Professor Peabody's Hysterical Historical Wayback Spring Break Film Quiz

Every so often, Dennis Cozzalio of the Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule blog posts a long movie quiz filled with tough questions. I did one of these a little while ago and now there's a new one, so here are my answers:

1) Favorite Biopic

Well, I don't especially care for biopics in general, so it's kinda tough to pick a favorite. There are a lot of biopics that I like, but don't love. Goodfellas (if I were forced to pick one, this might be it), Lawrence of Arabia (excellent filmmaking, but the person at the heart of the story remains a bit impenetrable), and Amadeus (which is great because it gets at Mozart through Salieri, an approach I wish more biopics would take) are pretty darn good.

2) Dyan Cannon or Tuesday Weld?

And so we come to the first question where Dennis gives a choice between two people I've never heard of and I pretend to care which one I choose. Well, let's see. Dyan Cannon did some groundbreaking work in Kangaroo Jack, but Tuesday Weld was in Once Upon a Time in America and Thief, so I'll have to go with Tuesday.

3) Best example of science fiction futurism rendered silly by the event of time catching up to the prediction

This is tougher than it sounds, because, well, pretty much any SF movie made before 1970 qualifies, and most after that as well. Also, much of SF isn't really about predicting the future. For example, a common answer to this question is Escape from New York... but do you really think that John Carpenter was predicting that New York would become a futuristic prison? I don't think so. Anyways, let's just go with The Day After Tomorrow, because that really set the bar for verisimilitude.

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

Oh man, I really don't care. By the end of this quiz, I'll probably start replacing these choices with my own. You've been warned.

5) Favorite Raoul Walsh movie?

Well, I haven't seen any of his movies. However, this quiz has inspired me to put White Heat at the top of my Netflix queue.

6) Sophomore film which represents greatest improvement over the director’s debut

A great question. Several answers come immediately to mind, including some of my favorite movies of all time. The Terminator was James Cameron's second film (after Piranha Part Two: The Spawning) and Alien was Ridley Scott's second film (and perhaps his best) coming on the heels of The Duellists (a so-so film). Both had done at least one short film or TV beforehand, but as features go, those are some pretty big leaps.

The Terminator
The Terminator

7) Ice Cube or Mos Def?

I'm mildly surprised to be familiar with each actor's oeuvre. I'll go with Mos Def because he seems to be more consistently good (though he has his debacles), while Ice Cube started off with a bang and has been moving steadily downhill ever since.

8) Favorite movie about the music industry

The most obvious choice is This Is Spinal Tap which is certainly deserving of the title. For a less obvious choice, let's go with The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, if only for that scene when the band is playing and Robocop stops the music, mid-song, because he hears someone crying in the audience. Brilliant.

9) Favorite Looney Tunes short (provide link if possible)

Without a doubt Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, though I do quite enjoy all the Road Runner cartoons as well...

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

This is a tough one because it's hard to gauge how much respect a given director really has these days, especially on the internet. I'm going to go with Johnny To. When it comes to Hong Kong action movies, directors like John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam get all the praise, but To has been nothing short of fantastic and is definitely the best director working in Hong Kong today (for example, take a look at Triangle, where To completely outclasses Hark and Lam). He got some critical praise recently with his Triad Election films, but for the most part, his movies don't get much of a release in the US. Last year's Mad Detective had its widest release at 1 theater, but it's a fantastic film (it made my top 10 of 2008 once I finally got my hands on a copy). For a modern director, he's quite prolific too. Anyway, for a more conventional pick, I might go with Michael Curtiz. Casablanca is certainly a classic, but Curtiz doesn't seem to have quite the following that you'd expect.

Mad Detective

11) Ruth Gordon or Margaret Hamilton?

I guess Ruth Gordon, because of Harold and Maude and Rosemary's Baby. Of course, those are the only two movies I've seen from either Actress, but at least they're good ones...

12) Best filmed adaptation of a play

The one that immediately comes to mind is Glengarry Glen Ross. A couple of other interesting choices I found were 12 Angry Men and A Few Good Men (didn't even realize that was a play.)

13) Buddy Ebsen or Edgar Buchanan?

*sigh* I guess Buddy Ebsen, because, you know, Jed Clampett.

14) Favorite Jean Renoir movie?

Well, I've only seen two of them, but I guess I'll go with La grande illusion. I watched it for a film class in college (one of my two electives). It's not exactly a thrilling film, but it was a good film to watch in an academic setting.

15) Favorite one-word movie title, and why

Jaws, because it it describes the movie and evokes tension without really giving anything away (incidentally, Jaws might even qualify as a "Sophomore film which represents greatest improvement over the director's debut" though it depends on how you consider Spielberg's TV work, particularly Duel)

16) Ernest Thesiger or Basil Rathbone?

I don't know, Basil Rathbone? It's a cool name and he was apparently Sherlock Holmes or something.

17) Summer movies—your highest and lowest expectations

Well, my highest expectations would probably go to Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino movies never seem like they'll be very good, but then I get to the theater and am usually blown away in one way or another. Some of the casting choices give me pause though (in particular, Eli Roth and maybe even Brad Pitt, though I don't mind either as much as some people...) And for low expecations, I'll go with the 80s toy franchise duo of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. For a full list of upcoming movies I want to see even though I know they'll suck, check out the bottom of this post... (incidentally, I was very wrong on at least one of those picks, probably more).

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?

