Friday, April 28, 2006


I just wanted to take a moment to send out all my best wishes and prayers to Matt Zoller Seitz and his two children, Hannah and James, and Matt’s entire family, in the wake of the terrible loss of his wife, Jennifer, this past week. I didn’t know Jennifer, but I’ve spoken to Matt a few times, have been an avid reader of his reviews for several years and, of course, his blog since the beginning of this year. There really are no words that can be said to address this kind of tragedy, especially by those of us who only know Matt, and then largely only through his work. The best we can do for him, it seems, is to let him know, in the ways that we can, that we’re there for him in spirit and support. This is my way of doing that.

Matt suggests that should you want to send cards, the address is 343 State Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. He is also looking at his e-mail, either his work address ( or his home address (, if you care to send a personal note that way. Also, in lieu of flowers or other gifts, Matt suggests that donations be made to either the Red Cross or the America Civil Liberties Union, two of Jennifer’s favorite charities.

Rest well, Matt, Hannah and James, and know that you will find the strength to face each new day.

UPDATE: 5/01/06 At The House Next Door, Matt has provided further news regarding a memorial upcoming this week, as well as a heartbreaking and lovely gallery in remembrance of his wife, Jennifer Dawson.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

OSCAR'S TOP DRAWER: THE 10 BEST BEST PICTURE WINNERS (and a little something extra...)

Edward Copeland, proprietor of Edward Copeland On Film, is counting down the final days before the deadline to submit your list for The Ten Best Academy Award Best Picture Winners, and I’m sending my ballot in today, along with apologies to Edward for taking so long to get to it. I encourage you to hustle over to his site NOW, check out the rules and regs and get your choices sent in so Mr. Copeland won’t be spending every waking second of his upcoming weekend tallying votes.

The list I’ve sent to Edward consists of the ten best I was able to mercilessly cull from a complete roster that was actually a little stronger, considering how easy it was to compile a Ten Worst List, than I expected. I also found it interesting, and not the least unexpected, that the ‘80s would be the easiest decade to dismiss— but for the appearance of The Last Emperor and, yes, Driving Miss Daisy (not a classic, but hardly a poster child for racial insensitivity either), I might have guiltlessly blocked and deleted the entire line-up of winners for that ten-year span.

I also found it encouraging that, through no element of design, at least one film from each full decade that Best Picture awards were handed out made it onto my list—although, again, no huge surprise that fully half my list should be weighted toward the ‘70s and beyond.

Finally (and I hope I’m not trumping a future Copeland inquiry here), I decided to extend the optimism of this survey a degree further by trying to fashion a list of the Ten Best Films Nominated for Best Picture That Didn’t Actually Win the Award. Well, that was an even longer list than the 78 actual Best Picture winners, and proved to be much too daunting to be held to just 10. I slashed and ripped and tore at the list of nominees, heartlessly boiling it down further and further. But as I got nearer to that magic number there came a point where I found that I could slash no more. So my Ten Best FNFBPTDAWTA list is actually comprised of 18 essential titles, examples of when the Academy got it right, but could have gotten it even righter.

Again, Edward’s deadline is midnight CDT, Saturday, April 29. He will surely post the final results, along with some highlights of the delicious comments he’s sure to receive, whenever he damn well wants to. Here, then, are my lists.

1) The Godfather Part II (1974) Lightning in a bottle. The one film sequel that has done what (arguably) no other film sequel has done—breathed new artistic life into a predecessor that was already considered about as good as it could be and expanded the scope, emotion, metaphorical power and ultimate horror of the most potent, self-contained vision of America ever made in this country. And in a two-film series stuffed with brilliant acting, John Cazale, as the doomed Fredo Corleone, turns in one of the great overlooked performances in American movie history.

2) The Godfather (1972) The bar that seemed so unsurpassable. It is itself an incredible feat of art and passion winning out over the demands of commerce and the shortsightedness of studio executives, who would reap a huge financial and cultural windfall anyway. What would the landscape of American cinema in the ‘70s, right up to today, look like without the blood, sweat and fears of Francis Ford Coppola, the eccentricity of Marlon Brando, the interior geography of Michael Corleone courtesy of Al Pacino, or Richard Castellano's way around a pot of spaghetti?

3) Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Nine years after the introduction of Cinemascope and nearly a decade of gargantuan productions like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, David Lean fulfilled the promise of the epic scale of motion pictures and the wide-screen image with this rousing, troubling, awe-inspiring adventure. Like most of the films on this list, it has made an imprint on nearly every movie of any measurable scale, regardless of genre, that has been made since.

4) It Happened One Night (1934) Frank Capra drafted a durable template of screwball comedy with this graceful, ageless delight, even as his stars, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, would never strongly be associated with the form (Colbert still had great comedies in her, however, for Mitchell Leisen and Preston Sturges.) Unless you’re a Sunday school teacher, you’re more likely to think of this movie than the Old Testament if someone mentions the walls of Jericho. Seventy-two years later, whenever someone mentions great comedies, we’re still thinking of this one.

5) The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) One of the great war movies, this is, of course, a spectacle grounded in character, centered on a psychological battle of wills between two officers and how wartime strategy quickly curdles and madness infests the motivations of both. Alec Guinness, Sessue Hayakawa and William Holden were perhaps never better than in David Lean’s warm-up to Lawrence of Arabia and, once I heard it, “The Colonel Bogey March” has never really left my head.

6) Unforgiven (1992) A summing up of and engagement with the dark underbelly of not only Clint Eastwood’s career, but also with the nature of American life and history as well. The actor/director is likely never to make another western, but Unforgiven is such a rich, evocative, chilling and morose experience that it really does feel like the last necessary word on the subject, at least from this filmmaker.

7) Annie Hall (1977) Because it was such an unlikely choice to best a phenomenon like Star Wars, and because it became itself the unlikely pinnacle of Woody Allen’s connection with an audience (i.e., the real world), this self-conscious, maddening, riotously funny and surprisingly sweet comedy makes the list. When I think of 1977 some 30 years later, I’m much more likely to conjure an image from this movie than of C3PO or R2-D2, and for that, Woody, despite your output over the past 20, I thank you.

8) The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) Peter Jackson’s feat of bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels to the screen with abundant integrity and vision, sustaining that integrity and vision over three films, and adding such overwhelming sorrow, yearning and, ultimately, joy to the third part is the kind of expansion of Lean’s epic filmmaking into a fantasy realm that must still give George Lucas fits of envy and nightmares of what could have been. Jackson’s contribution to the Oscar roster stands the best chance of being undervalued over time (actually, I think it already has been) due to its sheer popularity and inclusiveness.

9) All About Eve (1950) Released the same year as Sunset Boulevard, these two Best Picture nominees must have give the impression that Hollywood suddenly really had it in for itself. Wilder’s film carries with it the truly acrid scent of dead flowers, whereas Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders and company are in it for the bitchy fun. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Essentially a soap opera for the above-the-line set, the movie is carried almost effortlessly along by the arrogant entitlement, and the confusion, of Davis’s Margo Channing, one of the most unlikely repositories for audience identification in the history of the movies.

