Monday, May 18, 2020

Dr. Jonathan Hemlock's Artsy-Fartsy, Historical-Schmistorical Sanctionistic Summer Vacation Movie Quiz

Another quiz from Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. This one showed up last summer but I never got around to answering it because, you know, cancer.

1) Name a musician who never starred in a movie who you feel could have been a movie star or at least had a compelling cinematic presence
It's hard to tell. Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra hit it big, so did Doris Day, but Madonna who has personality to burn was terrible on screen. Liz Phair would seem like an obvious choice — she's something of an exhibitionist — but she hates performing so maybe she would shrink when the cameras started rolling. Straying from the topic, I want to mention that Liz Phair is a terrific writer. Check out her memoir, Horror Stories ...

2) Akira or Ghost in the Shell
I'm more of a Cowboy Bebop man, myself.

3) Charles Lee Ray or Freddy Krueger?
Not a fan of horror, but at least I know who Freddy Krueger is. So Freddy Krueger.

4) Most excruciating moment/scene you've ever sat through in a film
Ben Stiller has made a career out of the comedy of excruciating embarrassment, so probably something with Ben Stiller in it. But truth be told, with the exception of Tropic Thunder, I don't like any of Ben Stiller's movies.

5) Henry Cavill or Armie Hammer?
They were in The Man from Uncle (2015) together, Henry Cavill as Solo, Armie Hammer as Illya. Cavill was also in Mission: Impossible — Fallout which probably gives him the edge, but I'm going to call it a draw and leave it at that.

6) Name a movie you introduced to a young person, one which was out of their expressed line of interest or experience, which they came to either appreciate or flat-out love
Yellow Submarine. Showed it to my niece when she was a little kid and she became a Beatles fanatic. At least until One Direction came along ...

7) Second favorite Robert Rossellini film
I assume they mean Roberto Rossellini, a pioneer of the Italian neo-realist movement, husband of Ingrid Bergman, father of Isabella Rossellini. Directed Rome Open City, Paisan and Germany Year Zero among others. But I'm not really a fan.

8) What movie shaped your perceptions of New York City, Los Angeles and/or Chicago before you ever went there and experienced the cities for yourself.
Of New York City? Probably Manhattan and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, which between them captured the romanticized and gritty views of the city. New York is a great town, been there many times. If this pandemic ever passes, I'll go back.

The novels of Raymond Chandler probably have shaped my perception of Los Angeles more than any movie has but I've only been to L.A. once, on business, and other than riding past the Capitol Records building in a cab, I didn't really see any of it outside my hotel and the courtroom.

Chicago I've been to a couple of times and I really liked it, but the movie version of Chicago and the reality of Chicago are so far apart, at least for me, that I never feel like I'm seeing Chicago when I see a movie set in Chicago.

9) Name another movie that shaped, for better or worse, another city or location that you eventually visited or came to know well.
Well, Washington, D.C., which I saw in the movies many times before I moved there. But Washington in the movies is about politics and politicians, which float on top of the city like a slick of shit. Unless you move in those circles, the Washington of the movies has as much to do with the actual experience of living in the city as the surface of the moon does to your local grocery store.

But it's also a city rich with America's history, not to mention it has more free museums than you can shake a stick at (if stick shaking is your bag). And what movie expresses the sense of wonder I felt when I moved to D.C? Why, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, of course.

10) Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee?
The two great movie Draculas, Christopher Lee to a degree spent his career walking in Bela Lugosi's footsteps, but I'd still rather watch Lee.

11) Elizabeth Debicki or Alicia Vikander?
Elizabeth Debicki was in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and The Man from Uncle but I don't really remember her in either. Alicia Vikander was also in The Man from Uncle and a couple of other movies and I remember her well, but mostly because I really don't like her screen presence.

So, utterly forgettable or vaguely icky, take your pick.

12) The last movie you saw theatrically? The last on physical media? Via streaming?
I answered this question just a couple of days ago, so instead, I'll try to remember what the answers would have been last summer.

Theatrically? John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. Big fan of the John Wick movies. Saw it on my birthday, my first outing in a couple of months, and we celebrated my liberation with two hours of pure mayhem.

On physical media? John Wick one and two — to get Katie-Bar-The-Door in the mood.

Via streaming? I was having a hard time concentrating on anything new at that time. It was all baseball (the Nats rising from the 19-31 dead to win the World Series) and Star Trek (original series) reruns.

