Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Answers to All 56 Criticwire Survey Questions Part I

Over at Indiewire, they do a weekly survey of Film Critics on a variety of subjects. They’re never going to ask me to participate, so I’m answering them myself (they can’t get mad at that, right?). I think I’ll provide my answers weekly from now on, but for now, I thought I’d go back and answer all 56 previous questions. I’ll post this over three posts, starting with the most recent, and working my way back.

The Best Film of the Last 25 Years
Off the top of my head my head: Do the Right Thing, GoodFellas, JFK, Unforgiven, Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, Fargo, Boogie Nights, The Thin Red Line, Magnolia, Fight Club, Mulholland Dr. A.I., Punch-Drunk Love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kill Bill, A History of Violence, Cache, The Departed, There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Zodiac, Synedoche New York, Wall-E, Inglorious Basterds, The Social Network, The Tree of Life and The Master could all lay claim to that spot. What’s that, I can’t name a 28-way tie? Ok, if forced I can narrow it down to 2 – Mulholland Dr. and There Will Be Blood. No further.

One Movie to Save Humanity
The question here is that you can show one film to aliens to convince them not to blow up the earth, what would it be? For me, it would be The Shawshank Redemption. A clichéd choice, I admit it, but it is one of the most inspiring films of all time, and shows just why humanity is worth saving. Let’s hope the aliens understand English.

Ebert's Greatest Criticism
I have read a lot of Ebert’s film criticism over the years, and picking just one review is nearly impossible. So many Great Movie Entries would qualify – Ikiru probably more than most - as would something like his review of Django Unchained, from just a few months ago, or The Tree of Life, from last year, which explained why he connected with it so much. Or his praise of Synecdoche, New York. Or anything he wrote about Scorsese. Or Fargo. Or Hoop Dreams. Or on and on and on. But if I had to single out one – Do the Right Thing – which explains why Spike Lee’s film is a masterpiece succinctly, and clearly.

The Dud You Love
Given all the hate it received last year, I’m tempted to go with Cloud Atlas. Or anything by Rob Zombie, since he’s seems to get slammed like he’s Eli Roth or something. Or Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, since it is one of the ambitious films of the last decade, no matter its failings. But I’ll go with a popular target, and say I enjoy all three Star Wars Prequels. Okay, other than Revenge of the Sith, none of them hold a candle to the originals and Sith is better than Jedi – Search your heart, you know it to be true – but all three films are entertaining, space operas. The originals have their problems as well, which the prequels magnified, but all six films are extremely entertaining. In short, George Lucas didn’t rape your childhood.

Overrated Masterpieces
I love Francois Truffaut, but I was left cold by Jules and Jim. Perhaps, I watched it too early in my film going life, and didn’t fully grasp it, but all the rapturous praise the film has received somewhat mystifies me. If you permit me to go on, I’d add Carl Dreyer’s Gertrud, D.W. Griffth’s Intolerance, Max Ophuls’ Letter from an Unknown Woman, Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible films, Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know About Her, Michael Snow’s Wavelength, Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice, Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music, George Stevens’ Shane, Luis Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, the Coens’ Raising Arizona, Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures, Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (the original critics were right!) and Joseph Cornell’s Rose Hobart are among the films on They Shoot Pictures Don’t They? top 1000 list am I not overly fond of (not necessarily bad, but certainly not masterpieces in my mind).

The Best 'Die Hard' Knock-Off
I’m going to be a lemming here, and follow along with what everyone else said – Speed aka Die Hard on a Bus. A square jawed action hero? Check. Insane terrorist? Check. Confined space? Check? Beautiful girl? Check. Lots of kick ass action? Check. Do you care about the logic flaws in the movie? No, you do not, because you’re having too much fun. The sequel hurt the original’s reputation, but it shouldn’t have.

Your Least Favorite Movie By Your Favorite Director
So, my favorite director is Martin Scorsese, as you well know. There are a few “least” favorites to choose from. Boxcar Bertha, but that is an early film, and fascinating if you know the rest of his career, even if it isn’t very good. New York New York is an ambitious failure, but I hate punishing ambition. Cape Fear is a genre exercise – but a well done one, with a Scorsese twist. Kundun is more than a little dull, but gorgeous. So my answer has to me The Color of Money – the only film on Scorsese’s resume that doesn’t feel anything like a Scorsese film. It plays like a film by a director for hire – which essentially it was. I know it was too good an opportunity to pass up – working with Paul Newman – and it helped his career, so it’s not all bad news. But The Color of Money is the film on Scorsese’s resume I am least likely to watch ever again. Others? The Coens’ Raising Arizona, Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain or The Trouble With Harry, Polanski’s The Ninth Gate, Allen’s Scoop, Spielberg’s The Lost World, Eastwood’s Hereafter, Lee’s Girl 6, Altman’s Cookie’s Fortune, Cronenberg’s M. Butterfly, Lynch’s Dune and Wong’s My Blueberry Nights.

