Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sergio Leone and the Infield Quiz Rule: SHOCKTOBER 2012 Edition!

Once again, the Fabulous Dennis Cozzalio via his incredible film site Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule has unleashed one of his uniquely skewed, and probably patented, Movie Quizzes! (Mack Daddy Denny the C.’s answers are HERE—but read mine first! Please.)

Where in the past, the gauntlet was picked up by fraternal site The United Provinces of Ivanlandia, this will be the first time the brain trust at LERNER INTERNATIONAL is tackling the topic—and confidence is high!
For one thing, the ramblings these questions inspire are a lot of fun—
Turn launch keys NOW!

I’ve never seen any of the versions of Goodbye, Mr. Chips that have been produced down through the years.

Not that there aren’t plenty of flicks which I have no idea exist, but Goodbye, Mr. Chips isn’t one of them.
The subject has never interested me, although I’ve always been aware of its presence, like a ghost in the room waiting to strike…

Will I succumb? The elements of synchronicity would really have to pile up to zlorch my non-viewing status of Mr. Chips—like, I’d have to be stuck in a hotel somewhere remote and lonely, and it’s raining outside, there are no pubs, there’s no cable, the location gets no TV reception, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips is the only movie in their entire VHS collection.

However, this entry of LERNER INTERNATIONAL is to be illustrated with Halloween themes—because once again I have failed to maintain a “31 Horror Movies for the 31 Days of Shocktober” marathon/schedule, and guilt forces me to compensate in some sort of way. 

According to Dennis C., “there is no overriding theme, just a series of posers intended to stimulate your thinking and sate your appetite for entertainment,” but in the course of providing answers, what was interesting were the various…synchronicities which showed up regularly: Kubrick’s 2001 ended up as the answer to several questions, and filmmakers Michael Cimino and Clint Eastwood ended up in answers (or questions).

And now…
Onto The Big Quiz!

1) What is the biggest issue for you in the digital vs. film debate?
Ma and Pa Kettle couldn’t stop motorized cameras, color movies, talkies, Cinerama, 3-D or TV, so they ain’t gonna stop the Studios march towards total digital domination and inevitable holographic cerebral chip implants.

But since VidTek keeps improving and improving, for the consumer, it seems to be a win-win.
I used to be firmly in the “Film Is Better” camp, but the evidence keeps piling up that filmmakers are learning, adapting and pushing the limits of this new technology.
In addition to the plethora of out-of-nowhere innovators, look at the creative leaps made by established creators like David Fincher, Werner Herzog and James Cameron.

Most of my viewing is at home, but when I go to the hardtops, honestly, film projectionists have not been doing their part to help succeed in this debate:
Even at the world-renowned Ziegfeld Theater in NYC, where I went to catch the highly-touted 70mm presentation of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, parts of the screen were fuzzy and out-of-focus.
WTF?!? I should’ve waited for the DVD.

As for the film itself, beautiful but inadequately-projected cinematography aside:
The Master (2012; Paul Thomas Anderson) would have been, without its style of Extreme “ACTING,” a dreadful mess and/or a tiresome bore.
But man, I loves me some of that “ACTING”—yee-HA! Yessiree, Bob! Grimace, cast eyes slant-wise, mumble-mumble
JP, PSH and AA all deserve their eventual nominations, certainly—Huzzah!—
but PTA should not get a script nod, no.

That said, there are issues in the “film vs. digital” debate regarding film preservation which I don’t have enough information about to give an informed opinion, but I am for whichever technology preserves and keeps films the best and longest.

2) Without more than one minute’s consideration, name three great faces from the movies
Warren Oates
W.C. Fields
Charlotte Rampling

3) The movie you think could be interesting if remade as a movie musical
Gerry Anderson’s Space: 1999 TV show, into a three-hour musical epic:
“Where is the Earth?/We’re a lost moon/We’re travelling the cosmos much too soon!”

“So what if a crewman gets killed every week?/With over 300 astronauts here/We’ll be renewed for at least a fifth year!”

“Super-neutrino radiation beam/Making me feel so squishy/Like translucent bones of the fishy!”

Yes! It will be a hit—Golden Globes, here I come!

4) The last movie you saw theatrically, on DVD/Blu-ray, streaming
Theatrical: Wake in Fright (1971) (re-release
DVD: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Streaming: The Mercenary (1968; Sergio Corbucci)

5) Favorite movie about work
Paul Schrader’s directorial debut, Blue Collar (work sucks), followed by David Fincher’s magnum opus Fight Club (work is for suckers)—both highly recommended, must-sees if you haven’t already.

6) The movie you loved as a child that did not hold up when seen through adult eyes
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

7) Favorite “road” movie
Michael Cimino’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974; with Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges and George Kennedy)—when Cimino was going overbudget on Heaven’s Gate [See Question #24, below], he called the United Artists honchos begging, telling them at one point, “Ask Clint! Call Clint! He can tell you; I did 50 set-ups in one day on Thunderbolt and Lightfoot!” [I’m paraphrasing];
The film is a lyrical, meandering combo road/heist flick, with an easy-going, but earnest manner that makes it hard not to like, and very “’70s” kind of flick. Great footage of the Montana countryside, too.

