PROFESSOR WAGSTAFF’S SUMMER OF ’42 (questions, that is) MOVIE QUIZ

It’s that time again. Everytime I want to keep myself wired in writing here, I head back to the ol’ Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule site and check either the most recent one of his reliable surveys or I dig deep into Dennis Cozzalio’s past quizzes from before I even was waved his way.

Today, I reached far back to 2005: not only half a decade before I started blogging (from the ol’ blogspot site which nobody will ever find) but in my opinion the year that 13-year-old me actually resolved to have his pulse on film culture as a whole and not just follow along on whatever movie I felt like looking at. Anyway, I’m sure the answers I’ll bring to the table will turn out to be much different from the ones I would have given in 2005, but ain’t that the miracle of growing as a film buff overtime? Let’s get started.

1) Your favorite movie genre, and a prime example of it.

The musical with Singin’ in the Rain playing as the most affable example of how that sort of attempt to make image and sound fire on all aesthetic and emotional cylinders can give you an experience like no other. It’s not my personal favorite musical (though it is absolutely among my favorite movies) but there’s a reason it’s the one EVERYBODY thinks of when they hear the word “musical” film. It’s so bright, energetic, and smiling the whole way through.


2) Your least favorite movie genre, and a prime example of it.

The Biopic and my favorite biopic is Lawrence of Arabia, but I expect that “prime example” should refer to a prime illustration of what I don’t like about that genre. For that, I humbly present A Beautiful Mind‘s deathly boring and polished self-embalming.

3) Donald Duck or Daffy Duck?

Love to them both but Donald has never had a single height as high as Duck Amuck and I am sorry to say that because I do think Donald has a higher quantity of heights. But Daffy takes it.


4) Your favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie.

North by Northwest. There was a time when Vertigo overtook it in honest exhaustion with overexposing myself to Northwest but now I’m back on its side with its non-stop thrill of the chase. Plus, I do recall the first time I watched it in high school and walking away thinking that is probably the world’s biggest FML.

5) The longest you ever waited in line to see a movie (and, of course, the name of the movie that inspired such preparation and dedication).

I’m worried that the answer to this may be I Am Legend, which would be completely embarrassing (I’m not entirely certain). It may also in fact be one of several ol’ 35mm screenings with the Secret Celluloid Society at the Coral Gables Art Cinema (like maybe Hedwig and the Angry Inch or Miami Connection), but I can’t be certain.

I will instead deflect answering the opposite of this question: the shortest I’ve waited to watch a worthwhile movie in the time before Moviepass and AMC A-List rendered lines obsolete. Which was The Dark Knight Opening Day, which not only was I able to get in the theater quick but I was also able to sneak in 7 or 8 friends that foolishly did not purchase their tickets in advance even though I told them to and this despite getting an auditorium right next to the usher.

And now that I finished that anti-answer, I just remembered the actual answer: it was Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s IMAX screening at the AutoNation theater in Ft. Lauderdale with my homies H-M-, S-F-, and A-A- where our place in line wrapped around the science museum building (and Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the same theater with the same folks minus A 2 years prior may be a close second). Needless to say, that did not pay off as much and I was in fact the one who was kindest to the film of the four of us when we left, though the audience sounded into it at least.

6) Your favorite nature documentary.

Koyaaaaaaaaaaaaanisqatsiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.

7) Steve Martin or Jim Carrey?

I grew up in the era of Jim Carrey but I grew harshly out of his comedy as an adult now but find him extremely appealing as a straightforward dramatic actor. But Steve Martin still has the same comic appeal for me as he did when I was a child – flipping back and forth between imbecile and asshole – plus his love for bluegrass music (and Bright Star‘s songs) helps me give the prize to him.

8) Your favorite concert movie.

Tough throw up between The Last Waltz, Monterey Pop, and Stop Making Sense. The desire to have the most underrated choice makes me nearly go with Pop, but David Byrne’s style in Stop Making Sense (not to mention recalling the time my friends saw his swinging around in “Psycho Killer” and told me “That’s that Salim swag”) makes me want to get up and dance like nothing else.


9) Your favorite movie about or incorporating religion or religious themes.

