"I hope I never get so old I get religious." -Ingmar Bergman
“I mean simply to say that I want my characters to suggest the background in themselves, even when it is not visible. I want them to be so powerfully realized that we cannot imagine them apart from their physical and social context even when we see them in empty space.” – Michelangelo Antonioni
“I began taking liberties a long time ago; now it is standard practice for most directors to ignore the rules.” – Michelangelo Antonioni
“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” – Ingmar Bergman
Apparently, two days in, it is a week for milestones, of varieties perhaps salutatory, and most certainly grim. Tonight Barry Bonds arrives in Los Angeles two home runs shy of breaking the Hammer’s home run record. (There are already “Boycott Barry” stencils painted all over every open, flat surface on the drive through Elysian Park up to Chavez Ravine.) Will Dodger fans boo if it happens here? Through pure coincidence, I have tickets for tonight and Thursday, and if it happens in front of me, I will sit on my hands and hope that 50,000 others do the same. Barry digs the “boo” almost as much as he digs the “yea!” The one thing he cannot abide is the indifference. A mighty shrug from the stands might not feel as cathartic to the fans, but it’d speak a whole lot louder than a collective “Barry sucks!”
Incredibly, baseball fans also have two more milestones to wait for this day—Alex Rodriguez, who likely will dethrone the large-domed soon-to-be home run king in a couple of years, looks for number 500 against Chicago tonight. And Mets pitcher Tom Glavine searches out win number 300 tonight in Milwaukee.
That’s the good news. On the other hand, the Reaper is having far too good of a week so far.
First, the man who extended late-night talk show TV into the single digits, Tom Snyder, died on Sunday. And influential San Francisco 49ers football coach Bill Walsh passed away on Monday.
And film fans logged on to their computers Monday morning and were greeted by especially sad news. First, one of those passings that truly mark the end of an era—Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, dead at 89. Then, word of the loss of French actor Michel Serrault, best known to American audiences for his brilliant and humane portrayal of the transvestite Albin in La Cage aux Folles (1978) and its superior sequel La Cage Aux Folles II (1980). (Serrault was 79 years old.)
It was enough to remind me of the old SCTV sketch (circa 1982) in which the anchor on a National Enquirer-inspired TV “news” show (presience, anyone?) grimly intoned, “Three of the four stars of The Wizard of Oz dead. Is Ray Bolger next?!”
Well, the reaping was not finished, as it turns out. Today comes word that Michelangelo Antonioni has died at the age of 94. I got a sincere e-mail from a friend this morning that was very much in that “Who’s next?” mode: “Somebody protect Godard and Alain Resnais!! Someone's taking out all of Criterion's (and my) favorite '60s directors!”
Or, as Keith Uhlich put it this morning, “Okay, seriously, what the fuck is going on?”
I wish I had something profound to say about the loss of these men. They and their films were cornerstones of my meager state-provided film school education back in the mid to late ‘70s. It was simply not permissible to be unfamiliar with films like L’ Avventura, The Seventh Seal, Red Desert, The Magician, La Notte, Persona, L’ Eclisse or Smiles of a Summer Night. Both directors have rich and varied histories that extend far before the dates of the earliest films of theirs which I have seen-- Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) and L’ Avventura (1960)—which only means that I’ve got a lifetime of digging left to do. But courtesy of the sensibilities of my film professors, those of the local campus film societies, and the relative profligacy of Bergman’s output in comparison to Antonioni’s, I’m much more familiar with the religious and psychological alienation of the Swedish master than I am with the more detached, modernist existential puzzles of the Italian.
And I’d dare say the concerns of Bergman’s films seem far more in tune with my own concerns as an adult, and as an adult compelled by film art, than do Antonioni’s. I remain fascinated by Bergman’s grappling with his own sense of God, the pervasive influence of religion as a form and manifestation of psychological behavior, and the influence of a deity who may or may not be, shall we say, as interactive as even believers would prefer him to be. (That great nonbeliever Warren Zevon tagged it as “the vast indifference of heaven,” a phrase that I’m sure would have put a smile on Bergman’s face.) And I share the concerns of Edward Copeland, who worries that for this upcoming generation of film buffs Bergman may have lost some of his critical cachet, or worse, moved slightly toward irrelevance.
