A quizzical April

Once more, with feeling! It’s spring quiz time over at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, and once more I’m up to the challenge. (My winter-quiz response is here; scroll through my “Film” archives for others.) Here we go, after the jump.

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1) William Demarest or Broderick Crawford?
Demarest. His work with Preston Sturges alone qualifies him for greatness.

2) What movies improve when seen in a state of altered consciousness?
Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste. The low-budget gross-outs, hammy acting (including a pivotal role by Jackson), and obviously rubber-masked aliens start to look like comedic genius after a few tokes of Acapulco Gold and bourbon. Not that I’d know, or anything. Plus, the bazooka missile hitting the sheep will make you fall off your chair from laughing so hard, even if you’re sober.

3) Favorite studio or production company logo?
I’m a sucker for the old MGM lion.


4) Celeste Holm or Joan Blondell?

Blondell is va-va-voom, and hilarious, too. In fact, she’s funny because she’s sexy, and vice versa. This will be a theme with this post (see #18).

5) What is the most overrated “classic” film?
It’s a modern classic but Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry is the dullest, most inert piece of major cinema that I’ve seen in ages. I’m not equating slow pacing with inertia, by the way—I’ll take your love of Ozu (“makes watching paint dry seem like heightened activity”), and raise you Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“makes watching paint dry seem thoroughly incomprehensible”). But nothing happens here, and the nothingness is so vaguely defined that the viewer is left unsure of what’s supposed to be happening, and it’s unclear what might be at stake.

6) What movie do you know for sure you saw, but have no memory of seeing?
I know I saw Bulletproof on a date that went poorly, in college, and both I and my date (Hi, Oreathia!) hated the movie vehemently, and that it cemented my visceral dislike for Adam Sandler until Punch-Drunk Love dislodged that from my consciousness almost a decade later. So, I remember the experience of seeing the movie, and the intense feelings it dragged up in me… but I remember absolutely nothing about the movie itself. Not a single frame.

7) Favorite Hammer Film?
Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em: The Movie.

8) Gregory Itzin or Joe Pantoliano?
Pantoliano.

9) Create a double feature with two different movies with the same title. No remakes.
1) Jan Svankmajer’s Alice (1988), a loose adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and 2) Woody Allen’s Alice (1990), which is not.

10) Akiko Wakabayashi or Mie Hama?
Wakabayashi.

11) Can you think of a (non-porn) movie that informed you of the existence of a sexual act you had not known of prior?
I think the facial was new to me before seeing Pedro Almodóvar’s Kika, and BDSM was definitely new to me before seeing his Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!. Man, sneaking into the Inwood Theatre as a teenager was, like, the best thing ever.

12) Can you think of a black & white movie that might actually improve if it was in color?
Jacques Tati’s Jour de fête, because it does.

13) Favorite Pedro Almodóvar Film?
For sentimental reasons, I have to go with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, because 1) it’s the first one I ever saw; 2) I saw it first in a high school Spanish class on video, and it was obvious that the teacher didn’t quite know what he was getting into and hadn’t screened it before showing it to us; and 3) the movie introduced me to gazpacho; and 4) it’s probably Almodóvar’s funniest movie. If I had the wisdom to sweep sentimentality aside, and I don’t, I’d be honest and see that Almodóvar’s masterpiece—well, the best among several—is Talk to Her. Or The Flower of My Secret… Or Volver… Or the incendiary and deeply disturbing Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!… See, this is hard for me, so let’s just go back to my original response: Women it is.

14) Kurt Raab or Udo Kier?
Kier, but I don’t care much about either one.

15) Worst main title song
Look, I love Paul McCartney and all, but “Live and Let Die?” Stop letting it live; just let it die.

16) Last movie you saw in a theater? On DVD, Blu-ray or other interesting location/format?
Theaters: The Fantastic Mr. Fox (I haven’t gone to the theater yet this year.) DVD: Spirited Away (for obvious reasons).

17) Favorite movie reference within a Woody Allen movie?
The entire movie Zelig (1983), which is essentially a melange of chopped-up documentary and stock footage—with the insertion of new characters, done (incidentally) a full decade before Forrest Gump.

18) Mary Astor or Claudette Colbert?
Colbert, Colbert, Colbert, one of the funniest women ever put on the screen, and one of the sexiest, too. In The Palm Beach Story and It Happened One Night, those traits merge so much that I can’t tell from which one stems the other.

