Monday, July 07, 2008


(This is Part Two of a three-part digest of the best answers from Professor Brian O'Blivion's All-New Flesh for Memorial Day Movie (and TV) Quiz. Part one can be seen here. Part three is on its way-- untwist them knickers!)

13) Using our best reviewer-speak, what is an “important” film comedy? And what is to you the most important film comedy of the last 35 years?

The most important film comedy of the last 35 years is Kirby Dick's This Film is not yet Rated. (Peter Nellhaus)

It Happened One Night pretty much invented the road trip movie which is still so popular today so I'll go with that one. Last 35 years takes us to 73. Let's see. Both Blazing Saddles and Animal House took comedy into the landscape of the vulgar that had previously only been hinted at. The hits of the nineties and 2000's wouldn't exist without them. Animal House did it better so I'm going with that one. (Jonathan Lapper)

To me, an important comedy is one that makes people laugh and has an impact on how audiences look at comedy. It’s also nice if it manages to cast a reflection (however distorted or amplified) of ourselves. John Waters’ Female Trouble fits that bill. (Dave S.)

An important filmed comedy, you see, must contain three elements: a sneering, even anarchic, disregard for societal mores and values; a political consciousness that includes feminist epistemology; and a laser focus in regards to its bourgeois and authoritarian targets. An actually important comedy would be something like This is Spinal Tap, because at the time it was brand new, and was, and still is, funny as all shit.
I may have misunderstood this question. (Bill)

Wes Anderson is really after the right things. I'd argue his last two pictures are pretty important to me as they play witness to a certain idea of America (as a myth of perfectionism; ahem, Emerson) I find appealing. Also, any number of the Coen Brothers' pictures are worthy, or "important" film comedies. The Big Lebowski and The Hudsucker Proxy really are pretty great. Let me throw in Brad Bird's films, too, while we're at it. To get outside of America, I think Bruce Robinson's How To Get Ahead In Advertising is some kind of special. But more and more I think Kung Fu Hustle is one of the great films of the last decade. (Ryland Walker Knight)

"Hey LAAY-DIEEEE!": Foucaultian Repression and Freudian Desire in the Le Cinema du Hilary Duff, or, When Is Hair Gel Just Hair Gel?." Movie Journal, vol.6, issue #4, May 2008. 35-55.

Abstract: Why...laughter? Thinking through the gendered problematics inherent in the capitalist construction of "tween" (and its relations to a Butlerian conception of the body as performance), this paper seeks to understand the intertwined notions of humor, femininity and "masked" identity in the works of Hilary Duff, in particular the plays with fairy tale imagery in A Cinderella Story, the "policed" notions of "cool" and "nerd" in The Lizzie McGuire Movie and the role of cyberspace avatars in A Perfect Man. Related topics will include The Mickey Mouse Club, the marketing of Disney Channel programming and the Barthesian mythologies of "Come Clean (Let The Rain Come Down)." (Just out of curiosity, Dennis, what caused you to choose the 35-year limit?) (Brian Doan) (Brian, No good reason at all. This question started out as something else to which I attached that 35-year limit. But when the question became this one, it just seemed better top narrow the field down so it became less than asking “What is the most important film comedy of all time?” which is probably not a question that can be answered, at least not by me.—Dennis)

I don't think "important" is really the frame of reference for comedies. Comedies are supposed to be funny, and the deeper ones are funnier in a deeper way. I would say that the overall comic vision of Preston Sturges and Ernst Lubitsch is as much a part of my inner life as anything, but I wouldn't describe Sullivan's Travels or The Merry Widow as "important." Fail Safe is more important than Dr. Strangelove in bringing the issues of nuclear brinksmanship into the public mind, even though the former is crapola and the latter is the best satirical movie ever made. What Dr. Strangelove tells the audience essentially is that our rulers are too foolish not to destroy us all with nuclear weapons. (It is presumably a case for nuclear disarmament, but why would rulers foolish in the way depicted disarm?) I guess you could call City Lights an important comedy in the sense of illustrating what it means to be human in an unfeeling world. Maybe Miracle in Milan as well. The let's say most significant comedy in the last 35 years is Pulp Fiction, to the extent that it's a comedy. (Robert Fiore)

If it's funny, a comedy eschews the very notion of importance, as Groucho said: "What significance? We were just four Jews trying to get a laugh." With apologies to George S. Kaufman, an "important" comedy is what closes Saturday night. By that yardstick, the most important comedy is 1941, I guess. (Campaspe)

An important film comedy is one that inspires imitators, and I think we're still seeing the effects of This is Spinal Tap, with its style of parody still common in movies and television. (Adam Ross)

As a reviewer, no, critic, nay, film scholar, I have to say that comedies can't be important, only frothy and forgettable. That's why only serious films win Oscars. The most important comedy in the last 35 years is probably Bio-Dome, because it insured that Pauley Shore would never work again. (Beveridge D. Spenser)

An "important" comedy may contain insights into its social moment that few other works of art or entertainment do; or it may mark a shift in mores or perspective by the mainstream culture, as one of the functions of comedy is to relieve the tensions of conflict and change; or it may simply redefine the way in which cinema is funny. Chaplin's later comedies strove to be "important" and were welcomed as such by critics and audiences, and at their best they deserve that. But Keaton's comedies are at least as important for the way they explored the implicit surreality of film and shattered narrative expectations. (How's that for critic-speak? Ha!) Most important of the last 35 years? Geez. Make it 50 years and I'll give you Some Like It Hot. Definitely the most socially important final line in movie comedy history! But since 1973? Annie Hall for the way it changed comic tone. Animal House for changing it in a different way. And There's Something about Mary because...I don't know why. I just knew it was important when I saw it. (Gerard Jones)

"Important" film comedies are very rarely funny, IMO. The ones that ARE important usually aren't recognized as such until years after the fact. Most important film comedy - Blazing Saddles. Makes its point sharply, sustains it through the entire picture, and still manages to be thoroughly silly and enjoyable... and it couldn't be reproduced in today's culture. (Robert H.)

