Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tackling SLIFR's 2009 Holiday Quiz

I’m still catching up on a number of projects this holiday weekend. So in place of a rant this week, I thought I’d take a crack at the latest quiz offered up by Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. This is my first attempt at one of the popular Cozzalio quizzes, which I’d resisted to this point out of fear that I’d spend more time contemplating my answers than answering. Thus my self-imposed rule below was to go with my gut instinct in most cases and to contemplate no longer than 30 seconds in cases when contemplation was required.

I wanted to be sure to answer this quiz in honor of Dennis, who just celebrated his five-year anniversary as a film blogger. His greatest achievement isn’t the amount of time that he’s been blogging, it’s that all that time he’s written in his own distinct voice (which includes more words in any one post than most of us put out in four) about his own distinct interests (sometimes cinema, sometimes baseball, sometimes family, whatever). It’s for that reason that he’s a model for bloggers everywhere. Oh, and did I mention that he nurtures the community spirit of the blogosphere by creating quizzes? Here goes ...

1) Second-favorite Coen Brothers movie.

No Country for Old Men would be first. Second would be The Man Who Wasn’t There.

2) Movie seen only on home format that you would pay to see on the biggest movie screen possible? (Question submitted by Peter Nellhaus)

The Great Escape, without question! But even though I don’t have the same fondness for it, Ben-Hur would be close on that list. (Note: I’m thankful to have seen Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen at the AFI Silver.)

3) Japan or France? (Question submitted by Bob Westal)

France, by both interpretations of the question.

4) Favorite moment/line from a western.

The Boot Hill sequence from The Magnificent Seven – or just about anything involving Calvera.

5) Of all the arts the movies draw upon to become what they are, which is the most important, or the one you value most?

Well, photography is the obvious answer that I want to be the “right” answer (the one I value most), but the truest answer is probably literature. The fact remains that a well-assembled story unskillfully or unimpressively shot can still be a darn good movie, and yet when it goes the other way the result usually feels empty.

6) Most misunderstood movie of the 2000s (The Naughties?).

If only it could have been “of the past 10 years,” because then I could have said that it’s Fight Club, and I would have been referring to many of its fans. So I think I’ll go with The Fountain. I’m fine with folks not loving that movie so long as they at least understand the structure of what’s happening. That said, if people keep insisting that Precious has an uplifting ending, I’ll need to change my answer.

7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.

Kevin Spacey. There was a stretch there in the late 90s when he impressed me or flat out blew me away in almost everything he did – The Usual Suspects, Seven, L.A. Confidential, American Beauty, even A Bug’s Life. Now his style has gotten so REPETITIVE, that I can hardly STAND even his previous SUCCESSES.

8) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?

Patrick Magee, I suppose. No strong opinion.

9) Which is your least favorite David Lynch film (Submitted by Tony Dayoub)

With the caveat that there are many I haven’t seen, probably Lost Highway. After about 30 minutes I was entirely disinterested.

10) Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

Toughy. I’ll go with Conrad Hall for the moment.

11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.

I suppose this means I should know my favorite Siegel film. Since I don’t, I’ll give a shout out to Hell Is For Heroes, the bleakest film to include Bobby Darin and Bob Newhart among its cast. In addition to Steve McQueen, of course.

12) Last movie you saw on DVD/Blu-ray? In theaters?

On DVD, Rear Window for the, I dunno, 20th time … though it included a nap. In theaters, The Road.

13) Which DVD in your private collection screams hardest to be replaced by a Blu-ray? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

For the same reasons that I’d rush to see it on the big screen, I’d love to see The Great Escape on Blu-ray. But without repeating myself too much I’ll go with … The New World and Heat. Both are on my Christmas list.

14) Eddie Deezen or Christopher Mintz-Plasse?

Mintz-Plasse. For looking like Pinocchio in Superbad.

15) Actor/actress who you feel automatically elevates whatever project they are in, or whom you would watch in virtually anything.

Samantha Morton. She proved it again in The Messenger.