10) Casablanca (1942) The ultimate studio picture, seemingly conceived by the seat of its pants out of providence, unlikely chemistry, spit, bailing wire, prayer and sheer luck. But to fully accept this theory would be to discount the importance of director Michael Curtiz, a solid craftsman who, despite helming other classics like The Adventures of Robin Hood, Angels with Dirty Faces and Yankee Doodle Dandy, has never been one to stoke much auteurist heat. Overexposure and excessive popularity are other enemies against which this movie’s reputation has had to endure. But a clear eye reveals Casablanca to be one of the pinnacles of the studio system, proof that even too many cooks and a bunch of conflicting recipes don’t spoil the soup every time.

The Ten (18) Best Films Nominated for Best Picture That Didn’t Actually Win the Award

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935; Leo McCarey)
Grand Illusion (1937; Jean Renoir)
Stagecoach (1939; John Ford)
Citizen Kane (1941; Orson Welles)
Double Indemnity (1944; Billy Wilder)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946; Frank Capra)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951; Elia Kazan)
Roman Holiday (1953; William Wyler)
Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964; Stanley Kubrick)
M*A*S*H (1970; Robert Altman)
Deliverance (1972; John Boorman)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975; Sidney Lumet)
Nashville (1975; Robert Altman)
Taxi Driver (1976; Martin Scorsese)
Breaking Away (1979; Peter Yates)
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982; Steven Spielberg) *
The Right Stuff (1983; Philip Kaufman)
Babe (1995; Chris Noonan)

* In choosing E.T. over Jaws, I decided that losing to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (as did Jaws) was no dishonor, whereas losing to Gandhi (as did E.T.) was a slight that I wanted to address in some fashion, however insignificant.

If you have your own lists, please get thee promptly to Edward via his e-mail address: (And don’t worry about that address. As Edward said himself, “I know the title seems wrong for a best contest, but I created the address especially for the first contest, so might as well use it again.”)

Or if you just feel like dropping the names of a couple of other candidates or arguing with the ones on my list, the door to my comments column is always open. With a survey like this, the more perspectives, the better.

Thanks, Edward, for inspiring a load of fun. I look forward to seeing how it all shakes out!


UPDATE 4/27/2006 In a comment below, Mr. Middlebrow quite correctly pointed out that I left one of the best movies of the '80s, one that actually was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award off my Ten Best FNFBPTDAWTA list. I have updated it above, but please now consider that Ten Best list expanded from 17 to 18 with the tardy inclusion of Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff.

ALSO, Mr. Middlebrow has a fun survey of his own going on at his site A Drinking Song (You know... "Show me the way to go home/I'm tired and I wanna go to bed...") that will give you an opportunity to stand up for 10 movies you think have been unjustly ignored or given the critical shaft. I've already turned in my list and I encourage you to do the same!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


The first crush I ever had on a TV or movie star was Julie Newmar in the role of Catwoman on the Batman TV series. I remember vividly the stirrings of fear and desire that were conjured up in me upon first seeing her in that costume, and then every time after that when I had even but an inkling that she would be reappearing on the show to test the wits and strength of the Dynamic Duo. That Newmar-inspired fear, which was really the first stirrings of lust in the heart of a then-six-year-old boy, often manifested itself in nightmares, visitations by the Catwoman as she floated over my bed, like a feline succubus in black-and-gold lame, silken cat ears and coyly revealing face mask, often flanked by a couple of her extremely nonthreatening henchmen. Julie Newmar set the template of sensual and sexual attraction for me very early on—strong, seductive, sometimes violent females, capable of holding their own amongst the men who would either hold them in check, lash out against them or conspire in some way to keep them down. Claudia Cardinale, Sophia Loren, Pam Grier, Ann-Margret and Michelle Yeoh would all occupy the same position of honor in my affections at one point or another in my development as a teenager and a cinephile. Had I encountered her in any significant way during that time, I’m pretty sure Angie Dickinson would have slipped under my youthful radar.

My interest and fascination with Angie is, instead, a late, retroactive one, and much more satisfying so, I think— the fascination roughly fits my particular mold in terms of her basic appeal, but it seems to be most clearly expressed in a more adult-oriented sensibility of appreciation. Angie never was the ostentatiously libidinous villainess, or the outsized, overripe sexpot, or the hyperactively alluring Vegas-style entertainer, or the carnal and deadly action star, or the lithe and transcendently kinetic martial arts heroine. For me, her appeal was rooted in the earthy splendor best displayed by Feathers in Rio Bravo. The role could have been simply female diversion—some might argue, and successfully, that that is exactly what it is. But I think Dickinson’s easy manner, her sense of playfulness in her scenes with John Wayne, her refusal to be intimidated by him either as an actor/icon, or in her encounters with Wayne’s John T. Chance, and what That Little Round-headed Boy accurately describes as her casual beauty, allows Dickinson to reveal more than that diminutive “female diversion” might allow. Feathers stands toe-to-toe with the men and the boys on Hawks’ canvas of loyalty and controlled action-- she demands respect, and makes no apologies, for seeing the world the way she sees it.

Her devastating, rather understated beauty is central to her appeal in Rio Bravo and, I think, throughout her career. The fact that she registers first as a “real” woman, that is, not a spectacular, unattainable caricature, but as someone whose essence seems grounded in the everyday, the recognizable, is what makes the gradual revelation of just how lovely a presence she is in films as varied as The Bramble Bush, The Chase, Ocean’s Eleven, Rome Adventure, Jessica, The Killers, Point Blank, Sam Whiskey and Pretty Maids All in a Row eventually so, well, devastating.

However, while reserving spots for Rio Bravo, Point Blank and Dressed to Kill as perhaps the best movies Angie Dickinson ever appeared in, I would agree with those who cite Big Bad Mama as perhaps her best role, and perhaps even her finest hour as an actress. It’s an excellent showcase for the particular brand of earthy, genuine manner and humor she accesses, leavened, of course, by that unassuming, unadorned beauty, and all mixed up with a unapologetic and brazen sexuality (the kind only hinted at in her previous roles), a measure of maternal compulsion, and the kind of violent bravado that was not out of place amongst Roger Corman’s New World Pictures at the time. The template for the picture is, of course, Bonnie and Clyde, and while the movie cuts nowhere as deep as Arthur Penn’s picture, it’s still a lively, funny ride, an ostensibly new wineskin filled almost to bursting with admittedly old wine—the heady excitement and eventual comeuppance of gangsters on the run in 1930s America wasn’t exactly a new tale even when Penn told it (in that instance, the old wineskin did indeed bust wide open), but director Steve Carver’s movie opened it up with a kind of B-movie brio that would prove profitable for Corman, as well as for several producers of similar gangster movies that would follow in its dusty, bloody trail throughout the ‘70s.

But I’ll leave the movie to others whose enthusiasm for it matches mine even as their words engage it with the kind of ease of articulation and perception that I’m not capable of mustering as the hour grows late. Instead, Big Bad Mama, and indeed the essence of the allure of Angie Dickinson, for me can be boiled down to a single shot in that movie. It’s a moment that encapsulates all the qualities of her physical presence, which, I think it can be argued successfully, is the sturdy foundation on which her very real, if modest, talents as an actress are built. (Anyone who doubts her ability to conjure coiled, feral energy and focus with laser precision on the weary disgust of a fashion-plate femme fatale really ought to get themselves hence to John Boorman’s Point Blank, and then contrast this character turn with Maria Bello’s rather more well-trodden approach in Brian Helgeland’s terrific, if more conventional, Point Blank remake, Payback.)

