Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Schoolboy Crush: SL&TIFR's Winter Exam, Extended Edition

The (sorta) quarterly film surveys-disguised-as-tests at Dennis Cozzalio's hard-working and thoughtful movie blog Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule are fast becoming a film Blogospherical tradition. The answers are compulsively readable, though like any Internet meme basically amount to a list of superlatives and complaints. Take/ read "PROFESSOR DAVE JENNINGS' MILTON-FREE, UNIVERSE-EXPANDING HOLIDAY MIDTERM" here! Below are expanded versions of my answers. Pfft. And they say people shouldn't take movie blogs seriously.

Screencap courtesy of Winona Online

1) What was the last movie you saw, either in a theater or on DVD, and why?

On DVD: Open Season (aka- The Recon Game; 1974), delightful kidnapping/rape/human-hunting/revenge junk with Peter Fonda and John Phillip Law. Why?: on a vigilante justice kick!

2) Name the cinematographer whose work you most look forward to seeing, and an example of one of his/her finest achievements.

Ubaldo Terzano and Bava's photography makes Blood and Black Lace my favorite looking motion picture of all time. The primary colors will sear your brain, and the pools of pastel will cool them off again. It's a perfect marriage of form and material, as the movie needs to look like a fashion magazine photo spread in the fashion show scenes and convincingly lurid for the murders.

Among the living and working: I kicked around picking Frederick Elmes and Tak Fujimoto. No way do I miss a chance to see those guys at work. BUT: right now, I'm all about Jeong-hun Jeong, Park Chan-Wook's cinematographer for Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Not always the most sumptuous, but his pictures look tired, sad, rained-upon, and beautiful.

For the olden-timey, it's gotta be Robert Burks' hallucinogenic work for Hitchcock. If you like that, check out Joe MacDonald's color pictures, especially the dress-shopping sequence in Bigger Than Life! Sorry folks, that was a crappy answer!

3) Joe Don Baker or Bo Svenson?

Baker in Charley Varrick sleeps in his clothes, sweats a lot, says stuff like "I didn't travel six-hundred miles for the amusement of morons. Izzat clear, ladies?," threatens guys with pliers and blowtorches, and his name is Molly. Now that's a heavy. And he played Winona Ryder's dad once. And yeah, he's the better B-Puss, too.

4) Name a moment from a movie that made you gasp (in horror, surprise, revelation...…)

Winona Ryder as Lelaina Pierce (yeah, right. She's playing Winona Ryder) lies on her bed in a T-shirt, cigarette smoldering in hand, staring at the ceiling like a dope, contemplating the messy, un-frothy, no-fun romantic triangle she's gotten herself into. You know, basically assuming the Crucifixion position for a generation: Jesus slept. It's the one moment in Reality Bites that transcends the Gen-X-ploitation... but that's not why I gasped. I'd already fallen hard, some 6 years earlier (Beetlejuice), but I just hadn't seen anyone photograph Ryder like that before. Gulp... Gasp!

5) Your favorite movie about the movies.

Ed Wood, 8 1/2 and David Holzman's Diary are my favorite films about the joy, agony and catharsis of being a film artist, but... as a meditation on the waking dream of cinema, it's Mulholland Dr. for me, all the twisty, dangerous way.

6) Your Favorite Fritz Lang movie.

I like it pulpy, I like it eerie, I like it wacked-out as possible, I like it Testament of Dr. Mabuse.

7) Describe the first time you ever recognized yourself in a movie.

Francesco Dellamorte -- who continually Gets The Girl and Loses The Girl, doesn't appreciate his friends enough, dresses in cool boots, black pants and white shirts -- feeling sorry for himself, gets drunk on red wine, stands in the autumn rain, talking to a statue of the Reaper. Dellamorte Dellamore. Badass, solipsist, or romantic? And I go "Are they making fun of me?"

8) Carole Bouquet or Angela Molina?

When it comes to Conchitas in your own life, you think the lusty Molinas will be harder to handle, but the Bouquets cause more trouble in the end. Therefore: Bouquet.

9) Name a movie that redeems the notion of nostalgia as something more than a bankable commodity.

Say wha'? I'm not being a wiseacre; I don't think I understand the question.

10) Favorite appearance by an athlete in an acting role.

Tor Johnson, Plan 9 From Outer Space: He's a big boy, Johnny!

11) Favorite Hal Ashby movie.

I like to watch Being There.

12) Name the first double feature you'’d program for opening night of your own revival theater.

Children of Paradise and Night of the Bloody Apes.

13) What's the name of your revival theater?

The Thanatos -- if it's an grand old movie palace. If it's a dump-hole with brick walls and folding chairs: The Exploding Kinetoscope Parlour.

14) Humphrey Bogart or Elliot Gould?

If this is a question of who is the better screen Marlowe, I refuse to dignify it with a response. That thing Elliot Gould is doing is not Philip Marlowe.

15) Favorite Robert Stevenson movie.

Yikes, don't ask me to pit Mary Poppins against That Darn Cat! Just don't... Poppins has more sheer, universal pop culture iconography, Walt's personal quality-control, and great songs, it's still funny and magical no matter what age you are... and Julie Andr--... Okay, That Darn Cat! I love TDC! so much it's repulsive. And there goes all my credibility. In all areas of life. Somebody take me inside and make me a big weird sandwich!

"D.C's wearing a wristwatch!"

16) Describe your favorite moment in a movie that is memorable because of its use of sound.

Daria Nicolodi as Gianna does an unexpected shimmy-shake as she haughtily leaves Marc Daly (David Hemmings)'s apartment in Deep Red She's trying to turn the head of the disinterested pianist, but also doing it to remind herself she's a desirable woman: a non-diegetic electric guitar plays a startling, cute and sassy boogie-down lick. I don't know if Marc can hear it, but we can, and that's what matters.