16) Fight Club -- yes or no?

No. And no.

17) Teresa Wright or Olivia De Havilland?

Teresa Wright, I suppose.

18) Favorite moment/line from a film noir.

It’s an easy answer, but I’d be over-thinking if I didn’t go with the revelation of Harry Lime in The Third Man, presuming that’s close enough to traditional noir to apply here.

19) Best (or worst) death scene involving an obvious dummy substituting for a human or any other unsuccessful special effect(s)—see the wonderful blog Destructible Man for inspiration.

Spielberg movies have tons of these. The one that I have to watch every time, because it kills me, is when the German in the tank goes over the edge of the cliff in The Last Crusade and manages to hold on to the gun turret as it breaks away from the tank. (See image in middle of this post.) That isn’t because the tank is a model and the Nazi action figure’s hands are glued on to the turret, is it? Nah!

20) What's the least you've spent on a film and still regretted it? (Submitted by Lucas McNelly)

Of the free advanced screenings I’ve managed to see over the years, A Love Song for Bobby Long was particularly painful, even if it did give the Internets its most popular side-boob shot of Scarlett Johansson.

21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?

Van Halen.

22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.

I’m not sure I’ve seen one.

23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.

The implication here is that most people haven’t seen the documentary in question, so I’ll go with Double Dare, the highly entertaining documentary about stuntwomen featuring Zoe Bell. If for no other reason, everyone should watch it for the scene in which Bell gets hit on by a drunk Gary Busey.

24) In deference to this quiz’s professor, name a favorite film which revolves around someone becoming stranded.

A favorite would be The Black Stallion.

25) Is there a moment when your knowledge of film, or lack thereof, caused you an unusual degree of embarrassment and/or humiliation? If so, please share.

I don’t think so. I’m frequently frustrated by the number of great and even not-so-great films that I haven’t yet seen. There are some huge gaps and blind spots in my cinema knowledge. But I wouldn’t say I feel particularly embarrassed about that.

26) Ann Sheridan or Geraldine Fitzgerald? (Submitted by Larry Aydlette)

Speaking of blind spots … pass.

27) Do you or any of your family members physically resemble movie actors or other notable figures in the film world? If so, who?

Well, if you ask my grandmother, my dad looks like Robert Redford. But this isn’t true whatsoever. What is true is that when my dad was a young newspaper reporter in the early 1970s he dressed a lot like (and had long hair a lot like) Redford’s Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men, which is no doubt where my grandmother made the connection.

28) Is there a movie you have purposely avoided seeing? If so, why?

Anything that could ever be called – even incorrectly – “torture porn” is something I try to stay away from.

29) Movie with the most palpable or otherwise effective wintry atmosphere or ambience.

Is it too obvious to say The Ice Storm?

30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?

Given that Jeffrey Jones pleaded no contest to possession of child pornography, it’s gotta be Gerrit Graham, right? Sometimes reality taints what’s on screen. This would be one of those times.

31) The best cinematic antidote to a cultural stereotype (sexual, political, regional, whatever).

Wes Studi as Detective Casals in Heat. Not only isn’t he some magical American Indian character, he isn’t even a Native American character. He just is. This is particularly rare for Native American characters on screen, but, some Denzel Washington characters notwithstanding, it’s a significant break from the norm for minorities overall, sadly.

32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.

This is a reminder of my intention to go through some of Wayne’s films again, as I haven’t seen many of them in about 20 years. (I can’t believe I’m getting old enough to say something like that. Fuck.) That said, I’ll admit I have a soft spot for The Cowboys, which I inevitably end up watching more of than I planned whenever it comes on TV. (The Searchers would be No. 1, by the way.)

33) Favorite movie car chase.

Sorry, Steve. It’s not Bullitt. It’s the car chase at the end of Death Proof – the only car chase I’ve ever seen on the big screen that actually quickened my heartbeat.

