Monday, July 16, 2007

PROFESSOR COREY'S HONOR SOCIETY (Part 3)

This is it, Part 3, the last roundup of Professor Irwin Corey's Honor Society, the creme de la creme of academic achievement from last quarter's Spring Break Quiz. The good professor would like me to thank, on behalf of him and his entire staff, everyone who particpated and everyone who has made their way to the podium for these distinguished award ceremonies. Be sure to stay tuned, because the new quiz, which may be a bit more casual, as befitting the season, is but a post or two away.

In case you missed them, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 of the Corey Honor Society. Enjoy, and then get right back to studying. The next quiz is on the horizon.

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Part 3: NICHOLAS RAY, ACADEMY OF THE UNDERRATED, MOVIES ABOUT TV, GANZ/BAUCHAU, DOCUMENTARIES, ORSON WELLES and ACCIDENTS, WIM WENDERS, PENA/CRUZ, TAG LINES, FILM CRITICISM and DO MOVIES MATTER?


21) Favorite Nicholas Ray Movie

DAVE: Rebel Without a Cause, but only because I haven’t seen Johnny Guitar yet.

a. fan: Hair. He played The General.

PETER NELLHAUS: Did I tell you I once got drunk with Nick Ray? This may be another cliche, but Rebel without a Cause holds up after multiple viewings.

FLOWER: Rebel Without a Cause. James Dean = dreamy

MATTHEW: I won't embarrass myself by answering this, since I realize I can't always remember whether a movie was directed by Nicholas Ray or Nicholas Roeg.

RYLAND WALKER KNIGHT: In a Lonely Place

LARRY GROSS: TIE: In a Lonely Place for powerful romantic desolation, Johnny Guitar because it's so out there.

BOB TURNBULL: In a Lonely Place. Gloria Grahame is glorious.

LANCE TOOKS: In a Lonely Place, Bogart’s gift that keeps on giving.

: I'd love to say Johnny Guitar, the lesbian subtext that steams off the screen in the fiery rivalry between Mercedes McCambridge and Joan Crawford is a total hoot, and Sterling Hayden is all swagger, in a way we just don't see in movies anymore. But ...there's no choice for me but In a Lonely Place -- for its claustrophobic sunny-L.A. noir, and Bogart's naturalistic playing of a doomed, tortured soul whose last chance at happiness is destroyed by his own anger and bitterness. It's not his most iconic role in the mass consciousness, but it should be his most appreciated. Speaking of tortured souls... some recommended reading: Nicholas Ray: An American Journey by Bernard Eisenschitz.

22) Inaugural entry into the Academy of the Underrated

DAVE: Joe Dante, God bless ‘im.

BILL: Miami Blues, The Life Aquatic, The Ninth Configuration, Exorcist III. I could go on.

FILMBRAIN: Robert Downey, Sr.

JIM EMERSON: Ivan Passer's Cutter's Way, the best movie of the 1980s. And because it simply hasn't been seen: Jerzy Skolimowski's Deep End (1971). Because it hasn't been rediscovered yet (though it's available on DVD): Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

PETER NELLHAUS: The Money Trap by Burt Kennedy.

TLRHB: William Demarest.

FLOWER: The Wind and the Lion. It's the kind of grand old adventure picture - smart, refined, and genuinely soul stirring - that really truly is not made anymore, and nobody ever talks about it.

STENNIE: This is just my answer for this week, because I've been watching a few of his films lately -- Fred MacMurray. My Three Sons and Flubber were his undoing. He had tons of untapped talent. Skilled at comedy, gritty drama, hell he could even have done musicals if he'd wanted, he had a beautiful singing voice. It's a shame people only seem to remember him from My Three Sons anymore.

DAMIAN: I don't think Bruce Willis gets enough credit for his acting.

PACHECO: Deep Impact. Yes, Deep Impact. I'm not claiming that it's Citizen Kane, but it's highly entertaining, and smarter than a lot of other disaster films.

NATHAN M: Hail the Conquering Hero and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. While everyone raves about The Lady Eve, Sturges' two best films get no love.

CHRIS: Head. Yes, The Monkees movie. One of the absolute best films of the 60's, for real.

SHEILA: I know Jeff Bridges is a big star and everything - it's not like he's suffering in obscurity - but I truly think he does not get the props he deserves. What props should he get? How about: Best American Actor Alive. THAT'S the prop I think he deserves.

MORE-ONIONS: Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way. When I heard that Cahiers du Cinema named it the best movie of the 90's, I almost up and moved to Paris.

CINEBEATS: Philip Ridley. I really wish he would make more films.

CHRIS (2): John Waters. Yeah, he has his cult following, but I think he’s a legitimately great director. He made those early films with no budget, almost no equipment, and barely a clue as to how to stitch two pieces of film together. He’s a better director than Fellini, Bergman, Scorsese, Angelopoulos, Altman, Spielberg, Coppola, and a couple hundred other people too.

SETH: Dude, Where’s My Car? Why this smart, funny, subtle film got turned into a running joke about its title is pretty obvious: critical cowardice. Yes, folks, it’s true: films with stupid main characters can themselves be pretty great.

DR. CRIDDLE: Juzo Itami

KEN LOWERY: Oh, how about Heathers? It's not a "great" movie, per se, but it holds up stronger than ever, and hasn't lost a single inch of its edge. I don't think a more cutting satire has been released in the mainstream since then. Also, Joe Dante, as someone mentioned above. And Ron Shelton.

JOSEPH B.: Any supporting performance by Richard Jenkins.

