Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Best of Professor Peabody’s Hysterical Historical Wayback Spring Break Film Quiz Pt. 1: REAL LIVES, FLUNKED PREDICTIONS, ICONS AND LOONEY TUNES

As part of my ongoing effort to redefine tardiness at every possible turn, I would now like to turn your attention back to April 17 and Professor Peabody's Hysterical Historical Wayback Spring Break Film Quiz. I am so tardy that I have smacked up against the wall without having actually submitted by own answers to the quiz, the ultimate in disrespect to teaching authority. (Although I am taller than Professor Peabody and am counting on the intimidation factor to gain me some ground here.) And as there is another quiz mere hours away, I'd like to do what I should have done a couple of months ago and highlight, as is the custom round these parts, some of the visiting professor's favorite answers from the most recent quiz. You will undoubtedly already be aware of the usual high quality and quantity of answers these quizzes pull in, and even more so than usual this one proved to be a real workout in terms of judicious picking, choosing, cutting and pasting. But I think I've come up with the best, most thought-provoking, cleverest and/or wittiest answers and gathered them together in three digests which should get your juices flowing for the new quiz coming on Thursday. So, without no further hesitation, let us jump right in to part one, in which we deal with icons of cinema, some busted predictions, and our favorite Looney Tunes, among many other items of interest. Whenever I can come up with an answer of my own, I will include it, and that, I'm afraid, is going to have to suffice for my contribution this time around. But be assured, the answers posted here are far more well considered and interesting than what I would have coughed up at this late date. Here, I'll prove it.

1) Favorite Biopic

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

The Long Day Closes, an entirely different kind of biopic. (Dave S.)

Topsy Turvy. As it happens, I was listening to Bill Condon’s commentary for Kinsey last night, and he said that he believed that the best approach to biopics was to focus on a specific period of the subject’s life (he also said that he was unable to do so with Kinsey, but I wish he’d tried harder). That’s what Mike Leigh does with his film about Gilbert and Sullivan. By narrowing his story to the creation and production of The Mikado, he’s able to bring out a lot more detail, and paint a fuller, richer portrait of the men and their world than he ever could have done had he gone the birth-to-death route. And Topsy Turvy is, of course, immensely entertaining.

Furthermore, the film sort of inspired me to, not write, but think of the idea for my own biopic project, which I will never actually make, but which I’ll also not tell any of you about, because you’d just steal it. (Bill R.)

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Krauthammer)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Most of what happens in the movie...was true... (Quinn)

Young Mr. Lincoln. Partly because it's barely a biopic at all, in the conventional sense. (Richard T. Jameson)

The Scarlet Empress. You know, for its historical accuracy. (Jim Emerson)

Young Mr. Lincoln. Some cows ought to be sacred. (Robert Fiore)

Hmmm… I have generally taken major issue with biopics because, let’s be honest, they mostly suck. That said, there are some notable exceptions. As for my favorite… I’m trying to put off answering that… Let’s go with the Superstar. Todd Haynes has really nailed the biopic form, I think. Both Superstar and I’m Not There understand their subjects with such depth, nuance, and playfulness that they put dreck like Walk the Line or Ray or Kinsey to shame. I have to give honorable mention, though, to The Puppetmaster, Baaaadddddaaaassssss!!, Scarlet Empress, Auto-focus, Young Mr. Lincoln, Secret Honor, Bound for Glory, Ed Wood and Cobb. So, okay, maybe they don’t suck as much as I like to remember. (Schuyler Chapman)

My favorite movie about a real person is Lawrence of Arabia. Biopics tend to be way too formulaic for me, so I generally prefer ones like I'm Not There and Mishima that purposefully break the mold. (Bemis)

Well, I don't especially care for biopics in general, so it's kinda tough to pick a favorite. There are a lot of biopics that I like, but don't love. Goodfellas (if I were forced to pick one, this might be it), Lawrence of Arabia (excellent filmmaking, but the person at the heart of the story remains a bit impenetrable), and Amadeus (which is great because it gets at Mozart through Salieri, an approach I wish more biopics would take) are pretty darn good. (Mark)

Not generally my favorite genre, although I've enjoyed some of the musical ones, like Three Little Words. Lisztomania would qualify, I guess. Then there's the awesome I'm Not There. But I'm going to go non-musical, with Mongol. (Beveridge D. Spenser)

2) Dyan Cannon or Tuesday Weld?

