Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Bon Appetit

The Silence of the Lambs
Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine
Released: February 14, 1991

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (won)
Best Director - Jonathan Demme (won)
Best Actress - Jodie Foster (won)
Best Actor - Anthony Hopkins (won)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Ted Tally (won)
Best Sound (lost to Terminator 2)
Best Film Editing (lost to JFK)


I have a book (a tome, rather) called 85 Years of the Oscar by Robert Osborne and it details all the stats of the Oscars from the beginning to the 2012 Oscars in 2013. (A new, updated version comes out every 5 years, so there will be a new one in 2018). Since Silence of the Lambs was a big Oscar winner for the '92 Oscar ceremony, I knew I would find some interesting facts about it and that I did. It is the first psychological thriller to win Best Picture. It is the third movie ever in Oscar history to win five major Oscars which includes Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay. The previous two movies to do that were It Happened One Night in 1934 and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1975.  I don't know if it's happened sine...I'm too lazy to research that! It's also the first movie to be out on video at the time it won as it had a very early release date of February 14, nearly a year before the Oscars that would take place on March 30, 1992. By the way, I want to know who decided to release this on Valentine's Day of all days...it's not exactly a date movie! Most Oscar winners tend to get a late November or December release. I do know it's happened since because I remember Crash (ugh) had a very early spring release before it won. At just about twenty minutes of screen time, Anthony Hopkins is a Best Actor winner with one of the shortest amounts of time he actually appears on screen. I am a little surprised they didn't have him in the Best Supporting Actor category because he's more of a supporting character than lead.

Supposedly this movie is a sequel (!!) to a film called Manhunter, which I've never heard of. It came out in 1986, also based on a book by Thomas Harris and stars Brian Cox as Hannibal. Needless to say, it didn't do very well at the box office and didn't have the cultural impact that Silence of the Lambs had. I think most people either don't know about Manhunter or have forgotten about it, so I feel like SotL is more of a stand alone movie and people don't think of it as a sequel or even a reboot. This was a complete shock to me because I had no idea another actor had played Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter before Anthony Hopkins, but obviously, he was the actor to make that role iconic. 

Even to people who have never seen this movie, I'm sure they are familiar with the names Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter; they know exactly what someone is talking about when they mention "fava beans and a nice Chianti"; and they can utter, "Hello, Clarice" just as creepily as Anthony Hopkins does. (Although the line is actually, "Good evening, Clarice.") I actually kept waiting for Anthony Hopkins to say that line but he never did and I read that "Good evening, Clarice" often gets mistaken for "Hello, Clarice."

Believe it or not, this was my first time seeing this movie. And if you know me, you would believe it because I'm kind of a wuss when it comes to scary movies. But luckily this movie is more of a psychological thriller than a horror (and I wouldn't classify this as a horror) and I can handle those. This movie didn't scare me AS MUCH as I was expecting. Don't get me wrong, it was very disturbing, unsettling, and creepy, but I kept expecting the jump scares to come and there were plenty of opportunities for them to happen, but they never did. I know this is based on a book, but I have never read it. However in the past 25 years since this movie's been out, I have known some of the things that happen in the movie!

It's not difficult to see why Jodie Foster won the Best Actress Oscar. She is really good as FBI-agent-in-training Clarice Starling. She is selected by her boss (Scott Glenn) to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter aka "Hannibal the Cannibal" (Anthony Hopkins) because they think he could be helpful in helping them catch another serial killer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). Dr. Lecter, after all, if a former psychiatrist and a serial killer who ate his victims. Before going in to talk to him, she is told by that facility's psychologist that they have him in solidarity confinement at all times and he is never allowed to come out of his cell unless he is completely confined and tells her how one time when he was in the hospital, he managed to wake up from his drugs and bite off a nurses's nose. While the other inmates are behind bars, Hannibal is behind glass that have a few holes in them so he can smell the lotion Clarice is wearing. Compared to the other men in the prison, Dr. Lecter is actually very polite and courteous, you know for a flesh-eating serial killer! At least he wasn't masturbating and fling, ahem, himself at her.....ewww! That really happened after she talked to him and was walking out. I audibly freaked out at the scene because I do not like bodily fluids...ewww, ughgghghg! Gag! Hopkins has a very unsettling way of never blinking.

Buffalo Bill tends to go for overweight girls in their twenties who he skins after he kills them because he wants to make himself a "woman suit".  So he and Cruella DeVil have some things in common! He wants to get a sex change to become a woman but has failed the psychological tests to do so. So far he has killed at least six women and Clarice is called in to look at the latest body that was found in a lake in West Virginia. Lodged in the girl's throat is a cocoon which Clarice takes to an entomologist who tells her it's a moth that's indigenous to Asia only and that someone must have bred this particular one. I have always noticed the creepy moth on the movie poster, but never knew how they intertwined with the plot. When we see Buffalo Bill's house, or lair, rather, he has a cage with the large, creepy moths and as someone who hates just regular moths, this is enough to make your skin crawl because these moths are at least three times bigger and some are flying out in the open by the lightbulbs. Ugh!! I also learn where the movie gets its title when Dr. Lecter, wanting to know more about Clarice, asks her about a traumatic childhood memory and she recounts to him a story of how she once woke up on her relatives' farm to hear the screaming of lambs who were being slaughtered. She tried to save one and ran away with it, but it was too heavy and she was caught and the lamb was brought back to the slaughterhouse. At the end of the movie, Hannibal will ask her if the lambs have stopped screaming.

