Thursday, June 21, 2007

Really Challenging Movie Quiz

Nobody responded/took this quiz after I posted it. That still annoys me. There's still time to change that. C'mon, you know you want to! Originally posted 8/4/06:

Okay, I took it's your turn movie lovers. The questions are courtesy of, a terrific movie/Deadwood blog.

1) Does film best tell the truth (Godard) or tell lies (De Palma) at 24 frames per second? (Thanks, Peet)Jeez, philosophy so early? Okay, lets get down! Film may seem best suited for mindless fantasies, but even some of the most mundane films touch on emotions and ideas that are based in truth. Take any lousy studio film and there will be hopefully at least one or two moments that transcend the genre or lousy filmmaking. One example off the top of my head: The Devil Wears Prada. This was, to quote one of its main characters, a sad little person of a film. The actors were game, there were some fine moments, but the director was afraid to go near anything resembling the reality of the situation and was content to craft another in a long line of Rakes Progress stories, in which our hero/heroine puts their ideals aside and sells their soul (evident because her friends, family and lover all tell the protagonist that shes selling her soul). However one moment stands apart and that was the scene where Streep takes Hathaway to task for dismissing fashion as unimportant. Miranda explains harshly and directly how the petty little discussions about what look will be in this fall have a trickle down effect and that every aspect of the Casual Corner outfit that she threw together for work that day had been the result of a three year cycle that began in an office just like theirs. I was engrossed by the dialogue, the acting, and the idea that people and industries we completely take for granted all have a major effect on our lives. The rest of the movie doesnt touch this scene. As for the films that are at the other end of the spectrum, the art films or message movies, I have encountered more worldly truths in their unspooling than in any other art medium, and since I love music, photography and art in general, this is not something I say lightly. Just watch Ikiru thats all Ive got to say bout that.

2) Ideal pairing of actors/actresses to play on-screen siblings
Hmmm, since it doesnt say living or dead, I get to play what if? How about a dark comedy about two eccentric brothers who live in an old restored Ohio farmhouse/B&B starring John Belushi and Jack Black. Think Arsenic & Old Lace meets The Ladykillers.

3) Favorite special effects moment
Hands down, the moment the bone turns into a space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey. There may be better effects, better CGI and more dynamic transitions, but nobody touches the shocking break into the silent totality of space.

4) Matt Damon or George Clooney?
Matt Damon has been responsible for two huge laughs for me recently, in films he had nothing to do with whatsoever. The beyond retarded Matt Damon doll in Team America that only says, Matt Damon and a throwaway line in The 40-Year-Old Virgin where The Bourne Supremacy is running on a TV and Paul Rudd says, You know, I always thought Matt Damon was kind of a Streisand, but he kicks ass in this one. Theres something about Rudds line delivery that just cracks me up every time I see it. That being said, I can think of some tremendous work that Damon has done: the emaciated drug-addict soldier in Courage Under Fire, the pseudo anti-semite in School Ties, and especially Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley. I also love his cameos in the Askew Universe films and smaller role in the Oceans 11/12 flicks.. Im not particulary fond of Good Will Hunting, though. Hes also responsible for the single most unrealistic moment in a film ever: when newly single Mike McDermott turns down Famke Jannsens advances in Rounders. Sure, Im buying that one. But, my choice is easily George Clooney. Hes the only major actor working today who I believe has a chance to be remembered in the same breath as Gable, Grant, and Stewart. Hes not there yet, and Im not saying he will be. But, I knew there was something special about him when I saw an old Roseanne episode where he played her boss. He just had it, and his subsequent work on E.R. built on that. While affected for television, there was something about his manner that allowed him to play the charming rogue in a way I cant recall ever seeing on TV before or since. I even loved him in From Dusk Til Dawn. Once his work for hire phase ended with The Peacemaker, he hasnt looked back. People seem to forget how charming he was in Three Kings, O Brother Where Art Thou and in the vastly underrated Intolerable Cruelty, and I see him in a phase where he moves comfortably between mainstream or dark comedy, drama and more challenging fare like Solaris (not as good as Tarkovskys but a nice try by Soderbergh, anyway). Besides Nicholson and Warren Beatty, I cant think of another actor whos done that as effectively as Clooney in the last three decades.

