Professor Larry Gopnick’s Post-Hanukah, Pre-Christmas, Post-Schrodinger, Pre-Apocalypse SLIFR Holday Movie Quiz

After a bit of a hiatus, Dennis Cozzalio of the Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule blog has posted another of his famous movie quizes and in accordance with prophecy, I shall provide my answers below. This used to be a quarterly exercise, but the pace seems to have slackened of late. Previous installments answering questions from Professor Hubert Farnsworth, David Huxley, Professor Fate, Professor Russell Johnson, Dr. Smith, Professor Peabody, Professor Severus Snape, Professor Ed Avery, Dr. Anton Phibes, Sister Clodagh, Professor Arthur Chipping, and Miss Jean Brodie are also available.

1) Favorite unsung holiday film

It’s tempting to choose something that doesn’t immediately scream “Holiday” here, with the poster child for that attitude being Die Hard, but I’m with Sonny on this one: Die Hard is not a “Christmas Movie”. It’s what I like to call an Incidental Christmas Movie. One that might squeak by and that I’ve called “Incidental” before is Trading Places.

Winthorpe Claus
Winthorpe Claus

First off, it’s a true “Holiday” movie in that it starts right around Thanksgiving, hits all the Christmas tropes, then follows us into the New Year. Second, it calls to mind A Christmas Story with a Scrooge-like rich guy who learns a lesson and has a change of heart… without being totally derivative. The one big negative about this one is whether this is really an “unsung” movie. So just in case, I’ll also throw Black Christmas out there, just for yuks.

Dreaming of a Black Christmas...
I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas…

2) Name a movie you were surprised to have liked/loved

I’m glad this wasn’t a “favorite” movie, as that would be an impossible task, and my pedantic lawyerly reading of this question allows me to just give the first answer that comes to mind, which is The Shawshank Redemption. That’s one of those movies that must’ve been really difficult to market, as the previews for it kinda sucked and did nothing to appeal to my 16 year old self. But my college roommate loved it, and one hungover Sunday morning I plopped a VHS in and started watching. I was spellbound for the entire runtime, and my room slowly attracted a crowd of other watchers. I suspect a lot of people have discovered this movie in a similar way, and while “period piece prison drama” isn’t exactly super exciting, the movie really does win you over pretty quickly.

3) Ned Sparks or Edward Everett Horton?

Two people I’m not at all familiar with, though I will say that IMDB’s description of Ned Sparks as a “Cigar-chewing character comedian, often given to sarcasm” makes me think I should seek some of these films out. On the other hand, Edward Everett Horton is described as appearing “in just about every Hollywood comedy made in the 1930s”, so there’s a pretty good chance of overlap here, no?

4) Sam Peckinpah’s Convoy– yes or no?

I have not seen this movie, but given my general experience with Sam Peckinpah and given that I assume this is on some Quentin Tarantino top 10 somewhere, I’m going to say “yes”.

5) What contemporary actor would best fit into a popular, established genre of the past

I don’t know why, but my mind keeps running to George Clooney for this one. Clooney in screwball comedy (it’s not like he hasn’t tried really hard to do that somewhat recently), Clooney in Noir, and so on… Someone at SLIFR had a great observation though: Justin Timberlake in musicals, back when they were a viable genre…

6) Favorite non-disaster movie in which bad weather is a memorable element of the film’s atmosphere

Take your pick of horror movies with thunderstorms, but for my money, there is only one answer, and that is The Shining.

7) Second favorite Luchino Visconti movie

Going to have to take a mulligan here, as I’ve not seen one, let alone two of Visconti’s movies. A thousand pardons…

8) What was the last movie you saw theatrically? On DVD/Blu-ray?

In theaters, it was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which I suppose I enjoyed more than the first film, but there’s something about this series that doesn’t quite jive with me. These movies make me feel evil. I would totally be a better/more evil leader than this President Snow moron. His mistakes in ruling this world with an iron fist are so blindingly obvious to me, and it’s these niggles in worldbuilding that have always kept me at a distance in these movies. That being said, once the arrows and tridents start flying, this movie is actually better executed and more interesting than the first film.

On DVD/BD, it was The Heat, which was cromulent, and I suppose I laughed a few times, but was otherwise pretty forgettable.

