Wednesday 2 January 2008

A Winter Time Quiz

Dennis Cozzalio has posted his most recent seasonal quiz at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule - this time called the Professor Bertram Potts' Hella Homework For The Holidays Christmas Break Quiz. I posted my answers in response and thought I'd copy them here and include some further clips and such...

If you haven't submitted your own answers, do it! It's challenging, but a great deal of fun. Even better is reading everyone else's responses.

1) Your favorite opening shot (Here are some ideas to jog your memory, if you need ‘em.)

A few that spring to mind:

- "The Taste Of Tea": The short opening shot is of young teenage Hajime leaping in slo-mo over the camera as he chases a train leaving with a young girl. The entire sequence is great actually...Even though he's never spoken to the girl before, he has now invested his entire being into the idea of her. As he gives up pursuit, we see a straight on shot of him as the train suddenly comes out of his forehead (leaving a gaping hole) and flies off into the air with the young girl waving from it. The special effects border on being cheesy, but perfectly capture the moods and feelings of the character - and this sets up the rest of the film perfectly.

- "Boogie Nights": The huge long tracking shot that opens the film introduces all the major characters as it sweeps through the 70s atmosphere of the club. It's showy, but so well done.

- "Werckmeister Harmonies": The 10 minute opening shot weaves in and out of the drunken old men pretending to be planets and stars and contains one of the most evocative musical scores I've ever heard.

- "The Exodus": A straight back tracking shot from a closeup of The Queen (this helps sets the time period of the scene since it is set in Hong Kong) that reveals policemen dressed up in masks and flippers beating up a suspect. It's quite surreal and again sets up the rest of the film nicely as it jumps forward to present day.

2) Tuesday Weld or Mia Farrow?

Mia's likely the best actress (she was terrific in "Crimes And Misdemeanors"), but Tuesday was in "The Cincinnati Kid" and "Thief" and was gorgeous in "Lord Love A Duck" (the best thing about that film). Um, so I guess I like them both.

3) Name a comedy you’re embarrassed to admit made you laugh

"Jackass The Movie". It's completely juvenile, occasionally wince-inducing and in many ways a sign that the apocalypse is coming. But that damn golf cart scene is hysterically funny and there are several other moments that had me laughing in spite of my better judgement while also wondering how humanity could have gone so wrong...

4) Best Movie of 1947

"Out Of The Past". My favourite noir captures just about all the elements of the genre: flashbacks, a femme fatale (the quite ravishing Jane Greer), loads of shadows and a main character that knows and accepts his fate (Robert Mitchum at his cool best).

5) Burt Reynolds was the Bandit. Jerry Reed was the Snowman. Paul LeMat was Spider. Candy Clark was Electra. What’s your movie handle?

Uh, given my first name, how about "Palindrome Man"? No? I got nothin'...

6) Robert Vaughn or David McCallum?

Robert Vaughan easily...He has this smoothness about him that allows him to portray characters in control - whether he's the head of an evil corporation or an unflappable hero. No offence to McCallum, but Vaughan was in "Bullitt", "The Towering Inferno" AND appeared on "The Love Boat". Until McCallum can go mano-a-mano with Captain Stubing, he can't compete...

7) Most exotic/unusual place/location in which you've seen a movie

Nothing overly exotic, but we saw "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" outside City Hall here in Toronto a number of years ago. It was a lovely summer night and a big screen had been setup in the open space outside the Hall (which is a skating rink in winter). Families were scattered about the place eating food from vendor carts and establishing their line of sights wherever they could. In the end it made a so-so movie much more entertaining because of the environment and atmosphere.

8) Favorite Errol Morris movie

"Mr. Death: The Rise And Fall Of Fred A. Leuchter Jr." is an absolutely fascinating portrayal of a man in desperate need of validation - any validation. Leuchter is a designer and builder of death machines - from electric chairs to injection machines he has provided different jails methods of reducing their death rows. Morris tells this section of the film very stylishly, but it doesn't prepare you for the sudden shift in direction Leuchter's story takes as he a certain group of people with their own agenda start to lavish Leuchter with praise and get him to help their cause.

9) Best Movie of 1967

You're going to make me choose between Demy's "The Young Girls Of Rochefort", Kobayashi's "Samurai Rebellion", Melville's "Le Samourai:, Suzuki's "Branded To Kill and Tati's "Playtime"? Seriously?! OK, but that's the last favour I do for you for awhile (just try coming to ask for a couple of eggs again).

I'll take "Playtime" as I get lost in those wonderful sets and always find something new to look at. I missed a chance at seeing it on a big screen this past summer, but I hope to one day rectify that.