MARTY McKEE: My most recent entry would be Eurotrip, which is a hilariously witty and sometimes crude teen comedy whose box-office success was killed by its trailer, which made it look like just another brain-dead comedy. Every time I urge someone to watch it, they end up loving it and wondering, “What took me so long to see this?” However, Used Cars may well be the funniest film ever made (as well as the most quotable), though I rarely see it pop up in any list of top film comedies. “Fifty bucks never killed anybody.”

JEFF McM: Perversely, Edward D. Wood Jr.

DAN E.: Allow me to present Andrew Niccol, one of the great investigators of identity in modern cinema. Gattaca, The Truman Show, Lord of War-- the man is more impressive than most other directors out there, and yet he receives next to no recognition.

STEVE: Upon its initial release, everyone was too busy reacting angrily towards I Spit on Your Grave to notice that that's more or less what the film wanted you to do. I think it's high time for a re-evaluation.

LANCE TOOKS: I’ve been waiting for twenty (!) years now for Wendell Harris to direct another film. His Chameleon Street was rough, funny, courageous & original.

TMORGAN: Oh, my. So many to choose from, but you asked for one. Session 9. I've rarely seen a horror film so redolent with unease and regret, largely due to that mental hospital setting. On the DVD, director Brad Anderson admits the place scared them while they shot the film. Also, the rare horror film where the majority of the fear takes place in broad daylight. This gem got missed, and deserves a look.

DAN ALOI: Underrated indie film: John Sayles' Return of the Secaucus Seven. Damn The Big Chill all to hell.

Underrated studio film: John Patrick Shanley's Joe vs. the Volcano. If you understand that much of Shanley's stage and screen work is about bravery, Joe is a rich, rewarding fable. Plus the opening death-march-to-work sequence is a touchstone for anyone who's ever hated their job (that is, everyone!).

BRIAN: Somehow I don't mind this word so much, especially since it so often works as a synonym for "underseen". But since that usage might run against the spirit of the question, my answer runs along another path. How about: serious consideration of the career of M. Night Shymalan as something other than a decline.

THOM McGREGOR: Hard to say. How about Jeremy Northam?

23) Your favorite movie dealing with the subject of television

FLOWER: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

STENNIE: Network. Did Paddy Chayevsky have some device that allowed him to see into the future?

SCHUYLER CHAPMAN: Putney Swope.

DAN E.: Network may be the popular answer, but it's the popular answer for a reason. It's (in my opinion) the best movie in the past 35 years. It has one of the best screenplays ever written, and it predicted the popularization of the news and the rise of disturbing reality television. The direction is great, the performances are great, and the screenplay is, as I have said, amazing.

JEREMY RICHEY: Network came to mind first but then I remembered Kazan's Face in the Crowd with a brutally brilliant Andy Griffith.

LARRY GROSS: Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter & A Hard Days Night, describe the point at which television and youth culture transform all modern culture as we know it today. And they're both fun.

PAUL C: A Face in the Crowd, which is as trenchant a film about how the media creates superstars and even demagogues as has ever been placed on the screen. Fifty years later, one only needs to look at our President to see that Lonesome Rhoades is alive and well.

JOHN SHIPLEY: Shocker ... Just kidding, Network.

TMORGAN: Videodrome. Cronenberg's best and most literally visionary movie. A film about how what we watch changes us, why it changes us, and what it might change us into, positive and negative. Long live the new flesh.

CAMPASPE: I know I should say Network or A Face in the Crowd, but it's really The Front.

24) Bruno Ganz or Patrick Bauchau?

BILL: Ganz, for Downfall, and also because I don’t know
who the other guy is.

TLRHB: Bachau, for Choose Me. But, Jesus, Ganz was great in Downfall.

RAMI: Bruno Ganz has played an angel and Hitler. THAT is range, people.

BRIAN: I like Bauchau in La Collectioneusse, but other than that I haven't seen they key works which might make me even slightly consider that he'd upset Ganz, who is great in so many films.

THOMAS MOHR: Bauchau. With his ridiculous portrayal of Hitler in the execrable Downfall, Ganz has had it as far as I’m concerned.

25) Your favorite documentary, or non-fiction, film

FLICKHEAD: Cooper and Schoedsack’s Grass (1926).

JIM EMERSON: Errol Morris's Fast, Cheap & Out of Control.

DAMIAN: Clear Cut: the Story of Philomath, Oregon (but my reason is somewhat embarrassing to admit).

SHEILA: I think Grizzly Man is one of the best I've ever seen.

MOVIESZZZ: Ross McElwee’s Time Indefinite.

MORE-ONIONS: I'm forced to once again go with My Best Fiend here.

MATTHEW: The Trout, with Daniel Baremboim, Jacqueline du Pre, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, and Pinchas Zuckerman as impossibly young jet-setting superstars.

CHRIS (2): Fata Morgana, but Herzog insists it isn’t really a documentary. F for Fake, but a lot of people say it isn’t really a documentary. And the Academy felt that The Thin Blue Line wasn’t really a documentary back in 1988. So I’ll have to go back to the original documentarian Robert Flaherty and select Man of Aran. After all, he’s the father of documentary so there can’t be any controversy in calling his films documentaries; he would never invent anything or use actors or anything like that.


SETH: I don’t believe there is such a thing as non-fiction film. The simple act of construction is synonymous with fiction, is, in fact, the first and most essential step in creating art. There’s as much fiction in Hoop Dreams as there is in Forrest Gump, in Kino-Eye> as there is in Battleship Potemkin. That said, my favorite film that’s usually found in the documentary section of filmographies is The Eleventh Year.

CINEBEATS: American Movie is pretty special and since this is a movie quiz I had to mention it, but The Fog of War is probably the best documentary I've seen and the most disturbing. Especially when you see the entire thing on DVD with the extra cut footage.

