Summertime celluloid

It’s time another edition of Dennis Cozzalio’s quarterly film quizzes. (I answered the Spring edition back in March.) As always, the questions are idiosyncratic, down-to-earth, and concerned more with making arguments than making canons… and that’s all great. Here we go, after the jump.
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1) Favorite quote from a filmmaker

Rainer Werner Fassbinder: “Should you sit around waiting until something’s become a tradition, or shouldn’t you rather roll up your sleeves and get to work developing one?”

2) A good movie from a bad director

Keenan Ivory Wayans has given to the world such, ahem, glories as: White Chicks, Little Man, A Low Down Dirty Shame, and the Scary Movie movie. I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, though it is unevenly paced and inexpertly photographed, is a very funny parody of blaxploitation.

3) Favorite Laurence Olivier performance

As Julius the gentleman pickpocket in George Roy Hill’s A Little Romance.

4) Describe a famous location from a movie that you have visited (Bodega Bay, California, where the action in The Birds took place, for example). Was it anything like the way it was in the film? Why or why not?

San Francisco’s even more beautiful than it appears in the TV version of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City—more vibrant, more colorful, but not quite as funny-sleazy.

5) Carlo Ponti or Dino De Laurentiis (Producer)?

De Laurentis, for Barbarella and especially the still-fresh, still-funny, still-sexy image of Jane Fonda, ahem, wearing out the Excessive Machine.

6) Best movie about baseball

Charles Stone III’s Mr. 3000. Bernie Mac gives the finest performance of his career, and the movie’s revelations about masculinity, aging gracefully, the enduring aura of baseball in the American mind are funnier and subtler than similar achievements in Bull Durham—which is not, by the way, a criticism of Bull Durham.

7) Favorite Barbara Stanwyck performance

Jean Harrington, in Preston Sturges’s The Lady Eve, which is still my favorite movie by one of my favorite directors, though The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek is a very close second. Forget Katharine Hepburn—Stanwyck is the definition of the screwball heroine.

8) Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Dazed and Confused?

Although the Phoebe Cates scene in Fast Times is imprinted on my mind more than half the movies I’ve seen, Dazed is the far superior movie.

9) What was the last movie you saw, and why? (We’ve used this one before, but your answer is presumably always going to be different, so…)

Brad Bird’s Ratatouille, because I love Brad Bird, I love animation, and I love food. And I loved the movie—I’ve seen it twice.

10) Whether or not you have actually procreated or not, is there a movie you can think of that seriously affected the way you think about having kids of your own?

No.

11) Favorite Katharine Hepburn performance

As Tracy Lord in George Cukor’s The Philadelphia Story. It’s one of the few movies I love—as opposed to admire—her in. As should be apparent by now, the screwball comedy—a genre that strongly influences this film, even if it’s not quite one—is among my favorite genres.

12) A bad movie from a good director

Spike Lee’s Girl 6. Holy cow, I didn’t think movies that bad could still be made.

13) Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom—yes or no?

I’ve never seen it, but four days of abusing children sounds like a pass from me.

14) Ben Hecht or Billy Wilder (Screenwriter)?

Wilder, by a nose.

15) Name the film festival you’d most want to attend, or your favorite festival that you actually have attended

I attended this year’s Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson, Mississippi, and it was wonderful.

16) Head or 200 Motels?

Neither. I’ll take True Stories over either of the above.

17) Favorite cameo appearance

Bruce Springsteen chatting with John Cusack in High Fidelity.

18) Favorite Rosalind Russell performance

If you’ve read answers #7 and #11, you already know the answer is Hildy Johnson in Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday.

19) What movie, either currently available on DVD or not, has never received the splashy collector’s edition treatment you think it deserves? What would such an edition include?

I think John Sayles’s Lone Star is one of the best American movies produced in the 1990s, but the DVD edition is bare-bones. Sayles’s smart, well-prepared, and detailed commentary for The Secret of Roan Inish leads me to believe that a director’s commentary for Lone Star would be topnotch. I also wouldn’t mind a roundtable discussion with Chris Cooper, Joe Morton, Ron Canada, Elizabeth Peña, and Matthew McConaughey about the making of the movie, and the issues that it raises. An interview with Sayles and his producer/common-law wife Maggie Renzi, conducted by Diane Carson, would be an ideal way to place the film in the context of his full oeuvre. Screen tests and a production diary would be a nice way to round it out.

