Friday, August 31, 2007

The answers to: Substitute teacher, Richard Clark's easy-ass,

movie related pop quiz... Part 1

1. What is your favourite romantic comedy, and why?

Really great romantic comedies are few and far between. We seem to average one per decade these days: When Harry Met Sally in the 80's, French Kiss in the 90's, and Love, Actually in the oughts. Notting Hill (1999) also ranks amongst the highlights, but films that I enjoyed the first time around like Pretty Woman and Sleepless in Seattle have failed to impress me upon repeat viewings.

Most everything else-- and there are a lot of romantic comedies churned out every year-- falls into one of two categories: mediocrity or dreck.
When properly executed, the romantic comedy is my favourite kind of genre picture, and it's a shame to see so many half-assed productions (and I do see them all).

For complete satisfaction, I find myself going back to the screwball comedies of the 30's and 40's. There are so many great films to mention, but my absolute favourites ('cause it's a tie) are It Happened One Night and The Philadelphia Story. The dialogue junky in me appreciates the rapid fire exchanges between Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in the first picture. Their lines are charged with sexual undertones, embedded with subtext in order to skirt the rules of censorship governed by early production codes. It Happened One Night is very much a movie of its time, but its charm and wit is sure to appeal to contemporary audiences, too.

Equally appealing is the powerhouse trio of Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart, as cast in The Philadelphia Story. I can't claim to be Hepburn's biggest fan, but her performance in this film is pitch perfect. The two leading men are equally adept, Grant with his mastery of both verbal and physical comedy, and Stewart bringing his trademark charm and sensitivity to the table. Plotwise, the movie delivers a number of surprises, and with each viewing I am reminded how fresh and funny this 1940 production is, and just how many of our modern day comedies are not.

amy said: Bridget Jones's Diary. Because when I saw the movie for the first time and Mister Darcy told Bridget that he likes her, just as she is, all of my romantic ideals were created. And now my expectations are through the roof...Stupid movie.

jaclyn said: When Harry Met Sally because I love how determined they are to remain good friends and nothing more just to prove a point and also because I learned a lot about how men and women think! Plus Meg Ryan is so stubborn and silly and lovable!

athena said: Say Anything because Lloyd Dobler has ruined me forever. (Which after a lot of therapy and time I’m ok with.) But I also loved the part where Diane grows up and learns that her dad is fallible. So yeah, true love, parental fallibility and John Cusack make me a happy girl.

2. Name a movie that you watch over and over again without getting tired of, a film that you could put on at any time and enjoy. Reason(s)?

I have to mine the past to answer this question, too. There are many rich films out there that deserve repeat viewings, but the only one I can put on anytime, night or day, whether I want to watch it or not-- and get completely sucked in-- is Casablanca. Simply put, I don't think a more compelling story has been written for the screen. I wouldn't go so far as to claim that it's the best movie ever, or even my favourite, but every element of the screenplay functions to maintain intrigue. Once it's on, it's on... I can't press stop before the end.

amanda said: Shawshank Redemption - I've seen this movie more times than I can count and each and every time I watch it I love it even more. I always cry a little, laugh a little and when it's over I'm impressed that it gets me every time.

athena said: I feel like Star Wars (original trilogy only!!) is self-explanatory but I’ll do my best-

a) It’s full of mythology and spaceships. I like that…

b) It’s full of evil guys in cloaks and Han Solo. Them too….

c) R2-D2 and C3-P0. It has true love too!!

d) It’s full of redemption and friendship- my 2 favourite things in movies, with mythology and spaceships running a close second.

e) “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for … He can go about his business … Move along.”. Yes sir…
(athena rocks)

joanne said: (and this kills me!!) Troop Beverly Hills. I don't think I even need to explain why.

3. What is the first film you remember seeing in the theatre?

Like most of you who commented, my first cinematic memory is of a Disney film: The Fox and the Hound. I would've been four or five years old. Every so often my mom reminds me how much I loved it. If I've seen it since, though, I can't remember. Mayhaps it's time to rent it for the sake of nostalgia... and perhaps a review?

4. Woody Allen: yes or no?

Love him or hate him-- there doesn't seem to be any middle ground (save for a few people I know who say that they hate him but really dug Match Point). For me, it's a "yes." The first Woody Allen movie I saw was the first he directed: Take the Money and Run. I was hooked by this neurotic, witty nebbish... I related to him (for better or worse), and proceeded to watch the rest of his films in near consecutive order. Yes, there have been a few missteps, but surprisingly few considering that he's made (at least) one film a year for nearly forty.

amy said: Meh. I haven't seen any of his 'greats' only that detective sleuthy one with Scarlett and Wolverine. And it was meh.

link: a particularly amusing youtube video

Thanks to the good people at (a directory of wonderful things), I have not only been linked to some of the most interesting sites the web has to offer, but also to a handful of the strangest videos on youtube.