Best Rock Docs
Again, there are lots of choice. Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, the Mayles’ Gimme Shelter, Wadleigh’s Woodstock, Berlinger & Sinofsky’s Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back would all be fine choices. But I’ll go with Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home, the greatest film ever made about Bob Dylan, and the most fascinating rock documentary of all time. True, it owes something to Don’t Look Back, but Scorsese’s film deepens what was there before.

The Oscars' Biggest Surprises
From the show itself? Not much. I guess Christoph Waltz winning Supporting Actor was my biggest surprise of the winners. The biggest surprise overall? The outrage that greeted Seth McFarlane’s goofy song about boobs. Calm down, people.

A New Oscar Category
Two categories I would like to see created – best ensemble cast – with the Oscar going to the casting director, not an individual for everyone in the cast like they do with the SAG awards – if they did that, every actor in Hollywood would be an Oscar winner, and we don’t need that – but the concept is still a valid one. I would also like to see Best Directorial Debut – to a filmmaker making their first film. Hopefully, this would give young, indie filmmakers a leg up.

Critics and Twitter
Should critics tweet after they come out of a movie? I honestly don’t care. I’m not on Twitter, and unless it’s about the LA Kings, I don’t read twitter. To me, it’s yet another attempt by critics to yell FIRST! like that obnoxious first commenter on message boards. The theory being I guess, that you don’t have to have anything interesting to say, as long as you say it first.

Soderbergh's Best Movie
I did a list of his films – from best to worst – at the time Side Effects was released. I named Traffic his best film then, and don’t see any reason why I should change that now.

The Worst Sequel Ever Made
So many choices here. Do you go with Cars 2, Taken 2, Speed 2: Cruise Control, Superman IV: A Quest for Peace,  Jaws The Revenge, The Hangover Part II, Miss Congeniality Part II, Legally Blonde 2, The Whole 10 Yards, Spider-Man 3 or so many others they all cannot be listed here. For me, I’ll go with Batman and Robin – the film in which Joel Schumacher almost succeeded in killing Batman for movie lovers forever. Luckily for us, Christopher Nolan was around.

Overlooked Festival Films
I used him for overlooked auteur, so I guess I shouldn’t say Lee Chang-dong and his Secret Sunshine – although this Cannes/TIFF etc. film deserved more love than it got. I’ll say Tim Blake Nelson’s Leaves of Grass, which I saw at TIFF a few years ago, and enjoyed immensely – especially the great duel performance by Edward Norton – but then the film completely disappeared from view. Shame. The great Aussie horror film The Loved Ones deserves a mention as well.

The Best 'Terminator'
The best Terminator is Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I understand if you love the original, low budget version, with Linda Hamilton and her huge hair and the rather bland Michael Biehn. Hell, I love it too. But Terminator 2 takes everything to another level, is more ambitious and is far more entertaining. One of the best action movies of the 1990s – and gets credit for using Guns N’ Roses.

Preparing For Movies Based On Books
This question asked if you read books that are the basis of movies before you see the film. To answer simply – most of the time, yes I do. I find that reading a book and then watching a movie allows a deeper understanding of the material. I know going in that the director and screenwriter probably had to change a lot, but still it allows an interesting compare and contrast. It’s not a hard and fast rule – I don’t NEED to read a book before I see a movie, but I like to whenever possible. Plus, it allows you to read some great books, even if the movies don’t turn out all that great – like Charlie Wilson’s War or The Good German.

The Most Anticipated Movies of 2013
I’ve already done a post on this, so I’ll keep it brief – Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, John Wells’ August: Osage County, Spike Lee’s Old Boy, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and most of all, the Coen’s Inside Daisy Llewyn.

Tarantino's Best Movie
Pulp Fiction will always be his most historical important film – how can it not be, it changed American movies forever, for better or for worse. But his best film, to me, is clear – Inglorious Basterds. All that love of movies and dialogue that many critics dismiss as Tarantino’s ego-boating (or worse, masturbation) actually had thematic relevance in Basterds. It’s also the most entertaining film of his career – an endlessly re-watchable masterpiece.

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