Friday, October 30, 2020

Sergio Leone's Dr. Henryk Savaard's Hair-Raising Home Run, Bloodcurdling At-Vampire-Bat, Field Of Screams Baseball-Horror Movie Quiz (with a dugout assist from Savaard’s sinister sidekick, Doc Roberts)

Well, no sooner did I post my answers to that old Sergio Leone quiz yesterday than I found he'd posted another quiz just this week, this time a combination of World Series and Halloween questions. So here we go again.

1) Ricky Vaughan or Nuke LaLoosh? (question courtesy of our main Maine monster, Patrick Robbins)
Going with Nuke LaLoosh. Bull Durham is a better movie than Major League, Tim Robbins is a better actor than Charlie Sheen, Nuke LaLoosh is a starting pitcher (Ricky Vaughn is a closer) which is worth more in terms of Wins Above Replacement, LaLoosh is younger, and from what I could see, has much more upside — assuming he can scrounge up a little more spare change for that five-cent head of his. Plus he will hit the bull for kicks!
2) Best moment in the Friday the 13th film series.
When they were over. Truthfully, I only saw two of them — the first and whichever one was in 3D — and I hated them both.
3) Henry Hull or Oliver Reed?
They were both in movies about werewolves, Werewolf of London (1935) and The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), respectively. The former is utterly forgettable; the latter, I've never seen. Beyond that, Henry Hull was a pretty minor character actor whereas Oliver Reed was a star, so I'm going with Reed.
4) What is the last movie you saw in a theater?
Haven't been in a theater since, what, December? Covid. But in case you really want to know, the answer is The Gentlemen, Guy Ritchie's cockney gangster comedy starring Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey. Katie-Bar-The-Door and I loved it, but then we love Guy Ritchie.
5) Best movie casting for a real-life baseball player, or best casting of a real-life baseball player in a movie.
The late, great, deeply-missed Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in 42 is the best performance by an actor as a real-life baseball player. Best casting of a real-life baseball player in a movie? That's tougher. Maybe Babe Ruth in the silent Harold Lloyd comedy Speedy?
6) D.B. Sweeney or Ray Liotta?
They both played Shoeless Joe Jackson, Sweeney in Eight Men Out, Liotta in Field of Dreams. I'm going with Ray Liotta if only because he was the star of Goodfellas.
7) Given that the fear factor in 2020 is already alarmingly high, is there a film or a genre which you would hesitate to revisit right now?
Not from any anxiety about covid. Now, PTSD from my cancer days, sure ...
8) The Natural (1984) — yes or no?
Yes. It's not perfect, but Randy Newman's score is iconic and the final scenes are great — even if it has nothing to do with the novel which, as the great Thomas Boswell has pointed out, is just an overrated mishmash of baseball anecdotes and cliches.

By the way, it was one year ago today that Howie Hendrick hit the biggest home run in Washington Nationals' history, giving the Nats a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning of game seven of the 2019 World Series ...

Now that was exciting.

9) Peter Cushing or Colin Clive?
They both played Dr. Frankenstein — Colin Clive in the classic Universal horror films Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, co-starring Boris Karloff as the Monster; Peter Cushing in the Hammer Horror classic, The Curse of Frankenstein, with Christopher Lee as the Creature. Cushing is a better actor overall, but Clive is the best mad scientist ever.

10) What’s the lamest water-cooler hit you can think of? Of course, define "lamest" however you will, but for "water-cooler hit" Dr. Savaard is thinking about something zeitgeist-y, something everyone was talking about the weekend it opened and beyond, something everyone seemingly had to see — The Other Side of Midnight residing at #1 in 1977 for two weeks is not what the professor has in mind.
Probably not what you're talking about, but I remember all the hype and blather about The English Patient, which won the Oscar for best picture, but which for some of us was just sheer torture.

