Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Answers to the Good Professor.

Geez, I just haven't been able to sleep all night. Not after reading PROFESSOR DAVID HUXLEY’S LABORIOUS, LICENTIOUS SPOTTED-LEOPARD LABOR DAY FILM QUIZ on Dennis Cozzalio's consistently terrific Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. The questions were just too surprising, thought-squeezing, and weird to get out of my head. So I had to reply to them here. You can read the rules over at SLATIFR, and leave any contributions you may have there, or here. I hafta say: This was a helluva lotta fun!

1) Classic film you most want to experience that has so far eluded you.
Jerzy Skolimowski's Deep End or Paul Williams' Out of It.

2) Greatest Criterion DVD/Blu-Ray release ever
I would have to say Fanny and Alexander, just because it's my second favorite movie of all time and I waited two decades to see it in its full version. But their dazzling collection of Brakhage films comes real close to besting it, for much the same reason. Seeing each of these on Blu-Ray might blow my eyes out.

3) The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon?
The Maltese Falcon, of course. Much more precisely directed, obviously more intelligible, and the supporting cast--Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook Jr.--seals the deal.

4) Jason Bateman or Paul Rudd?
Paul Rudd, definitely, if only for that one amazing scene in Wet Hot American Summer where, at Janeane Garafalo's insistence, he phony-laboriously cleans up the plate of food he just sent sailing onto the cafeteria floor. Brilliant stuff.

5) Best mother/child (male or female) movie star combo
It's hard to argue with Ingrid Bergman and Isabella Rossellini, now, isn't it?

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?
There could be some modern Robert Mitchums and Ida Lupinos out there, but present-day ideals of what's considered "movie star" good-looking have changed from that period. For instance, most male stars these days were initially cast in breakthrough roles because of their boyish good looks. Problem is, they STILL look like boys (Cruise, DiCaprio, and the like). They don't look like they could stick someone in the gut with a bayonett like Mitchum and, say, Lee Marvin (really) did. And, likewise, most female stars look like little girls and are shunted away from great parts once they STOP looking like girls (and, anyway, screenwriters are not crafting tough parts for women like they did in the 40s and 50s). The most dangerous-looking, square-jawed men out there are Jon Hamm, Jason Statham, and Tom Hardy, I think. And it seems like Charlize Theron, Rose McGowan or January Jones could do a tough moll like Lupino, but they don't have her quirky mouth.

7) Favorite Preston Sturges movie
For the movie itself, I'd say Sullivan's Travels. But for pure laughs, I'd go with The Palm Beach Story.

8) Odette Yustman or Mary Elizabeth Winstead?
Odette Yustman? Wait, lemme IMDB her...okay. Odette is a little bit prettier but, man, she's been in a lotta movies I refuse to see. At least I've seen Grindhouse and Live Free or Die Hard (both of which I enjoyed). And I plan on seeing Final Destination 3 and Scott Pilgrim, so I give Winstead the win.

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 once broke up with a woman after I took her to see A.I Artificial Intelligence. She hated it, because she was a school teacher and couldn't brook all the cruelty being heaped on the boy. I kept telling her "But he wasn't a boy...he was a robot." I thought this was an essential starting point to a deeper conversation. No go. Her refusal to even discuss the movie made me see red, so I stopped calling her. I was no more beset with viable female alternatives then than I am now (which is to say: none). So, these days, the deal-breaker movie would have to point to some larger issues underneath by which I could not abide. Say, for instance, if she cheered at Michael Moore Hates America. Get my drift?

10) Favorite DVD commentary
I have to list three: (1) the hysterical fake commentary delivered by "Kenneth Loring," artistic director of "Forever Young Films," on the 2001 DVD release of Blood Simple; (2) Martin Scorsese's adoring remarks on the 2004 DVD release of Robert Wise's The Set-Up, and (3) Ronald Neame's honest and complete accounting of the making of The Poseidon Adventure on the special 2-disc edition.

11) Movies most recently seen on DVD, Blu-Ray and theatrically
DVD: Player Hating, Maggie Hadleigh-West's deeply moving bio-doc of Brooklyn hip-hop artist Half-Mil. Theatrically: The Kids Are All Right, Winter's Bone and Inception--on the same day, in the same theater. VHS: The Great Santini. Never seen a Blu-Ray.

12) Dirk Bogarde or Alan Bates?
Hmmm...this requires a refresher course. With Alan Bates, I've seen and liked Whistle Down The Wind, Georgy Girl, Zorba The Greek, Far From The Madding Crowd, The Fixer, Women in Love, The Go-Between, An Unmarried Woman, The Shout, The Rose, Britannia Hospital and Gosford Park. With Dirk Bogarde, I've seen and liked Victim, The Servant, Darling, Accident, The Fixer, Oh! What A Lovely War, Death in Venice, The Night Porter, A Bridge Too Far and The Patricia Neal Story. Though I think Bogarde's performance in The Servant is the best out of the two bunches, I'll give the edge to Alan Bates for his slightly more powerhouse resume.