And so we come to the first question where Dennis gives a choice between two people I've never heard of and I pretend to care which one I choose. Well, let's see. Dyan Cannon did some groundbreaking work in Kangaroo Jack, but Tuesday Weld was in Once Upon a Time in America and Thief, so I'll have to go with Tuesday. (Mark)

Tuesday Weld. I mean, come on. Anthony Perkins was gay, and he still killed people for her. (Bill R.)

I'll take the eyes of Tuesday Weld and the breasts of Dyan Cannon. (Piper)

Tuesday Weld, if only for Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which is, perhaps, the most troubling movie I’ve ever seen (it’s at least up there with Cruising and A Clockwork Orange in terms of problematic representations of sexuality). (Schuyler Chapman)

Dyan Cannon for the "special" brownies she prepares for the Laker players and coaches. (Troy Olson)

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

My god, there are so many. It's one of the reasons I love Sci-Fi so much. The all time champ has to be turning the biggest cultural and financial center in the U.S. and possibly the world into a prison in Escape from New York in the way-off future of 1999. But for me, it's social norms that were never taken into consideration. Forbidden Planet takes place far, far into our future but women are condescended to and non-white people don't exist.

Also Strange Days gets a special honor for predicting too much would happen just a couple of years after the movie was released. (Greg)

Robot Monster. (Dave S.)

I don’t know about a specific film, but I do think that filmmakers are asking to be laughed at when they set their futuristic films in a specific year. Blade Runner is great, but what year does that take place in? 2011, or something like that? No one is even working on a flying car, and here it is 2009 already. Just say “The Future”, and leave it at that. (Bill R.)

Le voyage dans la lune. It didn't really happen like that, right? (Josh Pincus Is Crying)

None of them had the Internet. Just thought I would put that out there. (Krauthammer)

Dead End Drive-In (in which) drive-ins become internment camps for the undesireables. (Richard Hollingshead)

Tron. (Quinn)

Pan-Am in Space: 2001:A Space Odyssey. (Samuel Wilson)

Things to Come. (Howard Chaykin)

Logan's Run maybe, because people do not need to be killed when they are 27 anymore--surgery and diet, and the general idea of money has replaced eugenics, plus the aesthetic has been used and abused, so maybe not catching up, but the idea of pleasure and leisure are similar, though those ideas have not changed much since the 70s. (Anthony)

How about me being silly, thinking that the world would end based on George Pal's version of The Time Machine? (Peter Nellhaus)

Any movie with corded phones. (Jim Emerson)

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which declares that all cats & dogs were eradicated by disease by 1983. (Aaron)

Aren’t you sorta glad that artificial intelligence hasn’t caught up to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey? (Walter Biggins)

Jaws 15 (or 18 or whatever the hell it was) in Back to the Future II—I guess it seemed like the series would go on forever in 1989 what with the smashing success of Jaws the Revenge two short years earlier. Oh wait… (Schuyler Chapman)

The only answer that springs to mind are all the companies featured in neon in Blade Runner that have since gone bankrupt. (Patrick)

It's a curious bit of perversity that after 150 years of being wrong people were still putting their bets on Thomas Malthus, as we see in Soylent Green. The error here is not in sounding an alarm over environmental decay but in selecting overcrowding as the primary menace. The Malthusian theory is essentially a bourgeois fear, the idea that the value of one's holding is going to be degraded and then eroded by the lumpen masses produced by irresponsible breeding of the lower orders. (Robert Fiore)

2001: A Space Odyssey. We are totally not near Jupiter yet. (Jeremy)
Any of the early-'90s virtual reality-themed thrillers that tried to paint cyberspace as a dangerous alternate reality capable of turning mentally challenged lawnmower men into all-powerful daemons or unleashing a wisecracking Russell Crowe into the world. (Bemis)

In Thunderball, James Bond straps on a jet pack and takes to the air. It has to be the coolest invention that has never been made widely available. I want my jet pack, dammit! When I was a kid I was sure that I'd own one by now. (Kimberly Lindbergs)

I'm watching this old Flash Gordon serial now, and it cracks me up that the Hawk Men's flying city is kept aloft by an anti-gravity beam--that is powered by slaves shoveling radium into an old-fashioned coal furnace! (Chris Oliver)