Xeni Jardin posted this link to the Japanese "Butt Biting Bug" song (Oshiri kajiri mushi) a couple of days ago.

"It gives me acid flashbacks. "Tight asses and hard asses and beaten asses and shriveled asses." In what universe do these constitute appropriate lyrics for children's music?" (Jardin, sept 29)

It is, in fact, difficult to imagine what universe these lyrics come from in the first place. Enjoy the subtitled video for yourself.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Substitute teacher, Richard Clark's easy-ass, movie related pop quiz...

DIMS steals from SLIFR to bring you this exam... Our academy feels that Clark's test is simple enough to approach without studying or sneaking to the bathroom to consult your hidden cheat-sheets. Remember: there are no wrong answers... only flawed opinions. (kidding!!)

number two typing fingers ready? Begin:

1. What is your favourite romantic comedy, and why?

2. Name a movie that you watch over and over again without getting tired of, a film that you could put on at any time and enjoy. Reason(s)?

3. What is the first film you remember seeing in the theatre?

4. Woody Allen: yes or no?

5. Discuss a movie you were totally hyped about seeing that left you kind of empty and/or disappointed upon viewing.

6. Discuss a movie that you figured you'd be damned before seeing that subsequently impressed you more than you could have imagined.

7. Ben Affleck or Matt Damon?

8. What movie would you hide between your mattresses because you fear people will discover that you like it?

9. Favourite, or least favourite, Steven Spielberg film? Why? (see, you know the test is easy when there's a Spielberg question!!!) Extra credit for describing both.

10. Which actor(s)/actress(es) do you have the biggest crush(es) on, and why?

See... pretty easy. I await your answers with bated breath, and I am eager to list my own. Please leave comments, even if you only want to address some of the questions. Results of the quiz to be posted soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

musing: sergio leone and the infield fly rule, mr. shoop's surfin' summer school midterm, & the movie answer man

As much as I would like to be a brilliant conversationalist, nothing could be further from the truth. Small talk has never been my forte, and as a result I have an anxious streak when it comes to meeting new people, running into old acquaintances, and/or getting my hair cut. I also suffer from a deep rooted inability to discuss my feelings, which creates obstacles in terms of developing close relationships. These issues are, however, comparatively inconsequential when measured against my limited range of interests: film, books, cooking, and film. What else, dear lord, is there to talk about?

I am fortunate, in a sense, that the subject of film is a fairly universal one. Over the past decade most of my peers have been fellow students of the cinematic arts who are more than eager to spend hours on end dissecting, debating, and criticizing along with me. During these same years I have also mingled with other friends, family members, colleagues, etc., and-- save for the rare exception-- they all tend to be avid movie-goers with insightful opinions of their own. And yet, there are times at which I feel the desire to trudge deeper into the chasm of celluloid mania than either party may be willing to venture. In instances such as these, I arrive at my destination via the world wide inter-web.

My first stop (not incidentally my "home-page") is, headquarters of-- you guessed it-- film critic Roger Ebert. In recent time, due to well publicized health issues, Mr. Ebert's contributions to the site have been few and far between. This summer, however, he has returned in top form, with a full slate of print reviews appearing both in the Chicago Sun-Times and on-line. Roger's website (I met him once... I can call him that, right?) was, albeit temporarily, a veritable ghost town. It is, once again, a bustling metropolis. If memory recalls, I have discussed my life-long admiration for Ebert in previous posts, and I'm sure I will regale him with praise again in the future. For the sake of brevity, though, let me confine myself to saying that, as excited as I am to have him back as one of our most literate film critics, I am even more elated that he has resurrected the Movie Answer Man column.

It is difficult to stifle my sense of glee when Roger Ebert responds to people-- whether they be fans or filibusters-- with his trademark wit and self-assuredness. His supporters sound as if they have established a sacred kinship based on the fact that they, well, agree with his opinions. Those who correspond in order to challenge his views seem to think that a cocky attitude will, not only impress him, but also persuade him to see the light. In either case, they seem to think they know the man intimately... What a thing to presume (I understand how it happens, but that's material for a different musing...). A thread will often continue for weeks on the same subject, allowing Ebert to address reader inquiries such as "How could you not like Transformers the movie?" and "Why do you refer to the good Transformers as 'Transformers' and not Autobots???" This little exchange regarding The Bourne Ultimatum tickled me:

Q. Is the movie critic for the Washington Post embarrassed that he was the only critic of the "cream of the crop" on Rotten Tomatoes who gave "The Bourne Ultimatum" a negative rating? He's got to be questioning himself. Carey Ford, Corsicana, Texas

A. I think it’s a badge of honor for Stephen Hunter. When only one review disagrees, read it. I did, and understand his point, even if I disagree. I asked Hunter himself, who replied: “I'm far too shallow to have doubts.”