5) What is the movie youve encouraged more people to see than any other?
Ikiru without a doubt. Its the most amazing film Ive ever seen, and I seem to hit a brick wall when I tell them its a 2+ hour drama about a dying Japanese bureaucrat in the 1950s. Then, they see the final 15 minutes and fall to pieces. See it!!!

6) Favorite film of 1934
It Happened One Night. Besides Gone With The Wind, this is my favorite Gable perfomance. As an early screwball comedy (kind of ur-screwball), it bridged the gap between the broader comedies of the 20s and early 30s with the urbane wit of the later 30s/40s ones. I loved Claudette Colbert, who is an odd mix of sexy/bitchy/sophistication/vulnerabilty that to be honest, I never saw in anything else she ever did.

7) Your favorite movie theater*
The New Beverly Cinema, on Beverly and LaBrea in Los Angeles. Theyre the only pure revival house left in LA, and they have a new double feature ever 3 days or so. They take suggestions from their patrons, so check it out. Ive seen some great stuff and some odd stuff here. I saw the restored Abel Gance Napoleon print here earlier this year, and seeing The Godfather and Millers Crossing back to back on the big screen was a revelation. I unequivocally deny that I ever had sexual relations with anyone in the back row of this theater, though; its just a rumor and theres no proof. Ha!

8) Jean Arthur or Irene Dunne?
Do I get a third option? Its not that I dont like their work, but Ive never completely gotten either of these actresses. For my money, Id take Constance Bennett over either of them. Since I have to choose, Ill take Dunne, strictly for her work in The Awful Truth. Carole Lombard kicks all their asses, though.

9) Favorite film made for children
Hmmma straight childrens flick or one of those subversive films that was supposedly made for children but carred a secret agenda within? How about one of each: Babe, which has an bit of an agenda but is basically what its supposed to be a film to make you happy about the very unlikely underpig and his mission to be the best sheep pig in wherever it is that its supposed to be set. And I love those singing mice! Subversive: Mary Poppins. I cant explain why, except to say that seeing it on acid made me realize how twisted this little movie is.

10) Favorite Martin Scorsese Movie
Yikesthis is like asking someone their favorite sexual position. Is there a bad one? Well, yeah, my least favorite is Bringing Out The Dead and dont even try to argue with me about it. But, favorite they all have some special meaning to me. I can take the safe route and say Raging Bull or Goodfellas, or I could be a contrarian and choose The King of Comedy, which is just awesome (Jerry Lewis rules in this movie). But, Ill go even more out there and say that for several reasons, Id probably have to say Alice Doesnt Live Here Anymore. I know its not a masterpiece, but this is one of the first adult films I ever saw by myself, in 1976 at the Plaza Theater in Newhall, CA. It was the B portion of the bill, and for some reason, the guy who programmed the theater kept attaching it to all kinds of A movies. And I kept coming back to see Alice week after week (I got in free!). I fell in love with Jodie Foster and her opening line, Hey kid, wanna get high on ripple?, it was the first movie where I learned to hate the oily abusive asshole that only Harvey Keitel can play, and I also fell deeply in love with Ellen Burstyn and the spirit of Kris Kristofferson. Is it Scorseses best? Not by a long shot but its still my favorite!

