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In Which I Am Tested

April 19, 2009

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Up to now, I’ve been a no-show at the several cinephile exams that have been hosted over the last couple of years at Dennis Cozzalio’s legendarily brainy film geek blog, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Well, before splitting for a hard-earned vacation, Dennis has posted a new exam on film-related matters, up in honor of the cartoon dog genius, Prof. Peabody, which you’re all encouraged to take.

I’ve posted my responses in the comment thread over there already, but now that I’m a SLIFR slacker no more, I thought I’d make ’em do double duty here because we know that my opinions matter, or something.

Here goes….

1) Favorite Biopic

“Lawrence of Arabia” – an obviously great film and a rather pedestrian choice given that I really like biopics, sometimes the cheesier and and more ridiculously fabricated the better. Therefore, quasi-demi-honorable mention is alluded this triumvirate of absurdly wrong biopics – “The Jolson Story” (it’s amazing how much Al Jolson’s life was just like the plot of “The Jazz Singer”!), “They Died With Their Boots On” (the love affair between Custer and the Indians your socialist history teacher doesn’t want you to see!) and “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” (he didn’t just appear in action movies…he lived them!).

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2) Dyan Cannon or Tuesday Weld?

It’s close, but I give it to Dyan Cannon for being hilarious onscreen and genuinely wacky offscreen.

3) Best example of science fiction futurism rendered silly by the event of time catching up to the prediction

The Jetson’s treadmill? I’m drawing a blank here.

4) Annette Funicello & Frankie Avalon or Troy Donahue & Sandra Dee?

Frankie & Annette – I grew up watching those movies on channels 5 & 9 (I think) out here up to age 10 or so. Not that those movies are in any sense “good” (I wonder if I could sit through any of them now?), but F&A at least have a certain amount of charm and sense of humor, which I really can’t say about Troy Donahue, at least.

5) Favorite Raoul Walsh movie?

Not really “White Heat,” and no, definitely not “They Died with Their Boots On”… The winner is “The Roaring Twenties” – by far. Just a magnificent entertainment. I need to see that one again some time soon.

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6) Sophomore film which represents greatest improvement over the director’s debut

This is tough, but I guess I’m going to say Polanski’s “Repulsion” as it’s brilliant and “Knife in the Water” left me feeling merely 90 minutes older after it was done. Though, that was in college and I might have a very different reaction now. (Another possibility is “Rushmore” – though I loved “Bottle Rocket” quite a bit, so it’s dicey.)

7) Ice Cube or Mos Def?

Mos Def – because he convinced me he was actually English in “Hithchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

8) Favorite movie about the music industry.

Many, many fun movies in this category, but I guess I’m going to have to go with “Nashville.”

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9) Favorite Looney Tunes short (provide link if possible).

This is easy. “Duck Dodgers in the 24th½ Century”.

10) Director most deserving of respect or upwardly mobile critical reassessment.

He’s already revered in many cinephile quarters, but that’s not good enough! Michael Powell with and without (but mostly with) Emeric Pressburger. Definitely deserves to be viewed at least on the same level as Hitchcock, Ford, Hawks, Wilder, Capra, etc. and to be seen and enjoyed by as many people.

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11) Ruth Gordon or Margaret Hamilton?

Tough call, but I gotta go with Ruth, since she was also a pretty good writer.

12) Best filmed adaptation of a play.

For the non-musical division, I’m thinking Richard Lester’s version of “The Knack and How to Get It,” though the great score by John Barry almost renders it a jazz musical. As for the actual musical division, probably “Sweet Charity.” (Several great musicals of the classic era are theoretically based on plays, but most of them took such liberties or were so loosely tied to the originals, that I’m pretty much disqualifying them). Also, a quick shout out here to Polanski’s underrated film of “Death and the Maiden.”

13) Buddy Ebsen or Edgar Buchanan?

I definitely gotta go by way of Edgar here. The man talked like a frog – how can you not love that?

14) Favorite Jean Renoir movie?

Another easy one as it was my official “favorite movie” for decades. “The Rules of the Game.”

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15) Favorite one-word movie title, and why

“Kill!”…and do I really need to explain why? Odd, somewhat funny little samurai flick….

16) Ernest Thesiger or Basil Rathbone?

Rathbone all the way. One of the greatest of character actors and probably the finest swordsmen in all of Los Angeles in his day.

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17) Summer movies—your highest and lowest expectations.

Because of my famed gore-phobia, I have some qualms, but I have to go with Tarentino’s “Inglorious Bastards” and just hope that Quentin doesn’t decide it’s time to do the full Fulci on this one.

