Professor Russell Johnson’s “My Ancestors Came Over on the Minnow” Thanksgiving/Christmas Movie Quiz

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By Marilyn Ferdinand

Time again for one of Dennis Cozzalio’s three-hour tours, aka, a holiday movie quiz. This one was a doozy, with 50 questions.

1) Second-favorite Coen Brothers movie.
Believe it or not, I do like some Coen Brothers movies. My second favorite is, um, let me see. OK, why not, O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Those little girls singing are gear.

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2) Movie seen only on home format that you would pay to see on the biggest movie screen possible? (Question submitted by Peter Nellhaus)
Tron. I had a chance to see it projected in 70mm and blew it. I hope I get the chance again.

3) Japan or France? (Question submitted by Bob Westal)
Tough question, but I think I’ve got to go with France. I’ve seen so many more French films by choice. Even though French cinema seems to be in the doldrums right now, it’s still fascinating to me, particularly films of the Nazi occupation.

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4) Favorite moment/line from a western.
Can I pick the whole of High Noon? No, then one moment—Gary Cooper walking warily through the deserted streets of town. So many emotions ran over his cracking stoicism. Truly unforgettable.

5) Of all the arts the movies draw upon to become what they are, which is the most important, or the one you value most?
The script, of course. I’m a writer.

6) Most misunderstood movie of the 2000s (The Naughties?).
American Psycho. I think this 2000 movie was more misunderstood because of the crappy book on which it was based. Mary Harron burrowed into the comedy of the material, but far too many people were put off by the gore and misogyny of the book to really appreciate it.

7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.
Woody Allen. I loved his early films. I absolutely hate everything he does now and his early films don’t even seem funny to me anymore.

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8.) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?
Herbert Lom. What a great face! He was killer opposite Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther.

9) Which is your least favorite David Lynch film (Submitted by Tony Dayoub)
The Straight Story. I just don’t get it; it’s too obscure and elliptical.

10) Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)
Definitely Conrad Hall! I remember hearing how he got that shot of Robert Blake talking about his father in In Cold Blood, the water pouring down the window and shadowing Blake’s face. Brilliant.

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11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.
Charlie Varrick.

12) Last movie you saw on DVD/Blu-ray? In theaters?
On DVD, Sunshine Cleaning. In a theatre, Operation Danube.

13) Which DVD in your private collection screams hardest to be replaced by a Blu-ray? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)
The Devils. The currently available DVD, though now containing great extras and the previously censor-cut scenes, is a muddy shame.

14) Eddie Deezen or Christopher Mintz-Plasse?
Who? I don’t think I’ve seen anything either of them has done.

15) Actor/actress who you feel automatically elevates whatever project they are in, or whom you would watch in virtually anything.
Bruno Ganz elevates everything he’s in. Also, when I consider some of the dreck I’ve sat through, I have demonstrated to myself that I will watch James Cagney in anything.

16) Fight Club — yes or no?
Since I’ve never seen it, no.

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17) Teresa Wright or Olivia De Havilland?
Olivia De Havilland. She’s old Hollywood royalty I can’t resist.

18) Favorite moment/line from a film noir.
Annie Laurie Starr, Gun Crazy: “I’ve got a funny feeling that I want to be good. I don’t know. Maybe I can’t. But I’m gonna try. I’ll try hard, Bart. I’ll try.”

19) Best (or worst) death scene involving an obvious dummy substituting for a human or any other unsuccessful special effect(s)—see the wonderful blog Destructible Man for inspiration.
Unsuccessful special effect is my choice. Greg Ferrara’s tribute to the animatronic cat from 1936’s Murder at the Gallop cannot be missed.

20) What’s the least you’ve spent on a film and still regretted it? (Submitted by Lucas McNelly)
$2.50 on The Bourne Ultimatum. The time I wasted was worth considerably more.

21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?
Van Johnson all the way. His smile, his dancing, his reluctant rendezvous with a “mighty strange” woman in Brigadoon.

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22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.
Remember My Name. When will that gem come uncut to DVD, I wonder.

23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.
Wow, only about a million of them. But if I have to pick, let’s make it a double feature: the one that should have won the Oscar for 1994, Hoop Dreams, and the one that did win the Oscar for 1976, Harlan County, U.S.A.

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24) In deference to this quiz’s professor, name a favorite film which revolves around someone becoming stranded.
The Exterminating Angel and all the people who are stranded in the music room.

25) Is there a moment when your knowledge of film, or lack thereof, caused you an unusual degree of embarrassment and/or humiliation? If so, please share.
Yes. When I thought Bela Tarr was a woman. Oh boy!

26) Ann Sheridan or Geraldine Fitzgerald? (Submitted by Larry Aydlette)
Ann Sheridan. Geraldine Fitzgerald just isn’t very memorable.

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27) Do you or any of your family members physically resemble movie actors or other notable figures in the film world? If so, who?
Fluffy resembles Donald Pleasence’s cat in You Only Live Twice.

28) Is there a movie you have purposely avoided seeing? If so, why?
Yes, Pulp Fiction. I didn’t start out avoiding it, but so many people gave me shit about not seeing it, I dug my heels in.

29) Movie with the most palpable or otherwise effective wintry atmosphere or ambience.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. You can get frostbitten just watching it.

