Saturday, October 22, 2005

KEY TO PROFESSOR WAGSTAFF’S SUMMER OF 42 (Questions, That Is) MOVIE QUIZ PART 2: GOD, MUSIC, DE PALMA, EASTWOOD, LOVE, HATE AND MEMORIES


(The following is part two of a four-part article gathering up the answers to Professor Wagstaff’s Summer of 42 (Questions, That Is) Movie Quiz. You can find part one posted directly below this article by scrolling down.)

Now, let’s see. Where were we?

8) Your Favorite Concert Movie

As might be expected, Stop Making Sense and The Last Waltz were the big winners in this category. But Jen gets mad props (did I just type that?) from me for mentioning one that I wish I had—the delightful Down from the Mountain, chronicling a concert (which eventually became a sensational nationwide tour that I was lucky enough to see in person) featuring the bluegrass music and artists highlighted by the Coen Brothers’ unpredictably, deservedly popular O Brother, Where Art Thou?. (Pictured here are David Rawlings, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch.) Elsewhere, Blaaagh digs The Kids are Alright and Bring on the Night, Virgil Hilts holds up the self-reflexive, mesmerizing and horrifying Gimme Shelter for praise, Machine Gun McCain grooves to Shake!: Otis at Monterey, Robert finds favor with The Decline of Western Civilization (Part 1), and PSaga wants you to know that the Tom Waits concert doc is Big Time. Finally, sorry, Beege—I gave you From Conception to Childbirth, but I gotta take a stand somewhere—in no way, shape or form can Dirty Dancing be considered a concert documentary.

9) Your Favorite Movie Incorporating Religion or Religious Themes

Heretics worldwide (or at least SLIFR-wide) agree: The Last Temptation of Christ is the standard bearer for cinematic contemplation of religion—it made my (short) list, and was the flat-out pick for Blaaagh, Thom McG and Rodger. Jen put it second tier, alongside Jesus of Montreal, reserving, as did Sharon, first-place honors for Kevin Smith’s Dogma (another inspired heretical pick, I’d say). I also thought Scorsese probed religious themes with profundity in Mean Streets and Kundun, but my first choice was Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. Finally, I had to reserve room for one of my favorite religious allegories in all cinema, Tron. (Rent it, unbelievers, if you dare!) Benaiah cites a title I have passing familiarity with, but no real knowledge of-- Boondock Saints-- and I’d be curious to hear more about how it works on this level. Novotny offers up Bunuel’s Nazarin, the M.A.B. refers us all to Roberto Rossellini’s magnificent The Flowers of St. Francis, and Murray lists Moses as his number-one (Murray, is that the one with Burt Lancaster from 1975, which is also known as Moses the Lawgiver?). Robert, whose list, by number 9, was becoming singularly intriguing to me, comes up with an ace here by citing Michael Tolkin’s fascinating and terrifying directorial debut, The Rapture, which chronicles the conversion of a unfulfilled hedonist (Mimi Rogers) to a life of Christian awareness and belief, only to find herself driven to bizarre Abrahamesque extremes by the voices only she can hear. This is the one, of all mentioned, I most want to see again, if only to see if it still holds the power it had over me when I first saw it. And finally, Preacher Beege offers up a couple of titles I wouldn’t have expected from a person of the cloth (but then Beege is delightfully unpredictable in that regard)-- A River Runs Through It and Legends of the Fall. I saw the Robert Redford movie, and I understand why you, Beege, or anyone might be thusly moved by it. I have not seen Legends of the Fall, however, but nothing I’ve heard about it ever suggested to me that it functioned at all on a level of religious consideration. Would you be offended if I asked for a little extrapolation here? Unless, of course, it’s Brad Pitt worship that these two titles are meant to represent, in which case you can respectfully keep it as your own little treasure, thanks!

10) Your Best Story (Long or Short) About Attending a Drive-In Movie
I’m just gonna share my favorite responses to this one uncut…

Preacher Beege: “Um, ahem, the last time I attended a drive in movie, I didn't (ahem) actually WATCH the movie? So...um, yeah. Next question?”

