Professor David Huxley’s Laborious, Licentious Spotted-Leopard Labor Day Film Quiz

I’m a few weeks late to the party, but Dennis Cozzalio of the Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule blog has posted another movie quiz. Previous installments answering questions from Professor Fate, Professor Russell Johnson, Dr. Smith, Professor Peabody, and Professor Severus Snape are also available… But now, here are my answers to Professor Huxley:

1) Classic film you most want to experience that has so far eluded you.

The last film quiz had a similar question… and sadly, I still have not watched The Apartment. I don’t really have a good excuse for this one either.

2) Greatest Criterion DVD/Blu-ray release ever

This is a difficult question, seeing as though I’ve probably only seen somewhere around 10% of the movies in the Criterion Collection (and many of the ones I have seen haven’t necessarily been the Criterion version), but the first thing that came to mind was the Ultimate Three-Disc Special Edition Box Set of Brazil. I think a big part of this is that, at the time, Criterion was the only company putting out DVD releases this thorough, and this one blew me away. It featured two versions of the film – Gilliam’s directors cut and the “Love Conquers All” version – and an exhaustive series of special features chronicling the film’s production and the studio meddling with the US release that ultimately lead to the creation of a new version of the film that had a happy ending. This sort of treatment isn’t that unusual today, but back then, it was, and it was all the more notable because it was created in service of a relatively obscure cult film.

3) The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon?

I had to rub my eyes for a second because these questions asking us to pick between two movies (or actors/actresses) usually feature at least one option that I’m not at all familiar with. In this case, I’ve actually seen both films (it’s been a few years, but I’ve definitely seen both)… yet I’m still having trouble picking. For now, I’ll say The Big Sleep, though it’s not like I have anything against The Maltese Falcon.

4) Jason Bateman or Paul Rudd?

Wow, two in a row where I know what you’re asking about. It’s another tough one, but for now I’ll have to go with Paul Rudd, though Bateman has been coming on strong lately.

5) Best mother/child (male or female) movie star combo

The only thing I could really come up with here is Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis, which appears to be a pretty common (i.e. boring) answer to this question…

6) Who are the Robert Mitchums and Ida Lupinos among working movie actors? Do modern parallels to such masculine and no-nonsense feminine stars even exist? If not, why not?

I’m at a bit of a loss here. I’m no expert on his filmography, but it’s not like Mitchum was surrounded by contemporaries who did what he did, and I can’t really think of anyone working today that comes close either. The closest I can come is Clint Eastwood, but he’s still quite a bit different (interestingly, I was wondering the other day if any younger actors could fill Eastwood’s type of role these days?). I have to admit that I’m not at all familiar with Ida Lupino, but when it comes to no-nonsense actresses, someone in the comments of the SLIFR thread mentioned Christina Hendricks. I guess that’s cheating, though, as she’s more of a TV star. No-nonsense characters seem to be less common these days though, so perhaps that could account for the lack of actors taking on that sort of role (or being type-cast as that sort of character).

7) Favorite Preston Sturges movie

The Lady Eve (these questions are easy when you’ve only seen one film in a director’s filmography!).

8) Odette Yustman or Mary Elizabeth Winstead?

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as she’s been in a lot of decent movies already (and not so decent movies that I don’t really mind). The most notably thing Odette Yustman has been in for me is Fallout 3, where she did voice acting for the Overseer’s daughter (she shot me down).

9) Is there a movie that if you found out a partner or love interest loved (or didn’t love) would qualify as a Relationship Deal Breaker?

I always find stories about this amusing, but I can’t think of a single film that would ever provoke this kind of reaction in me. Perhaps if I hated every film she liked, there might be a problem, but in that case, I suspect it would really just be symptomatic of deeper problems.

