Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Quizmaster, Too

It's time for another one of Dennis Cozzalio's infernal quizzes. This one is fifty questions long. Fifty.

1) Second-favorite Coen Brothers movie.

Yowch. Well, I often say that Miller's Crossing and Barton Fink are my #1 and my #2, which I suppose makes the answer Barton Fink. But since I started saying that, their work has just continued to be incredibly diverse and rich. I'll stick with Barton Fink for now, though.

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

Maybe Days of Heaven, but there are so many, really. The Shining, too. Most of Kubrick, except for 2001 and Eyes Wide Shut, both of which I've seen in the theater. Lawrence of Arabia, too. Hell, I don't know. All of them, I guess.

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

Ah...Japan, I think. I say Japan primarily because of Kurosawa, who is a very important filmmaker for me, and I don't think there is a French equivalent, at least as far as I'm concerned. But then I remember how drawn to Jean-Pierre Melville I've become, and also of the depth and breadth of French films that I've experienced over the last few years, from Melville and Bresson and the Dardennes brothers and Claire Denis, and so on and so forth. I don't know. I have to stick with Japan for Kurosawa, though, because I grew up with his films, and I feel so close to so many of them.

4) Favorite moment/line from a western.

"You go ask her if she'll eat dog now." Paul Newman in Hombre.
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?

Writing. Strangely, it's also the one that gets the least credit, when you get into the deep-down criticism (unless the director happened to also be the screenwriter) -- a lot of actors complain about writers being "too precious about their words", which implies that the actor saying this believes that whatever they might improvise in place of a given scripted line is automatically better than what the writer came up with. Sometimes it is, probably, but actors aren't writers, and they shouldn't assume that a line isn't written in a certain way for very specific reasons. It would be like saying that actors are too precious about their faces.

They say screenplays are just blueprints for the film, and that's true, but show me a good and stable building that came from a shitty blueprint.

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

You know what I'm tempted to say, partly to be different, but partly because it's true? Frailty. I won't go so far as to say it's a great film, but look at what happens (SPOILER): Bill Paxton's character, for much of the film, is thought by the audience, and his sons, to be wacked out of his head to the point where he believes God is telling him to kill certain people because they are demons. We believe these are innocent people he's killing, and teaching his sons to kill. But then the revelation (pun!) is that God really was telling him to kill people, and those people really were demons. At first, it seems like a cop-out; an interesting premise turned suddenly uninteresting. Yet what's curious about the film is that once this is revealed, the tone of the film doesn't change. It stays a horror film. Demons are being killed, demons who did awful things, but the whole idea of Paxton training his children to do this remains deeply chilling, implying that God is vengeful, and that may be all He is.
7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.

I suppose it would have to be Harrison Ford. I was a child of the 80s, after all, and Harrison Ford was fucking it for us. I hardly think I need to tell you why. But it wasn't just because of Solo and Jones, but because of the other, more adventurous films he made in those days, like Blade Runner and even The Mosquito Coast. And even though he looked like a star, he showed fear and normalcy, as well as humor -- he was human. And he got his ass beat so often...he was like a pulp detective. I loved him so much that my parents caved and let me watch my first R rated film (Blade Runner) and what was probably either my second or third, as well (Witness).

And now look at him. Cranky, tacky, arrogant, and he doesn't even make any films halfway good enough to back it up. He's really kind of a turd now, when you think about it.

8) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?

Lom. I haven't seen as much of his stuff as I have of Magee's, but Lom's career seems much more interesting and diverse.

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

Wild at Heart. It may be more superficially watchable than, say, Eraserhead, and technically better than Dune, but Wild at Heart is for me the only time that Lynch has made a film that self-consciously attempted to live up to his media image of a weird and shocking loony-bird, as opposed to a guy who made movies because he needed to get them out of his head.

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

I'm tempted to call it a push, but I'll give it to Hall for that rain-shadow effect in In Cold Blood. I don't care if it was just an accident.

11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.

Hm. I haven't seen as many as I should have, but I'd probably have to say The Beguiled, with Invasion of the Body Snatchers coming in first.

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

In the theater, it was A Serious Man (I'll be seeing The Fantastic Mr. Fox this weekend). On DVD it was...goddamnit, usually I have something really good for this question, but this time I think the answer is Kung Fu Panda. For the second time. Fuck you guys, it's a funny movie.

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

I'm so out of the Blu-Ray loop. I don't know. I was in Best Buy, sometime around last Christmas, and I saw The Dark Knight Blu-Ray being shown on an HD TV, and it was pretty freakin' stunning. That's not my answer, necessarily, but that's really my main experience with this technology so far.

14) Eddie Deezen or Christopher Mintz-Plasse?

