Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Answers to All 56 Criticwire Survey Questions Part II

The Best Film Criticism of 2012
Without a doubt, the best single piece of film criticism I read in 2012 was Kent Jones’ excellent piece of The Master in Film Comment, that put Anderson’s masterpiece in the proper historical and religious context, and deepened my understanding the film tenfold. A runner-up? Although it didn’t appear until January 2013, Roger Ebert did a blog entry on Django Unchained which was the single best review of the most talked about film of 2012 that I read.

Recommended Movies For Audiences Over the Age of 60
So, what films would I recommend for the senior set? Of recent films, I know they adored The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – it’s senior citizen wish fulfillment after all. Lincoln would be good for them also – classical moviemaking at its finest. Of all time, I’d recommend Tokyo Story if they don’t mind foreign films – or the film that inspired it Make Way for Tomorrow – if they don’t want to read.

The Movie Critics Got Wrong in 2012
A lot of critics seemed taken in my Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in New York which I found insufferable – many also seemed to like The Comedy or Klown or Dark Horse or Pitch Perfect or Hope Springs or Damsels in Distress or Armitrage or In Another Country – not all are bad, but none are great. On the flip side, I don’t get all the hatred for Lee Daniels’ purposefully over the top The Paperboy.

The Best Performance of the Year
Easy – the best performance of 2012 was Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. I’ve written enough on that one by now, haven’t I?

A Film Book Gift Guide
What movie books should every cinephile read? There is Francois Truffaut’s interview with Hitchcock which is excellent, or Mark Harris’ Pictures at a Revolution, which I admire. You can never go wrong with the latest edition of Leonard Maltin’s movie guide – I still use it, even with IMDB on my iPhone. Scorsese on Scorsese is a great one for me – but I’m sure any of the series is good. But for me, I’d choose anything by Roger Ebert. His great movies collections are golden, his book on Scorsese, wonderful, and his autobiography Life Itself is honest and heartfelt. Perhaps, I’m just saying this because he recently died, but I don’t think so. They are indispensable.

Underrated Hitchcock
I’ll go with 1956’s The Wrong Man – a film that never gets any respect, but I happen to think is marvelous. With Henry Fonda as a musician charged with a crime he didn’t commit, and how it forces his wife – the wonderful Vera Miles – off the deep end, this films get me every time. Also one of his final films in black and white, so that’s always good.

Movie Mulligans
What film in 2012 had a good idea, but horrible execution, so perhaps a redo is in order? I’ll say Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly – which is based on a great novel by George V. Higgins, but is too slow and pretentious to be a truly great movie. Yes, the final scene is perhaps the best final scene of any 2012 film – but most of what preceded it was not very good at all. Perhaps all the film needs is a re-edit?

Your Favorite Bond Film
Since this question was posted as Skyfall was being released, I guess I cannot say Skyfall, although it’s probably the truth. I am tempted to say Casino Royale, as I thought Craig nailed it the first time out. But I’ll stick with the classic – Goldfinger. It is everything a Bond movie should be.

Movies You're Afraid to Watch
I’ve covered this in a previous post a few years back, and although I’m not sure I’d say I’m scared of watching it – I have absolutely no interest in seeing A Serbian Film – which has been banned in some countries.  I heard it was elected the most disturbing movie of all time, so I looked it up, ending up reading a detailed plot synopsis, which I cannot get out of my head as much as I try, so I have no use for actually watching the film. I don’t need to prove myself brave enough to watch the film – I did that already when I watches Salo and The Human Centipede, right?

The Perfect Halloween Double Feature
Most pick are going to pick classics – Psycho, The Exorcist, The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc. I’ll pick the two scariest films of recent years that deserve a wider audience – David Moreau and Xavier Palud’s 2006 film Them and Tom Shankman’s 2009 film The Children. The two make an excellent double bill, because there are some similarities between them – not to give anything away – and both terrified me, even though I watched them at home, where’s I’m harder to scare. Both should be more widely seen.

