Saturday, September 18, 2010

Get To Know Your Savage

In the midst of preparing another entry, and being limited to borrowing computer time from others, I just missed commemorating the birthday of another fine filmmaker, compelling blogger, and, yes, supportive friend: Mark Savage. If you really wanna run with the coincidences, much like the subject of my last post Philippe Mora, he's also another Australian expat currently in the SoCal area - how I keep coming into contact with dese ockers I'll never know.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mark back in 2006, during my period of freelance work for the now-defunct Subversive Cinema DVD label. Subversive had licensed three of Savage's films and a short for a box set release called SAVAGE SINEMA FROM DOWN UNDER. MARAUDERS, his debut, was shot on '80's-era professional videotape with friends over a series of weekends, and demonstrated vigorous energy along with its gratuitous violence. SENSITIVE NEW-AGE KILLER, his most widely-seen film, was a fun intersection of Australian quirky character comedy with criminal violence, one of the better entries among '90's-era artsploitation. If he was pushing the envelope with SNAK, he ripped the whole darn package open with DEFENCELESS:A BLOOD SYMPHONY, a unique supernatural tale that contained no spoken dialogue, just classical score and visuals both excruciatingly horrifying and innocently beautiful, shot on high-definition video before it became standard practice.

The box set was followed a year later by single-disc releases of SNAK and DEFENCELESS. All these are sadly out of print, as are all of Subversive's product, but a brief check of Amazon and eBay shows that new and used copies are available and reasonably priced. I conducted this interview with Savage that summer to promote the box set release, which was originally published at the Subversive Cinema website, which has since been taken down. In honor of his birthday, I am reprinting the interview:

What was the incident or film that made you firmly decisive to become a filmmaker?
I wanted to be a horror writer when I was six. I developed an interest in the grotesque and unusual because I wore an eye patch from the age of four to nine and I never looked like other kids…or felt like them. Horror films captured my imagination and soul like nothing else. The most influential were the films I saw on TV — Buchanan’s IT’S ALIVE, IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, VALLEY OF THE GWANGI, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (this triggered a fatal interest in females that has never abated), HOUSE OF WAX, LOST WORLD, Bert I. Gordon’s CYCLOPS. I was also cinemativally aroused by “LOST IN SPACE,” “DR. WHO” and “THE TWILIGHT ZONE.” Cinema was always an immersive experience.

Besides your brother, was your family supportive of this decision?
My parents encouraged me to write because I started very early. I did it obsessively. They wanted me to be a journalist, though, so my sliding creatively into depictions of life’s miscreants and misfits, and the accompanying horror, extreme sexuality, and harsh violence made them uncomfortable. They have been supportive of my struggle as a filmmaker, however, and understand how difficult that life choice can be. We are close.

How did you get the opportunity to make MARAUDERS?
I saw an opportunity. I was directing commercials and industrials for a major production company in Melbourne. They owned their own cameras, lights, dollies, production vehicles and edit suites. I approached the boss and pointed out to him that his investments were depreciating and sitting around doing nothing on weekends. I told him that I’d like to get productive with the gear and, in turn, make a feature that he could earn income from. He appreciated my entrepreneuring spirit and greenlit the production.

Did you and the friends who helped you make it ever think it would become a widely seen film, or did they initially approach it as a "big home movie"?
Our intention was to make a releasable movie, but we were naive about its distribution. All involved gave 100% and dedicated close to forty weekends of their life to its production.

What was the reaction of the various other people you involved, particularly children, to the dark tone of the film?
Reaction to the final film was positive amongst younger people, but older people were offended by the language and graphic violence. My mother found the language objectionable, which was not surprising. The children acting in the movie had a great time. They were fascinated with the special effects make-up and curious about how scenes of violence were constructed. It was not traumatic or distressing to them. Of course, the film is not for children, so I never showed it to them.

I really like the use of the still pictures of the adult cast at the beginning versus the child photos at the end — they symbolize both a large theme of "how do 'nice' kids go so bad," and the real-life friendship the four of you must have had during the long production. Was that what you had in mind when you put it in the film?
I love to see photographs of killers and rapists when they were children. It is fascinating because I look into their eyes and wonder what happened between when the photo was taken and when they started to commit the crimes that define them. Children have amazing faces, and they are as complex as adults, but their features are somewhat misleading because their feelngs and histories have not yet carved fissures of pain and suffering into their facades.