30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?
Definitely Jeffrey Jones. He’s great in my favorite Halloween movie, Sleepy Hollow. He’s just got an amazing face.

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31) The best cinematic antidote to a cultural stereotype (sexual, political, regional, whatever).
I don’t know if it’s the best, but I really get a kick out of how Amy Madigan plays McCoy in Streets of Fire. She miraculously doesn’t come off as a total dyke; she’s a genuine partner to Michael Paré.

32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.
Stagecoach. The Quiet Man comes in first.

33) Favorite movie car chase.
The original The Italian Job. The cars are so cute.

34) In the spirit of His Girl Friday, propose a gender-switched remake of a classic or not-so-classic film. (Submitted by Patrick Robbins)
I’d love to see a faithful, word-for-word adaptation of The Women, using only men playing it straight.

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35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?
Oh Max!

36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.
I’ve only seen Slattery’s Hurricane, and I didn’t much like it.

37) If you could take one filmmaker’s entire body of work and erase it from all time and memory, as if it had never happened, whose oeuvre would it be? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)
Otto Preminger because he’s a complete shit.

38) Name a film you actively hated when you first encountered it, only to see it again later in life and fall in love with it.
Love Story. Click through to find out why.

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39) Max Ophuls or Marcel Ophuls? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)
Max. It’s really apples and hand grenades, isn’t it?

40) In which club would you most want an active membership, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, the Cutters or the Warriors? And which member would you most resemble, either physically or in personality?
None of them. They exclude women.

41) Your favorite movie cliché.
The ingénue who goes out in place of the injured/angry/detained headliner and comes back a star.

42) Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen? (Submitted by Bob Westal)
Minnelli. His golden age musicals are like priceless jewels, especially Meet Me in St. Louis.

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43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.
It has to be when Ralphie’s dad unpacks his major award. I was overcome with horror thinking about that going into MY living room, let alone Ralphie’s.

44) Favorite moment of self- or selfless sacrifice in a movie.
When Sister Marie Bernard shows the enormous tumor on her leg to Sister Marie Therese in The Song of Bernadette and says she has never suffered. The horror on Gladys Cooper’s face when confronted with real selfless suffering and her own jealousy is gut-wrenching.

45) If you were the cinematic Spanish Inquisition, which movie cult (or cult movie) would you decimate? (Submitted by Bob Westal)
The Dark Knight fanboy cult. I have visions of them all becoming ruthless corporate raiders if they are allowed to grow to maturity.

46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?
I’m not very well versed in Hammer horror. I’ll call it a tie since I’m sure they’re both wonderful.

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47) Favorite eye-patch wearing director. (Submitted by Patty Cozzalio)
Definitely Raoul Walsh. He’s responsible for so many great films from the silents through the golden age.

48) Favorite ambiguous movie ending. (Original somewhat ambiguous submission—“Something about ambiguous movie endings!”– by Jim Emerson, who may have some inspiration of his own to offer you.)
Madeleine. Ann Todd’s entire performance is an exercise in ambiguity, but that Mona Lisa smile at the end slam-dunks it.

49) In giving thanks for the movies this year, what are you most thankful for?
Roger Ebert. He continues to be supportive of my work and an inspiration to me. I hope he lives a long and happy life.

50) George Kennedy or Alan North? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)
George Kennedy. He’s funny and very cool. He kind of reminds me of James Coburn.

  • Greg F spoke:
    3rd/12/2009 to 6:05 pm

    So many good answers. I’d like to see Tron on the big screen too. To see that early computer work up there in 70 mm would be really something.
    American Psycho – I love that movie so much, but I can’t convince many people to see it. They just don’t believe me when I tell them how good it is. And how damn funny!
    The cat! How could I forget the animatronic cat? Thanks for that!
    Finally, I’m a member of the Cutters and we keep trying to include women but they keep turning us down. Something about our serenading skills. We’d be happy to have you as our first female inductee.

  • Rod spoke:
    3rd/12/2009 to 6:14 pm

    That’s from You Only Live Twice, not Goldfinger.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    3rd/12/2009 to 6:20 pm

    Rod – Thanks. Fixed.
    Greg – The Cutters would have been my choice if I were a man. I don’t sing so well either.

  • le0pard13 spoke:
    3rd/12/2009 to 6:22 pm

    Wonderful post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your movie quiz answers. Thanks for this.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    3rd/12/2009 to 6:38 pm

    Thank you, Le0pard. You’re one of my favorite big cats!

  • Pat spoke:
    3rd/12/2009 to 7:11 pm

    I actually did see “Tron” on the big screen all those years ago – in fact, I reviewed it for a software magazine I wrote for at the time.
    And I’m with you and Greg on “American Psycho” – it’s defnitely underappreciated.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    4th/12/2009 to 8:46 am

    Lucky you, Pat. Ebert programmed it for his first Ebertfest, but I was only doing weekend trips there back then, and it was on a weekday.

  • tdraicer spoke:
    4th/12/2009 to 4:33 pm

    I don’t care if Otto was a shit, I’d hate to lose Anatomy of a Murder, Laura, Advise and Consent, and In Harm’s Way (my second favorite John Wayne movie).

  • Marilyn spoke:
    5th/12/2009 to 8:02 am

    TD – Preminger obliterated Nelson Algren’s artistry with his Abomination. I’m only returning the favor.

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