Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Answers to All 56 Criticwire Survey Questions Part III

Our Most Wanted Prequels
For this one, I think to my two favorite films. I wouldn’t mind seeing Colonel Kurtz’s descent into madness and then ruling over his jungle compound before Willard shows up to kill him in Apocalypse Now. But the one I really wanted to see is for Taxi Driver – what the hell happened to Travis Bickle in Vietnam that made him so crazy, or was he already that crazy. I should say this – I don’t actually want ANYONE to make either of these films, but I would have been interested in Coppola and Scorsese had done so decades ago.

Old Directors, New Technology
What old director would be benefited by all the new technology available to him today? I’m tempted to say Georges Meilles, who was a special effects wizard before there were special effects. But I’ll go a different way and say John Cassavetes. Why? Because today, Cassavetes could make his independent films with ease, on the cheap, and not labor for years in Hollywood movies to get funding for one film. His output could have expanded massively – and more films like A Woman Under the Influence and Love Streams are desperately needed today.

The Perfect Summer Movie
When I think of summer movies, I think BIG BLOCKBUSTERS, so although I am tempted to say Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire, because I first watched it on a sweltering July night with no air conditioning, so I was as sweaty as Marlon Brando by the end, I’ll go with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws – the one that started it all. Say what you want about Spielberg and Lucas ruining Hollywood with Jaws and Star Wars (it’s bullshit by the way), but Jaws is the perfect summer blockbuster – big, bold, audience friendly, terrifying – and it all takes place at the beach. Summer movies don’t get better than Jaws.

The Ultimate Midnight Movie
Another hard one for me – since I watch movies at midnight all the time (it’s the only chance I get after my wife and infant daughter go to bed on Friday and Saturday nights) – so I’ve seen everything from rom-coms to action movies to docs to foreign films in the wee hours of the morning. But what is the ultimate one? I’ll go back to by teenage years, and say the first time I watched Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starting at midnight, it scared the shit out of me, and I barely slept afterwards. So it gets my vote.

When Actors Attack!
This was a question is response to Samuel L. Jackson attacking A.O. Scott for his review of The Avengers, and asking if actors have the right to criticize critics. The answer, of course, is yes – actors do have a right to criticize critics, although they’re probably better off not to. Critics spend their lives criticizing the work that others do – so it’s only fair that their work is also open to be criticized. Critics critique others critics all the damn time, but for some reason get defensive when an actor does it. Samuel L. Jackson can criticize all he wants to – but it does make him look petty, defensive and angry. He should probably have the attitude Abbas Kiarostami has about critics – saying he realized when Roger Ebert called The Taste of Cherry horrible, and then Jonathan Rosenbaum called it a masterpiece, that both were equally useless. Artists are better not to think about critics, and just go about their work. But they have the right to say whatever the hell they want to.

The Sight & Sound Greatest Film Poll
This question was about the 2002 Sight and Sound Results – basically asking you to drop one film, and replace with a more worthy title. So, I guess we need to see what the top 10 in 2002 were:
1. "Citizen Kane"
2. "Vertigo"
3. "The Rules of the Game"
4. "The Godfather Parts I and II"
5. "Tokyo Story"
6. "2001: A Space Odyssey"
7. "Battleship Potemkin" (tie)
7. "Sunrise" (tie)
9. "8 1/2"
10. "Singin' in the Rain"

As tempted as I am to say drop Battleship Potemkin, it’s place in cinema history in unquestionable. So, what I will drop off is Singin’ in the Rain – a great musical to be sure, but not the best one ever made by a long stretch – that long sequence in the middle drags the movie to a dead stop. What should replace it? The greatest movie of all time – Apocalypse Now. Since Coppola has a film in the top 10 though, perhaps I should say Taxi Driver.

Your Dream DVD Commentary
What DVD commentary would I most like to record? This is a tough one, because it would have to be a film I know inside out and backwards. So out of the many choices, I’ll go with Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. There is just so much to talk about with that film – the technical prowess, the brilliant screenplay, the acting, the themes, how it has become even more relevant in the 18 years since he made it. I’ve probably seen this film more than any other, so I’ll go with it.

Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition
This question was asking about film writers in need of more recognition, and it’s a tough one for me. I read A LOT of film criticism, but have few critics who are not well known that I read constantly. Everyone knows how great Glenn Kenny and Manhola Dargis are right? So the one I’ll go with is James Bernardnelli. Yes, he is fairly well known, but with Roger Ebert’s recent death, he’ll be the first critic I go to from now on to get his opinion on a film BEFORE I see it. He doesn’t review films deeply – neither do I – but I trust his opinion, and trust him not to spoil an anticipated movie for me, just because he can. Considering he still has to work a full time job, I guess he qualifies as someone who needs wider recognition and money.

Your Favorite Horror Film
Narrowing this down to one film is nearly impossible. Do I pick The Shining of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Halloween or Peeping Tom? Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein? Dawn of the Dead or Alien? Surprising, even to me, though I think I’ll go with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. I saw it a few times on VHS and DVD and loved it, but didn’t see it as Hitch’s best – but then I got to see on the big screen, and was blown away by it. I even found myself quite frightened, even though I knew what was going to happen. Picking just one is impossible, but I’ll stick with the stock answer.

Your Most Embarrassing Cinematic Blindspot
Easy – Claude Lanzman’s nine-hour Holocaust Documentary Shoah. I have an excuse – it’s 9 fucking hours, and it hasn’t always been easy to find. However, since Criterion is releasing it this year, I’m out of excuses. I plan to rectify this oversight in 2013.

The Best Review I Ever Wrote
This one is hard, since I have approximately zero self-confidence, and feel am I very poor judge of my own writing and reviews. Having said that, I think my dual reviews of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island back in 2010 stands out in my mind – reviewing it with no spoilers, and then reviewing it again, and putting it in its proper context among Scorsese’s films. Those are my favorites.

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