JEREMY RICHEY: Hard one...but Mark Kermode's documentary on Ken Russell's The Devils (Hell On Earth) was a mind-blowingly important piece of work.

ROBERT FIORE: If it counts as a film, Ken Burns' The Civil War. Television really does this better; others that come to mind are The World at War and Brownlouw's Hollywood. Wasn't The Sorrow and The Pity made for television originally?

STEVE: Watch me go for the Pretentious Film-School-Asshole answer: Stan Brakhage's Window Water Baby Moving. (Seriously, though, it's an AMAZING film.)

BRIAN: Today I'm thinking Kon Ichikawa's Tokyo Olympiad.

THOM McGREGOR: The Last Waltz and Stop Making Sense.

PEET: Traveling Birds, or anything with David Attenborough going: “This animal faces an ultimate dillema...”

26) According to Orson Welles, the director’s job is to “preside over accidents.” Name a favorite moment from a movie that seems like an accident, or a unintended, privileged moment. How did it enhance or distract from the total experience of the movie?

FLICKHEAD: David Duchovny bravely fending off Henry Jaglom’s personal assault in New Year’s Day (1989).

BILL: Well, there’s George C. Scott’s famous trip in Dr. Strangelove. It enhanced the experience of the movie because it was damn funny. Also, there’s a moment in The Ballad of Jack and Rose that I really like. A very uncomfortable moment has just occurred, fairly
out-of-the-blue, and a character has stormed off. Daniel Day-Lewis then gives one of those sort of quick, disbelieving snorting laughs, like, “What the hell just happened?” It was probably planned, I don’t know, but it seemed so spontaneous and real, and it’s why I love Daniel Day-Lewis.

SEAN: Jimmy Stewart's hiccup in The Philadelphia Story and Cary Grant's reaction to it. Robert Ridgely laughing hysterically in the background during Philip Baker Hall's "butter in my ass and lollipops in my mouth" speech in Boogie Nights.

The joy of making cinema.

FILMBRAIN: The King and the fool sitting in a field during a windstorm in Ran. Completely unintended. The wind suddenly picked up and Kurosawa took advantage of it.
JIM EMERSON: The ending of Barton Fink. The Coens (who say they have "good luck with birds" -- see Blood Simple) claim that pelican just plopped into the shot and -- boom! -- they knew that had to be where the movie ended. Barton has come all the way to the coast, he can't go any further (see The 400 Blows), he's not going to open the box, so... the pelican provides the perfect punctuation: a period.

TLRHB: Pretty much any moment involving Margaret Dumont and Groucho Marx.

STENNIE: This has been the hardest question to answer. I think it's because I don't agree with Welles. In a perfect world, the director's job should be to make sure that everything on the screen should be his (or her!) intent. Sure, you luck into happy accidents, like the sunlight streaming into the window just right, or an actor ad-libbing a line that adds something to his character, but "presiding over accidents" makes it sound like that's all movies are -- a series of accidents strung together by one person at the helm. Poppycock.

PACHECO: In A Streetcar Named Desire, Stanley is lecturing Stella near the beginning of the film. There's a moment when, as he demeans her, he picks off a piece of lint from her shirt. I don't know if Brando did it without realizing it, but it sure felt like it, and it is such a stunning moment to see the contrast of his speech with his almost involuntary action.

SHEILA: The first thing that comes to mind is the moment when the guy at the table in Woman Under the Influence spills his entire plate of spaghetti into his lap. It looks like it HAD to have been an accident - His embarrassment is so silent and yet so palpable. Horrible wonderful scene. And if it was planned? Then it's even more of a genius moment.


MICHAEL: The blatantly missed punch in The Godfather when Sonny is beating up Carlo. It's a flub, but it reminds me of real fights I've seen where the aggressor is just blindly throwing punches and the one getting beat up is just so defeated that even the missed punches cause him to flinch or flail.

CHRIS (2): Manny Farber so totally owns this question, I feel like I’m not even worthy enough to respond.

But I’ll answer anyway. And I will admit beforehand that I didn’t notice this while watching the movie but read about it beforehand. In Howard Hawks’ El Dorado. Robert Mitchum’s character injures his leg and has to use a cane. But Mitchum forgot which leg to favor and switched up between scenes. A prickly Duke noticed and ad-libbed a line which Hawks kept in the film, something like “Would you make up your mind which leg you hurt?” Now that’s acting.

ANAD: In The Godfather, when Michael wheels Don Corleone's hospital bed into another room to save him from assassination, Marlon Brando's hand gets snicked in between the bed and the doorway, and he flinched. It reassured me that Brando wasn't God.

ADAM ROSS: In the VHS version of Pee Wee's Big Adventure there is a strange gaffe that we see as the result of it being filmed in open matte. During PeeWee's drive down the careening road, we see crazy signs whizzing past him on the dark road and in the matted widescreen version that was seen in theaters this was all fine and dandy. But for VHS, it was open matte so we see that the signs are actually on rails being pushed past the camera. This was unintended, but on some level it actually works with the camp level in the film and the celebration of Hollywood cliches at the climax.

CINEBEATS: Well, I love watching Brando and I think some of his best performances were improvised accidents like in Last Tango in Paris or Missouri Breaks. It's just mesmerizing watching him come up with dialogue and character background on the spot while the cameras roll, which I think always adds depth to his performance. It can be a distraction, but it’s a welcome distraction.

DAVE (2): "You never take an early lunch?" Peter Falk's line in The In-Laws. He's so funny he almost cracks up the uncrackable Alan Arkin but Arkin makes it a turning point for his character instead. Awesome stuff.