And you didn’t ask about streaming, but I’ll give an answer there too: The Angel’s Share was a surprisingly effective movie, even if the tone is a bit odd throughout. It’s about some troubled folks sentenced to community service being brought together by Scotch whisky. I couldn’t tell if they were going for tragic drama, comedy, or heist film, at least, not until the end (which, spoiler alert, is not tragic). Perhaps it’s a comedy in the hardcore dramatic sense that no one died in the end? It’s decent though, and I’m really glad I watched it.

9) Explain your reaction when someone eloquently or not-so-eloquently attacks one of your favorite movies (Question courtesy of Patrick Robbins)

While I may wind up responding to some of the points made, as a general practice, I’m usually pretty happy to hear such things. The world would be a boring place if we all liked the same stuff for the same reasons. I’m baffled by the tendency for some folks to freak right out when some contrarian does something, um, contrarian.

10) Joan Blondell or Glenda Farrell?

I guess Glenda Farrell by default, since I’ve seen and liked a couple movies she was in… though Joan Blondell was in a lot of TV shows that I’m vaguely familiar with. Really don’t have enough info to give a good answer, but I already took a mulligan and we’re only 1/3 through the quiz!

11) Movie star of any era you’d most like to take camping

Not sure how to answer this without sounding like a self serving creep who wants some alone time with pretty actresses, so I’ll go with a guy, like, say Clint Eastwood or John Wayne or something.

12) Second favorite George Cukor movie

Assuming we’re not counting his “uncredited” work in stuff like The Wizard of Oz, well, then I’m kinda screwed as I haven’t seen much. I should really check out Adam’s Rib sometime though, as it sounds up my alley.

13) Your top 10 of 2013 (feel free to elaborate!)

At this point, I’ve only seen about 46 movies released in 2013 and am just getting started on my big movie catchup (which usually lasts through January and early February) for the year. We usually make a big deal about this sort of thing here at Kaedrin, so I’ll just give a preview a few movies that will probably make the cut (though who knows, maybe one or two will drop out, I’m a fickle man): Room 237, Upstream Color, Side Effects, The World’s End, You’re Next, Gravity, and I’ll leave it there for now. If you’re so inclined, check back with me in late February when I’ve had a chance to catch up with a bunch of stuff (or see stuff that comes out in the next few weeks).

14) Name a movie you loved (or hated) upon first viewing, to which you eventually returned and had more or less the opposite reaction

A 14 year old me was totally in love with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but repeat viewings have slowly eroded my opinion to the point where I do really dislike a lot of things about the movie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine action movie and great in that context, but as a sequel it just totally craps all over what made the first movie (one of my favorites of all time) so special. I think part of it may even be that lots of people claim they think it’s better than the first movie, which is sheer lunacy in my book (though interesting cases can be made).

15) Movie most in need of a deluxe Blu-ray makeover

It looks like most of the really glaring omissions (notably a bunch of Hitchcock and Spielberg classics) have been taken care of in the past couple years, but there are definitely some stragglers. One that comes to mind is Spirited Away, which could certainly use it. And to be more snarky, I’d go for non-special edition, or at least non-NOOOOOOOOO-at-the-end-of-Jedi versions of the original Star Wars trilogy.

16) Alain Delon or Marcello Mastroianni?

Hands down, Alain Delon. Le Samurai, man. Le Samurai.

Le Samurai
Le Samurai

17) Your favorite opening sequence, credits or no credits (provide link to clip if possible)

Seriously? This is an impossible question as there are so many damn answers. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, The Godfather, Touch of Evil, Up, The Player, Scream, this is a touch choice. And then you add in credits sequences, which are also tough. I mean, which Saul Bass sequence do you go with? Or maybe Monty Python And The Holy Grail? Even middling movies, like, say, Watchmen, can have a great credits sequence. I’m abstaining from choosing a favorite because there’s just too many… but I will embed one that you probably haven’t seen before. It’s the opening tracking shot, all in one take, from Johnny To’s Breaking News (the rest of the movie is fine and worth watching, but never quite approaches the opening scene again):

18) Director with the strongest run of great movies

The first one that comes to mind is Kubrick, who I don’t think had a bad movie over his entire career, even if there are a few that I’m not as in love with as others. He’d certainly take the cake if we’re talking about duration (we’re talking a solid 40+ years for Kubrick), but if you look at quantity of movies, it may well fall back on someone like Hitchcock or Ford or Hawks or Kurosawa. I’ll stick with Kubrick for this one though.

19) Is elitism a good/bad/necessary/inevitable aspect of being a cineaste?

