Sunday, 17 April 2011

30 Day Film Quiz: Days 11-20

Last week I decided to follow many of my Facebook friends onto the "30 Day Quiz" bandwagon. But instead of doing it on the intended daily basis I'm posting my responses here in ten day chunks of the pure self-indulgence. My responses to the first ten 'questions' (they aren't really questions are they?) can be found here. Below are the next ten. Enjoy.

Day 11 - A Film By Your Favourite Director

This is possibly the trickiest of all questions. Who is my favourite director? Wes Anderson, the Coen brothers and Stanley Kubrick are some of the names that come to mind, though I'm going to go with Akira Kurosawa here - the director about whom I've read and written the most. If you're also a fan - of any size - I'd really recommend his humble and enthralling autobiography, as well as Donald Richie's stunning and comprehensive volume which provides detailed critical essays on every one of his films.

Below is the American trailer for my favourite of his overlooked gendai-geki (contemporary) films, 'High and Low'. I like how this trailer tries to sell it as a sort of Hitchcock movie.

Day 12 - A Film By Your Least Favourite Director

This is just as hard to answer as the above. The obvious knee-jerk response would be Michael Bay, but I don't want to be so obvious (even though I hate the 'Transformers' movies an awful lot). Say what you will about Mr. Bay, but he has a distinctive style and is an influential filmmaker in his way. Think about how many times you've seen his specific oeuvre parodied - in everything from the bombast opening of Disney's 'Bolt' and the films of Edgar Wright to the "Pearl Harbour Sucks" song in 'Team America: World Police'. In that way he has inspired some entertaining work.

Zack Synder is the same: director of horrible, excessive films which are beyond tacky. But at least 'Sucker Punch' is giving people something to write about, however rubbish it may be.

Worse than the vulgar and the grossly stupid are the boring. And who is more boring than hired gun and Spielberg clone Christopher Columbus? His work isn't at all hateful (unlike that of Bay and Synder) and he's made some enduring and harmless family movies ('Home Alone' for one), but who goes to the cinema to see a Chris Columbus film? Would the world be poorer if he stopped making generic family movies? Would the cultural landscape be any different without him? I tend to sympathise with Terry Gilliam for feeling a little peeved that Columbus was Warner Brothers' preferred choice to direct the first Harry Potter instalments.

There are loads of bland directors turning out bland studio films, so he's not alone or even the worst offender. (Also, the man wrote 80s gems 'Gremlins' and 'The Goonies', so he deserves a bit of respect.) But he is probably the most gainfully employed and successful of the bland, jobbing director crowd, so I've chosen him here. Below is one of his most forgettable films.

Day 13 - A Guilty Pleasure

I don't know that I have one. If I like something then I am happy to say so (or least I'd like to think). I enjoy some bad movies, but I guess a "guilty pleasure" has to be distinct from a "funny bad" movie, such as the 1986 Charlie Sheen vehicle 'The Wraith'. It's got to be something you realise is badly made, and maybe even against everything you stand for, but you enjoy it anyway without irony.

I definitely used to have these guilty pleasures as a kid. An Australian kid's show called 'The Tribe' was a favourite, and that was really cringey. I was also addicted to the 'Pokemon' cartoon. Those were embarrassing admissions then, but when you're young you place more importance on how your tastes are perceived.

I love loads of "girly" films, I guess. Like 'Enchanted' and 'The Little Mermaid' - but they're just good films, not guilty pleasures in the way I understand it. In any case, after a certain age it's not really worth tee-heeing about a person's disregard for gender norms.

It's not that I'm an elitist or that I'm pretending my DVD collection is full of popularly heralded classics. I like plenty of films most people think are bad, such as 'Titanic' and 'The Phantom Menace'. But I'd defend both of those - and plan to do so on this blog at some later date.

I guess 'The King's Speech' fits the bill for me. I enjoyed it, but I have trouble with that. It's funny and well acted but I hate myself for thinking so! It's politically objectionable, culturally conservative and takes many liberties with history. It annoys me, especially now as the Royal Wedding looms and unthinking subservience hits the nation. I've gone on about this on this blog before, so I'll leave it at that.

Day 14 - The Film That No One Expected You To Like

I really didn't expect to enjoy the last Harry Potter film, having disliked all the previous entries in the series by varying degrees. Though like it I did, with my girlfriend pleasantly surprised. I'm even looking forward to the next chapter: this Summer's 'Deathly Hallows: Part 2'.

Day 15 - The Film That Depicts Your Life

This will yield the same answer as "Day 7 - A Film That Reminds You of Your Past". Noah Baumbach's 'The Squid and the Whale' feels like the story of my childhood - at least the arc of the Jesse Eisenberg character. It's a beautiful movie, and if you haven't seen it you should.

Day 16 - A Film You Used to Love, But Now Hate

I thought Zach Braff's 'Garden State' was super witty, poignant and inventive back when it was released in 2004. But even on a second viewing a few days later (I returned to the cinema to see it again) it lost all its magic. It diminishes in my eyes every time I see it or think of it and nowadays I have no affection left for it at all. Now it seems every bit as whiny, self-satisfied and full of trite self-help advice as an episode of TV sitcom 'Scrubs'. There are still some imaginative moments (like the doctor with the improbable number of certificates on the wall) but they don't save it.

Day 17 - Your Favourite Drama Film

Most movies are dramas aren't they? Or at least they all have dramatic elements. I don't know what my favourite is, but the first film to come to mind was Kubrick's epic 'Barry Lyndon'.

Day 18 - Your Favourite Comedy Film

In recent years at the cinema nothing has made me laugh more than 'Team America: World Police', but that's not my favourite comedy film of all-time. A lot of the old Steve Martin films I saw as a kid have stayed with me. 'The Jerk' is brilliant, but I'm going to cite 'The Three Amigos' because I saw it over and over again in my youth and have fond memories.

Day 19 - Your Favourite Action Film

No question: Jackie Chan's 'Project A'. Watching Chan move it always strikes me that he is a modern ancestor of the great silent clowns. This has a lot to do with the way he moves, coupled with the inventiveness of his choreography and his desire to make audiences laugh. He turned his skills to slap-stick violence, just as Gene Kelly turned his to dance, but for me both capture the spirit of Chaplin.

Day 20 - Your Favourite Romantic Film

What could be more romantic, in the truest sense, than 'Casablanca'? Much more the baby of producer Hal B. Wallis than director Michael Curtiz, this is the finest example of a Hollywood studio film. Even if you haven't seen it, you'll also know half the script as, like Shakespeare, it's full of lines that have fallen into popular culture ("beginning of a beautiful friendship", "round up the usual suspects" etc). I never get bored of this film. I recommend critic Roger Ebert's commentary on the DVD if you're a fan.

Check back for the final batch in another ten days.

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