I was so charmed by Steady Diet of Film’s answers to the Professor Kingsfield “Hair-Raising Bar-Raising Holiday Movie Quiz” that I decided to try answering the questions myself. Professor Kingsfield, of course, is the terrifying law professor in “The Paper Chase,” one of the scariest teachers in movies. Remember when he gave his student a dime and told him to call his mother and tell her he’d never be a lawyer? The quiz comes from Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. As is often the case with these things, it seems to invite show-offy answers, but I’m just going to say what first pops into my mind and warn you that I often have trouble keeping it to one answer. And I will try to explain any reference that seems esoteric or a little too inside. Anyone else want to try these questions?
1) What was the last movie you saw theatrically? On DVD or Blu-ray?
“Yes Man” in a theater, “Milk” on a critic’s screener DVD.
2) Holiday movies– Do you like them naughty or nice?
Nice! There’s just about always some naughty behavior along the way (think of Scrooge) but I like a happy ending.
3) Ida Lupino or Mercedes McCambridge?
Two great actresses, and one a pioneering woman director. I pick both.
4) Favorite actor/character from Twin Peaks
Special Agent Dale Cooper
5) It’s been said that, rather than remaking beloved, respected films, Hollywood should concentrate more on righting the wrongs of the past and tinker more with films that didn’t work so well the first time. Pretending for a moment that movies are made in an economic vacuum, name a good candidate for a remake based on this criterion.
I think that “Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” could both be far better movies than the versions that were released. And I was awfully disappointed by the recent “Nancy Drew” movie. Those books could make a great movie for 4-8th graders.
6) Favorite Spike Lee joint.
“School Daze” — I love Spike Lee, and this is an under-appreciated masterpiece.
7) Lawrence Tierney or Scott Brady?
Aw, I’m not going to favor one brother over another!
8) Are most movies too long?
No, time is too short.
9) Favorite performance by an actor portraying a real-life politician.
Henry Fonda in “Young Mr. Lincoln.” Everyone in “1776.” Everyone in “Dick.” Paul Scofield in “A Man for All Seasons” (well, sort of a politician)
10) Create the main event card for the ultimate giant movie monster smackdown.
Marshmallow guy from “Ghostbusters” vs. Mothra
11) Jean Peters or Sheree North?
I think Sheree North had more talent but Jean Peters appeared in better movies.
12) Why would you ever want or need to see a movie more than once?
I love to see my favorite movies over and over. Once you know the plot, you can really open yourself up to the small details of the performances, production design, screenplay, direction, cinematography, and soundtrack. And when you watch the same movie many times over many years it serves as a measure of your own changes in perception and thinking.
13) Favorite road movie.
“The Wizard of Oz,” “The African Queen,” “Midnight Run”
14) Favorite Budd Boetticher picture.
I am sorry to say I have not seen enough to make an informed decision.
15) Who is the one person, living or dead, famous or unknown, who most informed or encouraged your appreciation of movies?
Many candidates here — Truffaut and Hitchcock in the book-length interview, my film school professor Paddy Whannel, but most of all the movie-makers themselves.
16) Favorite opening credit sequence. (Please include YouTube link if possible.)
Lots of good choices, but I’ll pick this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaLDyrun_Cc
17) Kenneth Tobey or John Agar?
I’ll never forgive Johan Agar for not being a good husband to Shirley Temple.
18) Jean-Luc Godard once suggested that the more popular the movie, the less likely it was that it was a good movie. Is he right or just cranky? Cite the best evidence one way or the other.
I don’t think even he thought that. Evidence to the contrary: movies like “Dark Knight,” “Lord of the Rings,” and “Gone With the Wind” are fine films. And there are many, many deservedly unpopular films.
19) Favorite Jonathan Demme movie.
“Rachel Getting Married”
20) Tatum O’Neal or Linda Blair?
Tatum O’Neal is a more talented actress.
21) Favorite use of irony in a movie. (This could be an idea, moment, scene, or an entire film.)
In most movies the irony comes from the audience knowing something that the characters do not.
22) Favorite Claude Chabrol film.
Have not seen enough to make an educated choice.
23) The best movie of the year to which very little attention seems to have been paid.
I love “Be Kind Rewind”
24) Dennis Christopher or Robby Benson?
I like Dennis Christopher. His brief appearance in “Chariots of Fire” shows how much he can do with very little screen time.
25) Favorite movie about journalism.
“All the President’s Men”
26) What’s the DVD commentary you’d most like to hear? Who would be on the audio track?
“Duck Soup” and the Marx Brothers
27) Favorite movie directed by Clint Eastwood.
“Letters from Iwo Jima”
28) Paul Dooley or Kurtwood Smith?
Two great character actors!
29) Your clairvoyant moment: Make a prediction about the Oscar season.
The best 10 minutes of acting this year were when Viola Davis appeared in “Doubt.” If she doesn’t win Best Supporting Actress there is no justice. No ESP, just a hope.
30) Your hope for the movies in 2009.
I so want “Watchmen” to be GREAT.
31) What’s your top 10 of 2008? (If you have a blog and have your list posted, please feel free to leave a link to the post.)
BONUS QUESTION (to be answered after December 25):
32) What was your favorite movie-related Christmas gift that you received this year?
Watching “Period of Adjustment” with my husband and daughter.