Friday, December 4, 2009

Professor Russell Johnson's Thanksgiving/Christmas Movie Quiz

One of my favorite blogs to read about movies, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule (run by Dennis Cozzalio) has provided its latest quiz. I've participated a couple of times before, but this is the first time I am answering the questions on my blog.

1) Second-favorite Coen Brothers movie.

"Fargo". My favorite is "No Country for Old Men".

2) Movie seen only on home format that you would pay to see on the biggest movie screen possible? (Question submitted by Peter Nellhaus)

I have to pass because I believe I've seen my favorite films at least once in the theater. Six months ago, it would have been "The Great Escape", but I took care of that one on Memorial Day. The most obvious answers would be an epic movie like "Gone with the Wind" or "Spartacus", but I don't really care much for most older epic movies unless their titles are "Lawrence of Arabia" or "The Bridge on the River Kwai".

3) Japan or France? (Question submitted by Bob Westal)


4) Favorite moment/line from a western.

"If you're gonna shoot, shoot. Don't talk." Tuco, from "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly"

5) Of all the arts the movies draw upon to become what they are, which is the most important, or the one you value most?

Writing, which has become so undervalued these days because too many filmmakers believe they can save weak material on the set or in the editing room. Start with strong material, then the production should turn something good into something great as opposed to turning something mediocre into something passable at best.

6) Most misunderstood movie of the 2000s (The Naughties?).

So many to choose from, but I will pick one that was trashed upon its release, but is still, by far, the best horror film in a decade of lousy, insubstantial horror movies: Frank Darabont's "The Mist". I hope this movie gains a better reputation over time much like John Carpenter's "The Thing" has.

7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.

Robert De Niro, just edging out Woody Allen and Harrison Ford. Who is that guy with his name appearing in dreck like "Meet the Whomevers" and "Analyze These" movies for the last decade? I used to think he was the greatest actor of all time and now cringe when he pops up in trailers doing lame comedy schtick or appearing in thrillers that look they should be straight to video.

8) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?

Patrick Magee, for appearing in multiple Kubrick films.

9) Which is your least favorite David Lynch film (Submitted by Tony Dayoub)

I still shudder when I think back to the NYFF screening of "Inland Empire" I attended. "Empire" played like a parody of a Lynch film, except it goes on for 3 whole hours, a third of that running time dedicated to Laura Dern walking down spooky hallways.

10) Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

Gordon Willis by a nose. I definitely go for the Prince of Darkness aesthetic.

11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers". First would be "Dirty Harry". Though I do need to see more of his films.

12) Last movie you saw on DVD/Blu-ray? In theaters?

On DVD: "Dead Ringers", much better than when I last saw it 20 years ago.

In Theaters: "The Road", which is a misunderstood film I plan to write about on my blog soon.

13) Which DVD in your private collection screams hardest to be replaced by a Blu-ray? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions

14) Eddie Deezen or Christopher Mintz-Plasse?

Christopher Mintz-Plasse, I guess.

15) Actor/actress who you feel automatically elevates whatever project they are in, or whom you would watch in virtually anything.

Paul Giamatti. The most obvious example is when he gave a great performance in the otherwise crappy "Lady in the Water".

16) Fight Club -- yes or no?

Yes, thank you very much.

17) Teresa Wright or Olivia De Havilland?

Teresa Wright.

18) Favorite moment/line from a film noir.

"Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money - and a woman - and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?" Walter Neff, "Double Indemnity"

19) Best (or worst) death scene involving an obvious dummy substituting for a human or any other unsuccessful special effect(s)—see the wonderful blog Destructible Man for inspiration.

The scene in "The Happening" where the car with John Leguizamo and the lead actor from "Clerks" crashes and a dummy is projected straight out the front window. Also, I would include the construction workers falling off the building at the beginning. If Mark Wahlberg's character had died, I would have included him too.

20) What's the least you've spent on a film and still regretted it? (Submitted by Lucas McNelly)

Too many to recount, although ones that stood out from the last couple of years include "Juno", "Cloverfield" and "Observe & Report". All free movies which happened to be 90 minutes and under, but yet I still want my time back.

21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?


22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.

"Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle"

23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.

"The Power of Nightmares" directed by Adam Curtis. At least, more people in the U.S. should see it.

24) In deference to this quiz’s professor, name a favorite film which revolves around someone becoming stranded.

"2001: A Space Odyssey". Bowman is clearly stranded somewhere, but we don't know exactly where.

25) Is there a moment when your knowledge of film, or lack thereof, caused you an unusual degree of embarrassment and/or humiliation? If so, please share.

Obviously, when it comes to film from other countries, I believe I never quite see enough beyond what makes it to America. Out of all the countries, I'm pretty sure Russia is my weak spot considering I have yet to see a Tarkovsky film. But, hopefully, in the next year, I can get going on him.

26) Ann Sheridan or Geraldine Fitzgerald? (Submitted by Larry Aydlette)

Geraldine Fitzgerald, as I've probably seen her in more movies.

27) Do you or any of your family members physically resemble movie actors or other notable figures in the film world? If so, who?

I have never noticed this and I probably would if someone from my family did resemble someone from the film world. I can tell you film characters who they share traits with, but that wouldn't be too flattering.

28) Is there a movie you have purposely avoided seeing? If so, why?

75-80% of the movies that reach #1 at the weekly box office. I'm serious. And that may be generous.

29) Movie with the most palpable or otherwise effective wintry atmosphere or ambience.

Back to the answer for #1: "Fargo" reminds me of the most deadening winters of my time, except I am almost comforted that Minnesotans deal with this more than New Yorkers do.