What was the inspiration behind SENSITIVE NEW-AGE KILLER?
SENSITIVE NEW AGE KILLER was inspired by my struggle to be a filmmaker — to have a "hit" that would propel me to the next level. My ambition impacted heavily on my marriage, so the original draft was very heavy on the marital conflict. Although the themes were autobiographical, I didn’t want to make a film dealing literally with those. I like action movies, especially those made by Ringo Lam and Kinji Fukasaku, so it was a natural to channel my ideas into that genre. The film has a strong sexual undercurrent and elements of bizarre humor. Those aspects are pure Me, and I hope they distinguish the film from the fims of the directors I admire. Makng movies requires a can-do attitude, a determination to forge ahead at any cost. I am a tough taskmaster, but I am never unfair or abusive to cast or crew. I collaborate with talented, hard working people, and they are as obsessed with the process as I am.

Was it easier to get SENSITIVE NEW-AGE KILLER made since it was ostensibly a "comedy," a genre that more often comes out of Australia than action or horror?
I financed SNAK with two investors. They liked that I was commercial-minded. Getting money is always hard, but the comedy aspect of the film had little impact on the ease or difficulty of the task.

Was it difficult to create something light after dwelling on darker material beforehand?
I had no trouble creating something light because I see humor in many things (often the most appalling things!). My previous movie was THE MASTURBATING GUNMAN [released on VHS in America under the unwieldy-but-clean title MASKED AVENGER VS. ULTRA-VILLAIN IN THE LAIR OF THE NAKED BIKINI], so I was still in comedy mode. Getting audiences in Australia to accept the mix was a challenge. Humans like their genres pure. SNAK mixed genres, even parodied genres, and was unusual for an Australian film. Aspects of the story such as one character snorting his mother’s ashes and another achieving orgasm by listening to a dying man’s heart were both grotesque and humorous to me. My co-writer (David Richardson) and I self-censored a lot of crazy concepts in the drafting of the screenplays. We share a black sense of humor.

Was there any event or series of events that led to conceiving DEFENCELESS?
I wanted my next film to be pure in terms of shooting and final shape. I love the ocean and the coastlines, but I am appalled by what is happening to our world in terms of "development." Nature is being transformed for the sake of profit. Susanne Hausschmid (the co-producer and lead actress) and I share passions for many of the same things, so we created DEFENCELESS to depict those. I tend to make films about whatI love and what angers me. What angers me most are people who abuse the liberty of others. What satisfies me is seeing those same people destroyed. DEFENCELESS celebrates fighting for what you believe in, even if you forfeit your life to do it. The lead woman represents Mother Nature herself, and I was challenged by the graphic depiction of her struggle and finding the light in the dark. Without beauty, brutality is boring.

What sorts of advantages did you have from shooting the movie with digital technology?
Certainly it is cheaper to shoot a higher ratio of footage digitally. On DEFENCELESS, I shot with a very high end camera, so the shooting cost was still substantial. Video does not handle contrast as well as film, so you must work hard to even out backgrounds and avoid looking up into an overcast sky. I use reflectors constantly to fill faces and elevate the exposure on foreground objects (such as people) so I can stop down the backgrounds and make them more attractive. Video can potentially look much uglier than film, and it doesn’t have the density of film, so the time spent lighting correctly is as long as film, sometimes longer. One big advantage of video is that you can shoot for a long period without having to reload.

Do you find that people react differently to the extremely explicit scenes because of the unconventional way they are presented, without dialogue or traditional genre music?
Some genre fans have difficulty with DEFENCELESS because it does not adere to genre conventions. Although it is a horror film, it is also a depiction of beauty, friendship and deep emotion. I have no interest in directing retreads of films I admire. I must sign each film with themes and styles that are unique to me. I like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT very much and am curious about the often-mentioned remake. It is a project I would be interested in remaking, but only if the producers were looking for an original re-imagining of the original. Why remake a film if all you want to do is give it a technological update? I am a very emotional person, so my films are emotional. If that embarrasses or offends some fans, that’s too bad. Personally, I am offended by films that pretend humans don’t have strong feelings. Or don’t embrace their sexuality, even if that sexuality is dangerous. The no-dialog aspect of DEFENCELESS was more worrying to friends and colleagues before they saw the movie. Personally, I think I pulled the no-dialog thing off, but I’m in no position to speak for anybody else.

