.  I think that's quite true.  They may be in film geek's memories, but not the greater cultural one, really, at all.  I don't think Paul & Amy were dismissing the whole second half by noting this.

They were bringing it up in the context of, should a movie that's number that high on the list be one whose second half is... serviceable but not noteworthy, which I think goes beyond just saying it's not ingrained in the common culture.

I'm busy this week so while I've listened to the episode I haven't really watched the movie and probably won't until later this weekend.  That said, though I haven't read the book, I know I've heard one big change is, the book starts with Norman and the book mainly focuses on his perspective, I think (or at least his story - okay, it's been a while, and I'm a little vague in my details).  The whole shift to start with the Janet Leigh character was something Hitchcock came up with in the adaptation.  I suspect for some, losing the protagonist halfway through (which most people describe as a bold choice - and it was) probably left them without characters with a fleshed out/developed character to identify with.  Just some speculation there (I haven't rewatched it completely for the episode yet, but I had it on in the background as I was cleaning, so some of my memory got refreshed).

 

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11 hours ago, Cam Bert said:

I think you hit upon the fundamental question that arrives from ranking movies by anyone and that is enjoyment over art. If some is great art but not universally enjoyable, does that prevent it from being great? If some is universally enjoyable but poorly made, does that prevent it from being great? Does it have to do both to qualify? That's why there are so many criteria in the AFI list and the important one I think people forget is the cultural impact. That's the reason I think Psycho deserves a high place on the list. Even if we isolate it to the shower scene that is something that everybody knows. People who have never seen the movie know this scene. It is part of the cultural. On top of that it a movie made with excellent craft in every possible field. While personally I wouldn't say Psycho is my favourite Hitchcock movie there is denying the craft that went into this film and is probably his best made movie after Vertigo.

I'll point out, reading the criteria on the AFI ballot, is really is just expressed as general guidelines.  They just listed them as, (paraphrasing) "these are criteria we weighed and considered when compiling our options for you."  The terms, "best" or "great", for art is pretty broad and has many facets. I say that only because I feel like people have interpreted the criteria as hard and fast rules. One of the criteria was just simply, if it's received a lot of praise in print or some type of established film discussion media.  Basically, the only thing they didn't seem to want was obscure personal favorites.  Speaking of which - and Anthony Perkins roles after Psycho, and Orson Welles, I'll give a shout out to Orson Welles' adaptation of The Trial, which Perkins plays the lead role of Joseph K (which felt like excellent casting).  That's a personal favorite, even if I feel they botched the ending.  I'd suggest it as a pairing with Gilliam's Brazil for a dark comedy double-feature.

I'll also point out, that 15th ranking doesn't mean the AFI all got together and collectively decided, this is the 15th greatest film of all time, but one you could interpret as, "we were able to agree that a lot of people agreed this film should be somewhere on the top 100 list (unless it turned out the top 15 are all decided by the tie-breaker votes )." So, that's one thing to consider when interpreting placement on the list (and cultural familiarity probably helps a lot with that). We just like to say 15th on the list translates to the 15th greatest movie of all time.

I should stop pointing.  Many a cartoon in my childhood told me it's rude.

ETA: Though that take on the importance of cultural impact doesn't explain the BFI ranking (which after you filter out the non-US films, it's still pretty similar in position); because the BFI is people only submitting their top 10.  I don't think people would include Psycho if they only have 10 spots purely on cultural familiarity.  My only two thoughts at the moment are - I guess the position doesn't stick out to me, because outside of this podcast/forum, I usually don't filter out the non-US films in my mind, so it doesn't feel as high up to me. Other thought, critics really seem to love Hitchcock (evidenced by Vertigo now being at the top spot for critics, and not nearly as high up for directors) - or at least, very loved by a lot of them; which I still haven't connected to on the reason why, so I need to figure out Vertigo at 1 before I figure out Psycho at 34. 

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Side note, I'm pretty sure what they had does constitute a love affair, which at the time would have been salacious; sex before marriage/etc.  Hence the whole running around to motel rooms.