The M.A.B.: ”This is also my first movie memory I am now just remembering! My parents decided to take us to Clash of the Titans. So we went to the drive-in. I don't remember where. Maybe it was in New Hampshire somewhere. I'm pretty sure. The place is long gone now. We came early and saw the last 15 or 20 minutes of The Spy Who Loved Me, which was pretty damn exciting! Then we saw Clash of the Titans, which I don't remember, although I do remember it from TV later of course. But that 20 minutes of Bond excitement I remember for some reason. Maybe I fell asleep during Titans! I must have been only about 7. NOTE: Actually, I just looked up the dates of the movies, and it must have been For Your Eyes Only, which came out the same year as Clash of the Titans. But I could swear it was the other one. Also, 7 is kind of old, so maybe I saw movies before that.” (Hooray for repressed memories and all that, but this is another one of those answers that made me feel very old—Ed.)

Blaaagh: ”I have a good memory of when we had moved to Oregon and lived on a farm, and my dad and mom took those of us who'd been born to the drive-in to see The Day of the Triffids and probably something else which I slept through. But we wore our pajamas, we got to play on the swing set right under the screen until the previews came on--at which point we ran back to the car--and the triffids were the scariest things I had ever seen, other than King Kong and Godzilla, which were on a small black & white TV, so not quite so impressive. I remember my excitement at Dad telling us we were all going to the drive-in, and how hard I tried to stay awake through the whole movie (I failed, of course--I was maybe four).”

Dennis: ”My first make-out session (at a drive-in) came just before the end of my senior year of high school. Somehow I ended up in my car with a girl I had a huge crush on and, incredibly, she made the first move, and for the next two hours we had lots of fun steaming up the windows of my 1968 VW Bug. And what was the romantic film that served as a background to our fun? That classic of love and passion, Marathon Man, which is why that girl is still known (to Blaaagh and I, anyway) as M.M.W., the Marathon Man Woman.”

Murray: Going to Patton at Circle JM Drive-In Theater in Lakeview, with girlfriend, now wife of 31 years, expecting to steam the windows, and ending up watching the movie unstead while she napped.” (You thinking you were gonna get some action during Patton, me actually getting a little action during Marathon Man-- What the hell is wrong with us? Didn’t anybody ever make out to The Harrad Experiment or Slumber Party ‘57 at that drive-in?—Ed.)

Jen: ”When I was a tiny kid, there was a double feature of some innocuous family movie and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (drive-in theaters can pair 'em off like nobody's business).I think my parents assumed my sister and I would be asleep by the time BtVotD rolled up, but I remember it vividly. I believe this explains a great deal of the damage to my psyche.” (Jen, they’ll never see it, at least on my watch anyway, but my three and five-year-old girls have developed a fondness for the pop tunes sung by the Carrie Nations on the soundtrack to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which I exposed them to this summer. Are they in trouble? Am I in trouble? With the law, I mean.—Ed.)

Rodger: ”I miss them. The last movie I saw at a drive-in was Batman at the Pickwick in Burbank. The site is now a Pavillions Shopping Center. Bastards.” (Rodger, if you’ve read this site with any regularity this summer you probably are already aware, but a click here might just cure what ails ya—Ed.)

PSaga: ”Mom claims she took me and my younger sibs to see Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal at the Garrett, Indiana drive-in. I sure as HECK remember the movies (which made a huge impression on me), but sadly I don’t remember the drive-in experience. [ Sighs ] That’s the best I can do, Dennis.” (No worries, PSaga. In a couple of days you too will be here.—Ed.)

Robert: ”I have no good drive-in stories… I remember attending drive-ins twice with family members – an odd billing of At The Earth’s Core with Old Dracula; and then watching It’s Alive with It Lives Again as a birthday present from my grandfather. During the heyday, the drive in seemed to be this forbidden place; seeing the ads in the newspapers, which promised sights so lurid, one would have to be lucky to survive an evening.” (I love your concluding description, Robert; and believe me, just name-dropping those four titles in the context of attending a drive-in in the late-70s qualifies as a good drive-in story—Ed.)

