KEY TO PROFESSOR WAGSTAFF'S SUMMER OF 42 QUIZ PART FOUR: COMEDY, FANTASY, CLICHES, COMMENTARIES AND ALL THE REST
The following is the final installment of a four-part article gathering up the answers to Professor Wagstaff’s Summer of 42 (Questions, That Is) Movie Quiz. You can find parts one, two and three posted below this article by scrolling down.)
33) Favorite Movie About High School
The movie most mentioned in this category was, hands down, Dazed and Confused, but that’s not at all to imply that it was some across-the-board choice. In fact, this category probably teased out the most diverse range of responses of almost any question in this quiz. Benaiah and I both wholeheartedly threw our support behind Richard Linklater’s movie—I think it’s the best movie about high school, the ‘70s and about small-town life I’ve ever seen—but Thom McG was more circumspect: “(My favorite high school movie) has not been made yet. Dazed and Confused was wonderful, but I couldn’t relate—all those drugs and classic rock tunes…” Jen was more definitive about what went wrong for her with the movie-- “When I saw Dazed and Confused, at first I laughed my ass off… then it just dissolved into a recognition fest— ‘I had that purse. Mary had those shoes. That girl in Algebra wore that exact same poncho all through junior year…’
So what high school movie did it for Jen? No, not Fast Times at Ridgemont High, though it does rate a mention for her (it was the out-and-out pick for Blaagh and Robert). Turn back the clock with us now to 1987, when a little film by up-and-coming director Phil Joanou, whose star never quite rose to the heights that were expected of him, hit multiplexes and disappeared in what seemed like the same instant: Three O’Clock High, starring Casey Siemaszko as a nerdy high school newspaper reporter who accidentally bumps into bully Richard Tyson and spends the entirety of the movie watching the clock as his 3:00 p.m. after-school date with Tyson’s fists draws nearer and nearer. (Should we inquire with which character Jen identified?)
After these three, the choices get even more interesting. PSaga cites Terry Zwigoff’s inspired rendering of Daniel Clowes’ comic book Ghost World as number one, because “this is what high school was like for me, except (the movie is) way more cool.” (Should we inquire with which character PSaga most identified?), whereas for Beege, closed-off men trying to recapture high school in Beautiful Girls fills the bill.
I like the rowdy triumvirate proposed by Rodger Rebel Without a Cause), Machine Gun (High School Confidential) and Caption Jockey (Rock and Roll High School-- oh, that Riff Randall…), though I must take issue (and this will not surprise him) with Murray’s choice of Porky’s. At last, a movie comedy I can hold over my favorite cousin’s head in the same way he dangles This is Spinal Tap over mine. I remember visiting him and his wife on the weekend after Porky’s came out, and the two of them being very excited to take me to see this hilarious movie. I don’t recall if I’d heard much about it one way or the other, but I do remember not being very enthusiastic about seeing it. Even so, we all went (they’d seen it the weekend before), and after about ten minutes I realized it was, to put it most kindly, not going to be my cup of tea. The next 80 minutes were fairly excruciating, alternating boredom with utter distaste and a kind of numb confusion in observing that this offal being dumped in front of them was being received by the audience as if it was fresh, funny stuff. Murray, I love ya and all, but I have a feeling we’re just never gonna see eye-to-eye on comedies (have you gotten around to The Big Lebowski yet?).
Virgil touches the sublime with his choice—the fumbling adoration from afar that informs John Gordon Sinclair’s every waking high school moment as he pines for lovely soccer-playing Dee Hepburn in Gregory’s Girl, from director Bill Forsyth. Virg, we’ve often wondered what happened to Forsyth after the disastrously received Being Human (1993). Were you aware that his only credit since then came in 1999 and was a sequel to Gregory’s Girl, entitled Gregory’s Two Girls? Does anyone know what happened to Bill Forsyth? How can someone with such a singular vision—the director of That Sinking Feeling, Local Hero, Comfort and Joy and Housekeeping-- comedies like no other’s—just up and disappear?
And the Mysterious Adrian Betamax offers up the most provocative, not to mention obscure, title in this category, a little morsel entitled Fucking Amal, the movie directed by Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodyson just before he would make a small splash in america and on the festival circuit with Tillsammans (Together) and Lilja 4-Ever.