34) In the spirit of His Girl Friday, propose a gender-switched remake of a classic or not-so-classic film. (Submitted by Patrick Robbins)

I think it would be fascinating to see Vertigo remade from a female obsession perspective. For as much as would be similar, it seems that reinterpretation would change the feel of the picture quite a bit. (Oh, and don’t tell me that Mulholland Dr. is the female reinterpretation of Vertigo. I’m talking about a more traditional remake.) That said, how many years until average American society is comfortable enough with male homosexuality that Bound could be remade starring two men without being called gay soft porn?

35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?

Once again, no opinion.

36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.

I don’t believe I’ve seen one in full.

37) If you could take one filmmaker's entire body of work and erase it from all time and memory, as if it had never happened, whose oeuvre would it be? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)

I think the filmmakers who would qualify here are the ones whose films I now avoid. That seems to be working fine.

38) Name a film you actively hated when you first encountered it, only to see it again later in life and fall in love with it.

“Actively hated” and “in love” are both too strong, but I’ve written before about how it took me several tries to get through The Player, only to develop a genuine fondness for it. If I ever come around on Jerry Maguire, I’ll let you know.

39) Max Ophuls or Marcel Ophuls? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)

I’m not sure I’ve had a strong opinion on one of these yet. Ugh. Now I remember why it’s taken me so long to do one of these quizzes.

40) In which club would you most want an active membership, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, the Cutters or the Warriors? And which member would you most resemble, either physically or in personality?

The Greasers. Because there’s a chance you can hang out with Cherry Valance at the drive-in.

41) Your favorite movie cliché.

To quote Fletch on filing cabinets in Fletch Lives: “I love them when they are unlocked, neatly organized and tell me exactly what I want to know.”

42) Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen? (Submitted by Bob Westal)

Vincente Minelli.

43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.

Crap, is this a bigger genre than I think it is? Gremlins? Does that count?

44) Favorite moment of self- or selfless sacrifice in a movie.

I broke my rule for this quiz and stared at the screen for a good five minutes just running through a long list. I’m going to go with Private Witt near the end of The Thin Red Line – because I believe in the scene (and the sacrifice) and because it’s poetic, too.

45) If you were the cinematic Spanish Inquisition, which movie cult (or cult movie) would you decimate? (Submitted by Bob Westal)

If this hadn’t come up twice already, I’d answer differently. But for now I’ve got to say that I’d decimate the Cult of Tyler Durden that fails to realize that by becoming the cult of Tyler Durden they are embracing the very things he preaches against in the philosophical ramblings they like to quote. I wouldn’t do this because I have it in for these people. I’d do it because I’d want to see how many Fight Club fans were left after that. Not many, I’d guess.

46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?

Caroline Munro. Very talented woman.

47) Favorite eye-patch wearing director. (Submitted by Patty Cozzalio)

John Ford. Unless Terrence Malick wears an eye-patch I’m unaware of.

48) Favorite ambiguous movie ending. (Original somewhat ambiguous submission---“Something about ambiguous movie endings!”-- by Jim Emerson, who may have some inspiration of his own to offer you.)

The Graduate, for several reasons: First, it’s so perfectly ambiguous that I couldn’t even tell you what happens 15 minutes later. Second, my varying opinions on what would happen 15 minutes later are equally satisfactory. Third, the ambiguousness of the ending doesn’t feel like a manipulative mindfuck that’s either (a) the entire point of the movie’s existence or (b) a lazy way for a writer/director without a distinct conclusion in mind to pretend to be profound.

49) In giving thanks for the movies this year, what are you most thankful for?

Sappy as this will sound, I’m most thankful for the blogging community. Though I still use Metacritic to peruse the reviews of paid critics, more and more these days their reviews feel like the lite version of what I find from unpaid critics on the blogosphere – either in the reviews proper or in the discussion they inspire.

50) George Kennedy or Alan North? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

George Kennedy.


Kevin J. Olson said...

Wow, Jason...we share a lot of the same answers. Especially Fight Club (which I'm just now reading your linked posts on the subject). I'm not as disciplined as you in answering these questions (I've thought about them for a few days now), but when I finally do get to answering them I'll post them on my blog. Your answers for number five and number 9 were the same as mine, hehe. Another reason that these exercises are so fun because Dennis' questions make me realize I'm not alone in my thinking.

