Sunday, November 4, 2012

100 Fun Film Facts About Yours Truly

A few months back, or is it over a year now (gee I procrastinate) a brand new blogathon/meme began spreading its cyber wings across the so-called blogosphere, originating over at Cinematic Paradox.  The premise was simple as can be.  Give 100 random facts that have to do with you and the movies.  Now if there are two things I can ramble on forever about, it is me and the movies.  Half of that statement may have been partially facetious.   Anyway, I digress.  The following is my not-so-humble contribution to this cyber game.  They are listed 1 through 100 but really they are in no particular order other than that always popular order of randomness.  Here we go now.

1. The first movie I ever remember seeing in a theater is Benji.  I was six when it was released so I probably had already been to the movies by then, but that scruffy little dog was the first one I can clearly remember.

2. My favourite actress of all-time is Barbara Stanwyck.  She is one tough-as-nails broad.

3. My favourite actor of all-time is Jimmy Stewart.  He makes it look so damn easy.

4. In 1985, at the age of seventeen, I bought a VCR.  It was the first "major" thing I ever bought with money I actually earned at a job.  For those Gen Y and beyond readers out there, if you do not know what a VCR is, Google it.

5. Shortly after the events of number four, I signed up for membership at a place, now long defunct of course, called Movie Merchants.  The first three movies I rented were Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Amadeus.  For those Gen Y and beyond readers out there, if you do not know what renting movies is all about, well, never mind.

6. Give me Goodfellas over The Godfather any day.

7. Akira Kurosawa's Ran was the first foreign language film I ever saw in a theatre.  It was at the Colonial Park UA Twin and I was eighteen years old.

8. No matter her politics, or some would say perceived politics, I still think Leni Riefenstahl is one of the greatest directors to ever work in the art form.

9. I believe that Keaton was the funnier of the two but Chaplin was the better writer and director.

10. The first time I ever saw Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, I hated it.  The second time I liked it.  The third time I loved it.  I now include it in my all-time Top 100.

11. Brazil is my favourite film the 1980's.  Blade Runner and Blow Out are second and third respectively.

12. One of my favourite memories of my grandmother was when she and I went to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home together.  I was nineteen, she was fifty-nine.  When she went to sit down, she did not realize that the seats semi-reclined, and her popcorn went flying into the air and landed on the head and lap of the quite surprised man sitting behind us.  My grandmother was embarrassed but luckily the man found it almost as funny as I did.   I sure do miss her.

13. In my opinion, the stateroom scene from A Night at the Opera can remedy any kind of depression and/or foul mood.  In fact, I would say the same for almost any Marx Brothers routine.


14. My first job working in a movie theatre was in 1990, when I was twenty-two.  It was at a place called the Eric Twin.  I started as a ticket taker and usher and moved my way up to projectionist and assistant manager.  It was long enough ago that we still had to change the reels over between two projectors.

15. The total once averaged around 250 to 300, but these days I watch on average, 500 films per year.

16. I've got to admit it.  I never have been all that much of a fan of Tarkovsky.  Go ahead all you cinephiliac snobs, lay it on me.

17. I stand by the opinion that Gene Tierney has the sexiest overbite in movie history.

18. My first movie crush was Pamela Sue Martin in The Poseidon Adventure.  I had just turned seven when I first saw the film, so I had no idea what I was to do about said crush, but there it was anyway.

19. If I were to put Quentin Tarantino's feature films in preferential order it would go a little something like this: Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill Volume 2, Kill Bill Volume 1, Jackie Brown, Death Proof, Reservoir Dogs.   And not a bad one in the bunch.  We'll see where Django Unchained fits in later.

20. If aliens were to come to Earth and ask for a reason to not destroy the planet, I would show them the final scene of Chaplin's City Lights.

21. In my world (and what other world is there!?), there are three Star Wars films.  Just three.  Star Wars, not Star Wars: A New Hope but just Star Wars, was the first.  The Empire Strikes Back was the second, and Return of the Jedi, silly muppetry aside, was the last.  Anything else is just hogswaddle, and no one will ever convince me otherwise.

22. The one and only film class I ever took was during my senior year of high school.  We watched and studied Citizen Kane, Bonnie and Clyde, Wait Until Dark, and three Hitchcock's, Psycho, Lifeboat and The Wrong Man.  It was the very first time I had sen any them.  Two of these films now reside in my all-time top five and another in my top fifteen. 

23. Give me the Alexander Korda/Michael Powell/Sabu Thief of Bagdad over the Raoul Walsh/ Douglas Fairbanks one any day.

24. I have never seen The Goonies and I plan on keeping it that way.  I do not say this out of any lack of desire to see the film, but out of spite for those who are flabbergasted that someone my age (I was seventeen upon its initial release) has never seen damn film.  So, forever more, I will never watch The Goonies.  So there.