Mintz-Plasse hasn't been around that long and seems pretty one note so far, but I have enjoyed his stuff. Deezen, not so much.

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

Too many to list. Harry Dean Stanton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Warren Oates, Paul Newman, John Malkovich, J. K. Simmons, Andre Braugher, Steve Buscemi, Margo Martendale, Hal Holbrook, Naomi Watts, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Hepburn, Bogart, Delroy Lindo, Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Boris Karloff, Edward Woodward, James Garner. And so on.

16) Fight Club -- yes or no?

No. I suspect I should give this a second chance, but I have very little faith that I'll be rewarded for my efforts. It's always struck me as a film made for affected 20 year-olds, by an affected 20 year-old.

17) Teresa Wright or Olivia De Havilland?


18) Favorite moment/line from a film noir.
"You wouldn't dare! You're chicken!" Said by Ann Savage in Detour. It's really more the delivery than the line itself.
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.

In Eureka, when that hobo blows his brains out. They cut from the actor playing the hobo to Gene Hackman, then back to the hobo, who is now a dummy. A whole dummy, for just a split second, before his head explodes, and you can see a little piece of painted plastic, which had been an eye, shoot off screen.

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

I keep almost buying My Bloody Valentine 3D, but that hasn't happened yet, so it doesn't count. I did buy the godawful Heather Graham vehicle Killing Me Softly for about five bucks once, but for one or two (well, two) reasons, I haven't quite regretted it yet. I should, though.

21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?

I'll say Johnson, only because I love everyone who had anything to do with The Caine Mutiny.

22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.

Haven't seen that many. I saw Mortal Thoughts ages ago, and more recently caught Choose Me on cable. I enjoyed Choose Me very much for about the first half, before I thought it started to slip away. Still, I'll go with that, for lack of any other option.
23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.

I'm not sure I've seen any great ones that can really be considered undiscovered gems. All the gems I've seen have been well and truly discovered by the time I get to them. Still, Errol Morris's Mr. Death is never regarded as his masterpiece by anyone but me, but seriously, you guys...that thing is amazing. Watch it again.

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

I like Chris Elliott's deleted scene from The Abyss, which he showed on Letterman once, years ago, that depicted him and Gerard Mulligan in scuba gear at the bottom of the ocean. At one point in the scene, Elliott says, "Great, now we're stuck down here in the abyss." Also, he was stranded on the boat in Cabin Boy.

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.

Yeah, every time I take one of these goddamn quizzes.

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

I've seen more Ann Sheridan movies, so her.

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

Yes. I look just like Mickey Rooney, circa now.

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

Yeah, there's a few, actually. Cannibal Holocaust is one, because of the turtle scene (among other things). There are some, like Last Year in Marienbad, that I'm hesitant about because, frankly, I don't want to feel like a moron afterwards. I will see the Resnais film, though, because for goodness sake I bought the damn thing, but I'll be taking my own sweet time about it.

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

I feel like there's a good one, right on the tip of my brain, but I can't pull it. But Fargo, particularly that shot of John Carroll Lynch sitting in a warm kitchen eating breakfast, while Frances McDormand heads out into the blue early winter morning, is pretty good. It's good because it gets across a great sense of ordinary coldness, the kind of winter certain people are born into and can put up with. That's hardly ever dealt with at all, let alone with such grace.

30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?

I've hardly seen any of Graham's work, but I have a hard time picking Jeffrey Jones as a favorite anything. Also, Graham was in an episode of The Larry Sanders Show, which is all I need to hear.

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

You know, I really liked how the born-again Christian in Observe and Report wasn't sneered at. A little gentle fun was poked at her, but she was one of the good guys. For a movie straining to offend, that refusal to go after an easy target with both barrels was very refreshing.

32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.

Rio Bravo. First is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

33) Favorite movie car chase.

In the interest of changing things up a bit, and getting away from the answers this question normally gets, I'll say that I really liked the one in The Seven-Ups.
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)

An all-girl Cruising.

35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?

Feldon, but more importantly, when I did a search on IMDB for Barbara Rhoades, I discovered that there was, at one time, a Serpico TV show. What the hell?? Why didn't anyone tell me?

36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.

I think House of Wax is underrated. That thing has Vincent Price and Charles Bronson, for Chrissake. It's like that too-brief pairing of Peter Cushing and Jack Palance in Torture Garden. I didn't even know you were allowed to do things like that!

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)

There's a very obvious answer to this one, for me anyway, but I don't want to sound like a broken record, so I won't say Michael Moore. Barring him, though, I don't know if I have an answer. Oliver Stone at least has Salvador, which I remember liking, and I want to check out his horror film, The Hand. I don't think that outside of that one fat piece of phony-everyman, pseudo-hippie, smug, lying horseshit, there is a single filmmaker who I broadly dislike who doesn't have at least one thing of value to their credit.