I doubt I could have improved on any of the answers here, but I did find this great ad for a 1962 Japanese thriller directed by the rubber monster master Ishiro Honda entitled Yosei Gorasu (Gorath) which, just by the newspaper come-on alone, looks like it could virtually define a great answer to this question. The year: 1980! The scene: Outer space! The story: Destruction of Earth! See! The world doomed by an invading wild sun 6,000 times bigger than Earth! See! Scientists move the Earth with hydrogen jet power! See! Astronauts, satellites and spaceships! (Okay, I guess they came pretty close on that one.) (Dennis)

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

Oh man, I really don't care. By the end of this quiz, I'll probably start replacing these choices with my own. You've been warned. (Mark)

Troy and Sandra, but mostly because of production values (and Delmer Daves). Warners Technicolor beats AIP Pathe Color. (Richard T. Jameson)

Frankie & Annette—because they partied with Eric Von Zipper, Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, ghosts, Martians, surfers and Don Rickles. And AIP rules. (Ivan)

Annette & Frankie because of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Xmas Special. (Dave S.)

Frankie and Annette hands down. Annette was the shit! (Josh Pincus Is Crying)

Troy and Sandra have Delmer Daves' A Summer Place and Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life on their resumes. Case closed. (Peter Nellhaus)

Where's Troy & Sandra's equivalent of Back to the Beach? (Patrick)

I would drink Annette's bathwater. Honestly, I think I'd rather do her than Sophia Loren, and I have exactly the same desire for Sophia Loren that any decent human being does. Frankie? Well, okay, we'd have to have somebody to go out for pizza. Besides, I like their supporting cast: Harvey Lembeck, Don Rickles, Buster Keaton . . . (Robert Fiore)

Annette Funicello & Frankie Avalon (I have a thing for brunette's...) (leOpard 13)

5) Favorite Raoul Walsh movie?

White Heat. It’s my favorite gangster movie, because it’s perfect. (Bill R.)

I know that it's not a very “Walshy” movie besides a general sense of adventure, but The Thief of Bagdad is really a nearly perfect movie. It's full of adventure, romance and fantasy in the best possible sense. It's the kind of movie that would have been my favorite at the age of ten, and it's able to transport me back to all the best and truest parts of childhood instantly without condescension, without dumbing it down. It's a fantastic movie. (Krauthammer)

Difficult to choose of course, but I have a special feeling for a femme-centered soap called The Man I Love starring the always sublime Ida Lupino playing a tough broad visiting her straight family members and discovering they've got a lot of problems that only she can solve. Great movie. (Larry Gross)

Band of Angels (though White Heat and Captain Horatio Hornblower are a close second & third) (le0pard 13)

Me and My Gal, closely followed by Gentleman Jim. (Richard T. Jameson)

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

Saskatchewan. Shelley Winters, Alan Ladd. Best movie about Mounties perhaps ever. (Anthony)

Only one? The Roaring Twenties. (Peter Nellhaus)

This is where I draw funny little characters on the side of my test sheet. (Piper)

Tough one… I’ll go with They Drive By Night because it’s my favorite movie about truck drivers starring Ida Lupino. Pursued is a close second, though, because it’s my favorite Western supposedly about vengeance but actually about incest. (Schuyler Chapman)

Everyone's going with White Heat, so I wanted to take High Sierra. But no, White Heat. (Beveridge D. Spenser)

"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" (Patrick)

The Roaring Twenties, but there are a lot of Honorable Mentions: High Sierra, Gentleman Jim. They Died With Their Boots On. You have to be impressed with somebody who had 50 movies under his belt before directing his first talkie, began his career during the Wilson administration and ended it during the Johnson administration. One of the more strangely interesting bad movies is The Horn Blows at Midnight, with Jack Benny as the angel assigned to blow the final trump. It's one of those plots that's supposed to produce endless hi-jinks but doesn't -- how many gags can you build around stopping a man from blowing a horn, and it displays the usual stilted unease Hollywood applied to philosophical fantasy. But there are tremendous production values brought to bear, including the A-list director. Its complete commercial failure was a running gag on Jack Benny's radio show for years thereafter. (Robert Fiore)

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

I’m tempted to go with Herzog’s Even Dwarves Started Small. It’s not his best film, but I think his first time at bat, Signs of Life is pretty limp and tedious, while Dwarves is a shot of pure Herzogian insanity, and bizarrely riveting. Most of the best Herzog films that followed could be similarly described. (Bill R.)