10) Favorite DVD commentary

The tricky part about commentaries is that the best commentaries are usually done for bad movies. There’s no pressure to defend poor choices or mistakes, and thus the filmmakers tend to be a little more comfortable and honest about the production. The biggest problem with this is that you actually have to watch bad movies in order to get to these types of commentaries. For instance, I’ve heard that Joel Schumacher’s commentary for Batman & Robin is fantastic because he doesn’t really hold back and openly admits mistakes and problems with the production. I have not heard the entire commentary, but I saw a clip once where he admitted to redesigning the batmobile in order to sell more toys (or some such). That’s not my answer though – my pick would be Kevin Smith’s (and the rest of the cast’s) commentary on Mallrats. All of Smith’s commentaries are entertaining, but the failure of this movie at the box office adds that extra dimension that can make a commentary great. You get lots of moments between friends, like when Smith and others berate Affleck for liking Malcolm in the Middle, but you also get stories about how the marketing failed the movie and how studio execs convinced Smith to tone down some of his more raunchy humor. It’s excellent stuff. (I’d love to see a commentary on Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but Smith was apparently so distraught at some of the behind the scenes wranglings that he didn’t want to do one – hopefully once he gets some time and movies behind him, he can revisit this…)

11) Movies most recently seen on DVD, Blu-ray and theatrically

On DVD, it was Don’t Torture a Duckling, Lucio Fulci’s disturbing Giallo (part of my 6WH horror movie marathon). It was a decent film with a few standout sequences, but it doesn’t really compare to the top tier of Giallos.

On Blu-Ray, it was Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, a self-aware, neo-slasher mock-documentary. It features some interesting components and puts a name to the many conventions of the genre, though the only really new terminology that’s coined is the concept of an “Ahab” (basically, in the context of slashers, the primary example of an Ahab would be Dr. Loomis from the Halloween films). Ultimately it’s not a great film, but it was an entertaining enough watch.

In theaters, it was The Town, Ben Affleck’s surprisingly strong sophomore effort as director. It’s not going to win awards like Gone Baby Gone, but it’s still a solid film. I wish more films like this were made and I’d be more than happy if Affleck spent the rest of his career putting out little crime thrillers set in Boston.

12) Dirk Bogarde or Alan Bates?

Ah, there we go! I’m not especially familiar with either of these actors, but I guess I’d give it to Alan Bates, as I’ve actually seen a few of his movies.

13) Favorite DVD extra

Well, I’ve already given two of my favorite examples (the Behind the Scenes documentaries about Brazil and the Love Conquers All version of the film, and Kevin Smith’s commentary for Mallrats…) so I’m having trouble picking another favorite. Kevin Smith does have some other great special features, like the (seemingly) 2 hours of deleted scenes (with introductions) from Dogma. There are some interesting making-of documentaries on my copy of The Terminator and The Thing. Alien and Aliens also have pretty good special features. But now we’re just getting into movies I like! Someone in the comments at SLIFR mentioned the Fruity Oaty Bars feature from Serenity, which I find funny (both because it warranted a special feature on the DVD and because someone actually picked it as their favorite extra). In a more general sense, my favorite extra feature is a commentary track (especially if done well!)

14) Brian De Palma’s Scarface— yes or no?

Yes. Though I certainly don’t get the absolute worship the film receives, it is a reasonably well done movie.

15) Best comic moment from a horror film that is not a horror comedy (Young Frankenstein, Love At First Bite, et al.)

The answer here is obviously from Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI. I’ll chose the title sequence where the camera zooms into Jason’s eye, where you then see Jason sashay accross the screen, James Bond style, and swing his trusty machete, filling the screen with blood that eventually spells out the title. I laughed for a solid ten minutes when I revisited the film recently, not remembering that this film was so self-aware. There are several other choices in the film, such as a couple’s attempt to bribe Jason with an American Express card, the fact that one of the children in the camp is reading Jean Paul Sartre’s No Exit, and the way Jason holds a dismembered arm and cocks his head, as if thinking “Huh, his arm came off. Will wonders never cease.” I suppose you could make an argument that this movie is a horror comedy, but most of the film retains the typical, earnest slasher movie style, so I think it counts (and there are a few legitimately creepifying moments, though maybe that’s just nostalgic remnants of my childhood poking through). There are actually a bunch of other movies I considered for this, including Evil Dead 2, Dead Alive, Re-Animator, Tremors, and An American Werewolf in London (though again, you might consider at least some of those to be horror/comedies)…

16) Jane Birkin or Edwige Fenech?