11) Your Favorite Brian De Palma Movie
I admit I was trying to goad some juicy responses out of people with this one, and I’d say I was pretty successful:

Benaiah:Scarface, but mostly by default since I thought The Untouchables was crap.”

The M.A.B.: ”I'm looking at the filmography, and I just don't want to pick any. Not sure why. If I had to, I'd go with Blow Out I guess. I also have a soft spot for Bonfire of the Vanities because I love extravagant failures and Bruce Willis.” (I bet you loved Hudson Hawk, didn’t you? But Murray and I are with you on Blow Out—Ed.)

Novotny: Femme Fatale. Pure cinematic experience.”

Preacher Beege: ”Who’s Brian De Palma?”

Jen: "Phantom of the Paradise. My girlies and I got obsessed with this flick in high school, and we saw it at least 10 times at the La Paloma in Encinitas. It was on Cinemax just a few nights ago—at 4:00 in the morning—and I recited/sang along, amazed I could remember every goddamn word of every goddamn song, and nearly every goddamn line of dialog. Oh, yeah. I was hip as all get-out in 1974.” (I have only one thing to say to you, Jen: “There really is a phantom!”—Ed.)

Thom McGregor: ”I despise this question! Why? I find De Palma to be generally misogynistic and hateful. But I'll answer it because Dennis loves him. Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark" video. Sorry, honey. That's the best I can do.” (Nice dodge, honey! Very clever!—Ed.)

Caption Jockey: ”I hate this guy. But I kind of like the first Mission: Impossible.”

Virgil Hilts: ”Uh… pass.”

Robert: “I used to love DePalma; then when I started watching Hitchcock films, started to love him a lot less. Dressed To Kill holds up a lot better than some of his other films.”

Machine Gun McCain: ”The more I think about it, the more I love Raising Cain.” (Good one!—Ed.)

Rodger:Scarface, of course, the only decent movie that thieving, plagiarizing, Hitchcock-bone-eating freak ever made. And most of that credit goes to Pacino.” (Rodger, I’d wager it was you Pauline Kael was thinking of when she called Scarface “a Brian De Palma movie for people who hate Brian De Palma movies.”—Ed.)

By the way, Blaaagh says it’s Carrie “hands down.” So there!

12) Name One Movie You Initially Loved, Saw Again and Ended Up Significantly Less Of

The Butterfly Effect (Benaiah), Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (Novotny—“First I loved it because it looks amazing, then I hated it for being Orientalism for dummies”—Care to elaborate?—Ed.), The Devil’s Advocate (Blaaagh—I might finally be ready for this one—Ed.), Titanic (Murray—Okay, you just made up a smidgen of ground that you’d previously lost on This is Spinal Tap; care to rebut, M.A.B.?-- Ed.), Obsession (Thom McG), The Deer Hunter (Dennis), Apocalypse Now (Virgil Hilts), Short Cuts (Rodger—This Altman fan thanks you, R.J.—Ed.), Wedding Crashers (Machine Gun McCain), William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet/Moulin Rouge! (PSaga).

13) Name One Movie You Initially Hated, Saw Again, and Ended Up Liking or Loving

Nashville (Machine Gun McCain—Me too!—Ed.), Last Tango in Paris (Caption Jockey), Laura (Rodger—“I have to get past Dana Andrews”), Love, Actually (Jen), Madame X (Virgil Hilts—“Nah, just kidding!”), 1941 (Dennis), Pulp Fiction (Thom McG), Eraserhead (Blaaagh), The Son (Novotny), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Beege), Punch-Drunk Love (Benaiah)

15) Favorite Blaxploitation Theme Song

I guess the omnipresence of Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” shouldn’t have been too surprising, its predictability cushioned by its sheer wonderfulosity. But there were other keen picks:

The M.A.B. liked Earth, Wind and Fire from Sweet Sweetback’s Baadaaass Song

I reserve awe and admiration not only for Blaaagh’s choice of J.J. Johnson’s main title theme from Willie Dynamite, but that he actually got to see the movie, featuring Roscoe Orman as the titular pimp (“Ain’t no one crosses Willie D!”) and the late and lovely Diana Sands in a theater back in the day…

Thom McG is down with the awesome Isaac Hayes title track for the singer’s one and only blaxploitation starring role, Truck Turner, even as she will have no further truck with the movie itself…

Me and Robert, we like Superfly

Caption Jockey wonders if there’s one for Dolemite and assures us that if there is, he likes it…

James Brown’s “The Boss” from Larry Cohen’s Black Caesar is what does it for Machine Gun McCain…

Finally (and I do mean finally), Novotny replies: “None. I’m not Tarantino.”