GARETH: There's a flashback moment in Oliver Hirschbiegel's Das Experiment where there's an expression on one of the actor's faces that captures, better than entire movies and novels, the perfection of the exact split-second of falling in love, and which blows me away. It adds a profound layer to a movie that could easily be dismissed as a genre effort, albeit one with some intelligence.


MARTY McKEE: In Gone in 60 Seconds, during the incredible 40-minute car chase that closes the movie, there’s a stunt-gone-wrong where the Mustang driven by star/stuntman/writer/director H.B. Halicki actually spins out of control and smacks into a telephone pole. It actually enhances the film, considering that the entire exercise exists only so Halicki can play make-believe and crash some cars. It was clearly a dangerous production with the likelihood that not a lot of care went into making sure the stuntmen didn’t get hurt, and the botched stunt is a painful reminder of Gone in 60 Seconds’ maverick production. Adding to the moment is the knowledge that Halicki would die a few years later during an awry car stunt while making Gone in 60 Seconds 2.

JEFF McM: The first one that comes to mind is the moment in The Dreamers when Eva Green's hair catches on fire, luckily thematically relevant. Accidents, being real and honest, can only enhance a movie.

JEREMY RICHEY: Hardest one on here but I would have to say Jean-Luc Godard's casting of Brigitte Bardot in Contempt. He originally did it because the studio wanted a major star and then after he cast her he attempted to make it seem ironic. No one would have guessed that she would come on and give such a wonderfully layered and complex performance. It is one of the great performances in any Godard film, and the self proclaimed 'businessman from Switzerland' ended up admiring her so much that he gave her a cameo in Masculin Feminin.

SFMIKE: Half of the great moments in Altman's movies feel like accidents. Sterling Hayden playing a Hemingwayesque old drunk in The Long Goodbye was a good example.

LARRY GROSS: Jean Pierre Leaud's smiles of mischief answering adult questions in The 400 Blows, clearly just happened. The tone of lust in Bibi Andersson's erotic monologue in Persona apparently caught Bergman completely by surprise. Samuel Fuller's improvised reply to the question 'What is Cinema?' in Pierrot Le Fou. That apparently induced tears of gratitude, rightly so, from director Jean Luc Godard. David Carradine in Cole Younger in The Long Riders saying "You gotta pay Frank, you gotta pay, " to Stacey Keach as Frank James.

ROBERT FIORE: One that feels like it but obviously isn't: The last shot of Vertigo. One that is: Bob Balaban getting slapped upside the head in A Mighty Wind. It's something you want to see all through the movie as he fusses about everything, and then suddenly it happens!

PAUL C: One of the legendary cinematic "accidents" would have to be the cloud that passes in front of the sun during the scene in which Bonnie says goodbye to her parents in Bonnie and Clyde. It's one of those touches you can't plan outside of The Truman Show, but needless to say the scene wouldn't have worked nearly as well had this not happened.

Come to think of it, I think Welles' statement might be a bit off the mark. Whereas he maintained that a director should "preside over accidents," I would say that the job is more like judging through the accidents as they come and using the good ones to your advantage.

STEVE: The most amazing accident I can think of is the flare of overprocessing at the end of The Last Temptation of Christ. It's so beautifully timed, so perfectly attuned to the moment of Christ's ascension, that to learn that it was a lab mistake boggles the mind.


LANCE TOOKS: Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s supposed lack of a budget for horses led to the absurd solution of skipping along while tapping on cocoanuts. Surreal & funny.

BRIAN: This is another question so large that a complete answer would deserve its own blog post, if not its own book. I've worked on this quiz long enough by now that I'm not going to get tricked into writing an essay or something even longer. I'll just say that I enjoy films like Shadows and The Cool World in which most of the scenes have this kind of feel, even when things are actually being highly scripted or otherwise controlled.

THOM McGREGOR: Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker calling Princess Leia "Carrie!" near the end of Star Wars is pretty infamous. How did it distract? It didn't at all. But it kind of showed the lazy side of Lucas.

CAMPASPE: I am not sure Welles meant that we should be able to see what is intentional and what is an accident, just that a director should be ready to capture anything good that happens on a set. Generally I think the better a film is, the less we can tell whether a moment came about because somebody went up on their lines, or an animal walked into the shot, or because they did 82 takes. I do rather like the moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark where a snake falls on Karen Allen. Spielberg had dropped it on her from a platform to get a good scream out of her (she had been too terrified to do more than squeak). You can see her shoot a look of implacable hatred up at her unseen director. I imagine directors get that look a lot from leading ladies.

27) Favorite Wim Wenders Movie

FILMBRAIN: Kings of the Road

CHRIS: The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. Just because.

SHEILA: Paris, Texas

MOVIEZZZ: WINGS OF DESIRE. One of the greatest films by any director.

CHRIS (2): Alice in the Cities. As much of a New German Cinema fanatic as I am, I don’t much care for Wenders’ American narrative films. Alice is probably his best road movie, but I should note that I have never seen Kings of the Road.

DANIEL L: Until the End of the World. I've never gotten anyone to agree with me on this one.

KEN LOWERY: I'll pay you money to keep Wim Wenders movies away from me. The first of his I ever saw was The End of Violence, and it forever ruined me. Daniel L, take heart: my mom LOVES Until the End of the World, and she's a sharp lady. She got me on John Sayles when I was 12.

JEREMY RICHEY: Paris, Texas, my favorite moment in any film is the three minute close up on Nastassja Kinski's face.

DAN ALOI: Until the End of the World ... the story structure, the concept and the non-stars in the international cast really impress me. A friend told me Wenders is a huge Kinks fan, and tries to work a Kinks song or reference into all his films. Elvis Costello singing "Days" in this movie is just dreamy.