But my wife and I had wondered, before I posted the questions to the quiz, if anyone would think that Gus van Sant’s controversial post-Columbine meditation Elephant was worth a mention, and sure enough, Novotny did. It’s an interesting choice, in light of the relative lightness of the other picks, but also because no other American participating (I’m making an assumption, based on some of his comments, that Novotny is perhaps European, though I don’t think he’s ever said for sure) seemed to consider it. (I wonder what the general feeling in the group would be about Elephant in general.) Personally, I thought it worked better and was more resonant with me than I was prepared to allow, given some of the preconceptions I had about it, based mostly on my dread at the prospect of actually seeing it. But as the middle part of Van Sant’s long-take trilogy of death contemplation, I felt it fell short of its precursor, the brilliantly absorptive and experimental Gerry, which had imagery that was so hypnotic and transfixing that giving yourself over to it began to feel a little like giving yourself over to slow, creeping, seductive death. That sense of the inevitability of death that informs Gerry also informs Elephant (as I would expect it would van Sant’s completing piece of the trilogy, Last Days, which I have yet to see). But where Gerry has an almost mystical detachment, Elephant’s detachment, though pointed (roaming the halls with Harris Savides’ camera accurately approximates that zombified sense of place and purpose that is an exclusively spectral quality of high school), remains a little diagrammatic, what with the multiple vantage points and repeated perspectives on the same events. Van Sant’s style in Elephant creates awful dread—we know what lies at the end of the hall through those library doors, we just never know if, this time, we’re gonna get there or take a last-minute swerve away to “safety”— but the imagery, and its inevitability—didn’t expand in my consciousness the way Gerry’s did. Perhaps that’s a result of the subject matter— could a movie attempting to deal with Columbine, even glancingly, avoid being somehow suffocating? And after Columbine, and Elephant, are the old Fast Times/Porky’s models even meaningful anymore as anything other than nostalgia?
34) The movie you'd most like to be subjected to a DVD commentary, and the person or persons (living or dead) who you'd like to hear talking on it
Out of all 42 of the Professor's questions, the answers to this one were the answers I was most looking forward to reading, and they did not disappoint.
Beege led off imagining the tales that might be told by the cast and crew of Gone with the Wind, and Blaagh concurred: "Imagine Gable, Leigh, DeHavilland, McDaniel, Howard, Ward Bond, buttinski Evelyn Keyes, not to mention the directors three, yakking away over the various scenes. They'd have to have multiple commentaries, like the Lord of the Rings movies. Ah, if only!"
Continuing this early-established theme of Commentaries from Beyond the Grave, Virgil Hilts proposes a similar multi-speaker commentary forCitizen Kane. Virgil envisions a round table composed of writer-director-star Orson Welles, who could comment on various famous set pieces, and perhaps even the significance of "Rosebud," that is if he could get in a word edgewise from fellow participant William Randolph Hearst, who would undoubtedly be shouting Welles down at every opportunity with charges of misrepresentation and slander regarding the conception of the Kane character and what it says about himself. Down the panel would sit screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, long thought to be a much more significant contributor to the Kane dynasty, who would have his hands full pointing out his own contributions above the din, and of course getting Welles' back when Hearst lets his indignation get out of control. But Welles and Hearst might join a somewhat united front in attacking the final member of the commentary track, film critic Pauline Kael, whose essay "Raising Kane" famously (or infamously) laid a good portion of the credit for what was right about Kane, a movie she terms a pop epic and "the one American talking picture that seems as fresh now as the day it opened" at Mankiewicz's feet and had few kind words at all for Hearst (at least words that he would consider kind). Kael might have some interesting observations about the film's lasting impact and its cultural significance to offer, that is assuming she could be heard above the din created by the other three panelists. Nice call, Virgil!