Why do you think it is that Australia seems to have such difficulty accepting genre films with the same openness they give to comedy and domestic dramas?
Because Australians equate horror films with America and Britain, they have problems accepting homegrown ones. Australia does not have a tradition of horror films. Horror films were, in fact, banned for decades in my home country, so filmmakers never felt comfortable attempting them. The situation is changing now with films like WOLF CREEK and UNDEAD because the makers grew up watching horror on video. Although there have been some genre exeptions such as MAD MAX, THIRST and RAZORBACK, these exeptions certainly launched no production floods. Australia, which is a comfortable, beautiful country to live in, has not been a breeding ground for subversive cinema, perhaps because many filmmakers have been government subsidized and life has been easier than for those who must chase private financing. I have always occupied the latter category because, until recently, government film bodies had a bias against genre pictures. Australians embrace comedies about themselves, especially if the working class is the subject of humorous derision.

Do you think there is a ongoing mentality that permeates all your work, i.e. Scorsese’s Catholic guilt, Bunuel’s comic nihilism?
The internal and ongoing struggle between the conventional and the transgressive permeates every aspect of my work because that is also my struggle. I relate to it. Where there is duality there is conflict. In DEFENCELESS, I mixed my love of childrens’ movies or movies about children (FORBIDDEN GAMES, MUDDY RIVER, FLY AWAY HOME, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, GABY - A TRUE STORY) with my love of perverse cinematic sexuality and violence (ASSAULT - JACK THE RIPPER, IN A GLASS CAGE, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, IRREVERSIBLE, WINTER HEAT), so the duality is on the screen. The conflict is, therefore, with sections of the audience. Some appreciate the mix. Some are angry that there is a mix. But you can’t worry too much about that. There are people out there who are jealous of people who make movies because they want to be making movies themselves. They are often the harshest critics of my films. They know who they are and I know who they are, too. They are also a minority. On the other hand, there are people who appreciate what I am doing and what other filmmakers who are working in their own cross-genre are doing. I am happy that my films polarize. Only a fool gives another fool the time of day, so it is important, as a filmmaker, that you don’t let the negativity or the positive hype affect your visions. Focus is most important. And permitting people to love or hate you. This is the duality of being a creative person, an artist, a filmmaker, call it what you want. It is the greatest challenge to overcome. To be unique despite the flow of the grain.

Mark continues to share his erudite and challenging views on film and society at his Phantom of Pulp blog.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"For all of you out there who still believe in fairies, heroes, second and trust."

There are many ways you could have chosen to mark the date of September 11th. Maybe you lit a candle and prayed for a far-too-large number of absent friends and the people who loved them. Maybe you sought out the significant people in your life and reminded them of what they mean to you. Maybe you went out of your way to show kindness to a stranger. Or maybe you just went about your normal day's activities and demonstrated to the universe that the whirligig of life keeps spinning no matter who wants to interrupt it. Really, and with utmost seriousness, there is no wrong way to spend this date, except for doing harm or hurt to your fellow human - and that would go for every day of the year as well. 

As for me, in an environment that seems to be receding into xenophobia and division and self-righteous indignation - I chose to laugh. Despite one group of minds that keep trying to proclaim Death to Irony, and another group that abuses the notion so much that every noise from their mouth implies a punch line, what thankfully has not and will never change is our ability to take what frightens us and bring it to heel by mocking its power and laughing in its face. And I have a particular favorite film to refer to for a day like this.

THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE was probably director Philippe Mora's most ambitious narrative film project after his found-footage documentaries SWASTIKA and BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME, and his low-budget exploitationers MAD DOG MORGAN with Dennis Hopper and THE BEAST WITHIN. It is also, much like Mick Jackson's L.A. STORY, the kind of cheeky yet affectionate observation of and love letter to America that only a foreign-born-and-raised filmmaker can create. As lain out through faux B&W newsreel footage, Captain Invincible (Alan Arkin) spends the '30's and '40's as the champion of American values, defeating gangsters and war criminals, only to be challenged and slandered amidst Cold War paranoia with spurious accusations of Communist sympathies for wearing a red cape and flying without a pilot's license. Disillusioned at his abandonment by the country he loved, he is found decades later in Australia in a constant state of inebriation and bitterness by local detective Patty Patria (Kate Fitzpatrick), whom he saves from an attack by street punks.