So, Michael Moore, I guess. Oh wait: Rob Zombie.

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.

I don't think I've experienced quite so dramatic a swing. There were a lot of films that I didn't like due to youth or inexperience, like Taxi Driver, that I now dearly love, but I guess the most currently resonant example of that is Picnic at Hanging Rock, which I didn't get at all when I first saw it as either a teenager or young college student. I finally saw it again last year some time, and absolutely adored it.

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

Haven't seen enough of either, but Greg's rationale that only one of them made The Earrings of Madame de... is pretty damn sound.

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 Cutters is from Breaking Away, right? That is, by far, my favorite movie of the three referenced here, but I'm nothing like any of those guys. I'm probably closest, or was, to Delta Tau Chi, and that only barely, because I used to like to drink a lot, and still like girls (specifically, my wife). I guess I'd like most to be a Warrior, only because getting into gangfights with guys dressed up like baseball players might be kind of thrilling, as long as we won, which I think we do. I don't know, I haven't seen that movie in forever.

41) Your favorite movie cliché.

Since Greg already took "reluctant hero", I'll go with the related "one good cop in the bad town".

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

Minnelli. I finally saw Some Came Running earlier this year, and holy shit, is that a great movie. Honestly, it's like the Ophuls question: only one made Some Came Running, so...
43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.

Can I cheat and take my choice from literature, rather than film? Any film choice I might go with will have either already been taken, or it's not something I really like that much. So, instead, I'll point out that Robert Bloch once ended a short story with the line "She was decorating the Christmas tree."

Use your imagination.

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

It's an easy answer, but Gary Cooper going out alone, wracked with fear, at the end of High Noon. I love that so much.

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

I'm honestly getting pretty sick and tired of the James Cameron cult. In recent weeks, more times than I can count, I've seen people use as evidence that Avatar cannot be anything less than wonderful all the films that Cameron has already made. They'll say things like, "Have some faith! This guy made Terminator and Terminator 2 and Aliens and The Abyss and Titanic!" I know he did. That's the problem: he's a shitty writer.

46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?

Munro. Come on, now. I mean, look at her!

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

John Ford. I like to think he got his eye shot out by a Nazi, who he then beat to death with his movie camera, but it was probably actually glaucoma, or something. Either way.

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 Mystery of Kaspar Hauser

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

Inglourious Basterds. It's been a long time since a movie has energized me like that.

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

Kennedy. Cool Hand Luke trumps all. .


Dennis Cozzalio said...

Somebody answered that the Munro-Carlson comparison was too easy, and that if I'd offered Munro v. Barbara Bouchet he'd be hemming and hawing on the question until Labor Day. But personally, among the three Munro can still be the only choice. And one of the reasons I'm glad I posted the question is so that quiz-takers might be inspired to go digging for the best shots of this lovely actress.

An excellent read, as always, Bill! I really love your responses to #5 and #6. And I would agree, if it's not tipping my hand, about Lynch.

bill r. said...

Thank you, Dennis. I wasn't too bummed about the Munro question, because I saw Tony's picture on Cinema Viewfinder, and my eyes bugged out and steam shot out of my ears, and my heart started beating out of my chest. So no biggie.

As for Lynch, I could have chosen LOST HIGHWAY and said many of the same things, except that one still has its moments that seem more like pure Lynch than anything in WILD AT HEART.

I have to fix a typo in my FRAILTY answer...oops.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Frailty did go into some interesting places. I avoided seeing it theatrically, but was glad I finally got around to seeing in on DVD.

And yes, Days of Heaven looks great on a giant movie screen.

bill r. said...

I missed FRAILTY in the theaters, too, but own the DVD now. One thing that bugs me is the title. In the context of the movie, it doesn't mean anything. The writer has admitted this, but said he chose it because it sounded good. He's right, it does sound good, but that's a pretty weak excuse, not to mention a waste of a good title.

Ed Howard said...

Good answers. Now go see Last Year At Marienbad. You'll feel stupid afterward but really everyone does. If you think you understand that movie, you're doing it wrong. But as a pure sensory experience, it's really gorgeous and surprisingly affecting.

Interesting choice of Mr. Death, too. I liked it, but thought it was Morris going after too easy of a target, really. My favorite of his is probably Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, as cliched as that might be.

bill r. said...

Interesting choice of Mr. Death, too. I liked it, but thought it was Morris going after too easy of a target, really...

But Leuchter's not a target! Well, okay, he is a bit, but so what? He asked for it, as did the people who held his work up as proof, who are targets, too. But the main thing MR. DEATH is, is a weirdly and disturbingly beautiful film about a sad and disturbing man.