11) Greatest single performance in horror movie history.
There are some good ones — Fredric March in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Anthony Perkins in Psycho, Kurt Russell in The Thing (1982) and that big hairy ape in King Kong (1933). But I'm going with Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester in Bride of Frankenstein, the Nick and Nora Charles of Universal Studio horror.
12) Ingrid Pitt or the Collinson Twins?
Ingrid Pitt starred in Countess Dracula, the Collinson Twins (Madeleine and Mary) were in Twins of Evil, both from 1971. I have a vague recollection of maybe seeing Countess Dracula, so I'll go with Ingrid Pitt, but truthfully, I have no opinion.
13) Name one lesser-known horror film that you think everyone should see. State your reason.
I'm going with The Phantom Carriage, a 1921 Swedish silent film directed by and starring Victor Sjöström (who would later play the old professor in Ingmar Bergman's classic Wild Strawberries). The Phantom Carriage (a.k.a. Körkarlen, in the original Swedish) is the story of the last man to die on New Year's Eve, a real scoundrel who is condemned to serve as the Grim Reaper for a year. Visually brilliant, truly spooky, and for anyone who thinks silent movies are all about damsels tied to railroad tracks, a real eye-opener. It's in the public domain — check it out!
14) Do the same for an underseen or underappreciated baseball movie.
Some contenders: For Love of the Game, starring Kevin Costner as a major league pitcher alone with his thoughts while tossing the game of his life. Mr. 3000, starring Bernie Mac as an egomaniac who retired with exactly 3,000 career hits only to find out that, thanks to an accounting error, he actually came up short. Mr. Baseball, starring Tom Selleck as an aging ballplayer who goes to Japan to stretch his career. Probably others.

But I'm going with season three of television's Brockmire, a brilliant comedy about a play-by-play announcer who blew up his career and is now working his way back to the big leagues. Real insights into baseball, recovery, death and how you can talk about absolutely anything as long as you keep the pitch count straight. With Hank Azaria. Streaming on Hulu. Highly recommended.

15) William Bendix or Leslie Nielsen?
I assume we're talking about William Bendix as the umpire Bill "Two Call" Johnson in the 1950 baseball comedy Kill the Umpire versus Leslie Nielsen and his stint as the stand-in umpire in The Naked Gun. Look, I haven't seen Kill the Umpire and I don't have to — for sheer laughs, Leslie Nielsen's work behind the plate is the funniest performance in a baseball movie ever. Plus you get the added bonus of him singing the national anthem. Hey, it's Enrico Pallazzo! Enrico Pallazzo! Enrico Pallazzo!

16) Would you go back to a theater this weekend if one reopened near you?
The Columbia 14, about five minutes away, opened a few weeks ago. Haven't been and won't be going.
17) Your favorite horror movie TV show/host, either running currently or one from the past.
Svengoolie, who seems to genuinely appreciate classic, pre-slasher horror.
18) The Sentinel (1977) — yes or no?
Never heard of it, and I was sixteen when it came out and was seeing everything. Features all sorts of people — Ava Gardner, Martin Balsam, John Carradine, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Eli Wallach, Sylvia Miles, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach. TV Guide gives it one star, and I've got to say, any movie with that much talent that I've never heard of must be terrible!
19) Second-favorite Ron Shelton movie.
Ron Shelton wrote and directed Bull Durham, the best sports movie ever made and a real contender for the best movie of 1988. But he's never been able to replicate that success, critically or commercially. Tin Cup and White Men Can't Jump have their fans, but I guess I'd go with Dark Blue, a police procedural about a corrupt cop (Kurt Russell) investigating a murder.
20) Disclaimer warnings attached to broadcasts of films like Gone With the Wind and Blazing Saddles — yes or no?
Saw just such a disclaimer warning when we streamed an old favorite, Lady and the Tramp, on Disney Plus a couple of weeks ago. It actually made me look at the movie in a different way. Frankly, I'd always only ever seen it as a very charming romantic comedy about dogs. Afterwards, I had to admit that, yes, Lady and the Tramp is full of cultural stereotypes — but it also celebrates America's immigrant heritage, and if anything, I wound up appreciating the movie more.