If this plot sounds strangely familiar to you, you're not alone. A few summers ago, as Peter Berg's HANCOCK with Will Smith was playing in theatres, I sent a few favorite websites a little comical nose tweak:

"Alcoholic drifter with superhuman powers and antisocial feelings -- check
 Saves good-looking stranger who dedicates themselves to superhero's career rehabilitation -- check
 Starring Academy-Award nominated actor in the lead - check
 Showstopping musical numbers written by ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW creators -- OOPS!"

Besides the bloggers I tipped off, a few others saw the connective tissue too.

Meanwhile, his oldest arch-enemy Mr. Midnight (Christopher Lee) has been implementing a diabolical three-stage plan called "Operation: Ivory" that begins with using thugs and vandals (including the very toughs who threatened Patria) to forment fear and disharmony among citizens, then with the help of a hypno-ray stolen from the U.S. military, convincing the already nervous city dwellers to buy overpriced homes in ethnically-themed planned communities ("Sicily Heights," "Israeli Acres") offering the illusion of familiar safety, but in fact facilitating a horrible finale. When the hypno-ray is stolen, the U.S. President (Michael Pate) remembers a childhood encounter with Captain Invincible and appeals to him personally to return to service. Touched by the support of his President and his new friend Patty, the Captain agrees to help - but he will have to relearn all the superpowers he allowed to atrophy in his alcoholism...

THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE is not a solidly constructed film, either in the 90 minute version released on VHS and laserdisc, or the full 101 minute director's cut released on DVD; much like the good Captain, it's quite flabby around the middle. The screenplay, co-written by Andrew Gaty and a pre-DIE HARD Steven E. deSouza, starts strong, then meanders a lot as it somewhat belaboredly explores the Captain's rehabilitation and culture shock and the evolution of Mr. Midnight's grand evil plan, but picks up steam as the two leads finally confront each other. And director Mora doesn't exercise the best of restraint in executing the comedy, inserting all manner of wacky sound effects and cutaways that sometimes accentuate the lull of a scene rather than hide it.

But these flaws are not very troublesome. As is the common structure for many cult films, one starts out laughing at the movie with a feeling of slight superiority, then gradually one starts laughing with the movie and getting involved in it, and finally the viewer becomes genuinely invested in the outcome and actively roots for the protagonists. And more often than not, the silliness is effective and infectious. Come on, anyone who doesn't grin a little at a bad pun or a gratuitous blouse burst is probably a long gone sourpuss already. In many ways, Mora's approach predicts the post-modern direction film comedy would go in decades later, whether its stretching the joke to being not funny and still stretching till its funny again (much like a recent "man out of time" comedy AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY), or calling attention to the limitations of the special effects (Patty Patria sits just a little too casually on the Captain's back as they "fly" to America), or randomly wheeling in a studio orchestra into the scene to provide the score for a character's big musical number.

That's right, we still have to address that this is a full-blown musical. Its two lead actors, not widely known for carrying a tune, are fully qualified for the task: Arkin had a major hit singing "The Banana Boat Song" with The Tarriers and a minor hit with "I Like You (Cause You Don't Make Me Nervous)" from the ABC teleplay "THE LOVE SONG OF BARNEY KEMPINSKI," while Christopher Lee was trained in classical opera and performed on the soundtrack to Robin Hardy's original THE WICKER MAN. The songs come from a diverse collection of writers, from jingle artist Jan Bunker to Broadway composers Beth Lawrence and Norman Thalheimer, and three by '70's pomp-rocker Brad Love, including what is clearly an amusing parody of the infamous "Can You Read My Mind" soliloquy from SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. And while they're not memorable, they are diverting, and the actors sing them well: Arkin strikes dignified melancholy, Lawrence (singing for Fitzpatrick) provides cheery optimism, Pate serves hilarious bluster. But the best known-and-loved compositions in the film are the three songs written by ROCKY HORROR creators Richard O'Brien and Richard Hartley, including the jaw-dropping "Name Your Poison," where Mr. Midnight zeroes in on the Captain's shaky state of sobriety:

It may technically be a huge spoiler to say so, but it's safe to say that I would not be recommending a movie like this for an occasion as this if the Captain didn't pull through and save the day. And this is where the movie's most effective heart-tugs take place. First, as the Captain seems at his lowest point, an inspirational sound arrives to boost him - Patty sends a dormant radio signal of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America." Accompanied by performance footage from Michael Curtiz' THIS IS THE ARMY that works even more effectively here than it did in Curtiz' original, it's a moment that pierces into the audience's soul in the tradition of Wendy Darling breaking the fourth wall to ask if people believe in fairies; a moment that a nervous Mora had to personally ask Irving Berlin to approve (which he did for the tiny sum of $10,000, check made out to the Boy Scouts of America). 