Hannibal has told Clarice he will only cooperate with her if she can move him to a facility with a window so he can look outside since he's been trapped in his cell for eight years. She manages to put something together for him (though it's a lie) and demands to know information about Buffalo Bill such as a real name, address, and physical appearance. This time he has kidnapped a young woman named Catherine who is the daughter of a U.S. Senate. I'll tell you one thing: if I ever see someone struggling to move a couch into a van, I am never, EVER going to help them! Especially if they have a broken arm! I know this may sound horrible of me, but this is how this girl got captured! She was walking to her apartment and went past Buffalo Bill who was "struggling" to move a couch into a van with a cast on his arm and she decides to be nice and help him. When she has her side of the couch, he has her step into the van and then she can't move because the couch is blocking her way out and he knocks her out and thus kidnaps her.

He has her in his creepy lair, in a well where he lowers down lotion so she can rub it on herself. He has an unsettling way of referring to his kidnap/murder victims as "it" so he doesn't have to think of them as real people. ("It will put the lotion in the basket!") He has a little white dog named Precious and Catherine kidnaps (dognaps?) the dog by luring it over to the edge. We don't actually see the dog jump/fall into the pit, so I'm not sure how that happened, but she now has Buffalo Bill's Precious (I would have laughed so hard if he cried, "My Precioussssssss!" but that does not happen). She tells him the dog needs a vet because she broke her leg as a result of the fall and that he better send down a phone or else she's not releasing the dog. A very upset Buffalo Bill goes to get his gun. 

We get the old bait and switch when we see Clarice outside the house which she thinks is the address of someone who can give her information while we see other agents outside the house which they believe to be Buffalo Bill's and have it surrounded. When they enter the house, they find it empty and nobody is there...but Clarice has walked right into it. Luckily, she's smart and immediately can tell from the sewing machine and thread, oh, and not to mention the random creepy moth, that this is Buffalo Bill's house and she pulls out her gun and tells him to freeze, but he runs away. She finds Catherine who's screaming (and Precious who's barking) in the dungeon room and tells her that the other agents are on their way. Uh...I don't think they are because she hasn't called for back up! There are a few rooms connected to the dungeon room so she checks them all and they're all empty. There's only one room left she hasn't checked and it's the room where all the creepy moths are in. This was the creepiest scene in the whole movie because while Clarice is looking for Buffalo Bill, he turns the lights off so it is PITCH BLACK and he puts on night-vision goggles so we can see Clarice through his POV. Jodie Foster is fantastic in this scene. We see the fear on her face as she's feeling around to get a sense of her surroundings and to get the hell out of there! At one point, she touches a hot vent or something, then another time she trips over something and falls. But the scariest part is when Buffalo Bill is literally right in front of her face and we see his hand reach out to -almost- touch her face - ahhh!!! - and she seems to sense that something is close to her, but he never touches her. Just when she turns around and her back is to him, he lifts his gun and she hears the clicking sound it makes and turns around just in time to shoot and kill him. Very scary, intense scene!

Hannibal, meanwhile, has been moved to a different location and they have him in a mask and his arms are bound and he's being wheeled as well since his legs are also bound. However, for some reason, he manages to steal a pen that the psychologist left lying nearby. I have no idea how this happened because when he sees the pen just laying there, he's already bound. I thought maybe they would go back and show us how he managed to grab this pen with his arms constricted to a straight jacket, but we never see this amazing feat! Hannibal only uses the ink portion when two police men bring his dinner (very rare lamb, what a jerk! Good thing Clarice wasn't there to see it) and they handcuff him to the bars as they bring the food in and sit it down. This time his cage is in the middle of a room and it's all bars, no glass. He picks the handcuffs with the pen part and kills one of the officer and smashes the other's head with a crowbar and escapes. There's a big search for the serial killer (naturally). He fools the officers by cutting off the face of one of the officers and putting it over his own face so they send who they think is the officer in an ambulance, but surprise, it's Hannibal and he makes his escape. Not really sure how they got fooled by that.

At the end of the movie, Clarice gets a phone call from Hannibal who is now in some tropical island. He tells her he won't be on the phone for long because he doesn't want to be traced, but just wanted to tell her that he doesn't have any plans to pursue her and hopes she extends the courtesy to him which says she cannot do. He then tells her he has to run because he's "having a friend for dinner." I'm surprised he didn't add, "Literally!" As he says this, we see him eyeing the psychologist from his original holding place who he never liked very much. Oh, dear. Good thing he at least had some respect for Clarice.

As with 1999, I have now reviewed all the movies from 1991 that won Oscars in the "big 8" categories - Best Picture, Best Director, the four acting categories, and the two screenplays. Obviously, this movie knocked five of those out so that helped tremendously! I also recently reviewed The Fisher King to cover Best Supporting Actress and City Slickers to cover Best Supporting Actor. And quite a few years ago, I reviewed Thelma and Louise which won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. I wonder what year I will complete next? 

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