… Better Eat, Pray, Love
JUST before film director Alfred Hitchcock released The Birds almost 50 years ago, many people in the English-speaking world were outraged.
It wasn’t so much the film’s creepy theme – flocks of sinister black birds viciously attacking villagers for no apparent reason – that freaked them out. If you were going to watch a Hitchcock movie, you knew it wasn’t going to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
He was the king of creep, after all – the man who’d already thrilled audiences with Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and Psycho.
They’d probably be tame, even lame, by today’s standards but in the 1950s and early 60s, they were edge-of-the-seat stuff. (Although, as a sissy of note, I think even the original Psycho would give me serious palpitations.)
No, it wasn’t the content, it was the marketing campaign that caused all the fuss.
The Birds is Coming! proclaimed the posters.
And that was the problem.
The language luvvies were up in arms. Letters to newspapers followed, furious debates raged and the movie – the first Hitchcock had released since his favourite actress Grace Kelly swapped Tinseltown for a tiara – was an instant hit.
Strictly speaking, of course, the poster was correct.
The Birds was the name of the film – a single unit – which was coming.
Strike one for Hollywood.
However, clever marketing had nothing to do with the Sandra Bullock-Hugh Grant rom-com Two Weeks Notice. Sheer carelessness, that was. It deserved to bomb.
Can’t Hardly Wait was another film title that set my teeth on edge. “You morons,” I wanted to yell every time I saw it (and did a couple of times, I seem to recall). “It’s a double-negative, and means the very opposite of what you’re trying to say.” The film was aimed at teenagers, which made it even worse, somehow.
And now there’s the new Julia Roberts film, Eat Pray Love. (Yuck, I can hardly bring myself to write that unpunctuated gobbledygook …)
It’s based on the book of the same name, but even on author Elizabeth Gilbert’s official website, it’s referred to as Eat, Pray, Love, so I don’t see why Hollywood’s too arrogant to get it right.
As The Slate’s Nathan Preller says, it’s not a title … “It’s a random and nonsensical jumble of words. It is a score card in the most boring game of Scrabble imaginable.
“Gilbert’s punctuated title made a kind of grammatical sense, directing a forceful, three-verb command at the narrator (and, perhaps, the reader, too). Eat Pray Love makes sense only as something that an aphasiac might scream at the walls.”
Couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’m rather pleased it’s had lukewarm reviews – now I won’t feel I’m missing out by boycotting it.
Let me know if there are there any movie titles – grammatically speaking, of course - that get on your nerves.
Tags: Alfred Hitchcock, Can't Hardly Wait, Dial M for Murder, double-negative, Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, gobbledygook, Grace Kelly, Hollywood, Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Nathan Preller, Psycho, punctuation, Rear Window, Sandra Bullock, Strangers on a Train, The Birds, The Slate, Tinseltown, Two Weeks Notice