An “important” film comedy is one that’s both funny and visually enriching—i.e., one that uses the techniques and tricks of cinema to enhance and create its humor, instead of relying primarily on writing, facial gestures, and good line reading to carry the jokes. For this reason and more, my favorite comedies tend to be 1930s and 1940s screwball, or Buster Keaton shorts, in which common sense is flipped on its head in terms of action and technical derring-do, and in which the absurd is often present in the design and setpieces. Even here, though, screwball—unless in the hands of Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks, or (to a limited degree) Leo McCarey—often seems like fast and furious radio plays that happened to be filmed. They’re stagy and still. It’s not that often that a comedy heralds in major stylistic change and influence, at least not in America, which is why Wes Anderson’s movies are so refreshing, in that the wit comes as much from the mise-en-scene and camera movement as from the deadpan acting and terrific dialogue. These elements move in tandem. Now, as for the most “important” film comedy since 1973… that’s tricky. From a commercial standpoint, I’d have to say There’s Something about Mary (1998), in that the success of its outré gags, upfront sexual humor, potty mouth, and gross-outs paved the way for the last decade of male anxietyfests—from the career of Ben Stiller to Judd Apatow and his foul-mouthed minions. Mary has filtered down to TV so that much of what seemed risqué about the movie in 1998 now seems passé on Comedy Central. (South Park, of course, helped there as well.) The movie has popularized the use of bodily fluids in embarrassing situations in even kids’ animated features. Certainly, it upped the ante on what was acceptable to laugh at. Plus, it’s funny. From an aesthetic standpoint, however, I’ll go with 1999’s Three Kings. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2006: “I’d seen plenty of genre-hopping movies before—movies that change tone and pacing from one scene to the next—but Russell’s masterpiece is another beast altogether. It’s not so much that it’s the funniest movie of 1999, but it’s one of the most nerve-wracking action thrillers ever made, and a ferociously incisive (and unfortunately prescient) political movie, and a dark, vicious satire on race relations, too. But it doesn’t hop from one genre to the next. Rather, it’s somehow all of these things at once. It’s not a genre-hopper but instead a genre-blender. I never imagined that all these genres could fused together and maintain a consistent, world-weary, wise-ass but righteous tone. Russell does it. And, as if experimenting with genre conventions just wasn’t enough, its visual aesthetic—the use of a silver film stock that made the blacks super-inky and the colors lurid and almost flat; shutter speeds and consciously grainy footage that make the moving images look like they’re moving in staccato, almost silent-screen-era fashion; the long takes during moments of war chaos and intensity; following a bullet at extreme close-up as it travels from gun nozzle to (and through) flesh—is avant-garde, too. I’ve got no idea how Russell and company got away with a big-budget, mega-star, deeply political and personal war film. But I’m glad they did.” (Walter Biggins)

An important film comedy is one that shows us something about ourselves not only in a specific moment in time but forever. In other words, it lasts: It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday, The Lady Eve, Trouble in Paradise, Ninotchka, Some Like It Hot, The General, The Gold Rush, Modern Times, Sherlock, Jr., Tootsie, Annie Hall, Manhattan, The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story... And what is to you the most important film comedy of the last 35 years? I'll hand it to Paddy Chayefsky's Network. How true it is! (Anne Thompson)

Personally, I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the idea of “important” movies, regardless of genre. So I guess I’d define an important film comedy as one that ages well and has exerted a wide influence. In that respect, I would nominate Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Has it aged well? Hell yes. But more than that, the ramshackle aesthetic of Holy Grail has become more and more pervasive in the genre in the ensuing years. After the bloated sixties comedy spectaculars, the Python boys proved once again that big budgets almost always serve to get in the way of big laughs, and that lean and mean was the way to go. Likewise, the sketch-comedy storytelling (cribbed, of course, from the series) pointed the way toward the comedy-over-coherence narratives of many of the subsequent decades’ most memorable laffers. Finally, let’s not underestimate the Dork Factor. To look at much of the best comedy of the eighties and nineties- Airplane!, This Is Spinal Tap, The Big Lebowski, even The Simpsons- is to realize that comedy has gotten pretty darn dorky lately. As much as any movie of its time, Holy Grail helped to get the ball rolling in this direction. To quote Holy Grail is to basically mark yourself as a dork, and it’s a testament to how enduring (and yes, “important”) the film is that there’s no longer anything wrong with that. (Paul Clark)

An "important" film comedy is one that expands the way we perceive humor, one that challenges the comedic formula. And under that criteria, the most important film comedy of the last 10 years is most definitely Borat, or maybe the collected work of Charlie Kaufman . If you stretch back 35 years, it very well could be Annie Hall (plus Woody Allen's other early work), which added the intellectual to the romantic comedy and changed the idea that all leading men had to look like Cary Grant. (Lucas McNelly)

I balk at applying words like "important" towards any films, because in the grand scheme of things, movies aren't as important as issues like health care and global warming (and movies about those topics like Sicko and An Inconvenient Truth aren't as important as the issues themselves, and anyway they tend to preach to the choir. That being said, I can only judge the importance of comedies vs. the importance of any other genre. Primarily movies exist for entertainment, and entertainment itself is pretty important -- people need escapism. To quote Preston Sturges's great Sullivan's Travels, "Did you know that's all some people have?" And on that scale, I'd say comedies are more important than other genres for their ability to educate while entertaining. Which leads me to the most important film comedy of the last 35 years: Hal Ashby's Being There (1979), another one I need to revisit. (Stennie)

14) Describe the ideal environment for watching a movie.

