Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Professor Hubert Farnsworth's Only Slightly Futuristic Holiday Movie Quiz
Good news everybody! Dennis Cozzalio of the Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule blog has posted another of his famous movie quizes, and as always, I'm excited to provide my answers. Previous installments answering questions from David Huxley, Professor Fate, Professor Russell Johnson, Dr. Smith, Professor Peabody, and Professor Severus Snape are also available... But now, here are my answers to Professor Farnsworth:
1) Best Movie of 2010
Well, I'm still catching up on a lot of 2010 releases and I'm terrible at picking favorites, but as of right now, I'll have to go with the relatively boring choice of The Social Network or Inception. Nevertheless, those are the two movies I connected with the most this year.
2) Second-favorite Roman Polanski Movie
These days I find it hard to separate the "fugitive child rapist" part from the "great filmmaker" part of Polanski, but I guess I'll have to go with Rosemary's Baby as my second favorite.
3) Jason Statham or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Well, they both make some rather craptacular films, but Statham seems to actually have a few really good films to his credit. Plus, I hate professional wrestling.
4) Favorite movie that could be classified as a genre hybrid
I thought this would be a lot harder, but the answer came pretty quickly: Alien. The two most prominent genres being blended here are science fiction and horror, and it's a superb example of both genres.
5) How important is foreknowledge of a film’s production history? Should it factor into one’s reaction to a film?
I've been thinking a lot about film critics lately. In particular, the age old question of why critics like different movies than mainstream audiences. Without going into too much detail, I think the primary differentiator is the knowledge and appreciation of context. For instance, in order to truly enjoy a movie made a hundred years ago, you have to have some knowledge of what it was like to live back then and also be aware of the limitations of film at the time, and so on. Indeed, it might even be worthwhile to look into what effects the film had on society at large. I suppose someone without that cultural and historical context can still enjoy the film, but not as deeply as someone who has studied all those external factors. Now, "foreknowledge of a film's production history" is but a narrow part of a film's context, but it's certainly relevant. Whether or not it "should" factor into one's reaction is almost irrelevant. All of one's knowledge factors into one's reaction to a film. What one should do, however, is be aware of this fact. Context is not limited to the direct knowledge of the film itself, but all knowledge. One of the reasons people enjoy rewatching movies is that while the movies don't change, we do, and so rewatching a film involves incorporating new knowledge and perspectives, which can still be illuminating. So I'd say it's important, that it should factor into one's reaction, and that as long as one acknowledges their perspective, it's probably a good thing.
6) William Powell & Myrna Loy or Cary Grant & Irene Dunne
Not particularly familiar with the pairings, but Cary Grant & Irene Dunne, because I said so.
7) Best Actor of 2010
My first instinct is James Franco for 127 Hours. However, a few others popped into my head: Christian Bale in The Fighter, Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, and maybe a few others. Also, I haven't seen a few films with contenders, like The King's Speech. But I'll stick with my instinct on this one for now.
8) Most important lesson learned from the past decade of watching movies
I think the aforementioned recognition of the role and importance of context in our reactions to movies is a big one. A lot of our reactions to films are colored more by context than I think we care to admit. Luckily, acknowledging that is the first step towards getting a more complete understanding of film.
9) Last movie seen (DVD/Blu-ray/theater)
In theaters, it was True Grit, which was great. I was a little worried about Jeff Bridges' voice in the trailer. Something sounded so off, so manufactured about it. But in the context of the film, it was fine. And the Coens, as usual, are fantastic at this whole moviemaking thing.
On Blu-Ray, it was Easy A, which was breezy, clever, and fun. Much better than expected!
On DVD, it was Silent Night, Bloody Night. Among the not-so-crowded holiday horror sub-genre, it's near the top, though I think it's also a bit overrated.
Also, I think it's time to add a new option to the list: Netflix Watch Instantly (or, at least, streaming). I'll go first, the last thing I saw on Netflix streaming was Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, an interesting look at someone I never thought much about (despite the fact that she's impacted my professional life in some ways).
10) Most appropriate punishment for director Tom Six
I don't think he necessarily deserves punishment, but the ironic thing to do would be to make him the middle piece, if you know what I mean.