Commentaries from Beyond the Grave continue with Jen imagining a dream double feature of Some Like It Hot and Sunset Boulevard with a solo Billy Wilder at the microphone. (Next best thing-- Jen, have you read Cameron Crowe's book-length series of interviews with Wilder? If you have, it'll just make you want your DVD commentary wish to come true even more than ever.) Robert votes for a combo of Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann brought back to talk about Torn Curtain, with Herrmann presumably offering up much criticism of the movie's score, which was written by John Addison. Murray wants to hear General George S. Patton, Jr. on George C. Scott as Patton. (Perhaps he might have something to say about teenagers who go to the drive-in and make out while watching movies like Patton, though I’d imagine he’d have stronger words for those kids who had the opportunity to make out while watching it, but instead chose to watch the movie, and those strong words might begin something like, “Son, you’re just the kind of focused, no-nonsense recruit the Army is looking for…”)
And to close out this subcategory, I thought that this might be a perfect time for Jesus Christ Himself to sit down in front of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and put an end to the controversy once and for all. Did Satan really look and sound like a Eurotrash transsexual? Just how conflicted was Pontius Pilate? And seeing as it was He who lived and died this particular story, not Jim Caviezel, would Christ find Gibson’s fixation on His (pictorially sumptuous and lurid) agonies honorable and defensible? If Christ took a look at the frequency with which Gibson himself has chosen roles in which he could be spectacularly martyred, would He feel a little uncomfortable with the parallels being drawn between Himself and the director’s own “bravery” at bringing this gore-soaked vision to the screen? Would He rather have had Gibson give a little more weight to His teachings, if only to lend the horror a bit more theological context? Or would He simply say, taking a cue from the director and our current president, “Hey, this is the way it was—you folks who don’t, for whatever reason, like the movie, well, you’re either with Me or against Me?” Would Christ Himself insist that rejecting The Passion was tantamount to rejecting Him? And while we’re at it, what is going on with this Anne Rice character?
Living auteurs that were called upon to offer their points of view included Hsiao-hsien Hou, who could make Novotny happy if he’d only speak on the commentary track for a Cafe Lumiere disc; Walter Hill, who Machine Gun McCain wishes would lay down a track and talk about Streets of Fire; Quentin Tarantino, along with cast members Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and John Travolta, to fulfill Benaiah’s wish for the ultimate Pulp Fiction DVD, “providing QT didn’t pontificate too much—I want to hear about it all”; and David Lynch, who Thom McG wishes would provide just a smidgen of insight into Mulholland Drive (“Anybody else, I’d be afraid they’d overexplain, but not Lynchy”).
Finally, some thoughts about DVD commentaries in lieu of special requests:
“I think these all already exist—or there’s already too many!” – The Mysterious Adrian Betamax
“I’m not really into audio commentaries. Most of them are really boring and annoying, no? (However,) if Thom got her wish on Mulholland Drive, I might change my mind.” – PSaga
35) Favorite Animated Movie Disney gets its nods here, of course—Blaaagh cites 101 Dalmatians and Thom McG likes Beauty and the Beast. And Pixar stands tall too—Beege likes anything from the Pixar line, though she takes time to note that she “avoids Disney-type movies on principle,” which should make raising her near two-year-old daughter interesting; and Jen stands behind Toy Story and Toy Story 2 all the way to Al’s Toy Barn and back.
The Japanese were amply represented by three picks: Akira (Benaiah), Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke) (PSaga) and Perfect Blue (Novotny).
The only animated movie to be picked by more than one person was South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, which was the cup of blasphemy preferred by Rodger, Caption Jockey and myself.
Murray, proving that anything goes if it means spending time with the grandkids, picks Don Bluth’s original The Land Before Time, and though he didn’t say so, I’d bet Murray has spent some quality time in the company of the endless sequels in this series too. And Virgil Hilts has nothing but praise and awe, and rightfully so, to bestow upon Nick Park’s second Wallace & Gromit short, The Wrong Trousers.
But the happiest choice for me in this category has to be Machine Gun McCain’s selection of Tex Avery’s immortal I Love to Singa. The story of Owl Jolson, the son of classical-loving parents who just wants to sing jazz, is one of Avery’s early masterpieces, rivaled only in my affection by Avery’s Rock-a-bye Bear, and it can be glimpsed briefly in Joe Dante’s excellent Looney Tunes: Back In Action.
36) Most overly familiar dialogue phrase used in screenwriting, usually to connote coolness of a character or, more often, the screenwriter (Example: “Do the math!”)
“I hate it when people say ‘I love you’ in movies.” (Benaiah) (Man, your ivories must be ground flat from all the teeth-gritting you’ve had to do in your life watching movies, huh? – Ed.)
“We need to talk.” (Blaagh)
“’Yes!’ when it’s uttered by some kid who pumps his arm in triumph—to quote a great songwriter, beat on the brat!” (Thom McGregor)
“You know the drill.” (Dennis)
“I’ve never liked the use of the phrase, ‘Are you deaf.’” (Virgil Hilts) (Take that, Neidermeyer! – Ed.)
“I’m too old for this shit!” (Jen)
“Hug it out!” (Robert) (Is this from Entourage? – Ed.)