10) Describe a profoundly (or not-so-profoundly) disturbing moment you’ve had courtesy of the movies

During "Capturing The Friedmans" (the 2003 documentary about a father and son accused of sexually abusing children), there's a moment when the filmmakers are interviewing some of the police who helped with the case. While they spoke about the process and the interviews with the children (after rumours had been swirling), one of the cops says "well, of course, we had to help them remember...". It wasn't just the sudden realization that perhaps all was not clear cut or that the cops actually may have encouraged the kids to lie, but it was how absolutely matter of fact this guy was. He really thought this was OK...I let out a quite audible "Oh shit!" while in the theatre at that point.

11) Anne Francis or Julie Newmar?

Catwoman. After school. Age 11.

12) Describe your favorite one sheet (include a link if possible)

Pretty much the entire book "The Art Of Noir" by Eddie Muller. Beautiful colours, beautiful women and beautiful compositions.

Specific examples (some taken from a recent post on Beyond The Valley Of The Cinephiles:

Anatomy Of A Murder - Saul Bass, 'nuff said (though even cooler is this)

Point Blank - A gun coming out of Lee Marvin's head kinda says it all

Being John Malkovich - How could that not capture your attention and your imagination?

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt - I love the colour scheme of the puzzle pieces.

No Way Out (1950) - It has the feel of a classic Blue Note album cover.

13) Best Movie of 1987

"Raising Arizona" completely changed my view of movies. I'd never seen events filmed in such a dynamic fashion, nor with that kind of visual sense. My friends hated it, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

14) Favorite movie about obsession

Well, Fincher's recent "Zodiac" certainly qualifies. Not only does it hit the time period details perfectly and pull together a spawling two decade long tale, but it paints three great characters who are obsessed with finding the killer. Each ends up giving up a great deal.

"In The Realm Of The Senses" isn't what I would call a personal favourite and I'll likely never watch it again, but it depicts an all consuming obsession (of two characters for each other) like no other film I've seen.

15) Your ideal Christmas movie triple feature

I'm finding it hard to top what we watched this year: "A Christmas Story", "Jungle Book" and "Christmas In Connecticut".

16) Montgomery Clift or James Dean?

I never cared for James Dean...And Montgomery Clift had that great scene in "Red River" where he and John Ireland compared and shot off each others guns. Advantage Burns...Uh, I mean Clift.

17) Favorite Les Blank Movie

Burden Of Dreams for showing us that Herzog may have been as insane as Klaus Kinski (and he may still be). Of course, "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe" is terrific too.

18) This past summer food critic Anton Ego made the following statement: “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize that only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” Your thoughts?

I wouldn't necessarily agree that the critic risks nothing...Though it is usually to a lesser degree, the critic publically offers up their writing to be read and discussed - probably generating a greater deal of response than many other literary pieces in the same publications. The best kind of criticism can also be viewed as a form of art itself and therefore the authors put themselves in the same spot.

19) The last movie you watched on DVD? In a theater?

On DVD: "Unfaithfully Yours" by Preston Sturges. This is actually one of my favourite Sturges films with Rex Harrison playing a symphony conductor who believes his wife is cheating on him. During a concert, he imagines different resolutions to the whole situation including revenge, forgiveness and Russian Roulette. And the entire long slapstick sequence at the end where Rex essentially destroys his apartment is simply terrific. The last first time viewing on DVD was "Decoy" as I'm finally getting around to watching the 4th Warner Film Noir box. Jeanne Gilles is kinda uneven in it, but the story is strong and it ends pretty much perfectly.

In the theatre: I caught a double header Saturday of "No Country For Old Men" and "Juno". "No Country" didn't disappoint at all while "Juno" (though very good in most ways) didn't quite live up to the huge hype I'd read beforehand (though to be fair, how could it?). Great performances, terrific handling of the viewpoint of a 16 year-old girl and a funny if perhaps over-written script (best example being that oft-quoted snippet from the trailer - the etch-a-sketch line is good, but it didn't need the "doodle can't be undid, home skillet..." part).

20) Best Movie of 2007

"You The Living" by Roy Andersson.

Be pleased then, you the living, in your delightfully warmed bed, before Lethe’s ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot.

Through the many half-dead looking characters and short static washed out scenes, that above quote from the beginning of the film seems to say "find enjoyment in life where you can and make the most of it - because time is ticking...". The people in this film are just completely unable to do that. And yet the film is still very funny - much more so than 2000's "Songs From The Second Floor" (though it retains much of that film's style). Everything about this film - it's deadpan humour, the perfectly composed shots, the music, the strangely sympathetic characters - made me want to stay right in my seat and watch it all over again immediately.

21) Worst Movie of 2007

"Chaotic Ana" by Julio Medem. I wrote about it here and I don't want to waste any further breath on it.