Targets is a lot better than Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women. Trust Me. (Krauthammer)

Kiss Me Deadly (of Aldrich) a world shattering improvement on The Big Leaguer. Bertolucci's Before the Revolution a huge improvement on La Cammere Secca, Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces a big improvement on Head, The Birthday Party (Friedkin) a huge improvement on the Sonny and Cher movie. (Good Times -- Ed.) (Larry Gross)

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

Stranger Than Paradise (a long way from Permanent Vacation) (Jim Emerson)

The Terminator has less flying pirahnas than Piranha II, but is otherwise superior. (Bemis)

I'm probably in the minority, but I think David Lynch showed much improvement between Eraserhead (1977) and his second feature film The Elephant Man (1980). (Kimberly Lindbergs)

7) Ice Cube or Mos Def?

Ice Cube. Straight Out of Compton was the first rap album I ever bought. (Greg)

Mos Def. Ice Cube just postures on-screen, but Mos Def can really act. He’s sliding a little bit towards caricature lately, but look at him in The Woodsman. He’s genuinely good. (Bill R.)

Mos Def. I loved Bamboozled (Josh Pincus Is Crying)

It was an unusual piece of casting, but I have to say Mos Def did just dandy as Ford Prefect in the Hitchhiker's Guide movie. (Alonso Moseley FBI).

Mos Def – because he convinced me he was actually English in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Bob Westal)

If we're talking acting, then Mos Def. If we're talking music, then neither, since I don't like the hip hop. (Flosh)

Despite his recent rash of films, I would have to say Ice Cube. (Piper)

Ice Cube, if only because of Mos Def’s vocal choices in 16 Blocks (Aaron)

Mos Definitely, for too many good performances to count: Something the Lord Made, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, his comic timing in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, and the unfairly, already forgotten Be Kind Rewind, for starters. Def’s got impressive range as an actor—Cube’s alright but he brings the gangsta scowl to every movie—and he’s a far better rapper, too. (Walter Biggins)

Are we talking acting or rapping? If rapping, give me Cube any day. Mos Def’s good and all, but Ice Cube, when he’s angry (see Straight Outta Compton or Amerikkka’s Most Wanted or The Predator or his verse on PE’s Burn Hollywood Burn!) he’s amazing. Mos might be more conscientious, but Cube’s got a better voice and better flow. If we’re talking acting, I guess I’ll go with Cube too. Why? See question 30. (Schuyler Chapman)

8) Favorite movie about the music industry

This is Spinal Tap. I would say there’s no other acceptable answer, but there is, of course, A Mighty Wind. So everyone has a choice between those two. (Bill R.)

American Hot Wax (Howard Chaykin)

Many, many fun movies in this category, but I guess I’m going to have to with Nashville. (Bob Westal)

Phantom of the Paradise. (Piper)

Nashville, although to reduce it to that is sorta like saying that Moby-Dick is about a whale. (Walter Biggins)

The most obvious choice is This Is Spinal Tap which is certainly deserving of the title. For a less obvious choice, let's go with The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, if only for that scene when the band is playing and Robocop stops the music, mid-song, because he hears someone crying in the audience. Brilliant. (Mark)

Velvet Goldmine is one of my favorite movies ever, and it’s ostensibly about the music industry, so I’ll choose that. If I were to choose something that is specifically about the business side of the industry, then I’d choose 24 Hour Party People. (Schuyler Chapman)

Get Crazy, about a night in the life of the (thinly disguised) Fillmore. It is CRIMINAL that this is not available on DVD. (Patrick)

My first thought was Nashville as a default answer, but a quick glance shows that few have mentioned it so far, so perhaps it isn't considered a movie about the industry (it is, but it's about everything). So honorable mentions to Almost Famous and Phantom of the Paradise, respectively the sweetest and most acidic takes on the music industry. (Bemis)

9) Favorite Looney Tunes short

I have never laughed as hard as I did when I first saw Duck Amuck, and I doubt I will again. (Krauthammer)