On the other hand, “Year One” which looks to be some form of spoof of cave man movies starring Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, directed by Harold Ramis sounds really, really funny to me, though.

As for lowest expectations, I’ve gotta go with the “Transformers” sequel, as I was unable to sit through the first one.

18) Whether or not you’re a parent, what would be your ideal pick as first movie to see with your own child (or niece/nephew)? Why?

Depending on the age, I’d say “Pinnochio,” because it’s the most beautiful and in some ways truthful animated fairy tale ever made. When they get a bit older, I’m thinking “Singin’ in the Rain” or “Rio Bravo” – because, if any movies can seduce people into loving my two favorite troubled genres as much as I do, it would be those two.

19) L.Q. Jones or Strother Martin

Gotta go with Strother, mainly for his amazing work in “The Wild Bunch.”

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20) Movie most recently seen in theaters? On DVD/Blu-ray?

I’m behind on my theatrical movies – so, the last one I actually saw in a theater was “Slumdog Millionaire” (second time…it’s a long story though I did like it). On DVD – we weren’t paying proper attention and talked through the whole, but me and a cartoonist of my acquaintance were checking out the “Danger: Diabolik” DVD last night. I’m doing a project on Tom Hanks for Bullz-Eye, so the morning before I had just properly seen “A League of Their Own”, which I actually never saw before. Kind of drippily directed and way too long, but definitely funny and a great performance from Tom Hanks in a supporting role (so what if he was top billed)

21) Do you see more movies theatrically or at home? Why?

These days at home largely because of all the DVD I reviews and so on I’m obligated to do, I still greatly prefer theaters when possible, but the home entertainment/theatrical DVD is narrowing because of better home technology and often crappier movie-going experiences. Before DVD, I saw almost everything theatrically except in dire cinematic emergencies (a bit easier to pull off when you live in L.A., as I did back then).

22) Name an award-worthy comic performance that was completely ignored by Oscar and his pals.

Where do you start? Nearly all of them, but why don’t we go with Jame Cagney for “One, Two, Three”?

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23) Zac Efron & Vanessa Hudgens or Robert Pattinson & Kristen Stewart

Huh? Who?

24) Name a great (or merely very good) movie that is too painful to watch a second time (Thanks to The Onion A.V. Club).

“The Andalusian Dog”…no one warned me about that opening shot when I saw it projected at age 13 or so, and I’ve never recovered.

25) Beyonce Knowles or Jennifer Hudson?

Jennifer Hudson – I like the big voices.

26) Favorite Robert Mitchum movie?

I’m thinking “His Kind of Woman.”

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27) Favorite movie featuring a ‘60s musical group that is not either the Beatles or the Monkees

“Monterey Pop.”

28) Maria Ouspenskaya or Una O’Connor?

Maria!

29) Favorite Vincent Price movie?

“The Abominable Dr. Phibes”…or maybe “His Kind of Woman.”

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30) Name a movie currently flying under the radar that is deserving of rabid cult status.

A Dirty Carnival. Absolutely. Also “Save the Green Planet .

31) Irene Ryan or Lucille Benson (or Bea Benaderet)?

I’m more than a little foggy about the other two, so it’s Ms. Ryan by default.

32) Single line from a movie that never fails to make your laugh or otherwise cheer you up. (This may be obvious, but the line does not have to come from a comedy.)

I’m sure I’ll think of more – but we could do worse than “Casablanca” and “Life of Brian.”

“Well, there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.”

“I’m not a Roman, mum, I’m a kike, a yid, a heebie, a hook-nose, I’m kosher mum, I’m a Red Sea pedestrian, and proud of it!”

“How shall we f*ck off, O Lord?”

33) Elliot Gould or Donald Sutherland?

Donald Sutherland, though from what I’ve heard about the guy, it pains me to say so. Still, he’s generally pretty amazing.

34) Best performance by a director in an acting role.

Probably Orson Welles in “The Third Man”, but how about Sydney Pollack in just about everything he did, but maybe especially “Eyes Wide Shut.”

35) Favorite Barbara Stanwyck movie?

A toss up between “Double Indemnity” and “Ball of Fire,” I’d say.

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36) Outside of reading film criticism or other literature about the movies, what subject do you enjoy reading about or studying which you would say best enriches or illuminates your understanding and appreciation of life, a life that includes the movies?

I’ve actually read relatively few books about film – until recently I always figured I spent enough time on that in the rest of my life. I’d say world and U.S. history and politics, but I need to get back into eastern philosophy and various esoteric matters.

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