Mama, known to everyone else but her daughters as Wilma McClatchie, has returned to the arms of Fred Diller (Tom Skerritt) one last time, in a hay loft on the farm where Wilma’s gang has being hiding out. Yes, this is the scene every teenaged boy who saw Big Bad Mama in 1974 and has held it near and dear to their hearts ever since remembers with absolute clarity— the shocking moment when Wilma/Angie rises up from the arms of Fred/Tom, reacting the noises being made by a posse that is about to lay siege to that farm and engage her gang in a fatal gun battle. Wilma crosses in front of the camera toward the barn door, revealing herself to be completely and totally nude—a surprising and quite welcome display by Angie Dickinson that even today puts most pneumatically engineered porn starlets and their relentlessly manufactured eroticism to sad shame.

But it’s the moment when Wilma/Angie begins to steel herself for that gun battle that I find to be the height of the film’s fusion of sexuality, eroticism and violence. Framed by the hay loft door, looking down over the courtyard at the entrance to the farm where her pursuers have started to make themselves known, Wilma, holding her pistol, breasts still exposed, gathers up her slip over herself in a series of modest moves, all the while talking (To Fred? Her daughters? Her soon-to-be attackers? I admit I don’t remember to whom) and readying her pistol for the defensive task at hand. The simple eroticism of this shot, the actress’s economical, expressive movement, and the projection of the inescapable trajectory of violence that has now fused itself permanently with her maternal instincts by the presence of the gun, strikes me as easily the visual highlight of the film. In fact, when I saw Big Bad Mama recently on DVD, the moment seemed to me to be one of the most genuinely, poignantly, expressively sexy images I could recall seeing in a movie.

Angie Dickinson is arguably more famous for her role as Pepper Anderson on TV’s Police Woman series, which ran for four years, than for any single movie, or perhaps for her entire movie career. Though Police Woman often stuck her in vaguely demeaning hooker/stripper guises in order to lure criminals to their date with the law, often emphasizing Lt. Bill Crowley (Earl Holliman) as her unlikely savior, it was steady, high-profile work, and she certainly got to do more during the run of Police Woman than she ever did in a typically small role like the one she played in The Chase. (And no matter how traditional his male-dominant role in the series, I always imagined Angie could mop the floor up with Earl pretty handily.) But for many I suspect her Wilma McClatchie, Big Bad Mama herself, has reserved a much softer spot in their cinematic hearts. For me, discovering the movie as a grown-up, rather than as a testosterone-fueled teen at my local drive-in in 1974, it cements the grown-up appeal Dickinson held for me in Rio Bravo, Point Blank and Dressed to Kill as a sex symbol grounded in a happily recognizable standard of beauty. All the photographs and stills you’ll see during today’s Angie Dickinson Blog-a-Thon show that beauty to be timeless, and it still shines through Angie v.2006. Her movies, even the least memorable of them, testify to a different kind of beauty though, the kind informed by the magic that the cinema can bring to an actress to make her live and breathe for us, to make her more “real.” The movies featuring Angie Dickinson prove that a cinematic sex symbol need not seem larger than life. Indeed, for my money, it’s her connection to the truer dimensions of that life, with all its attendant humanity, grace, failures, and even acceding to the inevitability of aging, that ushers her into the pantheon of the movies’ greatest beauties.


There are other contributions to the Angie Dickinson Blog-a-Thon that will provide you with much reading enjoyment today. This list will undoubtedly expand as the day moves along, but for right now you might click on the following to get that Angie fix:

Steven Carlson checks in on The Three Faces of Angie, one of them being the little seen Big Bad Mama II, over at The Ongoing Cinematic Education of Steven Carlson.

Flickhead has a great overview of Angie's career, as well as his usual keen observtions: "Ultimately what purpose does she serve other than to let us know all is right with the world?... Angie flowered in an era that went gaga over smoldering, busty exotics and amazons: Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Senta Berger, Anita Ekberg. But wisely and logically, she never tried to compete. Hers is a soft sexuality, warm and genuine, merry narrow-eyes and a slight lisp, the promise of a pleasant time in the sack and blueberry pancakes in the morning."

Look to That Little Round-Headed Boy for an investigation into "The Enduring Mystery of Angie Dickinson," seen largely through the prism of Big Bad Mama: "Angie Dickinson is a gorgeous, gorgeous woman, with one of the most casually beautiful bodies ever put on screen. But is she much of an actress?... She could have been a '60s-'70s Lauren Bacall, a topline star of slow-burning insouciance who attracted the men but didn't turn off the women. She had the legs, she had the bust, she had the pert blond hair and most important, she had the voice. Angie Dickinson's voice is truly what makes her sexy: it's low, smoky, whiskey-cured, measured out to entice. It's irresistible catnip to a man."

Peter Nellhaus does well to remind us of Angie, Arnold Leven and Sam Whiskey at Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee.

John McElwee at Greenbriar Picture Shows remembers some forgotten Angie Dickinson films and the Hollywood atmosphere in which her bid for stardom was launched.

Inisfree offers Angie en francais...

Richard Gibson features some nice screen grabs in considering Angie in Dressed to Kill.

Michael J. Hayde has a look at an early TV Guide appearance by our guest of honor.

Keep checking back for more to come as we celebrate Angie Dickinson Blog-a-Thon Day!


(Again, thanks to Aaron Graham, keeper of More Than Meets the Mogwai for his excessive generosity in procuring the screen grabs used to make this post a much more entertaining one than it would have been without them. Aaron is unfortunately unable to participate in today's tribute to Angie Dickinson, but even so, that he would take the time to supply this DVD-ROM-less soul with such delights for publication speaks volumes. My tab just keeps getting bigger and bigger, MGM.)

Friday, April 14, 2006


Last call for the Angie-a-Thon!

This coming Wednesday, April 19, is the day that has been set aside as Angie Dickinson Blog-a-Thon Day. So if you’re going to be contributing to the festivities, please drop either me or Flickhead a line at our e-mail addresses so we can get a preliminary roster of links posted first thing Wednesday.

And remember, if you don’t have a blog and would be interested in contributing a piece, however brief or lengthy, feel free to submit your stuff to Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule at and I’ll be glad to post it for you.

Rio Bravo! Ocean’s Eleven! The Killers! Point Blank! Big Bad Mama! Dressed to Kill! Police Woman! Join us as we pay tribute to this sensationally sexy star Wednesday, April 19.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


This just in: When Terence Malick's The New World opens in Tokyo later this month, two movie theaters there will be specially equipped to offer something U.S. audiences had to rely on Malick's lush, atmospheric imagery, and their own imaginations, to provide. According to an Associated Press report, special scents will be released into the air of the auditoriums during crucial moments in the film.

The report states that "a floral scent accompanies a love scene, while a mix of peppermint and rosemary is emitted during a tear-jerking scene.

"Joy is a citrus mix of orange and grapefruit, while anger is enhanced by a herb-like concoction with a hint of eucalyptus and tea tree.

The smells waft from special machines under the seats in the back rows of two movie theaters, which create different fragrances by controlling the mix of oils stored in the machines."