13) Favorite DVD extra
The 70 minute audio-only interview with Stanley Kubrick on the 2001: A Space Odyssey two-disc special edition DVD/Blu-Ray. I waited my whole life to hear the man speak at length; until this disc's release, he was a visage without a voice. Hearing his dignified Bronx accent was, at last, a mystery revealed.

(What an incredible photo here, by the way: Kubrick, on NYC's 42nd Street, with the words "THE MIRACLE" on his left and "BELIEVE IT OR NOT" on his right!)

14) Brian De Palma’s Scarface—yes or no?
I'm embarrassed to say that, when I first saw Scarface in the winter of 1983, my 17-year-old self considered it the movie of the year. I went back two weeks later and wondered what the hell I was thinking. Never before or maybe since had a movie fallen from my good graces so quickly. It's a cultural touchstone, yes, and it should be seen. But, although Pacino is often amusing in it, it's a shithole movie.

15) Best comic moment from a horror film that is not a horror comedy (Young Frankenstein, Love At First Bite, et al.)
"We're gonna need a bigger boat." Jaws. The audiences in 1976 invariably screamed with laughter, because it was the perfect line to hear after jumping out of our skins upon seeing Bruce for the first time.

16) Jane Birkin or Edwige Fenech?
I haven't seen one Edwige Fenech movie; her corner of the filmmaking world is not my deal. Jane Birkin, then, if only for Blow-Up, Evil Under the Sun, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

17) Favorite Wong Kar-wai movie
In The Mood for Love.

18) Best horrific moment from a comedy that is not a horror comedy
Malcolm McDowell pulls a sheet back and discovers what sort of medical experiments he's submitted himself for in Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man!

19) From 2010, a specific example of what movies are doing right…
Looking at Mad Men, Louie, and Breaking Bad (and certainly the upcoming Boardwalk Empire), the real talent is shifting over to long-form storytelling on TV. It seems like a great move, too, because TV is bravely telling the tales we long to get from movies, and in finer points. Only the much-contested Inception has astonished me in cinemas this year. I'm certain that will change next week when I begin reporting on the New York Film Festival's offerings.

20) Ryan Reynolds or Chris Evans?
Ugh. What a choice. I guess Ryan Reynolds, though I still hate looking at his meatball mug. He was okay in Adventureland, though, and I'm hoping Buried will be good. (POST NOTE: Buried WAS good. Reynolds has a bonafide notch on his belt.)

21) Speculate about the future of online film writing. What’s next?
I concur with Tony Dayoub's answer to this question. I have a hard time writing for no money, and can easily see myself reducing my input on this blog down greatly once work comes my way. That said, and again, speaking for myself, when that day comes, I might just settle down to do a weekly podcast rather than spending hours on writing. I could then transmit just as much passion for the subject in a fraction of the time, though admittedly not as eloquently. (Or am I fooling myself? Is my writing as good as I hope it is? I can't tell...no one leaves comments on my site. I often feel I'm writing for no one but myself.)

22) Roger Livesey or David Farrar?
Roger Livesay. His performance in A Matter of Life or Death is astonishing.

23) Best father/child (male or female) movie star combo
Ryan O'Neal and Tatum O'Neal, forever together in Paper Moon.

24) Favorite Freddie Francis movie (as a director)
As director, I'll easily go with his version of EC's Tales From The Crypt (though I was one of the few who liked his adaptation of Dylan Thomas' The Doctor and the Devils). But he's really had more impact on cinema as a photographer. There, the contest is close, but I'll go with his work on Jack Clayton's The Innocents over his also-perfect lensing of David Lynch's The Elephant Man.

25) Bringing Up Baby or The Awful Truth?
The Awful Truth. Not even a second thought about that.

26) Tina Fey or Kristen Wiig?
Tina Fey. She seems smarter, and I like that little scar on her mouth (she still has that, right?)

27) Name a stylistically important director and the best film that would have never been made without his/her influence.
How could Bob Fosse have made All That Jazz without Federico Fellini showing him the way?

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.)
How about a Bollywood version of Pennies From Heaven?

29) Link to a picture/frame grab of a movie image that for you best illustrates bliss. Elaborate.
If I may cannibalize a previous blog entry, for my Cinema Gallery collection:

First love's pure bliss in A Little Romance. (George Roy Hill, 79; PHOTOG: Pierre-William Glenn). The absolute soaring of my heart--really, it was beating out of my chest--upon first experiencing this moment when I was 12 years old will never, ever, ever leave me. The feeling returns every time I see the film again.

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)
I have been chomping at the bit to contribute to this always-hilarious meme (thanks, Glenn), so I'll give it a try with five titles:
A Few Prefer It Rather Warm
Das Sub
To Mock A Killingbird
The Gospel According to St. Ides
Outhouse Five

Did I pass?

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