25. If I could have lunch with any three film personalities it would be Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich and Quentin Tarantino.  We would eat wings and talk cinema til those damn cows came home.

26. The first VHS I ever owned was Citizen Kane.  The first DVD was 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The first Bluray was also 2001

27. I am an unabashed Auteurist and an unapologetic Paulette.  If you know what those terms mean then you know how confused I must be.

28. My favourite Marx brother is Harpo.  Chico comes in second, followed by Groucho.  Neither Zeppo nor Gummo really factor in.

29. My wife and I worked the concession stand together at Haar's Drive-In the first two summers we were married.  My bubblegum milkshake brought everyone to the yard.

30. I never have understood why everyone thinks The Shawshank Redemption is so great.  I mean, it isn't a bad movie but c'mon, it's not all that.

31. When The Tree of Life came out, I unexpectedly went on a three city tour, first seeing it in New York, then in Philadelphia a month later, and finally in my hometown of Harrisburg a month after that.

32. My favourite John Carpenter film is Assault on Precinct 13.  I dare even call it a bloody masterpiece.
 
33. I love making movie lists.  I guess that is obvious though, considering.

34. Scorsese' tracking shot through the Copacabana in Goodfellas is my all time favourite tracking shot, even over Welles' Touch of Evil opening.  The same opinion is held by my lovely wife.

35. My wife sometimes doubts my taste in film, especially when it comes to her rabid disliking of and my liking, though perhaps not rabidly so, of Wes Anderson.

36. I much prefer Buñuel's Spanish and Mexican period to his early or later French stuff.

37. I am really tempted to make some sort of Kevin Smith joke here but I will restrain myself.  Those in the know will understand of what I speak.

38. It may sound rather strange, but I stand my my assertion that Michelle Williams has the best damn knees in show biz.  The only ones I have seen that are better are on the legs of my own lovely wife.

39. Once, while I was putting together a print of Blue Velvet for a midnight showing at Midtown Cinema, the arthouse cinema that my wife and I run together, I may or may not have licked said print.  Okay, I licked it.  So there.

40. The same can be said for the 50th Anniversary restoration print of Godard's Breathless that we played a few months later.  So there again!

41. Having just turned ten, my mother took me to see this new film.  It was a little film called Star Wars.  Afterward I convinced my mom that we had to go to the store and get all the new action figures that were out.  Of course she did not buy me all of them that day (eventually I would acquire all of them) but she did get me Han, Luke, Chewie, Princess Leia, C3PO, R2D2, Darth Vader and Greedo.  When we got home, one of the arms immediately fell off of my C3PO.  I whined until she took me back to the store to get a replacement droid.  Yes, I was a brat.  Probably still am.

42. I thoroughly enjoyed Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart.  I may be the only one.

43. The Red Shoes is my all time favourite film.  When I was lucky enough to see a restored 35mm print at Film Forum a few years ago, I and several others waiting in line ran to the front row just like they do in the opening scene of the film.

44. When I was working at the Eric Twin movie theatres back in 1990, I got into an argument with our local newspaper's film critic over David Lynch's Wild at Heart, with me praising it and she panning.

45. When I went to The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens to see Jacques Rivette's 13 hour Out 1, we had a lunch break and were given a boxed lunch as part of our ticket price.

46. Musicals, Westerns and Film Noirs are my three favourite genres.

47. My favourite swashbuckling film of all time is Captain Blood, and my favourite swashbuckler is, of course, Mr. Errol Flynn.

48. I used to participate as part of the live cast during the midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Capital City Mall UA Theaters back in the Summer of 1986 and then again in 1991 and 1992.  At one point or another I played every character, in full costume mind you, but my most played portrayal was that of handyman-cum-transvestite usurper Riff Raff.  Overall, between shows and practice sessions, I have probably seen the movie close to 1000 times.

49. Fantasia is my all-time favourite animated film, followed by Fantastic Planet and then The Triplets of Belleville.

50. When I was eighteen I aspired to be like Judd Nelson's Bender from The Breakfast Club but in reality I was a lot more like Ally Sheedy's Allison.

51. I do not give a damn about all those Chuck Norris jokes.  He will never be as tough as Robert Mitchum.  Never.

52. While traveling back from Myrtle Beach last year, my wife and I stumbled across the Ava Gardner Museum in North Carolina.  I love surprise cinematic treats like that.

