Professor Severus Snape's Sorcerer-tastic, Muggalicious Midsummer Movie 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've been playing along for a few installments now, and he even included several of my answers for the last quiz in a series of recap posts earlier this week. Amusingly, he often chose to include the answers where I whined about having to choose between two actors/actresses I didn't know. I'm not sure if he did that because he was amused or if I should be embarrassed or something, but whatever. I really enjoy these quizzes, so now that there's a new one up, I'm going to post my answers here:

1) Second-favorite Stanley Kubrick film.

I'm terrible at picking favorites, so it figures that for a filmmaker where I actually do have a clear favorite (2001), you'd ask for a second-favorite. However, I am able to narrow it down to two: Dr. Strangelove and The Shining.

The Shining

2) Most significant/important/interesting trend in movies over the past decade, for good or evil.

The obvious answer and the thing that came immediately to mind was franchise reboots and remakes (this seems to be happening in the horror genre the most, but it is certainly not limited to that). But when i started thinking about this more, I realized that remakes and franchise reboots aren't all that new... So instead of that, I think one of the biggest changes has been the ascendance of the home theater. The past decade has seen the rather quick adoption of the DVD format, and along with it, steadily increasing quality of home theaters, from surround sound to larger screens, flat screens and HD. Blu-ray has had some setbacks, but it seems to be moving forward well enough these days. With any luck, we'll soon have huge HD on-demand archives available for viewing within the next ten years.

3) Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) or Buffalo Bill Cody (Paul Newman)?

For this quiz, it appears that Mr. Snape is not satisfied with simply forcing me to choose between two actors, he'll limit it to two specific movies, further decreasing the chances that I'll be able to answer with any authority. Thanks a lot. As such, while I wouldn't call Bronco Billy one of Eastwood's better films, I will go with Eastwood anyway because I tend to like his films better than Newman (which isn't to bag on Newman at all, as he has plenty of great films to his credit).

4) Best Film of 1949.

The last quiz had a question about choosing a favorite Raoul Walsh movie, and I mentioned that I had not seen any, but that I put White Heat in my Netflix queue. I managed to watch it between then and now and it turns out that movie was made in 1949, so I'll put that as my answer, because I enjoyed it quite a bit (even though I think I might prefer The Third Man, a common answer to this question).

White Heat: Made it, Ma! Top of the world!

5) Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) or Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore)?

*sigh* I'll go with Jack Benny on this one, I guess.

6) Has the hand-held shaky-cam directorial style become a visual cliche?

It's hard to say, though I do think it is overused and thus some of its potency has been lost. It's worth noting that there are several directors who are still producing excellent work in this style and I don't think it will ever really go away, but at the same time it's not as impactful today as it was, say, 10 years ago. Also, it seems to be a technique that is easy to screw up or abuse, and many films suffer from the choice to use this style. One frustrating trend I'm seeing is to use such shots along with quick-cuts in order to hide the fact that what happened onscreen isn't really possible or is highly unlikely (I'm looking at you, V for Vendetta).

7) What was the first foreign-language film you ever saw?

Well, it's impossible to pinpoint, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was either La Femme Nikita or The Killer when I was in my early teens.

8) Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) or Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre)?

Peter Lorre's Mr. Moto, though I should really see more of both franchises...

9) Favorite World War II drama (1950-1970).

Most of my real favorites fall outside of that date range, but Patton qualifies and would probably be my favorite. On the other hand, I do have a soft spot for Where Eagles Dare. It's a little unevenly paced and perhaps a bit too long, but I love the convoluted espionage twists and turns.

Where Eagles Dare

10) Favorite animal movie star.

Does Chewbacca count? I'm trying to think of other movies I love that feature animals in a prominent role, but I'm drawing a blank. Chewbacca it is.

11) Who or whatever is to blame, name an irresponsible moment in cinema.

I have a hard time condemning actual content in films (or art in general), even films that say things I detest or that trivialize things I find important. I guess I'm just not the censoring type, so the answer to this question would have to do with something irresponsible in the making of a film. The film that immediately comes to mind is Cannibal Holocaust, which is infamous for actual, on-screen killings of animals. Seven animals were killed, apparently only in the name of sensationalism and controversy. I'm sure there are lots of other, similar moments of irresponsible moments in cinema history (another two that come to mind: the helicopter accident that took the life of 3 people in Twilight Zone: The Movie and the untimely death of Brandon Lee on the set of The Crow).