As for Antonioni, L’Avventura remains for me a mournful, rich and exquisitely moody canvas of sun-baked despair, but in general I’m afraid I value the Italian director’s movies more for the influence they have had on directors I revere (Robert Altman, Brian De Palma) and respect (Gus Van Sant, Peter Weir) than for the films themselves. Blow-up, a movie I have no great love for, summarizes for me the groove Antonioni eventually found himself in for which I could not find a positive response. The movie seems to me the director’s equivalent of a Cecil B. DeMille biblical epic—let’s frug and fret with the denizens of swinging 1960s-era London, secretly digging all the happenings that we’ll constantly insist, through our visual grammar and sound design, are symptoms of the sick soul of society. That said, in tribute to the director, I pledged this morning, via my Netflix queue, to revisit all three of the great ‘60s films, and one I have managed to miss, even through its recent theatrical re-release, for 32 years, The Passenger.
Whatever one’s personal response to the work of these great directors, there’s no denying the sense that this week a heavy vault door has been closed on yet another era of great filmmaking, and on the world in which these directors were regularly talked about, and attendance to their films a virtual requirement for anyone who really cared about film as an art form. Are there directors working today who can so galvanize a demographic of film lovers or inspire critics to write impassioned prose about their works? Maybe. Maybe not. These directors create worlds in which to contemplate the real world, worlds of searching, of agony, of bitter disappointment and even beatific happiness through families, both natural and extended. However they rank on whatever list is being compiled this week, or next year, or 20 years from now, we can say that they are as essential to what we enjoy today in cinema, or film, or the movies, as the celluloid the images are printed on. I’d like to open up the SLIFR Forum for anyone who has thoughts on Bergman, Antonioni, or any of the other milestones that have or might possibly occur as this week progresses. Tell us what the films made by these men meant to you, or tell us if they meant nothing at all and whether that concerns you.
And in an attempt to end on an up note, thanks to Matt and Keith at The House Next Door for finding what I’ve been after for several years now: a brilliant Bergman parody featuring Madeline Kahn and George Coe entitled De Duva (The Dove).
UPDATE August 2 8:20 a.m.: Jim Emerson has posted a collection of tributes to Ingmar Bergman from some notable voices in filmmaking and film criticism, and a fascinating letter to Roger Ebert in 1999 regarding Antonioni written by the man who played the corpse in Blow-up. Also, Dan Callahan at The House Next Door on losing two cornerstones of modern cinema, Bergman and Antonioni, in as many days.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I think film critic/blogger Paul Clark may be out to destroy me, to chip away at me from the inside until the only thing left is a hollow, brittle shell which will be that much easier to topple and shatter into a million dull-colored shards. How else to explain why he has lately taken one favorite film of mine after another to the woodshed for a paddling in his Screengrab series entitled “When Good Directors Go Bad”?
But seriously, folks. First Paul and I sparred over 1941. I liked it, he, um, didn’t. It was only after I recently revealed my own personal top 100 favorite films that Paul let me know that, yes, another one of my favorites was about to come under his fire. Around this same time, I was thinking about how my own top 100 was about be absorbed into forming a much bigger project (The Online Film Community’s Top 100 ), and I was looking for a way to create something with my own list rather than just, well, a list. Some comments from some of my readers suggested they too were disappointed I didn’t elaborate on my own choices, the reason being that I had no time to do so when I was compiling the original roster of titles. But I certainly would do so if I could comment on each of my top 100 with a separate post, of whatever length I felt was appropriate at the time.