My all-time favorite is probably Fritz Freling's Three Little Bops. Beyond that, I've gone through some changes in my favorites over the last decade. For Chuck Jones' stuff, my favorite was always What's Opera, Doc?, but now I'd probably say his masterpiece is One Froggy Evening. But then there's Bob Clampett. 10 years ago, I had minimal knowledge of Clampett, but thanks to the Looney Tunes DVD's, and the advocacy of John Kricfalusi (particularly during the night of his favorite cartoons that he presented at The Egyptian one year) and Jerry Beck, Clampett now looms over all the other Warner Bros. directors. And there are a lot of great Campett cartoons in my mind, but I think my favorite is one called The Hep Cat, mostly for the little song the cat sings near the beginning ("The leans and the fats all think I'm the cat's, I must have an awful lot of Oomph!"). As for Tex Avery...well, I really think of him more in association with his MGM stuff, but Porky's Duck Hunt might be my favorite of his Looney Tunes. Or one of his Daffy shorts, anyway. (Chris Oliver)

Robin Hood Daffy (Greg)

“Favorite” might be pushing it a little, but I’ve always been partial to Robin Hood Daffy. (Bill R.)

What's Opera, Doc? (Spear and magic HEL-met!) (Josh Pincus is Crying, Howard Chaykin)

Rabbit's Kin . The one with Pete Puma. (Samuel Wilson)

Baseball Bugs (Quinn)

One Froggy Evening. (Richard T. Jameson)

This is easy. "Duck Dodgers in the 24th½ Century". (Bob Westal)

Bugs & the gremlin: Falling Hare. (Ivan)

Booby Hatched, by Frank Tashlin, about an unhatched egg named Robespierre. (Peter Nellhaus)

Duck Amuck: "Thankth for the thour perthimmonth, couthin!" (Jim Emerson)

I Love to Singa (Tex Avery, 1936) – okay, it’s a Merrie Melodie, but still… (Aaron)

Porky Pig’s Feat (1943), directed by Frank Tashlin—especially for Bugs’ punch line. (Walter Biggins)

Without a doubt Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, though I do quite enjoy all the Road Runner cartoons as well... (Mark)

I was always fond of the one wherein Bugs and Elmer were doing battle but their personalities changed every time they donned a new hat (why there were so many hats around I can’t remember). The internets informs that it’s called Bugs’ Bonnets. (Schuyler Chapman)

There's an eighty-way tie for first, but for you... I'll say Rabbit Seasoning, the middle part of the Bugs-Daffy-Elmer hunting trilogy. (Patrick)

One Froggy Evening. Some cows ought to be sacred. (Robert Fiore)

Rabbit of Seville (1950) (Ivan G. Shreve)

The ending of What's Opera Doc? shocked me when I was a kid. (Bemis)

Only one? Impossible! Too many to link to but here's a few of my favorites: Hair-Raising Hare, Water, Water Every Hare, Hyde and Hare, Ali Baba Bunny and Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (I own a Marvin the Martian cookie jar). I think some of these might be Merrie Melodies instead of Loony Tunes so does that discount them? Is anyone taking notes? (Kimberly Lindbergs)

Again, there's just no arguing with any of the titles cited above. I've been driven to hysterics by almost every one. (Anything with Daffy Duck is above reproach.) But I've always especially loved Bully for Bugs, for every reason you can see in every frame, but perhaps most of all for that hilarious musical cue that accompanies the bull each time he heads back to the grindstone to sharpen up the horns for his next encounter with Bugs. See for yourself:

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

For years – decades -- I would have said Anthony Mann, but he seems to have been taken up at last. Probably it's more a matter, for me, of reclaiming some figures who may have been highly esteemed at some point but have been relegated to the museum cellars -- Borzage, say, or Carol Reed. But wait, I've got one: Jerzy Skolimowski. Mostly, he makes either searing masterpieces or what-the-hell-did-you-think-you-were-doing! disasters. Among the former is the great, great, woefully underknown Deep End (1970). And his marvelous first film in something like fifteen years, Four Nights with Anna, has yet to find a U.S. distributor. (Richard T. Jameson)

Joe Dante. (Dave S.)

Delmer Daves. (Samuel Wilson)

George Roy Hill: Butch and Sundance, Slaughter House 5, The Sting, Slapshot, The World According to Garp. (Quinn)

Edward Yang--it's not that he isn't highly regarded--but due to distribution snafus his gigantic influence on everything good in Asian cinema is insufficiently acknowledged or appreciated. His early death two years ago makes matters worse. Brighter's Summer's Daythe least seen masterpiece of the last 30 years. (Larry Gross)

Michael Curtiz. (Howard Chaykin)