Enhancing anger with a hint of eucalyptus and tea tree. Interesting. One has to wonder, though, whether or not if a certain director had been brought in to consult on the aromas those lucky Japanese viewers might also have been treated to a dose of what Colin Farrell's John Smith might have smelled like after a few weeks away from camp.

Malick's trimmed theatrical cut of The New World arrives on DVD May 9 with a 60-minute making-of documentary attached but, presumably, sans smells of any kind.


My friend and coworker, super fan Haruka Sometani, got the chance to meet actor-writer-director Steve Buscemi at a recent screening of his new directorial effort, Lonesome Jim, and just happened to have a camera ready. Said Haruka in the e-mail to which this photo was attached, “It’s my dream come true! The only celebrity I've dreamed of meeting! I finally did it! It's Mr. Buscemi!”

I can only imagine that Buscemi, the man whom the Coen Brothers have killed off at least four times (bullet in the brain pan, hotel fire, wood chipper, and of course, heart attack, as Donny in The Big Lebowski) * and who was so memorable as Seymour, the blues record collector who catches Thora Birch’s cynical eye in Ghost World, was just as happy to meet you, Haruka! I don’t remember if Haruka said whether she liked Lonesome Jim or not, but from the look on her face I doubt if it would have made any difference one way or another.

* (Did the Coens off Buscemi in The Hudsucker Proxy? I’ve only seen it once, and if not for the wonder of the Internet Movie Database I probably wouldn’t have even remembered he was in it.)

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Spring break? What spring break? Professor Van Helsing, senior professor emeritus at the SLIFR U School of Vampirology, has driven a stake through the entire conception of an April vacation and issued another quiz designed to keep you clothed, off the beaches and stone cold sober while all around you students destroy brain cell after brain cell on the hunt for cheap thrills and fresh meat. As proctor of these quizzes, I make a vow right now not to make you wait until September to see the answers to this quiz—the Professor Brainerd turnaround should be considered an aberration, not the rule (this is why I’m not going on spring break either).

And here's a special shout-out to any longtime or newbie lurkers who regularly check out the goings-on at SLIFR-- we all want to hear from you. If you're logging on for the first time, or especially if you've hung around for a while and never commented or participated in one of our quizzes before, I hope you'll take some of your valuable time and let us know what your answers are to these pressing cinematic questions. As much as I hope to see many, if not all of the past participants check in, I know I'd love to have more company in the comments column as those answers start coming in. So join us, won't you?

Just submit your completed list of answers in the comments column. In a month or so, I will compile all of the answers in a digested format for easy pickin's. The questions tend not to be yes-or-no, so short, terse answers may not always be easy to formulate, nor are they necessarily preferred. Personally, I like to read the ones with lots of verbiage, so if you feel like going off on a tangent, feel free to do so!

All right, the hour is now upon us. Sharpen your stakes, sharpen even further your No. 2s, sit up straight and open your blue books… now!


1) What film made you angry, either while watching it or in thinking about it afterward?

2) Favorite sidekick

3) One of your favorite movie lines

4) William Holden or Burt Lancaster?

5) Describe a perfect moment in a movie

6) Favorite John Ford movie

7) The inverse of a question from the last quiz: What film artist (director, actor, screenwriter, whatever) has the least–deserved good reputation, artistically speaking. And who would you replace him/her with on that pedestal?

8) Barbara Stanwyck or Ida Lupino?

9) Showgirls-- yes or no?

10) Most exotic or otherwise unusual place in which you ever saw a movie

11) Favorite Robert Altman movie

12) Best argument for allowing rock stars to participate in the making of movies

13) Describe a transcendent moment in a film (a moment when you realized a film that just seemed routine or merely interesting before had become become something much more)

14) Gina Gershon or Jennifer Tilly?

15) Favorite Frank Capra movie

16) The scene you most wish you could have witnessed being filmed

17) Robert Ryan or Richard Widmark?

18) Name a movie that inspired you to walk out before it was finished

19) Favorite political movie

20) Your favorite movie poster/one-sheet, or the one you’d most like to own

21) Jeff Bridges or Jeff Goldblum?

22) Favorite Ken Russell movie

23) Accepting the conventional wisdom that 1970-1975 marked a golden age of American filmmaking in which artistic ambition and popular acceptance were not mutually exclusive, what for you was this golden age’s high point? (Could be a movie, a trend, the emergence of a star, whatever)

24) Grace Kelly or Ava Gardner?

25) With total disregard for whether it would ever actually be considered, even in this age of movie recycling, what film exists that you feel might actually warrant a sequel, or would produce a sequel you’d actually be interested in seeing?


Okay, this is it— Part Three, the concluding chapter of the roundup of answers to Professor Brainerd’s mind-boggling Christmas Quiz. If you’re looking for a quick (well, not so quick, really) update on the previous two installments, here’s the buttons to push for part one and part two. I’m only throwing in an answer derived from my on list of answers every once in a while, but if you so choose to revisit that logorrheic document, you can do so by clicking here.


12) YOUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE (doesn’t have to be Christmas-oriented)

Of course, when one thinks of holiday movies, it’s almost inevitable that Christmas films come to mind. Murray, Machine Gun McCain, the Mysterious Adrian Betamax and Mr. Middlebrow all cited It’s a Wonderful Life, as did I.

Racking up almost as many mentions was Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story, a favorite of Roscoe, Snake Plissken and Nilblogette, who listed, as did Brian and Sal, Die Hard as well (that’s always been one I like to warm my chestnuts by during the Christmas season too).

Thom McGregor voted for Groundhog Day, Beege gave up some love for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Sal points us toward April Love and One Magic Christmas, Dave Robidenza prefers Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Roscoe loves The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mr. Middlebrow cites the original animated version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and he joins Sharon in recommending The Ref (another wonderful monkey wrench in your stocking!), Peter Nellhaus recommends George Cukor’s Holiday, and both Robert and Virgil Hilts think highly of Alastair Sim’s portrayal of Scrooge in the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol directed by Brian Desmond-Hurst. On to some commentary:

Blaaagh: “I'd sure like to see Magoo's Christmas Carol dad could never watch it without crying at the end! But barring that, I'll go with It's a Wonderful Life, which came on some dreary 70s day after Christmas in the midst of my teenage years and acted on me like some sort of tonic. I don't watch it often, so as not to wear it out even more than it has been already, but I still love it.”

Brian: “Let’s try one for each of five holidays: Halloween: Halloween; Dia de los Muertos: Macario; Christmas: The Shop Around the Corner; Groundhog Day: Groundhog Day; Easter: Monty Python’s Life of Brian
The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “Only It's a Wonderful Life springs to mind, and it is a really excellent movie on all levels, so it's okay to pick it. Bonus response: Best SHORT holiday movie-- Laurel and Hardy's Big Business, the one where they go selling Christmas trees door-to-door.”

psaga: “Every Halloween, I force anybody within reach to watch The Frighteners with me. This Christmas, my mum, in a fit of cine-filial pride and enthusiasm, purchased and distributed every copy of Danny Boyle’s Millions found in the Greater Michiana area and forced everyone within reach to watch it, plus the English subtitles I cocreated, with her. (“Forget Jimmy Stewart and that kid with the tongue to the flagpole! This is the new Christmas movie. And my daughter worked on the DVD.”) My favorite explicitly “holiday” movie would have to be the Holly Hunter-starring Home for the Holidays. I’m a sucker for all that alliteration. (How’s that for a rambling stoner non-answer?)”