I like a lot more of these than I care to admit as an otherwise angry atheist (it’s the inherent ambition from the right approaches). Anyway, it’s not a question of if it’s a Carl Theodor Dreyer picture for me, but WHICH Carl Theodor Dreyer picture and admitting that I don’t particularly think religion is “the point” of The Passion of Joan of Arc, I’ll select his miraculous 1955 Ordet.

10) Your best story (long or short) about attending a drive-in movie.

What an unexpectedly timely question for 2020. I don’t have many good stories about the drive-in, though so I’ll just settle for when Josh Martinez (yes, THAT Josh Martinez) went to a local pop-up that friends of mine made during Quarantine-era and after I got my fried tacos, I walked through the gate back to our car to see a bunch of dirtbikers practicing for a race or something and watching them for several minutes missing most of the picture just ’cause it was such a weird activity to see in a small lot during the pandemic.

(I have also been to real-deal drive-ins like the Swap Shop Ft. Lauderdale, but I don’t have any stories)

11) Your favorite Brian De Palma movie.

Phantom of the Paradise. The absurd weirdness of that stands out from most of De Palma’s Hitchcock Jr. stuff, which I don’t really care for.

12) Name one movie you initially loved, saw again and ended up thinking significantly less of.

A whole lot of these sadly (and a lot that I don’t even intend to rewatch in fear that I’m not going to care for them anymore – Blue Is the Warmest Colour and Hereditary mostly). I think the main one I’ll pick out is American Beauty, where my esteem of it had already depleted extensively long before certain revelations made the movie unattractive to the public. It’s pretty funny that a movie that ends with Kevin Spacey smugly stating “you probably don’t understand what I’m saying, but you will someday” like it’s a movie more relatable with midlife crisis a thing in your life makes me feel like getting older is what removed the rose tints of what feels pretty juvenile in retrospect dressed up in Oscarbait prestige.

13) Name one movie you initially hated, saw again, and ending up liking or loving.

A lot of these too and I think the movie that most grew in my esteem is Yankee Doodle Dandy, of which I am on record saying “could suck my Yankee Doodle Dick” when I first saw it but afterwards just found James Cagney’s vaudevillian energy just to infectious to deny it.

14) Vivien Leigh or Olivia De Havilland?

Very tough one, but Vivien Leigh’s performance as Scarlett O’Hara is a one of a kind force of nature. Shame the character’s a fucking racist but as Larry David says “Well, here you have somebody who not only doesn’t want you… doesn’t even acknowledge your right to exist, wants your destruction! That’s a turn-on.”

15) Favorite blaxploitation movie theme song.

It is the easiest thing to claim it’s “Theme from Shaft” or “Super Fly” (I’d go with the latter) but I’d like to pull from something away from the two giants mostly because it is not only a phenomenal song, but also because it did double duty as the theme song for the original film it was written for AND for Quentin Tarantino’s blaxploitation homage in Jackie Brown.

Take it away, Bobby.


16) The first movie you remember seeing in a theater.

Pocahontas. Sucks that that’s the answer, right? Could be worse… my second movie is Space Jam.

17) The movie you remember most fondly from childhood.

I joke that anything I liked as a kid is garbage, but Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs still have its place in my heart introducing me to movies to begin with, let alone animation and fantasy and romance and all that jazz. Still have the same VHS copy in my possession from when I was a baby.

18) Your favorite Clint Eastwood movie.

Acting? The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Directing? Unforgiven, barring an eventual rewatch of The Outlaw Josey Wales or Letters from Iwo Jima

The boring choices but I mean, most of his works are pretty beloved by me.

19) Best use of 3-D in a movie (not Best 3-D movie)

I was definitely gonna need that “not best movie” qualifier because while I really don’t care for the movie itself, Dial M for Murder‘s central sequence where Swann breaks into the apartment to try to kill Margot. The spacing feels so much more immediate and threatening with that enhanced depth and Grace Kelly’s fourth-wall break reaching out is so much more chilling when it feels like she’s reaching out to YOU.


20) Least-deserving Oscar Winner for Best Picture

I want to assume this is not asking for the worst Best Picture winner (which remains Cimarron) so I’ll assume The Broadway Melody (which is not that far away from the bottom) as my answer. They wanted to give the newfangled techmology of sound cinema an Oscar so badly that they picked a shoddily mixed movie like this one.

