Monday 14 December 2009

Oh what fun it is... do the Professor's quizzes!

It's quiz time again over at Sergio Leone and The Infield Fly Rule. This time Dennis has got the Professor to make his biggest and likely best one yet. Entitled Professor Russell Johnson's "My Ancestors Came Over On The Minnow" Thanksgiving/Christmas Movie Quiz (crazy Americans cramming Thanksgiving so close to another holiday), it'll give you hours o' fun trying to answer the questions as well as reading all the varied responses. Now go partake.

1) Second-favorite Coen Brothers movie.

Why Professor? Why do you make me choose? “Raising Arizona” will likely forever remain number one due to its influence on me, but number 2 will randomly shift between about half of their output. Right now? I'm leaning to "O Brother Where Art Thou" mainly because of its music.

2) Movie seen only on home format that you would pay to see on the biggest movie screen possible?

First thing I thought of was Jacques Tati's "Play Time". I'd love to see all the detail and get a better look at everything going on in the corners of the frame. Just to spend some time in those glorious sets at that size would be reason enough.

3) Japan or France?

Tati, Demy, Malle & Melville versus Kobayashi, Kurosawa (both of them), Suzuki & Kitano? Damn...I have to go with Japan though. There's a certain energy many of the filmmakers bring to their craft and a constant feeling of never being able to tell what you might see onscreen next.

4) Favorite moment/line from a western.

From “Rio Bravo”:

"Man gets shot that's got a gun, there's room for reasonable doubt. Man gets shot that hasn't got a gun, what would you call it? But, you knew that already otherwise you wouldn't have set things up the way you did."

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?

Considering the image heavy content of my own blog, I would have to go with painting as the art form that I most appreciate in its relation to film. I almost said photography - the way you can play with degrees and shades of lighting - but I love it when filmmakers behave in more, well, "painterly" ways. Whether it's a rainbow of colours ("Survive Style 5+", Mario Bava, etc.) or muted palettes ("Songs From The Second Floor” or "Le Cercle Rouge"), I love to see a director play with their colour scheme.

But I can't forget to mention music...The importance it has in setting mood, teasing out emotions and in manipulation can't be overstated.

6) Most misunderstood movie of the 2000s?

My favourite soapbox - "Ocean's Twelve” is not a heist movie. It's an art film.

7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.

"The Gumball Rally". I loved this film as a kid. The idea of the race, the episodic nature of the film and the cars themselves were a lot of fun. But upon reviewing it again for the first time in decades when it got released to DVD, I found myself hugely disappointed. The funny bits weren't very funny and the not funny bits were boring. Perhaps with my expectations set so high for the initial rewatch, it couldn't help but be a letdown. Here's hoping a future rewatch might lessen the blow.

8) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?

For me, Herbert Lom will always be Chief Inspector Dreyfus from those Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies. Whether they hold up today or not, they were big in my youth (saw them several times at drive-ins with my family and we'd howl every time).

9) Which is your least favorite David Lynch film

"Eraserhead" is a marvel in many ways - as a first film, as a visual treat and as a disturbing tale - but it just doesn't engage me anywhere near as much as his other films (though I have not seen key titles like "Dune" or "Inland Empire" yet).

10) Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall?

For the record, this response has nothing to do with who is "better". I just want that on the books, OK? So given that, it looks like Willis has been cinematographer on more films that I really like, so I give him the nod. I thought it would go to Hall, but no such luck. Hall did do "Electra Glide In Blue", though, which is a damn stunning film at times...

11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.

I really have to add a bunch of his titles to my need-to-see list. Just looking through IMDB, I noticed "The Big Steal” which looks great (Mitchum and Greer). Of the ones I've seen, I have a great fondness for "Escape From Alcatraz", so number two slot has to go to "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers". Those positions aren't that far apart though.

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

On DVD, “Urgh! A Music War”. I hadn't seen it in over 25 years and finally got the Warner Archives DVD of it. Just as great as I remembered it to be. In theatres it was "Overheard" (the opening film of the Reel Asian Film Festival) - a Hong Kong thriller about the surveillance of a company suspected of insider trading. If that doesn't sound overly thrilling, well, you'd be mostly right. It's OK, but its characters were too broad and lacking any subtlety to pull me in.