13) WORST HOLIDAY MOVIE (doesn’t have to be Christmas-oriented)

The hammer seems to have come down hardest on Ron Howard’s live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Mr. Middlebrow, Dave Robidenza), but, entertainingly enough, there were plenty of offenders to go around.

Peet is perplexed by The Polar Express; Virgil Hilts says Surviving Christmas is dreck, although seeing Ben Affleck getting slammed on the head with a shovel has some value; Robert thinks Santa Claus The Motion Picture may have had fatal consequences; Peter Nellhaus holds up Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights for some hot-buttered scorn; Brian thinks Independence Day stunk loudest; Murray was offended by Kelsey Grammer’s interpretation of Scrooge in the recent TV movie version of A Christmas Carol; Roscoe thinks any holiday movie with Ben Affleck in it is to be avoided (Reindeer Games, anyone?); and Machine Gun McCain would like a tarp dropped on any Christmas TV movie of the last few years.

Nilblogette: “Once Upon A Christmas starring Kathy Ireland as Santa's daughter is dreck, but I've got to go with The Polar Express. I have never been so simultaneously angry and bored during a movie.”

The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “So many. What was that one with that guy Sinbad?”

Dave Robidenza: “I'd pick the Jim Carrey Grinch on general principles, though I've avoided seeing it.”

Blaaagh: “I love Murray's choice of that terrible, terrible new musical last year with Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge--Jane Krakowski (sp?) as the Ghost of Christmas So-and-So in a slinky dress, singing in a faux English accent, "Do you remembah? Do you remembah?"--but my own choice is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Ugh.”


Peter Mellhaus: ORSON WELLES
Nilblogette: MICHAEL MORIARTY, specifically Troll and Island of the Alive (It’s Alive III)


Snake Plissken: WILLIAM SHATNER (“Khaaaaaaaaaaan!”)

Peet: GEORGE C. SCOTT (“Boy, I love it when this guy gets angry!”)

The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “SHELDON LEONARD, perhaps (if that's fair to him), especially in the film noir Decoy. But he's quite amusingly hammy also in Somewhere in the Night.”

Mr. Middlebrow: “Gary Cooper. Man, what a scene-chewer! Kidding! First blush: William Shatner. Upon consideration: William Shatner."

Dennis: “Some years ago a friend of mine and I put together a patchily-edited (on a VCR) montage of some of Rod Steiger’s wildest moments from movies as diverse as Oklahoma!, In the Heat of the Night, The Loved One, No Way to Treat a Lady and many others (including a scene with Kevin Kline from The January Man where the actor goes so far over the top that it seems the only way out is a full-on aneurysm), and it was an absolute delight to see all that bizarre energy pop off like honey-cured firecrackers, one straight after the other. The cherry on top: I was at a screening of The Passion of Joan of Arc at the John Anson Ford Theater here in Los Angeles several years ago, waiting in line to use the men’s room. A guy emerged from the facility and walked passed me, and the guy waiting behind me made a comment to me along the lines of, ‘Did you see the look on that guy’s face when he came out? I wonder what the hell went on in there?’ I chuckled and turned around to acknowledge the stranger’s vaguely scatological good humor. It was Rod Steiger.”


(Peter Nellhaus, Snake Plissken, Nilblogette, The Mysterious Adrian Betamax)

NIGHTS OF CABIRIA (Thom McGregor, Blaaagh, Dennis)
I VITTELONI (Machine Gun McCain)

Peet: “Clowns and fat ladies scare me.”

Dave Robidenza: “The only one I ever saw was Satyricon, and I'm still working through it in therapy.”

Psaga: “Hooray! LE NOTTI DI CABIRIA ties with GIULIETTA DEGLI SPIRITI for yin. (Fantasy: Giulietta Masina takes out Mastroianni’s Guido from 8 ½.) ROMA (riveting images of the metro tunnels and of Anna Magnani) makes yang.”

(I’ll probably get scoffed right off the information superhighway for this, but it was not my intention to use this question to go fishing for a bunch of shout-outs. That said, thanks to those silly folk who mentioned my name here. Your copies of Reeling are in the mail.)

Peter Nellhaus: LISA SCHWARTZBAUM, Entertainment Weekly
Machine Gun McCain: ANDREW SARRIS (but not the Sarris of today)
Nilblogette: All-time: PAULINE KAEL/Current: DAVE KEHR
Brian: Tie between RUDOLF ARNHEIM and VERN
Robert: Likes Kael and Kehr, but his favorite movie critic is HIMSELF
Peet: DANA LINSSEN (though he would now add Matt Zoller Seitz to his short list).
Mr. Middlebrow: ANTHONY LANE

Roscoe: “I’m too much of a cynic and a masochist, I only read bad reviews.”

Snake Plissken: “Dennis Cozzalio, although I don't agree with him a lot of the time. His fawning appreciation of JM J. Bullock is just too far out for me. (Was I supposed to tell anyone, Dennis?)”

Virgil Hilts: “R.D. Cozzalio. Second place is a tie between Kevin Thomas and Linda Gross of the late '70s/early '80s L.A. Times.”

Peet: “I would have said Dennis Cozzalio if he hadn’t faced me with yet another pointless, irresistable movie quiz to waste my precious holiday time. ;-)”

Beege: “Dennis. ;) Actually...that's not so much of a joke.” (Depends on yor perspective—Ed.)

Thom McG: “Fishing for compliments?” (You get TWO copies of Reeling!—Ed.)

The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “Hans Lucas.”

Psaga: “If I weren’t such a slacker, I’d have been the first to submit Dennis Cozzalio as my favorite critic. Ooh, I just read Thom McGregor’s answers though, and several chortles and exclamations of ‘Man, why didn’t I think of that?’ later, I’m thinking she’s my current favorite. All right, I try to remember to read SALON’s ‘Beyond the Multiplex,’ because Andrew O’Hehir can usually get me all excited by writing something like ‘Cache: Joseph Conrad meets David Lynch in a neighborhood not unlike yours and mine.’ I also try to remember to be amused by the ONION’s AV Clubbers.”


Sal: THE HILLS HAVE EYES (Wes Craven original)
Peter Mellhaus: John Ford in Monument Valley
Machine Gun McCain: Any of Don Siegel’s San Francisco films

Sharon: “As much as I didn’t care for the movies, I’d have to say that Peter Jackson did right by the glorious New Zealand scenery in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.”

Peet: “Picnic at Hanging Rock You beat me to it, Robert!”

Brian: “Having recently seen Zabriskie Point for the first time, I have to say that Antonioni’s use of Death Valley obliterates the memory of all other comers in my mind right now. And this is only a couple weeks after concluding that he was resting on Antonio Gaudi’s laurels for certain stretches of The Passenger.”

Snake Plissken: “Preston, Idaho, in Napoleon Dynamite. Folks, I've been there, and I'm telling you, that movie was a freaking DOCUMENTARY. Stay far, far away.”

Beege: “Hard to beat Cannon Beach's gigantic rock in The Goonies.”

Blaaagh: “New Zealand in the Lord of the Rings movies...runner-up, the coast of Ireland in Ryan's Daughter (I got to see it at the Paramount in Portland as a kid in 70mm and 6-track stereo).”

