Monday, 13 August 2012

Liebster Award

Chris at moviesandsongs365 was kind enough to pass on the Liebster Award to me a couple of weeks ago. It’s a film-related meme that asks bloggers to answer questions about themselves and then pass it on to other bloggers. I’ve adapted it slightly, but here's my response to the excellent questions that Chris set.

1. When and how did you become interested in movies?
I’d been taken to films from an early age, and the occasional one - such as Return to Oz - made a big impression. But the turning point in terms of seeing films not so much as a pastime but as a way of life was Home Alone in 1990, age 10.

2. Who is your favourite director, and why?
I kind of surprise myself by saying this, because there are several of his movies that I think are very bad indeed. But for taking American cinema in directions no-one else ever had, I'm going to go for Robert Altman.  I sorely miss getting new films from him. Hitchcock, John Sayles and Claire Denis would all be alternative candidates.

3. What is your favourite movie discovered in 2012 (old or new), and why?
Toss-up between The Kid With A Bike,  Martha Marcy May Marlene and Keyhole.

4. If you had to recommend any movie that you think everyone should watch, what would it be, and why?
This question kind of makes me want to say Problem Child 2 or something. But to that classic I’ll add Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera. For being so inimitably thrilling, and my favourite film in the Sight & Sound "Greatest Films" Top 10. 

5. Have you been to film festival, and how was the experience?
Yes, London numerous times. Always a good experience.

6. Which soundtrack or score do you keep going back to?
Lost in Translation. Also Wojciech Kilar’s overwhelmingly beautiful score for Jane Campion's The Portrait of A Lady.

7. What films do you find yourself daydreaming about every so often?
Well, at the moment, it’s all about Mr. Maddin’s maddening and marvellous Keyhole.

8. Who do you talk about movies with in real life, outside of the blogosphere?
Friends, family, colleagues, students.

9. Favourite film poster?
The one for Alain Resnais’s Wild Grass.

10. What movie is the record holder that you have seen the most times, and why?
It’s either Home Alone, or Paradise, which I wrote about recently.

11. Which movie websites (not blogs) do you visit?
Too few, I must confess, these days. But and fairly regularly

So here’s 11 questions for:  Michał at Last Seat on the Right, Jason at Popsublime and John Gray at Going Gently, should they have the time/inclination.

1. What was the first movie that had an impact on you?
2. Where is your favourite place to see a movie?
3. What is your favourite film of 2012 so far, and why?
4. What is your favourite Meryl Streep performance, and why?
5. Which film do you consider to be overrated?
6. How many DVDs do you own, and which is your favourite?
7. Do you have a favourite film-related book? (Of criticism, biography, whatever.) Which one, and why?
8. Best use of a song in a (non-musical) movie?
9. A film that scared you?
10. Favourite French film? And why?
11. Complete the sentence: I love movies because …


  1. Nice to see you decided to take part!

    Robert Altman is a good choice, I discovered the underappreciated 3 Women (1977) this year, and Nashville I'm planning on seeing soon.

    I'm going to give the score for Jane Campion's The Portrait of A Lady a listen RIGHT NOW :)

  2. Thanks for the questions, Alex. Here are my replies.

    1. Probably the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I read Roald Dahl's book numerous times as a kid, and the film was screened in the gymnasium of my elementary school when I was in third grade. I remember being ridiculously enchanted and excited by the whole alternate magical world in it, so much so that another boy in my class made fun of me for being as enthusiastic about the movie as I was. Part of my classroom persona when I teach nowadays is definitely based on Gene Wilder's classic performance in that film.

    2. Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near where I live. The cinema itself isn't extraordinary, but they show art films exclusively. When it opened in 1995, it was the largest art cinema in the US (9 screens).

    3. How to Survive a Plague (which I saw at the Provincetown Film Festival in June), a documentary about the ACT UP years of the AIDS crisis. It focuses on a very important piece of recent gay history to show how a small group of activists bravely confronted authority figures and saved many lives. My favorite movie that I've seen this year online because i missed it in cinemas last year is Werner Herzog's documentary Into the Abyss. I was stunned by how deeply and unflinchingly it plunges into the darkest corners of human experience.

    4. I get more annoyed by her than most people do (I'm so tired of seeing her eyes tear up all the time), though her talent is totally indisputable. So I'll say her performance as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada because she's such a spot-on hilarious bitch in that film. After seeing it, I knew that I'm not the only person who wants his own elevator.

    5. I'm always shocked when people say that they liked The Hours (in which Meryl Streep also appears). I adore Virginia Woolf, and I hated, hated, hated that movie. I've always said that I could have written a New York Times article titled "Why I Hate The Hours."

    6. I own 110 DVDs. My favorite is Spirit of the Beehive (1973).

    7. I don't have a favorite film-related book per se, but my favorite piece of film criticism is Carol Clover's theory of the Final Girl in horror movies, the central idea from her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws (1992). I just think the way she traces gender cross-identification in horror films is really perceptive and psychologically revealing. And I love that the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired an entire book of film theory...I've always thought that it's a complex and artful film masquerading as an exploitation movie.

    8. John Hughes's '80s teen comedies were practically built around their soundtracks, so I have to pick one of those. I'd say OMD's "If You Leave" from Pretty in Pink is the best because it perfectly captures the sense of Andie's defiance and euphoria leading into the climactic prom scene/finale. Though Duckie's lip-sync to Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" earlier in the movie is a close runner-up.

    9. The Cove, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2010. The filmmakers courageously infiltrated a little tidal inlet in Japan to tell the world about the ritual corporate slaughter of dolphins there. I may have been more scared that the audience was so shocked by it, actually; human cruelty should never be surprising.

    10. Truffaut's The 400 Blows because it's very near perfect.

    11. I can learn a lot from them. And because they can be near perfect, whereas life isn't.

  3. @Chris It was a pleasure! Thanks for the questions. I agree that 3 WOMEN is underappreciated; and you've a treat in store with NASHVILLE... I hope you'll write about it. Also hope you enjoyed THE PORTRAIT... soundtrack. "A Certain Light" is my favourite piece. Thanks again.

  4. @Jason Thanks so much for these terrific replies, sir. I especially love the idea of your classroom persona being partly based on Gene Wilder’s WILLY WONKA. : -) And I had a feeling a Hughes movie might turn up as your choice for question 8! I recently re-watched - and very much enjoyed - PRETTY IN PINK.

    I’m a bit of a Streep-dissenter myself (can’t imagine anything more horrific than watching THE IRON LADY!), and I also find some of her comic performances more effective than the dramatic ones. I know a number of people who share your view of THE HOURS. Watching the “if it is a choice between Richmond and death…” moment in a cinema in Richmond was certainly interesting! I have mixed feelings about it, overall. I don’t care for much of the Kidman or Streep stuff. But I do find the 1950s section mostly effective, and love Julianne Moore’s performance.

    Thanks again!