Quiz is in the air

It’s springtime, which means it’s quarterly film quiztime at Dennis Cozzalio’s house of celluloid.  So, here’s another round of fresh, invigorating, and deeply weird questions to ponder about cinema.  As with my previous entries, I’ve opted to answer here rather than in the comments box at his site.  The fun starts after the jump.

1) Favorite Biopic
Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman’s American Splendor (2003).

2) Dyan Cannon or Tuesday Weld?
Weld, Weld, Weld.

3) Best example of science fiction futurism rendered silly by the event of time catching up to the prediction
Aren’t you sorta glad that artificial intelligence hasn’t caught up to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey?


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

I’ve got no dog in this fight, but let’s say Funicello and Avalon.

5) Favorite Raoul Walsh movie?
Never seen one.  Clearly, I’ve got work to do.

6) Sophomore film which represents greatest improvement over the director’s debut
David O. Russell’s Flirting with Disaster (1996).

7) Ice Cube or Mos Def?
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.

8) Favorite movie about the music industry
Nashville, although to reduce it to that is sorta like saying that Moby-Dick is about a whale.
9) Favorite Looney Tunes short (provide link if possible)
Porky Pig’s Feat (1943), directed by Frank Tashlin—especially for Bugs’ punchline:

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

11) Ruth Gordon or Margaret Hamilton?
Gordon, for Harold and Maude.
12) Best filmed adaptation of a play
Spike Lee’s A Huey P. Newton Story (2001).

13) Buddy Ebsen or Edgar Buchanan?
Ebsen, in no small part because my favorite Los Lobos instrumental—from 1996’s Colossal Head—is entitled “Buddy Ebsen Loves the Night Time.”

14) Favorite Jean Renoir movie?
The Rules of the Game (1939).

15) Favorite one-word movie title, and why
Wayne Wang’s Smoke (1995), which unfurls as slowly and thickly as its title.

16) Ernest Thesiger or Basil Rathbone?
Rathbone.

17) Summer movies—your highest and lowest expectations
I hope Woody Allen’s return to New York, with Whatever Works, is good. It stars Larry David, which is a good start, and perhaps David’s abrasive and less genteel sensibility (and ease with improvisation) will rub off on Woody. I’m cautiously optimistic. On the flipside, the Star Trek franchise had a good, three-decade run. Let it die without my having to interpret Kirk and Spock through the Generation-Y lens. Please.

18) Whether or not you’re a parent, what would be your ideal pick as first movie to see with your own child (or niece/nephew)? Why?
I want to see Buster Keaton’s Sherlock, Jr. with my kid. When I wrote about it two years ago, Darren Hughes responded with the following: “Walter, four or five years ago, I made my three nephews watch Sherlock, Jr., which is one of my all-time favorites. They were 7, 8, and 10 at the time and had probably never seen a black-and-white film, let alone a silent one. After two or three minutes, they were chuckling, and by the end of the film they were rolling and making me stop and rewind. It’s just about the most perfect movie ever made.” I’d like to think that it’ll generate the same reaction in my child.

19) L.Q. Jones or Strother Martin?
Martin.

20) Movie most recently seen in theaters? On DVD/Blu-ray?
In theaters: Watchmen.  (Well, I had high hopes…)  On DVD: Floating Weeds. (…and here my hopes were rewarded.)

21) Do you see more movies theatrically or at home? Why?
At home, now. For the past five years, I’ve been making a point of educating myself on cinema classics. Since I don’t live in a city with a strong repertory cinema, well, that mostly means DVDs or downloading the obscure movies and watching them on computer.

22) Name an award-worthy comic performance that was completely ignored by Oscar and his pals.
Most of them, frankly.  But when heartthrobs and hunks stretch their wings to do comedy, and do it well, the lack of recognition really stings.  Which brings me to the sad fact that George Clooney’s finest performance, as pontificating ne’er-do-well Ulysses Everett McGill in the hilarious O Brother, Where Art Thou?, didn’t even get nominated for an Oscar (or a Golden Globe, if I recall correctly).  I find that almost as unforgivable as the notion that Cary Grant was nominated for neither His Girl Friday nor Bringing Up Baby, or even The Philadelphia Story.