Besides, if disclaimers keep old classics un-cut and on the air, I'm all for them.
21) In the World Series of baseball movies, who are your NL and AL champs?
Bull Durham is the champ of the National League (given Crash Davis's distaste for the designated hitter). For the AL, you gotta go with one starring the Bronx Bombers — how about The Pride of the Yankees? But it's Bull Durham in a four-game sweep.
22) What was the last horror film you saw?
I watched the Hammer Studio's version of The Hound of the Baskervilles on TCM a week or so ago. Stars Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville. Good stuff.
23) Geena Davis or Tatum O'Neal?
Geena Davis in A League of the Their Own versus Tatum O'Neal in The Bad News Bears. I'd say overall that Geena Davis is a better actress, but I gotta go with Tatum O'Neal in The Bad News Bears. She and Walter Matthau are great together.
24) AMC is now renting theaters for $100 - $350, promising a more "private," catered party-movie experience. What do you like or dislike about this idea?
If it keeps movie theaters afloat, I'm all for it. But I won't be coughing up for it.
25) Name the scariest performance in a baseball movie.
How about that giant dog on the other side of the fence in The Sandlot? You're killin' me, Smalls!
26) Second-favorite Jack Arnold movie.
Jack Arnold was a master of 1950s schlock horror — with the highlights being Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space and The Incredible Shrinking Man.

My favorite of the bunch is It Came from Outer Space. I saw it at a little revival theater in Hendersonville, Tennessee, back in the 1970s — 3-D glasses and everything (bonus trivia: the theater at that time was owned by local tv news anchor Chris Clark who shared anchor duties with Oprah Winfrey when she was just getting her start. Clark personally sold me a box of popcorn ...)

I really don't have a second favorite, at least none tangentially involving Oprah Winfrey ...
27) What would be the top five films of 2020 you've seen so far?
I've seen three "films" (all streaming) that were officially released in 2020 — Enola Holmes, Palm Springs and Hamilton, and I enjoyed them in that order. Enola Holmes is a fun murder mystery about Sherlock Holmes's teenage sister. Palm Springs is an existential time-loop comedy starring Andy Samberg of Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Nine-nine!). And Hamilton is, of course, one of the most celebrated Broadway musicals of all-time.

28) What are your top three pandemic-restricted movie viewing experiences so far in this ... unusual year?
Well, if you mean what experiences I've had jumping through hoops to see a movie in 2020, the answer is none — if I haven't watched it while sitting on the couch alone or with Katie-Bar-The-Door, I haven't seen it. We did enjoy watching the Western Noir collection of movies on The Criterion Channel — one movie every night for about two weeks. The best of the bunch was probably The Man from Laramie starring Jimmy Stewart, the oddest was Rancho Notorious with Marlene Dietrich, the least satisfying was Lust for Gold with Glenn Ford and Ida Lupino stuck in a largely pointless flashback.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Sergio Leone and Professor Arthur Chipping's Maddeningly Detailed, Purposefully Vague, Fitfully Out-Of-Focus Back To School Movie Quiz

Here's a quiz from Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule that he posted eight years ago and that, with the exception of one question, I skipped over. I was busier in those days, I guess.

A handful of questions are pretty out of date, as you will see, but it's still worth doing, I think. As always, feel free to add your answers in the comments section below.

1) What is the biggest issue for you in the digital vs. film debate?
Boy, is this a blast from the past, kind of like asking about silents versus talkies. At the time I would have said I prefer the documented psychological effects of film's flickering images — they create a sense of euphoria as you watch — but digital is so much cheaper to work with, we're never going back.
2) Without more than one minute's consideration, name three great faces from the movies
It would take me more than a minute to think of any faces from the movies, much less great ones. I sometimes wonder about the people who put these questions together — they must categorize movies differently than I do, say as a series of images, whereas I think of them as a chronological list of titles that I have to sort through one by one to remember what's in there. You develop certain habits as a lawyer ...

