Category Archives: Other

Late to the Movies! celebrates National Hitchcock Day

So, let’s be real: almost everyone ignores this blog. Even me. But then the other day I got this sweet email about it being National Alfred Hitchcock Day on 3/12 and I had to immediately “WHAT GO TELL IT TO YOUR BLOG” on my blog. And here it is.


I adore Hitchcock movies. The dude was a creep but he is just the ultimate. As you may know by now, I’m a big fan of old movies. I spent many weekend nights at home with my parents in high school (and even my freshman year of college) watching old movies, and many of them were Hitchcock films. I loved the suspense, I loved being a little bit scared and I loved spending time pointing out his cameos in every film. I love the costumes, I loved the stars, I especially loved the music. I love Hitchcock, and I get a little sad when someone tells me they’ve never watched one of his movies. It’s probably how other people feel when they find out that the only Bond movie I’ve ever seen was “Casino Royale.” Yeah, whatever.

So to celebrate Hitchcock Day, I’m going to post an article by author Stephen Rebello about the awesomeness of Alfred Hitchcock, and I’m also going to tell you to see one of his movies today. I recommend “North by Northwest,” “Vertigo” or “Rear Window” for starters. If you’ve seen a few of his more popular movies, celebrate with a less popular (but still awesome one) like “Family Plot,” “Torn Curtain” or my very first Hitchcock movie, “I Confess.”


Great Reasons Why Hitchcock Is Still the Master of Suspense

by Stephen Rebello

Psycho. Vertigo. North by Northwest. The Birds. If Alfred Hitchcock had directed nothing more than that astonishing quartet, he’d still be considered the maestro of creating nail-biting suspense, romantic intrigue, and unforgettable thrills. But that incredible run of movies, released in theaters from 1958 to 1963, represents only a drop in the bloody bucket of Hitchcock’s masterworks, which stretch back to the 1920s and extend into the 1970s. If you need a reminder of why Hitchcock rules as the all-time master of suspense, and why he is considered the man who pretty much wrote the book on the genre, here’s your quick cheat sheet.

1) Hitchcock Made Us Scream in the Shower

From Boston to Bangkok, Hitchcock stunned 1960 audiences by doing the unheard-of in Psycho: brutally killing-off the film’s sympathetic heroine—and biggest star—less than half way through the action. Taking his cue from the source novel by Robert Bloch, Hitchcock blasted our notions of safety and privacy by staging the landmark murder scene in, of all places, the bathroom, that tight, white space where one feels most relaxed and vulnerable. Or, at least, used to. And not only did he film Psycho in black and white to help minimize all that blood-letting, but he and editor George Tomasini also employed then-revolutionary rapid-fire editing techniques that suggested nudity and violence. To put the whole thing over the top, he cranked up a shrieking all-strings musical score by Bernard Herrmann. Voila, Hitchcock, his star Janet Leigh, and his merry band of gifted collaborators set a standard for heart-stopping terror that has yet to be topped—but is endlessly imitated.

2) Hitchcock Brought Menace Out into the Open

Dark alleys? Shifty-eyed villains with twirling moustaches? Graveyards? Rain-slicked cobblestone streets? Haunted houses, rattling chains, and bats in the belfry? Hitchcock considered these clichés ripe for parody and, beginning with his British films of the 1920s, the director shone a bright light on terror and dark deeds. With Hitchcock, thrills can even erupt during a kid’s birthday party, as happens in Young and Innocent and The Birds. The sophisticated, stylish heroes and heroine of The 39 Steps and North by Northwest get chased by planes in broad daylight and open spaces; in those same films, and such other movies as Blackmail, Saboteur, and Hitchcock’s two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, dramatic action unfolds against the backdrop of tourist attractions and national monuments like the United Nations, Mount Rushmore, the British Museum, the Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall, and the Royal Albert Hall. When violence erupts in and around shower stalls, ski runs, telephone booths, attics, and mountain roads, the lesson is simple: There is nowhere to hide. Chaos and terror will find you, personified by the charming, attractive, and seductive villains of such Hitchcock thrillers as Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Stage Fright, Strangers on a Train, Psycho, Topaz, and Family Plot. Other films, from Charade right up through the Batman and Mission: Impossible have been following Hitchcock’s lead ever since.

3) Hitchcock Made Us Walk a Mile in His Heroes’ Shoes

Hitchcock often bragged to the press about how his films grabbed audiences by “making the viewer sweat” and “really putting them through it.” One of the most groundbreaking ways he put us through it was his frequent use of traveling point-of-view shots—that is, moving the camera in a way that places the viewer in the same position as the character on-screen. It’s a technique that makes us uneasy right along with James Stewart when we walk with him down ominous London streets in The Man Who Knew Too Much or when he obsessively stalks Kim Novak up and down hilly San Francisco in Vertigo. We’re jittery when we move slowly up the hill with Vera Miles in Psycho or when we glide along with her toward old Mrs. Bates sitting in a chair under a naked light bulb in a basement. And how about when we walk down a dock with Tippi Hedren, expecting her to be pecked by the birds, or when we hover with her outside the closed door of a room in which she is about to be engulfed by our feathered fiends? Hitchcock isn’t content with merely making us spectators. We’re full-on participants. 