22) Describe the stages of your cinephilia

Aside from looking forward to Saturday or Sunday night movies on TV (seeing "Jaws", "Close Encounters" and other 70s movies for the first time), the biggest push towards deeper investigation into film occurred during a Media Awareness course I took before University (I was 17). We watched "Network" and it worked for me on all sorts of different levels. I had never seen a movie that was capable of educating and skewering at the same time. And the acting...

I became a weekly movie goer with friends and then came along "Raising Arizona" as mentioned above. I began to notice directors and their styles. My interest continued to grow, but the next quantum leap was likely seeing the trailer for "Magnolia". I got goose bumps from watching the damn thing and caught the film twice in its opening week. 1999 was a terrific year for film and I had caught the bug. The next big step was several years later when I discovered a video store nearby my house. Wandering downstairs I found that they had quite the selection of foreign films which I had always meant to dive into. So I dove...

23) What is the one film you’ve had more difficulty than any other in convincing people to see or appreciate?

"Ocean's Twelve". People think it's a heist movie. It's not. It's an art film.

24) Gene Tierney or Rita Hayworth?

"Laura" over "Gilda" in a walk. Tierney is stunning in everything, particularly "Laura" and in "Heaven Can Wait" (where she and Don Ameche make quite the fetching couple).

25) The Japanese word wabi denotes simplicity and quietude, but it can also mean an accidental or happenstance element (or perhaps even a small flaw) which gives elegance and uniqueness to the whole. What film or moment from a film best represents wabi to you?

I found the following in Wikipedia describing "wabi" --> nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. So I immediately thought of the 2001 documentary on the art of Andy Goldsworthy called "Rivers And Tides". His artwork uses natural elements sculpted and arranged in nature. Once he is done with whatever he has created, he simply leaves it there - to eventually be destroyed or overgrown. Ice or sand sculptures are short lived, while rock stackings or structures made from found wood may last much longer. His creations provide some startling and beautiful images.

26) Favorite Documentary

I might have to stick with "Mr. Death" as it has that jaw dropping turn of events. I find it difficult to even whittle it down to 10 though - there are Political docs (like "Street Fight", "A Perfect Candidate", "Anytown USA"), Space docs ("For All Mankind", "In The Shadow Of The Moon"), Music docs ("The Last Waltz", "Stop Making Sense", "A Great Day In Harlem"), docs showing the world around us in different ways ("Lessons Of Darkness", "Man With A Movie Camera", "Microcosmos") and just plain entertaining docs ("Spellbound", "Wordplay", "Dogtown And Z-Boys"). But my overall favourite docs are usually those that discuss filmmaking itself. "Visions Of Light" lets the cinematographers have their say and provides clips of their work (this is where I first learned about "The Conformist") and "A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies" is a great lesson in 40s and 50s films with Scorsese passionately describing them (I love to listen to Scorsese talk about film).

27) Favorite opening credit sequence

A few:

- The slow zoom towards the pumpkin in the original "Halloween" with the classic theme music.
- David Fincher's "Panic Room" with those huge titles mixed in with the city's architecture.
- And like probably most other people who will respond to this - Saul Bass.

28) Is there a film that has influenced your lifestyle in a significant or notable way? If so, what was it and how did it do so?

I can't think of a film that would've have had that profound an effect on me. The notables would really be the ones that made me stand up and take notice of the possibilities of film itself and that have encouraged me to delve even deeper into this hobby. As mentioned previously, "Raising Arizona" and "Network" would be examples. I've certainly felt emotional gut punches and feelings of ecstasy from film before, but typically not something that is profound enough to alter my outlook on life as a whole. Just usually little tweaks here and there.

29) Glenn Ford or Dana Andrews?

"Ball Of Fire", "The Ox-Bow Incident", "Laura", "Fallen Angel", "Night Of The Demon". For those films as well as an amazing gift of being able to give someone an utter look of disgust, I have to hand it to Dana Andrews.

30) Make a single prediction, cynical or hopeful, regarding the upcoming Academy Awards

Neither "No Country For Old Men" nor "There Will Be Blood" will win Best Picture. Haven't seen TWBB yet (and I'm dying to), but even though they are both getting consistently startling reviews neither really sound like Academy type films.

31) Best Actor of 2007

I just haven't seen enough of this year's films and certainly few of the performances that are making the end of year lists, but my favourite male performance of the year was Michael Cera in "Superbad". He just hits all the right notes and I love his under the breath asides which are some of the movie's funniest moments. He was also terrific in "Juno".

32) Best Actress of 2007

Margo Martindale in the "14e Arrondissement" segment of "Paris Je T'Aime". She is so likeable, natural and without a shred of falseness to her. If at times you feel sorry for her, she certainly never once asks for your sympathy.