And then, the finale. Captain Invincible addresses an adoring crowd in Times Square (likely just repurposed stock footage of a typical New Year's Eve street party), hovering above front of the Twin Towers...and delivers a message to the populace...

"We've been through a lot together. And most of it wasn't your fault...but some of it was. That's because a lot of people, including myself, have been made to feel like we're all alone in the world. Alone, or part of some helpless little group. And that's what makes us such easy marks for the bad guys. But together, we're not alone, we're not helpless. Together, we're part of the roughest, toughest, biggest, kindest, fairest...bestest darn gang in the world! So okay, everybody: this time, let's do it right!"


You can affix whatever retroactive juxtaposition you like to this moment in light of what would follow after filming, but for me, I get teary-eyed because it's a legitimately moving message delivered with just the right tone by Arkin, and when delivered in front of such an iconic touchstone of modern loss, it is a reminder that we are better than our wounds, and we will thrive again with the right mindset of unity. 

Ultimately, whatever it lacks in consistency, THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE more than makes up for it in originality, its committed performances, its overall good cheer, and especially in its cockeyed brand of golly-gee-whillikers America love. It's a movie that allows you to feel patriotic without feeling jingoistic. The story may take us to task for being too quick to leap to military solutions, or for jettisoning our heroes when they become inconvenient, or being easily hypotized into acting against our better instincts, but it also recognizes what our country has meant to the world. The use of real archival footage of immigrants of all countries and colors arriving at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty during the closing credits helps drive that point home, and suggests that while he used the Irving Berlin song, Mora is also very much a Woody Guthrie "This Land is Your Land" acolyte.

And Philippe Mora (pictured to the left) is a fine source for that message. The son of a high-ranking French Resistance fighter partnered with Marcel Marceau in spiriting refugees across the border during WWII, Philippe made his first big mark in film with SWASTIKA, a documentary that used then-never seen color footage of Hitler and Eva Braun in banal domesticity interspersed with other period footage to show how the Nazis swayed the public. That was followed by BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME, which similarly used period footage of the Depression scored to contrastingly upbeat songs of the era, to illustrate the disconnect between fantasy and reality in American history. Though one would think the man responsible for such piercing documentary would be incompatible with the man responsible for unabashed fluff like HOWLING II and III or THE BEAST WITHIN, much like the artist partner of his father, who cultivated his mime and comedy in the most devastating circumstance imaginable, Mora has found the peaceful medium of being both a social critic and genial clown. Even today, in interviews and in his side gig as columnist for Australia's National Times, he knows how to discuss serious material with a smile. 

Full disclosure: he is also a friend and longtime supporter of my work. 

THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE has had some misfortunes in reaching the public. Jensen Farley Pictures (a spinoff company from legendary exploitation outfit Sunn Classics, who had previously released PRIVATE LESSONS, TIMERIDER, and THE BOOGENS), was supposed to release it in America in 1983, and a few test runs were done under the title LEGEND IN LEOTARDS (in the shorter 90 minute cut). However, three days before a national, 400+ screen release, complete with TV advertising, Jensen Farley went bankrupt and the film never got a proper theatrical run. A tape and laserdisc release followed from Danny Kopels' Magnum Entertainment, also of the truncated cut. In 2001, Vini Bancalari's Elite Entertainment released the full 101 minute director's cut on DVD, and I helped get the film a belated U.S. theatrical premiere in Los Angeles in 2002. While the DVD is out of print, copies are generally easy to find and very affordable, either on its own, or in a 3-pack with Mora's other films COMMUNION and HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS. Likely due to its failure to secure a theatrical release, a soundtrack album has never been issued, though "Name Your Poison" did get a singles release in Europe, ROCKY HORROR collectors tend to have high-quality bootlegs of the O'Brien compositions, and strangely, you can purchase William Motzing's main title theme recorded by the Czech Symphony Orchestra as an mp3 download from Amazon. 