16) The First Movie You Remember Seeing In A Theater

Benaiah and Preacher Beege start the ball rolling on Disney classics-- Peter Pan and The Jungle Book, respectively (something tells me those screenings weren’t on the original 1953 and 1967 releases)-- but I bet that when Rodger says his was also The Jungle Book he’s talkin’ 1967 for sure; Blaaagh cites the Hayley Mills/Disney epic The Moon-Spinners; Murray cops to yet another Disney feature, The Sword and the Stone, and yet, with that as a formative moviegoing experience, he stills likes movies—amazing!; Ditto Jen and her primal experience in a movie theater with Disney’s Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N.; and Thom McG says she was supposed to see some Disney movie or other, but her parents mistakenly herded her and and her older sister into a reissue of Ben-Hur instead. (Ben-Hur, The Boatniks-- what’s the diff? A Tokar’s as good as a Wyler, right?) Myself, I recall seeing some likable Disney knockoff (coscripted by Chuck Jones!) called, and I’m not kidding, Gay Purr-ee.

Then we move on from Disney so that the Mysterious Adrian Betamax might expose the roots of his Spielberg obsession: “Raiders of the Lost Ark. (1981 again, the year I guess I started seeing movies!). This may be after the other one listed above, and actually I don't remember seeing it. It's a family story that my father took me and my 5-year-old brother to see this, thinking it was a good idea, but then had to cover our eyes during the ark-opening melting people sequence. So I guess I didn't see that scene until later in life. But what's with traumatizing my early childhood with exposure to Spielberg! Aaah!” (Poor little fella—Ed.)

Virgil Hilts got all Cinerama on his first movie memory-- How the West Was Won; Machine Gun McCain claims Good Morning, Vietnam for his; Robert had Blue Meanie nightmares over his first, Yellow Submarine; and Caption Jockey reveals all by citing Deep Throat as his introduction to the joys of cinema.

Finally, Sharon says that the first movie she remembers seeing in a theater is King Kong. Though she provides no definitive date to go along with her response, I’m going to assume that she’s referring to the 1976 remake from producer Dino (“People gonna cry when Konk, he die”) De Laurentiis, and not the original 1933 Cooper/Schoedsack classic. I’d have to believe she had a little deal with Prince Sirki in order to think otherwise.

17) The Movie You Remember Most Fondly from Childhood

For several of the respondents, the answer they gave to number 16 could also serve here. But for others it was not so…

Undoubtedly the joys of Sunday-afternoon TV brought Benaiah to the shores of Red River

Attaining full “Twisted Freak” status is the M.A.B. for waxing nostalgic over the likes of Kidco, Super Fuzz and C.H.O.M.P.S.-- M.A.B., the designation “twisted freak” is actually a term of endearment; just ask Thom McG or Virgil H.!

Novotny allows for the childhood pleasures of the cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web

Doctor Zhivago looms large in the memory of Blaaagh…

Murray returns us to Disney country with Old Yeller, and I carry the ball further down the road with Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks in a Circus

Jaws made Thom McG all giddy with the visceral possibilities of cinema, leaving the charms of The World’s Greatest Athlete in its wake like so much played-out chum…

The Magnificent Seven is the big one for Virgil Hilts…

Rodger bet that no one else would tag The Omega Man, and he was right (although Blaaagh and I both dig it too)…

Surprisingly, Deep Throat was not even in Caption Jockey’s top two—he settled for Grease and The Jerk instead…

Machine Gun McCain remembers fondly those nights on Endor-- Return of the Jedi

PSaga cites Stand by Me as her first R-rated feature…

and Robert has much cocoa-love for Mel Stuart’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Did the Tim Burton version do anything for ya, Robert?—Ed.)