Followed by Death Race 2000 (1975; Paul Bartel, produced by Roger Corman)—a flick many forget is also an incredible political satire that’s still relevant with its talk of “Minority Privilege.” It’s also one of the few films that advocates presidential assassination!

Death Race 2000 is one of my favorite road movies because its status as post-apocalyptic, totalitarian-state science fiction broadens the suspension of disbelief: As a viewer cognizant of the realities of Corman’s low-budget filmmaking, I know that the flick was made no further than roughly 100 miles from Los Angeles.
But as a geek-nerd, when I see the racers emerge from the “Lincoln Tunnel” into “Pennsylvania,” I can ignore that Carradine, Stallone, Woronov and friends are in reality zooming-via-undercranking towards San Diego—
And I can juxtapose/extrapolate that the Lincoln Tunnel (which is now more than 100 miles long—some work-relief project from the film’s Mr. President?) opens up on a Pennsylvania that is more desert than farmland and forests: what sort of hellishness happened there? And why does most of the country look the same way? War? Drought? Biological infestation? The French?

And I will mash-up various, disparate sci-fi elements, as well: I see no reason that the US space program of either 2001 or Planet of the Apes couldn’t exist on a crypto-fascist world like in Death Race 2000—nor that Orwell’s Airstrip One wouldn’t be going on in the UK; or that a workers’ revolt wouldn’t be happening in the highly stratified world of ultra-scientific Berlin of Metropolis.

Of course, outside the walls of Death Race 2000’s New York Racetrack (what’d they do? Pave over Central Park? Probably…), the Big Apple probably looks much like it does in Soylent Green. (Something made stronger by the fact that the matte painting in both DR2K and SG were done by the same artist, Matthew Yuricich.)
And remember, Frankenstein and Machine Gun Joe are aiming at New Los Angeles—not the old Los Angeles: that looks like the industrial hell of Blade Runner. [And now Ridley Scott says that the worlds of Alien/Prometheus and Blade Runner are connected, so there’s that…]

And since the world of Death Race 2000/Blade Runner/Soylent Green is so polluted, it’s not surprising that there’s a plan to take the last forests and put them in protective domes in outer space—and idea reinforced by the detail-heavy, massive-spaceship special visual effects shared by Silent Running, Alien, 2001, Blade Runner and others..

Looking further into the further, it’s very easy to connect this corporatized, worker-bee totalitarian state into the Federation of Paul Verhoeven’s controversial (and much loved by me) Starship Troopers….
That’s the road I’m on!

8) Does Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the Republican National Convention change or confirm your perspective on him as a filmmaker/movie icon? Is that appearance relevant to his legacy as a filmmaker?
Clint is a mole for Obama, and I love him more for it.

9) Longest-lasting movie or movie-related obsession
2001: A Space Odyssey

10) Favorite artifact of movie exploitation
A promotional bar of pink soap from Fight Club; and a pack of Morley cigarettes

11) Have you ever fallen asleep in a movie theater? If so, when and why?
See #17, below

12) Favorite performance by an athlete in a movie
The Hanson Brothers in Slap Shot.
RUNNER-UP: Alex Karras (RIP) as Mongo, just a pawn in the great game of life, in Blazing Saddles.
Also: I’m a big fan of the action flicks of Jim Brown (especially in William Castle/Buzz Kulik’s underrated 1969 prison flick, Riot) and Fred Williamson.

13) Second favorite Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie
Fox and His Friends (1975) (first: The Third Generation (1979))

14) Favorite film of 1931
Fritz Lang’s M

15) Second favorite Raoul Walsh movie
The Roaring Twenties (1939) [First: White Heat (1949)]

16) Favorite film of 1951
TIE: The Steel Helmet/The Thing From Another World/Gerald McBoing-Boing

17) Second favorite Wong Kar-wai movie
I’ve only seen one of his films, In the Mood for Love, and was so bored by it (despite my huge crush on Maggie Cheung), I fell asleep during the film.

18) Favorite film of 1971
TIE: The Devils/Punishment Park
Runners-Up: Dirty Harry; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; Klute; Straw Dogs; A Clockwork Orange; The French Connection; Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster; The Hellstrom Chronicle; Vanishing Point; McCabe & Mrs. Miller; The Last Picture Show; The Beguiled; The Anderson Tapes; Diamonds Are Forever (which I remember seeing in the theater during its initial release); The Abominable Dr. Phibes…So many awesome movies were released when I was six years old!

19) Second favorite Henri-Georges Clouzot movie
The Wages of Fear (1953) (Le Corbeau (1943) is my #1 Clouzot film!)

20) Favorite film of 1991
Three-Way TIE: Naked Lunch/The Rapture/Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky

21) Second favorite John Sturges movie
TIE: Ice Station Zebra (natch)/Marooned

22) Favorite celebrity biopic
American Splendor, then Clint Eastwood’s Bird, followed by Warren Oates as/in John Milius’ Dillinger (1973).

