Friday, December 08, 2006

The Sheila "Obsession Central" Movie Quiz

Sadly, I am not a movie fanatic, but a mere dabbler, a guy who watches without a whole lot of larger awareness. In fact, it’s why I like to read a lot of the movie and acting stuff on Sheila’s site – I learn and have fun all at once. So, if you’ll forgive an amateur his cheek…

1) What was the last movie you saw, either in a theater or on DVD, and why?
"Breakfast at Tiffany’s." It was a lot of fun (and had that impeccable soundtrack). Having never seen it before (see? AMATEUR), my first impressions may be silly to a practiced eye, but in no particular order: A- NYC is gorgeous. When I’m Supreme Leader, all taxicabs will look like that; B- If you digitially replaced Patricia Neal with Kate Mulgrew, nobody would notice; I really think Patricia/Kate is the same person, sort of like the Highlander; C- Uhm… Mickey Rooney… OH NO. D- I love Cat; E- The guy who played the clerk in Tiffany’s was absolutely perfect, from the tone on down. That’s a professional. He’s magnificent without trying to scene-steal (which would have ruined everything.)

PS - he was also in the "Manchurian Candidate," "Midnight Cowboy," and "Mame."
PPS - OK, I'm a sap - I also looked up Cat's credits on IMDB. And holy smokes, he was Neutron in "This Island Earth"! I am feeling the awesome. (Six degrees of Orangey?)

2) Name the cinematographer whose work you most look forward to seeing, and an example of one of his/her finest achievements.
Uh... ok, see, after all of that, I know zilch about cinematographer credits, though without them the "director's vision" would get nowhere. I could cheat and IMDB various cinematographers and say, wow, this guy's got five of my favorite films in his CV... And really, would it be any lamer than Googling a cat's acting resumé?

3) Joe Don Baker or Bo Svenson?
Well, Joe Don was the Whammer. He was also the lead in the all-time classic MST3K episode, “Mitchell.” (“He looks like the wrathful Buddha… Now he looks like the Moon in ‘A Trip to the Moon!’”) I think we have a winner. (And the bad guy? Martin Balsam, who was in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" with Orangey, who was in "This Island Earth," also spoofed by MST - I'm telling you, Kevin Bacon can just move over.)

4) Name a moment from a movie that made you gasp (in horror, surprise, revelation…)
Just because it was so early in my life… “NO – I am your father.” Gobsmacked, I was.

5) Your favorite movie about the movies.
My shameful admission – I’ve never seen "The Player," or "Sunset Boulevard," and only scraps of "Singing in the Rain." The only movie I've seen about movies was itself much more about the dreaming than the actual business - "The Muppet Movie." "OK, everybody - stay in focus."

6) Your Favorite Fritz Lang movie.
More shame – the closest I’ve ever gotten was an animated remake of "Metropolis". It was well-done, but not the real thing. (Check the trivia - the creator of the manga saw the poster for the movie, but never the movie itself.)

7) Describe the first time you ever recognized yourself in a movie.
Toughie – I love it. The first time was Peter Lorre in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea": the quiet, hassled assistant, in the background, always smoothing his hair back into place after the popular kid ruffs it up. I've identified with others in many other ways as the years pass and my character develops – but lowly, quiet Conseil, never making waves, always trying to see everyone’s point, was the first.

8) Carole Bouquet or Angela Molina?
Who in the what now? Oh, foreign actresses. I pass. (Which makes HALF the questions so far. Geez, doesn't anyone want to know about "Raising Arizona" or something?)

9) Name a movie that redeems the notion of nostalgia as something more than a bankable commodity.
This is hard for me, because I see plenty of movies that make me feel nostalgic (like the opening shots of "Breakfast at Tiffany's") without the subject matter of nostalgia itself coming up. I always want to build an Lileksian museum of pop-culture curios and cool-looking gizmos from the 19th and 20th centuries. (Seven times I bow to the proprietor of this site.) I guess, in its way, "It's a Wonderful Life" does this, with all of its emphasis on the value of life in how it's lived. Nothing could be more at odds than Bedford Falls as Mr. Potter sees it (assets, targets of acquisition) and how George Bailey sees it as he bursts onto its snowy streets at the end. It's getting misty around here just writing about it.

10) Favorite appearance by an athlete in an acting role.
I loved Sheila’s answer here – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “Airplane.” But, as goofy as "Space Jam" was, my vote goes to Charles Barkley. He’s just a naturally engaging guy, and it’s a riot watching him as he gets stuffed by the kid in the pickup game, then goes through therapy and prayer trying to recover his stolen skills. “I swear... I’ll never get a technical again… I won’t hang out with Madonna anymore..." BWAHAHAHA!