33) Best Director of 2007

Again, not having seen some of the ones I expect would be my favourites, I think Paul Greengrass did quite an amazing job of keeping the suspense and tension levels high through out "The Bourne Ultimatum". Having said that, I think it'll end up like the other two films of the trilogy - some scenes standing out in my memory and the rest fading away...Certainly the Coens put together a magnificent film with "No Country For Old Men", but I'm still letting that one rattle around in my brain for a bit.

34) Best Screenplay of 2007

"Zodiac" weaved its way through a complicated story spanning several decades and didn't miss a beat. "Hot Fuzz" was terrifically funny.

35) Favorite single movie moment of 2007

"You The Living". I wrote this on my blog back in September when I saw it:

"There's a moment in this film...It occurs just after a lengthy joyous dream a young woman has of marrying the guitarist she has recently met in a bar. The dream ends and the joy is brought back to the reality that the woman will not be making this far fetched dream come true. We cut to another woman casually sitting in a bathtub and she begins to sing. And she's singing this song we had heard not 10 minutes previously at a funeral. But now, there's this haunting beauty to it...

And at that moment I almost burst into tears.

I'm not quite sure why actually. Likely it was mostly due to the music (I'm a big fan of Scandinavian folk music) which was simply gorgeous. And it wasn't because I was emotionally torn up by any specific event in the film. But after the stark images that director Roy Andersson had supplied us with so far, the nightmares recounted and the dreams dashed, the happiness that seemed so far out of reach of the characters - this simple song seemed to capture everything that these people were missing."

36) What’s your wish/hope for the movies in 2008?

More small and foreign films released to theatres. I'm thrilled with the availability of things through DVD and do most of my viewing that way, but I'd like a bit more choice for those occasions I want to hit the big screen. Having said that, I'm extremely fortunate to live in a city like Toronto with a variety of film festivals and a fabulous Cinematheque.


Chet Mellema said...

"10) Describe a profoundly (or not-so-profoundly) disturbing moment you’ve had courtesy of the movies

During "Capturing The Friedmans" (the 2003 documentary about a father and son accused of sexually abusing children), there's a moment when the filmmakers are interviewing some of the police who helped with the case. While they spoke about the process and the interviews with the children (after rumours had been swirling), one of the cops says "well, of course, we had to help them remember...". It wasn't just the sudden realization that perhaps all was not clear cut or that the cops actually may have encouraged the kids to lie, but it was how absolutely matter of fact this guy was. He really thought this was OK...I let out a quite audible "Oh shit!" while in the theatre at that point."

That tingles my spine...and not in a good way. I saw Capturing the Friedman's a few years ago and didn't even pick up on that. What a darkly powerful film.

Two other points:
1) Give yourself more credit, you convinced me to watch Ocean's Twelve; and
2) I laughed myself silly during Jackass...except the papercut scene. That made me sick.

All in all, great answers. I love his "quizes."

Bob Turnbull said...

Yeah, I'm already looking forward to the next quiz (hopefully a Spring one). Loved your answers too Chet.

And I could barely watch that paper cut scene...Queasy-city.

dana said...

Great post, so much I agree with you on! but most of all:

Margo Martindale in the "14e Arrondissement" segment of "Paris Je T'Aime". She is so likeable, natural and without a shred of falseness to her. If at times you feel sorry for her, she certainly never once asks for your sympathy.

YES. that was by far the best segment of the movie, and had me in happy/sad tears the entire time. Martindale was perfect!

and I'm dying to see TWBB too -- this weekend! finally!

Anonymous said...

You've got some great choices here. I haven't had time to actually go through and do the whole thing yet myself, but have a few ideas nonetheless. A comedy I'm embarrassed to have laughed at would definitely be Dirty Work. Don't know if you've seen it, but it's really ridiculous. To give you an idea of just how much, it was directed by Bob Saget. Ha.

Oh, and for opening shot, I'm not sure of my absolute favorite, but a recent quality one was the letter traveling through the mail department in Zodiac. Loved that shot.

Bob Turnbull said...

Dana, I tried to go see TWBB this past Saturday night, but both showings were sold out (it was only playing in the one theatre in all of Toronto). Haven't had a chance to go again and won't until maybe mid-next week.

Glad you agree with Martindale.

CG, get with those answers man! You know, every time I read something about Zodiac, it makes me want to see it again. I'm not completely ape over it like some, but it's certainly building stronger in my mind as time passes...

Anonymous said...

I actually posted up a review for Zodiac: Director's Cut last night. Check it out when you have a minute.

If you do end up watching the film again, you can't go wrong with this new incarnation. I found it superior to the theatrical cut.

Bob Turnbull said...

Thanks cg...Read your review - nice job. I do certainly feel the need to rewatch and dig into some of the supplements, so I may seek out that director's cut.