23) Zac Efron & Vanessa Hudgens or Robert Pattinson & Kristen Stewart?
Pattinson and Stewart.  At least they look like actual human beings.

24) Name a great (or merely very good) movie that is too painful to watch a second time (Thanks to the Onion A.V. Club)
This came up a couple of weeks ago at a dinner party.  For whatever reason, I was so scarred by The Dark Crystal as a child that, if I ever watch this “children’s” movie again, La Bella will have to hold my hand while I do it.  (My lifelong fear of vultures didn’t help.)  Oh, and then there’s Takashi Miike’s Audition (1999), which I technically haven’t made it through the first time.

25) Beyonce Knowles or Jennifer Hudson?
Damn you for these hard questions. But Knowles is a better dancer, so it’s her.

26) Favorite Robert Mitchum movie?
Dead Man (1995). Also should be noted as the only Jim Jarmusch movie that I like.

27) Favorite movie featuring a ‘60s musical group that is not either the Beatles or the Monkees?
Gimme Shelter (1970).

28) Maria Ouspenskaya or Una O’Connor?
O’Connor.

29) Favorite Vincent Price movie?
Edward Scissorhands (1990).  It’s so rare to see him play someone kind.

30) Name a movie currently flying under the radar that is deserving of rabid cult status.
Since Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery came out in 1993, it was immediately lost under the Soon-Yi Previn fallout. As a murder mystery, it’s a little slack, but only because Woody’s interested more in the middle-aged marriage that underpins it than the whodunit factor. (Besides, the whodunit’s not so bad, and the climax is terrific.) As a portrait of a couple in-progress, resolving its troubles, it’s funny and remarkably light on its feet. It’s worth revisiting. In fact, it’s damn near brilliant.

31) Irene Ryan or Lucille Benson (or Bea Benaderet)?
Ryan.

32) Single line from a movie that never fails to make your laugh or otherwise cheer you up. (This may be obvious, but the line does not have to come from a comedy.)
“How’s my hair?” or “Damn!  We’re in a tight spot!” or “I don’t want Fop, goddamnit!  I’m a Dapper Dan man!”  All are said by George Clooney (see #22) in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000).

33) Elliot Gould or Donald Sutherland?
Gould, because he’s funnier. But that’s a hard one.

34) Best performance by a director in an acting role?
A couple points of clarification: 1) I’m taking Woody Allen out of the betting pool, since he appears in over half of his movies; and 2) I’m interpreting this question as “Best performance by a director (who isn’t known as an actor) in an acting role,” because we otherwise have to consider George Clooney, Helen Hunt, Ida Lupino, Clint Eastwood, and others who started out as actors first and foremost, and gradually made their way to the other side of the camera, even if—as with Hunt, Tom Hanks and Ben Affleck—they’ve only done it once.  (Would it be fair, for instance, to put Sean Penn [director of Into the Wild and, um, sort of a big deal as an actor] against Quentin Tarantino’s, um, “performances”?)

So, harrumphing aside… My favorite is François Truffaut in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Yes, Truffaut has acted aplenty but mostly in tiny, non-pivotal roles.  His gentle warmth in CETK, however, is among the movie’s many gems, a sense of quietude and humaneness amidst the noisy, brilliant spectacle.  I miss Truffaut.

35) Favorite Barbara Stanwyck movie?
The Lady Eve.

36) Outside of reading film criticism or other literature about the movies, what subject do you enjoy reading about or studying which you would say best enriches or illuminates your understanding and appreciation of life, a life that includes the movies?
I love essays, especially deep-think critical essays about the intersections between art and life, so the collected works of Lawrence Weschler rank highly with me. Also, you might have noticed my appreciation of jazz critic Whitney Balliett before now. Jazz criticism is especially illuminating because it necessarily shows off how one can write intelligently and critically about the intangible and ever-changing.

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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