What We’re Watching – 10/12/2011

Being a parent comes with many (maybe too many) responsibilities. Near the top of this list is properly educating your child about cinema. At least, it’s near the top of my list. My father introduced me to movies when I was a kid, and when my daughter was born I looked forward to doing the same for her. Here was a blank slate! She hadn’t had her views and education warped by those whose knowledge was small and opinions were simply wrong. I was very excited.

I may have gotten a little carried away at first. Before Elena was a year old (that’s right. Her name comes from Catherine Zeta Jones’s character in The Mask of Zorro), I plopped her down next to me to watch Jaws. That didn’t go over so well. The baby didn’t get past the scene were Ben Gardner’s head popped out to affright Matt Hooper. My wife was pretty angry, too.

As she grew, I made sure Elena saw the classic Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny cartoons and the old Hanna-Barbera shows like The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo. Saturday morning cartoons just aren’t the same these days. She saw her first movie in a theater when she was three years old. It was Monsters, Inc. The next year I took her to see the re-release of E.T. That same year I bought Elena the DVD of Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece Spirited Away and she completely flipped for it. She watched that movie at least a thousand times and more than one baby-sitter pulled me aside and asked me to explain the movie to them. I was so proud.

The years passed. Together, we watched Star Wars, Indiana Jones, the Boris Karloff Frankenstein, Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood and Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes, plus Superman, Spider-Man, Lord of the Rings and many more. Then, when she was ten, I introduced her to the master—Alfred Hitchcock. In 1982, my father took me to see Rear Window and Vertigo on the big screen, so Rear Window was the first Hitchcock movie I showed my daughter. Of course, she loved it. She watched it many times. She would show it to her friends during sleepovers. I was even more proud.

Which brings me to today’s topic. Ever since the Jaws incident of 2000 (and the related Aliens episode of 2001), I was a little hesitant to show Elena certain scary movies. (Although, last summer she was lucky enough to see Jaws on the big screen. It rocked.) Yet, at the same time I didn’t want certain twist endings to be ruined through schoolyard chatter or overheard conversations. So, I decided it was time for Elena to meet Norman Bates and his mother.

Psycho is a true, historical, one-of-a-kind creation. What Hitchcock did with that movie cannot be refined, recreated or repeated. (I will never watch another Gus Van Sant movie until he gives me back the two hours he stole from me by watching that blasphemous “shot-for-shot” remake.) Hitchcock uses the camera, the lighting, the cutting, the acting, the sound, the locations, everything to completely manipulate the audience during every frame of Psycho. I wanted my daughter to view that movie without knowing what was going to happen ahead of time.

We shut out the lights and put on the Blu-ray. While the movie played, I would occasionally look over at her to see how she was reacting. It was a great experience. She was completely sucked in. She jumped when Mother, uh, interrupts Janet Leigh in the shower, and then later after Private Detective Arbogast gets it, she turned to me and said, “That lady is crazy!” I was thrilled. The movie still holds up! 51 years later and Elena was putty in the hands of the Master. It was a joy for me to watch her at the end, when Mother looks up at us from Norman’s eyes and smiles, and see Elena realize what had just happened, to see her put all the pieces together and realize that she had been played by a true genius.

Maybe next week Elena will learn the answer to the question: who is Keyser Söze?


Mike Sullivan is a professional documentary Editor with an almost unhealthy passion for movies. He is a graduate of Emerson College.

You can reach Mike via email, he hasn't jumped on the Twitter bandwagon yet.

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