A large movie theatre, with three-quarters of the seats filled with an appreciative audience. (Dave S.)

In a hot tub, stone naked with Eva Mendes. (Flickhead)

With a purse full of Taco Bell. (Erin)

That depends on the movie, to a certain extent, but the last two movie-going experiences I had were pretty awesome: Speed Racer with my sister and four other random people; Indy 4 with my friend Jen and about 30 other people. Call me neurotic, or selfish, but more and more I'm valuing the illusion of privacy that film-watching affords. That said, it was nice to see all those Costa films with relatively the same (relatively large) audience each day at the PFA. (Ryland Walker Knight)

Early matinee, only a few people there. I have a small Diet Coke and a package of Twizzlers I will inevitably eat before the movie starts. My wife is next to me, the sound is great, the bulb is bright, and we're seated square in the middle mid-way between the front and the middle, in those chairs that recline a little bit. And afterwards I'm squinting from the sun and the smile on my face. (Chris)

This is such a cliche-- sorry!--but it really depends on the movie. For a big blockbuster, or even a cult film (like Pulp Fiction) that's eagerly awaited, it's hard to beat a packed multiplex on opening weekend, as the anticipation spills over onto the screen, and the screen fulfills or shatters it. On the other hand, one of my fondest cinema-going memories was watching Jules and Jim, L'Atalante, and The Bicycle Thief on back-to-back weekends at The Music Box, a gorgeous art deco theater in Chicago; unreeled in pristine 35mm prints in a tinier screening space, the smell of popcorn mixing with the smell of espressos, it was the perfect place to get caught up in the movies, and to not only see but feel the links between the films. There are some movies I can't watch with an audience, because I don't want to deal with the possibility that they might not like it (Some Came Running, for example, which I showed to a derisive cinema class one year), and some (like mediocre action films or B comedies) which find their ideal home on my TV screen on a free, rainy weekend day. (Brian Doan)

Not to get too curmudgeony, but it’s really not fun to go to the movies nowadays. Between the general discourtesy that pervades and the fact that my home theatre 5.1 system is pound-for-pound as good or better than the average multiplex, the answer is: My sofa with my wife, some really great cheeses and pâtés, and a glass of Italian red (that, ironically, probably costs less than a coke at the theatre). (Mr. Middlebrow)

The décor of a movie palace like the Pantages combined with the seating and projection quality of the Arclight. (Robert Fiore)

Big screen, good sight lines for the vertically challenged (like me), a sound system that is enveloping without being deafening and, most important of all, an audience that doesn't think any type of big emotion is automatically "camp." (Campaspe)

As Max Cherry would say, as long as it starts soon and looks good, I'm all set. (Bemis)

In Ed Inman’s backyard, on his big screen, with the movie being projected from his kitchen window, on a breezy night, with twenty or so in the audience, with the crickets chirping quietly and the occasional hum of car wheels on asphalt and plane engines in the stratosphere. (Walter Biggins)

No lights, a bowl of popcorn, just-as-interested viewing companions. And just about every characteristic of the drive-in. (Aaron)

Depends upon the movie. For instance, I wish that Iron Man had opened at Mann’s Chinese Theatre. It’s my favorite theater in LA and there’s nothing like seeing a great action movie there with all the fanboys (and fangirls!). Otherwise, I’d love to see just about anything in a stadium-seating theater all by my lonesome. You see, the talking and chair-kicking people seem to find it necessary to sit behind me whenever I go to the cinema. I’m cursed! (Sharon)

1. With a packed crowd at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.
2. My living room with a tub of ice cream.
OK, that's a lame answer. Let's see if we can do a little better. The ideal environment would be one of those Grand Old Movie Palaces, with a gigantic screen and lavish decor, but well-restored with comfortable seats, modern amenities and a state-of-the-art sound system. The audience is composed of passionate, intelligent moviegoers who are excitable enough to cheer, laugh or otherwise react when appropriate, but restrained enough not to be annoying. So far, sounds like The Egyptian, but I'd add one more thing: a full bar. And maybe a tropical/tiki theme for the decor (and matching tropical cocktails). (Chris Oliver)

15) Michelle Williams or Eva Mendes

At this point I don't care. Maybe in a couple of decades. (Jonathan Lapper)

Eva Mendes. She satisfies two separate but occasionally related fetishes. (Bill)

As great looking as Eva Mendes is, I love Michelle Williams and her nose. (Ryland Walker Knight)

Michelle Williams. Put her up as a candidate for Question #7 as well. She's a great actress. (Chris)

I’ve been a sucker for Mendes since Out of Time—I can’t even think straight when she’s onscreen. So, Mendes. (Walter Biggins)

On sex appeal alone, Eva Mendes (and I find her genuinely funny and adept in Stuck On You– which very well could have been an answer to number thirteen, now that I think about it!) (Aaron)

16) What’s the worst movie title of all time?

Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title (1966) But, man, what a cast! (Peter Nellhaus)

Beverly Hills Chihuahua. It doesn’t even have the tiny cleverness of a title like Most Valuable Primate. (Dave S.)

