I've really been neglecting this blog in 2015. My love for film is as strong as ever, but I haven't felt much desire to write about movies this year. I don't know why, though I suspect part of it is a sense of sadness at the massive cultural push to place television where film used to be and the lack of space in the marketplace for anything that's not a Hollywood blockbuster. In many ways, I'm a man out of time.
Enough of that depressing business. Here's a bit of fun from the always enjoyable film blog, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Writer Dennis Cozzalio presents a film quiz a handful of times a year, and I usually post my answers in the comments section of his blog. This time, I've decided to put my answers here as a way to wake this blog from its current cryogenic hibernation.
1) Favorite moment from a Coen Brothers movie:
The Big Lebowski, beginning to end. It might just be skilled sleight of hand on the Coens' part, but this movie feels so much looser, freer, and more relaxed than the rest of their filmography.
2) Scratching The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty, and The Hudsucker Proxy from consideration, what would you now rate as your least favorite Coen Brothers movie?
Even their weakest films have moments that grab me (and I'm a bigger Hudsucker Proxy fan than this question allows), but I haven't had the desire to revisit O Brother, Where Art Thou? since seeing it in the theater. It looked a little too postcard beautiful, the jokes landed too hard, and the characters seemed thinner than in most Coen movies. My opinion about all these things could change on a second viewing, though.
3) Name the most underrated blockbuster of all time.
Gremlins was a huge hit in 1984 and doesn't seem to get mentioned often enough in 2015. Joe Dante is the man.
4) Ida Lupino or Sylvia Sidney?
I love Ida Lupino in The Man I Love and The Big Knife, but Sylvia Sidney gets the slight nod for her performances in Fritz Lang's Fury and You and Me, Larry Cohen's wonderfully insane God Told Me To, and Beetlejuice.
5) Edward Scissorhands - yes or no?
A big yes.
6) The movie you think most bastardizes, misinterprets, or does a disservice to the history or historical event it tries to represent.
I thought about a couple of my biggest pet peeves, formulaic biopics and movies about "the 60s," and then I remembered The Birth of a Nation. Griffith was a pioneer who made many great movies, but this film is a huge stain on him, on Hollywood, and on a country that's still massively screwed up about race.
7) Favorite Aardman animation:
The Wrong Trousers
8) Second favorite Olivier Assayas movie:
A New Life or Carlos or maybe Demonlover. I can't decide. Picking my favorite was easier (Irma Vep). Let's go with Carlos.
9) Neville Brand or Mike Mazurki?
Mike Mazurki was in Some Like it Hot, Donovan's Reef, and Alligator and was also a professional wrestler, so I'm going with him.
10) Name the movie you would cite to a nonbeliever as the best evidence toward convincing them of the potential greatness of a favorite genre.
A quadruple feature of Ford's Wagon Master, Hawks' Rio Bravo, King's The Gunfighter, and Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch for anyone claiming to hate westerns. If it could only be one, then Rio Bravo.
11) Name any director and one aspect of his/her style or career, for good or bad, that sets her/him apart from any other director.
Jean-Luc Godard's stylistic and formal choices and his integration of image, sound, music, and the use of letters and words as part of the image in an almost shaken jigsaw puzzle fragmentation (but way more elegant and composed than that description makes it sound) instantly let you know it's his movie and no one else's. Plenty of people can't stand his films, and I'm not always open to the experience, but I feel mostly favorable toward his body of work.
12) Best car chase:
I'm a big fan of the wrong way on the freeway chase in William Friedkin's To Live and Die in LA. If we opened this up to television, many Rockford Files episodes would be contenders.
13) Favorite moment directed by Robert Aldrich:
Maybe too obvious, but Cloris Leachman running down a highway, barefoot, in the middle of the night, then getting picked up by Ralph Meeker, who drives them right into the backwards credits in the opening to Kiss Me Deadly. Awesome.
14) The last movie you saw in a theater? On home video?
Theater: Mississippi Grind
Home video: Sexy Beast
15) Jane Greer or Joan Bennett?
As much as I love Jane Greer in Out of the Past, I have to pick Joan Bennett because she's been in more films that mean more to me and I find her pretty hypnotic.
16) Second favorite Paul Verhoeven movie:
Total Recall, just barely beating out Showgirls (Robocop is my favorite)
17) Your nominee for best/most important political or social documentary you've seen:
I realize a 10-1/2 hour documentary about the Holocaust and its aftermath told through the lives of both survivors and perpetrators is a hard sell, but Claude Lanzmann's Shoah is the greatest political, social, and historical documentary I've seen, and I hope everyone makes time for it at some point in their lives.
18) Favorite movie twins:
My sister just gave birth to twins, so I may be setting myself up for trouble here, but it's Jeremy Irons as the Mantle brothers in Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, with honorable mentions for the twins in The Shining.
19) Best movie or movie moment about or involving radio:
I love Adrienne Barbeau's DJ and her radio station in a lighthouse in John Carpenter's The Fog. Honorable mention to the radio station in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
20) Eugene Pallette or William Demarest?
Few things make me happier than noticing Eugene Pallette's name in the opening credits of an old movie. A lovable crank with a froggy voice and a knack for straight-facedly delivering oddly hilarious one-liners? I'm a fan for life.
21) Favorite moment directed by Ken Russell:
The first six seconds of the following clip from The Lair of the White Worm:
22) All-time best movie cat:
I know the movie is only a year or two old, but I think the cat in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is pretty close to the top. This has been a great year or three for movie cats (Manglehorn, Results, Mississippi Grind, Inside Llewyn Davis, Computer Chess). Also, shout-outs to Elliot Gould's cat in The Long Goodbye, Sigourney Weaver's cat in Alien, all the cats in Agnes Varda's movies, and the cat in G.A. Smith's 1901 comedic short The Sick Kitten. If you can't already tell, I like cats, and I think they're the most cinematic of all the animals.
23) Your nominee for best movie about teaching and learning, followed by the worst:
I'm serious when I say Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the relationship between Mr. Hand and Spicoli are my favorite teaching moments in film, though Laurent Cantet's The Class is probably the most accurate. Worst: any of the magical inspirational teacher/coach/principal movies, with Dead Poets Society as the figurehead.
24) Name an actor /actress currently associated primarily with TV who you'd like to see on the big screen.
I'm always so far behind on TV shows that when I see an actor I like, he or she is usually already working in film. I'd like to see Edie Falco and everyone from Deadwood on the big screen more often, though.
25) Stanley Baker or David Farrar?
I haven't seen either actor in much of anything, so I pass.
26) Critic Manny Farber once said of Frank Capra that he was "an old-time movie craftsman, the master of every trick in the bag, and in many ways he is more at home with the medium than any other Hollywood director, but all the details give the impression of a contrived effect." What is the Capra movie that best proves or disproves Farber's assertion? And who else in Hollywood history might just as easily fit his description?
The Bitter Tea of General Yen showed range and a dark, strange side he usually hid, while It's a Wonderful Life and It Happened One Night feel pretty genuine to me. All three films feel honest in their emotion and expressiveness. I don't think Capra is the cornpone sentimentalist he was accused of being. I think Farber's description fits Steven Spielberg more than it does Capra.
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