Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Judicious Answers to . . .

I've always wanted to participate in one of the periodic quizzes set before them what's in the film blogosphere by Dennis Cozzalio, author of one of the great blogs in this realm, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Dunno why I haven't . . . mebbe I thought I'd be tempted to cheat; pay somebody to slip me the answers. Any event, I'm doing this one, so here's my contribution:

1) Second-favorite Stanley Kubrick film.

Toss up between Lolita and Full Metal Jacket; probably the latter. I could do a riff on the final scene of FMJ, and how it represents a kind of apotheosis of irony in his work . . . but I won't

2) Most significant/important/interesting trend in movies over the past decade, for good or evil.

Mumblecore. For evil if it keeps on the way it's going; for good if its core aesthetic is applied to a wider range of cinema (coughMusicalscough) and/or storytelling. As it is, it's shriveling faster than Dogme '95 did . . . and I didn't think that was possible.

3) Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) or Buffalo Bill Cody (Paul Newman)?

Buffalo Bill . . . even if he ain't ridin' that horse right, I took him for a King.

4) Best Film of 1949.

The Small Back Room (The Archers)

5) Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) or Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore)?

Oscar Jaffe. Barrymore can take your breath away.

6) Has the hand-held shaky-cam directorial style become a visual cliché?

Depends. When it's used for effect (the camera operator deliberately destabilizing the image), as it is approx. 80% of the time, it's worse than a cliche; it's agressively phony. The other kind . . . where the cameraman is trying to keep it still . . . is not.

7) What was the first foreign-language film you ever saw?

M (1931); back in 1980-1981. On a public television station that routinely ran Public Domain features in wretched-quality prints.

8) Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) or Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre)?

Moto. Peter Lorre's just-under-the-surface sense of the absurdity of his being cast in that role is a unending presence in these films.

9) Favorite World War II drama (1950-1970).

Robert Aldrich's Attack

(shameful self-promotion, I agree; but at least my answer is true)

10) Favorite animal movie star.

Bitsy. He wasn't a big star, but he did a lot of film and television work from the 30s to the 70s . . . including a few of the RKO 'Tarzan' pictures of the late 40s . . . but his most famous (or infamous) work was in a film he was fired from: 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, the only scene in which he appears was removed by Stanley Kubrick just after the New York premiere; mainly to cut down the 'Dawn of Man' sequence.

I actually have the transcript of an interview conducted with Bitsy several years ago for a book on Kubrick I was going to write for Produit d'appel Press's Film Studies line where Bitsy describes the scene which was cut. I haven't yet decided whether to post it here or not, since Bitsy doesn't have much good to say about Kubrick . . . by contrast he was positively effusive in his praise of Kurt Neumann: "Kurt coulda wrapped that 'Space Odyssey' shit in two days; no overtime." . . . and he has a real enmity against Orson Welles ("You wouldn't believe what I got on him."), based on something he overheard at the Beverly-Wilshire back in 1962. Frankly, I don't know what to make of it.

Close Second: Flike.

11) Who or whatever is to blame, name an irresponsible moment in cinema.

It's a terrible film from a terrible filmmaker, and had this not been done, for all I know the film would have been even worse; but when James L. Brooks removed all the musical numbers from I'll Do Anything based upon test screenings, he only codified that warped (and never aggressively challenged) view that there's something fundamentally dysfunctional about the relationship of cinema and the Musical form (aka, people breaking into song).

I can't get too crazy about it, because it's just one more chapter among many in the wretched history of that luckless genre; and, as I say, it may have saved us from an even worse film than the tabescent blob of good nature which finally surfaced.

12) Best Film of 1969.

The Wild Bunch (followed none-too-distantly by Aram Avakian's End of the Road)

(what's up wit' 1959?)

13) Name the last movie you saw theatrically, and also on DVD or Blu-ray.

Theatrically: There Will Be Blood. (I had to)

DVD: Ed Pincus's Diaries (1971-1976)

14) Second-favorite Robert Altman film.

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (1988)

15) What is your favorite independent outlet for reading about movies, either online or in print?

Since I'm unsure what's meant by "independent outlet", I'll answer this one thisaway:

I own probably 400-500 books dealing in whole or in part with some element of cinema or another. About 6 years ago I bought the magazine collection of a now-deceased Canadian film critic (couple hundred issues of Film Comment, American Film, Sight and Sound, Film Quarterly, Cineaste, Film Culture; you name it); and I continue adding to both these collections.

And yet . . .

I try to read about film as little as I possibly can.

For good or ill, that is me in a nutshell.

16) Who wins? Angela Mao or Meiko Kaji? (Thanks, Peter!)

I'm far from competent enough to answer that one, I regret to say.

17) Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) or Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly)?

The lady with the mystic smile (or her namesake)

18) Favorite movie that features a carnival setting or sequence.

Nightmare Alley. Are you kidding? Jesus. Any movie set in both the Carnival and Spook rackets is something to cherish. Close Second (and another carny/spook melodrama) is Roy Del Ruth's The Mind Reader (1933)

19) Best use of high-definition video on the big screen to date.

I . . . couldn't tell ya.

20) Favorite movie that is equal parts genre film and a deconstruction or consideration of that same genre.

Unforgiven. (1992)

Let me amend this post-posting:

If the kind of movies Steven Spielberg made between 1976 and 1985 (in particular Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.) constitute a genre, then Joe Dante's vastly underrated Explorers should be placed in answer.

