Monday, May 29, 2006
You're in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down...
Usually, internet memes are totally disposable. But this one, from Sergio Leone and the Infinite Fly Rule, is unusually thought-provoking. After four full-length reviews in a week, I thought this might make for a fun grab bag of opinions. Feel free to add your own answers.
1) What film made you angry, either while watching it or in thinking about it afterward? I know I'm very much in the minority on this one, and I'd love to have my mind changed. But Caché, to me, is the very definition of pretentious, using art-house conventions (extended static shots, no music score, an unresolved mystery) to tell what is essentially a empty, simplistic story. The central conceit is a blatant rip from Lost Highway, where it was used with more wit and style. And while a delibarate pace can be exhilarating, in Cache it adds up to nothing. While others found its message disturbing, I found it banal; worse, it exhibits nothing but resignation towards the prospect that we are all haunted by our sins and doomed to repeat them again. This makes the final, "optimistic" shot just seem crass and insincere, and if art cannot at least hold out the possibility of understanding with a straight face, than it holds no interest for me.
2) Favorite sidekick Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) in Big Trouble in Little China; Dun and the filmmakers manage to subvert the sidekick archetype brilliantly, as Wang is in every way superior to the ineffectual, blowhard hero Jack Burton (Kurt Russell).
3) One of your favorite movie lines "Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycocks. This shark, swallow you whole. No shakin', no tenderizin', down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."
4) William Holden or Burt Lancaster? Holden, no contest, for squeezing more pathos out of the words "Let's go" than I ever thought possible.
5) Describe a perfect moment in a movie I've always been fairly certain that Wes Anderson made The Royal Tenenbaums for the scene where Richie (Luke Wilson) is meets his adoptive sister and unrequited love Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) at a bus stop. The mad cap pace of the film comes to a standstill as Margot steps off a bus, accompanied by the opening strains of Nico's "These Days." In slow motion, Margot approaches Richie, their faces etched in silent longing, and they embrace. Not only is the moment a masterpiece of audiovisual composition, it's unabashedly beautiful and moving.
6) Favorite John Ford movie The Searchers, no contest. If more westerns were this thematically dense, the genre wouldn't carry its unfortunate stigma.
7) The inverse of a question from the last quiz: What film artist (director, actor, screenwriter, whatever) has the least–deserved good reputation, artistically speaking. And who would you replace him/her with on that pedestal? I'm tempted to say Michael Haneke, but I'll reserve final judgement until I see more of his work. So I'll go with Troy Duffy, patron saint of schmoes. It's inexplicable to me how much otherwise intelligent people love The Boondock Saints (its fan base is evenly divided between the Irish and the wannabe-Irish). I assumed that the documentary Overnight, which reveals Duffy not only as a hack but also an unbearable ass, would put a stop to this lunacy; sadly, it hasn't changed a thing. Scary to think that if Boondock Saints 2 were actually made, it would probably gross well over a hundred million dollars.
I'd boot Duffy from the "New England's Own" pedestal and replace him with Brad Anderson, director of the madly underrated Session 9. The film is not only the scariest so far this century; it also makes brilliant, evocative use of its digital cinematography and well-drawn characters, a group of likeable, struggling working-class New Englanders. The backdrop, characters and genre elements intersect to giddily creepy effect. While his previous romantic comedies and his most recent film The Machinist, don't have the same impact, they still show a great deal of promise.
8) Barbara Stanwyck or Ida Lupino? Lupino, both for her work as an auteur and her appearances on radio shows like "Suspense" with actors like Vincent Price; I loaned a bunch of recordings from the local library when I was nine or ten, and spent a wonderful weekend getting the heebie-jeebies in my basement.
9) Showgirls -- yes or no? Yes, while I drink moonshine out of my Showgirls tie-in shot glass.
10) Most exotic or otherwise unusual place in which you ever saw a movie I once watched Jumanji on a video projector in a church. That's about all I've got, unfortunately.
11) Favorite Robert Altman movie Nashville. "You may say that I ain't free/But it don't worry me"
12) Best argument for allowing rock stars to participate in the making of movies David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. It's not only the greatest rock-star performance, it's one of the great film performances, period. "Get out of my mind!"
13) Describe a transcendent moment in a film (a moment when you realized a film that just seemed routine or merely interesting before had become become something much more) The shower scene in Psycho is the ultimate example of this, recontextualizing the more conventional intrigue of the first forty minutes and upping the stakes immeasurably. Hitchcock kills his own movie; it's an incredibly ballsy moment in cinema.
14) Gina Gershon or Jennifer Tilly? Jennifer Tilly, who despite often appearing in crap is incredibly witty, perceptive and likeable (see her Bride of Chucky diaries).
15) Favorite Frank Capra movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, one of the best arguments for unabashed idealism around.
16) The scene you most wish you could have witnessed being filmed The stimulation of the enormous mechanical vagina in The Holy Mountain.
17) Robert Ryan or Richard Widmark? Widmark, for the wheelchair scene in Kiss of Death.
18) Name a movie that inspired you to walk out before it was finished Evolution; not the worst movie ever made, but a thudding, medoicre disappointment from the likes of Ivan Reitman and Julianne Moore.
19) Favorite political movie Nashville again. I'm voting Hal Phillip Walker in '08.
20) Your favorite movie poster/one-sheet, or the one you’d most like to own The poster for Alien, as mentioned before here, is one haunting work of art.
21) Jeff Bridges or Jeff Goldblum? With respect to the Dude, I'd have to vote Goldblum, who has been doing stellar, idiosyncratic work for over thirty years, from Nashville (again) to Invasion of the Body Snatchers to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai to Jurassic Park to The Life Aquatic. And then, of course, there's his underrated, heartbreaking work as Seth Brundle in The Fly. Drink deep, or taste not the plasma spring!
22) Favorite Ken Russell movie Altered States, a film that truly earns the adjective "mind-blowing."
23) Accepting the conventional wisdom that 1970-1975 marked a golden age of American filmmaking in which artistic ambition and popular acceptance were not mutually exclusive, what for you was this golden age’s high point? (Could be a movie, a trend, the emergence of a star, whatever) This is a tough one. Let's go with the emergence of Jack Nicholson as a leading man. 70-75 saw Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, Chinatown, The Passenger, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and more. It's as good a streak as any actor has ever had. Jack Nicholson is the face of the seventies.
24) Grace Kelly or Ava Gardner? Rear Window makes this a no-brainer.
25) With total disregard for whether it would ever actually be considered, even in this age of movie recycling, what film exists that you feel might actually warrant a sequel, or would produce a sequel you’d actually be interested in seeing? I'd love to see Jodorowsky's long-gestating El Topo sequel.