30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?

More aware of Jeffrey Jones, but not looking to endorse a guy into child pornography.

31) The best cinematic antidote to a cultural stereotype (sexual, political, regional, whatever).

I would say the original version of "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" because every single ugly stereotype is contained within one film and subjected to satire, so that no other film should have resorted to using them again.

32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.

The only Wayne film I've tolerated so far has been "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". Perhaps, one day, another one of his movies will stick.

33) Favorite movie car chase.

Officially, they're not exactly cars, but the ending of "The Road Warrior" is the best chase scene and, more importantly, the best action sequence ever put to film.

34) In the spirit of His Girl Friday, propose a gender-switched remake of a classic or not-so-classic film. (Submitted by Patrick Robbins)

I would say any horror film, so that the trope of having men stalking helpless women would stop being exploited so easily. Though, if they remade "The Shining" with the wife walking around with an axe, I'm afraid they would get Neil LaBute to direct it.

35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?

Barbara Feldon. She was a good enough reason I watched a lot of "Get Smart" when I was young.

36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.


37) If you could take one filmmaker's entire body of work and erase it from all time and memory, as if it had never happened, whose oeuvre would it be? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)

Roland Emmerich, though his work will live on in all the movies he ripped off.

38) Name a film you actively hated when you first encountered it, only to see it again later in life and fall in love with it.

Hated "Nashville" early on, but I now consider it Altman's greatest film and one of the best of all time.

39) Max Ophuls or Marcel Ophuls? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)


40) In which club would you most want an active membership, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, the Cutters or the Warriors? And which member would you most resemble, either physically or in personality?

The Cutters because I'm certainly not a gang or fraternity type. As far as who I resemble, younger with longer hair and no beard, it would be Moocher.

41) Your favorite movie cliché.

Tying in with Question 44, it is when a character makes a selfless sacrifice.

42) Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen? (Submitted by Bob Westal)


43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.


44) Favorite moment of self- or selfless sacrifice in a movie.

I'm not a religious person, but Jesus Christ in "The Last Temptation of Christ".

45) If you were the cinematic Spanish Inquisition, which movie cult (or cult movie) would you decimate? (Submitted by Bob Westal)

It's too big to be considered a cult movie, but I really believe people should move on from "Star Wars". Outside of "Empire Strikes Back", most of the allegedly sacred original trilogy do not hold up as films.

46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?


47) Favorite eye-patch wearing director. (Submitted by Patty Cozzalio)

Pass again.

48) Favorite ambiguous movie ending. (Original somewhat ambiguous submission---“Something about ambiguous movie endings!”-- by Jim Emerson, who may have some inspiration of his own to offer you.)

"2001: A Space Odyssey" is the ambiguous ending to judge all other ambiguous endings by.

49) In giving thanks for the movies this year, what are you most thankful for?

I am thankful Park Chan Wook turned out another great film this decade to give me hope there will be a future in great cinema, if not always in the United States.

50) George Kennedy or Alan North? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

George Kennedy. Not with any enthusiasm, mind you.


Jason Bellamy said...

"If Mark Wahlberg's character had died, I would have included him too."

That killed me.

You saw The Great Escape on the big screen? I haven't even seen it offered, and I keep an eye on the AFI Silver, where it would be a natural.

I'm envious.

Steven Santos said...


Luckily, the Film Society of Lincoln Center did a Steve McQueen retrospective at the Walter Reade Theater here in New York.

I had been wanting to see it for a good 15 years and, considering its following, it still never showed up on a screen until this year. Odd.

Craig said...

#6: Boy, "The Mist." Still not sure how I feel about that one. I just remember having the shakes when it was over, and feeling Frank Darabont directed as if hellbent on exorcizing every accusation of sentimentality off his resume.

#7: It's a very tough call between De Niro (your pick), Harrison Ford (Bill Ryan's), and Kevin Spacey (Jason's). All three of you make strong cases, but I have to go with Ford for squandering his talent (at least De Niro and Spacey reached creative highs) and acting like an asshole going through a midlife crisis both on- and off-screen.

#38: "Nashville"'s a good choice. I could go with a handful of Altman movies I didn't appreciate or understand when I was younger but which I adore now.

Steven Santos said...


I understand what you're getting at with "The Mist". I am actually a fan of Darabont's sentimental films (well, not "The Majestic") though those films are darker than people give them credit for. Look at what Robbins goes through to earn his ending in "Shawshank" or the fate of Hanks' character in "Green Mile".

I thought "The Mist" did what horror films should do. Most try to simply scare you, but that one gets under your skin and completely unsettles you whether you like it or not. I can get if someone doesn't like it, but it deserved more discussion than the dismissals it received during its release.

Re: Altman, I do find several of his films I got more when I got older. Strangely, the one I liked more initially "MASH" is the one that doesn't hold up for me as well. But "Nashville", "McCabe" and "The Long Goodbye" improved vastly on later viewings.

Craig said...

We're in total agreement on Darabont: I think "Shawshank" is holding up as a classic and "Green Mile" a pretty good movie. I like his leisurely (not slow) pacing, his sure touch with actors, his knack for casually setting up plot points and paying them off an hour or two later. You're right that "The Mist" deserved to be part of the larger conversation when it was released.

"MASH" looks shallower by the year; maybe the only Altman film that earns the misogynistic label critics try to pin on him. But the three movies you mentioned and one or two others are well worthy of the pantheon. Since his films seem to be so much better suited for adults, I'm admittedly curious about his foray into 80s teen flicks, "O.C. & Stiggs," despite its abysmal reputation.