21) Best Film of 1979.

Derek and Clive Get the Horn.

(sorry, it was the first one I could think of)

22) Most realistic and/or sincere depiction of small-town life in the movies.

Dadetown (1995)

23) Best horror movie creature (non-giant division).

It's as much Science Fiction as Horror, but that big-ass demon in the sky at the end of Quatermass and the Pit is still memorable.

24) Second-favorite Francis Ford Coppola film.

The Rain People. For a filmmaker who spent most of the 1960s trying to imitate Richard Lester (and who, for whatever reason, became successful the minute he stopped), the first half-hour of that film is as close as he ever got.

25) Name a one-off movie that could have produced a franchise you would have wanted to see.

Umberto D.

I tellya, that wily old codger and his pup; gettin' into all kindsa mischief. There's a series in that!

26) Favorite sequence from a Brian De Palma film.

Three words: Be. Black. Baby.

If the Brian DePalma who directed that sequence had been on the set of Bonfire of the Vanities, it would have been a masterpiece.

27) Favorite moment in three-strip Technicolor.

Any randomly-chosen moment from The Gang's All Here (1943)

28) Favorite Alan Smithee film. (Thanks, Peter!)

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn (1995)

(yes, I actually like that film)

29) Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) or Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau)?

I'm sorry, but . . . once you get past Lloyd Bacon's Kill the Umpire (1950) I have zero tolerance for Baseball pictures. Too reverent.

30) Best post-Crimes and Misdemeanors Woody Allen film.

Manhattan Murder Mystery . . . though maybe that's just his most underrated since 1989.

31) Best Film of 1999.



32) Favorite movie tag line.

"Real Life Shown More Daringly Than It's Ever Been Before"
-- The Magnificent Ambersons.

33) Favorite B-movie western.

Sissies 'n' Sixguns
(1940; dir. by Al Rogell).

From the Wikipedia entry:

Franklin Pangborn plays Osgood Boldwicket, a dressmaker from the east who moves west with his nephew Ambrose (Grady Sutton) to run The Stone Wall Saloon, a Sarsaparilla parlor he's just inherited. When it becomes wildly popular with the hands working at the Bar None Ranch, the owner of a rival saloon, Bertram 'Daddykins' Triller (Edward Everett Horton) tasks his most seductive Saloon Girl, Opal (Pert Kelton) to beguile the men of the Bar None away from their new haunt and back to his establishment, The Screaming Cowpoke. Daddykins' hopes are dashed when Opal instead falls head-over-heels for Ambrose; prompting him to hire professional gunfighter Ruff T. Rade (Ernest Truex) to shoot it out with the neophyte saloon-keeper in broad daylight on his wedding day. The worst is averted, however, when Daddykins discovers that he and Osgood were roommates at boarding school many years before, causing the two businessmen to merge in the final reel.

Though never released in the United States -- all prints of Sissies 'n' Sixguns were said to have been burned, then shredded, then dissolved in acid at the direct order of Republic Pictures chief, Herbert J. Yates -- rumors of prints languishing in Cinematheques all across Europe nevertheless persisted for the years; until 2003, when a complete 16mm print was discovered in Washington D.C., during the course of a routine inventory of the private film collection of J. Edgar Hoover.

34) Overall, the author best served by movie adaptations of her or his work.

Dashiell Hammett. Two extraordinary versions of Red Harvest (three if you count Miller's Crossing); two versions of The Maltese Falcon (one very good, the other fantastic); two outstanding adaptations of The Glass Key (three if you count Miller's Crossing); one lovely film of The Thin Man.

I haven't seen the Television adaptation of The Dain Curse from the 1970s, but unless it's utterly stinkola, it might as well be listed here.

35) Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) or Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard)?

Irene Bullock. Call it heresy, but I don't think Hepburn was good at the Screwball stuff (brilliant at almost everything else, however). Bringing Up Baby succeeds in spite of her oddly self-conscious performance, not because of it.

36) Favorite musical cameo in a non-musical movie.

37) Bruno (the character, if you haven’t seen the movie, or the film, if you have): subversive satire or purveyor of stereotyping?

'Subversve satire'. That's the idea anyway, but Cohen isn't doing anything in principle that Alan Abel (a true guerrila satirist) hasn't been doing more effectively for the last 50 years.

38) Five film folks, living or deceased, you would love to meet. (Thanks, Rick!)

Adolph Zukor
D.W. Griffith
Erich von Stroheim
Gloria Swanson
Cecil B. DeMille

But only if I get to meet them at the same time, in the same restaurant, and at the same table. And one more thing . . . almost forgot . . . only if I get to referee.


C. Jerry Kutner said...

Caine Mutiny Court Martial is certainly Altman's most underrated (and/or unseen) major film.

His anti-MASH.

If you lend me Sissies 'n' Sixguns, I promise to return your copy of Seven Footprints to Satan.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Tom, what we've all missed by you not chiming in for these quizzes years ago! This was so much fun to read. As a huge De Palma fan, I absolutely agree with #26, and I now cannot wait to find and see Kill the Umpire and Sissies and Six-guns! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. Answers like these are why I write these quizzes, and why I stay up till 3:00 a.m. on a work night reading them!

Flickhead said...

I tellya, that wily old codger and his pup; gettin' into all kindsa mischief. There's a series in that!

"Life with Flike"?

I'd tune in every week.