13) Who are the actors, classic and contemporary you are always glad to see?
This seems like a good excuse to post some pictures of a few favorites I haven't written about in this blog before:

Alan Arkin

Jack Carson

Peggy Cummins

Bridget Fonda

Judy Greer

Anne Hathaway

Jane Horrocks

Oscar Levant

Kathryn Morris

Parker Posey

Keanu Reeves

Ving Rhames

Miranda Richardson

Porco Rosso

Adrienne Shelly

Jason Statham

14) Second favorite Federico Fellini film
, I guess, with Nights of Cabiria first and La Dolce Vita third. But really, they're all tied for first in my book.

15) Tessa Thompson or Danai Gurira
Danai Gurira was in Black Panther, which I would have picked as the best picture of 2018 if I'd ever gotten around to making my picks, so I guess Danai Gurira.

16) The Black Bird or The Two Jakes?
The Black Bird — a comedy starring George Segal as Sam Spade's son — is a nominal sequel to The Maltese Falcon and features Lee Patrick and Elisha Cook, Jr., reprising their roles as Effie the secretary and Wilmer the hapless gunsel. The Two Jakes is a sequel to Chinatown, directed by and starring Jack Nicholson.

I've seen each, once. Both are instantly forgettable.

17) Your favorite movie title
I assume this means "wackiest title," something like Rat Pfink a Boo Boo, a low budget rip off of Batman that was supposed to be called Rat Pfink & Boo Boo but whoever made the title sequence misread the ampersand as an "a" and they didn't have the money to fix it.

But that's not my favorite title and I really don't know what is. I will say I always thought the 1994 rom-com It Could Happen to You starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda would have played better under its original title, Cop Gives Waitress Two Million Dollar Tip.

Now, my favorite title sequence is the opening of A Hard Day's Night, which from the opening chord, brings me instant joy.

18) Second favorite Luchino Visconti film
He directed The Leopard and Rocco and His Brothers, among other things. The last time this question came up, I admitted I don't even have a first favorite Luchino Visconti film. Nothing has changed.

19) Given the recent trend, what's the movie that seems like an all-too-obvious candidate for a splashy adaptation to Broadway?
This question was repeated in the latest quiz. I said The Big Lebowski and the more I think about it, the better the idea seems.

20) Name a director you feel is consistently misunderstood
Misunderstood? Couldn't say. But underappreciated? Michael Curtiz. He directed Casablanca, Mildred Pierce, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Angels with Dirty Faces, Captain Blood, and 170-something other movies, but because he worked within the studio system and doesn't fit neatly into the "auteur theory," he gets overlooked as a great director.

He did win an Oscar, though (for Casablanca), so at least his contemporaries appreciated him.

Great Michael Curtiz story — the guy had a thick Hungarian accent and a tendency to mangle the English language. During the filming of Casablanca during the Paris flashback sequence, the scene where Rick and Ilsa are sitting outdoor at a café, Curtiz tells his assistant he wants "poodles" — you know, for ambiance. So the assistant scrambles and finally locates a French poodle. Curtiz exploded. "What the hell are you doing with that dog? I wanted poodles — poodles of water!"

Another Casablanca story. That scene late in the movie when Louis shows up at Rick's deserted Café Americain, and Bogart and Claude Rains cross the big empty space to Sam's piano, Curtiz felt Claude Rains was moving too slowly and had him shoot it over and over again. Finally, Rains got so irked that when Bogart opened the door, Rains rode in on a bicycle.

21) Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth?
A Captain America versus Thor question. Chris Hemsworth, not because I prefer Thor to Captain America, but because he somehow makes what is an inherently ridiculous character into something pretty funny.

22) What's the film that most unexpectedly grew in your estimation from trivial, or unworthy, or simply enjoyable, to a true favorite with some actual meat on its bones?
Unless we're talking about spareribs where the amount of "actual meat on its bones" is the point, I reject the premise of the question, that a "simply enjoyable" movie can't be a favorite, and that only something weighty is "worthy."

I think this idea that only certain art forms are "worthy" dates back to the novelist Henry James who argued that only certain genres of fiction could be thought of as "literature" — and coincidentally enough, the prime example of worthy fiction, according to Henry James, was the fiction of, yes, you guessed it, Henry James.

This question keeps repeating itself in different forms throughout these quizzes. It's like somebody out there wants papal dispensation to be a smug know-it-all dick. But let me tell you, a dick who knows a lot about movies is still just a dick.

23) I Am Curious (Yellow), yes or no?
A famous Swedish erotic film from 1967 that (along with its companion film I Am Curious (Blue) (1968)) was initially banned as obscene and spent years winding its way through the American court system. I was aware of its existence even as a kid — it was referenced in Get Smart, That Girl, The Partridge Family and pretty much everywhere else — but I've never seen it and have no desire to.