Made of Honor. Because, you see, not only is a MAN going to be the MAID OF HONOR at the wedding, but he’s such a good person that he’s actually MADE of HONOR! (Bill)

The Goonies is certainly up there. But that’s the 80s for you… (Flickhead)

Always thought Gothika was just really a horrible title. That's like a bad, bad title. If we're doing good bad titles, then definitely Hawmps! (Schuyler Chapman)

A Million to Juan. Yes, it's real, and when I worked in a video store, its crappy punning was a constant target of our snark. Also, Signs. (Brian Doan)

Tough one, so I offer a few clunkers that abuse the colon: Highlander 2: The Quickening, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, Speed 2: Cruise Control, and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. The upcoming The Happening may be the vaguest title of all time. (Steven Santos)

Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (John P.)

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever comes to mind. (W. Australopithecus)

C.H.U.D. (Mr. Middlebrow) (For completists, that’s C.H.U.D.: Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers-- Dennis)

Curse of the Cat People, because to this day it misleads people about the content of that jewel of a movie. (Campaspe)

The most vile effort in Hollywood history (or one of the most, anyway) was trying to extend the coy, titillating '50s sex comedy into the Swinging Sixties, and to make them sound fresh and snappy and in-the-know they used what sounded like bits of dialogue for titles. So you got What's New Pussycat?, Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number, You Must Be Joking, and the most embarrassing of all: Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding! (Gerard Jones)

Perfect (1985). With a title like that, you're setting yourself up for a fall. (VP81955)

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Somebody should slap Lucas for that. (Larry Aydlette)

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. (Walter Biggins)

[Insert name of locally-produced zombie film here] (Lucas McNelly)

The worst movie titles are the hopelessly bland ones that tell you next-to-nothing about the film, like Rendition or Fracture (no wonder New Line went bust!), and by definition they're so interchangeable that there cannot be a single winner of the "worst title" crown. (Brian Darr)

I always thought Smilla's Sense of Snow was a rotten title, like, bad enough to be distracting. A bad title can really make me avoid a movie -- case in point: One reason I still haven't seen There Will Be Blood is the title. It's not the only reason I'm avoiding it, but it's a big reason. (Stennie)

If translation counts, can anything beat Tough Beauty and the Sloppy Slop? In English - Lucky Number Slevin? I Heart Huckabees? Dumb and Dumberer?. There are probably worse, but that's enough to think about for now... (Weeping Sam)

Mother May I Sleep With Danger? (Chris Oliver)

According to IMDb, David Mamet has been writing Joan of Bark: The Dog that Saved France for years now. I'm still hoping it's a prank. (California)

17) Best movie about teaching and/or learning

Literal teaching? I don't know. Never cared much for academic settings movies. Or where someone is taught by a mentor (i.e. The Karate Kid). I'll say Wild Strawberries. He gets to the end of his life and finally figures it all out. I hope I do too one day. (Jonathan Lapper)

The Last Picture Show. (Dave S.)

Oleanna (Bill)

House of Games (Flickhead)

You mean explicitly? Like, in a class room? Cuz I could probably argue any number of my favorites are about education. For instance, on that silly Facebook thing I made a list of favorites, each is "about" education (as understanding) in one way or another.
1. The Thin Red Line -- learning how to live WITH the world as much as in it.
2. Mirror -- this movie IS hermeneutics
3. The Awful Truth -- finding the right way to be with the other, which, here, is one's mate
4. In Vanda's Room -- where do we find ourselves? how do we carve our space in the world? what matters most? who do you prize? it's a film of values, which means it's a work of evaluation as well. plus, it holds lessons for us outside the frame: here's what this world does. how do you respond?
5. Rules of the Game -- homie pays the biggest price (death) for his failure to understand those rules.
What's odd, or cool, is that all of my favorites are more about questions than answers and my favorite teachers are the ones that give me the best questions, not the most answers; learning is choosing an answer for one's self, forming criteria, and values, and then putting those into action.
(Rounding out that ten, for fun, to further incriminate myself by disclosing my narrow, short-term memory for enthusiasms: 6. 2001 / 7. Beau Travail / 8. The New World / 9. Miami Vice / 10. Inland Empire) (Ryland Walker Knight)

My single favorite scene about teaching would have to be the one in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly where Tuco, having survived Blondie's attempt to dump him in the desert forever, shows the shopkeeper how to put together a proper firearm. I don't know whether anything he's doing in this scene makes any sense technically or if applied to the hardware of the times, but I always find Wallach's performance utterly mesmerizing. His confidence and expertise also mark the first time we take Tuco seriously as a deadly force, where until now he has been only comic relief. (W. Australopithecus)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Talk about “everything I need to know I life I learned . . . “ Now that I think about it, this might be a contender for #13. (Mr. Middlebrow)

The Miracle Worker. That last scene, when Helen Keller at last understands the basis of language, gets me every time. There's no more beautiful depiction of unlocking a mind than seeing Patty Duke fly around the backyard, pounding each object and begging to be told its name. (Campaspe)

If..., because there is something violent and invasive about knowledge, and also something absurdly freeing--to learn is to engage in a political and social act. (Anthony)

Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s The Son. All the better because its teaching is done almost entirely by example rather than through lessons. Olivier lives his life in a way that encourages his students to follow his lead, which already makes him a better teacher than those who only talk the talk, no matter how good their talk might be. (Paul Clark)

Paul scooped my original answer of The Son, so I'm going to throw a shout-out to Aparajito. (Brian Darr)

18) Dracula (1931) or Horror of Dracula (1958)

Dracula is based on a poorly written play that gets practically everything about the story wrong. And the direction is leaden to say the least. Horror of Dracula (Jonathan Lapper)

I like the Latina cuties in George Melford's version. (Peter Nellhaus)