Great stuff here, Jason.

le0pard13 said...

Wonderful set of answers, Jason. And I'm not just saying because I agree with you on Fight Club. Well... maybe a little ;-). Thanks.

Jake said...

So #19 applies either to a bad death or just a bad special effect in general? I can only assume then, that I've yet to encounter any mentions on all the blogs tackling this meaty quiz of the shark of Jaws 3 (as best evidenced here: because people are interpreting the question as the "Best worst" instead of simply the greatest. Notice how the shark's fins don't move, a reflection of its inner drive for carnage that metaphorically propels the creature, brilliantly manifested in literal locomotion by Joe Alves. Or how the beast manages to stop completely for several seconds before the glass wall bursts before him. Not only does this suggest that even the inanimate, unnatural creations of man fear this force of nature, but Alves subtly suggests that the worst part of a storm is the calm that precedes it, and all the characters, by now near the end of the film and perfectly familiar with the danger at hand, can do is helplessly scream "SHARK!"

Alves never helmed another film as director, presumably because his modesty prevented him from showing off.

Troy Olson said...

Doing these quizzes in a short amount of time is near impossible, even with the criteria you set (I spent a couple hours on mine...and I keep thinking of new answers after reading the responses of everyone else)

Specific comments...
7) How could I forget Spacey (I went with Ford). Sadly, there are all too many to choose from, including even Pacino and DeNiro.

19) Oh, that death scene makes me laugh everytime for that exact reason.

21) I'm hot for teacher

25) Agreed wholeheartedly...yet it's great to be part of a blogging community that doesn't look down on me for this reason.

30) Yikes, didn't know that about Jones...makes me want to change my choice.

47) I dare anyone to come up with a better eye patch than Ford. It's really quite magnificent.

Jason Bellamy said...

Thanks for the comments, all.

Kevin and Leopard: After my conversation with Ed Howard (the second link), I've gotten over my Fight Club ire to some degree. But I admit that it still bugs me that so few people are willing to recognize or even consider its contradictions.

Jake: Thanks for linking to that outstanding Jaws 3 clip! When I was thinking of possibilities for that question it never occurred to me to think of non-human fakes. But I distinctly remember that scene. In fact, the first time I saw it, when I was maybe 10 or so, I thought there must be something wrong with me. I just couldn't believe at that age that a big movie like Jaws 3 could include a moment that pathetic. That really does take the cake, I suppose. But who wanted to remember Jaws 3 anyway?

Troy: On No. 7. Pacino would be a great choice. With Ford and De Niro I fault their roles more than their performances. Ford is remarkably consistent, for better or worse. De Niro hasn't done anything great in a long time, but if he wasn't saddled with being De Niro we'd appreciate him these days as a colorful character actor. With Spacey so much of what he does now just seems so ... smug. It was a significant hurdle for me to get over his voice in Moon, but I'm glad I did. That might be a top-5 movie of 2009 for me still.

Jake said...

"But who wanted to remember Jaws 3 anyway?"

It is my mission in life to ensure that no one forgets. People love to bag on Jaws: The Revenge, because it's just as bad, but I have a soft spot in a hard place (TWSS) for the rampant shittiness that is Jaws 3.

Mark said...

Jason, I've known your dad since about the time you were born, and I can assure you he was never any Robert Redford. Or even Dustin Hoffman.

If your grandma was looking for a reporter antecedent, how about Sally Field in Absence of Malice?

Marilyn said...

Nice list, Jason. You really should check out Rudolph. I'm actually quite a fan of his, and met him at a party at a film festival. I asked him about my favorite film of his "Remember My Name," and it seemed like a very sore spot with him. When I saw what is available on cable - a cut ending that bastardizes the whole movie - I could understand.

Fletch said...

Any post that references Fletch Lives earns a gold star in my book. :D