When it's with a married person, I believe the full term is extra-marital affair. I think context and common usage just causes us to drop the extra-marital part often.

 

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On 10/11/2018 at 6:41 PM, sycasey 2.0 said:

I don't think the skull dissolve was specifically mentioned, no. I'm not sure this podcast tends to get into specific filmmaking techniques like that very often.

No, they don't, but I meant more in terms of Norman's psychological and emotional journey. Norman - or at least that part of his psyche - is essentially "Mother's" third and final victim. That shot, however brief, as the cars are pulled out of the the swamp (and as all secrets are laid bare), is the punctuation at the end of the movie. 

In the grand scheme of things, it's not really all that big of a deal. It just seems weird to me not to mention it. It's an interesting footnote if nothing else :)

That being said, I'll try to refrain from commenting anymore until I've actually listened to the episode. I don't want to take anyone out of context. Psycho is a personal favorite of mine, and I guess I'm just surprised by the general apathy it's getting when a movie like the Sixth Sense seemed to get so much praise. 

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On 10/13/2018 at 12:14 AM, Cameron H. said:

Psycho is a personal favorite of mine, and I guess I'm just surprised by the general apathy it's getting when a movie like the Sixth Sense seemed to get so much praise. 

I think what it comes down to for me is that I'm still invested in the story in Sixth Sense even after knowing the twist, while I'm left mostly frustrated by the story in Psycho after knowing the twist.

You mentioned earlier how masterfully Hitchcock builds the tension in the scene when Lila is in the house.  I certainly agree, and would posit that Hitchcock is the best ever at building tension.  Unfortunately, that plays like parody in the first half of the movie, in which so much tension is built over Marion and the money in scenes with the cop and at the car dealership, which end up being complete red herrings.  So while Amy found the second half of the movie largely uninspiring, I feel the same way about the first half, and I think the reason that we could feel those two ways is because there's an emotional disconnect between the two halves.  The first part focuses on Marion's psychological and emotional state and essentially ignores the characters of Sam and Lila, while the second part tries to convince you that you should care about Sam and Lila after all because Marion's gone now.  It's a film that seems to actively dismiss the importance of character arcs, since the only character who has anything resembling an arc gets murdered right as her arc is reaching a natural resolution.  Norman's circumstances change in the film, but his character does not.

Where I ultimately come down on Psycho is that it absolutely deserves to be on this AFI list, and I voted as such in the poll.  Hitchcock's filmmaking gifts will always make this an interesting film to watch, if not necessarily a compelling film in my opinion.  But is this better than Rear Window?  North By Northwest?  Vertigo?  Even something like Rope?  Personally, I put Psycho more on the level of Strangers on a Train or Dial M for Murder, which shouldn't be an insult because those are fantastic films too.  

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I don't see a general apathy towards Psycho compared to The Sixth Sense. That implies that everyone might prefer the latter film or be somehow dismissive of the former. Instead, I think there was much more contention about The Sixth Sense whereas most people generally agree about the place and praise for Psycho. Also, it's a much more thoroughly examined film, with countless opinions already given and gone over countless times. Heck, Psycho's has had literal do-overs of the entire film, where The Sixth Sense is reduced to a catchphrase. 

On my personal Letterboxd ranking, I went ahead and put Psycho above Citizen Kane. I wondered if a film would ever do that, and the way I'm making the Letterboxd list is one that relies on gut feeling right after I watched the film but before I listen to the podcast. Does it belong in the top half? Yep. In the top fourth? Yep. Above All About Eve? I guess so. And Citizen Kane? Wow. Actually, yeah. Who knew? 

But then Raiders came along and I have to put it on the top.  I'm sure I'll have much to say about that one when the time comes.

Edited to add: https://letterboxd.com/dannythewall/list/unspooled-afis-100/in case you'd like to look at my fevered mind

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10 hours ago, bleary said:

IWhere I ultimately come down on Psycho is that it absolutely deserves to be on this AFI list, and I voted as such in the poll.  Hitchcock's filmmaking gifts will always make this an interesting film to watch, if not necessarily a compelling film in my opinion.  But is this better than Rear Window?  North By Northwest?  Vertigo?  Even something like Rope?  Personally, I put Psycho more on the level of Strangers on a Train or Dial M for Murder, which shouldn't be an insult because those are fantastic films too.  