I…um…I haven’t actually SEEN the 1931 Dracula yet. Because, you know, you grow up with bits and pieces of it everywhere, and you get kind of bored of it without ever actually seeing it. I do plan on remedying this, however. In the meantime, I HAVE seen Horror of Dracula, and I love it. (Bill)

Horror of Dracula may be the best Dracula movie of all. Bela’s is good for the first twenty minutes, but then it slides into tedium. (Flickhead)

I grew up with the original Dracula, and will hear no bad words about it. Horror of Dracula has a great Christopher Lee performance but he's on screen what? Like five minutes? (Krauthammer)

Horror of Dracula. I think the older one is just too creaky and, at this point, too familiar. It's as impossible to watch now as it is to look at the Mona Lisa with eyes unshaded by the gazillion dreary misuses she's been put to. (Campaspe)

It's close but I'm sticking with the original: "I don't" (Anne Thompson)

Stylish and sexy, the 1931 Spanish-language version of Dracula beats both of these in my opinion. As far as Dracs go, Carlos Villarias is no Christopher Lee, but he’s less hammy than Lugosi. Also, Lupita Tovar has it all over her Anglo-Saxon counterparts. (Paul Clark)

It's embarrassing to admit it but I'm so woefully unversed in Hammer horror that I haven't even started in on their Dracula films. Call me Brian Oblivious. (Brian Darr)

None of the above. I don’t ‘do’ vampire movies. (Sharon) (But you sure did Planet Terror! See #34—Dennis)

You know, I never really got into the Hammer movies. They're alright, but I guess they seem like a sort of mushy middle ground between the classic Universal movies and the gory 70's. I love Peter Cushing, but never really thought Christopher Lee was that great, and I don't like the hissing. Whereas Bela Lugosi is obviously great, and then you have Dwight Frye and whoever it was playing Van Helsing, so I'll take The Browning Version. (Chris Oliver)

19) Why do you blog? Or if you don’t, why do you read blogs? (Thanks, Girish)

Because I wanted to engage with fellow cinephiles and movie lovers. I like posting my thoughts as a means of engaging in a discussion. And sometimes I like it because I just want to trade jokes or quips with someone to brighten my day. (Jonathan Lapper)

I blog, therefore I am. (Peter Nellhaus)

Blogging allows me to let off steam, solidify my thoughts, practice my writing, engage with a community of like-minded people, find things out I wouldn't find on my own, and finally, answer questions like the above. (Chris)

I've actually been thinking about this question a lot lately, as I've started to ponder blog comments, and why I do or don't get them on certain posts, why some folks seem to post a lot and some hardly at all, and how that affects what I write. I guess that means there are two, intertwined answers to the question: one, I like the sense of community and sharing that exists in the film blogosphere (so different and less hostile than, say, political blogging) and the chance to connect my passions and obsessions with someone else's. Two, in the end, no matter what connections are made, I really do this to sort out the ideas and contradictions and weird nagging questions that rumble about in my brain (I once joked in a post that an alternate name for my blog could be "An X-Ray of My Head", and I think that's still basically true) (or, to put it another way, and to paraphrase Pauline Kael, I write because no one else is saying the things about movies I want to say). If that stuff touches other people, that's fantastic, and I love that sense of feeling like I'm not alone (and that I might be telling someone else that they aren't either) in my sometimes counter-intuitve tastes, but if not, I'm still having fun, and getting to do lots of different kinds of plays with writing and imagery. (Brian Doan)

I like to think of my blog as a virtual water cooler, around which I and anyone who cares to join me can hold forth on whatever pop-culture ephemera seems noteworthy. I read blogs for mostly the same reasons, though many of my regular blogs have more of a political bent to them. I wish that I spent more time blogging and less time reading blogs, but I have reconciled myself to the reality that I’m a deficit blogger—I will always consume more than I produce. (Mr. Middlebrow)

I started blogging to stave off insanity while adjusting to a new, much quieter city. I continued blogging for all the freebies from high-end retailers. What, you mean YOU'RE not getting those? No, actually I blog so I can revenge myself on ex-lovers on the front cover of the New York Times Magazine... (Campaspe)

Because I’m in love with me, me, me! To see if anybody says anything about me, me, me! (Larry Aydlette)

I started blogging about movies because I suspected my single-mindedness was starting to tire my friends out. I was hoping to connect with a few like-minded people, and was pleasantly surprised to develop a small base of readers. I'm greatful for anyone who stops by Cinevistaramascope and leaves a comment, so I write now to keep the conversation going. (Bemis)

If we're being honest here, a lot of times I blog to impress people. I want people to enjoy my reviews and tell me so. I mean, I love cinema and I love pursuing it. I have ideas or observations that are unique and that I want to share. I love reading other blogs and being provoked to thought. I want to do that for other people. But I don't see myself as being "philanthropic" in that sense, I think it's a lot more selfish. I want to spark conversation and thought, but not necessarily "for the betterment of mankind." In all honesty. (Pacheco)

