Monday, September 6, 2010

Professor David Huxley's Laborious, Licentious, Spotted-Leopard Labor Day Film Quiz

Anyone interested in great film criticism has almost certainly heard of Dennis Cozzalio and his blog, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. And anyone who has perused SLIFR knows of his massive film quizzes that are as delightful as they are deeply flummoxing to those without a strong knowledge of film history. In fact, this latest quiz, is the first I've ever been able to actually participate in without skipping every other question, and I still had to pass on two. But since I finally could respond to the majority, I decided to provide my own answers for once.

1) Classic film you most want to experience that has so far eluded you.

I've never seen a Preston Sturges film, though I'm getting two in the mail from Netflix this week.

2) Greatest Criterion DVD/Blu-ray release ever

Considering Seven Samurai would be my choice for what's out right now, I'll hold off until the Blu-Ray comes out and the film's restoration meets all those great extras.

3) The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon?

One has Lauren Bacall. The other doesn't. The Bacalls have it.

4) Jason Bateman or Paul Rudd?

Paul Rudd. He's got so much charm he can get away with anything.

5) Best mother/child (male or female) movie star combo

Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis are the only pair that comes readily to mind.

6) Who are the Robert Mitchums and Ida Lupinos among working movie actors? Do modern parallels to such masculine and no-nonsense feminine stars even exist? If not, why not?

The thing about Mitchum et al. is that they were great actors but also relied on their personae when on-screen. I think it's harder now for an actor to prove talent with the same type of role, as the people who become stars just for being them (Will Smith, Tom Cruise, etc.) are judged by box office and not how they come off as a screen presence. Maybe it's because we know so much about celebrities' private lives now that we've gotten our fill of the real people elsewhere.

7) Favorite Preston Sturges movie

See number 1.

8) Odette Yustman or Mary Elizabeth Winstead?

Winstead all the way. She was in danger of getting boxed in as a scream queen, but she's different in every movie I've seen her in and when people really take note, she'll get her overdue stardom.

9) Is there a movie that if you found out a partner or love interest loved (or didn't love) would qualify as a Relationship Deal Breaker?

I think if I couldn't impress upon someone the joy that The Red Shoes brings me that I just wouldn't have any way to communicate with them emotionally. No, seriously.

10) Favorite DVD commentary

My favorite serious commentary is Michael Jeck's gargantuan piece on Seven Samurai, which provides such a wealth of technical information and social context that it makes one of the greatest works of all time even richer. My favorite laid-back track is the one for Mallrats, Kevin Smith's misguided mall caper. I like Smith but have never gotten on with the film, but the commentary is maybe the funniest thing I've ever heard, as the cast and crew lovingly mock every aspect of the film. Ben Affleck "bemoans" the black spot on his then-hot career as he looks back with Oscar in hand, while Smith, master of self-deprecation, works off of Affleck's tongue-in-cheek jabs to insult the film further.

11) Movies most recently seen on DVD, Blu-ray and theatrically

Eastern Promises, Anchorman Theater: Piranha 3D

12) Dirk Bogarde or Alan Bates?

Alan Bates

13) Favorite DVD extra

One of the gargantuan documentaries that Charles de Lauzirika has made, specifically his Blade Runner piece.

14) Brian De Palma’s Scarface— yes or no?

I'm not that keen on it, but we'll see how I view it in the context of De Palma's filmography as my retrospective continues. I do still enjoy it.

15) Best comic moment from a horror film that is not a horror comedy (Young Frankenstein, Love At First Bite, et al.)
This isn't a traditionally funny moment, but when they decapitate Ash in Alien and that milky stuff shoots out instead of blood, I laughed even as I jumped from being startled. It was just such an odd way to communicate that he was an android (and of course something that ties into the sexual undertones of the film) that I let out a laugh in my yelp.

16) Jane Birkin or Edwige Fenech?


17) Favorite Wong Kar-wai movie

In the Mood for Love, though Chungking Express and Fallen Angels compete for the top spot.

18) Best horrific moment from a comedy that is not a horror comedy

I think the "There's been a rape up there!" moment in the original Office is one of the most blood-freezing things I've ever seen in a comedy. But that's television, so to take from the movies, surely it must be the "Be Black, Baby" segment of Hi, Mom!

19) From 2010, a specific example of what movies are doing right…

Having seen so few of the films that I want to see this year, I can only speak on this vaguely, but there's been some great examples of films telling their stories visually. The Ghost Writer is evidence of this, making do with spare, suggestive dialogue and then using the meticulous mise-en-scène to tell you what you need to know.

20) Ryan Reynolds or Chris Evans?

Reynolds. I don't understand what some have against his sarcasm. He's not a comic genius, but I have genuinely laughed at some of his cracks where so many stars seem to expect you to laugh accommodatingly to their bad jokes.

21) Speculate about the future of online film writing. What’s next?

Hopefully, it will continue to foster intelligent discussion, and maybe the balance will swing from the Rotten Tomatoes community to more thought-out writing. Then again, that's pretty wishful thinking. More likely, criticism as a gig that pays anything at all will bottom out, festivals will go online to accommodate the pockets of cinephiles who can no longer afford to go anywhere and the gap between true love of film and box office worship will widen until some New New Wave comes along, one hopes, to get people interested in art again.

22) Roger Livesey or David Farrar?

With only a few examples of each, Roger Livesey, essentially for no other reason than Colonel Blimp.

23) Best father/child (male or female) movie star combo

Kirk and Michael Douglas. The end. I still don't know how Michael seemed to pick up exactly his father's talents -- unrepentant slimeballs you can't help but root for because of who's playing them.

24) Favorite Freddie Francis movie (as Director)


25) Bringing Up Baby or The Awful Truth?

Bringing Up Baby

26) Tina Fey or Kristen Wiig?

It's hard to say. Fey is a better writer, but Wiig is one of the best comedians out there right now. I think I'm more drawn to her whenever she's on-screen in anything than I am to Fey even as Liz Lemon, so I'll side with Wiig.

27) Name a stylistically important director and the best film that would have never been made without his/her influence.

Michael Powell, who is responsible for, you know, every Martin Scorsese movie. But, to narrow it down, Raging Bull wouldn't have been made without Powell, especially because the man helped out during production.

28) Movie you’d most enjoy seeing remade and transplanted to a different culture (i.e. Yimou Zhang’s A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop.)

I nearly said a modern American version of Playtime, but then the point of that movie is that, in modern times, all countries have been culturally homogenized, and the US is responsible for that. So perhaps what I'm saying is that I want a mandate forcing Americans to watch Playtime.

Instead, I'll say that a version of The Rules of the Game with Wall Street billionaires ignoring the financial collapse might be a bit fun.

29) Link to a picture/frame grab of a movie image that for you best illustrates bliss. Elaborate.

I'll do you one better. Here's an entire sequence that illustrates bliss. It's from Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express, in which Faye Wong falls for a depressed cop and breaks into his apartment to clean the place to cheer him up. As Wong dances about the place like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl before that type became a facile prop, her own version of The Cranberries' song builds into pure joy. I've never watched this scene and not felt just flushed and relieved by the end of it.

30) With a tip of that hat to Glenn Kenny, think of a just-slightly-inadequate alternate title for a famous movie. (Examples from GK: Fan Fiction; Boudu Relieved From Cramping; The Mild Imprecation of the Cat People)

Apocalypse At Your Earliest Convenience

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