Friday, May 29, 2009

The Beer Cannes Inquisition

So Troy posted a little questionnaire the other day, on the subject of movies. Many of the questions interested me, and I was surprised by some of my own answers when I actually sat down and wrote them out. Here they are...

What is the first film you ever saw?
I don’t recall, either, but there is a story my mom likes to tell about taking me to see The Empire Strikes Back when it was out in theatres. I would have been about four at the time, and my parents snuck in a bag of Cheetos for me to nosh on while I watched the movie. Apparently I just sat there gazing in the awe at the screen for the next couple of hours, periodically sticking my arm into the bag of Cheetos - and by the time the movie was over, most of my arm was orange from foraging around in the bag without looking away from the screen. Or something like that.

What is your favorite movie of all time?
The Usual Suspects. Partly because I watched it the first time without trying to puzzle out the ending, with the result being that the ending pretty much blew me away. But more than that, I loved the pacing and the tight screenplay - which was complicated without being mind-numbing - and the terrific acting by everyone, but especially Kevin Spacey and Pete Postlethwaite. One of the rare mystery-type stories that holds up even after you know what the payoff is going to be. (There’s a lesson there, Shyamalan.)

What is your favorite line in a film?
“Pain don’t hurt.” (Roadhouse)
2nd: "Well I'm a mushroom-cloud-laying motherfucker, motherfucker!" (Pulp Fiction)

What film made you realize that film was an art?
The Silence of the Lambs. It was probably the Hopkins performance that most captivated me when I first saw this movie, but the more I watched it (and I watched it a lot in high school), the more I realized how editing and photography contribute to the overall aesthetic, how music can create tension, and how a very good director can weave all of those elements into a single thing that bears his unique signature. I have seen better movies than The Silence of the Lambs (granted, not many) - but none so richly made and carefully executed. (A distant second place for this question would go to Pulp Fiction.)

What movie do you consider your guilty pleasure?
Rad. Hell yeah, baby. Pre-Full House Lori Loughlin and post-Olympics Bart Conner, plus a BMX obstacle course, and Ray fucking Walston. And you know what? I just may have learned something about the little guy taking on the corporation. Sadly, however - not available on DVD.

Who is your favorite movie character of all time?
John Keating in Dead Poets Society or Crash Davis in Bull Durham. Keating for challenging the status quo in a time when the status quo was not to be challeneged, even by white men. Davis for telling the opposing hitter what pitch was coming, and then telling Nuke that he had told the hitter. But then again...that’s what I’d like to say. I’m not sure it’s the truth, though. I think the truth might actually be Clark W. Griswold.

What is your favorite movie snack food.
I gotta second Troy on this one. Beer. Absolutely. (Hell yeah...yup...yeah, it is...etc.)

Who is your favorite director of all time?
Jonathan Demme. (And this from the one guy on the planet who loved Eyes Wide Shut.) I’ve only seen a handful of Jonathan Demme’s movies: but one of them opened my eyes to everything wonderful that happens in good movies; another confirmed many of the things I had absorbed subconsciously about appreciating film as art; and the third (while a lesser film than the other two) further differentiated the things you see through the eyes of the director versus the things you see through the eyes of the photographer. The first two pictures are The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, with Tak Fujimoto behind the camera; and the third is Rachel Getting Married, with Declan Quinn doing photography.

Who is the most impressive filmmaker working today?
I don’t know that I’m qualified even to have an opinion on this one, but if you’re going to insist, then I think I might say John Lasseter - even if he isn’t the one who directed the really great Pixar movies. He did direct the early ones, and helped establish the baseline of success that has allowed Pixar so freely to make a type of movie that transcends demographics and uses computers in all the right ways. Hacks like Michael Bay and J.J. Abrams could take a lesson from Lasseter and Pixar.

What quality do the best directors share?
An understanding that it’s okay to just let the camera roll. Demme does this, in places. Tarantino did it in Reservoir Dogs. Kelly Reichardt in Wendy and Lucy. Steven Soderbergh in The Limey. Being able to let the camera roll, without using manipulations like editing and negative space, demonstrates that the director knows what he or she wants to say, and that he or she has taken great pains to say that thing as unobtrusively as possible - or to put it another way, they let the thing they want to say speak for itself. Story and character are the most important parts of a film, and if both are good enough, and the director is talented enough, he or she can desist from having to be an auteur and simply be a medium - opening the door at the precise moment to allow the story and characters to speak to the audience.

Who is your favorite actor/actress of all time?
I have a soft spot for Henry Fonda, mostly for 12 Angry Men and The Grapes of Wrath (arguably the greatest novel ever written in English), and I’ll watch just about anything with Parker Posey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tilda Swinton, or Julianne Moore; but if I had to pick just one...it would have to be Laura Linney. Is it okay for me to say that her smile makes me happy? That her work is so nuanced and seemingly effortless that she disappears into every role she plays? That I’m appalled by the fact that Julia Roberts has an Oscar and Laura Linney does not?

Who would you cast in a film about your life?
John Cusack. Or if my life had been at all interesting, possibly the pre-poetry-reading, pre-bleach-blonde Michael Madsen.

Finish these sentences:

If I could remake one movie...
I would not mind seeing a musical version of The Relic.

I never wanna watch a movie with...
Someone sitting next to me who says “yeah, right” at all the improbable parts. Such an instance nearly ruined my movie-going experience when I saw American Psycho at the General Cinema in Greenwood. Actually, it was some cowboy near the top of the auditorium, but there weren't many people watching that show, and it sure as hell sounded like he was sitting right next to me.

The perfect movie is...
One that makes you want to watch it again, immediately.

3 comments:

troy myers said...

thanks for taking the time, john.

you would be surprised how many directors in the book went along the same lines as you when mentioning brad bird and john lassiter as today's most impressive filmmakers...almost to the pint that i think i may need to re-evaluate pixar product sometime soon...as opposed to just lumping them in with disney as i do now.

you gotta get over this idea that you are not qualified to answer "these types" of film questions...because clearly you are

now rise...and accept the cinematic knighthood that i, as a fellow knight, has bestowed upon you.

jmsmdm said...

Don't watch a movie with Mike Maier - you'll hear "yeah right" all night long (insert Lionel Richie here).

Michael Maier said...

Bite me, you parent of a no-XBox-playing son!