And I'll see LAST YEAR... soon. I bought it, and I have a few days off coming up. The way you describe it is the kind of thing that initially made me so intrigued, so I hope I connect to it in some way. Sounds like if I don't, though, I shouldn't be too surprised.

Greg said...

My favorite part of your answers was when you referenced me (more than once!) and linked me. That was great, really fucking great.

And seriously, Madame de..., I mean, that movie's absolutely amazing!

Also, I'm glad you like the reluctant hero answer because that really is a cliche that possibly over 90 percent of all action movies rely on and it still works! Of course the greatest of all time isn't an action movie at all but a drama, Casablanca. There will never be a reluctant hero to outdo Rick. Never.

bill r. said...

Greg, EARRINGS... is really terrific. It's what great filmmaking is all about. Ophuls work is so assured and perfect.

The reluctant hero is a deathless idea. It's like revenge films: there are only so many ways you can turn that, but a good one will always work for me like gangbusters. The reluctant hero is so relatable, or so we like to think, so if you know what you're doing with that cliche, you'll always connect.

Tony Dayoub said...

I thought I submitted question #9? No harm done, I took it as a compliment that you used my post as your template.

And I'm especially gratified everyone has loved my carefully selected Munro pic. It is really (insert Tex Avery's Wolf whistling sound here).

bill r. said...

Woops...I didn't really get that "submitted by me" line, and it didn't occur to me that you wrote that yourself, Tony. Sorry, I'll fix it.

And yes, Caroline Munro is really AOOGA AOOGA!!!

Patricia Perry said...

Bill -

I really enjoyed reading your respones here.

I wish I felt confident enough to take this quiz myself, but there too many questions to which I would not have an intelligent answer.

I slept through "Last Year at Marienbad" in my Intro to Film class at college. It's in my Netfix queue now, but it'll still be awhile before I get to it.

bill r. said...

Pat, I say with all sincerity: If I can complete this quiz, then so can you.

Patricia Perry said...

Bill, Well Ok then, if you think I can do it - I can do it!!!! (Even though I don't know who some of the people in these questions are.)

I'll have my answers up sometime this weekend.

Brian Doan said...

Fantastic answers, Bill (now that I've posted mine, I feel free to read other people's). And I say that even though we diverge on so many of the questions. But I'm glad to hear KUNG FU PANDA is good-- it's actually #5 or 6 in my Netflix queue, and I trust your opinion. Thanks for the reminder on Madame de..., too-- I don't know how I haven't seen that yet.

Oh, and thanks for this, which I will read as your Christmas gift to me:

that one fat piece of phony-everyman, pseudo-hippie, smug, lying horseshit

Please never stop making fun of Michael Moore. Ever.

bill r. said...

Thank you, Brian. For you, and for you only, I promise never to stop laying into that ugly, mean-spirited, shrill and shrieking bag of dicks.

Anonymous said...

Give a fool enough rope and he will hang himself........................................

Will Errickson said...

"She was decorating the Christmas tree." Ha, I actually read that story for the first time this weekend. Terrific.

Marienbad was great; I didn't feel like an idiot afterward, I felt excited and challenged. JG Ballard's fiction was obviously *very* influenced by it. Now I don't know if you would consider that good, bad or indifferent, but it worked for me. I don't now what it says about me that I've seen Cannibal Holocaust several times and still find it disturbing but oddly captivating. Maybe it's the score. There is a DVD version that edits out the animal slaughter scenes. The movie I don't think I have the stomach for is Irreversible. I got my fill of that kind of thing when I was an affected 20-year-old and watched I Spit on Your Grave.

bill r. said...

Will, the Ballard connection is something I would label as "indifferent", for lack of a better option. I admire Ballard's stuff more than I actually like it, so I guess we'll see about MARIENBAD. Mind you, I told myself I was going to watch it over a long weekend I just had, but I didn't. Because I'm lazy.

Another great Bloch ending is "I just wish I didn't have to kill you first."

As for CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST...if I'm going to watch it, I want to watch the full version. No half measures. Which means I'm not going to watch it, I guess. I just have a hard time with animal slaughter for movie purposes. Sometimes it'll sneak up on me because I don't know that's in the film, like in LACOMBE LUCIEN, or (sorta kinda) ANTICHRIST, or there will be stock footage of it, like the horrible seal clubbing in THE DEVIL, PROBABLY, which I REALL didn't like seeing...but if I know it's there, I tend to avoid it.

I have seen IRREVERSIBLE (and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE) and it didn't bother me overly much, because it's fake. But you're also not missing anything by skipping it.