11) Best under-the-radar movie almost no one else has had the chance to see
This is a difficult question because the reason "almost no one else has had the chance to see" something is that it didn't get a very wide release and/or isn't available on DVD. Unfortunately, that's almost as likely to affect me as it is anyone else! However, there are a few movies I've seen that might qualify. The first one that came to mind was Playing Columbine, a documentary about video games and their impact on society. I was really taken with this movie when I saw it at the Philadelphia Film Festival a few years ago, but it never really got a release and its DVD is not widely available (it's not even available on Netflix, though you can buy one for $35 from their website), so "almost no one else has had the chance to see" it. I don't know that it's worth the price of the DVD, but if you get a chance to see it and you like video games (heck, even if you don't), it's well worth watching.
12) Sheree North or Angie Dickinson
Angie Dickinson, because, come on, Rio Bravo. Then again, Sheree North is Babs Kramer. But Dickinson.
13) Favorite nakedly autobiographical movie
Though it certainly didn't happen the way it was portrayed on screen, I'll go with Adaptation. If you require something more traditional, I guess you'd have to go with Almost Famous.
14) Movie which best evokes a specific real-life place
I'm finding this one extremely difficult to answer. The first thing I thought of was the recent spate of Boston-set films that seem to portray the gritty underbelly of the town... but then, I've only been to Boston a few times and I'm certainly not up to speed on their criminal undergrounds. Next, I thought of 127 Hours because I saw that recently and it also has a very well established sense of space and location. I felt like I knew the geography of the area despite never having been there before. I don't think any of those are really good answers to this question, but that's what I came up with.
15) Best Director of 2010
Given my choice for best movie, the obvious answer would be David Fincher. The Coen Brothers probably deserve some consideration as well as a few others, but Fincher seems to take the cake.
16) Second-favorite Farrelly Brothers Movie
Hmmm, well, I guess it would have to be There's Something About Mary, though I do have a soft spot for Kingpin.
17) Favorite holiday movie
I go back and forth between the two classics: It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. If forced to choose, I guess I'd go with Capra's masterpiece, but again, they're both classics.
18) Best Actress of 2010
The first actress that came to mind was Noomi Rapace for her performances in the Millenium trilogy movies from Sweden, but then Natalie Portman was also great in Black Swan, as was Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone. Heck, maybe even Emma Stone in Easy A. But as with the actors, I'll stick with my instinct on this one...
19) Joe Don Baker or Bo Svenson
At first, I thought: how could this not be Joe Don Baker. But when I look them up on IMDB, I notice that Svenson is in a ton of movies I like. As bit parts, sure, but still. I'll stick with Joe Don Baker though, as he was my first instinct...
20) Of those notable figures in the world of the movies who died in 2010, name the one you’ll miss the most
I think I'll go with what has to be a common answer to this one: Leslie Nielsen.
21) Think of a movie with a notable musical score and describe what it might feel like without that accompaniment.
The first thing that came to mind was the soundtrack to John Carpenter's classic Halloween. Part of the reason I'm choosing this one is because the story of how the music was created is famously due to the fact that an executive saw an early cut of the film without music and thought it wasn't scary. I've actually written about this before, quoting Carpenter himself:
I screened the final cut minus sound effects and music, for a young executive from 20th Century-Fox (I was interviewing for another possible directing job). She wasn’t scared at all. I then became determined to "save it with the music."And save it he did. Another example from the world of horror would be John Williams' score for Jaws, which incorporates a long build-up of tension that is eventually released in horror.
22) Best Screenplay of 2010
So Aaron Sorkin's work on The Social Network is certainly worth consideration here, but I'm going to go with Inception. You'll note that I didn't include Christopher Nolan in my discussion of best director, and I think that's because he's more notable as a writer than as a director. It's the ideas and storytelling that he excels at. I suppose you could argue that Inception is overly dependent on exposition and info-dumps, but I think the puzzle-like structure of the plot is an achievement in itself.
23) Movie You Feel Most Evangelistic About Right Now
Well, if someone wanted a suggestion for something in theaters now, I'd suggest True Grit. If they have Netflix, I'd suggest Exit Through the Gift Shop (a documentary about street art, with a twist) or, probably the most obscure movie here, Blood Into Wine (a documentary about wine-makers in Arizona, including Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan).