Dennis: “I’m obviously not thinking on a very Lean-esque scale here, but I think it’s pretty wonderful what the filmmakers responsible for National Lampoon’s Animal House were able to do to make the campus of the University of Oregon pass for a splendidly atmospheric Eastern college… The location adds a priceless richness and authenticity to the movie, just another element that makes Animal House stand apart from its endless imitators.”

Virgil Hilts: “Alberta, Canada, subbing for the Texas Panhandle in Days of Heaven; the French countryside in The Duellists; and the river in Deliverance. And Robert's choice of "Picnic at Hanging Rock is a real good one.”

Psaga: “Mt. Potts Station as Edoras speaks to my inner lady of Rohan. Matamata as Hobbiton speaks to, well, my inner hobbit. Now please excuse me while I go curl up and cry a puddle over all that beauty.”

Dave Robidenza: “Various North Carolina locations (standing in for colonial-era New York) in Michael Mann's Last of the Mohicans.”

Mr. Middlebrow: “The Last of the Mohicans (four years living in Asheville, NC, near Chimney Rock, where the final showdown with Magua takes place, will do that to you.)”

The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “Ah, whatever. I don't have to answer your stupid questions. Ask Anthony Mann. How about The Far Country. Yeah, go with that.”


Robert, Machine Gun McCain: THE LAST SAMURAI
Thom McGregor: Lawrence Kasdan's GRAND CANYON
Peter Nellhaus: ISHTAR

Nilblogette: “There was no reason for Troy to shoot on location when nothing in that movie looked, or was, real.”

Mr. Middlebrow: “Oregon City, Oregon, in Bandits. (No falls? No elevator? The hell?)
Also the worst squandering of Cate Blanchett.”

Blaaagh: “Er...I dunno. Probably all the locations in Sidney Sheldon's Bloodline. I don't remember whether any of them were "natural" locations, but I remember how terrible it was and that they traveled to different countries around the world to make this trash.”

Dave Robidenza: “Mount Etna for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, both for providing the background for the great big letdown that was the Anakin/Obi-Wan duel and for once again putting the lie to George Luca$$'s assertion that digital effects can replace practical locations.”

Dennis: “The screenwriter and/or director of The Ring 2 decided to set the movie in one of the most picturesque and haunting locales in the Northwest-- Astoria, Oregon-- and then pissed away any and all opportunity to put that natural beauty to any narrative use to conjure dread or even a strong sense of local geography. The location is relegated to a series of picture postcard establishing shots, each one making obvious the inarguable grandeur and natural beauty of the area… The most frightening thing about The Ring 2 is the film’s blindness to its own setting… The best thing about The Ring 2: those establishing shots.”

Brian: “The shooting of The Beach literally squandered the actual beauty of Ko Phi Phi in real life, so it has to win this contest.”

Sharon: “The splendor of Hawaii was wasted on Waterworld.”

Robert: “Once Upon a Time in the West-- I know I’ll get brickbats for this, but I do feel that better use could’ve been made of iconic locations through the whole movie, not just Jill’s wagon ride.”

Peet: “With pain in my heart, I say: Full Metal Jacket. Not that Kubrick did a poor job of making London and Essex look like Parris Island, mind you, but I still believe he should have gotten over his fear of flying for this one.”

The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “Was there a natural location in Chain Reaction? 'Cause I'm sure that was probably a bad movie.”


Roscoe: Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World,” from DONNIE DARKO
Murray: “The Circle of Life” from THE LION KING
Peter Nellhaus: “Beautiful Stranger” by Madonna, from AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED MESnake Plissken: “All Over the World” by Electric Light Orchestra, from XANADU
Machine Gun McCain: “He Needs Me” sung by Julie Andrews, from 10
Nilblogette: “Memo from Turner,” from PERFORMANCE
Beege: “I’ll Cover You,” from RENT
Blaaagh: “Edelweiss,” from THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Brian: The title track from THE HARDER THEY COME by Jimmy Cliff
Sal: “Skid Row” from LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and the title track from THAT THING YOU DO!
Robert: “Love Power” (Dick Shawn’s audition) from THE PRODUCERS; also, “Porpoise Song” and “Daddy’ Song”,” from HEAD.
Peet: “When She Loved Me” by Randy Newman (sung by Sarah MacLachlan), from TOY STORY 2
Dennis: Original to film-- "Until the End of the World," written by Bono and the Edge, from Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World (1991) Non-original to film-- “Move On Up,” written by Curtis Mayfield, as heard in Ken Shapiro's The Groove Tube (1973).
Psaga: “Moving Right Along” by Kermit and Fozzie Bear
Thom McGregor: “Singin’ in the Rain,” from Singin’ in the Rain and Clockwork Orange
Dave Robidenza: “I’m a Neat Kind of Guy” from Todd Solondz’s Fear, Anxiety and Depression
Virgil Hilts: "Singing In The Rain" sung by Gene Kelly; "Town Without Pity" sung by Gene Pitney; Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger"; and Jimmy Cliff singing "Many Rivers To Cross," "You Can Get It If You Really Want" and "The Harder They Come."

Mr. Middlebrow: “‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Ah, the ribald subtext of Ian Fleming...”

The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “????? You are insane if you think I'm going to answer a question this broad.”


Machine Gun McCain, Snake Plissken: X- THE MAN WITH X-RAY EYES
Nilblogette: HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (Any idea what ever happened to Barbara Peeters?—Ed.)
Brian: SUBURBIA (directed by Penelope Spheeris)
The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: THE HAUNTED PALACE

Beege: “Too bad M has gone to bed. I bet he'd have one.”

Thom McGregor: “The Silence of the Lambs, where he played, to perfection, FBI Director Hayden Burke. Okay, this was a weird question…”

Dave Robidenza: “The Skateboard Kid (executive producer), but only for the kick-ass opening credits song.”


Mr. Middlebrow: FAYE DUNAWAY as Bonnie and MYRNA LOY in The Thin Man
Thom McGregor: Current: EWAN McGREGOR Firsts: RICHARD DREYFUSS, ROBERT REDFORD, AL PACINO, DIANA RIGG (Gentlemen, all questions about this last one can be referred directly to for a discreet reply in a brown wrapper. –Ed.)

Snake Plissken: RAQUEL WELCH

Peter Nellhaus: SANDRA MAJANI. She was only in one film, but God, is she hot!”

Blaaagh: “Crushes through the eons: 1. Julie Christie 2. Julie Newmar 3. Sarah Miles 4. Olivia Hussey (I saw Romeo and Juliet late) 5. Linda Blair (serious). Let's skip over some years, eh?
Currently: Rachel McAdams (I know, I know, she's a young-un, but it's just a movie-star crush).”

Beege: “Zach Braff. There’s just something about those Jewish men…” (Beege, I was coming out of a doctor appointment with my youngest daughter about a month ago, and traffic was stopped right at the street level of the exit to the parking lot. When we creeped up to the top, there was Zach Braff, in hospital blues, sitting in a shopping cart stuffed with garbage, being pushed across the street by an actor dressed as a homeless guy. We’d stumbled onto a location shoot for Scrubs. Life in Los Angeles… -- Ed.)