And what do they mean by great anyway? Louise Brooks great? Or Peter Lorre great?

I asked Katie-Bar-The-Door and she didn't know what the question meant either, but she said Cary Grant because his individual features weren't actually that handsome but he used his face well and he aged into it spectacularly.
Then she said Humphrey Bogart because, you know, Bogart, and after that she sort of trailed off into silence ...
I'll add an actress to the list: Bette Davis, who probably did more with less than any actress in movie history.
3) The movie you think could be interesting if remade as a movie musical
This was the only question I addressed back in the day and I stand by my answer:

"If you mean giving a movie the modern Baz Luhrmann/Moulin Rouge treatment, none of them. If you mean climbing into a time machine and casting Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Oscar Levant in a musical version of National Lampoon's Animal House, count me in."
4) The last movie you saw theatrically/on DVD, Blu-ray, streaming
I haven't been in a movie theater since before covid-19. The most recent DVD/Blu-Ray? Courtesy of my pal, Mister Muleboy, a pair of Carl Kolchak made-for-tv Night Stalker movies starring Darren McGavin from the early 1970s — The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler, which inspired the television series. They hold up surprisingly well, actually.
Streaming? All of them ...

5) Favorite movie about work
Most movies on some level are about people doing some sort of job, whether it's as a gumshoe (Chinatown), an astronaut (2001: A Space Odyssey) or a sheriff (Rio Bravo).

Of those movies that are specifically about the tedium of getting up, going to work and dealing with a seemingly endless amount of b.s. in order to collect a paycheck, A Hard Day's Night might be my favorite ...

As for movies about what I used to do for a living — lawyering — I'd have to say Witness for the Prosecution, although technically, that's about trial lawyers. I was an appellate lawyer — totally different animal. Something like Reversal of Fortune was closer to what I did, but I'm not a fan of the movie. There's just not a lot of suspense in watching a guy sit in a library for weeks on end just to answer fifteen minutes worth of arcane questions from a panel of judges.
The Firm, on the other hand, comes closest to capturing the spirit of practicing law, except they kill you slowly instead of all at once ...

Now, of those movies with a courtroom scene in it, I'd call Duck Soup my favorite ...

As an aside, did I ever mention — in this blog, I mean, because Lord knows everybody else has heard the story — that the first case I ever argued was in front of a three-judge panel of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas and Lawrence Silberman? And I won. You can look it up (here).
Off the subject, I once wrote several thousand words about The Dick Van Dyke Show (here) which was usually set at the office ...

6) The movie you loved as a child that did not hold up when seen through adult eyes
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I think. I still love the "Doll on a Music Box" scene, but otherwise, it's much too long, essentially two feature-length movies — one about an inventor, the other a fantasy about rescuing lost children — stitched together. Make up your mind!

7) Favorite "road" movie
Lot of good ones. Sullivan's Travels, It Happened One Night, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Sideways, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Duel. And I'm a big fan of The Big Steal.
I saw one list that included 1939's Stagecoach, which if that qualifies is probably my favorite. Another included The Blues Brothers, another favorite that certainly spends a lot of time in a car. And then the words "road trip" introduce a hilarious sequence in Animal House. Take your pick.

8) Does Clint Eastwood's appearance at the Republican National Convention change or confirm your perspective on him as a filmmaker/movie icon? Is that appearance relevant to his legacy as a filmmaker?
Given that I have to remind you what this question is about — Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair in 2012 — the obvious answer is no, it had no impact on his legacy.

And to answer part one of the question, it shouldn't have, either. The man's entitled to an opinion, and I'll bet you'd be happy to have an empty chair as president these days.