24) Worst/funniest movie accent ever
John Malkovich's ridiculously over-the-top performance as Teddy KGB in Rounders features the absolute worst/funniest accent ever. "Mr. Son of a bitch, let's play some cards!"
25) Best Cinematography of 2010
Roger Deakins' work in True Grit comes to mind.
26) Olivia Wilde or Gemma Arterton
My first thought was Olivia Wilde, but that's only because I know who she is. It turns out that I knew Gemma Arterton too, but not as well. Neither has a particularly impressive resume and I like them both, so I'll stick with my first instinct (though Arterton was my favorite part of the horrible Quantum of Solace, and she wasn't even the main Bond girl).
27) Name the three best movies you saw for the first time in 2010 (Thanks, Larry!)
Excluding 2010 releases (since we're already talking a lot about them in this quiz): The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, and Blood and Black Lace. Honestly, it was a bit of a slow year for me in terms of older films and I didn't make it very far on my list of the Greatest Movies I've Never Seen. Ohh, I forgot about The Birds - that should definitely be on this list...
28) Best romantic movie couple of 2010
Love and Other Drugs comes to mind. It's a pretty cliched film, but the two leads have a great chemistry together. Plus, nudity.
29) Favorite shock/surprise ending
Ever? That's incredibly difficult. I suppose I have to acknowledge Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, but I think that's mostly due to the fact that I was so young and impressionable at the time. Psycho has a pretty great ending that actually managed to surprise my jaded teen self... And I have to admit that Lone Star caught me completely off-guard. Se7en has a good one, and while I know a lot of people don't like it, I do think The Usual Suspects has a fantastic twist ending. I could keep going and never actually reach a favorite.
30) Best cinematic reason to have stayed home and read a book in 2010
Well, I don't need a cinematic reason to read a book, but I suppose the craptacular first half of the year (which, as I'm discovering on DVD/BD/Netflix, wasn't as craptacular as I thught) was a pretty good reason to stay home. Then again, the worst movie I saw in theaters this year came out relatively recently: Skyline (which is absolutely terrible, though I have to admit that I love the gloriously stupid ending).
31) Movies in 2011 could make me much happier if they’d only _______________
Uh, be better? Good movies are always welcome. I suppose we could do with less 3D BS as well.
Well, there you have it.
Posted by Mark on December 29, 2010 at 01:46 PM .: link :.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Hope everyone had a great holiday, here's a few more links for your enjoyment:
Posted by Mark on December 26, 2010 at 05:49 PM .: link :.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Early Christian history shows a lot of attempts by Church leaders to attract followers by setting their holidays to coincide with existing festivals and celebrations. In the case of Christmas, the Church chose December 25, as it coincides with pagan winter solstice festivals that were popular in most cultures. As such, most of the folklore surrounding Christmas is an amalgam of both Christian and Pagan traditions. Examples include Christmas trees, mistletoe, and, of course, Santa Claus.
Santa Claus, as we know him, can largely be traced back to the poem A Visit From Saint Nicholas, published in 1823 and written by Clement Clarke Moore. However, Moore was pulling from a long tradition of Christmas gift givers, which were, in themselves, pulling from older pagan traditions. And while our current vision of Santa is jolly, many of the precursors are more varied. We all know about the "naughty or nice list", but we generally shy away from graphic descriptions of what happens to the naughty. Many older traditions did not. Case in point, the Finnish "Joulupukki", which translates to "Yule Buck" or "Yule Goat".
One of the reasons pagan cultures chose to celebrate the Winter solstice is that the shortest days of the year are in December, and once you reach the solstice, the days start to get longer again. In Finland, these festivals would celebrate the return of the daylight and would often feature a personification of the evil spirits that were leaving as the days got longer. These spirits were often wore goat skins and horns and demanded presents. It was a loathsome creature, and it frightened children (which parents no doubt used to their advantage, getting their kids to act nice). Once the Christian traditions reached Finland though, this somehow got flipped around, with the spirits now benevolent and delivering presents instead of wreaking havoc.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a new Finnish movie that wonders what would happen if we discovered the original "Joulupukki". According to the research of the film's main character, young Pietari, the original Santa was not a very pleasant character, so villagers tricked him into freezing water, then covered the resulting ice cube in sawdust and so many rocks that they created a new mountain. Cut to present day, and a crazy American businessman is attempting to find the real Santa, and is excavating a nearby mountain, much to the dismay of local Reindeer ranchers. Pretty soon, their Reindeer show up dead and children start to go missing.