It's the kind of film that somehow contains both explicit sex and — no joke — an interview with Martin Luther King, Jr., who happened to be traveling in Sweden at the time.

Critics at the time and since have been pretty evenly split as to its merits. Vincent Canby called it a "serious movie about a society in transition" while Roger Ebert called it "a dog" and "stupid and slow and uninteresting." Given how many good movies I still have left to see (and good books to read and places to visit and people to meet), I just can't imagine spending what limited time I have left on something like this.

24) Second favorite Lucio Fulci film
So far as I can tell, he directed Italian horror movies, none of which I have seen.

25) Are the movies as we now know them coming to an end?
Everything as we now know it is coming to an end, eventually.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Dean Vernon Wormer's Lockdown-Friendly, Double-Secret Probationary Quarantine-Quality Movie Quiz

Another great movie quiz from Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule to see us through the coronavirus lockdown. His longest quiz yet!

As always, feel free to leave your answers in the comments section or on Sergio's blog.

1) You're on a desert island (and you sort of are)—What three discs do you select out of your own collection to keep if you had to get rid of all the rest?
On a real desert island? Something about how to build a boat. But what kind of desert island has electricity and a dvd player? Now, if I were on, say, vacation for a week, then The Thin Man, The Thing From Another World and Rio Bravo.

2) Giuletta Masina or Jeanne Moreau?
Giulietta Masina (there's a second "i" there, Dean — double secret probation for you!) in Nights of Cabiria.

3) Second-favorite Roger Corman movie.
The Pit and the Pendulum. The Raven, with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson is my favorite.

4) The most memorable place you ever saw a movie. This could be a film projected on a big screen or seen in some other fashion—the important thing is what makes it memorable.
Probably a college dorm room while I was in law school, watching a "liberated" copy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (long story) on an equally "liberated" projector. But I was most grateful to stream Turner Classic Movies on Katie-Bar-the-Door's phone while I was undergoing chemo last year. A life saver. Chemo sucks. Chemo with a side order of Marx Brothers? Priceless.

5) Marcello Mastroianni or Vittorio Gassman?
Marcello Mastroianni for .

6) Second-favorite Kelly Reichardt movie.
Never heard of her or any of the movies she's directed. But now that she's on my radar screen ...

7) In the matter of taste, is there a film or director that, if your partner in a relationship (wife/husband/lover/best friend) disagreed violently with your assessment of it, might cause a serious rift in that relationship?
I'll be 59 in a month and I've never violently disagreed with someone over a movie yet. I mean, it's a movie for frak's sake. Although come to think of it, there was that time a woman at the office said she didn't understand why Dr. Strangelove was considered a comedy ...

8) The last movie you saw in a theater/on physical media/via streaming (list one each).
In a theater? The Gentlemen. Highly recommended if you like Guy Ritchie's cockney gangster comedies, which Katie and I do.

On physical media? Holiday (1938) on Criterion Collection blu-ray. My favorite Katharine Hepburn-Cary Grant movie.

Via streaming? Ford v Ferrari, I think. Highly recommended. I've started many others but haven't finished them. We've been binge-watching a variety of television series — Grace & Frankie, Bosch, Star Trek Picard, The Kominski Method, Vera — which I assume doesn't count.

9) Name a movie that you just couldn't face watching right now.
Only those movies I couldn't face watching before the coronavirus lockdown. I mean, a couple of weeks ago, I watched The Andromeda Strain, for crying out loud.

Katie-Bar-The-Door does refuse to play the board game Pandemic. But between Ticket To Ride and Strat-o-Matic Baseball, who's got time anyway?

10) Jane Greer or Ava Gardner?
Jane Greer, absolutely. Hell, in a toss up between Jane Greer and practically anybody not named Diana Rigg, I'd go with Jane Greer. Don't get me wrong, I like Ava Gardner, especially in The Night of the Iguana, but Jane Greer in Out of the Past is the best femme fatale in movie history. Plus she's a lot of fun in The Big Steal. And she was a great human being to boot! I've written about her here, among other places.

11)Edmond O'Brien or Van Heflin?
Edmond O'Brien for The Wild Bunch and Seven Days in May. Not a huge fan of Van Heflin although I guess he's at his sweaty, twitchy best in Airport.

12) Second favorite Yasujiro Ozu movie.
I Was Born, But... a silent comedy which I reviewed here. My favorite Ozu movie is everybody's favorite Ozu movie, Tokyo Story.

13) Name a proposed American remake of an international film that would, if actually undertaken, surely court or inevitably result in disaster.
I don't keep up with movie proposals so I don't actually know. Wouldn't particularly like to see a remake of any of Ingmar Bergman's movies but who would ever threaten to do that?