A great question, which requires an equally great answer that I’m perhaps incapable of giving. I started this blog because I noticed a dearth, in print, of the sort of nonfiction writing that I most like—a fusion of close critical reading, large-scale cultural/political commentary, reportage, and memoir. This lack was understandable. A standard newspaper arts review just doesn’t have the place for this sort of interlaced commentary, which means that the critic’s sensibility is necessarily subsumed by a strict (and small) word count allocated. (Robert Christgau manages to flourish with extreme concision, but he’s a rare exception.) Magazine writers do better—The New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly are the gold standards in developing and fostering writers of this ilk. But I saw it disappearing in print, and flourishing on blogs. I thought I’d give it a try but not for the reason you may think. My nonfiction’s always had trouble staying in one place, and I figured that forcing my writing to be seen and judged regularly would rein in my “worst” impulses, and would make me focus instead of skipping from mode to mode, from art form to art form. That way, I would eventually make myself marketable as a film critic. he blog was intended as little more than an open-faced sketchbook of ideas, idiosyncrasies, and passions; making it public would keep me honest. Well, these aren’t boom times to be looking for work as a paid critic of any kind, and I soon discovered—much to my initial chagrin—that the posts that garnered the most hits were precisely the pieces that combined elements of my life and views with criticism and larger commentary. Worse, I discovered that I didn’t want to write solely on film at all, but about all the culture in which I was interested. I was encouraged by cinema itself, which is necessarily a concatenation of a variety of art disciplines; I get tickled by critics who insist upon the notion of “pure” cinema because there’s no such thing and never can be. (Even Stan Brakhage’s films in which he painted directly onto celluloid involves two arts—painting and photography.) A great film critic is one whose eyes, ears, and heart are attuned to all the arts—theatre, music, writing, choreography, etc.—that go into producing a movie. (Academic film writing sometimes irritates me because it places films in the contexts of other films, but not often the other arts going on around it at the time of creation.) I love cinema, in other words, because it forces engagement with art that’s not cinema; to pretend otherwise is to miss the point of the art form. Anyway, I quickly lost the sketchbook idea—though I kept the quotes and snippets that I collected—and instead began trying to make connections between forms and the loose-firing synapses in my head. The pieces became longer. I slowly built an audience and began to look at the blog as a sort of résumé. That, too, was silly—the blog hasn’t led to any jobs. It has led, however, to a sense of community that I cherish. I haven’t been as diligent in responding to comments or in building a readership “neighborhood” of regulars as has Girish Shambu, but the blog has led directly to my attending last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and sharing meals and conversations with film bloggers. Knowing that my ideas, good or bad, are out there being discussed among a community of peers is central to why I blog. So, this place has gone from a sketchpad to a CV to ultimately a flower in an ever-growing, ever-evolving garden. I’m proud to be a part of that, no matter how small that part is. (Walter Biggins)

I like to share. I like attention. I'm good at it. And I get paid for it. (Anne Thompson)

I’ll repeat what I wrote on Girish’s post: “Back in my college days, all of my friends knew me as ‘the movie guy.’ They knew I spent much of my free time (and too much of my alleged study time) watching movies, and that I'd have a thought on just about every movie they could throw at me. Admittedly, they threw mostly blockbusters and new releases at me, but what are you gonna do. As the years went by, I saw less and less of my friends, but I sometimes got e-Mails from them asking about movies that had just gotten released. After a while, rather than waiting on their requests, I started writing short reviews and e-Mailing them. This turned into a Web site, and this eventually led to my current blogs. The big difference for me now is that the friends I write for have changed. Rather than being people who know me from real life, my blog-friends are almost entirely comprised of people I haven't met. Rather than being thrown together by circumstance and proximity, it's our shared love of film that unites us and makes us a community. The nature of the friendship is different, but we're friends all the same. So why do I blog? Because it's there. And thank goodness for that.” (Paul Clark)

I blog (when I actually get around to it) because it makes me think more deeply about film and that, in turn, makes me a better filmmaker, as it teaches me how to do that with my own work. As for reading blogs, it's partly out of interest in the subject matter and partly because I've gained so many people I consider friends in the film blog world, and I'd like to see what they're up to. (Lucas McNelly)

I don't think I've ever mentioned that though I'd thought of starting a website or blog for years, the impetus to actually do it came from a low moment in mid-2005. Not nearly as low as some of the others mentioned here, but I still find it interesting that this is a recurring story arc. My low moment was a rough week that culminated in my being let go from my job on my birthday, just before I was supposed to start accruing benefits. I had another part-time job, but I was seriously underemployed for the first eight or nine months of writing Hell On Frisco Bay. By the time I found a new job, I'd found myself in this community of bloggers that was encouraging me to continue. That kind of encouragement, coupled with e-mails from readers who don't themselves blog, has turned me around from a moment of disgruntlement a number of times. So, I blog for myself, in the hopes of improving my writing and increasing my understanding of film. I blog for the films and the programmers who spend such great effort selecting and presenting them, and whose efforts I do not want gone under-noticed. And I blog for my readers who have expressed appreciation for the way I carry out my project. (Brian Darr)

I really only blog about movies to remind me of what I've seen, what I've liked, why I liked it, who was in it, etc. I don't suppose I need to do that in a public forum such as a blog, I could just keep a list on my desk -- and about the same number of people would read it if I did. (Stennie)

20) Most memorable/disturbing death scene

For me it's the family in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (Jonathan Lapper)

Janet Leigh's death in Psycho may be the most memorable. (Peter Nellhaus)

Most memorable: Cassavetes in The Fury (ka-powww!) Most disturbing: that dude in Robocop who gets dunked in toxic waste and then hit by a van. Scarred me for LIFE (saw it when I was 7 years old). (Flower)

Now you’re talking my language! The murder in Michael Clayton would have been far less disturbing if it had been any more graphic. But probably the recent winner for me is the first of two long, drawn-out murders in Trouble Every Day. I watched the film alone, and during that scene I actually said, out loud, “Stop doing that.” The second one is no barrel of laughs, either. (Bill)

Well, Psycho, of course, and Citizen Kane's opening, and the "I'm not dead yet!" chopping of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Kong's death (both versions). But I was always kind of struck by the quiet and absolute stillness of Kevin Spacey's expression, after he's shot, in L.A. Confidential. (Brian Doan)