11) Favorite film about children
Oooh, good one. Well, there was an awful flick called The Children that was on Showtime in the early 80s about zombie children killing people, but I digress. For my money, Ill take The Bad Seed. I realize its kind of stagy and hammy, but theres just something deliciously subversive in what a sociopathic monster little Rhoda is. And I love Patty McCormack, the girl who will get her way and whats owed her regardless of how many people she has to kill to get it. You want creepy watch as she explains calmly to her mother how she beat her classmate to death with her shoes and that the crescent shaped injuries on her hands were caused by her beating his hands with them as he tried to climb back onto the pier from the lake. And her final discussion with her father about her neighbors lovebirds that shes been promised if anything happens to her. Do lovebirds live a long time daddy? I suppose they, do? As long as people? No, not as long as people. The play ends here the studio tacked on a Gods retribution ending in the film where she gets struck by lightning. Apparently, 50s audiences couldnt be trusted to handle an ending where the sociopath wins.

12) Favorite film of 1954
Without a doubt, The Seven Samurai. Like all of Kurosawas films, theres a lot more going on than just swordfighting and bandit killing. It took me a long time to get around to seeing this (late 90s), and boy was I pissed when I saw it. Needless to say, its in semi-permanent rotation in my DVD collection. Does it get any cooler than the quiet swordmaster coming back from his night of bandit assassination, with the look of a guy who just rotated some tires.

13) Favorite screenplay written by a writer more famous for literature than screenplays
Yikes, this is a toughie. How about The Misfits by Arthur Miller. It has Marilyns best (and final completed) performance, Gables last one (and a damned good one, too), a tragic one by Monty Clift (who was wasting away from alcoholism, and an underrated one by Eli Wallach. It gets lost in its Hollywood mystique, but I think its a damned good movie.

14) Walter Matthau or Jack Lemmon?
Jack Lemmon did some great stuff in his career, but I am very partial to Walter Matthau. The Bad News Bears Morris Buttermaker is a genius creation, and I just dont see one of Jacks characters matching him. I also love them together, and theres a funny scene at the end of Buddy Buddy where the hit man played by Matthau is going to kill a mobster who is in a police cordon. I cant remember why exactly, but Lemmon ends up taking the shot with the rifle (theyre in a high-rise hotel room); he cant shoot straight and tells Matthua, Oh no, I think I shot a cop. Matthau leaps at him and screams, You fucker!, not realizing that Lemmon had actually shot the mobster, who was disguised as a police officer. Matthaus reaction is just classic.

15) Favorite character name
Jake Gittes from Chinatown. Theres something about the name that lends itself to condecension, by the cop Escobar, the PI Mulvehill and mostly, by Noah Cross, who cant even be bothered to pronounce it correctly (Mr. Gitts, he calls him). At this point, they should just refer to PIs as Gittes instead.

16) Favorite screenplay adapted from a work of great literature, either by the author himself or by someone else
Wonder Boys. How is this movie not more beloved? It has everything a great film should have and even a non-annoying Katie Holmes. Talk about a hatchet marketing job by the studio. This should be re-released every year until people finally get it.

17) Favorite film of 1974Forget it, Jakeits Chinatown, in a rout. If you want, Ill write all day long about this, what may be my favorite movie of all time (Im still not sure if I could choose The Godfather over it if forced). According to Robert Towne, the screenwriter, Chinatown symbolizes fate in the film, and much like the great classical tragedies, you can see this movie a million times and always pray it ends differently. You know where this runaway train is careening towards, but you cant help but watch it and hope the disaster is averted, just one time. Noah Cross. the chief villian, isnt fire and brimstone evil, hes far more satanic in his brilliant manipulations. And hes played by friendly, nice old John Huston. Let me tell you, if there is a hell and Satan is hanging out there waiting for souls to arrive, he looks and speaks just like Noah Cross. I said in a recent comment on this film that it symbolizes the idea that just when you think youve got it all figured out, you really dont know jack. And in this film, Jack/Jake doesnt know jack. However, there are people who have issues with this film. Check out the message boards on IMDB for Chinatown and read the I Dont Get It posts if you need a good chuckle.