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

Well, they're all whining about it, but I've told them it's not happening anytime soon. “Play Time” is trying to stir up a revolt though.

14) Eddie Deezen or Christopher Mintz-Plasse?

"Superbad" and "Role Models" are preferred over just about everything in the entirety of Deezen's oeuvre, but if we're just comparing actors I'd have to pick Deezen.

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

Barbara Stanwyck and Gloria Grahame. Both are huge crushes admittedly, but I think they've been great in every part I've seen them play (though perhaps not every film has been completely stellar).

16) Fight Club -- yes or no?

You betcha!

17) Teresa Wright or Olivia De Havilland?

Do not mess with the cheekbones of Maid Marian!

18) Favorite moment/line from a film noir.

I was trying to find a specific quote from "Murder My Sweet", but instead came across these two beauties:

"He died in 1940, in the middle of a glass of beer. His wife Jessie finished it for him."

"She was a charming middle-aged lady with a face like a bucket of mud. I gave her a drink. She was a gal who'd take a drink, if she had to knock you down to get the bottle."

I'll go with those two for now...As for moments? Any of a hundred different scenes of light cascading through the blinds of a window at the appropriate moment. I love that stuff.

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.

The end of Lucio Fulci's "Don't Torture A Duckling" made me laugh out loud. The falling body in the long shot is obviously a dummy, but when they cut in close it's even more so. And when his head hits a rock and an explosion of light comes out of it - like sparks being generated as the face scraped along the jagged rocks - well, that did me in. Here it is (containing big spoiler by the way):

20) What's the least you've spent on a film and still regretted it?

The minuscule rental fee for "The Girl From Monday". It was my first Hal Hartley film and almost my last. Geez that was terrible. “Fay Grim” hasn't helped boost his reputation with me either...

21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?

I like 'em both, but Heflin's role in “The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers” is my favourite.

22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.

I've only seen “Mortal Thoughts”. It's OK (mostly due to Glenne Headly), but I don't think I should really have that next to the word 'favourite' in any context.

23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.

All of them. People should just plain see more docs - there are so many good ones. Errol Morris' "Mr Death" is a favourite though and it's unjustly ignored. Recently, "Dear Zachary" floored me. I swear, I've never wept openly during a movie before. Days later, I still couldn't talk about it without starting to choke up. It's manipulative as hell, so I'm not sure if I'm recommending it or not. I'd just rather not have to explain it to anyone and then start crying on their shoulder...

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

Scorsese's "After Hours".

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.

At this year's Toronto After Dark, a few fellow bloggers and I were introduced to Noah Segan - star of "Brick", "Deadgirl" and a film playing at the festival entitled "Someone's Knocking At The Door". We were at the Pub After Dark and retreated to the upstairs outdoor patio so he could have a smoke. We chatted quite amiably about numerous things and got on the subject of influential films. He mentioned "Toy Soldiers" and I immediately said "Oh yeah, I've heard that's actually quite good - Joe Dante directed that.". He looked confused and got confirmation from someone else near him that I was thinking of "Small Soldiers". A bit later, he was discussing how he would at the drop of a hat work with Rian Johnson on anything - I couldn't hear very well, so when he said "Looper" (Johnson's next project), I said "Oh yeah, when's that coming out?" He paused and said "Well, he's got to finish writing it first...". After another faux pas, his conversation started leaning towards the other group near him. I don't think my friend has forgiven me (she thought he was hot). He was actually quite friendly though.

26) Ann Sheridan or Geraldine Fitzgerald?

Both lovely, but I'll side with Fitzgerald for her later movies and TV work. Sheridan sure had those smoky eyes, though, didn't she?

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

I've been told that with my glasses I resemble Anthony Edwards - especially as Dr. Mark Greene in "ER". I think it's the similarity in our, ahem, hairstyles.

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

"Salo" is the obvious choice. I just don't think I can do it. "Ichi The Killer" is probably the best answer, since I've wanted to see it for a long time, but whenever I pick it up I always get second thoughts. For some reason, it just feels like the violence and gore in the film will be a little too realistic.