I got nothing.

17) Favorite Wong Kar-wai movie

I have to admit that I’m not a particularly huge Wong Kar-wai fan, so I’ve not seen a lot of his films. Of the ones I’ve seen, I’d say In the Mood for Love, which does have a legitimately interesting premise.

18) Best horrific moment from a comedy that is not a horror comedy

This one was a lot harder than question 15… Does Raising Arizona count as a comedy? I remember finding The Lone Biker of the Apocalypse a bit creepy when I was younger… I guess another option would be the end of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

19) From 2010, a specific example of what movies are doing right…

I loved Inception and hope its success augurs for more of the same. Even if it’s just a few new movies that are not based on existing properties, I think that’d be a win. I’m not tremendously confident of that, but it’d be nice. Another thing that seems to be going well is the concept of digital distribution. I’ve caught a few movies on IFC On Demand, which means that I can watch some of those hard to find movies without even leaving home (even if it’s playing in Philly, this means I can avoid the traffic and the parking, etc…)

20) Ryan Reynolds or Chris Evans?

Hey, two more people I know. This must be a record. Anyway, I guess I’d probably go with Chris Evans, as he seems to make more interesting choices.

21) Speculate about the future of online film writing. What’s next?

I’m not sure. Everything seems to be getting smaller. Perhaps film critics who post exclusively on twitter or some other sort of micro-blogging format. Or the other direction: the return of long-form film criticism. Ultimately, I don’t think much will change. Old school outlets and criticism will continue to lose ground to the seemingly endless throngs of online critics who work for peanuts (if that).

22) Roger Livesey or David Farrar?

Filmspotting has been doing a Powell-Pressburger marathon, and so they’ve been talking about these two guys… but I haven’t seen either of them, so I can’t really pick.

23) Best father/child (male or female) movie star combo

The first that comes to mind is Kirk and Michael Douglas, which I guess is a boring answer, but the only others I can think of are also boring. Given my answer to the mother/child question, I suppose I could also go with Tony Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis, just for the sake of symmetry.

24) Favorite Freddie Francis movie (as Director)

Not tremendously familiar with his work, but I guess I’ll go with Tales from the Crypt. He seems to have a more impressive resume as a cinematographer than as a director.

25) Bringing Up Baby or The Awful Truth?

Seeing as though I’ve only seen one of these, I’ve got Bringing Up Baby by default.

26) Tina Fey or Kristen Wiig?

I guess I’ll go with Tina Fey on this one, though I do really like both (Wiig, for instance, was the best part of Knocked Up, and she was only in it for about a minute or so).

27) Name a stylistically important director and the best film that would have never been made without his/her influence.

What started with John Ford westerns moved to Akira Kurosawa samurai films and then back to the westerns with Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood. If I have to pick my favorite spaghetti western, it would be The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but the entire sub-genre owes a debt to what came before.

28) Movie you’d most enjoy seeing remade and transplanted to a different culture (i.e. Yimou Zhang’s A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop.)

I was going to think of an answer for this, but then I saw Patrick’s answer at SLIFR: “I’d love to see what Hayao Miyazaki would do with the Wizard of Oz.”

29) Link to a picture/frame grab of a movie image that for you best illustrates bliss. Elaborate.

I had a surprisingly hard time with this. The first shot that came to mind was the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. On the other end of the spectrum, I also thought about the end of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, but again, I couldn’t get a good screenshot of that (and I suspect that Capra’s visual talent outweighs that of Danny Leiner).

Its A Wonderful Life

30) With a tip of that hat to Glenn Kenny, think of a just-slightly-inadequate alternate title for a famous movie. (Examples from GK: Fan Fiction; Boudu Relieved From Cramping; The Mild Imprecation of the Cat People)

I stink at these, but here are a few: Star Embargos, Inglorious Bastards, The Texas Chainsaw Picnic, Reservoir Puppies, Eyes Wide Open , and hmm, if I had to choose a favorite, it would be the Texas Chainsaw one.

And I think that about covers it. See you on Sunday with some 60s horror.