18) Joan Severance or Shannon Tweed?
Shannon Tweed did some beautiful B&W nudes with old pinup photographer George Hurrell, and they were lovely. She was gorgeous back in the day, but unfortunately, both she and Joan have the synthetic look of someone whos made just a few trip too many to the local plastic surgeon. If forced, Ill take Joan she did exceptional work as Mel Profitt's sister on the TV Show Wiseguy (Mel was played by Kevin Spacey back when he did crazy for fun and wasnt addicted to winning Oscars).

19) jackass: the movie-- yes or no?
Fuck yeah. Ive only had a few stop breathing, fall on the floor, laugh until your sternums ready to explode moments in my life, and the first time I saw this movie (as well as some select episodes of the show) was one of those times. Why is it funny? I dont know, maybe its the prank calls and stupid things I did in my youth that makes me identify with this insane band of morons. The opening segment, where Johnny Knoxville rents a car and then converts it into a race car, runs it in the destruction derby and then tries to return it to the agency, is pure brilliance. Also, Johnny dressed up in very old man makeup and shoplifting in a convenience store is beyond funny. Partyman dancing in the Japanese department store, Stevo snorting wasabi up his nose, and the last scene where one of the guys sticks a toy car up his ass and then goes to the doctor to complain about the pain hes been having since he passed out at that party (when the MD reviews the X-Ray and finds the car, he speaks to someone in a foreign language on the phone, talking about the gay guy who put a car in his ass). Even my Dad loved this movie, and hes got nowhere near the bad taste that I do.

20) Favorite John Cassavetes Movie
I have to be honest. The only Cassavetes film I can recall seeing is the original Gloria, with Gena Rowlands. While I loved this movie, I have a huge gap in my Cassavetes knowledge. So, I really cant offer up any meaningful insight here. My fave Cassevetes acting performance is of course, Guy Woodhouse in Rosemarys Baby. When I think of the villain of this piece, I dont think of Satan, or Roman & Minnie or the rest of the *yuck* naked middle-aged Satanists, I think of Guy. At least the Satanists had a warped, twisted evil belief system Guy did what he did out of greed and the desire for power and success. His giddiness at his thriving acting career is disgusting when you consider that he knows that one person has gone blind for his action, another died and he has essentially sold off his wifes womb to the Devil in exchange for that career. I just love when he tries to rationalize his actions to Rosemary at the end, and she spits in his face.

21) First R-rated movie you ever saw
I honestly dont remember if this correct, but I know one of the first was One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. My family let me see anything R-rated from a very early age, so I may have seen something else at the Mustang Drive-In prior to Cuckoos Nest. I dont that we went and saw that movie three times that week.

22) Favorite X-rated film (remember that, while your answer may well be a famous or not-so-famous hard-core film, the "X" rating was once also a legitimate rating that did not necessarily connote pornography)
Well, Id say Midnight Cowboy, but it was appealed down to an R rating upon re-release, and besides, thats no fun. I've never seen hardcore porn before, so I consulted my buddy Viz Romanoff. He gave me a list of movies that he recommends, but he says if he has to choose just one, itll probably be The Devil In Miss Jones. Supposedly, its a well made story about a virgin woman who commits suicide and is sentenced to eternal damnation. Before she goes on the her final torment, she is given the opportunity to experience all the pleasures of the flesh. She agrees and the rest of the film is an exploration of numerous sexual fantasies and acts that turn her into a complete nympho. Finally, once shes seen and done it all, the Devil tells her that she must now go into hell. She ends up in a room occupied by a man who she wants to have sex with her, but hes so crazy that he wont touch her. She now realizes the true suffering is the knowledge and extreme desire for something she will never have again. Hmm, sounds cool, Ill have to check it out one of these days.