THOM McGREGOR: Wings of Desire. Moving and beautiful. Also like the more disturbing The American Friend and The State of Things and Paris, Texas.

28) Elizabeth Pena or Penelope Cruz?


BILL: I’ve always had a thing for Elizabeth Pena…yes, indeed. She’s always struck me as very real and earthy in a really, really hot way. Also, she can probably act.

JIM EMERSON: Volver makes a huge difference, but I'm going to go with Pena if only because of Lone Star.

TLRHB: All in all, I'd rather have Salma Hayek.

MOVIESZZZ: Hmmm, the star of I Married Dora vs. the star of Woman On Top? No thanks.

BANDIT: Penelope, but ONLY because of the awesome power of Sahara.

JOSEPH B.: I'm in the minority here, but if you guys know Elizabeth Pena from Down and Out in Beverly Hills or Lone Star, the answer is clear!

BOB TURNBULL: I always thought Elizabeth Pena was a fine actress and quite lovely. Penelope scares me sometimes.

DAN ALOI: This is SO not fair (see Monica/Maria conundrum above). But I ((corazon)) Elizabeth Pena, she's my favorite Latina onscreen by far. I've obsessed over her in Lone Star, The Waterdance, La Bamba, Jacob's Ladder, and Across the Moon, and in an NBC TV series with Jamey Sheridan ... I remember actors and network but not the name of the series!

GARETH: Elizabeth Peña, for lots of things, but I especially treasure her work in the short-lived 1990 show Shannon's Deal.

PEET: I fell in love with Elizabeth Pena as soon as I saw her in Jacob’s Ladder.

29) Your favorite movie tag line (Thanks, Jim!)


PETER NELLHAUS: “Rated X by an all white jury.”

DAVE: Jaws 2’s “Just when you though it was safe to go back in the water” is swell, but I’m going have to go with “Who will survive and what will be left of them?” from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It just sums up the dread created by watching that great flick.

BILL: It’s not a very original choice, but you can’t beat “When There’s No More Room in Hell, the Dead Will Walk the Earth”.

EDWARD COPELAND: A different set of jaws

FILMBRAIN: "Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven."

a. fan: “The Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies.” – Shakes the Clown

JIM EMERSON: For blunt lack of imagination, Citizen Kane: "It's Terrific!" For cleverness, Chicken Run: "Poultry in Motion."

TLRHB: "Movie-wise, there has never been anything like The Apartment - laugh-wise, love-wise, or otherwise-wise!" That tagline is better than the movie.

STENNIE: Monty Python and the Holy Grail: It makes Ben-Hur look like an epic."

SCHUYLER CHAPMAN: Genius. Poet. Twat. (24 Hour Party People)

MICHAEL: This time it's personal. -- Jaws: the Revenge

CINEBEATS: That's an impossible question to answer since they're are THOUSANDS of truly great ones, but I'll mention this favorite from She-Devils on Wheels (1968): "Riding their men as viciously as they ride their motorcycles!"

GARETH: "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water - you can't get to it" - from Blood Beach

ROBERT FIORE: It wasn't for a movie but for Peter Lorre, in the trailer for one of Hitchcock's English movies: "The Grand High Minister of Everything Sinister!"

PAUL C: "If you're thinking... of seeing... this movie... alone................ DON'T." You never said it had to be a real movie.


STEVE: I like the one cited in Jim's poll, from the cheap '80s slasher The Prey: "It's not human, and it's got an axe!" So simple, yet so perfect.

LANCE TOOKS: “Meet COFFY… she’ll CREAM you!”

KEN LOWERY: "Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them?" from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. At its most abstract level, answering that question is the reason anyone goes to a movie at all.

PEET: “Movie? What movie?” -- Top Secret!

30) As a reader, filmgoer, or film critic, what do you want from a film critic, or from film criticism? And where do you see film criticism in general headed?


FLICKHEAD: I’d like to see my film criticism headed for a paying gig.

BILL: I’ll be honest: I’m not really a big fan of “film criticism”. I like opinions, but any famous film critic you might name is probably going to be somebody I genuinely don’t care for, with the exception of Agee, and, maybe, of Ebert, whose writing I do enjoy, for the most part. What I like about this new “weblogging” thing we got going these days is the
interactive nature of it. I admit that I don’t spend a lot time interacting, but I like that it’s here as an option, and reading the comments on this and other blogs show me that at their best, blog reviews turn into conversations about movies. That’s what I like. Also, I like conversations about movies or filmmakers
I can see the good and the bad in, like Lynch or Cronenberg, probably because those conversations are least likely to piss me off.

EDWARD COPELAND: Consistency and courage. Someone who doesn't fall in line just because the consensus goes one way or another. Film criticism is exploding in quantity and diminishing in audience.

SEAN: I want an intelligent and well-reasoned point of view reflecting a knowledge of the cinema (past and present) and the non-cinema world. I want a sense of humor and humility in the face of the inadequacy of our subjective experiences of the world.

I see film criticism becoming more and more decentralized and personal, as each person has their own sources (blogs, or whatever) for criticism, as opposed to a community sharing the same half-dozen critics from the local papers.

FILMBRAIN>: To answer would require an additional blog post. Here's what I don't want: snark, contrarianism simply for the sake of being contrarian, proof of how witty/clever/intelligent you are.

JIM EMERSON: I want somebody to show me a way of looking at a film I hadn't seen previously -- or (almost as good) to expand upon and confirm what I did see!

SHARON: What I want is an evaluation what is on screen. What I don’t want are spoilers and ramblings on budgets and studio politics. Tell me about the what’s on screen – what works, what didn’t.