Thus I decided to undergo an examination of each of my 100 favorite films, making a personal commitment to try to use the occasion to explicate why the film is on my list, and also to try to learn to write shorter, more concise pieces whenever I was moved to do so. Each movie will get the length it deserves as the thoughts come pouring out, and some posts will naturally be shorter than others-- I’m not going to put a 250 or 500 or 1,000 word limit on myself. But I intend to look at each one with a fresh eye, and I won’t write about any of them until I get a chance to see them again and consider them while the film is still fresh in my mind. And Paul has inspired me to start with Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York, number 79 on my chronologically ordered list and the latest in his “When Good Directors Go Bad” series.
Scorsese’s movie is a big, self-conscious, experimental movie masquerading as a musical. Rather, it is a big, self-conscious, experimental movie that takes as its subject the structure, the mythology, the experience of the Hollywood musical. More importantly, it replaces the familiar romantic melodrama usually found at the center of such a film with a scenario that resembles what A Star is Born might have felt like had been directed by John Cassavetes. Liza Minnelli looks every bit the brassy, good-natured, ambitious swing band chanteuse as Francine Evans, in what would be her last effective lead performance on the big screen. Paul rightly describes her quality as equal parts tremulous and brassy—often Minnelli seems like she’s going to start vibrating like a gong, either out of sheer performance joy or uncontrollable spasms of nervous exhaustion. She’s used by Scorsese as much for her lineage (her mother, Judy Garland, was often the star in the lush, fiercely emotional musicals her father, Vincente Minnelli, directed for MGM) as for her near iconic visual appropriateness and crackling timing as an actress. And she takes to the sumptuous, pleasurably overscaled production and costume design as if it were her own private dress-up world, one in which she maintains the contrast between the delights of the music of the era and the brutal emotional abuse of her relationship with up-and-coming saxophone player Jimmy Doyle. Robert De Niro plays Doyle, who zeroes in on Francine during a VJ Day celebration and pathologically refuses to quit hitting on her, as Travis Bickle with a bad Hawaiian shirt, a discernible talent and a narrow-minded pursuit of musical integrity. At first De Niro’s approach to the character plays as if he was never consciously able to shake the specter of Bickle, and the choice (and it was a choice) seems like a mistake. The long shadow of Bickle’s present-day paranoia seems initially inappropriate for a brazenly artificial take on the emotional core of the Hollywood musical.
But it’s the contrast between Minnelli’s swing-era perfection, De Niro’s up-front and anachronistic (for the Hollywood genre) psychological instability, and Scorsese’s no-fear examination of what happens when the artifice of a musical world clashes with a warts-and-all character study of two ambitious characters for whom performance is the only way they can adequately feel connected to the “real” world, that allows the movie’s themes, and even its occasional dissonant notes and inconsistencies of tone and pace, to coalesce into a living, breathing personal statement. For Paul (and certainly not just for him), this constitutes one of the film’s major drawbacks. He writes that New York, New York is “a movie that feels at war with itself, in which the musical numbers and the dialogue scenes don’t mesh well”. But it seems to me that this war is, in fact, the subject of the film, the reason Scorsese wanted to make it. That very incompatibility is what fascinates Scorsese-- how these two strains of Hollywood artifice (and yes, Cassavetes’ emotional dramas spun their own kind of artifice) might possibly co-exist. After all, they certainly co-exist in his encyclopedic mind as a cinephile, so what might be wrong with making a movie that acknowledges, in its look, its feel in the very way it gathers momentum and dissipates it between sequences, the attempt to connect these two seemingly irreconcilable approaches to film drama? Even the title of the film reflects the dual sensibilities at work in envisioning a post-war New York City as a place of nostalgic reverie and bitter, uncomfortable emotional truth. (It is astounding too, as Paul notes, that the title tune, so tightly associated with everyone from Frank Sinatra and Minnelli to George Steinbrenner, was not an authentic standard unearthed from some vault and polished up, rights all paid for, but was instead penned for the movie by John Kander and Fred Ebb.)
Screen grab courtesy of DVD Beaver.