Some happy endings are sadly confined to the movies. But others are in our hands. And as the good Captain will remind us, we don't need otherworldly powers to be heroes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bringing up Bunnies

Whoa. Guess it's been a while. {wipes some dust off the screen} Sorry about that, Compy. Need to get some...Endust.

So, first off, I must offer belated thanks to Schlockmania curator Don Guarisco for bestowing upon me the prestigous Zombie Rabbit Award. First conceived by iZombie, the award is a pay-it-forward recognition of those World Wild Web text destinations that have captured one's fancy and, more importanly, one's reading-while-the-boss-ain't-lookin' free time. Now sure, there are plenty out there who insist rabbits are queeeeaahhhs that smell like a bag o' bullshit, but seeing how I've only been at this blogging game for nine months, including an unexpected summer break, to get any kind of recognition this early in my third career means quite a lot. And since I've been asked to pass on the honor/horror to ten more people, I'll do so with rabid relish. In no particular order...

1: Three Cheers for Darkened Years [Witney Seibold] 
2: Jobu's Teepee [Amy Harber] 
3: Cat's Blog [Cathie Horlick] 
4: Aesthetisexuality [Sara Seltzer] 
5: Kim Dot Dammit [Kim Nicolini] 
6: House of Self Indulgence [Yum Yum] 
7: Queer Sighted [Dave White] 
8: Standing on My Soapbox Shouting At You [Hope Kaplan] 
9: Noir Pictures [Lisa Jane Persky] 
10: Jason Staebler is Dead [Joe Neff]

Meanwhile, summer is over, the freshman are getting fat, and I'm cleaning up the sidewalk where the frat boys shat. Yes, Dennis Cozzalio, magistrate of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, has been served a syllabus by Professor David Huxley, who no doubt likely owns a pair of bunny slippers, for a back to school movie quizz. Bells are ringing, and there's scant time for scantron, so off we go... 

1) Classic film you most want to experience that has so far eluded you. 

Well, I'm going to lose points with the good professor right now by admitting I have not experienced BRINGING UP BABY. But my most-wanted experience...I've still never been to a proper presentation of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. 

2) Greatest Criterion DVD/Blu-ray release ever 

Nobuo Nakagawa's JIGOKU (HELL) from 1960. A long time ago, I was asked what I thought was the least-recognized influential film in my estimation, and I stated this one, because even in my commonly-accepted geekdom I had never seen mention of it and as far as I knew it never got an initial U.S. release, yet upon seeing it in the early part of the '00's I was blown away by its staggering images of otherworldly torment, images that predate not only modern horror, but even the beloved Christian scare films of Ron Ormond and Estus Pirkle that played churches in the '60's all the way into the present. The fact that Criterion put its imprimatur on this movie and released it on DVD, aware of its extremely marginal awareness in the U.S., meant that they were ready to put their reputation on the line to get more people to check it out, and for that they'll always have my gratitude. 

3) The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon? 

The stuff that dreams are made of. 

4) Jason Bateman or Paul Rudd? 

Jason Bateman, because he managed The Dregs of Humanity during their short-lived career. 

5) Best mother/child (male or female) movie star combo 

Gena Rowlands and Nick Cassavetes 

6) Who are the Robert Mitchums and Ida Lupinos among working movie actors? Do modern parallels to such masculine and no-nonsense feminine stars even exist? If not, why not? 

Too loaded a question. Pass. 

7) Favorite Preston Sturges movie 

I'm inclined to say THE PALM BEACH STORY because of its accelerated ridiculousness, but ultimately I'm a raging sentimentalist with a predilection for the elegant blonde noir vixen, so I gotta say SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS. 

8) Odette Yustman or Mary Elizabeth Winstead? 

Odette would definitely be in the glamour gal category I just said I'm a sucker for, but Mary Elizabeth seems like the more plausible fantasy for a moax like myself. 

9) Is there a movie that if you found out a partner or love interest loved (or didn't love) would qualify as a Relationship Deal Breaker? 

I once had a quite vociferous argument with an ex-g.f. over her inability to appreciate LOCAL HERO. Ain't the only reason she's got the ex- hyphenate before her, but it was a significant factor. 