Psaga: “My heaviest imaginary relationship with a famous person involved a rock star, not a movie star (and you’d have to apply some serious torture—say, marathon screenings of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and Billy Zane—to get me to say more.) With movie stars I guess I’m rather promiscuous. Seeing Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You a few years ago had me clipping photos of young James Stewart to hang in my office cubicle and swoon over. Watching Mathieu Kassovitz in Amelie of Montemartre has me omitting regular squeals. (Director Jeunet cheerfully points out at various times in the commentary and bonus features that they don’t have Leonardo DiCrapio in France, but they have Mathieu Kassovitz. And I ask myself again, “Self, when are we defecting?”) This year’s movie-star crush (all Karl-Urban-in-Doom rumors aside) is definitely Romain Duris in De Battre Mon Coeur S’est Arrete (Zut alors! Another French hottie), a scrumptious blend of Daniel Day-Lewis, Ewan McGregor, and Nick Cave.” (I think that’s “zoot alures,” Psaga—Ed.)

Peet: “Remember that mini-series The Thornbirds in the early ’80s? Well, little girl Meggie in the full-grown shape of English goddess Rachel Ward stole my young boy’s heart. The sight of Richard Chamberlain as Father Ralph struggling to hold on to his priest’s collar while this heavenly brunette was practically tearing off his robe with her teeth assured me that atheism was the path laid before me. Those longing brown eyes, that deep husky voice, those glistering beads of sweat dripping down the curves of her naturally tanned body... Damn, is this thing out on DVD?”
Virgil Hilts: “It wouldn't be right to say anyone other than Claudia Cardinale, but Claudia is more than just a crush. Hayley Mills. That's a crush.”

The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “Ah, I don't know. I really don't obsess about them. (And I'm much healthier for it!)”

Dave Robidenza: “That's between me and a well-hidden folder on my hard drive.”

Machine Gun McCain: JOHN LANDIS, especially Into The Night
Dave Robidenza: WHIT STILLMAN, especially Metropolitan
Sharon: JOHN LASSETER (check this out, Sharon… --Ed.)

Snake Plissken: “Michael Mann. Manhunter is a far better movie than all that other Anthony Hopkins Lecter piffle, and it effectively bridged the gap between Miami Vice and CSI.”

Mr. Middlebrow: “What the hell happened to Paul Brickman? Risky Business is/was The Graduate of my generation, with the role of “plastics” being performed by “dermatology.”
Then Men Don’t Leave was a really worthwhile, if lower profile, sophomore effort. Then, poof. He’s gone from the radar. Also, I have to second Snake Plissken’s nomination of Michael Mann. You look over his filmography and you can’t help thinking, Wait, these were all done by the same guy? He’s got so much range; the only thing many of his films have in common is a journeyman’s attention to craft and detail. He’s one good romantic/screwball comedy away from being this generation’s Howard Hawks.”

(Speaking as another Michael Mann fan—and I know you have an opinion on this one, Snake—has anyone seen The Keep lately? –Ed.)

The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “Depends what you mean by "attention" and where, but it seems to me that Bergman, Fellini, Antonioni, Godard et al. are alive and well in the bodies of Theo Angelopoulos, Abbas Kiarostami, Hou Hsiao-Hsien (and Godard is still going strong in his own body!-- Oh, wait, Bergman too!) and many others I can't think of right now. But unlike in the '60s, when people in America had often heard of these people, especially Bergman, these "equivalents" have nowhere near the same visibility at all, despite being equally vital and excellent artists. They do, however, have plenty of attention in the right film magazines and blogs, so it's not like they're unknown, they're just not as well-known as they ought to be in comparison to their '60s counterparts. Angelopoulos - Eternity and a Day, Kiarostami - Homework, Hou Hsiao-Hsien - Good Men/Good Women and The Puppetmaster, Godard the Latter - Soft and Hard and Sauve qui peut (la vie).”

Thom McGregor: “New Zealander Vincent Ward, who directed one of my all-time favorites, Map of the Human Heart, and also the interesting The Navigator. I believe that has been his hightlight so far. Didn't see River Queen from last year, but heard good things about it.”

Robert: “James Frawley should have had more attention as a comedy director – he’s mainly known for The Muppet Movie, but people forget that he started out directing The Monkees television show – looking at those episodes now, they hold up much better than even present day sitcoms. He did a little seen feature, Kid Blue, an adaptation of a Larry McMurtry novel (Leaving Cheyenne) with Blythe Danner, but his breakout SHOULD have been The Big Bus, a parody of disaster movies that didn’t come out at the right time… four years later in 1980, The Zuckers would hit pay dirt with Airplane! that was the same type of parody, but more frenetic and with smuttier humor. The Big Bus did pick up a cult following and was a staple of the CBS Evening Movie in the late 70’s – early 80’s.”

Peter Nellhaus: “The French director Cedric Klapisch should be better appreciated. I saw one of his films on DVD that did not get released in the U.S., a heist film titled Ni Pour, Ni Contre. Dark heist comedy where the young woman who accidentally becomes involved with a criminal gang escapes with the loot.”

Roscoe: “Darren Aronosky, because I'm a huge fan of the new innovated camera effects and he's the only director that seems to make it work to his advantage and not to his detriment (Tony Scott).”

Brian: “William Wellman doesn’t seem to get the respect he deserves from auteurists, who seem to regard him as unquestionably inferior to the likes of Ford, Hawks, Lang, Walsh, etc. while every film I see of his makes me more convinced he belongs near or among their ranks. Beau Geste is a personal fave.”

Blaaagh: “Phil Kaufman has gotten a good deal of attention and acclaim, but considering how great some of his movies are (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), I'd expect him to be much busier and more acclaimed...still, he seems a bit off his game these days (though I guess I didn't give Twisted a fair shot that night you and I started watching it after 480 tequila shots).”

Dennis: “Joe Dante. Run his name up the IMDb flagpole, take a look, then rent Gremlins 2, or other "bombs" like Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Explorers, The 'burbs, The Second Civil War, Small Soldiers, Innerspace, the third episode of the ill-fated Twilight Zone movie, Matinee, or earlier Corman-influenced pictures like Hollywood Boulevard, The Howling and Piranha, and see if you don't see a sliver of what I see: a renegade intelligence running wild and loose under the radar across the landscape of American pop culture, leaving a trail of singed ground, felled trees and exploded cultural assumptions behind.”

Beege: “I'll tell you what, Dennis. YOU tell ME what theologian you've always felt deserved more attention than he/she ever got or has gotten up to this point, and a highlight for you from his/her career, and then I'LL come up with an answer for this question. ;) I mean, come on: are directors REALLY so important? ;)” (I gave you my answer a little further down in the comments column of the original post, but you never came through on your end, Beege! Whazzupwit dat?:)—Ed.)


Blaaagh: “Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.”

Sharon: “An Oscar for George Clooney.” (Your wish is my command!—Ed.)

Peter Nellhaus: “Regional coding on DVDs would be a thing of the past.”

Roscoe: “It would be Martin Scorsese recasting The Departed with Jim Carrey and Daniel Day Lewis as the two moles. They are older sure but they both are young enough to pull it off. Leo and Damon seem like the worst fit for that movie.”

