Back-to-school film quiz

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From Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2006, dir. Michel Gondry).

Over the past year, I’ve co-written (and turned in) in a book manuscript, and worked extensively with its related blog; acquired and shepherded a difficult but incredibly rewarding book from start to finish; published a couple of book reviews; and began thinking through a screenplay I wrote long ago that I actually want to direct, adapted from a blog post from even longer ago. So, not much writing energy left for the blog or the newsletter. (Though, ahem, I did see through a series on Buster Keaton, refreshing and recharging my criticism in some interesting ways.) And, if I were you, I wouldn’t expect too much from the blog for the time being. But I will always have time for one of Dennis Cozzalio’s film quizzes. Here’s the new one, a back-to-school edition appropriate for me, as I live in the quintessential southern college town. Here we go.

1) Name the last 10 movies you’ve seen, either theatrically or at home
Where the Green Ants Dream (dir. Werner Herzog, at home)

Café Society (dir. Woody Allen, at theater)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (dir. Steven Spielberg, at theater)
The BFG (dir. Steven Spielberg, at theater)
Fitzcarraldo (dir. Werner Herzog, at home)
Apu Sansar (dir. Satyajit Ray, at home)
The Lobster (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, at theater)
Maggie’s Plan (dir. Rebecca Miller, at theater)
The Meddler (dir. Lorene Scarafia, at theater)
The Fall (dir. Tarsem, at home)

2) Favorite movie feast
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (1989). Key quote, from the wife to the thief: “Try the cock, Albert. It’s a delicacy, and you know where it’s been.” There’s something wrong with me.

936full-the-cook,-the-thief,-his-wife,-and-her-lover-screenshot

3) Dial M for Murder (1954) or Rear Window (1954)?
Rear Window, always and forever.

4) Favorite song or individual performance from a concert film
Talking Heads, “Life During Wartime,” from the best concert film ever.

Excluding another film from the same director, if you were programming a double feature what would you pair with:

Michel Gondry’s brilliant cut-up of two different Kanye West performances of “Jesus Walks,” from Dave Chappelle’s Block Party:

5) Alex Cox’s Straight to Hell (1986)?
I’ve only seen one Alex Cox film, and that’s Repo Man. I should probably rectify that.

6) Benjamin Christensen’s Haxan: Witchcraft Throughout the Ages (1922)?
Never seen it but would like to.

7) Federico Fellini’s I vitteloni (1953)?
8) Vincente Minnelli’s The Long, Long Trailer (1953)?
9) Sam Peckinpah’s The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)?
10) George Englund’s Zachariah (1971)?
I’m answering #7-10 together, with the admission that I’ve seen none of them. Please revoke my cinephile card.

11) Favorite movie fairy tale
Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1922). Here’s a taste of it:

12) What is the sport that you think has most eluded filmmakers in terms of capturing either its essence or excitement?
Though several movies do well capturing the drama around basketball, I can’t think of any non-documentaries that capture what it feels like to either watch or play it. (The docs that get it right, by the way, are Hoop Dreams and Gunning for that #1 Spot. And, even then, Hoop Dreams is mostly not about actual play.)

13) The Seventh Seal (1957) or Wild Strawberries (1957)?
Wild Strawberries by a country mile but Fanny and Alexander (the long version) over either of them.

14) Your favorite Criterion Collection release
Are you fucking kidding me? How am I even supposed to begin answering that? OK, OK, fine, I’ll go with the Zatoichi box set but only because it prompted a film-crit series from yours truly.

15) In the tradition of the Batley Townswomen’s Guild’s staging of the Battle of Pearl Harbor and Camp on Blood Island, who would be the featured players (individual or tag-team) in your Classic Film Star Free-for-all Fight?
First of all, thank you Dennis for reminding me of that skit’s existence, because holy moly it still makes me laugh out loud. Secondly, I guess I would want the Marx Brothers recreating the Battle of Gettysburg (with Margaret Dumont as General Lee), just to see what they did with it.

16) Throne of Blood (1957) or The Lower Depths (1957)?
Throne of Blood.

17) Your favorite movie snack
Buttered popcorn, dusted with Parmesan cheese.

18) Robert Altman’s Quintet--yes or no?
I’ve seen a lot of Altman but somehow never that one. So, theoretically “yes,” because I tend to like even Altman’s shaggiest dogs but actually “no,” because I ain’t seen it yet.

19) Name the documentarian whose work you find most valuable
Werner Herzog, though it’s questionable that “documentary” is precisely what he’s doing.

20) The Conversation (1974) or The Godfather Part II (1974)?
What’s with the hard-as-hell questions this time around? Flip a coin. Heads. OK, today’s answer in The Godfather Part II.

21) Favorite movie location you’ve visited in person
I love this scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, set in the Art Institute of Chicago, which I have visited:

22) If you could have directed a scene from any movie in the hope of improving it, what scene would it be, and what direction would you give the actor(s) in it? (question submitted by Patrick Robbins)
I really like Jonathan Demme’s Beloved, except for the (more-or-less) opening scene, in which Sethe (Oprah Winfrey) reunites with Paul D. (Danny Glover). For whatever reason, Demme just stages their conversation flatly, as a trade-off of closeups as each actor speaks, more or less looking at the camera, when what would more interesting—considering the horrors that both of them know—would be their reactions to what the other person has said. I would direct the scene as a static long shot with both of them (full bodies) in frame, looking at each other, and then slowly, almost imperceptibly zoom in and up on their faces as the conversation gets more fraught. It would be a way of drawing the viewer into the story delicately, a nice irony given what Sethe has done and how she got that “tree” of scars on her back.

23) The Doors (1991) or JFK (1991)?
JFK.

24) What is your greatest film blasphemy or strongest evidence of your status as a contrarian? (H/T Larry Aydlette)
I’ve given him several attempts and multiple viewings of some films, and I like a lot of the French New Wave (Rivette and Truffaut in particular) but, and I know he is the movement’s guiding light among other things, and sheesh, I better just say it: I can’t fucking stand Jean-Luc Godard. I really can’t.

25) Favorite pre-1970 one-sheet

Vertigo

26) Favorite post-1970 one-sheet

bleu

27) WarGames (1983) or Blue Thunder (1983)?
WarGames.

28) Your candidate for best remake ever made
Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum is essentially an Afro-French version of Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring. Both are superb flims but Denis is not slavish in her updating of the plot and relationships to modern Paris.

29) Give us a good story, or your favorite memory, about attending a drive-in movie
I’ve never been to a drive-in. Again, revoke my cinephile card.

30) Favorite non-horror Hammer film
Don’t have one.

31) Favorite movie with the word/number “seven” in the title (question submitted by Patrick Robbins)
The Seven Samurai.

32) Is there a movie disagreement you can think of which would cause you to reconsider the status of a personal relationship?
No.

33) Erin Brockovich (2000) or Traffic (2000)?
Traffic. Erin Brockovich is a star vehicle for Julia Roberts, a fairly good one but it would be a better one if its star weren’t an actress that sets my teeth on edge.

34) Your thoughts on the recent online petition demanding that Turner Classic Movies cease showing all movies made after 1960
It’s ridiculous and shortsighted. So much of classic cinema, and today’s cinematic language, emerged from the various New Waves of the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, a lot of those New Waves came from non-European countries—China’s wuxia emergence in the 1970s, Japan’s wild ride of the 1960s and 1970s, everything except the Apu Trilogy from Satyajit Ray came post-1960, Iran in the 1980s—so excluding the possibility of airing those is a quasi-racist act as well, effectively shutting out the massive contributions of non-Western, non-white cinema because of an arbitrary cutoff date.

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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