Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Quiz

1. Best use of Technicolor on film? (Best use of color, period, will work).

I wish I had a list of the best I’ve ever seen to choose from right now.  There’s been so many times when I've been watching an old Technicolor film that I've thought, “Wow.  That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”  Unfortunately, I haven’t been writing them down.  Based off of pure memory and what jumps out the most in my mind, some of the best are:  CANYON PASSAGE, DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, and (though shot in EastmanColor) LOLA MONTES.

But the best has to be BLACK NARCISSUS.  Otherwordly color images.

2. What’s your favorite film score?  Favorite composer?

Good question, Jeff.  Also, a very difficult one.  I’d be lying if I said the STAR WARS score hasn’t meant a lot to me in my life.  I also think Bernard Herrmann’s score to VERTIGO is a thing of great beauty and ethereal melancholy.  My favorite film score at the moment, however, is Ennio Morricone’s from ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.  It’s the one of the few purely aesthetic things in this world that might instantly bring me to tears.

Morricone is probably my favorite film composer.  Herrmann and Tiomkin are great too.

3. What’s your favorite film from the year you were born?

Claude Chabrol’s STORY OF WOMEN (1988)

4. Robert Mitchum or Dana Andrews?

Mitchum is one of my favorite actors of all time.  It has to be him.  However, I do really love Dana Andrews, so it isn’t a painless choice to make.

5. (In terms of acting) Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby?  David Bowie or Tom Waits?

I do love Bing in the Road films with Bob Hope, but I have to go with Sinatra here.  He had the more varied acting career.  His work in something like SOME CAME RUNNING puts him over the edge, in these eyes.  And as much as I love both (as musicians and, oddly enough, in films) I also have to go with Tom Waits.  He’s just one of the coolest dudes to ever live.  DOWN BY LAW!

6. What’s your favorite film with a woman’s name in the title?


7. Who is your favorite foreign-language film director working today?  Who is your favorite foreign-language film director of all time?
Today: Abbas Kiarostami – with the Dardennes coming in second.  My favorite of all time could be one of these three depending on the day you ask me:  Robert Bresson, Ingmar Bergman, or Yasujiro Ozu.

8. If you could have written any screenplay, what would it be and why?

I would be immeasurably proud of myself If I had written THE BIG SLEEP.  It’s just got some of the wittiest one-liners ever written.

9. Name the character from a film that scared you the most as a child.  Name the film character, if any, that scares you the most now.

As a kid:  I was terrified of Edward Scissorhands (which, I know, made me as myopic and superficial as every suburbanite in the film).  I don’t remember watching the whole movie, but only the part towards the end where he retreats into the darkness of the mansion.  The image of him emerging from the shadows and attacking Anthony Michael Hall gave me plenty of nightmares.

Now:  there isn’t anything now, thankfully, that keeps me up at night like when I was a kid.  I guess if I had to choose, I’d say that I find those characters from THE STRANGERS scary.  Just the idea of masked home invaders who want to kill you for no reason is enough to give me the creeps.

10. What’s the first R Rated film you remember seeing?

Hmmm I can’t really be sure.  I remember seeing TERMINATOR 2 pretty young.  I also remember staying up late to watch Jean-Claude Van Damme in SUDDEN DEATH with my brothers and dad when I was a wee lad.  Let’s go with that one.

11. Name your favorite moment of vengeance in a film.  And which film has portrayed the  complexity of vengeance most accurately to you? (interpret that any way you’d like).

Charles Bronson gunning down Henry Fonda in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is probably my favorite moment of vengeance on screen.  Almost the entire narrative of that film builds towards this showdown, and when it happens it’s not drawn out histrionically, but remains as sanguine and efficient as Bronson’s character throughout the film.  It’s revenge exclusively on his terms.

There are a lot of films that I think have dealt with revenge in a complex and ambivalent manner.  Fritz Lang’s FURY is one of the best classic films about revenge.  It gives a highly effective moral argument against the flagrant self-interest of pursuing vengeance.  SHOTGUN STORIES is a great modern example of a film that also argues effectively against vengeance by utilizing the strength of familial bonds and showing the pointlessness of mutually assured destruction.

IN THE BEDROOM is fascinating because it convincingly seems to argue for vengeance.  It seems to suggest, even as it remains ambiguous, that to heal a wound, we must first remove the thorn.

These are all wonderful examples of complex treatments of vengeance, but I think the film that deals with it the most effectively (or at least stands out most prominently in my mind) is actually OLDBOY.  When the central antagonist (so we think) gets his vengeance at the end and then blows his brains out immediately afterward, the hollowness and futility of vengeance is revealed like some great, dawning chasm.  This man has made it his life’s work to get revenge, and when he finally has it, he realizes it has not filled the hole inside of him nor has it brought back to him the loved one he lost.  He is as empty as he ever was.

12. It is okay to depict a positive story out of something as horrific and destructive as the Holocaust  (e.g. SCHINDLER’S LIST).  Agree or disagree with this statement.

I included this question because I keep seeing it pop up in film discussions.  It’s a debate in cinephile circles that’s had basically anytime anyone even mentions SCHINDLER’S LIST.  I honestly don’t feel strongly either way on this issue because I don’t think it’s my place to say what is “right” to show on film.  I think it’s best to answer this question on a case-by-case study.  Look at the film and determine if it has done justice to the event it depicts.  Personally, I have no major problems with SCHINDLER’S LIST and think it’s one of Spielberg’s most effective and harrowing works.  Does that answer the question? Probably not.  Oh well.

13. Which war film, if any, had the greatest emotional impact on you?

THE THIN RED LINE - for juxtaposing the mystical beauty of nature alongside purely nihilistic acts of destruction (which is what war only ever is).

14. Name the five best looking films you’ve ever seen.


15. Which film title would you use to describe yourself?  Which film title would you use to describe each member of film club?

16. David Lynch or David Cronenberg?

Lynch.  Cronenberg is a great director, but I find myself gravitating more towards Lynch’s nightmares than Cronenberg’s.

17. Is there a book you would like to see made into a film?  If so, by which director?

Right now I’m reading D.H. Lawrence’s THE RAINBOW.  I keep thinking how amazing it’d be to see Terrence Malick’s version of this on film.

18. What’s the most overrated film of the 90s?


19. You are a guest programmer on Turner Classic Movies.  You get to choose any four movies
to play.  What are they?


I don’t know why these four exactly.  Why not?

20. It’s ark time.  You are only allowed to save films from one country (excluding the United States).  Which country and why?

It has to come down to France or Japan.  Russia and Italy are both uniquely important to film history, but have no where near the wealth of world-renowned directors like France and Japan.  This is a difficult choice to make, but I’ve got to go with France.  Here’s why:  Vigo, Renoir, Carné, Bresson, Clouzot, Becker, Tati, Melville, Varda, Chabrol, Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, Akerman, etc.

One could certainly offer a formidable rebuttal to this, however, with:  Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, Naruse, Ichikawa, Imamura, Kobayashi, Teshigahara, Miyazaki, etc.

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