Murray: “The best thing the movie industry could give me for Christmas is their continued efforts in making closed captions and subtitles available on as many movies as possible. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the movie industry could make closed captions available for all movies at the theaters? There are open captions available now on a select few movies, but they are seldom shown in my area. Besides, most movie watchers who are not hearing-impaired prefer no captions. But with today's technology it seems that there should be a way to encode captions to a movie that would be invisible to the naked eye, but could be seen by wearing special glasses, much like the 3D movies. That way only the people that want to watch the movie with captions could.”

Snake Plissken: “A two-hour version of the new King Kong. Terrific effects, truly emotional story, and an exciting tale with a fine cast of actors. But Great Gracious Lord, I could have cut at least 45 minutes out of that thing blindfolded. It's a good thing I got a new Timex INDIGLO(r) for Christmas (which I opened early; don't tell my mother-in-law), because I found myself checking it several times during the film.”

Machine Gun McCain: “A new film from Monte Hellman, which seems like it’ll happen, with the release of the anthology work Trapped Ashes (co-directed by Tobe Hooper and Joe Dante!)”

Nilblogette: “Lower ticket prices, lower budgets, fewer remakes and comic adaptations, actors who were never models, fewer awards shows, less CGI, no blue filters in shots also using shakey-cam, no comedies over 90 minutes long, and a better ratings system, but I think doing away with marketing departments would do the most good.”

Beege: “Better films and a free babysitter so I can actually go out and SEE them.”

Brian: “A travelling Friz Freleng retrospective for the 100th anniversary of his birth this year.”

Sal: “Well, I'm a big fan of the old movie studio lots and the magic they were able to make within those walls. It saddens me to no end when I think of film fans will never see the famous High Noon western set (bulldozed for a parking lot) or enourmous backlot of 20th Century Fox (sold off to create Century City) or the sin of all sins, the destruction of the treasured sets of the old MGM/RKO backlots of Culver City. So much of film today has relied on technology such as CGI to transport the audience that it has somehow made that trip less fantastical than it once was. The greatest gift I could receive would be to have some group of investors or directors or producers get together and find an area outside of L.A. and construct the next great studio lot that would recreate some of those lost sets and create new ones for the next several decades. God I would love to see that. I remember Debbie Reynolds talking about how she begged and pleaded with Kirk Kirkorian not to sell off and bulldoze the MGM lot. She even offered to stand in from of the main gates and sell tickets so people could see that beautiful place for themselves. It makes me weep!”

Robert: “An R1 release of Pretty Poison; a strapped-on, blown-out, extras to the max- release of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, with cast/crew commentaries and/or interviews, tons of stills, deleted scenes, and whatever else they can dredge up related to the production;
and for The Industry to regain the ability to do simple math: good writing + good actors + imaginative directors = Good Movies.”

Virgil Hilts: “Fewer remakes would be nice. Heck, an original idea for a movie would be really nice.”

Peet: “Lots of money to make one of my own. And if it isn’t too much to ask: bring Stanley Kubrick back from the dead, or successfully translate Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel epic The Sandman to the small or silver screen (not likely).”

Thom McGregor: “A great Christmas present from Hollywood to me would be to stop making trailers that reveal everything about the movie, stop reporting on the weekly box-office take as if it matters to anyone outside of Beverly Hills, Burbank and Encino, and to give Ewan McGregor and Kate Winslet really, really great roles, but not in Hollywood movies.”

The Mysterious Adrian Betamax: “There is already so much good stuff out there (more than anyone can watch), and it's just that it's unrecognized or unexplored (see response to #24!). So I'd say not a present for me, but that more people would discover these wonderful directors and actors and movies as a present to themselves! (And places like Netflix can help you do that even if you live in the boonies!) And not just those contemporary directors I was mentioning, but all the great classic/silent/classic foreign movies too!”

Psaga: “Man, I just want to hang out and finish this joint and watch blaaagh, Peet, and Thom open their presents. Well, I suppose I could get off my slacker behind and subscribe to Netflix. Do you think that would thaw a chunk of the MAB’s cold, shriveled heart?”

Dave Robidenza: “To understand that movies are at their base level entertainment and that whatever visions or pretensions the director, producer, writer, star, etc. have (to be shocking, to be outrageous, to be lyrical, to be cathartic, to throw in lots of inside jokes) the movie is being made for an audience that just wants to lose themselves in a story for two hours. I have enjoyed movies from nearly every genre but what makes a film truly enjoyable for me is that it feels like the filmmakers know exactly what their film is, know what I want it to be, and don't try to trick me with false sentiment or outlandish effects. It's kind of like a stage magician - now, I'm old enough and knowledgeable enough and cynical enough that I know the cards are marked, the box has a trapdoor, and that the coin was palmed when it looked like he was putting it under the cup. But someone who can overcome that "it's all a trick" cynicism and impress me with their banter, dexterity, and skill is someone whose act is going to leave an impression on me. Similarly, a team of filmmakers who recognize that I know the words are fake, the sets are painted muslin, the monsters are latex and the tears are glycerin but who can still put on a show that leaves me feel like I got my money's worth are always going to impress me more than someone who thinks a lot of fast cuts, digital stunts, and screamed dialogue can cover the fact that there's no real substance to their movie. Also, I want more Toblerone at the snack counter.”

Mr. Middlebrow: “Would mild electrocution to or near the genitals of the ass clowns who ruin a movie with their incessant jabbering and cell phone ringing be too much to ask? I went to, like, three movies last year and every one was, to some degree, marred by a basic lack of consideration. Things that used to be the irksome exception seem to have become the rule. I know it’s not really ‘The Movies’ to give, but if they could get the man-cub to sleep through the night and be able to be left with a competent sitter, that would be good, too. Yeah, that and the ‘nad-shockers and we can pretty much call it a day. God bless us, every one!”

Dennis: “I would love to see directors and editors rein in the incredible versatility and endless shuffling possibilities that editing digitally affords them. Back in the days of the Moviola, when editors actually had to touch film, to physically splice sequences together and make cuts with actual blades, assembling and disassembling a sequence was not only cost-prohibitive, it was time-prohibitive, and it was physically degenerative to the film stock on which the editor was working. This, I think, caused directors and editors to be judicious before the fact and actually plan how best to tell their story, through storyboarding or other means of preparation, rather than just leaving it all up to excessive digital improvisation and using 200 cuts when 20 will do, just because the Avid allows them to do so. My wish for 2006 is that The Movies would somehow rediscover the glories of longer takes, of the use of the camera to do something other than whipsaw back and forth and up and down while genuflecting at the altar of simulated documentary verisimilitude, and for modern film editors to go back and take a look at the work of Robert Wise, Albert Akst, Adrienne Fazan, Agnes Guillemot, Dede Allen, Verna Fields, Anne V. Coates, George Tomasini and so many others from the classical period of American and European cinema (many of whom, as you may have noticed from the above, utterly random list, were women). There's a better way to tell a story, one that doesn't shatter a viewer's perceptions into a thousand incoherent shards with every passing minute, and my hope is that more people who work as film editors in modern cinema, and those who aspire to do so, will look to these masters for inspiration and education in the coming year.”


That’s it, everyone! Hope you enjoyed the Christmas Quiz as much as I did! And now, everybody go out for a drink of water, sharpen your pencils and return to your seats. The Spring Break Quiz is next…