53. In the overall spectrum, I would have to say I like Italian films more than French.

54. The film I would most like to see right now is a Quentin Tarantino directed remake of Three Amigos starring Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr.  C'mon, ya know you want to see it too.

55. Of Orson Welles' eleven completed feature films, I would rank them thusly: Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, Lady From Shanghai, The Trial, Chimes at Midnight, Macbeth, Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger, F For Fake, Mr. Arkadin, Othello.   And even the least of the batch is pretty freakin' great.

56. My favourite classic Hollywood studio is Warner Brothers, followed by the now defunct RKO.

57. Other than The Rocky Horror Picture Show (see #48) there are six films of which I can pretty much recite from memory.  They are Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, The Wizard of Oz, Dazed and Confused, The Breakfast Club and The Princess Bride.  Of course, once I think about it a little more, I could probably include Clerks., Inglourious Basterds, Casablanca, Jaws and Psycho as well.

58. My wife and I have hosted an Oscar party for the last fourteen years.  The last three have been open to the public at Midtown Cinema.

59. To quote TV's Frasier Crane when asked if he minded subtitles, "Mind them?  I prefer them!"

60. Give me De Palma's Blow Out over Coppola's The Conversation any day.

61. It is a big pet peeve of mine when someone complains about a movie and their only complaint is that it is too slow.  Why does slow equate with bad in these people's minds?  There are good slow movies and there are bad slow movies.  Get over it people.

62. I just cannot help getting the biggest thrill out of watching Karloff bitchslap that guy at the end of Peter Bogdanovich's Targets.  Great stuff indeed.

63. While visiting New York with my friend Bill back in 1989, we ran into Phil Collins.  Apparently I said to him, "I loved you in Buster."  I don't remember doing this, but many years later Bill informed me that it is indeed something I did.  To this day, I have never seen the film Buster.

64. Before my wife and I took over running Midtown Cinema, Harrisburg Pa's one and only art house cinema, I would give film lectures before each Sunday afternoon screening, during the cinema's six month long classic film series.  Some of the films I gave lectures on were Casablanca, The Big Sleep, 42nd Street, Rebel Without a Cause and Annie Hall.

65. I freely admit to bawling like a little baby at the end of Leo McCarey's Make Way For Tomorrow.  In fact, my eyes are welling up just by thinking about it.  Other film finales I cry uncontrollably over are Brokeback Mountain, Wendy and Lucy and Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life.  Don't even get me started on Old Yeller.

66. I never have understood what all the hoopla over David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia is all about.  Sure, it looks nice, but god is it ever boring.

67. One of my movie collecting goals is to acquire every single Criterion Collection release.   As of today, there are 645 titles in their catalog, and this is not including their 37 Eclipse Series editions, or their Akira Kurosawa boxset, Merchant/Ivory collection, Essential Art House collection or any of the other various sets.  As of right now, I own 57 titles (30 in Bluray, 27 in DVD), plus 5 Eclipse sets, 1 Essential Art House title, and the aforementioned Kurosawa boxset.  So yeah, I have a long long way to go - and they keep coming out with more every month.  Perhaps a lottery win will be needed here.

68. My favourite director is Stanley Kubrick.  He is the only filmmaker to make my 100 Favourite Films list five times.  Of his thirteen theatrical releases, I would rank them thusly: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Paths of Glory, The Killing, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Killer's Kiss, Barry Lyndon, Eyes Wide Shut, Spartacus, Fear and Desire.  Though the last two are not exactly Kubrick gold, there is not a bad one in the bunch.

69. Okay, I'll admit it - I like Victor Mature.  What's it to ya!?

70. My first ever published film review was written for a small monthly indie cinema mag called FilmSpeak.  It was 1998 and was a review of the film The Opposite of Sex.

71. If I were asked to program a Pre-Code double feature (and why wouldn't I be asked to do such a thing?), I would choose William Dieterle's The Last Flight and William Wellman's Safe in Hell.

72. I am an unabashed Hitchcocko-Hawksian.  I even list such as my political view on Facebook.

73. My favourite big budget Hollywood director working today (and no, due to extenuating circumstances, neither QT nor PTA are included in this category) is J.J. Abrams.  And while I am at it, I should also probably say that Abrams' Star Trek is the best of the franchised bunch.  Blasphemy I know, but there you have it.

74. The first midnight showing I ever saw was a screening of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead at Capital City Mall, during their classic (at least classic to we teens of the 1980's in central Pennsylvania) when I was sixteen.  As I drove home along those dark and deserted rural roads (I grew up in the further reaches of Harrisburg Pa's suburbs) I first came across my long running (and very rational!) fear of the living dead.  To this day I still have this (very rational!!) fear of zombies, but will never stop watching movies that highlight such creatures.  In fact, fear (very rational!!!) or not, The Walking Dead is the only must see TV on the air these days.