In the main, I separate the art from the artist. Only if someone's opinions or behavior illuminated something unsavory about the work itself that we'd missed the first time around would it affect my perspective on them overall.
9) Longest-lasting movie or movie-related obsession
Alternate Oscars. I've been working on them in one form or another for around thirty years. They're certainly the backbone of this blog.
10) Favorite artifact of movie exploitation
I understand all the individual words in this question but don't know what they mean in this particular order. Are we talking about so-called "exploitation films" — cheap, lurid movies trying to cash in on the latest trend? And what does "artifact" mean in this context? Some aspect of those movies that survived to become mainstream?

If so, then I'd say stylized ultra-violence. Not gore, necessarily, although turn on cable tv some morning and look at an off-hand, talky, almost comedic autopsy scene in an episode of NCIS where the body is burned beyond recognition with its chest laid open and compare it with the most gory scene in a Hammer horror movie from sixty years ago and you'll see what I mean. But also compare any of the John Wick movies, which are ballets of violence, with even the bloodiest war movies of the classic era.

11) Have you ever fallen asleep in a movie theater? If so, when and why?
I fell asleep watching Van Helsing back in 2004. During an action sequence, no less. A frenetic yet thoroughly unengaging movie full of cardboard characters doing incomprehensible things.

Now Katie-Bar-The-Door, on the other hand, can fall asleep in a theater at the drop of a hat. It's dark and she's sleepy ...
12) Favorite performance by an athlete in a movie
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane! comes to mind. Jim Brown in The Dirty Dozen is another one. Alex Karras in Victor/Victoria and Blazing Saddles. Professional wrestler Andre the Giant was terrific in The Princess Bride, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a wrestler, too. Terry Crews played in the NFL. Mark Harmon was a quarterback at UCLA. Tom Selleck played basketball at USC. Jason Statham was a diver, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a body builder, Bob Uecker used to play baseball (no, really!). And, of course, Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame was a gold medal Olympic swimmer.

Not many women athletes in movies that I could track down. Ronda Rousey was in Furious 7 but I've never seen it. Gena Carano was in Deadpool ...
13) Second favorite Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie
He's made some very good movies — Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, for example — but I'm not a fan.
14) Favorite film of 1931
Lot of good ones. My favorite is actually the best — Charlie Chaplin's City Lights — followed by a pair of René Clair masterpieces, À nous la liberté and Le million, and then one of the greatest of the Universal Studio horror classics, Frankenstein. Lot of other very good movies that year — M, Monkey Business, The Smiling Lieutenant, Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Waterloo Bridge ... (Click here for the complete list)
15) Second favorite Raoul Walsh movie
My favorite, bar none, is The Thief of Bagdad from 1924, starring Douglas Fairbanks in his best role, a top ten silent movie for sure.

Which makes my second favorite White Heat, starring James Cagney. "Made it, Ma, top of the world!"

16) Favorite film of 1951
My favorites? The Thing from Another World, The African Queen and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Click here for the ones I think are the "best."
17) Second favorite Wong Kar-wai movie
Chungking Express if I watched it twice.
18) Favorite film of 1971
I'd never tell you my favorites are the best or even very good, they're just the ones I watch: Big Jake, Bananas, Brian's Song and The Andromeda Strain. For a list of the best movies of 1971, click here.
19) Second favorite Henri-Georges Clouzot movie
My favorite is The Wages of Fear so I guess Les Diaboliques?
20) Favorite film of 1991
My list of favorites (as opposed to what I think is best): Enchanted April, L.A. Story, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Other People's Money and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, probably in that order. For a list of the best movies of 1991, click here.
Bonus: My least favorite? Steve Martin's remake of Father of the Bride. Loathed it.