Since we're talking about Hitch's oeuvre, I'll mention that I use a lot of Hitchcock in my Film classes. (I teach film for grade 11 and 12. Although I doubt I've  ever used the word "oeuvre.")   

It's funny that the black and white films seem to go over so much better. Strangers on a Train will keep the students riveted from start to finish, but North by Northwest will have them shuffling and fidgeting in between the two big iconic scenes. The way Arbogast is killed and filmed falling down the stairs makes students laugh but they "forgive" it better than a similar and techinally more proficient effect in Vertigo.  I wonder if it might have to do with the black and white allowing for a different experience than the hyper-saturated technicolor.  There's a different way you have to engage your imagination when watching a B&W in my opinion. Would Psycho have been as compelling if it was in color? 

 

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A week late but I finally caught up with watching this completely.  To me, the highlight of the film really is the exchange between Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. I think Perkins performance contributes so much to what makes this movie works.  However, I will call out in the shower scene, that shot of Janet Leigh's eye on the bathroom floor is wonderfully vacant, bleak, and fatalistic.

Back to the discussion of the merit of the first half versus the second half.  I will point out there is a parallel story going on, with the first half, Janet Leigh has committed a crime, how is she going to get away with it?  The second half is, Anthony Perkins has committed a crime, how is he going to get away with it?  Now, the obvious difference is, you get the internal monologue of Janet Leigh's character imagining how people are reacting to her crime (you can even see her smile a little bit at imagining the cowboy going, "she even flirted with me."), where-as with Perkins, you only get his interactions with other characters, the lighting, his actions.  Basically, only what is knowable externally.  This seems required by the narration for the first viewing to keep the surprise for the end.  However, for the most part, it just works for me because Perkins just seems to do such a damn good job of going, from say, confident and casual when Arbagast (sp?) shows up, to starting to stammer and shake as his story falls apart in front of him while being questioned by Arbagast.  Which is to say, at least up through Arbagast's death, this turns into a bit of a verbal cat and mouse game and is enjoyable through that lens.

However, when we get to after Arbagast dies and it's only Vera Miles we're following around, we aren't really seeing that much with Anthony Perkins and I'm just not sure through what lens to view this segment to enjoy it.  It could be viewed akin to a procedural I suppose.  I think I would have preferred something where you could see more from Norman's perspective of the walls closing in as people just kept snooping around (e.g. maybe the local sheriff going to interview Norman could have been an interesting scene).  I never got a sense of danger while Vera Miles was looking around motel room #1.  However, when she was looking around the house, it became a taut thriller again.  Just really well shot - except, for the cuts of John Gavin distracting Perkins. Those seemed really rough and such small snippets that they didn't feel very well fleshed out (and the sound seemed noticeably... different.  Something I'd be fine with in a cinema verite type film, but stood out poorly compared to everything else in this movie).

Side note: While the $40,000 still feels primarily like a red herring for the plot to me, another podcast I listened to, one of the people said it made them think of the money in Fargo.  It seemed like such a big thing, it was the catalyst for a lot of this carnage (though technically not true, since Norman was killing people prior to this), but in the end, no one got it, and all of this, for only this lump sum of money.  I found that an interesting (though maybe not entirely accurate) take on the money.

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On 10/20/2018 at 10:16 AM, ol' eddy wrecks said:

A week late but I finally caught up with watching this completely.  To me, the highlight of the film really is the exchange between Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. I think Perkins performance contributes so much to what makes this movie works.  However, I will call out in the shower scene, that shot of Janet Leigh's eye on the bathroom floor is wonderfully vacant, bleak, and fatalistic.

That close up of Janet Leigh's eye, and the pull back to her lifeless body is my favorite shot of the film. It's so dark. You feel her death.

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