Q. You gave "The Bourne Ultimatum" 3.5 stars. How much did the studio pay you for that? Not enough to compensate for your lost credibility. I'll never read you again. Milt Heft, Colorado Springs, Colo.

A. See above letter. There is now only one major critic in the country you can read.

The link to Ebert's Movie Answer Man can usually be found near the bottom of his page, not too far from the link to my second on-line destination: Jim Emerson's Scanners :: Blog. A brief apology is due, I think, for my referring to Roger Ebert's site as a "ghost town" during his absence. Emerson is the dutiful editor of this site, and he contributed essays and reviews quite frequently while Ebert was away. He is also an accomplished writer whose insights into film, politics, pop culture, etc. never cease to convince me that movies really matter.

Emerson strikes me as a film scholar, more than simply a critic (in the journalistic sense) or a "blogger." At the same time, his entries never read like text book passages. Well, almost never... The ongoing "opening shots project" provides a forum for both Emerson and his readers to sharpen their analytical skills:

Any good movie -- heck, even the occasional bad one -- teaches you how to watch it. And that lesson usually starts with the very first image ... The opening shot can tell us a lot about how to interpret what follows. It can even be the whole movie in miniature. I'm going to talk about some of my favorites, and how they work, and then request that you contribute your own favorites for possible publication in future Scanners columns.

(June 16, 2006)

For more than a year now, Jim's readers have been contributing on a regular basis, and their insights are posted quite frequently. It's encouraging to see such widespread interest in active spectatorship, and-- had I not found something even better to steal-- I may have thieved some of Emerson's ideas for my own blog...

I was, however, linked some time ago (through a posting on the scanners :: blog) to a site called: Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. It was here that I took the test. An exam, to be sure, but not the kind one can necessarily pass or fail. What lay before me was a compendium of questions designed to infiltrate my mind and scoop out the useless knowledge that I hold so dear. Never, in all my years as a film fanatic, had I been on the receiving end of questions so thought-provoking and, at times, obscure. I had arrived, for certain, deep within the chasm that I sought to explore.

The latest exam to appear on Dennis Cozzalio's SLIFR site is: Mr. Shoop's Surfin' Summer Midterm-- you see, all of the tests are administered by teachers from the cinema-- and it's another doozie. Take a look at a few sample questions:

1) Favorite quote from a filmmaker

10) Whether or not you have actually procreated or not, is there a movie you can think of that seriously affected the way you think about having kids of your own?

20) Name a performance that everyone needs to be reminded of, for whatever reason.

25) Is there a movie you can think of that you feel like the world would be better off without, one that should have never been made?

24) Favorite Dub Taylor performance. (Okies, even I had to look this guy up on imdb, and I still don't think I'd recognize him...)

I haven't gone so far as to reply with my answers (reader response is often posted on SILFR), but I find that many of the questions stick with me for days: "A good movie from a bad director," for instance, or, " If you had the choice of seeing three final movies, to go with your three last meals, before shuffling off this mortal coil, what would they be?" And, yes, I am geek enough to believe that my opinions should be solidified in my mind as if life or death depends upon it. But in this chasm, I am very much alone. Who, in their right mind, would accompany me on a journey into this realm of cinematic mania?

Well, perhaps I can convince a few folks when I pilfer Cozzalio's exam formula for my own purposes. While I can't expect my friends and family to have stalwart platforms regarding their favorite Rosalind Russell performance, or whether they prefer Louis B. Mayer or Harry Cohn as a studio head, I can assume that they would be eager to answer some of the more general questions, and I am genuinely interested to hear what they think.

So I will steal this "exam" idea... albeit for more elemantary purposes. I will plagarize the format in hopes that my limited readership will be inclined to respond to my questions... I will post again soon, review any comments that may have been left, and usher in the thoughts of anyone who sees it fit to contribute. As I mentioned up front, everyone sees movies, everyone holds their opinion(s), everyone wants to be heard. My apologies to Cozzalio for bastardizing his concept; please remember that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

And, to my readers: please make me feel loved. If I pour myself into the creation of this "exam", I hope to get feedback. Your comments are treasured, whether you're a film buff or an intermittant movie-goer, or, of course, anything in between. The chasm is deep, but we can meet at the entrance...