CERB CHAOS: I want someone who isn’t afraid to say what he likes and say it clearly, someone who will devote time and energy to maligned films he happens to like, or ripping into a beloved classic. All without attacking those who disagree with him/her. Film critisism is becoming more Democratic, and this causes all the joys and problems that Democracy does in the real world.


TLRHB: 1. Stylish writing. Entertain me. It's more important than your opinion, actually.
2. Subtext and focus. Enlighten me. Show me an angle I didn't consider.
3. Make me want to see the movie — or avoid it at all costs.
4. Make me want to read the review again — after I've seen the movie that I was going to avoid at all costs.
In general, film criticism will survive. But there hasn't been a critic that has really mattered since Pauline Kael because nobody has written as well as her (see Point No. 1 above.)

STENNIE: NO SPOILERS! I never read reviews before I've seen a movie. I try to avoid books of film criticism, like surveys of a specific director's work, for example, until I'm already pretty familiar with the movies. I hate knowing too much going into a movie; it takes me out of it. On the other hand, with some movies, it's tough to write about them at all without discussing the ending or major plot points -- so I understand why people do it; it's on me to avoid it. As far as the future of film criticism, blogging is obviously taking all media down a different road, which can be good and bad. I see it as mostly good. I'd rather read what my fellow bloggers think about a movie than most of the established critics out there.

DAMIAN: In our intensely relativistic age, I understand that a lot of film criticism essentially boils down to personal opinion (as, one could argue, does art analysis in general), but I wish there was more of a concerted effort in the criticism "community" for some degree of objectivity. Even if it proves to be something that is not actually attainable, I think it should be some type of "goal" or "end" to which all aesthetes strive. As it is, critics nowadays not only proclaim their subjectivity, they seem to actually celebrate it, thus leaving very little room for any kind of change, progression or personal growth. It's a very safe place to be, something they can almost "hide behind." After all, one can never be "wrong" when there is no such thing as "wrong" in the first place. That's why I admire critics who seem to have at least some sense of consistent criteria which they bring with them to their evaluations rather than merely being caught up in their own wittiness (such as using hyperbole and making clever puns out of the title of a movie they didn't like rather than trying to specify what was poorly done about the film).

Basically, I hope that the film critics of the future are more like Roger Ebert than Richard Roeper.

SHEILA: 1. Know your field, please. If I sense a critic doesn't have context, then it's very hard to take him/her seriously. Their knowledge is shallow, they are dilettantes rather than experts.

2. The critics who know how to talk about acting - and what specifically an actor does that makes something good or not - are like GOLD to me. They're rare, and I cherish those critics.

CHRIS (2): I want him or her to be a good writer, first and foremost. I want him or her to have a clear and obvious knowledge of film history as well as an understanding that film is an audiovisual medium and not just a “book with moving pictures attached.” Not many critics pass the last test.

I see film criticism heading even more to the margins, and I expect the ability to get paid actually M O N E Y to be a film critic will become increasingly rare. Perhaps this matters more to me as a working film critic who has no trouble finding work, lots of trouble finding money.

CINEBEATS: As a reader, I want film critics to be educated and know what they're talking about. I find it really annoying when I know more about a topic then a critic who's chosen to write about it in a popular publication and is getting praise & dollars for it. Too many critics these days don’t seem to know enough about the topics they write about.

As for where film criticism is headed, well there's always been publications or sources where narrow genres and areas of filmmaking are discussed, but I think in the future there will be more people writing about particular genres or specific areas of filmmaking, etc. which will make it easy for readers to find information about topics that interest them. I think general movie sites and publications are slowly being edged out by "niche" sites and publications.

BEMIS: I value critics with a sharp eye, a lack of pretension and a genuine passion for the medium. I generally see the emergence of new outlets of film writing as a good thing - the internet gives a soapbox to some sloppy writers, but it can also serve as a venue for outstanding writers who don't conform to mass-market standards of accessibility.

SETH: What I demand from art, all art, is the capacity to surprise me. The greatest works of art are, somehow, able to surprise me every time I return to them, no matter how many times I’ve been surprised by them before. What I demand from criticism, all criticism, is that it find a way to make the previously unsurprising into something new for me. I want film criticism that shows me the amazing in the movies I had thought banal, the shocking in what I found predictable, and the crazy in what I thought sane. Every single work in the history of art needs people to appreciate it and teach others to do the same. I’ve been wrong, really, really wrong, about my estimation of particular films in the past, and I’ll do it again, too, I’m sure. I need criticism that shows me I’ve been wrong.

KEN LOWERY: Right now, the "casual expert" is rising to prominence, and that's a damn shame. I define the casual expert as someone who knows a little bit about a lot of things, and uses that basis to make grand, sweeping statements and cannot be bothered to ever step down from his or her more outlandish opinions, no matter how blatantly stupid or illogical they are.

Joining the casual expert is the fanboy critic, who thinks stealing script pages and getting reports from costume designers on the set is actually some kind of film journalism and not just a really elaborate version of E!. (Which is to say, another branch of marketing.) Ain't It Cool News is probably the most well-recognized bastion of the fanboy critic, and I know many people in their mid-20's who actually aspire to be the next Harry Knowles. Talk about aiming low.

That being said, my ideal critic would be somewhere between Manohla Dargis (whose name I cannot spell right to save my life), Ebert, Jim Emerson, and (believe it or not) Lisa Schwarzbaum. Each is intelligent without being stuffy, and each manages to convey actual passion and joy for the artform while remaining grounded. They exemplify moviegoing as participating in a LIVING artform, as opposed to dissecting of dead, lifeless "art" like some kind of forensic pathologist.

JOSEPH B.: I think we're already there. Blogs and the internet have knocked film criticism wide open, and I'm ecstatic to be throwing myself into the mix.