4) Hitchcock Tells His Audience More Than His Characters Know

Hitchcock and his screenwriters created some of the most dazzling moments in movie history by emphasizing agonizing suspense rather than simple, go-for-the-throat shock. The innocent little boy in Hitchcock’s ’30s thriller Sabotage thinks he’s carrying a harmless parcel through London; we know he’s carrying a bomb that is set to detonate at a certain time. In the Psycho shower scene, the audience is shown, through the opaque shower curtain, what Janet Leigh doesn’t see until it’s too late: the approaching shadow of a killer. Grace Kelly searches the empty apartment of a suspected wife killer in Rear Window while we, along with James Stewart, break into cold sweats watching the murderer make his way back home. The heroine of The Birds waits impatiently on a bench for a classroom of kids to be let out of school, unaware that flocks of malevolent birds are amassing slowly and silently behind her.

5) Hitchcock Kept Surprises As Surprises

It’s no exaggeration to credit Hitchcock with helping change the way we go to movies. Psycho was made back when the price of a movie ticket bought you a double feature, newsreel, short subjects, and trailers, and movie ticket-buyers tended to pop in and out of theaters whenever they pleased. With Psycho, Hitchcock wanted to create an event. So, he refused to hold any pre-release critics’ screenings, let alone a premiere. He forced movie-theater owners to sign contracts demanding zero tolerance of any moviegoer expecting to enter the theater once the film started. He launched the film’s release with a massive publicity campaign that stipulated in newspaper, radio, television ads, and posters in theater lobbies: “No one . . . but no one . . . will be admitted to the theater after the start of each performance of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.” He recorded announcements  to broadcast on radio and through loudspeakers at theaters warning Psycho audiences not to reveal the ending to their friends. The public ate it up. They formed lines around the block, kept the movie’s secrets to themselves, and turned Psycho into a worldwide phenomenon. Can you imagine any of this happening in our era of wall-to-wall social media, instant gratification, and gleeful spoilers? Neither can we. 

6) Hitchcock Revealed More by Showing Less

Hitchcock may be known best for cinematic suspense and thrills, but he was equally superb at finding suspense and thrills in eroticism. That long, long, long nuzzle and kiss between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in the ’40s spy thriller Notorious sizzles over six decades later. When gorgeous adventuress Grace Kelly slyly offers retired jewel thief Cary Grant his choice of leg or breast during a picnic above the French Riviera in To Catch a Thief, she’s offering a bit more than cold chicken. Sexy spy lady Eva Marie Saint seduces fugitive Cary Grant aboard a posh train, purring, “It’s going to be a long night . . . and I don’t particularly like the book I’ve started. You know what I mean?” Yeah, we do. And, without a bit of nudity or tawdry grappling, doesn’t Janet Leigh’s long lunch break tryst in a cheap hotel with boyfriend John Gavin in Psycho reek of backstreet eroticism? And the chilling spin Anthony Perkins as Psycho’s own Norman Bates puts on the line, “My mother and I were more than happy . . . ” tells you more than you need to know about that relationship.


KC Film Fest: A review of Country Story

[Editor’s Note: over the next few days, I’m reviewing movies shown at the KC Film Festival. The film fest ran from April 11-15. To learn more, visit] 

Country Story

Drawn in by the description of the movie in the festival’s program, as well as the screening time earlier in the day, I ended up at the screening of Country Story on day three at the Kansas City Film Fest.

This story follows an unemployed young man named Jason around his small town in rural Oregon. He hangs out with his friends, plays a little basketball, and refuses to look for a job. The star of this movie, however, almost seemed to be the landscapes. What stood out to me most about the film was that it is absolutely gorgeous to watch. The cinematography and the editing seemed so seamless. The acting and conversations between characters also seemed very natural. In fact, there were times that I wondered if I wasn’t watching a documentary. I really felt like I was watching the filmmakers capture the reality of some of my friends’ lives in Lawrence, Kansas. It was incredible.

In the movie’s description, this sentence stood out to me: “When [Jason’s] overwhelming apathy eventually causes him to make a grave mistake, he sets off with his pals into the deep backwoods.” Well, not exactly. The description led me to think I was possibly going to watch a drama, or even a murder mystery– and that’s not at all what you get. In doing more research about the film, I discovered its Kickstarter in which Country Story is described as a narrative film. YES. Exactly. I wasn’t disappointed in the film by any means, but I think I might have enjoyed it a little more if I understood what I was getting into.

Overall, Country Story captures breathtaking scenery, and a very natural storyline and characterizations of people and their lives in a small town. The film will not be for everyone, but those who are expecting and enjoy narrative films and beautiful cinematography will be very impressed.

KC Film Fest: A review of QWERTY

[Editor’s Note: over the next few days, I’m reviewing movies shown at the KC Film Festival. The film fest runs from April 11-15. To learn more, visit]

“$55 for underwear? No ass is worth that much.”



A love story involving Scrabble? Count me in! Really, I didn’t need be sold on seeing QWERTY because I absolutely love Scrabble, but seeing the trailer during the KC Film Fest sneak peek last week completely confirmed my feelings about needing to be at the movie’s world premiere yesterday.