All of this might, to some ears, seem like I’m coming awfully close to saying that it’s what’s bad and dissonant and rough about New York, New York, the elements where glossy genre cannot, in the end, compliment or illuminate the gritty examination of the grinding gears of ambition and love, that makes it a fine movie. Not quite. There are indications, even in its much-preferable extended version, clear indicators that the movie has chunks still missing-- the strand involving Mary Kay Place as the talentless singer who replaces Francine in Jimmy’s band is underdeveloped and left to dangle, and even Francine’s rise to stardom in the aftermath of the birth of her son, the both of them abandoned by Jimmy in a devastating, wordless hospital scene— seems truncated, unsatisfying and, most damningly, unconvincing. But the movie, I think, minimizes those moments where the Method imbalances the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer through the sheer force of the conviction of the actors at its heart. It wasn’t long after this movie that De Niro began doing “De Niro,” but here there is still enough of a connection to Bickle and the young Vito, and 1900, and, most importantly, the bottle-rocket unpredictability of Johnny Boy from Mean Streets, to convince us that De Niro had not yet begun to fool around.
And Minnelli, only a year or so away from parody, and self-parody, seems so in her element here that it’s scary, and I mean that as a compliment. She’s frighteningly good and would never again have a role that allowed her to so fruitfully channel the warring elements in her own personality—the illusion of the shining Hollywood star tempered by the knowledge of the pressure, addiction and even madness that stardom can bring—into such rich thematic resonance. She anchors the splendidly bitter and self-referential “Happy Endings” sequence, famously restored from the 1977 theatrical release, which brings the movie brilliantly full circle to a point where kitchen-sink dramaturgy and delirious musical fantasy don’t seem so far removed from each other after all. New York, New York (shot by the late, brilliant cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs) is a gorgeous, daring movie that soars on conflicting styles masterfully choreographed by a director in love not with genre, or the integrity of improvised acting truth, but with the power at the heart of movies. It soars as much on what it says about what we, the audience, see and process within seemingly polarized film styles as it does on the melodrama and emotion woven delicately, and indelicately, into the music that courses through its lush, tension-filled visual design and its glorious soundtrack. New York, New York is about Hollywood reality, and how Hollywood reality can be about life.
Posted by Dennis Cozzalio at 1:35 AM
F— That is, forget the Police. There’s another power trio making the rounds this summer that holds far more fascination for me. I have a confession to make that has already alienated me from everyone else I know whose musical tastes are far cooler and/or more refined than are mine: I’m a 47-year-old man who thinks Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neal Peart, aka Rush, are super-keen prog rockers nonpareil. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before: the mechanistic, time-shifting, soulless anthems; the stupefying lyrics drawing from the most ponderous and lugubrious science fiction; Geddy Lee’s shrill, shrieking vocal style; drum solos that never die; blah blah blah.
First of all, for anyone who doesn’t find mathematically precise musicianship automatically bereft of the spark of life, corrupt due to its very precision, and who does find monstrously involving hard-rock chord progressions fascinating and (shudder) fun, then there is no reason not to love Rush. Then there is the subject matter of many of the songs (lyrics usually by Peart) which tend to deal with the implications of losing one’s soul and identity in a mechanistic society—apparently only in the Rush catalogue is examining a subject the same as embracing the suffocating detachment being examined (unless, of course, you’re examining the age-old question of sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll). As far as Geddy Lee’s vocals, I will grant that they are an acquired taste, but certainly not more so than Neil Young’s, or Jack White’s. Personally, I love the way Lee’s surfs the high octaves while Peart and Lifeson anchor the sonic booms and provide just the contrast the singer needs to stay airborne. Admittedly, Geddy isn’t exactly People’s Sexiest Man Alive material, although since he traded in the god-awful mullet for the more dignified straight long hair and dark granny glasses, I dare say he cuts a rather dashing figure for a 50-ish rocker. Isn’t it interesting that Geddy Lee’s voice seems much more palatable when it emanates from harajuku girl Gwen Stefani? As for Lifeson, he has a bit of Peter Finch about him these days, and I had to repeatedly remind myself, when I saw the band at the Hollywood Bowl this past Monday night, that it was Peart and not Michael Gambon behind the super-deluxe drum kit.
