Monday, July 27, 2009

Kill your clock.

by Ryland Walker Knight

—We deal in reversals here; we battle for the light.

You've probably heard of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule by now. Likewise, you've probably seen the "quiz" Dennis put together this summer. Some people asked me whether I was going to answer these questions. I thought I wasn't going to, as these quizzes always take far too long, even though they can be fun, for a nut like me. But this evening, prompted further, I went ahead and killed time (procrastinated) with this bit of silly. Hope you dig it.


1) Second-favorite Stanley Kubrick film. Barry Lyndon behind 2001, though that can reverse depending on what I've seen last.

2) Most significant/important/interesting trend in movies over the past decade, for good or evil. You can probably guess that I'll say the digital trending: for the image, for history, for preservation (perhaps this is misguided), for expression, for democracy, for hifalutin theory, for grainy purple skylines.

3) Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) or Buffalo Bill Cody (Paul Newman)? Newman.

4) Best Film of 1949. Hmn, lots of goodies, including Ozu and Reed and Ophuls and Ford. I'm tempted to say Late Spring but, well, my heart and soul belong to Tati: Jour de fête.

5) Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) or Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore)? Guess I'll say Barrymore.

6) Has the hand-held shaky-cam directorial style become a visual cliché? Far too often, duh.

7) What was the first foreign-language film you ever saw? Maybe Yojimbo.

8) Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) or Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre)? Lorre all the way.

9) Favorite World War II drama (1950-1970). My favorite movie ever would qualify if you stretched that parenthetical to include 1998, but in that window, I'd wager Resnais's Hiroshima lament is pretty tough to beat.

hide your eyes
no peeking

10) Favorite animal movie star. If it isn't Balthazar or Babe or Baby, then it's got to be Mr. Smith.

11) Who or whatever is to blame, name an irresponsible moment in cinema. The film critic's ego. Or, most film criticism at that. (Although, the flip of that is that we all take this niche world too seriously, too.) The movies? Hell, they're a damned irresponsible lot the whole of them, which is why I love'm. It's nice to indulge this life.

12) Best Film of 1969. Andrei Rublev of course.

13) Name the last movie you saw theatrically, and also on DVD or Blu-ray. Theatrically, Harry Potter 6; DVD, A Matter of Life and Death; "otherwise", Duelle.

14) Second-favorite Robert Altman film. Probably The Long Goodbye behind that Western with Julie Christie.

15) What is your favorite independent outlet for reading about movies, either online or in print? I'm biased, like anybody, with too many friends online to choose from, so I'll draw straws and, arbitrarily, pick Andy Rector.

16) Who wins? Angela Mao or Meiko Kaji? (Thanks, Peter!) ...

17) Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) or Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly)? Tomei

18) Favorite movie that features a carnival setting or sequence. I almost want to ape Sean and say Sunrise—though the Hitchcock and the Minelli sure are spectacular—but what if I just said Speed Racer? Could that work?

19) Best use of high-definition video on the big screen to date. Tough to call, but my prejudices would point to Miami Vice of course.

I've got this landlord

20) Favorite movie that is equal parts genre film and a deconstruction or consideration of that same genre. Wait: isn't that every movie? Aren't the best ones just not even about that but, instead, synthesize the self-reflexive nature of the medium into their stories? Aren't you forced to ask that of every film? To get as Cavell as possible, I'll vote for The Awful Truth.

21) Best Film of 1979. Stalker over Alien though Manhattan still holds a special, sentimental spot.

22) Most realistic and/or sincere depiction of small-town life in the movies. I can't speak to any veracity, but I sure do love The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

23) Best horror movie creature (non-giant division). Alien, duh.

24) Second-favorite Francis Ford Coppola film. The Conversation behind The Godfather.

25) Name a one-off movie that could have produced a franchise you would have wanted to see. I'm feeling the Master and Commander love, but what if Dennis Hopper had played Ripley for a decade?

26) Favorite sequence from a Brian De Palma film. The end of The Fury, easy.

27) Favorite moment in three-strip Technicolor. Pfffff. Um, Powell and Pressbuger.

28) Favorite Alan Smithee film. (Thanks, Peter!) ...

29) Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) or Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau)? Crash.

30) Best post-Crimes and Misdemeanors Woody Allen film. Sweet and Lowdown.

blue skies

31) Best Film of 1999. Beau Travail over Sicilia! by a finale.

32) Favorite movie tag line. "Family isn't a word, it's a sentence." [The Royal Tenenbaums]

33) Favorite B-movie western. Can't say I know many, to be honest, but if 40 Guns counts, count me in.

34) Overall, the author best served by movie adaptations of her or his work. There are several ways to answer this question. Arthur Symons solely for Desplechin's Esther Kahn, which may be the best movie of the 2000s (or close to).

35) Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) or Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard)? Oofda. Susan Vance.

36) Favorite musical cameo in a non-musical movie. When "Nighshift" comes on in 35 Rhums.

37) Bruno (the character, if you haven’t seen the movie, or the film, if you have): subversive satire or purveyor of stereotyping? Abstain

38) Five film folks, living or deceased, you would love to meet. (Thanks, Rick!) (1) Terrence Malick // (2) Cary Grant // (3) Irene Dunne // (4) Mathieu Amalric // (5) Preston Sturges

who's the wicker man now?
—This lady, too, I guess.


  1. That version of Beau Travail's ending you posted seems to have been neutered by the accursed WMG. Here's another version that still has its nightly rhythms:

    I think we're in agreement on the best of '99. Though Eyes Wide Shut is another strong contender for me, with a last moment that's just as perfect.

  2. Thanks, JF for the link. Here's a clickable version.

    Now, the Kubrick is definitely great, but, I gotta be honest, I don't dig the final line. I mean, we all know that's what she's gonna say. I have this fantasy that Kubrick would have given it one more pass and trimmed her line out. Then again, it does work in that it's somebody FINALLY saying something in a direct way. Still, as my _Beau Travail_ love attests, I love it when a film just, well, cuts off.

    Also, it was brought to my attention that _Andrei Rublev_ might not qualify for 69 since it "only played Cannes" that year. Whatever. If I have to rethink it, I'd maybe go with _The Wild Bunch_, but _Putney Swope_ is also pretty damned cool. Still need to see _Salesman_ and _Rain People_.

  3. The final scene without the final line would definitely play differently, but I've rarely heard "fuck" freighted with so much meaning, and it seems to me like a great word to go out on for somebody who was always good at getting people riled up.