Ms. Elizabeth Halsey’s Rotten Apple, Hot for (Bad) Teacher Summer Movie Quiz

After yet another long hiatus, Dennis Cozzalio of the Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule blog has posted another of his famous movie quizes, and as usual, I’d like to play along. 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, Miss Jean Brodie, Professor Larry Gopnick, and Professor Dewey Finn are also available.

1) Name a line from a movie that should’ve become a catch phrase but didn’t *

There’s a line from Pulp Fiction that I reference pretty frequently, yet is almost never recognized and usually treated as a general challenging declaration. In response to drug dealer Lance’s assertion that his shit can go up against that Amersterdam shit, Vincent quips: “That’s a bold statement.” It’s an obscure line and I can see why no one else would get the reference, but for whatever reason, it stuck with me.

2) Your second favorite William Wellman film

There are several versions of this question in this quiz, and I get the impression that the idea is to look at a prolific filmmaker (Wellman has 83 directing credits on IMBD) and find the non-obvious choice from their filmography. This is somewhat hampered by the fact that I’ve only actually seen 2 Wellman movies, so The Public Enemy takes the cake by default. Oh well, at least it’s not a mulligan (we’ll get to that soon enough).

3) Viggo Mortensen or Javier Bardem?

I think I’ll go with Javier Bardem for this one. He seems to take more chances and make better choices than Mortensen, and nothing in Mortensen’s filmography really approaches Bardem’s top performances. For instance, there’s nothing even remotely as memorable or terrifying in Mortensen’s performances as Bardem’s turn as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. If, perhaps, Eastern Promises was a better movie, Mortensen’s performance might have been elevated high enough (dat naked fight scene), but even then, I’m not so sure.

4) Favorite first line from a movie

The Filmspotting podcast has this concept of a Pantheon when it comes to their top 5 lists. Films in the Pantheon cannot be put on a top 5, because they are so great (or there’s such a personal connection) that they could pop up on wayyy too many lists. Fortunately, I’m not bound by this notion, so I can go back to the well of The Godfather: “I believe in America.” Sets the scene perfectly, not to mention the movie and, indeed, even the sequels.

5) The most disappointing/superfluous “director’s cut” or otherwise extended edition of a movie you’ve seen? *

My first thought was “Which Ridley Scott movie do I pick?” but then I realized that George Lucas’s Star Wars edits were pretty glaring, and it seemed like there was just no end in sight. He kept changing things! Some of the initial changes were fine; even sometimes great… Removing the telltale signs of composites, fixing some of the transparencies, these things were minor and barely noticeable, but that’s what makes them cool. It’s the stuff like Greedo shooting first or the insertion of lame CGI Jabba, etc… that really sunk it. As added in Jedi, “Nooooooooo!” Completely superfluous and boorish. That being said, Ridley Scott’s “Director’s Cut” of Alien is pretty worthless.

6) What is the movie you feel was most enhanced by a variant version? *

My first thought was “Which Ridley Scott movie do I pick?” because seriously, that guy never seems to release a movie without a director’s cut, sometimes a cut that dramatically changes the tone and scope of the movie. My first thought was Blade Runner, but then I realized that there are 5 frigging cuts of that movie, 3 of which are director’s cuts, or something like that. I guess I’ll go with the “Final Cut”, until Scott gins up another cut in a few years…

7) Eve Arden or Una Merkel?

I have to admit that I only have a passing familiarity with either of these actresses, but I’ll go with Eve Arden, mostly because I recognized more from her filmography…

8) What was the last DVD/Blu-ray/streaming film you saw? The last theatrical screening?

On DVD/BD, it was Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in preparation for Avengers 2 and also because most of these Marvel movies seem just infinitely rewatchable.

On Streaming, it was WolfCop because come on, he’s a werewolf who is also a cop. WolfCop. Plus, it was a Kaedrin Weird Movie of the Week selection a while back, so I had to watch it once it became available… Alas, it doesn’t quite deliver on the bananas premise, but it was fine, I guess.

And in the theater, it was Ex Machina, another in a long line of recent, low-budget, fascinating SF films. This one does a decent job getting at AI, though as movies always do, it perhaps goes a bit far in anthropomorphizing the AI. But then, that’s one of the big challenges of an AI story, since our puny human brains can’t comprehend what a truly alien being an AI would really be. This is partly my hangup though, and not truly the film’s fault. It’s an admirable film, and it has just enough pot-boilery elements to make up for any lapses. Recommended!