Adam Goldberg in Saving Private Ryan. Close second: Marie Josee-Croze in Munich. Spielberg sure knows how to kill off characters in gruesome fashion. (Steven Santos)

Last Holiday. The original of course; I doubt they let the character die in the remake. (Robert Fiore)

The execution in Paths of Glory--the one soldier openly sobbing, no grace or courage, dying for nothing at all, dying because that is all their leaders know how to do any more, send young men to die. (Campaspe)

Carrie White's mom moaning and writhing in a state of religious/sexual ecstasy post-impalement. (Bemis)

Most memorable- John Cassavetes in The Fury. Kaboom! Sorry, haters.
Most disturbing- the entirety of The Passion of the Christ. Whether this is a good thing I’m still trying to decide. (Paul Clark)

Gotta be the death of Brundlefly on both counts. (Brian Darr)

One that always bites me - the end of Tabu, when the boy reaches the priest's boat and the priest reaches out and cuts the rope he's hanging too, as casually and easily as that... (Weeping Sam)

The murder in Heavenly Creatures really gets me, because you can see in the girls' eyes once it starts that it's much more difficult and messy to kill someone than they had imagined it. (Chris Oliver)

Norton. Teeth. Curb. Blecch. (The Bandit)

21) Jason Robards or Robert Shaw

That question sucks because both are so completely wonderful, you bastard. Okay, you're not a bastard I just hate choosing. Hmmm... For now... Robert Shaw. (Jonathan Lapper)

Ahhh… both so good. But Shaw by a shark’s tooth. (Dave S.)

I don’t think I can pick between the two. Robards has that great speech about how important it is to have regrets in Magnolia, and Shaw has some speech about a boat or something from a movie I saw once. (Bill)

When the hell is somebody gonna go on the goddamn record here?!? Well, I will-- from my first glimpse of him as the magical uncle in Max Dugan Returns to that creepy deathbed scene in Magnolia, Robards' gravelly cool was one of my favorite cinephiliac pleasures, which takes nothing away from my love of Red Grant. (Brian Doan)

I can usually figure out the connections between these, but after poring over both their IMDB profiles, I'm at a loss. Anyhoo, I refuse to pick one, because that's just crazy. (W. Australopithecus)

Robert Shaw. Robards is great and all, but was he Quint and a Bond baddie? Didn’t think so. Oh, and Doyle Loneghan. And The Taking of Pelham 123. Shaw was a total badass. (Mr. Middlebrow)

This is cruel and unusual! I love them both. Well, if forced to choose, I’d probably say Robert Shaw – it seems like he elevates the quality of everything he’s in. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three would have been pretty plain without him and Walter Matthau (and probably will be soon – argh). Same with Force 10 from Navarone – well, actually it is pretty plain, except for his scenes. : ) (Weigard)

Damn. It took me long enough to remember that what links Robards with Shaw is STELLA! (Peter Nellhaus)

Robards was lucky to live a lot longer; if he'd died at Shaw's age we would have been deprived of the performances that, for me, put him at a level of appreciation above that of Shaw. (Brian Darr)

22) A good candidate for Most Blasphemous Movie Ever

I suppose I should say Bunuel or Allen. That's too easy. I'll say Time Bandits. No, seriously, Time Bandits. (Jonathan Lapper)

The Devils. Thank the deities for giving us Ken Russell. (Peter Nellhaus)

Last Cross on the Left… I mean, The Passion of the Christ. (Dave S.)

Oh god… (Flickhead) (Or should that be Oh, God!, Ray?—Dennis)

Dudes, clearly the answer is Dogma. Alanis Morrissette as God? (Erin)

Shakes the Clown: As Michael Powell once said of Forty Guns, "I don't wish to see my religion treated that way." (Brian Doan)

Pearl Harbor. Get thee behind me, Bruckheimer and Bay. (Mr. Middlebrow)

Viridiana, for sure. Not just blasphemy, but layered, complex, endlessly funny blasphemy. When I posted about it one of my regular commenters, Gloria, pointed out that the infamous "Last Supper" also contains a visual pun on a Spanish idiom, with the one beggar woman "taking a picture"--which is slang for flashing your undies. (Campaspe)

It depends upon your faith, I guess. I'm sure some folks hated John Goldfarb, Please Come Home because it satirized the University of Notre Dame (others hated the film for different reasons). (VP81955)

I'm not sure that it's even a relevant niche anymore... but to choose, Viridiana (Robert H.)

The Cat in the Hat. (Pacheco)

Lucifer Rising (because to be a Satanist is to reject the standard views of G-d, and because of its conflation of thantos/eros as opposed to the xian one) (Anthony)

The Last Temptation of Christ. Has to be. Jesus has lust in his heart. (Anne Thompson)

The more I see 2001: A Space Odyssey, the more I think it’s a movie that imagines God as an alien intelligence so superior to ours that we can’t tell the difference. So I guess that’ll work. (Paul Clark)

Fever Pitch, the American version, is a rare adaptation that’s blasphemous to 1) The original book, which is completely perverted by the script that changes the dynamic from how to fit a girl into a love affair with a team to how to fit a team into a love affair with a girl. And all those extra scenes of Drew Barrymore with her friends....ugh. 2) Arsenal football, the original team, and 3) The Boston Red Sox, the new team, which gets a half-hearted look at the obsession of it's fans and the injustice of Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore celebrating on the field during a World Championship few thought they'd see in their lifetimes. On the fucking field. Oh, it makes me so mad.
And don't even get me started on how badly the damn thing is made....grrr.... (Lucas McNelly)

What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?. On so many #$+!-ing levels. (Brian Darr)

