Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Chevalier. Fidelio. Ratatouille.

Just in time for the New Year, Dennis at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly rule presents us with the latest quiz (by one Bertram Potts) certain to encourage much cinematic and personal reflection. Head over to SLIFR to share your answers, peruse others', argue or celebrate. Here are my answers:

1) Your favorite opening shot

Boogie Nights. It's audacious, seductive, and arrogant in the best way.

2) Tuesday Weld or Mia Farrow?


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

Around the tenth time I watched Heavyweights, I realized with horror that my laughter wasn't ironic.

4) Best Movie of 1947

Black Narcissus

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


6) Robert Vaughn or David McCallum?

Both have strong jaws, but only one ambushed Superman with carcinogenic Kryptonite.

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

My wife and I saw The Darjeeling Limited at the Majestic in North Conway, NH. The theatre was in a cafe - we bought our tickets from a waitress, got snacks at the bar and discovered a 50-seat auditorium at the end of a long, winding red corridor.

8) Favorite Errol Morris movie

Gates of Heaven, because it's haunting and funny, and because without it, my answer to #17 wouldn't exist. But I must admit some difficulty embracing Morris since his petulant Oscar speech.

9) Best Movie of 1967

Bonnie and Clyde

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

During the trailers before Juno, the entire audience laughed at and mocked the premise of the border-crossing drama Under the Same Moon. Ah, those wacky Mexicans - when will they learn?

11) Anne Francis or Julie Newmar?

Don't feel strongly one way or the other, but Forbidden Planet is pretty great.

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

The Alien one-sheet is so simple and suggestive, but even when I was a small child and knew nothing about the film, it (and the tagline) were genuinely unsettling.

13) Best Movie of 1987

Wings of Desire

14) Favorite movie about obsession

Looking at my 100 list, there are a startling amount of movies about obsession. But yeah, Vertigo is almost inarguably the ultimate statement on the subject.

15) Your ideal Christmas movie triple feature

Gremlins, Eyes Wide Shut and Black Christmas (the original - duh).

16) Montgomery Clift or James Dean?

James Dean, but they both kick Ryan Gosling's ass.

17) Favorite Les Blank Movie

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe

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 can't wait to show Ratatouille to my daughter.

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

On DVD, Two-Lane Blacktop, a movie I've been dying to see for a while that lived up to its reputation. The latter is Margot at the Wedding, a movie I liked a good deal more than most (I dig Harris Savides, and I'm sort of mean).

20) Best Movie of 2007

I have yet to see at least one film that I suspect will be high on this list (I'm referring, of course, to The Bucket List). As of now, it's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

21) Worst Movie of 2007

The Number 23 is the worst movie Joel Schumacher's ever made. Really think about that.

22) Describe the stages of your cinephilia

3-10 - Pure, unqualified adoration. Anything horror or sci-fi. Lots of Spielberg, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam. Anything muppet. A complete lack of critical discernment (2001 is awesome, so is Hook).

10-12 - Onanism. Anxiety. Self-loathing. Movies that validate my pubescent existential crisis (Brazil, Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, Vertigo). Anything with boobs. Pulp Fiction is a potent gateway drug to a new way of looking at cinema.

13-15 - Loss of religion dovetails with the concept of cinema as transgression. Boogie Nights. A Clockwork Orange. Blue Velvet. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Anything with weiners. Anything that would piss off dad.

15-18 - Intro to world cinema - Herzog, Truffaut, Bergman, Argento. Expressionism. Anything with brains. A soft spot for earnest, overwrought emotionalism (American Beauty and Magnolia).

18-22 - College. Forgetting how to just watch a movie. Lots of posturing and one-upmanship. "Hey, you know what would be an awesome way to watch Tron?" Lynch, Altman, De Palma, Malick. I'm starting to get the hang of this.

Now - The blog. Liking what I like. "Hey, you know what would be an awesome way to watch Barry Lyndon?" Roeg, Bertolucci and Malle all touch a nerve. Romanticism. Uncertainty. Watching my daughter freak out with delight whenever Superman, Willy Wonka or robots are onscreen.

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

Right now, pretty much anything. My generation is bombarded by hype and infotainment into complete indifference. If my friends would rather see Smoking Aces than The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, it's because the latter is an unknowable challenge while the former is reassuringly familiar. The movies become comfort food, a sensory snack with the same value as a video game or a viral video played on a cell phone. In such a climate, how can I convince anyone that cinema has the ability to be beautiful, even transcendent?

24) Gene Tierney or Rita Hayworth?

Rita Hayworth

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?

The dog crossing the path in the opening shot of Birth, unknowingly violating the images' symmetry and creating a pleasurable dissonance.

26) Favorite Documentary

Gates of Heaven again.

27) Favorite opening credit sequence

While I love elaborate, Saul Bass-style opening collages, I've always admired the plain yellow titles of McCabe and Mrs. Miller silently, craftily snaking in and out of the gloomy landscape like McCabe himself.

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?

Eyes Wide Shut not only changed the way I thought about film, it challenged my 15-year-old assumptions about relationships, fidelity and even identity. I think it had a strong effect on my friend Tara as well (happy birthday, Tara!), as she took a classmate to see it again the next night and was shocked when the girl complained of boredom. Truly a case of "Did you see the same movie I did?"

29) Glenn Ford or Dana Andrews?

Glenn Ford

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

In honor of No Country for Old Men, a Chuck Workman-edited montage of the greatest head shots in film history.

31) Best Actor of 2007

Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

32) Best Actress of 2007

Carice van Houten, Black Book

33) Best Director of 2007

Andrew Dominik

34) Best Screenplay of 2007

No Country for Old Men

35) Favorite single movie moment of 2007

Jason Schwartzman showing Natalie Portman the view from his suite in the Hotel Chevalier. It touched a nerve more deeply than any moment this year.

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

For the happy surprises. The other day I saw Sweeney Todd, a movie I wasn't really dying to see, and I loved it - there's no better feeling than that. 2007 was a year of one movie after another exceeding my expectations; let's hope it's the start of something.


Alonzo Mosley (FBI) said...

My wife and I went to see Juno last night and also saw the Under the Same Moon trailer, but there was nary a titter or complaint from our audience down here in Jacksonville, Florida.

I guess the whole illegal immigation issue doesn't light as big a fire under us as it does with other communities.

Jess said...

I am so glad that my gift of Heavyweights is getting its due.

Allen Lulu said...

The noise actually makes it hard to hear the good, I think. I have no idea what ha;f of the movies I might want to see might be because they are all advertised the same way. Everything is product, the advertising designed to milk as much day one dollar as possible.
Having a new baby makes it hard to see what we want to, being married to someone who prefers popcorn to art is another.
But, I did take my wife and three teenage boys, 19 year old college student, 17 year old musiian and sort of burnout, and a 19 year old electrician whose future is as dim as his original thoughts, go bless him to see Sweeney Todd.
I was surprised and moved that they each want to see it again, especially the racist, depressed, alcoholic GED electrician. He was moved deeper than any of them. He was touched by it. Saddened and made tense. it moved him.
And I believed that film can be art again.

Andrew Bemis said...

Alonzo: The area I grew up with is about 98% white, so while there aren't Klan rallies or anything, bigotry tends to reveal itself in that sort of priviledged-white-kid snickering.

Allen: Wonderful to hear that a film can still surprise people, particularly the 19-year-old you mentioned. Sweeney's a good case of a film getting buried in the marketing, which made it look to anyone unfamiliar with the musical like a slasher movie with Johnny Depp doing more Jack Sparrow posturing.

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