10) Favorite DVD commentary 

You mean aside from mine? *cough cough* I'd probably go with Tim Lucas's exhaustingly thorough commentaries for various Mario Bava films, which of course would be mere appetizer to his humonungous banquet book ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK. 

11) Movies most recently seen on DVD, Blu-ray and theatrically 

DVD: TRANSSIBERIAN Blu-Ray: n/a Theatrical: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD [third viewing] 

12) Dirk Bogarde or Alan Bates? 

Bogarde always seems synonymous with tragedy - for the sake of my sanity (if not my liver), I have to go with Alan Bates. 

13) Favorite DVD extra 

The original theatrical trailer, because they're getting rarer on modern releases. Either the studios include some altered version that doesn't reflect what played in theatres, or they don't include it at all. 

14) Brian De Palma’s Scarface— yes or no? 

Yes. What that make me? Bad? Good? 

15) Best comic moment from a horror film that is not a horror comedy (Young Frankenstein, Love At First Bite, et al.) 

Angela Bettis criticizing the portrayal of cannibalism in Jeremy Sisto's college short film in MAY 

16) Jane Birkin or Edwige Fenech? 

While I must respect how many of my friends were likely conceived thanks to Ms. Birkin's three minutes of Heaven with Mr. Gainsbourg, I think all of them would like to possess Ms. Fenech's secret of eternal youth. 

17) Favorite Wong Kar-wai movie 


18) Best horrific moment from a comedy that is not a horror comedy 

The climactic "confrontation" between Lee Evans and Oliver Platt in Peter Chelsom's FUNNY BONES. 

19) From 2010, a specific example of what movies are doing right... 

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS didn't just restage DINER DES CONS with Americans, but radically explored and heightened the premise and made their own original movie that was just as entertaining as the original. 

20) Ryan Reynolds or Chris Evans? 

Jason Statham 

21) Speculate about the future of online film writing. What’s next? 

I see online film writing in the same position that stand-up comedy was in the late '80's/early '90's: too many people think they can do it, and there's too many cheapskate web platforms with Z-Brick walls ready to exploit them. So if the medium is to be taken seriously, there needs to be a thinning of the herd and some of these potzers need to be purged from the tubes: today's EAT PRAY LOVE takedown is the blogging equivalent of yesterday's Jack Nicholson impersonator. 

22) Roger Livesey or David Farrar? 

Anton Walbrook 

23) Best father/child (male or female) movie star combo 

Melvin and Mario Van Peebles in SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAAADASSSSS SONG; how many dads would immortalize their son surrounded by scantily-clad yet motherly hookers? 

24) Favorite Freddie Francis movie (as Director) 

Argh, I've seen so few of Francis' directorial outings. I know it's only reshoots he did, but I'm going to have to say DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, since despite its corny-looking presentation I was caught up in the onscreen battle of man against foliage. 

25) Bringing Up Baby or The Awful Truth? 

The Awful Truth is I've only seen THE AWFUL TRUTH. 

26) Tina Fey or Kristen Wiig? 

Shouldn't someone be filling up a slanket with their farts right now? 

27) Name a stylistically important director and the best film that would have never been made without his/her influence. 

If Lina Wertmuller hadn't proved her ability to get into the muck of machismo and the survival instinct in SEVEN BEAUTIES, I think Kathryn Bigelow would have had a harder time making THE HURT LOCKER. 

28) Movie you’d most enjoy seeing remade and transplanted to a different culture (i.e. Yimou Zhang’s A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop.) 

Before her untimely death, I had fantasized about a reimagining of THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT with Adrienne Shelly in the Tom Ewell role, charged with making a musical heartthrob out of a gangster's sister's boytoy, and her dragging him from one subscene to the next trying to find a persona that would click, and of course in the process of transforming him falling in love. (Hence the "can't help" part) Oh, and I was going to have The Smithereens cover the theme song too. 

29) Link to a picture/frame grab of a movie image that for you best illustrates bliss. Elaborate.

Half a boy and half a man, comforted by the madonna and the whore. 

30) With a tip of that hat to Glenn Kenny, think of a just-slightly-inadequate alternate title for a famous movie. (Examples from GK: Fan Fiction; Boudu Relieved From Cramping; The Mild Imprecation of the Cat People)