The Best Seat in the Theater
Back when I started going to the theater, I took Roger Ebert’s advice – as far back as the screen is wide, and on the aisle so you have a direct sightline. The problem now is that with stadium seating, this is impossible – and even if it isn’t, the effect is different. No, unless it’s 3-D, I like to sit in the first row of the back section of stadium seating – not the front section with three rows – but the back section with the majority of seats. The reason is simple – I like to look up at the movies. They have more power to me that way.

Films About Filmmaking
So many great choices here – from Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom to Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night to Godard’s Contempt to Burton’s Ed Wood, to Fellini’s 8 ½ to Anderson’s Boogie Nights, to DePalma’s Blow Out to Scorsese’s Hugo to Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels, to Wilder’s Sunset Blvd, to Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. or Inland Empire to Kiarostami’s Close-Up to Bahr and Hickenlooper’s Hearts of Darkness, to Kaufman’s Adaptation to Kelly and Donen’s Singin’ in the Rain to Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful – and I’m sure I’m missing some as well. But for me, the ultimate film about filmmaking – it may not be better than all the titles listed above, but is better about filmmaking if that makes any sense – is Robert Altman’s The Player. No film was as deeply cynical about the filmmaking process, and how Hollywood bastardizes it than that one – a brilliant satire, with one of the most perfect endings in history. A masterpiece.

Most-Wanted Criterions
What movies do I want the Criterion Collection to release? How about some I have trouble finding – Mizoguchi’s The Story of Late Chrysanthemums or Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating? Out of films I have seen and think that the full Criterion restoration magic should be applied to, how about Welles’ Chimes at Midnight? And how about Ben Wheatley's Kill List to expose more people to a great recent film.

The Best Time Travel Movie
I love time travel movies – Back to the Future, Primer, Looper, 12 Monkeys, The Terminator (and T2) spring to mind. But this time, I have to be one of those pretentious film nerds and say the best of all time is Chris Marker’s La Jettee. A brilliant short film, by a brilliant filmmaker, and a one of a kind film to be sure. I love many time travel movies, but Marker’s is the best.

Time Capsule Movies
This question asked what single movie you would put in a time capsule that best sums up the movies of the 2010s. For me the answer is simple – The Avengers. No, it’s not the best film of the decade so far – not even close. But to me, it represents the mentality of Hollywood right now – a large scale blockbuster, full of movie stars, superheroes, explosions – and of course is part of a giant franchise. I could be cynical and put a horrible sequel in here, but I won’t. The Avengers does everything it does very well. It isn’t the best movie of the decade so far, but it probably best encapsulates what we see on the screen week in and week out.

Paul Thomas Anderson's Best Film
The answer right now would be There Will Be Blood. However, I think before Inherent Vice hits next year, I will go back and watch all of Anderson’s films. He is my favorite filmmaker working right now, and while my gut tells me There Will Be Blood is the best, watching them back-to-back may make me change my mind to Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love or The Master. In short, they’re all great.

Movies To Remember During Award Season
Also outdated, as it asked what films from the first 8 months of 2012 were worth remembering. The answer should have been Compliance, Moonrise Kingdom and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.

Fall's Must-See Movies
This one is out of date, as it’s for last fall. But at the time I did a list of my 10 most anticipated and topping the list was Django Unchained.

The Least Expendable 'Expendable'
This question asked who has had the best career – Stallone, Schwarzenegger or Willis. The answer is clearly Bruce Willis, who did many great action movies, but has also been able to slide into character roles for directors when he feels like it. Can you imagine Stallone or Schwarzenegger in Pulp Fiction or Moonrise Kingdom or Looper or Nobody’s Fool or The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable or 12 Monkeys or Fast Food Nation. Die Hard may not be the franchise The Terminator is (at least the first two installments), but for a career overall, it’s definitely Willis.

Franchises Worth Continuing Without Their Star
This is a rather bizarre question, but I’ll give it a shot – how about Wolverine without Hugh Jackman? I like Jackman just fine, and he’s quite good as Wolverine. But he’s also just about the nicest guy on the planet (or seems like it), and I don’t Wolverine has ever been as dark as he could be with Jackman in the role. Jettison Jackman, scale back the budget, and give a serious filmmaker a crack at the character.