14) What's a favorite film that you consider genuinely subversive, for whatever reason?
Hard for the kids to understand why now since the counterculture won in a rout, but I would guess A Hard Day's Night when it landed in theaters in 1964.

Love the guy in the background whispering "It's George Harrison!" Don't breathe on me, Adrian.

15) Name the movie score you couldn't live without.
Many of them. The Magnificent Seven, for example. A good soundtrack can make as much difference as the acting and the editing. But the only soundtrack that I listen to as a stand-alone soundtrack is John Barry's High Road to China.

16) Mary-Louise Weller or Martha Smith?
Mary-Louise Weller, who played Mandy Pepperidge in National Lampoon's Animal House (as opposed to Martha Smith, who played Babs Jansen in National Lampoon's Animal House).

17) Peter Riegert or Bruce McGill?
Bruce McGill, who played Daniel Simpson Day in Animal House over Peter Riegert who played Schoenstein in Animal House, mostly because Bruce McGill has been in hundreds of movies and television shows and I always say, "Hey, that's D-Day!"

18) Last Tango in Paris—yes or no?
Paris, yes. Last Tango in Paris? Absolutely not.

19) Second-favorite Akira Kurosawa movie.
Seven Samurai. Ikiru is my favorite.

20) Who would host the imaginary DVD commentary you would most want to hear right now, and what would the movie be?
Jane Greer, sitting on my couch, talking about The Big Steal. She took the role the weekend before shooting began in Mexico when no one else would because of Robert Mitchum's marijuana conviction, despite the fact that she was secretly pregnant. Then, of course, shooting stopped mid-way through so Mitchum could spend two months in jail.

Did you know that Mitchum and William Bendix are in only one scene together, the first? Bendix finished his scenes so he could move on to another production while Mitchum was in jail. Look at the leaves on the trees as Bendix chases Mitchum down a city street. Sometimes the trees are bare, sometimes they are in full leaf. And look at the careful construction of the Mitchum-Bendix scene at the end of the movie. Lot of shadows and rear projection. Kudos to director Don Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dirty Harry) for making it fit together so seamlessly.

21) Favorite movie snack.
I rarely snack at the movies, but when I do, popcorn.

22) Second-favorite Planet of the Apes film (from the original cycle).
Escape from the Planet of the Apes mostly because I saw it in the theater with my father.

23) Least-favorite Martin Scorsese movie.
The Irishman — well, what I've seen of it. I couldn't get through it.

That I've seen all the way through? A lot of them, actually: Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story, Shutter Island, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Bringing Out the Dead, Casino, Cape Fear, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Color of Money, The Last Waltz, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Mean Streets.

Scorsese's real hit or completely miss for me, which is why I've seen so many Scorsese films I don't like — when he hits it, he nails it, so I keep buying a ticket and taking my chances.

24) Name a movie you feel doesn't deserve its current reputation, for better or worse.
There are a lot of highly-touted movies that I don't like — La La Land, for example — but that's not necessarily the same as saying they don't deserve their reputation.

25) Best movie of 1970. (Fifty years ago!)
Patton, although the one I'm most likely to watch these days is Kelly's Heroes.

26) Name a movie you think is practically begging for a Broadway adaptation (I used this question in the last quiz, but I’m repeating it because I never answered the quiz myself and I think I have a pretty good answer)
No idea. How about Saving Private Ryan (I kid). Seriously, though, The Big Lebowski?

27) Louise Brooks or Clara Bow?
Louise Brooks is the better actress, arguably the best of the silent era — she was brilliant in Pandora's Box, Diary of a Lost Girl and the recently rediscovered silent version of Miss Europe aka Prix de Beauté.

But I'd rather hang out with the sweet, funny, fragile, much libeled Clara Bow, who worked her tail off and was discarded like an old boot by a studio that mistook her for a plow horse. Not to mention she's damn good in It and the first best picture winner, Wings.

28) Second-favorite Pier Paolo Pasolini movie.
My favorite is The Gospel According to St. Matthew. I don't have a second favorite.

29) Name three movies you loved in your early years that you feel most influenced your adult cinematic tastes.
Off the top of my head, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Sting and Manhattan, all of which I saw in the theater during their initial run. But I went to the movies all the time as a kid. I saw everything. And probably the act of seeing everything — many of them with my dad after he got sick — had as much influence on me as any particular movie.

30) Name a movie you love that you think few others do.
High Road to China. It has a 6.1 rating on and I wouldn't recommend it to anybody but I genuinely love it.

