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The Art of the MacGuffin

... and the World According to Hawk

Greetings and salutations* film nerditos and nerdalinas …

I’d like to thank all the readers who expressed concern over the current state of my kisser. I’m pleased to report Hot Lips Hooklerhan’s finely chiseled countenance isn’t entirely scuttled as I deftly chose, after last week’s first Tosca sucker punch, to replace my real mug with one of the stunt faces I had left over from my days cliff diving in The Wood. Worked like gangbusters.

The Art of the MacGuffin
To rid myself of any residual bad karma, last night I beat it on down to the Coppola Wine Bar on Columbus to meet two of my fellow Subterranean Beatnik Writers who were already full-tilt into imbibing in a few dashes of the green fairy juice (Absinthe).



After one trippy El Topo experience at the Red Vic last Sunday combined with the pain medication I’ve been crushing into my oatmeal, I thought I was hallucinating when I discovered the Subterranean Topic Du Jour at Coppola’s was none other than Alfred Hitchcock and the art of the MacGuffin. In April, love, bunnies and pollen are always in the air, but it seems so is my man Hitch, who just so happened to have loved the Bay Area so much, he featured it in several of his films.

If you’re not familiar with a MacGuffin, it’s the plot device used in a thriller that motivates the film’s characters but has little relevance to the story. Examples are:

•    The Maltese Falcon in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
•    The Letters of Transit in Casablanca (1942)
•    The Glowing Briefcase in Pulp Fiction (1994)

Hitch used MacGuffins in nearly every one of his movies and the movie industry; well, it’s never been the same since. If you haven’t fully experienced the Hitchcock Universe, what exactly are you waiting for?


courtesy of Universal Studios

The World According to Hawk
One of my Subterranean Colleagues, The Hawk, recently discovered he’s developed an uncanny ability to channel the ghost of legendary film critic Pauline Kael. Pauline (via The Hawk) suggests you revisit the following masterpieces, some by Hitch, some not, which are available on Netflix as well as in some of the superb DVD rental shops around the city like Gramophone, Le Video, etc.

Until next week, be bad and get into trouble, baby.*

The Ghost of Pauline Kael’s “Hitch Picks of the Week”
•    Rear Window (1954) – Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly – Where America’s obsession with Reality TV originated.
•    Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – Joseph Cotton – Set in Santa Rosa, features one of Hitch’s greatest villains, Uncle Charlie.
•    Vertigo (1958) – Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak – MRF’s #1 movie of all time. SF never looked more stunning on film.
•    The Birds (1963) – Tippi Hedren – Set in Half Moon Bay, who doesn’t want to see Melanie Griffith’s mother get tortured by 10,000 seagulls?

The World According to Hawk’s “Obscure Picks O’ The Week”
•    Turkish Delight (1973) – Dir. Verhoven - If you liked Black Box, check out this Verhoeven classic. Graphic in a way only Verhoven can capture.
•    Memories of Murder (2003) – Dir. Bong - Korean thriller is a perfect companion piece to Zodiac.
•    El Topo (1970) – Dir. Jodorowski - If you missed it at the Red Vic last week, rent it now. One of the best cult films of the ’70s. Heralded by John Lennon, must be seen to be believed.
•    Scarecrow (1973) – Gene Hackman, Al Pacino - Don't know how this one got lost; Pacino considers it one of his best films.

“Happenings” Round Town
•    Thursday (4/26 to 5/10) – 2007 SF International Film Festival – Castro Theater
•    Friday (4/27) – Dead Man (1995) – Dir. Jarmusch – Clay Theater

Volume 4 Footnotes
•     “Let’s get into trouble, baby.” – Tapeheads (1988): Soul Train host Don Cornelius (as Hollywood Producer Mo Fuzz) to upstart filmmakers Tim Robbins and John Cusack.

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