12) Best Film of 1969.

Well, not especially one of my favorite years for movies, but it has both The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, each of which is a pretty great film.

13) Name the last movie you saw theatrically, and also on DVD or Blu-ray.

I saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in the theater last night. Enjoyable, but not as good as the book. On Blu-Ray, I saw Push, which had an interesting premise and was for the most part entertaining, though I don't think the ending was very satisfying. And on DVD, I saw Le doulos, a good crime film by director Jean-Pierre Melville.

Le doulos

14) Second-favorite Robert Altman film.

I have not seen a ton of Altman films (I know, I know, something I need to rectify), but the ones I have seen have all be at about the same level. In the interest of convenience, let's just say The Player.

15) What is your favorite independent outlet for reading about movies, either online or in print?

James Berardinelli's Reelviews is a site I visit quite frequently, and he is often the first reviewer I check out after having seen a film (often before even Ebert). Berardinelli has been seeing and reviewing tons of films every year for the past 15-20 years (this despite a day job and a rather lengthy commute to various theaters). The fact is that his archive of movie reviews is probably more complete than most professional film critics, which is an amazing accomplishment. He's a pioneer of online reviewers, and one of my favorite reads.

16) Who wins? Angela Mao or Meiko Kaji? (Thanks, Peter!)

I can't say as though I'm all that familiar with their filmmographies, but I'll say that Angela Mao wins, due to her appearance in Enter the Dragon. The only movies I recognize in Meiko Kaji's filmography are a couple of Kinji Fukasaku Yakuza flicks...

17) Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) or Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly)?

I'll go with Mona Lisa Vito. Tilly has been an actress that has always grated on me.

18) Favorite movie that features a carnival setting or sequence.

The obvious (and apparently popular) answer is Strangers on a Train. In particular, the first murder scene at the carnival (which you see reflected in a pair of sunglasses). However, in the interest of variety, I'll go with Tod Browning's cult classic Freaks.

19) Best use of high-definition video on the big screen to date.

I'm not sure if Zodiac counts, as I know he filmed some sequences with film, but the pickings are somewhat slim when it comes to this category - it's also hard to find a good, definitive list of films that used HD Video cameras.

20) Favorite movie that is equal parts genre film and a deconstruction or consideration of that same genre.

The movie that immediately comes to mind is Scream. It's a movie that parodies and comments on the slasher genre, then subverts everything about said films. In an unusual twist, this movie seemed to reignite interest in the slasher film, which had been out of style for several years at that point.

21) Best Film of 1979.

I'll go with Alien, which is one of my all time favorites. Another, more inexpicable favorite of mine from 1979 is the cheesy but still effective and creepy Phantasm.

22) Most realistic and/or sincere depiction of small-town life in the movies.

I don't know about realistic, but both It's a Wonderful Life and To Kill a Mockingbird seem like ideal answers to this one. It's a hard choice, as there are tons of movies that take place in small towns, but aren't necessarily about that. More recent favorites include Groundhog Day and State and Main (both of which show small-town life through the lense of city folk).

23) Best horror movie creature (non-giant division).

So this one wound up being very difficult for me. The question itself throws out giant creatures of the Godzilla variety, but I also didn't want to choose something that was primarily human (i.e. vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc...), but that might have been too limiting. In any case, what I ended up choosing was the creature from John Carpenter's 1982 remake of The Thing. Sure, it takes the form of a human for a portion of the film, but there are several sequences where it transforms into bizarre lovecraftian monstrosities. In particular, the sequence when it is discovered in the dog cage:

The Thing

24) Second-favorite Francis Ford Coppola film.

I'm surprised at how easy it was to narrow it down to The Godfather: Part II (with the first installment being my favorite). I also quite like The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, but neither really approaches those first two Godfather movies...

25) Name a one-off movie that could have produced a franchise you would have wanted to see.