Fortunately, the follow up winner All Quiet on the Western Front has one of the all-time best soundtracks in all of film.

21) Least-deserving Oscar Winner for Best Actor

Fortunately, the worst winner is also my actual answer here: Cliff Robertson in Charly. I don’t know what got in my water, but somewhere during college I started getting more and more annoyed with neurotypical actors playing mentally disabled really started grinding my gears as naked Oscar ploys with few actually worthwhile performances coming out of them (I’m being kind… I honestly can’t think of any good performances off the top of my head in this style but maybe if I sat down…).

22) Least-deserving Oscar Winner for Best Actress

Sally Field in Places in the Heart and Mary Pickford in Coquette are the low-hanging fruit and they are certainly worse than Katharine Hepburn’s performance in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but I think I pick the Hepburn because it shares the frustrating quality of being one of 3 Oscar wins Hepburn – one of the greatest screen actors – won for her few bad performances on top of feeling like full-on white mediocrity in comparison to Sidney Poitier’s shutting out from a Best Actor nomination that year, thereby making its already shallow attempt at race commentary feel so much more performative as well as the Oscar’s attention to Kramer’s characteristically grating and labored social drama.

And yes, I am intellectually aware that Poitier more likely did not get his Oscar nod because he had three performances battling for the spot between Guess Who, In the Heat of the Night, and To Sir, With Love. But still…

23) Michael Bay— yes or no, and why?

Much as I like to admire how well he latched onto the one-for-me, one-for-them method of film career the best of anyone this side of Soderbergh and his movies definitely have a recognizable style and personality, it is a personality I would not want to spend ANY time with in person and he has made several movies I find intolerable with only one I possibly like, so I am going to go with no.

24) Your favorite movie about food.

Ratatouille. I deeply would like to claim it’s Tampopo but deep in my heart, I find Ratatouille‘s presentation of its meals so much more aesthetically pleasing while also finding its approach to the art to be universal enough to speak to anyone’s passions even beyond the cuisine. But it does inspire me to explore cuisine further.


25) Your favorite disaster movie.

San Francisco and of course you know what disaster it is from that title, but it is a wonder of sound crushing us from all sides when that strikes.

26) Steve McQueen or Lee Marvin?

Lee Marvin is by miles the better actor than McQueen, but as a fan of speed and the feeling of it behind the wheel and watching the Formula 1, McQueen already earns my respect beyond Marvin as a personality.

McQueen’s the King of Cool, y’all.

27) Best adaptation of a book or other source material into a movie.

Orson Welles’ The Trial, basically being able to change nearly nothing in the great source material while still making sure that every single dizzying feeling is expressed by the visuals – angular and imposing – and the performances rather than the letter.

28) Worst adaptation of a book or other source material into a movie.

I’ll cheat into that “other source material” part and go with stage material here but George Cukor… HOW do you fuck up My Fair Lady like that? The script and the music are phenomenal enough to hand this shit to its filmmakers on a fucking platter and Cukor is generally an excellent filmmaker, but holy shit did they just gut all the wonderful visual elements and replace Julie Andrews with a deathly miscast Audrey Hepburn (much as I love Hepburn) and it makes me cry how mediocre it is. They should have just let Vincente Minnelli make it, he probably would have had the good sense to keep Andrews from Broadway (who would have by that point made The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins) and have more life in it.

Granted, it won the Best Picture Oscar, so what the fuck do I know? My answer was almost The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King so ignore me.

29) Tippi Hedren or Kim Novak?

Kim Novak easily. What can I say, Roar is the sort of movie that makes you doubt the people involved are all there.


30) Your favorite Marx brother.

This should absolutely be a lot more of a Sophie’s Choice than it actually is since the holy trinity of Groucho, Chico, and Harpo all bring something irreplaceable (much love to Zeppo too), but the straightforward fact that Groucho talks shit faster than Jimmy John’s while having wonderfully visually expressive eyebrows and mannerisms that could rival Harpo takes the cake.


31) The most frightening movie you’ve seen that is not strictly a horror movie.