23) Name a good script idea which was let down either by the director or circumstances of production
1941; the script is a laugh-out-loud read, but the film is certainly awkward, its director having zero sense of cynicism or irony.

24) Heaven’s Gate-- yes or no?
Yes! Saw it opening weekend in 1980—Newsweek’s movie critic, David Ansen, was sitting next to me, scribbling away in the dark! Haven’t seen it since then—I remember it being very problematic, especially that Kristofferson’s character was a completely unsympathetic jerk, as well as very underwritten.
The flick would’ve been better if it had followed Walken’s excellently played morally-confused, but wry and amusing hired gunman (his courtship of a very young Isabelle Huppert is very sweet), or John Hurt’s morbidly funny intellectual sot.

But it’s a flick where every penny spent is on the screen. It’s beautiful, I remember—every frame worthy of being hung on a wall—and one of the reasons I look forward to seeing the new deluxe DVD release.

25) Favorite pairing of movie sex symbols
Angie Dickinson and Ann-Margaret in Jacques Deray’s underseen The Outside Man.

26) One word that you could say which would instantly evoke images and memories of your favorite movie. (Naming the movie is optional—might be more fun to see if we can guess what it is from the word itself)

27) Name one moment which to you demarcates a significant change, for better or worse, on the landscape of the movies over the last 20 years.
Excessive shakey-cam and blipvert editing becoming the “norm” circa The Rock.

28) Favorite pre-Code talkie
King Kong, then: The Scarlet Empress.

29) Oldest film in your personal collection 
Well, there’s some Muybridge on the shelf...

30) Longest film in your personal collection. 
The Wire.

31) Have your movie collection habits changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?
Aside from having less disposable income, as well as the development of a certain level of maturity where I don’t “need” a DVD of every movie I like,
I’m less likely to buy a film if I think it’s never going to “disappear.”
That is, if I think the film in question will always be available somewhere somehow—there’s no reason to own Avatar when it will always be a copy at either the library, Netflix, wherever…
On the flipside, I bought my copy of Colossus: The Forbin Project because it was a UK-PAL letterboxed version (the US DVD of the film is stupidly in pan-&-scan), and I wasn’t sure when I’d get the chance to buy it again.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, I purchased copies of Walter Hill’s The Driver and Extreme Prejudice because I wasn’t sure how long these would be staying in print.

32) Wackiest, most unlikely “directed by” credit you can name
Otto Preminger for Skidoo (1968)
Stanley Donen for Saturn 3 
Rob Reiner for Misery
David Lynch for Dune
Robert Aldrich for The Frisco Kid

I love Peter Nellhaus’ answer of The Beatniks, a terrible, lunk-headed flick that is much-loved voice-over artist Paul Frees’ solo directorial contribution to cinema.

33) Best documentary you’ve seen in 2012 (made in 2012 or any other year)
The Parking Lot Movie (2010; Meghan Eckman)
Bastards of the Party (2006; Cle Sloan)
Shut Up, Little Man!: And Audio Misadventure (2011)
The Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975 (2010)

34) What’s your favorite “(this star) was almost cast in (this movie)” anecdote?
Keitel in Apocalypse Now;
Followed by Clint, Lee and Eli as the gunmen at the beginning of Once Upon A Time in the West;
Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future;
Slim Pickens as Halloran in The Shining;
Lee Marvin as Quint in Jaws;
Genevieve Bujold as Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager;
And Jack Nicholson as Napoleon in Kubrick’s unmade epic.

35) Program three nights of double bills at a revival theater that might best illuminate your love of the movies

First Night: Classics That I’ve Loved Since Childhood Which Also Inspired Me To Learn More About Film—
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968; Stanley Kubrick) I had my mind blown when I was 10 sitting through this twice at the massive Ziegfeld Theater in NYC during the film’s 1975 re-release. Whew! Still haven’t recovered…

Citizen Kane (1941; Orson Welles) Saw this one in a theater when I was nine!

Second Night: Stretching the Boundaries/American Dadaism
(As an opener, because I miss that theaters don’t show shorts or cartoons anymore:) Tex Avery’s MGM Cartoons, especially “Screwball Squirrel,” “Magical Maestro” and “Bad Luck Blackie.”

Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003; Joe Dante)
Coonskin (1974; Ralph Bakshi)—two flicks guaranteed to blow your mind, as they mess with reality—in very different ways.

Third Night: Inside the Dream Machine
Burden of Dreams (1982; Les Blank)
Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003; Thom Andersen)—the best “making of” documentary, with the ultimate clip-show as sociological document.

36) You have been granted permission to invite any three people, alive or dead, to your house to watch the Oscars. Who are they?
Terry Southern, Joseph Stalin and Robert Mitchum—a fun time is guaranteed!

37) Favorite Mr. Chips. (Careful...)

And that’s that! Whew!

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