11) Favorite Hal Ashby movie.
Surprise - I haven't seen a one. (Shame Level rising... now reading "Russell Crowe throwing cel phone.")

12) Name the first double feature you’d program for opening night of your own revival theater.
It depends on the time of year. Around now, I’m thinking of “Miracle on 34th Street” and "It's a Wonderful Life," with one of the Rankin-Bass shorts to lead it off. (Perhaps the Twilight Zone episode “Night of the Meek” instead, since it’s not as well-known.)

13) What’s the name of your revival theater?
The Satellite of Love. (La la la!)

14) Humphrey Bogart or Elliot Gould?
Bogie – all day long and twice on Sunday.

15) Favorite Robert Stevenson movie.
Well, more Mobius strip movie quizzing - he directed a TV version of Miracle on 34th Street, back in '55. But for me, it's a running battle between "Mary Poppins" and "Darby O'Gill and the Little People." (Yes, I had to look it up. Shame Level - "Lindsay Lohan condolence note.")

16) Describe your favorite moment in a movie that is memorable because of its use of sound.
Actually, lack of sound - Norman Jewison running the credits for "Jesus Christ Superstar" entirely silent after all of that rock music (and Judas chased across the desert by tanks). When I was younger, I wanted to try that myself. My idea, which I may as well give away here, was at the end of a filming of Tale of Two Cities - the camera follows Carton (Clive Owen, of course) as he walks to the guillotine, his narration in the background, and then pulls back as he settles in, rising to catch the sun rising over the very top of the guillotine. "It is a far better place that I go to, than I have ever known..." And then, shwunk - and then, credits in silence.

Well, Norman got there first. Poopie.

17) Pink Flamingoes-- yes or no?
Well, maybe the plastic kind... There's a movie about them? (Now reading "treated for exhaustion.")

18) Your favorite movie soundtrack score.
"Star Wars," and especially the first from ’77. The music is like a character in itself. I’m also partial to the early Bond films, though of course they all recycle a lot of the cues. More recently, I loved Mark Knopfler’s work on "The Princess Bride" and the soundtrack to "The Incredibles" (which I bought the next day). My very first soundtrack, however, and a standouts in its own right, is "Mary Poppins." It helps to have a Julie Andrews at your disposal, of course.

Also, since I mentioned it earlier - "The Muppet Movie." Obviously a lot of my favorite films work for me on many levels.

19) Fay Wray or Naomi Watts?
This question reminds me of Lileks’ Bleat of April 4, 2006. I know the date off the top of my head because I was just re-reading it a few days ago, having saved it. To wit:

Yes. She loves him. The heroine and the ape have special moments together. They watch a sunset. … They ice skate together – a scene that would stand as one of the more embarrassing moments of modern cinema had not Naomi Watt’s vaudeville-routine-for-Kong set that standard a few hours earlier. (She even does the walk-like-an-Egyptian move.) At the end she tries to save the big lug from a swarm of the giant ape’s most fearsome predator, Period Aircraft. Here I must give advice to the young women in the audience: If ever you find yourself in a flimsy gown standing on top of the Empire State Building under the crotch of a giant ape, screaming at the airplanes to leave him alone, your life has taken a wrong turn somewhere.

None of which answers the question. Still… heheheheh.

20) Is there a movie that would make you question the judgment and/or taste of a film critic, blogger or friend if you found out they were an advocate of it?
I’m a fan of “UHF,” so truthfully, I’m not well-qualified to answer this question. I know what I like, and some of it's ridiculous. There are also a few well-made movies that I just don’t care for. But, in general, whenever I hear someone arguing that a movie is important, irreverent, or “breaks all the rules!” my hackles rise. It breaks the rules if you hold the camera upside-down while all of the action is performed off-screen by mimes - that don't make it Kubrick. I really cringe when people tell me that a movie is good merely because they want to look important and impress the Right People.

21) Pick a new category for the Oscars and its first deserving winner.
All my best categories would be anti-Oscars - call them the Shyamalans. We'd have categories such as Most Self-Serving Scene by an Actor/Director; Stupidest Subplot; Most Scenery Chewed; Cheesiest Line; Best Picture - Unintentional Comedy; Worst Miscasting; and Largest Plot Hole. There would be a special sub-category for period movies that ignore all their source material: for example, in "Troy" the seige lasts about nine years less than it did in the Iliad, and the movie killed Agamemnon AND Meneleus even though they both survived the seige. Annoyed the stuffings out of me, that did.