Seeing Rush for the first time this week was the last remaining gee-I’ve-always-wanted-to-see-them attraction left for this classically-rocked curmudgeon, and it was an unabashed thrill. The show opened up with a hilarious filmed bit in which Lifeson wakes up in a cold sweat, muttering about having a dream about snakes. (The summer tour is in support of their solid new album, Snakes and Arrows.) Peart pops up next to him in bed, expressing concern about his buddy’s distress. Then thunder and lightning, and a cut to a sinister-looking oversized baby carriage back-lit with bile-green rays of light a la It’s Alive. The camera moves in on the carriage, when suddenly a cranky Scotsman with a very familiar-sounding high-pitched burr begins berating the child inside the basket to wake up. And awaken he does—out pops Geddy Lee in baby bonnet and jammies. Then the first hammer chord of “Limelight,” live and unmistakable, exploded out from the giant Bowl and the trio took the stage for a three-hour show broken up only by one necessary intermission (“Because we’re ancient,” admitted Lee with customary humor.)
Humor, in fact, a quality often unacknowledged about Rush, was in full evidence throughout the show. (These guys are veterans of The Fishin' Musician, after all.) There were filmed cameos from Bob and Doug MacKenzie, apparently shot specifically for the Hollywood Bowl, as well as a hilarious appearance by the South Park kids—Li’l Rush—in which Cartman, bewigged Geddy-style, misinterprets and otherwise butchers “Tom Sawyer” before leading into a gloriously bombastic performance of the real thing. And the band itself, slowing down the final chords of their signature hit for the finale, tagged it not with the staccato flourish that most rock bands might choose, but with a heady quote from Cheech and Chong’s “Earache, My Eye.” (DAH-duh-duh, DAH-duh-duh, DAH-DAH-Duh!) Lee, Lifeson and Peart don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as do the tastemakers in the rock press and everyone else who can’t accept that it’s possible to like Rush and at the same time whoever is currently bearing the mantle of Rock’s Last Great Hope.
Though the median age of the crowd had to be about 40, there were four guys in their early ‘30s sitting directly in front of me who knew every beat of every old track. (“Circumstances” from the Hemispheres album was greeted as if it were, I don’t know, “Stairway to Heaven” or something). And to my left were five guys, ages 16-18, I’d guess, all of them decked out in $40 Snakes and Arrows tour T-shirts, who knew the new album backward and forward and thrilled to every power chord and diving, swerving time change. It made me feel good to be surrounded by such an uncool crowd who clearly didn’t give a rip about critical positioning or musical trends. Rush played the hits and the new stuff, made them sound like the albums and never apologized for it, never felt the need to noodle on or otherwise warp into unrecognizablity the classic riffs the fans had come to hear, and yet managed to avoid making it sound like the whole enterprise was draped in mothballs. Rush in 2007 is still vital, and on their own terms. And it was a genuine thrill to sing along with, and hear 50,000 others sing along with, “Distant Early Warning,” the terrifying, exhilarating anti-nuclear track from their 1985 Grace Under Pressure album as if it were Bono up there crooning “One” to a stadium full of lit cell phones. Monday night the Hollywood Hills rang out with lines like,
“The world weighs on my shoulders/But what am I to do?/You sometimes drive me crazy/But I worry about you/I know it makes no difference/To what you're going through/But I see the tip of the iceberg/And I worry about you.”
For three hours I could have cared less if anyone else liked the band or not. For three hours this odd assemblage of fans, ranging from folks in their 60s down to the kids and grandkids as young as eight or nine, were united by the cacophonous, twisted, whirring, gliding musical lines and dystopian (though not exactly hopeless) vision of three Canadian rockers who, by all odds and predictions, probably should have shuffled away three or four album ago. For three hours, Rush consistently transcended the gleaming, antiseptic, pretentious stereotype of “corporate rock” and forged a place for themselves in at least one sensibility (mine) as something much more honest and enjoyable and unapologetically prog-rockin’ than that. The Police are getting the big reunion press and selling out all over the world, and good for them. But for three hours last Monday night, Rush became the band to fulfill a geeky rock fan’s personal bliss, the real power trio to define the summer of 2007.