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

I just watched Larisa Shepitko's "The Ascent" set during WWII in occupied Russia. Though filmed in Black and White, it looked more like just White. Every frame of that film gives off a chill.

30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?

Graham almost disqualifies himself immediately by having been in the awful “Chaotic Ana”, but his credits are much too lengthy and fun to pass over (“Child's Play 2" and “Chopping Mall”?).

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

I can't quite think of a perfect specific example, but I've found generation spanning family drama/comedy films like "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman", "Monsoon Wedding" and "East Is East" tend to simply show people struggling with the same things we all do - affected in different ways due to cultural backgrounds of course, but still showing a diversity of thought within those groups.

32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.

I've seen such a small percentage of his movies, but "Red River" is a great Western by any measure, so it slides into the number 2 spot behind "Rio Bravo".

33) Favorite movie car chase.

George Miller and crew risked life and limb to bring us those spiffy chases in "Mad Max", so the least I can do is give them some recognition.

34) In the spirit of His Girl Friday, propose a gender-switched remake of a classic or not-so-classic film.

The Godmother.

35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?

Though I appreciate Rhoades and the massive amount of work she's done (always liked her), my twelve year old self insists on Agent 99.

36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.

I have to give it to his version of "House Of Wax" - possibly because I expected very little going in. I didn't realize he was director, figured it was a lesser Vincent Price film and that it would not compare well to the original "Mystery of the Wax Museum" from 1933. I'd love to see it in all of its glorious 3D.

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?

OK, I'll go with the spirit of the question...Tony Scott drives me crazy and I don't think he's ever made a picture that I can actually say that I like. Therefore, be thee banished Tony!

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.

"2001: A Space Odyssey". 9 years old was a bit early for me.

39) Max Ophuls or Marcel Ophuls?

Woefully unschooled in both...I've only seen "Lola Montes" and have more films by Max on my Must-See list, so he wins.

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 Delta Tau Chi parties would be, I'm guessing, slightly more entertaining than the other two.

41) Your favorite movie cliché.

The homely girl becomes the gorgeous girl everyone wants to date. This is usually accomplished simply by removing her hideous glasses (whether she can see or not without them never really seems to be an issue). It's my favourite because it immediately signals to me how incredibly lazy the filmmakers are so that I can readjust any expectations I had for the film.

42) Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen?

"Royal Wedding", "Singin' In The Rain" and "Charade". Advantage Donen.

43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.

The short film "Treevenge" - the trees fight back. Extensive gore in part 2.

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

I can't seem to think of anything else right now aside from Gene Hackman's reverend character in “The Poseidon Adventure”.

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

The attempt to make “Repo: The Genetic Opera” into a new late-night cult movie (almost begging people to approach it as another Rocky Horror) was actually kind of sad. Especially since the movie is just awful. Hopefully it just decimates itself.

46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?

Both are lovely and Munro was in the Dr. Phibes films, but Carlson in "Dracula Has Risen From The Grave" is my favourite. When Drac has her under his spell, that look she gives him - the inviting "I'm yours" stare - is wicked.

47) Favorite eye-patch wearing director.


48) Favorite ambiguous movie ending.

Spoiler alert

Just after the two characters decide to give it another shot near the ending of “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”, we see three repeated short scenes of them on the beach. Just when you thought it was a happy ending, there's that indication they may actually be doomed to repeat the same cycle over and over. I thought that was perfectly bittersweet and certainly open to interpretation.

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

That my biggest problem is that I can't keep up with my Must-See list. The vast majority of them are actually available on DVD, so my issue is one of too much choice. Not a bad problem to have...

50) George Kennedy or Alan North?

I guess it should be Kennedy - whether it was the crap or the good stuff, he always made me smile a bit when he popped up on screen - but North was in those 6 episodes of "Police Squad". For me, that alone gives him my undying gratitude. Then again, Kennedy was in "Strait-Jacket" and I love every frame of that movie. Prof, why do you torment me so?


Dennis Cozzalio said...

Oh, but you torment so gooood, Bob!