Life of Brian seems like an obvious pick, but Meaning of Life probably has more blasphemy in it. (Stennie)

Goldfinger--James Bond disses The Beatles! (Chris Oliver)

I'm still not sure what Luc Besson's point was in The Messenger, his Joan of Arc retelling. It may have been that God had nothing to do with it, but it was mostly aimed at the church, as was Life of Brian. So I'll go with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (California)

23) Rio Bravo or Red River

If only for Angie, and a lot more too of course, Rio Bravo. (Jonathan Lapper)

Rio Bravo has Dino and Angie. (Peter Nellhaus)

Rio Bravo. Red River chickened out at the end, and it really ticked me off. (Bill)

Oh, John Wayne? Couldn't care less. (Brian)

Red River by a mile. Rio Bravo is fun and all, but Red River has the depth, plus John Wayne's best performance ever. I don't have to sit through any ersatz Gene Autry singalongs in Red River. And while Dino could have drunk Monty under the table any day, I think he would have been the last person to try and out-act him.

Here’s something blasphemous: I find both of these movies to be sort of overrated, especially Red River. Hawks did a lot of great genres, but he was no John Ford when it came to Westerns. And does anybody think for a second that Wayne couldn’t have kicked Monty’s ass all around that cattle pen? (Larry Aydlette)

Red River-- no contest. As fond as I am of Rio Bravo, I have to applaud the timeless Hawks movie, which also boasts a better performance from Wayne and a real battle between him and Montgomery Clift. The father-son drama is more dramatic and intense. Rio Bravo is more dated by its contemporary comedy. (Anne Thompson)

Rio Bravo, for the sheer fact that it should be downright criminal to be so damned enjoyable. (Aaron)

Rio Bravo, in a walk. Dino! Ricky Nelson! "My Rifle, My Pony & Me"! Awesome movie. (Stennie)

OK, here's where I'm going to get into trouble. Never seen either one (but I do have a Rio Bravo/The Searchers double feature coming up in my Netflix in a few months). Truth is (and I know nothing says "rube" like admitting to this), I don't really like Westerns. I don't dislike them--there are a lot of movies I love that happen to be westerns--but it's not a genre I've ever really cared for. Even when I was a kid. Maybe it was all those dull earthtones, everything gray and tan, or maybe it's the earnest "A Man's Gotta Do" masculinity (I have a hard time relating to authoritarian John Wayne), but I just don't care for 'em. (Chris Oliver)

24) Werner Herzog is remaking Bad Lieutenant with Nicolas Cage—that’s reality. Try to outdo reality by concocting a match-up of director and title for a really strange imaginary remake.

(Hands-down, the patron saint of this question: Michael Bay figured in more answers than any one other filmmaker, and his spirit hovered amongst those in which he wasn't mentioned-- Dennis)

My Dinner With Andre directed by Michael Bay and starring Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. (Jonathan Lapper)

I'm not about to give anyone any ideas. (Peter Nellhaus)

Russ Meyer’s That Darn Cat! (Dave S.)

Frank Capra's Santa Sangre. (Bill)

How about Ron Howard’s Salo? (Flickhead)

Raiders of the Lost Ark by Bruno Dumont. (Flower)

Well, I for one would love to see Michael Bay remake Faces, and I know I'm not alone. (Schuyler Chapman)

David Mamet remaking a non-musical The Wizard of Oz with Alec Baldwin as the Wizard and Rebecca Pidgeon as the Wicked Witch of the West and the discovery at the end that Oz was just a elaborate con played on the gullible Dorothy. Or Orson Welles' original vision for The Magnificent Ambersons directed by Brett Ratner. Or Andy Warhol's Empire remade by Michael Bay. (Steven Santos)

Red River directed by Emile de Antonio and starring Tobey Maguire as the Duke and Werner Herzog as Clift. I would watch the hell out of it. (Krauthammer)

I know I'm supposed to be funny here but I'm inclined to try this experiment for real. John Huston said in his memoirs that Hollywood took the wrong approach to remakes--they re-did something that was perfect the first time around. He said they should take movies that had good elements but somehow didn't come off, and cited his own Roots of Heaven as an example. So, to be serious AND weird--Claude Chabrol could handle The Sound and the Fury, which was butchered so badly the first time around. He has the intellect but also the skepticism necessary to approach the Faulknerian South without wanting to remind us constantly how damn colorful and Gothic and meaningful everything is. Quentin Compson--continue the old, odd tradition of Brits playing Southerners and get Jamie Bell, just because he could do it and because Quentin should NOT be a heartthrob. (Campaspe)

Tony Scott's Barry Lyndon. (Bemis)

Baz Luhrmann’s Casa+Blanca. Play it again, Elton! (Weigard)

Bela Tarr directing Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel in a remake of Face/Off (Brian Darr)

I'm very glad this movie is happening. Not that I want to see it, but already, it has Abel Ferrera and Werner Herzog taking shots at each other like Coco Crisp and Carl Crawford. [That reference is already a week out of date! alas!] As for an equally absurd remake - the next two questions suggest a Judd Apatow remake of Max on Amour with Julia Roberts in the lead. Though I wish they didn't. (Weeping Sam)

(Up next, part three: Proprietary pictures, bugs vs. birds, football, dirty secrets, drive-ins, the fate of film criticism and a few more difficult-to-impossible choices.)


Erin said...

OMG, I know there are no wrong answers, but anyone who answered Rio Bravo = FAIL.

Good call on the "The Fury" for best death scene. I want to leap out of my chair just thinking about it.

bill said...

But Erin, they do chicken out at the end of Red River. You know it's true!