23) Best film of 1994
Its a tough choice between Pulp Fiction & Heavenly Creatures, but PF wins by a narrow margin. PF may be derivative and an homage to certain old films, but its particular melange is one Ive never encountered before or since. Is there a better soundtrack to take you right into the movie, with songs like the Urge Overkill version of Girl, Youll Be A Woman Soon and Chuck Berrys You Never Can Tell? My favorite thing about PF is what Vincent Vega refers to as the little differences. Weve all seen the film noir about the palooka forced to take a dive and instead fights the mobsters threatening his life; did any of these movies end up with the boxer tied to a chair by refugees from Deliverance, forced to escaped and kill the buggerers with a samurai sword? How many movies kill the only thing resembling a lead protagonist halfway through and then have him come back at the end and still have you care what happens to him? From the throwaway lines, like correctamundo, the Big Kahuna burger discussion, Jimmy talking about the coffee he makes and his preference for oak bedroom furniture, and seasoned hitman Jules telling his boss that you have no idea how explosive this Bonnie situation is, to the deeper spiritual themes running through the film (ask yourself why Vincent really dies? the answers in the final scene if you listen hard enough), PF grabs you and never lets go. Its one of the few films of the 90s, along with Goodfellas, Unforgiven and Heavenly Creatures that I watch 2-3 times every year, without fail.

24) Describe a moment in a movie that made you weep
In Ikiru, the final scene of Watanabe on the swing set, with the smile on his face of a man who is already in heaven. If you dont tear up at that moment, check your pulse. If Im doing a scene that requires crying, thats the one Ill think of. Theres one other scene and its the one Im going to mention in Q.26. The scene is one of the most famous from Unforgiven, and I guess it makes me cry because its one of the first times I ever really felt what killing a person would be like and what the emotional repurcussions would be. It honestly was one of the moments in life that helped turn me from a death penalty supporter to an opponent.

25) Ewan McGregor or Ewan Bremner?
I really do love Ewan Bremner (hes Spud from Trainspotting, for God sake it doesnt get much better than his interview at the travel agency flipping on speed, does it?) and would love him to do more work that we can see over here. He was great in his small but crucial role in Match Point. But theres no way Ewan doesnt get my vote hes so damned underrated, and I hate that more people know him because of Star Wars and Moulin Rouge instead of Trainspotting and Shallow Grave. Mark Renton is such a fascinating character, and I still cant see him as anything else. Renton is the hero of the film, but if you think about it, hes responsible for so many of the bad things that happen in the film. Think about it: if he hadnt swapped out the homemade porn from Tommys collection, his girlfriend wouldnt have dumped him, he wouldnt have tried heroin and he wouldnt have died of AIDS. But regardless, McGregor makes Renton such a lovable rogue that you just cant root against him. Another flick I love McGregor in is one that was summarily dismissed by critics and audiences alike, Down With Love. I just dont understand why nobody gets this movie its a great homage to the Doris Day/Rock Hudson films of the 60s, it has wickedly sharp dialogue, exceptional set direction and David Hyde-Pierces best performance of his career. I think people saw McGregors Catcher Block as a quasi-Austin Powers but I didnt see that at all. I find him to be a quintessential extract of the Playboy Man/Metrosexual types of that era, played so well by Cary Grant and Rock Hudson in all those fluffy movies. McGregor is a daring actor (see: the Pillow Book for a perfect example), and I hope he finally achieves the recognition as such.

26) One of your favorite line readings (not necessarily one of your favorite lines) from this or any year
Im going to quote a scene from Unforgiven, and I really believe its one of the only perfect scenes ever put on film. In case you havent seen it, Wil Munny is played by Clint Eastwood and The Schoefield Kid is played by Jaimz Woolvetz.

Munny takes a big pull on the bottle, returns it to The Kid, and walks back to the edge of the rise to resume his vigil. The rider is a little closer now and the sun is a little lower. It is very beautiful.

THE KID (drinking heavy) I shot that fucker three times. He was takin' a shit. He went for his pistol an' I blazed away... first shot got him in the chest...

The Kid wipes whiskey from his chin. He has been working hard to make the hysteria he feels into a high... but it won't quite come.

THE KID Say, Bill...

MUNNY Yeah. Munny is watching the rider and the rider is closer.

THE KID That was... the first one.

MUNNY First one what?

THE KID First one I ever killed.

MUNNY (preoccupied with his vigil) Yeah?

