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.

A much more interesting question for me would be what's my favorite movie title sequence? That is to say, my favorite opening credits. Off the top of my head, there's Dr Strangelove, Goldfinger, Charade, A Hard Day's Night, Sweet Smell of Success and everything Saul Bass ever did, including Vertigo and North by Northwest. But I'll go with Touch of Evil — the 1958 studio version with the Henry Mancini score rather than the restored version with no credits and only ambient background noise. Sorry, Orson.



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.

1 comment:

mister muleboy said...

A Touch of Evil. A downtown theater. Following the film ["are you folks American citizens. . . ?"], a stroll to the Dupont Circle metro.


"IZ ZISS NOT A ZTATION FOR ZTANDING??!?!"