From the Atlanta tour stop, a taste of “Li’l Rush” (You can bail out after the opening film— this is a very good recording of the South Park interstitial segment, but a piss-poor cell-phone-grade recording of the music.)
Geddy Lee offers some sound advice on winter tobogganing.
Posted by Dennis Cozzalio at 1:28 AM
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Sherman Torgan in 2003 outside his own Hollywood movie palace (Photo by Ted Soqui)
From Hollywood Elsewhere.com comes sad news from the very heart of Hollywood. Sherman Torgan, owner and manager of The New Beverly Cinema, died unexpectedly yesterday while bicycling in Santa Monica.
According to Jeffrey Wells’ post, there are no plans for a funeral or tribute as yet, but Torgan’s friend and colleague Jeffrey Rosen has stated that “any ideas as to the latter (the tribute) would be greatly appreciated.”
Though Torgan’s son Michael has been instrumental in keeping the theater running over the past 10 years, Wells reports that no one is sure what Torgan’s death will mean for the theater itself. At any rate, that’s a concern for the future. Right now the Torgan family has a much sadder duty.
Here’s a link to the New Beverly’s contact page, which will surely be overwhelmed with comments and tributes to Mr. Torgan over the next few days. Please join me in adding to the deluge and recognizing the efforts of Sherman Torgan to keep the difficult day-to-day dream of repertory cinema in Los Angeles from altogether evaporating.
Rest in peace, Mr. Torgan. The audience, and the movies, will miss you greatly.
(Here's a link to a fine piece by Paul Cullum on Sherman Torgan and the New Beverly Cinema from July 2003 that will tell you lots about Mr. Torgan's devotion to the local repertory film scene. Thanks, Terry.)
UPDATE 7/19/07 2:08 p.m.: The LAist has a few more details, and both David Lowery and Blake Etheridge offer their thoughts on the New Beverly Cinema and what Sherman Torgan meant to the movies in Los Angeles. Many thanks to David Hudson and Green Cine Daily for the links.
UPDATE 7/20/07 10:16 a.m.: Here's Bob Westal's lovely tribute to what a revival house means to the true cinephile, as well as some equally appreciative and evocative thoughts about Mr. Torgan and the New Beverly.
Posted by Dennis Cozzalio at 12:15 PM
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Since all the regular faculty of the SLIFR Academy are currently off enjoying their summer homes in Newport Beach or the Hamptons (or in one case, Sheboygan, Wisconsin), we had to dip into the reserves to find this quarter’s quizmaster. And find one we did! I like to think we will have done our students proud by presenting as our current figurehead of authority that veteran of loose and lively summer school curricula, the semi-honorable Mr. Freddy Shoop, who wields a cutting film question as deftly as he wields a waxed-up surfboard or a sparkling Hawaiian shirt. We think that Mr. Shoop has come up with a fine selection of queries for this time out, ones that honor several centennials of great movie actors as well as some behind-the-scenes big shots of classic Hollywood and, of course, the occasional out-of-left-field head-scratcher that will make you wish you’d never committed to grappling with this quiz and just went outside for the afternoon sand castle building class instead. So don’t get the idea that just because this is summer school you’re somehow going to have a easier time of it. Though Mr. Shoop is definitely cool, with it and, above all, dope, he is also not above shrieking “You can’t have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat!” at the slightest variation of his classroom agenda (except, of course, if what you really want to do is go outside for a quick football-throwing, volleyball-playing, splashing-in-the-surf montage to briefly relieve the pressures of test-taking—he’s always up for a wacky, pressure-relieving montage.)
So, without any further delay, let us unveil the questions of the summer, get out our sharpened No. 2s and dig in. We know that the last thing you really want to do in the summer is to be sitting indoors taking a test. But wouldn’t you rather be doing this than seeing Transformers? I thought so. Now get to work!