22) Favorite Paul Verhoeven movie.
"RoboCop." There's something touching about Murhpy's trapped shreds of humanity despite all the hokum. And you get Kurtwood Smith bein' mean.

23) What is it that you think movies do better than any other art form?
“Better” in the sense of “more immediate,” I’ll grant you. That’s why they’re so powerful, anyway – whether it’s a Cecil B DeMille epic with a lot of sweeping spectacle, or a very tight, quiet close-up in a thriller, the camera can do things that are very difficult in other media. Still, there are certain limitations, as any book lover will tell you. You can haul a portable DVD player with you on an airplane, for example, but a space battle or a swordfight loses something when shrunk to a seven-by-five box and tinny two-speaker sound. The only limitation on a great book is the reader.

24) Peter Ustinov or Albert Finney?
Albert Finney. He just IS Daddy Warbucks.

25) Favorite movie studio logo, as it appears before a theatrical feature.
I kind of like the old Universal biplane, myself. The modern glowing planet thing is all right, but there’s something organic and fun about the plane hurtling through the void. It has charm. I rather wish that they would take the plane back out for a spin around the new planet – but keep it a plane, and not turn it into a rocket or a flying saucer or something.

26) Name the single most important book about the movies for you personally.
Leonard Maltin wrote a huge compendium of films that gets updated all the time - it's informative, cross-referenced, has tons of stuff you'd otherwise never hear of, and it gets bonus points for mean fun - when you find a movie he's rated "Turkey" the reviews are usually ferocious.

27) Name the movie that features the best twist ending. (Please note the use of any “spoilers” in your answer.)
I like “The Usual Suspects” on this. So memorable, and of course I kicked myself about it afterwards, because the clues are there. It’s just wonderful.

28) Favorite Francois Truffaut movie.
(Danger - redlining - approaching "Internet Sex Tape" - abort!)

29) Olivia Hussey or Claire Danes?
Tough one. I think that I can just begin to forgive Ms. Hussey for the Zeferelli "Romeo and Juliet," a four-time winner in the '69 Shyamalans. It's also cool that she does voice work as well - it's a different skill set, and some pretty good actors are simply terrible at it. Danes, according to her IMDB bio, has been up for a ton of really great roles in a lot of notable films, not to mention the work she's actually done, so I'll grant her talent. But, yeah - I can't hold a grudge for a movie made before I was born, even if it grates on me. (The WHOLE POINT about the balcony scene is that they CAN'T REACH EACH OTHER. And what's with that "Montague!" and "Capulet!" screeching? !$^%&Y!$^!) Oh - oh yeah, Olivia Hussey is my pick. She wasn't the one screeching in the streets like it was a blargin' soccer riot.

30) Your most memorable celebrity encounter.
I can’t count the Jeter sighting, since I was on purse duty and got nothing more than 1.4 seconds of the back of a sweatshirt. Mom tells me I met Barry Manilow when I was too young to remember, which by definition can’t count. And, because I am largely clueless, I missed my shot at the Boss last summer at the bookstore. As strange as this sounds, my closest encounters with anyone remotely known are with Dawn Eden and Sheila herself.

31) When did you first realize that films were directed?
I can’t remember. I seem always to have been vaguely aware that a movie was much like a book or a picture – someone is behind the scenes, without whom an audience sees nothing. But I didn’t really understand what a director actually did until watching “Behind the Scenes” specials. So there he is, explaining the next bit to the actors. Cool.

For me, the big shock was when I found out movies are almost always shot out of sequence. As a boy, I had a definite notion that the actors did it all in order; further, that they didn’t find out what was going to happen until the director told them at that moment, and then they just went off, in character, doing that scene – that they pretty much ad-libbed everything. I had little-to-no clue about scripting and rehearsing and editing.

And of course, I was flabbergasted the first time I saw a documentary camera pull back to reveal some cavernous sound stage, with the actors taking up maybe one-tenth while the rest was stuffed with sound guys, rigging, cameras, assistants, etc. Part of me is still amazed at it. My childhood brain assumed that a movie was filmed in an actual completed room, and that being on the set would be just like watching in the theater, only from a different point of view. I mean, I knew that the Millennium Falcon didn’t actually fly around – but I definitely thought that it was sitting somewhere, completely built and full-size. I thought that, like an iceberg, the visible movie on the screen was merely a fraction of what’s there – that you could visit those places and walk around in them like you could visit the Intrepid or Sagamore Hill. It was crushing to learn that a set will often have nothing more to it than what is likely to be in the shot - no ceilings, barely anything supporting the walls, and floors filled with actor’s marks and a mare’s nest of cables and tape. Seriously, my heart hurt when I found out.

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