This is a tough one because it's hard to gauge how much respect a given director really has these days, especially on the internet. I'm going to go with Johnny To. When it comes to Hong Kong action movies, directors like John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam get all the praise, but To has been nothing short of fantastic and is definitely the best director working in Hong Kong today (for example, take a look at Triangle, where To completely outclasses Hark and Lam). He got some critical praise recently with his Triad Election films, but for the most part, his movies don't get much of a release in the US. Last year's Mad Detective had its widest release at 1 theater, but it's a fantastic film (it made my top 10 of 2008 once I finally got my hands on a copy). For a modern director, he's quite prolific too. Anyway, for a more conventional pick, I might go with Michael Curtiz. Casablanca is certainly a classic, but Curtiz doesn't seem to have quite the following that you'd expect. (Mark)

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

Woody Allen's career since Crimes and Misdemeanors.It’s been 20 years, and he's made a lot of good to great (and yes, a couple truly bad) movies since then. He's been out of fashion for a long time, but the work is still there. (Flosh)

Gordon Douglas is getting better with age. If nothing else, he was a solid craftsman. (Peter Nellhaus)

I'm with RTJ on Skolimowski. And Zanussi needs to be (re-)discovered in America, too. (Jim Emerson)

J. Lee Thompson. (Aaron)

I really love Hal Ashby’s work from the 1970s. I know he’s not exactly critically neglected, but I think he’s due a lot more respect than he gets. The seven films he directed in that decade (from The Landlord to Being There) is an amazing run, and I can’t think of anyone that ever had one quite like it during that same period (maybe Scorsese, who produced fewer films and The Last Waltz, which is a coke-addled stinker). I don’t even know that I can think of another director that put out seven wonderful films in a row (maybe Herzog). Anyway, Hal Ashby needs more people to take notice of his work. He’s awesome. Maybe Matt Zoller Seitz’s article about his influence on Wes Anderson’s oeuvre will get more people to see his films. (Schuyler Chapman)

If Carroll Ballard is mentioned at all in the critical discourse, it’s as the poor man’s Terrence Malick. Maybe it’s because most of his movies are family-friendly, or maybe it’s because they feature children as protagonists. Maybe it’s because he takes his time between projects. But any director who can create such a cinematic glow and such a powerfully mythic vision of humans encountering nature—in The Black Stallion, Duma, Fly Away Home, Never Cry Wolf, and Wind—should be far better loved than he is. (Walter Biggins)

George Roy Hill. He only did 14 films over a quarter centry, but they include Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Slap Shot, The Sting, The World According to Garp, and the ultimate impossible-to-adapt adaptation, Slaughterhouse-Five. Attention MUST be paid. (Patrick)

If as I read in this David Thomson book that Rene Clair's reputation is in eclipse, then Rene Clair. For myself, I've lately been reassessing Bob Clampett, whose work I was mostly lukewarm about, mostly from a fixation on the classic postwar Looney Tune. Now that I have developed more of an interest in pre-war squink I see him as Tex Avery in a minor key, though where Avery mostly rode the road of excess, Clampett was a genuine surrealist. (Robert Fiore)

It’s a tossup between Phil Karlson and Joseph H. Lewis. (Ivan G. Shreve)

Oh, boy, I'll get killed for this one...but I have to say Tony Scott. I think Quentin Tarantino said it best on the commentary track for the True Romance DVD that Scott is a director who makes films where you as the viewer know what you're getting; not only that he has a distinct look that is solely his -- aped by many other directors, but it is uniquely and unquestionably his look (I'm speaking of the rooms drenched in blue and the thickest cloud of smoke you've ever scene). The man can film people smoking like no one else and make it look arty as hell. I remember being the only one in the theater thinking Domino and Man on Fire were any good. The élan of those films are exactly what I mean by films that actually succeed in being entertaining that solely rely on style over substance. Sure, his films aren't groundbreaking or even necessarily memorable, but they are always entertaining and they are always a feast for the senses -- even if sometimes his visuals dizzy you into closing your eyes and rubbing your temples. The man can direct, people! It's time we all gave him his due. (Kevin J. Olson)

The problem with questions like this is that you'll be able to find a lively cult for basically any filmmaker you can think of, and your sense of who is and who isn't respected gets a bit out of whack. One filmmaker who is a cult figure now but who deserves everything that he can get is Anthony Mann, who has even seemed to take the backseat to (the wonderful) Boetticher nowadays. He's my favorite director of westerns, and his world view is far more complex than the “redemptive violence” box that many of his admirers have put him in. Also, Mervyn LeRoy and Robert Aldrich. (Krauthammer)