This is not your typical holiday movie, nor even is it your typical holiday horror film, a subgenre I've been exploring over the past few years. It takes a while to get going and while I enjoyed the ending, it was a bit of an anti-climax, as you never really get to see the true horrific power of Santa (on the other hand, I do wonder if that sort of explicit explanation would lose something)... That being said, the film has a dark, dry sense of humor that isn't quite explicit, but which made me laugh out loud several times. This is the debut film of writer/director Jalmari Helander, and it's clear that he has a good eye for interesting visuals and while he does not resort to many horror tropes, he does manage some creepifying visuals, such as the weird wooden dolls that Santa's little helpers leave behind while they're kidnapping naughty children or, heck, even Santa's little helpers themselves.
The ending of the film escalates into the absurd, but in an entertaining and welcome way. My favorite part was when young Pietari suddenly turns into an 80s action hero and starts dropping one liners like "It's either me or Santa. I suggest Santa." (OK, fine, that was 2 lines, but still.) I'm still not entirely sure what to make of the epilogue, though it's still a wonderfully absurd notion.
In the end, I don't know that this is up there with the Christmas horror classics like Black Christmas, but it's probably still an upper tier picture, and it's well worth a watch for fans of dark holiday shenanigans. ***
Update: After the movie, I headed over to the local beer bar, Eulogy, and had a nice Austrian beer called Samichlaus. Guess what that translates to.
Posted by Mark on December 22, 2010 at 08:29 PM .: link :.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Holiday Link Dump
It's that time of year, enjoy:
Update: Added some links...
Posted by Mark on December 19, 2010 at 08:08 PM .: link :.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The 2010 Egg Nog Tasting
Well, it appears that I've missed the opportunity to partake in the annual 12 Days of Christmas Posting, but while I won't be posting every day like I've done the past few years, I'll still try to make some holiday posts. I'll start with the annual family egg nog tasting. I've documented this for the past few years, and this year started out in similar fashion, with 13 different varieties of eggnog:
For reference, these are the eggnogs pictured (from left to right):
When it came to judging for "Best Overall Eggnog", things were a little more interesting. This year's tasting started out in our traditional, completely subjective manner, but then we narrowed the field down to 5 finalists (Wawa, Swiss Farms, Wegman's, Upstate Farms, and Target), and prepared a blind tasting methodology where our panel of 6 judges would rate each eggnog on Taste, Appearance and Viscosity.
The cups on the right were the "palate cleansers" and consisted of Rice Dream Rice Nog. It was surprisingly effective. Now, don't get me wrong, this test was still far from scientific, but the methodology was much more thorough this year... and yet, we came out with similar results! Last year, there was a tie between Wawa and Swiss Farms Egg Nog. This year, Swiss Farms takes home the prize, but it only nudged out Wawa by a small margin.
The best tasting note of the day came from my sister-in-law's sister, who claimed that Southern Comfort Traditional Eggnog (I think) tasted like suntan lotion. Once she said it, I couldn't not taste the suntan lotion. Disgusting. Anyway, it was a good year, and I'm looking forward to next year.