The Movie Title That Describes Your Life
I have to admit, I was tempted to be a smart ass and say the movie Dave and be done with it, but I decided against that. Titles I did consider are The Watcher, since I do spend a lot of time watching things, Whatever Works, because I think that may be the best way to get through life, The Man Who Wasn’t There, because I tend to fade into the background a lot – which is why The Perks of Being a Wallflower was also considered. But when all is said and done, I think the best answer is simple – The Quiet Man. I don’t talk a lot.

Movie Theater Memories
Three memories stand out to me as being the most memorable experiences I had in a movie theater. One was seeing Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, not a few days before its release, but a few weeks (I work for a company that made it possible). The theater was packed, and the energy never dimmed – unlike when I saw Episode I or II. The audience loved it, and so did I (it’s better than Return of the Jedi, but still cannot hold a candle to the original or Empire). The second would be seeing Slumdog Millionaire at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival at the HUGE Ryerson theater. This is my favorite TIFF venue, and I have never, ever been at a screening where the audience’s energy was so palpable. Seeing the movie later, in a nearly empty theater, something was definitely missing. But my favorite moment may have been seeing Michael Haneke’s Cache in a packed Cumberland Theater (RIP) in Toronto – and when the film’s climatic, shocking moment comes (you know the one if you’ve seen the movie),the audience collectively gasped, and then fell completely silent – I’m not sure anyone was even breathing. There are many great movie theater memories, but those three stand out to me.

Critical Mea Culpas
What film did I get wrong the first time I watched it? I’d probably have to go with some early Coen brothers movies. The first movie of theirs I saw was Fargo, back in 1996, when I was 15. I loved it, so went back and watched their earlier films – Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Barton Fink and The Hudsucker Proxy. I have to admit I was more confused by them – especially the later three – then I really enjoyed them. Those later three are the kind of absurdist Coen brother humor you either love or hate. I love it now, didn’t think much of it then. I’m not sure I would say I was wrong – I still don’t think much of Raising Arizona, sorry, but I will say that the Coens are an acquired taste that it took me a while to get used to – now that I am, they are among my favorite filmmakers.

Most-Watched Movies
It has to be GoodFellas, Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, Fargo or Boogie Nights– films I returned to again and again and again during my teenage years in a way I rarely, if ever, do anymore. If I had to pick one, I’d say it was probably Natural Born Killers – although it could be anyone of them – I lost track with each one.

Underrated Auteurs
For this, I’ll go with Korean director Lee Chang-dong. His Secret Sunshine (2007) is an absolute masterpiece – perhaps the most underrated film since the year 2000, and his follow-up Poetry (2010) is nearly as good. I just recently watched his Oasis (2002), and while it isn’t as good as the other two, it is still excellent. What Lee Chang-dong does is take difficult subject matter – a romance between a socially retarded man and a woman locked with cerebral palsy, the murder of a child and it’s aftermath, a gang rape and Alzheimer’s – and instead of exploiting it, makes thoughtful, fascinating brilliant films out of them. One of the best filmmakers in the world, and it’s about time people realize it.

Pixar's Best Movie
I love Pixar, but this is a no brainer – Wall-E. Hands down, no debate necessary. I don’t say this often, but if you don’t agree with me on this one, you’re just plain, flat out wrong.

Recommended Viewing For An Aspiring Cinephile
The question here was specifically geared towards a 14 year old African American girl who wanted to start watching more “art” films, because she is tired of mainstream Hollywood films, and what single film you would show her to start on her cinematic journey. For me, the film that came immediately to mind was Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. I wouldn’t want to start an aspiring cinephile too heavy – no silent films or foreign films, nothing too old. But Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing offers a take on race relations that is as relevant today as it was in 1989 – perhaps more so. And if she can get past the outdated rap music, I’m sure that anyone could relate to the characters in this movie –as I do. It’s only a start, but it’s wear I would begin.

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