31) Name a movie you despise that you think most others love.
Despise is overstating it. Bored stiff by: The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

32) The Human Centipede—yes or no?
Haven't seen it, wouldn't see it on a bet. Life is too short, and I should know.

33) Anya Taylor-Joy or Olivia Cooke?
Don't know either one of them. Lovely people, I'm sure.

34) Johnny Flynn or Timothée Chalamet?
Never heard of them. Doesn't mean they aren't great.

35) Second-favorite Dorothy Arzner movie.
Had to look her up. She directed Merrily We Go To Hell (1932) and The Wild Party (Clara Bow, 1929). I liked The Wild Party, so I guess Merrily We Go To Hell?

36) Name a movie you haven't seen in over 20 years that you would drop everything to watch right now.
There are movies that I liked that I haven't seen in 20 years, but none that I would drop anything, much less everything, to see again. The ones I'd drop everything to see again, I've seen in the last 20 years — and I scrolled through a list of my top 500 movies just to make sure.

37) Name your favorite stylistic filmmaking cliché, and one you wouldn’t mind seeing disappear forever.
Favorite: a well-done match cut, for example this one in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There's a hilarious one in A Christmas Story where Randy opens the lid of a toilet — hard cut to the lid lifting on a pot of red cabbage ...

Least favorite: hand-held "shaky-cam" to create a faux documentary feel. It feels anything but. Buy a tripod!

38) Your favorite appearance by a real-life politician in a feature film, either fictional or a fictionalized account of a real event.
Ronald Reagan in The Killers (1964), although that's probably not what you meant.

39) Is film criticism dead?
If it were, would I be answering this quiz?

40) Elizabeth Patterson or Marjorie Main?
Marjorie Main, for The Women and Another Thin Man.

41) Arch Hall Jr. or Timothy Carey?
Who the fork is Arch Hall, Jr.? Timothy Carey, on the other hand, was in The Killing and Paths of Glory.

42) Name the film you think best fulfills the label "road movie."
Best fulfills what for whom? But of those movies that qualify as a "road movie," the one I'm most likely to watch again is The Big Steal in which Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer toodle around Mexico while being chased by William Bendix.

43) Horror film that, for whatever reason, made you feel most uncomfortable?
Freaks (1932). Yikes!

44) Least-favorite (directed by) Clint Eastwood movie.
Least favorite? Mystic River, which I thought was a hot mess. (Note: my favorite is The Outlaw Josey Wales.)

45) Second-favorite James Bond villain.
Well, my favorite is Auric Goldfinger. I like Oddjob, too, but technically, he's a henchman (as is Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb in From Russia, With Love).

Blofeld shows up a lot, but there's no particular performance of Blofeld — Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray, Max von Sydow, Christoph Waltz — that I really like. How about Blofeld's cat? My second-favorite James Bond villain is Blofeld's cat.

46) Best adaptation of a novel or other form that had been thought to be unfilmable.
Best? Who knows? Favorite? Joyce Cary's The Horse Mouth. From Here To Eternity also comes to mind.

47) Michelle Dockery or Merritt Wever?
Michelle Dockery was in The Gentlemen which I liked, so Michelle Dockery.

48) Jason Bateman or Ewan McGregor?
Ewan McGregor for Trainspotting.

49) Second-favorite Roman Polanski movie.
My favorite is Chinatown by a wide margin. I suppose Repulsion is my second favorite although I doubt I'll ever watch it again. Wouldn't give you a nickel for the rest of it.

50) What's the movie you wish you could watch with a grandparent right now? And, of course, why?
Two of my grandparents died long before I was born, a third died when I was a year old and the fourth, who died when I was ten, lived 2,000 miles away and I only met once. So, nothing with none of them. Might as well sit next to a complete stranger at the multiplex.

51) Oliver Stone two-fer: Natural Born Killers and/or JFK—yes or no?
How about an Oliver Stone none-fer. Not an Oliver Stone fan.

52) Name the actor whose likeness you would proudly wear as a rubber latex Halloween mask.
I can't imagine wearing a rubber latex mask, period. I have, however, been wearing this mask quite a lot recently.

53) Your favorite cinematographer, and her/his greatest achievement.
Arthur Edeson. He might be the most underappreciated cinematographer in movie history. The guy photographed Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, All Quiet on the Western Front, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Mutiny on the Bounty, Red Dust, several Douglas Fairbanks movies including The Thief of Bagdad ... But he never won an Oscar and you never see his name mentioned anywhere. Except here.

54) Best book about the nitty-gritty making of a movie.
Space Odyssey by Michael Benson. Highly recommended.

55) If you needed to laugh right now, what would be your go-to movie comedy?
Hmm. A Plumbing We Will Go, starring the Three Stooges.