“Any character reciting a nursery rhyme in an ironic or detached tone.” (Machine Gun McCain)
“I will not mock my brethren in the screenwriting trade, even though they deserve it.” (Rodger)
37) Favorite Howard Hawks Movie
We lead off with a frothy head of steam put forth by the reliably miffed Mysterious Adrian Betamax, who cries foul yet again over my purposefully frustrating queries:
"One of the all-time greatest directors, and you have to make me choose! I have a real big soft spot for Only Angels Have Wings, but I'd put at least five others right alongside it. Bonus response: Favorite SILENT Howard Hawks film: A Girl in Every Port (1928) with a very young Victor McLaglen and Louise Brooks.”
Blaaagh hedges his choice like the M.A.B., but since he listed his back-up choices, so will I here: Bringing Up Baby (Jen likes it too), The Big Sleep, Ball of Fire (Yea! – Ed.), and The Thing From Another World (also Virgil’s choice).
Red River is Hawks of choice for Thom McG, Machine Gun McCain and Benaiah; Sharon and Dennis dig the rapid-fire interplay of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday; for Novotny, it can’t be anything except Rio Bravo; Murray jumps ahead about a decade and chooses Rio’s “sequel,” El Dorado; and Rodger picks one of the great gangster movies of all time, Scarface (“X” marks the spot, Rodger – Ed.)
All this on display, and Robert remains unimnpressed: “Actually, I’m not a Howard Hawks fan.” (Okay, how about the Atlanta Hawks? Or Howard Beale? -- Ed.)
And Beege has a confession to make: “I have no idea who Howard Hawks is.” (Beege, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t find His Girl Friday an absolute riot—do check it out sometime! – Ed.)
39) Favorite Kung Fu Film
Whoo-hoo! Thirty-nine questions in, and finally the Mysterious Adrian Betamax looks like he’s finally gonna go
all Scanners on us:
“Oh, man!!!! Again, a list would have helped, but who could even compile such a list? I just don't know. Here's some that are springing to mind: The Shaw Brothers' Executioners of Shaolin (even though it doesn't satisfy all the way through), Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, and probably some Jet Li or Jackie Chan movies excited me in the distant past. There are some great ones I can't think of, but it's your fault, evil quizmaster!”
Unfortunately, for fans of exploding heads and airborne cerebral gristle, the M.A.B. got it under control and finished the rest of this quiz—I just talked to him yesterday, and he’s completely over this whole having-to-choose-a-favorite-martial-arts-movie-without-a-20,000-title-list-to reference dilemma.
Other glories that bubbled to the top: Blaagh and Rodger go for Bruce Lee’s first big hit, Fists of Fury, while Caption Jockey makes the unassailable choice of Enter the Dragon; the Lone Wolf and Cub series gets an appreciative nod from Virgil Hilts; I kinda went the M.A.B. route and got overwhelmed with an alarming number of candidates that kept popping up in my head, so I decided to go with the first one I ever saw, Five Fingers of Death; Murray was seduced by House of Flying Daggers; King Hu’s superb Come Drink with Me heads Machine Gun McCain’s list; Thom McG picks my favorite Jackie Chan movie, the incomparable Project A Part 2; and Robert hits a bull’s-eye by dragging one of my personal favorites out of the shadows, the delightful spaghetti western-martials arts hybrid La dove non batte il sole, known stateside to drive-in fans of a certain age as The Stranger and the Gunfighter, starring the masterful veteran martial arts performer Lieh Lo and Leone icon Lee Van Cleef. Hey, Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video, the Sabata trilogy is on DVD, for crying out loud—what’s the holdup on The Stranger and the Gunfighter?
40) In the spirit of Freddy vs. Jason, devise a fantasy smackdown matchup between two movie characters, fictional or drawn from life
Benaiah: “Walter Sobchak vs Frank Ricard. The laughs would just keep coming. Alternatively, Sanjuro Kuwabatake vs. William Munny for sheer badassness. I also would love Paul Giamatti in Sideways vs. Woody Allen in Manhattan for laughable non-badassness.”
Beege: “Ouiser Boudreaux from Steel Magnolias and freaking ANYBODY else!”
The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “>Eraserhead baby vs. The Man from Laramie.”
Novotny: “Humphrey Bogart vs. Sterling Hayden”
Blaaagh: “Vera Drake versus Cynthia Rose Purley in a Battle of the Blubbering British Babes— ‘Take that, sweetheart! Boo-hoo-hoo!’ ‘I will end you, dear! Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo!’”
Murray: “John Rambo vs. The Terminator.”