75. The above (very rational) fear probably comes from my mother, whom, from the age of fifteen, when she first saw Psycho at the drive-in, to this very day, will not take a shower when she is alone in the house.

76. If I were forced to choose (by gunpoint, say) then I think I would have to pick Joan Fontaine over her sister Olivia de Havilland, by the ever-so-slightest of margins.  I suppose, what I am trying to say is that Rebecca, Suspicion, the best of the Jane Eyre's, Letter From an Unknown Woman and Born to be Bad slightly beat out The Heiress, The Snake Pit and all those films swooning over the swashbuckling Mr. Flynn.

77. I prefer Steven Spielberg's popcorn flicks (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Jaws, The Adventures of Tintin) to his more serious-minded fare (Schindler's List, Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple, War Horse).

78. My favourite film of the aughts (the more recent version of the aughts mind you) is David Lynch's Mulholland Dr., followed by In the Mood For Love and Inglourious Basterds respectively.

79. Though it is one of my all-time favourite films, something has always bothered me about The Wizard of Oz.  When our intrepid young Dorothy first shows up in Oz (after crushing the Wicked Witch of the East to death in a runaway house accident) she is asked by Glinda whether she is a good witch or a bad witch.  Later on in this conversation (after an inadvertent insult to the Good Witch of the North) Dorothy is told that only bad witches are ugly, and that good witches are beautiful (self-centered bitch if ya ask me).  This begs the question of why did Glinda ask Dorothy if she were a good witch or a bad witch.  Is she saying that Dorothy may or may not be ugly?  She just doesn't want to be the one to say so?  Seriously, Dorothy should have slapped that periwinkle-dressed bitch up.  I still love the movie though, but don't even get me started on why the witch would allow a bucket of water to be sitting around her castle, or how rude it was of Dorothy to say the Scarecrow was her favourite - right in front of the Tin Man and the Lion.

80. I will never understand - never ever understand - why so many people are under the opinion that Stan Brakhage is a great filmmaker.  Even a good filmmaker.  Even a competent filmmaker.  His films (if one even has the right to call them such) are about as far from great cinema (another word one probably should not use when discussing someone like Brakhage) as one can reach.  Sure, they are not the kind of bad that things like Adam Sandler or Tyler Perry comedies are, or the actioners of the 1980's with Van Damme and Seagal and company are, but they are in another class of bad cinema (there is that wrongly used word again) altogether.  Full of sound and fury, signifying abso-freakin-lutely nothing whatsoever.  Repetitious squiggles and tree branches and laundry in the wind.  Cinema?  No way.  Great cinema?  Certainly not!

81. If I were to rank the James Bonds in order, from best to worst, or from favourite to least favourite if you will, it would go a little something like this: Sean Connery (of course), Roger Moore (yeah, that's right), Daniel Craig (the franchise is on an upswing again), George Lazenby (one hit wonder), Pierce Brosnan (stick with Remington Steele) and Timothy Dalton (trying way to hard).

82. If I had predilections that, shall we say, leaned the other way, I suppose I would go all weak in the knees over movie stars like Errol Flynn, Gene Kelly, Richard Widmark, Ralph Meeker and Robert Mitchum.  I suppose the same could be said of modern day movie stars such as Daniel Day-Lewis and Michael Fassbender.

83. One Summer, relatively long ago, back when I was stoned more often than not (a whole other creature than the teetotaler I am these days), my roommates and I watched the 1995 stoner comedy Friday just about every day, and laughed our collective asses off every damn time.  In retrospect, the film is not really all that funny clean and sober.

84. A long time ago, but not necessarily in a galaxy far far away, I considered film director Billy Wilder to be something of a non-entity.  Certainly a talented filmmaker, but never did he fit into the conversations I held with myself (yeah, I said myself) about the best and brightest in cinema.  In more recent days (like a few years ago) when I was compiling a favourite films/greatest films list, I noticed that the elusive Mr. Wilder was mentioned quite a few times in both what would eventually make it on said list and those that just missed out.  Today (as one can easily read on my Favourite Films page) I count three Wilder films (Sunset Blvd., Double Indemnity, Some Like It Hot) among my top one hundred, in fact in my top fifty, while several other Wilder's (The Apartment, Ace in the Hole, Kiss Me Stupid) hover just below the top one hundred.  I suppose now I should probably include Herr Wilder in my favourite directors list.

85. When it comes to big bug movies, I believe that you just cannot go wrong with 1954's gigantic atomic ant classic, Them!