19) Favorite trailer (provide YouTube link if possible)?
Edgar Wright’s Don’t. It’s a movie that doesn’t exist, and doesn’t need to—the trailer is enough:

20) Oddest double bill you either saw or saw listed in a theater
I’m showing my (relatively) young age in admitting that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one. I did, however, write about my dream double feature here.

21) Favoite Phil Karlson film?
Kansas City Confidential.

22) Favorite “social problem” picture?
Stephen Frears’s Dirty Pretty Things, although the term “social problem” is much too reductive for this movie.

23) Your favourite Harryhausen film/monster?
Jason and the Argonauts, because of the skeleton warriors.

24) What was the first movie you saw with your significant other?
I don’t remember if it was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in theaters (we saw it twice; underrated, by the way) or the first three seasons of Jeeves and Wooster on DVD, but one of the two.

25) John Payne or Ronald Reagan?
Payne

26) Movie you feel a certain pressure or obligation to see that you have not yet actually seen
I think everyone I work with assumes that, because I’m the designated “movie” guy around or the designated “sci-fi” guy around, I had a burning desire to see Avatar. For the most part, though, 3-D turns me off or at least leaves me ambivalent. Sure, I’ve loved some of James Cameron’s oeuvre—The Abyss and Aliens, in particular—but, for all his strengths, he’s no writer and he’s sort of a hamfisted thinker. From Terminator 2 onward, though, Cameron’s interest in spectacle has increasingly overwhelmed interest in character, story, and visual nuance, instead of having those interests evolve in tandem. Everything I’ve seen and read about Avatar makes it sound like more of the same and, again, 3-D makes my head hurt after an hour or so. I’ve had at least five conversations begin with, “What do you think of Avatar?” Well, when I see it—and that might be never—I’ll let you know.

27) Favorite “psychedelic” movie (Hey, man, like, define it however you want, man…)
Yellow Submarine, which also doubles as one of the greatest animated features to come from England, and triples as one of the greatest rock movies. (Representative quip: “It’s blue glass.” “Must be from Kentucky, then.”)

28) Thelma Ritter or Eve Arden?
Ritter, Ritter, Ritter.

29) Favorite iconic shot or image from a film?
The opening shot of Star Wars—that ship goes on forever.

30) What is the movie that inspired the most memorable argument you ever had about a movie?
I saw Kaige Chen’s Temptress Moon with Niko Fruechting at the old Inwood Theatre, in part because the ads insisted that it was banned in China, and had folks up in arms. Being a teenager (well, I’d turn twenty that year), I assumed beforehand that the censorship occurred because of sexual content and, with Gong Li as a protagonist, we were certain to see breasts. And, sure, there’s sex, though it’s so understated that I don’t recall it. The movie, however, makes painfully and viciously clear that the groupthink necessary for the male protagonist to assume his “rightful” place as royalty comes at the expense of his soul, and with Gong Li as collateral damage. Lives are ruined, people are killed, and it’s unclear by the end who did what to whom. Suffice it to say, it ends badly, and Niko and I argued extensively over whose fault it was. We slowly realized that we were in fact arguing about communism, about the needs of the community vs. the needs of the individual, and that Temptress Moon heavily favored the latter and sharply rebuked the former, and that the movie’s censorship probably had nothing to do with sex at all. I can’t remember thinking so bracingly about a movie’s politics before then.

31) Raquel Torres or Lupe Vélez?
Vélez.

32) Favorite adaptation of Shakespeare to a film?
The Oliver Parker Othello, starring Lawrence Fishburne, Irene Jacob, and Kenneth Branagh.

33) Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (in 3D)—yes or no?
No, no, no.

34) Favorite movie rating?
PG-13, because it symbolizes the ratings system as a whole—mostly useless.

35) Olivia Barash or Joyce Hyser?
Who?! I guess Hyser, because she apparently was in This Is Spinal Tap and Valley Girl.


36) What was the movie that convinced you your favorite movie genre was your favorite movie genre?

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek let me in on a secret that I had almost discovered: screwball comedy is one of America’s greatest exports to the rest of the world.

37) Favorite Blake Edwards movie?
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and even that’s marred by Mickey Rooney’s “Japanese” neighbor.

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 A quizzical April

  1. Anna says:

    Love “Don’t” – that’s awesome!
    Also, I think it was Jeeves and Wooster we saw first…but now that I think about it…dang!

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