Thom McG: “Michael Bay vs. Henry Jaglom. Whether the weapons be explosions or pretentious words, the effect will be the same-- bludgeoning to death. Let the worst man win.”
Virgil Hilts: “The Sharks and Jets are dropped into Walter Hill’s The Warriors-- the Lizzies take ‘em all out in one minute!”
Rodger: “Shane vs.the Man with No Name.”
Machine Gun McCain: “Ethan Edwards vs. Frank.”
PSaga: “Annie Hall’s brother Duane vs. Lula’s Cousin Dell.”
Robert: “Susan Tyrell (Aunt Cheryl) in Night Warning (aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker) vs. Betsy Palmer (Mrs. Voorhees) in Friday the 13th.”
41) Fantasy Drive-in Double Feature
Here’s some ideas for the Mission Tiki for next summer:
Beege and Murray think a Lord of the Rings triple feature would be a dream come true, though Beege admits “that’s a long-ass time to sit in your car.”
Perhaps more realistically, Blaaagh imagines rolling up for a late-‘70s nature-gone-wild program par excellence headlined by director John Frankenheimer’s freako eco-thriller Prophecy (or as it is known on the USA Network, apparently, Prophecy: The Monster Movie), plus co-hit The Bees, directed by Alfredo Zacarias-- no, I don’t know who he is either, but he does have an El Santo Mexican wrestler movie on his screenwriting resume. The Bees really is worth a look, if you ever get the chance—it makes The Swarm look positively sober in comparison. Remember, they prey… on human flesh!
I went for straight-ahead ‘70s drive-in classics: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Van. Ah, Leatherface and Stuart Getz on the same bill… Hey, I think I just thought of another great fantasy smackdown!
Rodger imagines taking his Chevy van out for a espionage-alicious two-fer from James Coburn, America’s playboy answer to James Bond-- Our Man Flint and In Like Flint.
Put a Roger Corman duo of Rock All Night and Carnival Rock on the big outdoor screen, turn the pole speaker up to 11, and Machine Gun McCain’s there, daddy-o! (As a matter of fact, I think I would be too!)
Joe Bob Briggs himself would probably have a hard time resisting Robert’s proposed hot-potato drive-in double feature, and I know I would too. There’d undoubtedly be a laurel and hearty welcome awaiting you at the boxoffice on “Guilty of Being White Night” at Robert’s drive-in when the feature du nuit is Lee Marvin, Richard Burton and O.J. Simpson in the truly wretched potboiler The Klansman, plus James Mason, Perry King and Ken Norton as a man who gets boiled in a pot in the not-really-so-bad-as-all that Mandingo.
But the winner of the Most Intriguing Drive-in Double Feature Award goes to Benaiah for his proposed anti-exploitation bill of L’Avventura and Hiroshima, Mon Amour-- “I would love to see the wide shots of Italy (and Monica Vitti) and then follow it up with the quiet beauty and passion of Hiroshima, Mon Amour.” I love this idea, although I’d make sure to park in the first three or four rows in order to make sure I’d be able to read the subtitles on that big drive-in screen. Would this venue increase the alienation factor of the two movies or balance it by the mere fact that you’re watching the movies outdoors?
42) Funniest… movie… ever!
What better way to end this adventure with Professor Wagstaff’s Summer of 42 (Movie Questions, That is) Movie Quiz (did anybody notice it’s not exactly summer anymore?) than with a roster of movies that make us smile, that cheer us up, that make it easier to go on when the going-on just doesn’t seem that easy. Here, then, are the movies that make the SLIFR crowd laugh like hopped-up hyenas…
The Big Lebowski (Benaiah, Dennis)
Blazing Saddles (Beege, Dennis)
Duck Soup (Caption Jockey)
The Heartbreak Kid (Machine Gun McCain)
Love and Death (Caption Jockey)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Beege)
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (Blaaagh)
Raising Arizona (Virgil Hilts, Thom McGregor)
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Dennis, PSaga)
Sullivan’s Travels (Rodger)
Twentieth Century (The Mysterious Adrian Betamax)
Young Frankenstein (Sharon, Jen)
Okay, pencils down, blue books closed. That’s it! Take a breather, go get a drink of water, a cup of coffee, whatever, and meet back in here in a little over a month. Professor Wagstaff will have a Christmas Vacation quiz waiting for you, so I hope your brains are properly rested! Thanks, everybody, for taking part and making this so much fun for me and for everybody who took the time to go through all your terrific, thoughtful and often hilarious responses. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!