JEFF McM: I want dialogue, not didacticism or pedantry, plus concision, erudition, and humor. I see film criticism slipping down a drain slowly along with the rest of the American educational system.

ROB: All I want from a critic is someone who will give me their honest reaction to a movie, while being honest about their own biases. Also, it would help if a movie could be judged or compared with other films in its genre, instead of all genres. As the industry continues to skew more and more towards the teenage demographic, critics can take a larger role in championing films that might otherwise be ignored. The critics really helped movies like Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen, and The Illusionist find their audience.

LARRY GROSS: Film criticism in the print medium today is totally lacking perspective on film's past and future--you find it sporadically on the Web. This is of course as much the fault of editors and publishers as the individuals involved. But the ability to contextualize a new film being reviewed is part of what gave Agee's criticism and Sarris' at its best when he wrote for the Village Voice, so much force and significance (whether you agreed with their particular opinions on particular movies or not).A critic should also have a set of values and a conception of what cinema is and ought to be, that they can articulate--that's what people found so thrilling about Paulilne Kael, even when her opinions on particular films were nonsensical bullshit. You knew where she was coming from.
Of course in the absence of consistently good films to review, film criticism verges on being worthless which is the problem today's bunch faces. (I'm referring to the ones blessed or cursed to get paid to do it.)


PAUL C: Good criticism is about opening up a kind of dialogue with the reader/viewer, in which the critic’s close watching and perceptiveness will reveal previously unforeseen aspects or layers of a film, causing the reader/viewer to see the film in a new light. Because of this, I think the current direction toward Web- and blog-based criticism is a godsend, since this dialogue becomes much more explicit than ever before. Another welcome consequence of the turn towards Internet criticism is that nothing is beyond the scope of the critic- rather than worrying about new releases, the critic is freer to examine classics and curiosities, which as a result helps to broaden the readers’ scope as well. Some would point to the proliferation of Web criticism as being a bad thing, diluting the critical pool, but this is pure snobbery- we all watch movies, and we all have opinions about them, so if we can express those opinions articulately, then how are they any less valid than those of the guys who write for newspapers and magazines? Yes, there may never again be a critic who exerts as much influence on the national or local level as critics of yore, but when you consider the diversity of critical options that were previously unavailable, I’ll take that trade-off.

STEVE: Expertise, enthusiasm and a facility for words tempered with just the right amount of cynicism. When it comes to readable, trustable critics, these are a few of my favorite things!

As for where criticism is headed, the democratization of the 'Net has certainly changed the critical landscape. What does this mean for the future, though? Will we end up with an Andy Horbal afterworld, where both critics and aspirants strive to learn and improve ever more? Or will we just end up with a million iterations on Ain't it Cool fanboy splatterings, where everyone's opinion is equal no matter how asinine? I hope for the latter while expecting the former.

LANCE TOOKS: As a reader, I prefer long form critique, career overviews or genre examinations over capsule reviews. A writer who can share his enthusiasm for a filmmaker can sometimes change my mind.
This blog’s where film criticism’s headed… I have a deep respect for everyone’s POV regardless of whether it mirrors my own.

TMORGAN: As a working critic, I know that criticism is nothing more than opinion. It may be informed opinion, or it may be entertainingly conveyed, and these two qualities are what I look for. Although putdown artists can sometimes but amusing to read, I don't approve of them. Film criticism, as with most criticism, is headed toward further democratization via the Internet, which is mainly a good thing, though it does make it more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

SETH GORDON: Still? Movies - hell, Art - doesn't matter. That's (part of) what makes it great.

DAN ALOI: Of the critics I read, Marshall Fine used to infuriate me by giving away crucial plot points as if he'd never heard the term 'spoiler.' He's toned that down now, along with his highbrow expectations of ALL films -- you can't hold Monkey Trouble to the same standard as, say, The Elephant Man. I think criticism has been watered-down to 99 and 44/100 percent blandness by having to cover event films, bad-from-the-outset recyclings and horror and love stories devoid of any originality; an awards-obsessed industry in general, and mass entertainment culture where star hookups overshadow the actual work. The people long considered 'critics' in the top echelon of this mass culture often sicken me. I'm thinking Michael Medved and his conservative moralist agenda, Rex Reed, the snarky proto-Simon Cowell; Joel Siegel, the look-alike muppet without credential (another strange TV trend -- "hey, we need a bald black weatherman, stat"!) and of course his maxi-me, Gene Shalit, who occasionally slings a worthwhile thought from the confines of TV's narrow little box. Ebert may be the last celebrity critic to actually carry some critical weight in his writing, no pun intended. There's very little palatable middle ground in criticism, it's either really bad or too academic. That said, the New York Times critics are solid; and the blogosphere -- where the collective insight of many passionate, intelligent individuals has free reign -- is a hopeful sign.

BRIAN: Another two-parter, eh? Well, my answers will be brief anyway. A) Saying something new is ten times better than saying it cleverly. B) The internet, obviously.

PEET: I want a critic to sharpen my mind. Film criticism will be headed wherever the medium is, which probably means it has to become more flexible... Nevermind. I’d like film criticism to become a little more visual.

CAMPASPE: I want a critic who writes with passion and originality about what s/he likes. I want one who doesn't see every movie as an opportunity to polish a stand-up act. There was only one Dorothy Parker, and she wrote rave reviews as well as dismissals.

THOMAS MOHR: I simply want to know if a film’s worth checking out or not and for what reasons, in clear, correct and simple language. I don’t want to know if a critic has read the latest Don DeLillo novel or what he or she has had for breakfast, and I certainly don’t want to read the name Foucault.

EXTRA CREDIT: Do movies still matter?