21) Second favorite John Sturges movie
Sturges directed The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. They're 1 and 1A in my book. The one I'm not watching on any given day is my second favorite.
22) Favorite celebrity biopic
Was Patton a celebrity?
23) Name a good script idea which was let down either by the director or circumstances of production
Billy Wilder's Love in the Afternoon is one of his funniest scripts, but Gary Cooper is way too old and Audrey Hepburn isn't quite right either. Very funny to read, not as good to watch.
24) Heaven's Gate — yes or no?
Never sat all the way through it, but of what I've seen, no.
25) Favorite pairing of movie sex symbols
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler in Dinner at Eight run them a close second. Okay, I'm half kidding.
26) One word that you could say which would instantly evoke images and memories of your favorite movie. (Naming the movie is optional—might be more fun to see if we can guess what it is from the word itself)
27) Name one moment which to you demarcates a significant change, for better or worse, on the landscape of the movies over the last 20 years.
Probably the day someone (Netflix?) began streaming movies for the first time. Probably for the better and the worse.
28) Favorite pre-Code talkie
We don't really think of the Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers as "pre-Code" in the Barbara Stanwyck Baby Face sense, but the 4K restoration revealed a number of single- and double-entendres that were cut from re-releases once Hollywood began enforcing the Code in 1934. Racy stuff!
29) Oldest film in your personal collection (Thanks, Peter Nellhaus)
I have a dvd, Landmarks of Early Film Volume 1, that includes Edison's Kinetoscopes from 1894 — and for that matter, Edward Muybridge's pre-movie "movies" from 1885. (I've written about them here)
30) Longest film in your personal collection. (Thanks, Brian Darr)
If we count the ten-part serial Les Vampires from 1915 as a single film, then that (I've written about it here). If not, then Gone with the Wind, which is ten minutes longer than Lawrence of Arabia.
31) Have your movie collection habits changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?
Eight years ago, I would have said I'd stopped taping movies off television with a VCR and moved exclusively to dvd's and Blu-rays. Now, I'd say I have mostly stopped buying dvd's and Blu-rays with a few exceptions from Criterion Collection. Mostly I stream now from what is beginning to feel like a hundred different services. Boy, whoever thought "ala carte" was going to be cheaper than cable sure missed the boat ...

But I never turn down a gift of a dvd or a Blu-ray! (And, no, that's not a picture of my collection. I have more movies than that and they are arranged chronologically by release date.)
32) Wackiest, most unlikely "directed by" credit you can name
From Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

33) Best documentary you’ve seen in 2012 (made in 2012 or any other year)
No way can I remember what documentary I might have seen in 2012. The best one I've seen this year is No Direction Home: Bob Dylan from 2005 which I only finally got around to. My favorite bit — Dylan goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, opening with a blistering rendition of "Maggie's Farm."

If Mike Bloomfield's searing guitar riffs didn't get the message across, the final verse surely did:

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more!
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more!
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They say sing while you slave, I just get bored.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more!

I wonder if Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Peter Paul & Mary, et al, were aware that what they were hearing was the sound of history slamming the door in their faces ...

Be sure to stick around for the cascade of boos at the 5 minute mark:

34) What’s your favorite "(this star) was almost cast in (this movie)" anecdote?
I've always been grateful that Jerry Lewis turned down a part in Billy Wilder's classic Some Like It Hot, with the role going to Jack Lemmon instead. Afterwards, whenever Wilder bumped into Lewis, he'd greet him with "Hello, schmuck." At least that's the story.
35) Program three nights of double bills at a revival theater that might best illuminate your love of the movies
Illuminate my love of the movies? I don't know about any of that stuff. But here are three double features that would mean something to me:

The Thin Man (1934) and Holiday (1938) — about what the relationship between a man and a woman can be
The Horse's Mouth (1958) and Music and Lyrics (2007) — two underrated movies about the creative process
Only Angels Have Wings (1939) and Brian's Song (1971) — two stories, one fictional, one true, about how living well can prepare you for dying well
36) You have been granted permission to invite any three people, alive or dead, to your house to watch the Oscars. Who are they?
Do I have to watch the Oscars with them? If not, then Hitler, Stalin and Chairman Mao. Who else deserves that sort of punishment?
37) Favorite Mr. Chips. (Careful...)
This feels like a trick question: Robert Donat, of course.