Posted by Mark on December 15, 2010 at 07:49 PM .: link :.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
2010 Catchup Progress
So the great 2010 Movie Catchup has proceeded quite well so far and while there are still many things I've yet to see, I've made good progress:
Posted by Mark on December 12, 2010 at 04:21 PM .: link :.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
2010 Movie Catchup
So the general consensus seems to be that 2010 hasn't been a particularly good year for movies... and for the first half of the year, I was definitely in agreement. Things have turned around a bit since then, though, and it's looking like some of the smaller films from earlier in the year are being released on DVD/BD around now. Normally, I've got a ton of current-year movies under my belt by this time in the year - usually around 60-70. When I finished off the 6 Weeks of Halloween horror movie marathon last month, I took a loot at my list and saw about 30 movies from 2010. So all throughout November, I've been playing catchup on 2010 movies. I've made some headway, but there's still quite a few movies I want to catch up with before I put together the annual awards and top 10. So let's start with new movies that are coming out in December:
Posted by Mark on December 08, 2010 at 08:51 PM .: link :.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
I went to a football game today and am still thawing out, so here are a few links:
Posted by Mark on December 05, 2010 at 07:24 PM .: link :.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Insert Spam Pun Here
So I upgraded Movable Type about two months ago, and for the most part, I think the version I'm using right now is great. However, it quickly became clear that my preferred spam fighting solution, CCode, was not working correctly, and indeed, it was messing up all of the fancy new authentication methods that MT was implementing. So I had to remove that and update the comment form code to reflect the new functionality. That seemed to go swimmingly, but due to a combination of factors, I've discovered a veritable plethora of spam comments pouring into my system.
The way it was set up was that anonymous comments end up being stored in "pending" status, meaning that I need to approve it before it shows up on the site. The tricky part there is that the default way MT displays comments when I log in doesn't register "pending" comments, so I never noticed that the spambots were quickly rediscovering my blog and having their way with my comment system.
Now, this isn't and hasn't ever been a particularly popular blog, so it's not uncommon to see a lack of comments. That being said, I began to get a bit suspicious after over a month with no comments. So I took a closer look and found 11,000 pending comments in the system. The grand majority of these were placed in the past couple of weeks, and looking at the comments shows an interesting progression from the time I upgraded to the present. At first, only a couple of comments were submitted per day, then a few more, then a dozen, then a few dozen, then hundreds, and recently it's been in the thousands. So a few hours ago, I turned off anonymous comments, which effectively muted the spam, but which I suppose also presents more of a hurdle towards casual or new readers.
All of which is to say that if you submitted a comment in the past month or two, it may be deleted in the great purge I'm about to implement here. Sorry about that. Also, you may see some funkiness happening with the comment forms below. If you have a Google or Yahoo account (among a few others), you should be able to use that to comment for now. I'm trying to figure out a way to reinstate anonymous commenting without resorting to CAPTCHAs or other intrusive methods, but it will most likely be slow going.
In any case, I'll leave you with my favorite piece of spam from this latest attack:
I tried to publish a comment previously, but it has not shown up. I think your spam filter may be broken?This would be hysterical if it wasn't so annoying...
Posted by Mark on December 02, 2010 at 08:29 PM .: link :.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Opera 11 Beta
I'm one of the few people that actually uses Opera to do the grand majority of my web browsing. In recent years, I've been using Firefox more, especially for web development purposes (it's hard to beat the Firebug/Web Dev Toolbar combo - Opera has a tool called Dragonfly that's decent, but not quite as good). A few years ago, I wrote a comparison of Firefox and Opera across 8 categories, and it came out a tie. The biggest advantage that Opera had was it's usability and easy of use. On the other hand, Firefox's strength was its extensibility, something that Opera never fully embraced. Until now!
Opera recently released a beta of their next version, and I've been using it this week. It's looking like an excellent browser, with some big improvements over previous versions:
Posted by Mark on December 01, 2010 at 08:30 PM .: link :.
Where am I?
This page contains entries posted to the Kaedrin Weblog in December 2010.
Kaedrin Beer Blog
12 Days of Christmas
2006 Movie Awards
2007 Movie Awards
2008 Movie Awards
2009 Movie Awards
2010 Movie Awards
2011 Fantastic Fest
2011 Movie Awards
2012 Movie Awards
2013 Movie Awards
2014 Movie Awards
6 Weeks of Halloween
Arts & Letters
Computers & Internet
Disgruntled, Freakish Reflections
Philadelphia Film Festival 2006
Philadelphia Film Festival 2008
Philadelphia Film Festival 2009
Philadelphia Film Festival 2010
Science & Technology
Security & Intelligence
The Dark Tower
Weird Book of the Week
Weird Movie of the Week
Copyright © 1999 - 2012 by Mark Ciocco.