9) Second favorite Michael Mann film

I was expecting this to be more difficult to narrow down, but I pretty quickly settled on The Insider (behind Heat and just ahead of Manhunter). In fact, The Insider might be Mann’s best film, as it’s a tighter, more focused and complete narrative where something like Heat has this diffuse, byzantine plot structure that I personally enjoy quite a bit, but which doesn’t quite adhere as well as The Insider

10) Name a favorite director’s most egregious misstep

The first that comes to mind is the Coen Brothers’ The Ladykillers, a movie that I found surprisingly, shockingly joyless, all the moreso because even as I was watching it unfold on screen, I kept thinking to myself: “That bit’s kinda clever, I guess. This should work. Why isn’t it working?” Unfortunately, I have almost no desire to revisit the movie to develop a theory about why it faired so poorly, but my instinct is that there is something just slightly off about it that taints the entire picture.

11) Alain Delon or Marcello Mastroianni?

What is this tomfoolery? A repeat question! As my answer was in 2013: Hands down, Alain Delon. Le Samurai, man. Le Samurai.

Le Samurai
Le Samurai

12) Jean-Luc Godard famously stated that “all you need for a movie is a girl and a gun.” Name one other essential element that you’d add to the mix.

How about a story? But then, any attempt to distill storytelling down to an “essence” is doomed to failure. I’m reminded of this opening line from Clive Barker’s Imajica:

It was the pivotal teaching of Pluthero Quexos, the most celebrated dramatist of the Second Dominion, that in any fiction, no matter how ambitious its scope or profound its theme, there was only ever room for three players. Between warring kings, a peacemaker; between adoring spouses, a seducer or a child. Between twins, the spirit of the womb. Between lovers, Death. Greater numbers might drift through the drama, of course-thousands in fact-but they could only ever be phantoms, agents, or, on rare occasions, reflections of the three real and self-willed beings who stood at the center. And even this essential trio would not remain intact; or so he taught. It would steadily diminish as the story unfolded, three becoming two, two becoming one, until the stage was left deserted.

Needless to say, this dogma did not go unchallenged. The writers of fables and comedies were particularly vociferous in their scorn, reminding the worthy Quexos that they invariably ended their own tales with a marriage and a feast. He was unrepentant. He dubbed them cheats and told them they were swindling their audiences out of what he called the last great procession, when, after the wedding songs had been sung and the dances danced, the characters took their melancholy way off into darkness, following each other into oblivion.

Sorry for nerding up the proceedings like this, but I thought it funny that this came to mind…

13) Favorite one-sheet that you own, or just your favorite one-sheet (please provide a link to an image if you can)

Assuming we’re looking for original one-sheets and not revivals or tribute posters, which thank God, because I’d never be able to pick which Mondo movie poster is my favorite. Not that it’s all that easy to do so otherwise, but I was able to settle on Saul Bass’ gorgeous one-sheet for Vertigo:


14) Catherine Spaak or Daniela Giordano?

And so we come to our first mulligan. I got nothing on these two…

15) Director who most readily makes you think “Whatever happened to…?”

Whatever happened to John Carpenter? That man put together a pretty long string of classics throughout the late 70s and 80s, but has done very little in the current century and what he has done has been mediocre at best. He hasn’t really done anything good since 1994’s In the Mouth of Madness. He has done some work, but he hasn’t made anything since 2010’s cromulent but decidedly derivative and limp The Ward, and before that, an episode or two from the Masters of Horror TV series (one of which was fine, the other of which was terrible). I suspect it’s just that he’s getting on in age and filmmaking is a young-mans-game, but still, would love to see him return to his glory days…

16) Now that some time has passed… The Interview, yes or no?

These “yes or no” questions show up with regularity on these quizes, but I don’t think I’ve ever said no. It’s not so much that I love the movie in question as that I think most movies have a right to exist. Not that answering “no” would impact anything, but still. It’s the principle of the thing.

17) Second favorite Alberto Calvalcanti film

Another blind spot for me, so another mulligan for the quiz…

18) Though both displayed strong documentary influence in their early films, Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog have focused heavily on the documentary form late in their filmmaking careers. If he had lived, what kind of films do you think Rainer Werner Fassbinder, their partner in the German New Wave of the ’70s, would be making now?