18) Your Favorite Clint Eastwood Movie

I figured this one might raise some hackles too, and in a couple of cases I guess it did, but I think across the board there’s more love in this particular forum for Eastwood than De Palma.

Robert can’t choose between The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Outlaw Josey Wales, nor should he have to, dammit…

PSaga: “Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo, or the one with the monkey that my dad always liked. (Sorry, Caption Jockey. I mean, ape.) And what’s all this about Eastwood DIRECTING movies?” (That last line reminds me of Pauline Kael remarking upon the marvelous ambivalence of the old bumper sticker that was fairly prevalent in the late ‘60s that said, simply, “John Wayne for President”…--Ed.)

And speaking of Caption Jockey, he favors The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, unless we’re talking directorially, PSaga, in which case Million Dolllar Baby fills the bill…

Machine Gun McCain wins the cheekiest response award by citing The Gauntlet

Rodger takes the Fifth: “Shit. Tough one. Impossible to answer, damn you.” (At least he didn’t pick Heartbreak Ridge--Ed.)

Jen is fairly emphatic about Unforgiven; Thom McG less so, though it’s still her pick; Novotny and Benaiah like it too…

No doubt inspired by fevered nightmares of Jessica Walter brandishing a large butcher knife, or Donna Mills flapping those heavily crimped, mascara-laden carpets she calls eyelashes, Virgil Hilts stumps for Play Misty for Me

In the spirit of Robert’s indecision, here’s my own response: “As an actor: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Dirty Harry is an almost imperceptibly close second); As a director: Unforgiven (Bronco Billy, A Perfect World and Million Dollar Baby are in an almost imperceptibly close three-way tie for second-- how's that for a hedge?!)”

Murray loves Paint Your Wagon, and too bad for you if you don’t!...

Ditto Sharon, who once punched a very large man through a wall when he made fun of The Bridges of Madison County

The M.A.B. will undoubtedly be annoyed that someone else likes Bronco Billy too, but he picks it as his favorite Eastwood movie in both directing and acting…

And Beege flirts with endorsing Sharon’s pick before backing off (“Just kidding!”) and then making this admission: “While I've watched every single Eastwood movie with my father, I really don't enjoy them.” I like this idea-- sometimes it isn’t the movie so much as the person you see it with. Still, Beege, have you seen Bronco Billy?

(Next: Part Three of Professor Wagstaff’s Key, “Stereovision, Oscars, Action and Good Eats”)

14 comments:

blaaagh said...

Ahem, if I remember correctly, I also chose "Bronco Billy" as my favorite Eastwood movie (didn't I???).

blaaagh said...

...then again, complaining about that is like opening a big chest full of gifts and bitching that one of them is missing a bow. Hee hee...now I'm going back to read the whole thing carefully, even though I should be going to sleep!

beege said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
beege said...

OK. "River Runs Through It" has a beautiful image of faith and redemption running up underneath it...in the begining, when Redford in voice-over is speaking about what Tom Skerrit taught his young sons it was that underneath everything is the rocks, and underneath the rocks are the words...that words hold everything, words are foundational. It brings to my mind the first chapter of the Gospel of John, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Before there was anything else: there was the word.

"Legends of the Fall" is a greatly expanded story of the Prodigal Son. Towards the end, Tristan (Pitt) tells his father, Col. Ludlow (Anthony Perkins), "When Samuel died, I damned God." and then asks if perhaps he has damned himself and everyone around him. Perkins responds in a growl, "You're not damned! You're not damned! I won't allow it!" In that single scene, I see my relationship with God played out. My doubt, God's assurance.

And, while I DID have a poster of Brad Pitt hanging on the ceiling above my bed when I was in high school, my affection for these movies is not based on the fact that he's in them. I'm SO over him. ;)

They are a reflection of my hobby of seeking the sacred amongst the secular. I find that the portrayals of spiritual matters that I find in secular things (whether those portrayals are intended or not) are often more true to my experience than anything that comes packaged for Christians--"The Passion of the Christ" being a prime example.