Through a Glass Darkly, simply because Hariet Anderson’s weighty and demanding performance. When I said that “religious movie” question could easily have a Carl Theodor Dreyer answer, I forgot that Ingmar Bergman could be an answer as well.

32) Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi?

Karloff is significantly the superior actor, but Lugosi’s never taken a role without giving it his all while still feeling like someone of stature rather than someone muddling and he’s one of the many faces I think of when I think of the word “B-Movie”, a word that gives me no limit of warm feelings. One of my favorite actors, despite not liking most of his movies.

33) Your favorite movie about high school.

Dazed and Confused. And I do wonder if I was lucky enough to have seen it for the first time in my freshman year of college and so just right down the middle between looking back the way Linklater does with the film and looking forward like the characters do on at the beginning of another chapter (a vibe I think Linklater is very good at capturing since he gave me the same vibe in Boyhood the summer when I graduated from undergrad). The only movie that almost gives me that same sense of timeliness was seeing American Graffiti in my senior year of high school.

34) The movie you’d most like to be subjected to a DVD commentary, and the person or persons (living or dead) who you’d like to hear talking on it.

I should absolutely have a better fucking answer than this but I can’t help that my brain first goes to Miami Connection with Bong Joon-ho and Y.K. Kim conversing mostly in Korean so English viewer need subtitles for the commentary. I’m not even sure it would vibe given Bong is pretty clearly a socialist and Kim feels like he’s more capitalist, but who knows? They both seem like fellas who are eager to make friends.

35) Your favorite animated movie.

I’m going with Grave of the Fireflies for right now, but this is a question where the answer is always fluid from me. In fact, I very nearly went with Duck Amuck above but that felt lazy to use it twice.


36) Most overly familiar dialogue phrase used in screenwriting, usually to connote coolness of a character or, more often, the screenwriter (Example: “Do the math!”)

I honestly can’t think of any uses of “nice shot” or “made you look” except for Captain America: Civil War for the latter, so I might go with “Tell him I’m coming!” except the only ones I can remember are The Limey, Tombstone (which I haven’t seen but I’ve seen the clip), and Resident Evil: Extinction and they’re all too cool.

“Have a nice trip” is one that I imagine used by a whole lot of action heroes when they just kill a dude but the only memory I have of it is the weird non-sequitur use of it in The Dark Knight.

37) Your favorite Howard Hawks movie.

His Girl Friday and I don’t even need to think twice and I never will think twice and you can’t make me think twice and look here fella…


38) Carrie Fisher or Natalie Portman?

The hat trick for my “_______ is the better actor but…” responses to these questions. In which case, Portman is the better actor – sold 100% after the 2018 one-two punch of Annihilation and Vox Lux – and I do admire a lot about her attempts to get more women behind the camera but Carrie Fisher’s writing is incredibly charming and by a country mile the material I’d prefer to remember her by over her acting.

Plus if we’re talking Star Wars, I do think Leia is better-written and Fisher got to improve by each movie while Portman just kept getting worse and worse writing with each installment. And because I am a shallow dude, I found Leia hotter.

39) Your favorite kung fu movie.

Jackie Chan’s Police Story, with its amusing Buster Keaton physical elements even outside of the amazing fight sequences.


40) In the spirit of Freddy vs. Jason, devise a fantasy smackdown
matchup between two movie characters, fictional or drawn from life.

John Wick vs. Kuwabatake Sanjuro. The unstoppable vs. the unkillable.

I know this makes no temporal sense at all and is logistically impossible, but it’s not like it’s gonna be made and I’m just trying to have fun and I’m fucking terrible at this.

41) Your ultimate fantasy drive-in double feature.

Planet Terror and Death Proof

Death Race 2000 and Vanishing Point or Duel and Maximum Overdrive

I’ve long decided since leaving a drive-in showing of Mad Max: Fury Road a few months ago that the only movies to watch at a drive-in are road movies or car-centric movies. I figure the two I named are a fitting enough pair for breezy good times.

42) Funniest… movie… ever!

I know I said I didn’t want to recycle Duck Amuck for two answers, but fortunately I did not have to invoke Duck Soup when answering the Marx brothers question and only used a clip. So now I’ll just use a second clip for the funniest movie ever.

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