Thursday Movie Picks: Amateur Sleuth

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… AMATEUR SLEUTH.

This is a fun topic and there are tons to pick from! I always like to mix classic and contemporary movies, so that’s what I’ll do again here.

SPELLBOUND (1945)

Spellbound Poster

A psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory.

Any chance I can talk about Gregory Peck I’ll jump at it, ha! This is the film I fell for the ridiculously handsome classic actor with a swoon-worthy deep voice, who was only 29 at the time in his fourth feature film. It set off an obsession for the next year, now I owned pretty much ALL of his movies!

Gregory Peck Ingrid Bergman Spellbound

Can’t believe it’s a decade ago since I saw this, I have to rewatch this soon. It’s actually the first time I saw Ingrid Bergman as well, and both of them light up the screen as they fall in love. I like the double mystery of solving Peck’s character’s amnesia issue through psychoanalysis, and figuring out the killer of the real doctor. Classic Hitchcock in terms of direction, camera work, visual style, mood, etc. featuring a brief but memorable the dream sequence by Salvador Dali. I also love Miklós Rózsa‘s astounding score, perhaps my fave of all Hitchcock movies. The final sequence is indelible as well, which has been copied many times over by other filmmakers.


REAR WINDOW (1954)

Rear Window Poster

A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

I hadn’t planned on picking two Alfred Hitchcock films here, but well, he was the master of mystery noir. This one also features one of my fave classic actors, James Stewart, and another classic beauty Grace Kelly. 

This is definitely one of the best films confined in a single location, and the set design is absolutely astounding. Apparently the set was constructed specially for this movie, on the whole they built about 30 apartments and about half was fully furnished! I also love the costume design by the legendary Edith Head (notably all of Grace Kelly’s gorgeous dresses), I’m shocked she was NOT nominated for an Oscar for her work here.

Rear Window Costume Design

This movie was my January 2015 Blindspot pick, and I loved it! Despite the lighter, playful tone, the film packs a lot of interesting themes about psychology, human nature that are intrinsic in most of Hitchcock’s films.


BATMAN BEGINS (2005)

Batman Begins poster

After training with his mentor, Batman begins his fight to free crime-ridden Gotham City from corruption.

I gotta include one of my favorite comic-book films here. Bruce Wayne aka Batman is an amateur super sleuth and crime fighter. The first of Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight trilogy shows Bruce’s foray as a detective, teaming with up with Gotham City’s police commissioner Gordon. I LOVE the dynamic between Christian Bale and Gary Oldman, two of the best actors working today.

Batman Begins -Batman Commissioner Gordon

Batman didn’t just bring down crime lord Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) but also exposed the real villain Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), the radical leader of League of Shadows who wants to destroy Gotham. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think of this film as a noir thriller that happens to have a superhero character in it, and I’m excited that the upcoming THE BATMAN will show the caped crusader in his detective mode than what we’ve seen in other films!

ZODIAC (2007)

zodiac-fincher-movie

In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.

I caught this one almost a decade after its release, which apparently didn’t do too well at the box office. It’s surprising given the star-studded cast, but then again this was a year before Robert Downey Jr. became Iron Man and long before Mark Ruffalo became his fellow Avenger as the Hulk. Interesting how the three leads have now become Marvel stars!

Jake Gyllenhaal Robert Downey Jr

At almost 2.5 hours long, this David Fincher murder mystery is more of a slo-burn film but an effective and suspenseful one. There are some lighter moments too between Jake Gyllenhaal and RDJ, as the film focuses on the life of the detectives on top of being a whodunnit type film. The sinister part is that the story is based on real events in the San Francisco Bay area, adapted from Robert Graysmith’s non-fiction book of the same name (Gyllenhall played Graysmith in the film).


So which are YOUR favorite movies about amateur sleuth?

Weekend Roundup & Musings on Hitchcock’s SPELLBOUND

Happy Monday everybody! Hope everyone had a nice weekend and get to watch a lot of movies, unlike yours truly here who only get to see ONE film the entire weekend. But the film is one I had been wanting to see for a long time, well ever since I saw Roman Holiday and fell for the ridiculously gorgeous creature named Gregory Peck and I made a vow that I have to see every film he’s in before I die. Well, it’s been slow going and with this one, I’m killing two birds with one stone as I also want to catch up with Hitchcock’s classics. So far I’ve seen three The Birds (when I was young so my memory of it is a bit hazy), To Catch a Thief (meh), and North by Northwest (ok, now I get what the fuss is about). So basically, Hitchcock has been a hit and miss for me, so I really don’t know what to expect with this one, but I loved it!

A female psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory.

Ok so the subject matter doesn’t scream ‘must see’ for me normally, though I don’t mind a good psycho thriller once in a while. But once Peck entered the screen I was practically hyperventilating (ask my hubby Ivan, he..he…) but before you accuse me of loving this film only on account of him (well you’d be half right), I also like the beautiful Ingrid Bergman’s performance as Constance, the shrink who risks her career out of her love for an amnesiac patient.

Despite the slow pace, the film keeps me engaged throughout. Even the parts at the hospital where it was just Constance surrounded by her all-male colleagues, it’s quite amusing to see how they treat her. They’re respectful enough by calling her doctor, but how one of the doctors speak to her would be considered sexual harassment nowadays!

The unconventional relationship between Bergman’s and Peck’s character is the core of the story, and despite the strange coincidence of their meet-up, I totally bought their romance. Yes at times I feel like Constance needs a little slap to bring her back to her senses for sheltering a man she only knew by his initial J.B., especially after what her good friend & mentor Dr. Brulov told her. But there’s such an undeniable earnestness about Peck’s portrayal that I probably would’ve done the exact same thing!

The film is masterfully-directed by Hitchcock, no wonder it’s nominated for an Oscar. There’s a plethora of mystery and suspense that delightfully surprises. The trick is in the camera angles that made the viewer feel like we’re witnessing the action firsthand… like that scene of seeing through a glass of milk as it’s being drank by the protagonist. There is one really creepy scene of Peck’s character in Brulov’s house that reminds me of some clips/images I’ve seen of Psycho. We’re also treated to a plethora of iconic visuals, which is to be expected from Hitchcock, especially in the dream sequence designed by Salvador Dalí himself.

As for Gregory Peck, well after seeing this one, I think I have a serious crush on this classic actor. Hollywood is full of tall, dark and handsome like Cary Grant, Lawrence Olivier, Clark Gable, etc. but there is something about Peck that is so incredibly charming and um, spellbinding… ehm. His cheekbones and soulful eyes alone could inspire me to write an entire poem (if I could write one that is), and then there’s the deep voice that complements his dashing good looks perfectly.

That scene when Constance visited him in his bedroom, and he looked up at her and smiled, that was a huge swoon moment… [yowza!!] Peck and Bergman shared such an incredible chemistry in the film, and like most classic romances, I love how clean and honorable their relationship was, something totally lost in today’s movies. I might buy this film just to watch that scene over and over!! Ok, I have a LOT of his films to catch up on. Definitely To Kill a Mockingbird to see his Oscar-winning performance, but I also want to see him in David & Bathsheba, The Big Country, and Capt. Horatio Hornblower. What else would you recommend??

Well, back to the film, I highly recommend Spellbound if you haven’t seen it. It’s a classic mystery thriller with a heart, and also boast one of the most tense and satisfying ending. Again, the camera angle in that scene is just brilliant and no doubt has been numerously copied in contemporary films to date.


Well, what did you see this weekend? If you’ve seen this film, do share your thoughts on Spellbound and/or recommend a must-see Gregory Peck film for yours truly 😀