This is a difficult one because sequels are often so bad that it's hard to want one for a movie I love. For example, Blade Runner seems ripe for a series (prequel, perhaps), but I don't actually want to see that. Does Serenity count? Because I'd totally be up for more of that. Some interesting choices from other commenters include Zero Effect (a great choice), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (which would make sense given that there are a series of books to pull from), and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (of course!)

26) Favorite sequence from a Brian De Palma film.

My first thought was the CIA computer heist sequence from Mission: Impossible, an interesting homage to (if not outright theft of) Jules Dassin's classic heist films Rififi and Topkapi. For the best sequence from a terrible De Palma film, I'd go with the opening long shot from Snake Eyes... alas, it was all downhill (and fast) from there.

27) Favorite moment in three-strip Technicolor.

The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy first opens the door to Oz and the film transitions from black and white to color (and Pink Floyd starts playing Money).

28) Favorite Alan Smithee film. (Thanks, Peter!)

I have a distinct memory of going out of my way to see Hellraiser: Bloodline in the theater when it came out. There were about 4 people in the theater on the opening weekend (including me and a friend of mine). The movie was, of course, horrible, but I have a soft spot for Clive Barker mythology and the Hellraiser series does have some interesting ideas, so I found myself enjoying some of the non-standard horror moments. The film took place in three main time periods - the past, the present and the future - following several generations of puzzle makers and architects. It was an interesting idea, but the film got bogged down in pedestrian horror sequences that were more boring than scary.

29) Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) or Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau)?

Hey, two movies I've seen and two actors I'm familiar with! As far as the characters go, I'll go with Morris Buttermaker, because everyone loves an underdog.

30) Best post-Crimes and Misdemeanors Woody Allen film.

Do I really have to? I'm not a big fan of Woody Allen to start with, and limiting it to this time period is rough. I guess Bullets Over Broadway.

31) Best Film of 1999.

Back in the day, I had The Insider and Fight Club at the top of my list, and while my opinion of some of the other films on the list has changed some, I still like those movies the best. Oh who am I kidding? The best movie of 1999 is unquestionably Varsity Blues. I don't want... your life.

32) Favorite movie tag line.

This is a no brainer: "In space, no one can hear you scream." from Alien.

Alien

33) Favorite B-movie western.

I think I'm going to have to take a mulligan on this one, unless spaghetti westerns count (and I'm pretty sure they don't).

34) Overall, the author best served by movie adaptations of her or his work.

This is a really challenging question, as I can't think of any author that has unanimously great movies adapated from their work, but there are several interesting candidates. Elmore Leonard has done well at the cinema (Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, and 3:10 to Yuma spring to mind, though there have certainly been some misfires). Stephen King has a lot of awful adaptations, but several good to great films too (Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, Stand By Me, Christine, Carrie, The Dead Zone, etc...). Phillip K Dick seems to be one of the more popular SF authors in Hollywood, with several successful adaptations (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly). Somehow I doubt I'd know the names Mario Puzo or Peter Benchley if it weren't for adaptations of their novels into superior movies, but at the same time, they've only ever really had one or two movies that did so.

35) Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) or Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard)?

Tough one, but I guess I'll go with Susan Vance/Hepburn.

36) Favorite musical cameo in a non-musical movie.

The Dan Band in Old School, a brilliant moment in cinema history. I also thought of Otis Day and the Knights in Animal House, who are great in both scenes.

The Dan Band in Old School

37) Bruno (the character, if you haven’t seen the movie, or the film, if you have): subversive satire or purveyor of stereotyping?

Neither. Or maybe both. Both satire and stereotyping take a back seat to the need to provide shock value, which Bruno does with reckless abandon and limited success. Alas, once the shock wears off, there is little else to say about it.

38) Five film folks, living or deceased, you would love to meet. (Thanks, Rick!)

I had a hard time with this, as I'm not really sure how much I'd really want to meet these folks. I'd probably be reduced to the Chris Farley show style conversation. Kubrick and Hitchcock come immediately to mind, after that it gets a little hazy. Joel and Ethan Coen seem like they'd be awesome to hang out with. And Rosario Dawson, because she sounds awesome (and for more obvious reasons).