As odd a choice as this sounds, I'm going to go with William Peter Blatty. I've always thought Exorcist 3 was a good underrated thriller and I just watched The Ninth Configuration last week and found it to be quite good. In both films, the only two he ever directed, Blatty seemed to have a good eye for the camera and a good feel for pacing and tension. (Troy Olson)

There are many, but I'll mention Jack Cardiff today since he just passed away recently and I seem to be one of the only people on earth who liked his directing efforts. (Kimberly Lindbergs)

Gregory LaCava or Jean Negulesco. (Veronique)

Carpenter. Christine is a formal masterpiece. Sort of adding to the question, I think Nicholas Ray's films should get better DVD release in America, same for Godard's 70's films made on video. (Jamie)

I’ve given this answer before, but it seems to me that Ralph Bakshi, for all his faults, is a much more interesting and important filmmaker than he's ever given credit for. (Chris Oliver)

Ted Post (especially for The Baby), James B. Harris, Buzz Kulik (the TV movies he directed—Bad Ronald and Brian’s Song, to name only two—influenced a generation! I mean it!) (Ivan)

I'll fly the flag for a couple of other lesser-known masters of screwball comedy-- Mitchell Leisen and Wesley Ruggles. (Dennis)

11) Ruth Gordon or Margaret Hamilton?

Margaret Hamilton, more of a working actress than a moonlighting scribe.

Hamilton—she played a witch with a castle and an army; Gordon was just a disciple. (Ivan)

This Bud's for you - Margaret Hamilton, based on her appearance in Brewster McCloud. (Peter Nellhaus)

There is only one Minnie Castevet... who also co-wrote Adam's Rib and Pat and Mike with her husband Garson Kanin. (Jim Emerson)\

After Where’s Poppa? (1970) and Harold and Maude (1971), Gordon got typecast as the cutesy old dame that made you really want to just hit upside her head with a shovel (and no jury would convict you). I think Hamilton’s movie appearances (even though she was typecast as the nosy harridan) are far more interesting…not just Oz, but films like My Little Chickadee (1940) and The Red Pony (1949). (Ivan G. Shreve)

I guess Ruth Gordon, because of Harold and Maude and Rosemary's Baby. Of course, those are the only two movies I've seen from either Actress, but at least they're good ones... (Mark)

Ruth Gordon, since I've seen her in several things and don't care about The Wizard of Oz. (Troy Olson)

12) Best filmed adaptation of a play

I know Glengarry is the popular safe pick, but why none of Pinters adaptations? but how about Play it Again, Sam? or Neil Labute's recent under appreciated Shape of Things? Also… Oliver Stones best movie (IMHO), Talk Radio, was a play first. (Jamie)

I’m still mad a film in general for sticking to closely to its theatrical roots: too many movies look like badly filmed plays. But if you must know: Olivier’s Richard III or Grigori Kozintsev’s 1969 Russian language version of King Lear. (Ivan)

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

Hamlet (Branagh's uncut version) (le0pard 13)

Night of the Iguana, maybe? I have a nagging feeling that the best answer is some movie we don't even think of as being adapted from a play -- a Lubitsch, maybe. (Richard T. Jameson)

Richard III by Ian McKellen. (Howard Chaykin)

UP NEXT! The Best of Professor Peabody’s Hysterical Historical Wayback Spring Break Film Quiz Part 2: MORE ICONS, SINGLE-WORD TITLES, MOVIE PARENTING AND OVERLOOKED COMIC PERFORMANCES!



Bob Westal said...

I hope you don't ding my grading too much, but since I wrote my snappy little comment about biopics, I learned that, as per Wikipedia Al Jolson's life did, very loosely, inspire Samson Raphaelson (later Lubitsch's writing partner) to write the original play of "The Jazz Singer," even though George Jessel actually played the part onstage before Jolson appeared in the legendary but not so great film. Somewhere along the way, I'd gotten the idea (probably from misunderstanding something musician/historian Ian Whitcomb said on his radio show years ago) that Jolson had been such a miserable SOB, the studio decided to ignore his life and write a loose update of "The Jazz Singer." I throw myself on your tender mercies, oh Prof. C.

Sharon said...

I'mg going to have to work harder on my homework if I want any of my answers to make the finals. ;-)

Dennis Cozzalio said...

You're featured in parts 2 and 3, coming tonight!

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