Anonymous said...

Dennis...

Thanks for the "mad props" (and, no, you DID not type that) on "Down from the Mountain," but more importantly, a blessing on your head, young man, for the iconic pic of my beloved La Paloma!

xo
Jen

Benaiah said...

This is quite a daunting project Dennis. Good luck with completing it.
Benaiah
PS I got to Duke, not Georgia, though I am a Southern boy through and through.

blaaagh said...

I, too, have to offer blessings to Dennis's head for including that "Day of the Triffids" poster--it was very nostalgic to see that again, and alongside my early drive-in memory it was just too cool. In fact, all of this is a blast to read, compiled all neatly and with illustrations. Good thing we'll get Episode 3 sooner than three years from now.

aaron w graham said...

Thanks for putting this up! It made my day at work much more enjoyable. And even though I was only half-serious with THE GAUNTLET as my favorite Eastwood film, I'm sticking with it!

Can't wait for the next part.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Benaiah-- I had a nagging feeling that I was gonna miss on the school-- I remember you saying you were gonna visit Georgia or somewhere down South at one point, and I think I must have cross-wired it with your school, which not that you mention Duke, I don't think you brought up before. Duh!

Yeah, it is a much more daunting project than I realized it would be, but only because all you guys that participated came up with such consistently good answers, and so damn many of 'em! But hey, if I'm gonna toss a 42-question quiz out there and expect people to complete it without pay or Scooby-snacks or something, then I'd better not bitch too much on this end! It's been a lot of fun too, so far. Part three should be up in a day or so, depending on whether I can catch my breath at the office on Monday or not. Hey, did you catch Game 2 of the World Series tonight? Jeez, who cares who wins the whole thing if the next two-five games are as good as the first two have been? I know it kills Fox that Boston or NY are not involved, but baseball fans oughta be grateful that what's in it instead are two scrappy teams that many casual observers of the game (the kind that augment Fox's prime-time ratings come World Series time) don't know much about who seem determined to thrill us night after night in some way or another.

Blaaagh-- Sorry about the Bronco Billy faux pas! Hopefully a full-color Triffids poster went some distance to heal that wound! I'm assuming your comment was a sly reference to George Lucas' Episode III and not a poke at how long it took me to get these answers up to begin with! Ha! :) Our Bay Area/Los Angeles Halloween-weekend visit is just four days away, and the drive-in gods have bestowed something special on us, which I just found out about last night. More details coming soon!

MGM: Like I said, part three is about 3/4 finished and should be up in the next day or so. Part four, hopefully by Wednesday. Somebody came into my office the other day and semi-mock berated me for issuing a 42-question quiz four months ago and then creating an epic amount of text just to reiterate what had already been said. But I had to say that, for me, it's always fun to gather everything together, comment on the answers and their context, and give everybody a hopefully entertaining way of revisiting answers they may have forgotten entirely about, thanks to my tardiness. It's gratifying to know that you all seem to be having fun with this end of it too.

That all said, a big week on the horror movie front for me and this blog-- much to see, experience and report on, and I will do my damnedest to get it up here before the new year dawns! :)

- Dennis

Anonymous said...

Re question #16, I have no idea what version of King Kong I saw as a child. Here's what I remember: I was small enough to sit on my uncle's lap, spending most of the movie facing away from the screen; Kong had blue eyes; we saw it in New Orleans.

That's all I got for now. However, I'm inspired to do some research and see what version I could have seen in the mid-'60s. Will report back when/if I have more info.

Anonymous said...

Okay, it's obviously been a while since I've posted here! This is Sharon, and I wrote the previous post.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Maybe it was the fabled King Kong vs. Godzilla, as referred to below in "Giant Gorillas Are Go"? And welcome back, by the way!

blaaagh said...

Oh yeah--and I love the "Omega Man" photo! "Mathias told me!" And the Japanese Bronco Billy poster...where do you find all this stuff?

miami web design said...

Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks in a Circus… isd my Disney favorite movie!! Thanks A lot for this post... it makes me remember how much I love movies from my childwood