20) Name a performance that everyone needs to be reminded of, for whatever reason

Robin Williams in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King, so that—after a full decade of irritating schtick on talk shows, the E! Channel, and desperately unfunny family comedies; or, conversely, in overly serious stuff like Insomnia and One Hour Photo, where he intentionally buttons him up—we’re reminded that the man can be a brilliant actor, with subtlety and quietude and grace, when he puts his mind to it.

21) Louis B. Mayer or Harry Cohn (Studio Head)?

Cohn

22) Favorite John Wayne performance

I’m sure there’s a John Wayne movie out there somewhere that I’ll like, but I haven’t found it yet.

23) Naked Lunch or Barton Fink?

I’m not sure exactly why these two are grouped together, so I’ll just go with my clear favorite of the two—Barton Fink.

24) Your Ray Harryhausen movie of choice

To go all-meta and shit, and also because I’m lazy, I’ll paste what I wrote about a year ago on the subject: “Jason and the Argonauts is great because of Ray Harryhausen’s special effects, a herky-jerky blend of stop-motion animation, puppetry, models, and elaborate set design. By today’s standards, the effects are dated, but that’s part of the appeal—they feel homemade, personal, almost done by happy accident. I sat on the living room couch with my stepdad, watching this movie more times than I can count. The story’s trite, the acting mediocre, and the writing is a little thin, but it’s a blast that’s soured me on the modern CGI that aspires to photo-realism and has inured me to the ‘authenticity’ of the effects behind current, trillion-dollar summer blockbusters.”

25) Is there a movie you can think of that you feel like the world would be better off without, one that should have never been made?

This is a hard one, but I’ll go with Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. Incidentally, I think it’s beautiful and extremely, all too effective, but it’s effective in the name of Nazism, and I’m not sure its cinematic triumphs wholly justify its use as propaganda. I’m not sure it should never have been made—I can’t go that far, as it is a case study (its lessons still not entirely grasped) in the dangers of political propaganda—but perhaps Germany (particularly Germany’s Jews) and the rest of Europe would have been better off without its existence.

24) Favorite Dub Taylor performance

Was he the guy in the Hubba Bubba bubble gum commercials? I liked those.

25) If you had the choice of seeing three final movies, to go with your three last meals, before shuffling off this mortal coil, what would they be?

Go West, Duck Soup, and Play Time. Might as well go out laughing.

26) And what movie theater would you choose to see them in?

The Snark Theater. It’s one of Daniel Pinkwater’s fictional creations. Here’s how he describes it in The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death:

The Snark Theater has a different double bill every day, and it’s open twenty-four hours around the clock. It shows movies I never heard of, and it shows them in strange combinations.
For example, a typical double bill might consist of a Yugoslavian film (with subtitles), Vampires in A Deserted Seaside Hotel at the End of August, and along with it, Invasion of the Bageloids, in which rock-hard, intelligent bagels from outer space attack Earth. Everybody gets bopped on the head until the scientists figure out a way to defeat the bageloids. I won’t spoil the ending by telling what it is, but it has something to do with cream cheese.

Another nifty thing about the Snark Theater is that there’s a box in the lobby: You can write down the name of any film that was ever made and drop the slip of paper in the box, and the Snark Theater will get that film and show it. They send you a letter with a free ticket on the day they show the film you asked for. And if you tell them your birthday, they send you a free ticket on your birthday.

Well, either that or the old Lakewood Theater in east Dallas. I don’t think either of the above exists anymore; of course, the former never did.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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One Response to Summertime celluloid

  1. Susan T. says:

    hey, QB. I’m with you on “Dazed and Confused” all the way.
    And speaking of Katharine Hepburn, my son and I just watched “Bringing Up Baby” and enjoyed it. There’s a lot of fast-paced witty dialogue for a 7-year-old, but he seemed to like it well enough. He loved the guy doing the animal calls.
    You’re leagues and leagues beyond me in your movie knowledge, though. Great post!

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