17) Pink Flamingos-- yes or no?

Yes, it is the funniest comedy in the history of motion pictures. Yes, if it were made today the entire cast and crew would be arrested for terrorism. Yes, the movie celebrates the spirit of America by tearing apart everything it stands for.

No, I'm not overstating the case for Pink Flamingos. Anyone who says otherwise will be executed for assholeism!

18) Your favorite movie soundtrack score.

Ennio Morricone's crazysexycool Diabolik, but only if Christy belting out "Deep Down" counts as part of the score.

However: The moment the mournful, noble trumpet begins playing on "L'Arena" on Morricone's score for The Mercenary is the most powerful film music I've ever heard. It reduces me to tears by the end. When it was repurposed in Kill Bill Vol. 2, as soon as the music began, I knew what was coming. It set me of immediately.

19) Fay Wray or Naomi Watts?

Naomi Watts is the better actress. Fay Wray is the better Ann Darrow. I would like to have seen Ms. Wray play Jet Girl, however.

20) Is there a movie that would make you question the judgment and/or taste of a film critic, blogger or friend if you found out they were an advocate of it?

"Question," certainly, but not "discount out of hand." Opinions alone are worthless: their relative value is in the "why." So: Donnie Darko, the collected anything of Kevin Smith, Twin Town, Don Bluth movies, Hard Candy. But I'm always willing to listen.

21) Pick a new category for the Oscars and its first deserving winner.

Best Promotional Poster Art for a Motion Picture. The intention would simply be to improve the state of movie advertising by providing motivation for more handsome posters. This year's winner: The Black Dahlia.

22) Favorite Paul Verhoeven movie.

Robocop. R-C and Showgirls are the only Verhoeven In America movies in which his satire is pleasurable in a way that actually makes me laugh, and doesn't seem to shame the audience for enjoying genre stories.

23) What is it that you think movies do better than any other art form?

Better than any other artform, film preserves images of beautiful people in motion. Not to be coy: I am talking about Eros.

24) Peter Ustinov or Albert Finney?

For Hercules, and in all other things: dude, Blackbeard's Ghost. Ustinov to the end. What's wrong with you people!? I'm just sayin': Blackbeard's Ghost.

25) Favorite movie studio logo, as it appears before a theatrical feature.

a) Warner Brothers' three-fat, wormy white stripes W in a black oval against an angry red field before The Exorcist.
b) Universal's miniature aeroplane ride before the creepy-adorable miniatures of The Mummy's opening credits.
c) Alternate selection: The Vestron Video logo before anything and everything.

26) Name the single most important book about the movies for you personally.

Jonathan Rosenbaum and J. Hoberman's Midnight Movies, 1983.

27) Name the movie that features the best twist ending. (Please note the use of any "spoilers" in your answer.)

Spoiler: Psycho (1960). End spoiler.

28) Favorite Francois Truffaut movie.

Jules and Jim, I guess. Runner up... Indifferent: The Movie!

29) Olivia Hussey or Claire Danes?

Olivia Hussey never gave a performance as good as Danes on "My So-Called Life". Claire Danes never made anything as fun as Black Christmas. Call that round a draw.

So as Juliets… Claire Danes didn't take her top off, seems to misunderstand what the word "wherefore" means, but gets to wear better costumes and is in the more compelling film. Olivia Hussey's fair busting at the seams of her costume, and gives the competent performance. Round 2: Draw.

As babes: judge if you must, I'm a Claire Danes man. Danes it is.

30) Your most memorable celebrity encounter.

I made a joke about "special sauce" while Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) and I used adjacent urinals.

31) When did you first realize that films were directed?

I realized the production tasks of a director when I read a children's special-effects overview called Magic in the Movies. Either the book or my comprehension made it sound like a lot of boring organizational work, and not a creative job.

The real answer, the realization that a director can be the key author of a film, makes vital creative decisions and might have a body of work worth exploring because of that authorship, came after watching "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" episodes, asking my parents about the host, and then seeing Vertigo. Who turned a potentially hackneyed rooftop chase sequence into a mini psychodrama about perilous mortality, the queasy moral issues of self-preservation, and the sublime terror of psychological free-fall? The director did that. I realized films were directed, while hanging off a rooftop with Detective Scottie Ferguson. I was 10 years old, and so afraid I was almost sick, and I knew whose fault it was. Hitchcock did it to me.


pattonjr5 said...

for 319 you obviously don't want a clever ann darrow who does more than scream & one that is complicit w/the stupidity of carl denham. i prefer stronger & more intelligent women for characters, as well as better actresses.
watts won the london critics for best actress of 2005. (we won't bring up mulholland dr or 21grams because of your comparison.) wray never won an award. btw, wray had a stand-in for her screaming. afterall, cooper wanted jean harlow. jackson got his first choice (after his revised version following mulholland dr).

btw, after mulholland dr, watts would never HAVE to play jet girl.

Chris Stangl said...

Jet Girl is a strong, empowered, intelligent woman.

I wouldn't worry too much about if I love Naomi Watt's performance in KING KONG. Because I do.

I respect whatever your reading of KONG '33 might be, but I don't take responsibility when you project it onto me. If you think that Jackson, Boyens and Walsh's reinvention of Ann Darrow could have even been conceptualized in the 1933 film, I think you're mistaken.

I put little to no stock in awards when it comes to matters of how a movie touches my life. Both these KONGs are movies I love, but only one changed my world. Ms Wray is an integral part of that film. I don't know what you're huffy about anyway, since I basically declared it a draw.