86. When I was working at Haar's Drive-In (see #29) I went around, along with the eleven year old son of a fellow drive-in worker, and turned all 750 or so speakers to high, so that when the Uncle Fucker song in the South Park movie came on it echoed through the suburban neighbourhoods that surrounded the drive-in.  Fun stuff indeed.

87. When it comes to acting prowess, give me Casey Affleck over big brother Ben any day.

88. I cannot decide whether my guiltiest guiltless pleasure among the Sword and Sandal set is Victor Saville's The Silver Chalice or Howard Hawks' Land of the Pharaohs.  Or maybe it is Michael Curtiz' The Egyptian.  Oh wait, it very damn well could be DeMille's Samson and Delilah.  At this rate, we may never know.

89. Forget the overrated and rather boring Ocean's Eleven, because Robin and the Seven Hoods is my favourite Rat Pack film.

90. Give me Mizoguchi over Ozu any day.  Give me Kinoshita over Mizoguchi any day.  Give me Kurosawa over all of them any day.

91. Forget the inherent sexiness of stars like Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth.  I firmly believe that Janet Gaynor may very well be the cutest damn thing to ever come out of Hollywood.

92. There is a woman at our local Fed-Ex store who honestly believes that I am Quentin Tarantino.  I admit that there is a slight, ever so slight resemblance to the writer/director of Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds, but she really needs to have her eyes examined.  Of course it doesn't help that the only time I go in the place is to ship films and film related items to various places such as other theaters and film distributors.  And it probably doesn't help when I say things like my screenplay for Kill Bill 3 is giving me trouble.  Oh well.  People are fun to mess with.

93. If I were asked to name the most boring director in the history of cinema (and yes, I have been asked that very same question), I would pass right over such eligible modern day candidates as Rob Marshall, Tom Hooper and Ron Howard, and even over Mr. Michael Apted (yes, even Mr. Michael Apted) and proclaim David Lean as hands down winner.

94. I actually own a promo pair of the alien-seeing sunglasses from the 1988 sci-fi film They Live.  I have yet to discover any aliens while wearing them, but someday baby.....someday.

95. I collect movie star trading cards.  Including both cigarette and gum cards, as well as various promotional cards, the main crux of my collection ranges from the early 1920's through the 1960's, with a spot or two of more modern cards.  One of my favourite sets is a 1922 set produced by Lucky Strike cigarettes that were meant to be used as bridge favours, and which includes such stars of the day as Dorothy Mackaill, Ona Munson, Jack Holt and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr..

96. I like her fine in Mildred Pierce, but my favourite Joan Crawford performance is in Johnny Guitar.

97. Give me Eisenstein's later comeback films, Ivan the Terrible and Alexander Nevsky over the director's earlier montage stuff like Strike, Battleship Potemkin and October any day.

98. I once attended a screening of A Clockwork Orange that was also attended by what were apparently some sort of neo-nazi gang, who bellowed from the back row and cheered the rape scenes.  Gotta admit it, my friends and I were a bit put off by the whole affair.

99. I sat upon the jury of the Harrisburg Film Festival from 2004 through 2010.

100. When all is said and done, and the final nail is put in the coffin of film by the inevitable tide that is the digitization of all things cinema (well, all things deemed "worthy" by the soulless bastards that run the conglomerations that own and operate all the once proud movie studios - everything else will just disappear into the nether regions of what once was) I will be very very very very sad.  Until then, let's party like its 1999, or maybe 1932 when the code was still unenforced, the bathtub gin was still flowing and Cagney and Harlow could still put both feet on the bed.  Thank you and good night.

4 comments:

Chip Lary said...

An interesting and entertaining read. I agree with some things (Brakhage) and disagree with others (Lawrence of Arabia).

In regards to Brakhage I confess I just don't care for most "experimental" filmmakers. To me they are the cinematic equivalent of a painter randomly flinging paint at a canvas: the art lies not in the creation, but in convincing someone else to give you money for it.

Kevyn Knox said...

Thanx. Yes, I totally agree on experimental cinema. There is a handful I have enjoyed (Peter Kubelka, some Anger, some Deren) but overall, yeah, just dreck.

Rachel said...

This was quite a list. Exceptionally fun to read. Hey, we share the same favorite actor/actress! If only they had starred in the same movie, just once. And I appreciate the love for Fantasia (a film I loved even as a child so there all you naysayers). Since you mention your wife and her cinematic tastes several times, is there any chance of her making a guest appearance on this blog, possibly in a discussion post? Anyway, I really enjoyed this post and I'm glad you got around to it, late or no.

Kevyn Knox said...

Thanx Rachel. I have been trying to get the missus to do guest spots for years now. Maybe someday.