Bill Sebastian’s film is centered around a self-proclaimed “word nerd” named Zoe, who has the absolute best job ever– translating vanity plate requests for the state of Illinois to make sure they aren’t naughty words. The movie starts out with the vanity plate request “Tohzah,” which turns out to be the Klingon version of the F-word. Brilliant. Zoe is very odd and quirky, picking up dirty socks off of the sidewalk to turn into sock puppets. I tend to get irritated by Hollywood’s typical quirky female (don’t ask me about Juno or Ms. Deschanel… annoying), but I found her character very charming and endearing. She meets “Mucky” at a store where he is a security officer, and he proceeds to flip out over a $55 pair of underwear. And the love story begins. The chemistry between the two lead actors was really great– in fact, I was wondering if they were possibly together in real life, but it turns out that Bill Sebastian and Dana Pupkin (who plays Zoe) are married and Dana gave birth to their first child very recently (she was also at the movie premiere!).


QWERTY director Bill Sebastian, lead actress Dana Pupkin, and their brand new baby

I thought the writing was the best part of this movie. For a romantic comedy, it had enough snark and sass to keep the film from being eye-rollingly cheesy. There are several conversations between Mucky and Zoe as they make fun of Zoe’s coworker Bob, and later some patrons at a restaurant, that I found to be extremely funny.

The entire movie was shot on a Canon 7D (Sebastian’s dad had the camera they used with him at the premiere), and I thought the movie looked great visually. There were a few times when the Chicago skyline was superimposed into some scenes where, um, the skyline was not quite accurate, and as a former  Chicago resident that bugged me a bit (but I’m also insanely picky and nutty). I also really enjoyed how Sebastian shot the scenes at the National Scrabble Championships. The interaction between Scrabble players and the quips from the commentators were very well done, and almost reminded me of some of the scenes in Dodgeball (which I hope everyone takes as a compliment, because I love that movie).

If you like romantic comedies and Scrabble, or if you miss Chicago (like me), I highly recommend seeing QWERTY. And I have some good news for those of you in Kansas City who missed the world premiere on Thursday– QWERTY will be showing at the KC Film Fest again on Saturday, April 14th at 8:00 pm at AMC Ward Parkway.

KC Film Fest– A review of Andrew Bird: Fever Year

[Editor’s Note: over the next few days, I’m reviewing movies shown at the KC Film Festival. The film fest runs from April 11-15. To learn more, visit]

I used to be a DJ at a college radio station.

Yes, it is something I cling to– I swear that I was cool once!– but it’s true. It’s also relevant, because Andrew Bird was HUGE at my radio station. In 2005, every DJ and their mother played “Fake Palindromes.” In 2007, every DJ and their mother played a song from Armchair Apocrypha. Well, I didn’t because I played a show (Breakfast for Beatlovers) where it would’ve been quite inappropriate to play Andrew Bird, but I did play my fair share of Dosh. Either way, I listened to quite a bit of his music and was thrilled to find out that this documentary would be screening in Kansas City.

Andrew Bird – Fever Year

Xan Aranda’s documentary follows Bird as he suffers (and yet, doesn’t) through a 165-stop tour with, literally, a fever the entire time. There are several live performances at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theatre highlighted throughout the film, as well as the tour’s finale at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Bird is pretty well known for being private about his personal life, but it was lovely to see him create songs and improvise with ease. His disdain for the recording studio (“The microphone is the worst kind of audience”) and his desire to play live shows with welcomed flaws and without obsessive amounts of rehearsal was very refreshing. I must also say, Andrew Bird is really funny (you can pick that out by his lyrics) and I always have a weakness for men who happen to be teetering on the edge of a unibrow. The interviews are short but insightful, and the film is worth seeing based on the live performances alone. I’d definitely recommend the movie to anyone who loves music, and especially anyone who is a fan of Mr. Bird.

If you’re in KC and kicking yourself for missing Andrew Bird: Fever Year, you’re in luck!– catch the second screening at 8:15 on Saturday, April 14 at AMC Ward Parkway.

Pardon the Interruption: A preview of KC Film Fest

You wouldn’t necessarily know it based on the fact that I’ve missed out on some of the most important films ever made, but I absolutely love movies. So I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to cover the KC Film Fest on Late to the Movies. This will be my first time attending KC Film Fest– in fact, I’ve NEVER attended a film festival– and I’m excited to have the chance to review new films and support the independent filmmaking community.

Last night, the fest hosted a media preview at AMC Ward Parkway 14. We got a sneak peek of 11 films and several shorts that will be showing at the festival. I really enjoyed watching the previews and I was so impressed with the content that I ended up changing my schedule around to fit in some of the films we saw last night. For now, I’m planning to see the following films and shorts:

The KC Film Fest opens April 11th and runs through April 15th. Ticket and pass information is available on their website– single tickets for movies are available as well! Are you planning to attend the KC Film Fest? Let me know what movies you’re planning to see!

[PS– My Twitter buddies Tyler and John will also be blogging throughout the festival. Definitely check out what they have to say about the event!]