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A handful of questions are pretty out of date, as you will see, but it's still worth doing, I think.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.


mister muleboy said...

<<. 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. >>

But a ton of suspense waiting for the answer to the cosmic question: “will I fuck up ?”

mister muleboy said...

<< 25) Favorite pairing of movie sex symbols >>

You omitted Don Rickles and George Savalas in “Kelly’s Heroes” . . . .? ! ?

Mythical Monkey said...

<< But a ton of suspense waiting for the answer to the cosmic question: “will I fuck up ?” >>

Boy, you said it, bub. Tedious yet stressful, like memorizing the phone book at gun point.

By the way, Sletteland was probably my worst argument -- I barely knew how to talk and stand upright at the same time -- but it's my one claim to fame, thanks to RBG. The arguments would get better but not the company.

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