THOMAS MOHR: Does a bear shit in the woods?

FILMBRAIN: Movies still matter, yes. However, many of the people making them today do not.

JIM EMERSON: To whom? Movies matter somewhat to almost everyone, but not a lot. For those of us who are passionate about the art form, they matter a lot. They're as essential to our concepts of life as music or food or language. Sure, every once in a while I find myself losing my religion, but that's when I think there's not so much to look forward to. Then I just think: Who needs to look forward? There are more than enough great movies already made to keep me going (and discovering and re-discovering) for a lifetime. That helps put things in perspective. Of course great new films will come along; one just has to be patient. With so many masterpieces (and terrific movies) already available on DVD -- and so many acknowledged and unknown greats that haven't made it to the format yet -- the opportunities for seeing a life-changing movie are so much greater at the DVD store (or Netflix) than they are at the multiplex. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to seek them out -- at film festivals, art houses, revival series, and through word-of-mouth from our fellow critics and bloggers.

SHARON: Good question. For me, the answer is a qualified yes. I still want to enjoy going to the movies, but too often these days am disappointed when I do. For as long as I can remember, most of the time when I went to see a movie it was a wonderful experience. In the days before the prevalence of VCRs and DVDs I loved watching old movies on television. These days I probably go and see half as many movies in the theater as I did say five years ago.

I’m one of the ever-decreasing part of the public that prefers going to the theater. But the increasingly rude audience members, the sky-high ticket prices and the mediocre moves are discouraging me from putting down the TiVo remote and taking myself off to the movies.

I want to like them, I really do. There’s nothing like the feeling of being transported to a world you’ve literally never seen before or one that you seen, but not in quite that way. It’s exhilarating and wondrous and illuminating and just plain fun. I always hope for that kind of experience when I go to the movies. Unfortunately, it rarely happens these days.

But hope springs eternal each time the lights go down and the first strains of the soundtrack begin. Will this be the one? Too often these days the answer is no.

LANCE TOOKS: To me they do, just not as much in a theater setting. As I’ve gotten older it’s become tougher to have the kind of one-on-one relationship with films that I used to enjoy in moviehouses. I’m a widescreen lover but I’ve learned to be patient with home viewing… someday I’ll be able to afford one of those monster flatscreen sets!

WEIGARD: But of course they do. Few seem as “special” as they used to, with so many being brought out so quickly, but I don’t seem to have trouble finding films that are meaningful to me.

CHRIS (2): Money talks. As long as movies make money, they will matter a lot. And if they stop making money, they will still matter to me.

CAMPASPE: Yes. And old movies matter even more than that. :)

KEN LOWERY: They're as ubiquitous as any art form on earth, but seem to impact people on a more and more superficial level, so I'd guess it's a wash. Then again, the dumb-ass middle-aged movie-goers of today (and there are a LOT of them) had to come from SOMEwhere, so maybe it's always been this way.

MATTHEW: On a personal level, they'll always matter, just like any art form. I think what the question imples is whether they matter on a collective level, whether they can still impact the culture in a concrete way. Probably not, but the vocabulary is so embedded in the way we look at the world now that the question might be moot.

PAUL C: The majority of moviegoers simply want to be entertained for a few hours. In the history of movies, this has been fairly consistent- even during the supposed heyday of art cinema, T & A was as much of a draw as the reviews or the idea of getting cultured. Most moviegoers don’t want to think too hard about movies, but there has always been a passionate minority who seek something more from their movies than two hours in which they can kill time. Our moviegoing tastes go beyond the latest Hollywood blockbusters, and discussing the films we love invigorates us almost as much as the films themselves. Among this minority, I’d say that movies matter more than ever, since with the passing of time the history of cinema becomes bigger and broader, and the resources with which we can both partake of and discuss that history become more diverse. Think of it this way- if the movies didn’t matter, do you think this survey would have gotten as many responses as it has?

LARRY GROSS: Do Movies Matter? Yes, but not always in good ways. Movies mattering today has unfortunately, partly to do with a pervasive economic conception of reality where what money-things-cost-make-or-lose, constitutes a chief concern, or definition of value, meaning, significance etc. Not a good thing. On the other hand movies remain the dominant art form of a period in history defined by rapid technological change. It's been that way for awhile and it appears that it will remain that way for the indefinitely foreseeable future. Movies response to this has often been divided, confused and uncertain--though a few geniuses, Griffith, Eisenstein, Welles, Godard, Kubrick, have pointed to the possibility of a better way. It's probable that if there ever is a better world wide human grasp of technology and its uses, movies will have significant role in either recording it, prophesying it, or whatever. On this account movies indisputably matter. Finally as one of your commentators has said, there are great movies still occasionally being made, and more than enough made in the past to catch up with or to know better. For that reason alone. movies matter.

SHEILA: Nothing like a good movie. Be it Persona or Bring It On. If it's good, it's good. And that matters. To me, anyway.

CHRIS: No. That's what makes them so interesting.

TLRHB: If they don't, I sure wasted a long Friday night on this quiz.

1 comment:

bill said...

In the "underrated" category, I would like to second the following: Joseph B's support of Richard Jenkins (who gives one the all-time great drunk performances in "The Man Who Wasn't There"), Thom McGregor's choice of Jeremy Northam (one of the best things about "Gosford Park", which is saying a hell of a lot, and he's also great in David Mamet's "The Winslow Boy"), and Pacheco's choice of "Deep Impact". I was pretty impressed with that movie. I'd like to add "The Core" to the list, for many of the same reasons Pacheco picked "Deep Impact". Watching "The Core", I thought that if if had come out 40 years earlier, it would probably be seen as a classic B-movie.