THE KID How I said I shot five men... it wasn't true. (long pause) That Mexican... the one that come at me with a knife... I busted his leg with a shovel... I didn't shoot him or nothin'.

Munny is watching the rider and the rider is much closer but coming at a walk and Munny goes back over to The Kid for a pull on the bottle and he's trying to make The Kid feel okay when he says...

MUNNY Well, that fella today, you shot him alright.

THE KID (forced bravado) H-hell yeah. I killed the hell out of him... three shots... he was takin' a sh-sh-shit an'... an'...

The Kid is shaking, becoming hysterical, he can't go on, and Munny hands the bottle back.

MUNNY Take a drink, Kid.

THE KID (breaking down, crying) Oh Ch-ch-christ... it don't... it don't seem... real... How he's... DEAD... how he ain't gonna breathe no more... n-n-never. Or the other one neither... On account of... of just... pullin' a trigger.

Munny walks back to the edge of the rise and watches the rider and it is a lovely sunset happening and he is talking to no one in particular.

MUNNY It's a hell of a thing, ain't it, killin' a man. You take everythin' he's got... an' everythin' he's ever gonna have...

THE KID (trying to pull him-self together) Well, I gu-guess they had it... comin'.

MUNNY We all got it comin', Kid.

27) What, if any, element in a film, upon your hearing of its inclusion beforehand, would most likely prejudice you against seeing that film or keeping an open mind about it?
If it was designed to portray Scientology in a positive light. Im sorry to offend any Scientology supporters, but I have personal reasons for despising that organization I didnt base my opinion on media coverage.

28) Favorite Terry Gilliam Movie
Twelve Monkeys. Wow, this movie gets better every time I see it. I love the links to Vertigo, the way that fate, in its Shakespearean cruelty, plays such a role in the end of the film, and the brilliant performances by Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe and Brad Pitt. I tell people that this movie is sad, from beginning to end, and youd better not expect to walk out of the theater ready to skip down the road. But, I do think it reinforces how important it is to remember that every day could be our last, that love should never be taken for granted, and that sometimes, like in Chinatown, being good, righteous and determined only gets you so far. I love everything about this film: the score, the lighting, the cinematography. It continues to rise on my list of all-time favorites every time I watch it.

29) Jean Smart or Annie Potts?
God, theyve both done interesting work. My favorite Potts film is Ken Russells Crimes of Passion. She plays a frigid wife who drives her husband to visit prostitutes, and her meltdown as she realizes that a horrible sex life, totally unimportant and meaningless to her, has completely destroyed her marriage. Theres a scene where she tries to seduce her husband late in the film, and she tries to bring up their high school sexual exploits and then she just stops, as she realizes that she just doesnt have it in her. The devastation that she exudes is brilliantly portrayed. I love Jean Smart as the slutty white trash mother of Peter Skaarsgaard in Garden State. The way she flaunts her sex life with her sons high school friend (the knight) was just disgusting; Ive known older pothead losers like her before, and the performance was way too close to home. Anyway, I score it a tie.

30) Is it possible to know with any certainty if you could like or love someone based partially on their taste in movies? If so, what film might be a potential relationship deal-breaker for you, or the one that might just seal that deal?
I definitely think that a good start to a relationship would be to have similar tastes to someone in films, but obviously, Ive known plenty of women whove owned more Criterion DVDs than I do who I would never consider dating. For me, if a woman can analyze films (or music or any other cultural area), her taste is not as important as what drives it. However, if someone loved The Godfather, The Graduate, Ikiru and Chinatown as much as I do, then it would be difficult to turn her down. The deal breaker would be if someone told me her favorite film was The Rock and favorite comedy was The Wedding Planner. Oh wait, that already happened to me once. Her love of Escalades and hip hop culture and hatred of sushi were contributing factors, but I just remember thinking the entire time after she told me of her movie tastes, I could never love a woman who thinks those are the pinnacle of 100+ years of film history.

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