That's a tough one. It'd probably one of the old classic Disney movies, perhaps a Pixar movie or even some Miyazaki (for a young child, I think My Neighbor Totoro would probably work best). If my child is particularly brilliant, perhaps I'll start them on Star Wars. But I just know it will be something like Dora The Explorer: The Movie.

19) L.Q. Jones or Strother Martin

Once again, I've never heard of either of these. However, I'll go with L.Q. Jones, not because he was in The Wild Bunch, but because he was in Lone Wolf McQuade and he steals every scene he's in...

L.Q. Jones in Lone Wolf McQuade
L.Q. Jones in Lone Wolf McQuade

20) Movie most recently seen in theaters? On DVD/Blu-ray?

In theaters, I saw a sneak preview of Star Trek (and liked it a lot). On DVD, I watched Freddy vs. Jason, ending my recent Friday the 13th Marathon, even though the movie ended up being more of a Freddy movie than a Jason movie (and yes, it's bad, like all those movies). On Blu-Ray, I saw Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter which was fine, I guess, but lacks context. The disc also had a fake documentary about Behind the Hood which was pretty good. Ultimately, rereading the book was more worthwhile.

21) Do you see more movies theatrically or at home? Why?

At home. Mostly because there are more movies available outside of theaters than inside theaters. Thanks to Netflix and Hulu and other stuff, there's just more to see and it's also more convenient and cheaper.

22) Name an award-worthy comic performance that was completely ignored by Oscar and his pals.

Weird Science was just on tv and I was reminded of Dylan Kidd's inspired choice for best female comedic performance of all time on an episode of Filmspotting: Kelly LeBrock as the fantasy girl, Lisa. She is indeed brilliant in that film and of course, she was not nominated. It's a choice I probably never would have thought of, but it's spot on. It's a shame that she never went on to do much else. I blame Steven Seagal.

23) Zac Efron & Vanessa Hudgens or Robert Pattinson & Kristen Stewart

Is this a joke? I suppose Kristen Stewart shows some promise (I thought she was good in Adventureland)

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)

Repeating myself: Grave of the Fireflies, for reasons belabored in that post. I still find it odd that most people find this film so sad... I found it infuriating. But then, both of those traits make it difficult to watch. It is an exceptional film though, and it's one of those films that you could pull out to traumatize people who think that you can't tell real stories with animation. Incidentally, it's kinda cruel to point to that AV Club article, as it's a pretty comprehensive list... Most of the stuff I considered shows up there.

25) Beyonce Knowles or Jennifer Hudson?

I never saw Dreamgirls... and don't really want to, but Beyonce.

26) Favorite Robert Mitchum movie?

Out of the Past, though it's not like I've seen a ton of Mitchum movies and I'm not particularly in love with that one...

27) Favorite movie featuring a ‘60s musical group that is not either the Beatles or the Monkees

I got nothing here.

28) Maria Ouspenskaya or Una O’Connor Kane Hodder or Derek Mears?

Ok, I warned you. I'm overriding Dennis' question and replacing it with my own. The funny thing is that I don't really have a good answer. Kane Hodder, I guess. Though Derek Mears has potential. This is one that needs to be revisited after the next few movies come out.

29) Favorite Vincent Price movie?

I am woefully deficient in my Vincent Price knowledge. I've only seen a couple. For now, I'll say The Abominable Dr. Phibes because I saw it recently and was struck by how much some recent films seem to take from it (notably Se7en and Saw). I've already placed a number of Vincent Price movies in my Netflix queue, basing some of my choices on the selections of Dennis' readers.

30) Name a movie currently flying under the radar that is deserving of rabid cult status.

Once again, it's sometimes difficult to tell when something is flying under the radar, especially on the internet where there can be a dedicated following to even the most obscure of movies, but I figure my top 10s are a good place to start (incidentally, there's no way to narrow this down to 1 movie). From 2008, we've got Teeth, The Bank Job, Mad Detective, Timecrimes, Ladrón Que Roba a Ladrón, The Promotion, and Spiral. A good pick from 2007 that's making the rounds on cable right now is Stardust and a good pick from 2006 would be James Gunn's excellent Slither. There are some movies I've heard of that still haven't been released but that sound awesome, notably Trick 'r Treat. I could probably list off a dozen others from the past few years, but I'll leave it at that.

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

More people I haven't heard of, though at the risk of making myself out to be more of a fan of The Beverly Hillbillies than I actually am, I'll have to go with Granny.

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.)

This is one of those questions that is so broad that almost anything could qualify, to the point where I'm having trouble coming up with a single example.

33) Elliot Gould or Donald Sutherland?

Finally, a choice between two people where I've seen a couple movies featuring each. I'll have to go with Donald Sutherland for this one, because he did some fine work when he was younger and as a reader at Dennis' site notes, "he's made an excellent transition into elder statesman, whereas Gould is really off my radar."

34) Best performance by a director in an acting role

Another tough one because there are a lot to choose from. The obvious choice is Orson Welles in Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil (or even in a movie he didn't direct, like The Third Man), but if Clint Eastwood counts, I'd say he was damn good in Unforgiven.

35) Favorite Barbara Stanwyck movie?

Double Indemnity, though that may be the only movie of hers that I've seen...

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 don't know that there's a single answer for this one, but history is an obvious choice, even if I don't read that much of it. I do read a lot about technology and the like, which I find interesting and illuminating. And lately, I've been reading a lot about video games, if that counts.