1) Favorite quote from a filmmaker
2) A good movie from a bad director
3) Favorite Laurence Olivier performance
4) Describe a famous location from a movie that you have visited (Bodega Bay, California, where the action in The Birds took place, for example). Was it anything like the way it was in the film? Why or why not?
5) Carlo Ponti or Dino De Laurentiis (Producer)?
6) Best movie about baseball
7) Favorite Barbara Stanwyck performance
8) Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Dazed and Confused?
9) What was the last movie you saw, and why? (We’ve used this one before, but your answer is presumably always going to be different, so…)
10) Whether or not you have actually procreated or not, is there a movie you can think of that seriously affected the way you think about having kids of your own?
11) Favorite Katharine Hepburn performance
12) A bad movie from a good director
13) Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom-- yes or no?
14) Ben Hecht or Billy Wilder (Screenwriter)?
15) Name the film festival you’d most want to attend, or your favorite festival that you actually have attended
16) Head or 200 Motels?
17) Favorite cameo appearance
(Try visiting here and here for some good ideas! This question was inspired by Daniel Johnson at Film Babble)
18) Favorite Rosalind Russell performance
19) What movie, either currently available on DVD or not, has never received the splashy collector’s edition treatment you think it deserves? What would such an edition include?
20) Name a performance that everyone needs to be reminded of, for whatever reason
21) Louis B. Mayer or Harry Cohn (Studio Head)?
22) Favorite John Wayne performance
23) Naked Lunch or Barton Fink?
24) Your Ray Harryhausen movie of choice
25) Is there a movie you can think of that you feel like the world would be better off without, one that should have never been made?
24) Favorite Dub Taylor performance
25) If you had the choice of seeing three final movies, to go with your three last meals, before shuffling off this mortal coil, what would they be?
26) And what movie theater would you choose to see them in?
UPDATE 7/18/07 1:31 p.m.: EXTRA CREDIT!!! I know this isn’t entirely fair, having already published the quiz and received so many excellent responses already,* but Jim Emerson has offered up a couple of outstanding posers as part of the regular goings-on at Scanners that would have been way-more-than-worthy additions to this quiz. And I couldn't help but appropriate them (sort of). So, for extra credit, please hop on over to his site and answer these:
Your proposed entry in the Atheist Film Festival
What advice on day-to-day living have you learned from the movies?
You can post your answers here if you want, but first and foremost, make sure to drop your answers on his site. Thanks, Jim, for the great questions, and the excellent posts that surround them. The only thing that would make me happier about these questions is if I’d thought of ‘em myself!
Posted by Dennis Cozzalio at 10:32 PM
My summer TV viewing habits are pretty much restricted to baseball, and though nothing will replace the AFLAC duck, voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, in my daughters' hearts, this beauty of a commercial, shown at least twice per Dodger game and featuring Harvey Keitel, Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter and Angels starting pitcher John Lackey, has fast become my favorite. This is the slightly longer :44 version-- the :30 cut pops up most often in between innings.
Posted by Dennis Cozzalio at 12:33 AM
Thanks to Anne Thompson for the information on this new trailer for the upcoming Seth Rogen-penned comedy Superbad. It's a red-band R-rated preview, and Sony is premiering it on the Internet, but I couldn't just leave this one to Anne and the rest of the WWW. Even if all of Superbad's hilarious moments are packed into this one three-minute burst, I wager the movie will still be 8.5 times funnier than I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Enjoy, but turn it down if you're at work!
And actually, Anne has been on the trailer watch lately and has great posts, complete with the embedded trailers themselves, for the upcoming (unecessary?) remake of 3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale being directed by James Mangold, and also Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan (one of several actors essaying the role of Mr. Zimmerman) in Todd Haynes' I'm Not There.
Posted by Dennis Cozzalio at 12:18 AM
Monday, July 16, 2007
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.
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.
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.
Posted by Dennis Cozzalio at 10:18 PM