Good or bad is all in the eye of the beholder and elitism, to me, is not necessarily good or bad (but then, I’m pretty tolerant of dissention, see my answer to #9 above). Elitism isn’t necessary because a lot of cineaste’s are all about some obscure sub-genre or something similarly “low” (as in low-art). For me, that would be cheesy horror movies, slashers and the like. It’s hard to call yourself and elite and give someone grief over their taste when you like slasher movies. And obviously not inevitable, for similar reasons. I do think that being a cineaste can lead to this sort of thing because a cineaste is able to place a current movie into a much different context than most moviegoers, who are there more just to be entertained. This may even be super common, but it’s not “necessary” or “inevitable” that it would happen that way. Elitism is an attitude or idea that not everyone suscribes to.

20) Second favorite Tony Scott film

Well, I guess I’m going True Romance on this one, though it’s a tough call because a lot of his movies exist in a similar state of “above average but not great” for me… (And my favorite is probably Top Gun, which provides yet more proof that I’m not an elitist, as per the previous question!)

21) Favorite movie made before you were born that you only discovered this year. Where and how did you discover it?

Dial M for Murder, because Hitchcock. To be fair, I wouldn’t say that I “discovered” it this year, but I didn’t see it until recently… If you’re talking about something I wasn’t aware existed at all, that’d be a much harder find.

22) Actor/actress you would most want to see in a Santa suit, traditional or skimpy

Once again, hard to answer without sounding creepy, but let’s go with Jennifer Lawrence because she’s awesome and could totally pull off either the traditional or skimpy versions, amiright?

23) Video store or streaming?

In terms of platonic ideals, streaming. In practice, streaming takes a big hit because of fractured services/devices and poor selection, but video stores are pretty scant these days too. I’m still pretty happy with Netflix’s disc service, which helps pick up the slack when it comes to the lack of selection in streaming.

24) Best/favorite final film by a noted director or screenwriter

Not to make this an all Kubrick quiz, but Eyes Wide Shut would work for me. Though apparently I really need to see Family Plot, Hitchcock’s final film…

25) Monica Vitti or Anna Karina?

See, I knew I’d need to take another mulligan. And yes, I need to watch more French New Wave. What else is new?

26) Name a worthy movie indulgence you’ve had to most strenuously talk friends into experiencing with you. What was the result?

This is not something I do particularly often, so I’m having trouble thinking of an example. I’ve definitely introduced people to movies I’ve seen before, but these are usually low-pressure situations, not something that I have to talk people into (and those are normally good examples). Indeed, one such example was the aforementioned Shawshank Redemption (which was well received).

27) The movie made by your favorite filmmaker (writer, director, et al) that you either have yet to see or are least familiar with among all the rest

The one glaring omission that stands out for me would be Kubrick’s Lolita, a film I’m not exactly in a rush to see, but should probably do so at some point, just to complete the viewing cycle. There’s also plenty of Hitchcock that I haven’t seen (despite having seen many of the more obscure ones, oddly enough)…

28) Favorite horror movie that is either Christmas-oriented or has some element relating to the winter holiday season in it

Well, since I’ve already mentioned Black Christmas, I’ll try to liven things up and go with the other Christmas horror classic (no, not Silent Night, Deadly Night): Gremlins. (Also big ups to Robert Fiore, who left a comment at SLIFR with his proposed Holiday Horror movie, a twisted take on A Christmas Story, which sounds awesome/despicable.)

Gizmo Claus!
Gizmo Claus!

29) Name a prop or other piece of movie memorabilia you’d most like to find with your name on it under the Christmas tree

For as much as I love movies, you’d think that I’d desire more in the way of movie memorabilia. I generally just prefer the DVD/BD. Maybe a poster? But I don’t really even hang up any of the posters I do have. This doesn’t mean that I’d be upset or bored by such a gift (indeed, I’d probably be impressed and very grateful that someone thought that hard about what to get me), it’s just not something I’d go after on my own. Which, come to think of it, is a great feature for a present to have – something I’d like but would never buy for myself is a great gift. But because of that, I’m having trouble answering this question. And I’m ok with that.

30) Best holiday gift the movies could give to you to carry into 2014

The obvious answer is “good movies”, and this is the time of year for that, but what else would I want in 2014? How about movie studios getting their act together and making a somewhat comprehensive streaming service that actually works. Let’s see, what else? No more 3D please? That’ll do, I suppose.