First of all, I think (and I could be wrong) that you are the first respondent to succumb to the charms of Veronica Carlson over Caroline Munro. Someone told me that if the choice would have been Munro vs. Barbara Bouchet, the question would have become unanswerable. But the Carlson. Munro combo was always more meaningful to me as a kid, and I'm glad to see someone stepping up for Veronica's lovely presence.


I'm really going to have to finally see Ocean's Twelve, aren't I?

Sorry to hear about The Gumball Rally. I always loved it too, but I suspected a return to it might be something along the lines of what you describe. Returning to old movies we loved and seeing them with grown-up eyes is an interesting experiment-- they often aren't what we remember, for better or worse. It's been a very rewarding exercise for me to go the opposite and revisit films I've actively hated in the past. In the course of the just the past two months I've rediscovered two movies-- Christine and Heartbreak Ridge-- that are FAR better than I ever gave them credit for. The list of movies I need to re-see just keeps getting longer.

Have you seen Gloria Grahame in The Man Who Never Was? If not, all I will say is, you must!

Don't Torture a Duckling was the original inspiration for that question about death dummies! What a doozy, eh?

As for Ichi the Killer, I found the use of gore obvious and kind of juvenile in a kind of "Watch this, dude, and see if you can take it" kind of way. The movie itself was no great shakes either-- and this from an admirer of Miike in general-- and I just shut it off out of boredom after about halfway through. Salo, a great movie, is definitely to be feared, though.

I would concur on Tony Scott but for Crimson Tide and, oddly enough, Domino. That movie really turned my crank, for some reason. Add True Romance to the list of unimpressive movies I will revisit soon too.

Thanks for Treerevenge! I can't wait to unspool this one!

And Alan North! Just for the incredible tension that begins mounting after the freeze-frame on Police Squad! he gets my vote!

Thanks, Bob, for some really great answers!

Bob Turnbull said...

I can't believe I'm the only one who chose Ms. Carlson...

Yes, do see "Ocean's Twelve". Especially now that I've overhyped it.

"Christine" is a fine feature film...I always thought it would be a dud, but it was really quite superb.

Yes, I have indeed seen Gloria in "The Man Who Never Was". Fine film, but needless to say that she was my fave part.

I should still see "Ichi" one of these days, but it's good to know that I may not have missed much all these years.

You know, I've heard several people say that "Domino" is really worth a look, so I've put it on the to-see list. Maybe I should bump it on up a bit.

Would love to hear what you think about "Treevenge".

Thanks again Dennis for another great and fun quiz...Looking forward to seeing the results of the previous one and you own answers to this one.

Matt said...

Go Urgh!

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

I love reading your responses here, although I have to admit I recognize less than half of the names in the questions.

I can't believe I missed that moment at Toronto After Dark... I can just see her face ... ouch.

Bob, you've not seen a theatrical release since Overheard? Seriously? Oh my...

Bob Turnbull said...

Hey Shannon...Yes, I still feel the sting of her gaze sometimes. At least she got a photo op out of the deal though.

You know, you'd be surprised at how many names you would recognize - just do a Google Image search on Gerrit Graham and you will instantly know who he is.

And yes...It's been that long since I've seen a theatrical release - sad, eh? I've been hoping to get to "Fantastic MR. Fox", "Up In The Air" and "A Serious Man" for a few weeks, but the timing just hasn't worked out. We've been just so busy. I am catching up on a bunch of 2008/9 DVD releases though and having good success - "Funny People", "Away We Go", "The Class", "Star Trek", "Observe And Report", "Humpday", "Hunger" (wow), "The Broken" (spiffy)and "The Wrestler" (about time, eh?) were all good to excellent.

James Yates said...

Wow, there's so much I could comment on here, but I'll go with a small one:

I liked your favorite film cliche. Mine has always been the camera set-up when a woman is having unsatisfying sex in a movie. The camera ALWAYS pans over the man's shoulders (it's always missionary), and the woman will always look up and to the left or right.

Beveridge D. Spenser said...

Ocean's Twelve isn't a heist film or an art film, it's a film about hotel management.

Bob Turnbull said...

Interesting pick there Jamie. I never caiught on to that, though missionary seems to be the standard convention for that.

Beveridge, stay away from hotels. It's a tough business...