Sorry, but I have no idea. I’d be curious as to what his response to the whole gay marriage movement would be (he was out of the closet, but he also married two women during that time), but who knows if that would manifest in his filmmaking. I’m not familiar with much of his work, but I know he was an odd cat.

19) Name a DVD you’ve replaced with a Blu-ray. Name another that you decided not to replace. *

I’ve only replaced a couple, mostly by accident or because of some other factor. The only example I can actually think of is Alien/Aliens, because I got a nice deal on the whole Alien Anthology box set. Pretty much everything else has remained on DVD for me, though there are some classics I might consider upgrading (The Godfather, 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc…)

20) Don Rickles or Rodney Dangerfield?

As a child of the 80s, Rodney Dangerfield speaks more to me. I’ve never really gotten the love for Don Rickles, but then, I’m probably not familiar with his best work.

21) Director who you wish would hurry up and make another film

It’s funny that a lot of the best filmmakers these days seem to take so long between films. Others just feel like a long time. Quentin Tarantino usually puts something out every 2-3 years, but it somehow feels longer. Alright, so to really answer this question, I’ll go with Shane Carruth. Two movies in the past 11 years, with nothing on the horizon (that I know of, at least).

22) Second favorite Michael Bay film

This is tough because once you get past my favorite (The Rock), you’ve got a whole deluge of movies I’m kinda ambivalent about, followed by movies I’m actively hostile about. I’ll put it somewhere around Bad Boys II or The Island. I guess.

23) Name a movie that, for whatever reason, you think of as your own

I don’t really know what this means, and I don’t think of any of these movies as my own, but I will throw out Phantasm as one of my favorites that doesn’t get much mainstream love (though it has a huge cult following), and oddly enough, The Terminator. It might not seem like it, because it’s such a popular franchise, but I could think of the original Terminator as my own because I’m, like, the only person to think it’s far superior to T2 (or any of the dreck after that). I grew up watching Terminator almost every day (even if it was usually only on in the background), one of a couple movies that’s hit triple digit rewatches (not something I do very much anymore, but this was a formative movie for me). T2 is a fine action film, but I’m continually surprised by how much love it gets from, well, everybody.

24) Your favorite movie AI (however loosely you care to define the term)

Obviously The Terminator would be a candidate here, but in the interest of variety, I’ll choose a more obscure movie: Colossus: The Forbin Project. Not a perfect movie, but it’s quite interesting and underappreciated these days. As mentioned above, AI in movies tends to be anthropomorphized, and this movie isn’t an exception, but it comports itself well enough for me. Speaking of which, Ex Machina would be a good candidate here, and obviously, movie AIs owe a huge debt to Hal 9000 (even movies that don’t explicitly copy the AI gone mad template are often riffing on it or the expectations of it). Also of note, Demon Seed, a little more bonkers and weird, but I haven’t seen it in a while. I should revisit!

25) Your favorite existing DVD commentary track *

The best commentaries tend to be for movies that, for some reason, didn’t totally succeed. This requires someone to be open and honest, which rarely happens. But Kevin Smith’s commentary (with various guests) for Mallrats is exceptional because of Smith’s willingness to confront and own up to his mistakes in making that movie. The movie isn’t a complete failure, but there are many aspects of it that Smith admits went off the rails or didn’t fall into place (I may also be mixing in his commentary on the deleted scenes) and the camaraderie with his co-workers in the commentary is palpable. It’s fashionable to bag on Smith these days because of his antics, and to be sure, he’s seemingly less forthcoming (also, he’s started smoking pot), but I, for one, would love to see a genuine commentary on some of his more recent movies, in particular Zack and Miri Make a Porno (which seemingly broke Smith as a director, to the point where he doesn’t even want to talk about it.) As a runner up, I’ll mention Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino’s commentary on Hot Fuzz. Sure, Hot Fuzz wasn’t a failure (in any real way), but Wright and Tarantino are just so in love with movies that it’s infectious. Well worth checking out…

26) The double bill you’d program on the last night of your own revival theater

Cinema Paradiso and Sunset Boulevard, because I’m not willing to recognize that my revival theater is dead…

27) Catherine Deneuve or Claudia Cardinale?

Claudia Cardinale, almost solely because of Once Upon a Time in the West.

And there you have it, another quiz in the books. Let’s hope the next one doesn’t take a whole year!

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