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As For Your Qs…

          A few weeks
back, when my daughter Jessie filled in for me with Baron Vaughn on our Wolfpop
podcast Maltin on Movies with Baron
Vaughn
,
she solicited questions from listeners and a great many people
responded, on a wide variety of topics. Jessie and I then hosted two more
episodes in which we responded to your queries. We promised to post some of the
material we tackled and some we couldn’t get to. This is just the first
installment; we’ll certainly do this again, given your enthusiastic participation.
Here goes:

*** Alex Maizus ‏@AlexMaizus

probably cliché but, favorite film?

     I wish I had a more surprising answer, but for me it’s Casablanca—my idea of a perfect movie. I
was lucky enough to see it for the first time when I was young and impressionable,
and to see it in a theater with an audience, which made it all the more
enjoyable. It’s often used as a “model” screenplay and it’s easy to see why. It
has everything going for it: topicality, romance, suspense, humor, and a point
of view. It’s also impeccably well cast, from the stars down to the tiniest bit
part: every single person who speaks a line or gets a closeup is colorful and
interesting.

***  ShutYoMouf ‏@DavidE_Brock
I know Leonard rarely re-watches movies, but have you ever
changed a strong opinion upon a 2nd viewing?

     It works in both directions. Some movies hold up better than
I expect—and others seem to have lost their initial punch. The most dramatic
example I can cite is Ridley Scott’s Alien.
I’m a wimp and I had a hard time watching the movie when it was new: I kept
chewing on the sleeve of my jacket, and simply didn’t enjoy myself. When Scott
reissued it, theatrically, 25 years later I saw it again and realized, first, how
much it had been imitated and ripped off, and second, how masterful it was. I
suppose my tolerance for “ickiness” had changed over those years, as well.

 

***  Johan Runebert ‏@StureStenhog
Don’t you and Baron ever disagree on movies?

      Sure we do, but we both agreed on a format where we would
discuss films we really liked, instead of debating “pro” and “con.” It’s just a
choice; we might try mixing it up sometime.

***   Brian Callahan ‏@BMC4VP
What are your favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performances?

     It would be easier to think of any I didn’t like: (I’m not
that crazy about Mission: Impossible 3,
but it’s not his fault.) He’s so good in The
Talented Mr. Ripley, State and Main, Almost Famous, Charlie Wilson’s War, Doubt
,
on and on and on. His work in Capote
is pretty astonishing—a complete transformation. But I’m very fond of his
performances in some lesser-known films like Owning Mahowny, in which he plays a compulsive gambler, and The Savages, in which he and Laura
Linney play siblings who are forced to work together to take care of their
ailing father. And we recently discussed his wonderful vocal performance in the
animated feature Mary and Max.

John Hurt-Philip Seymour Hoffman-680***  Zachary Kennedy ‏@zlkennedy
who are your favorite film composers?

    There are too many to name, but I am knocked out by
Alexandre Desplat, who is both versatile and ridiculously prolific: I think I
first became aware of him when I saw Birth.
Any man who can create a bluegrass score for The Fantastic Mr. Fox and an Eastern European sound for The Grand Budapest Hotel deserves
special recognition. I like Thomas Newman a lot, ever since he set the tone for
American Beauty in the opening
seconds of the movie, and loved his score for the James Bond film Skyfall. I admire Michael Giacchino no
end. And I still listen to the giants of yore like Alfred Newman, Victor Young,
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman, et al.

***   Fleur Cinema ‏@FleurCinema
Favorite films of 2015 so far?

     Because of my illness I’ve missed a number of films over the
past two months, but I liked Inside Out, Spy,
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Trainwreck, ‘71, McFarland USA, Ex Machina,
and While We’re Young.

Me and Earl Dying Girl*** Mike Cole  @heyguyMIKECOLE 
Biggest Movie Pet Peeve? (555 phone numbers, shouting in
public with no one reacting, running without getting tired, etc.)

     I have two: people who find parking spaces in Manhattan just
when they need them, and bad piano “faking,” which you see more often in old
movies than in recent ones. As someone who plays the piano (albeit not well) it
pulls me right out of the movie.

***   Mark Febrizio ‏@markfebrizio
what’s your favorite decade for film?

     I love the 1930s—not just the pre-Code era but the whole
decade, so rich in storytelling, so many great actors, such smart dialogue,
etc. But like a lot of other people I’m a great admirer of the 1970s, the
“silver age” of Hollywood, if you will, when so many great talents blossomed,
from Robert Altman to Woody Allen. Almost every young filmmaker I meet points
to films of the ’70s as their touchstone, and I find that encouraging.

***  Sigh ‏@waltisfrozen
Which universally-beloved film do you dislike?

     I’m not a great fan of Forrest
Gump,
but the movie that gets me in the most trouble is The Shawshank Redemption, which didn’t
ring true to me when I first saw it when it was new. I suppose I ought to revisit
it sometime as it has such deep meaning to so many people.

***  Scott Cleaveland ‏@fscott24
Which director’s movies do you cherish to the heart, or have
struck you deeply?

     I eagerly await every new film from Alexander Payne; I’m
sorry he doesn’t make more, but I cherish his work, from the very beginning
with Citizen Ruth through his latest, Nebraska. I have special admiration for
people who write and direct their own work. It’s one reason that John Sayles
has been a hero of mine for so many years, even though his recent films haven’t
been among his best.  I was knocked out
by Jason Reitman’s first three films—Thank
You for Smoking, Juno,
and Up in the
Air
—and hope he finds his footing again. I’m also a great fan of Nicole
Holofcener, who just gets better and better; I think her most recent film, Enough Said, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini, was her finest to date. There are many others, from Mike
Leigh to Ramin Bahrani.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini

 ***   tonly the lonely
‏@thetonydog

Biggest turkey to win best picture

     I don’t think any outright turkeys have won Best Picture,
but I don’t always agree with the Academy’s choices. I wouldn’t have chosen Crash, or Chicago, or A Beautiful
Mind,
or this year’s Birdman.
There are qualities I admire about all of those movies but I would have voted
differently in every case. This past year I was really rooting for The Grand Budapest Hotel or,
alternately, Boyhood.

***    leisure suit
adam ‏@hip_checks

what is the best Michael Haneke film?

     I run hot and cold with Haneke’s work, but Caché and The Piano Teacher are my favorites—which puts me in a minority, I
know. I wasn’t in love with Amour,
which won almost universal praise, as you know.
 
***   Ralph Varlese ‏@RalphVarlese
what’s your favorite Summer Blockbuster?

     If we’re looking at the Big Picture, I would say Jaws is and will remain the ultimate
summer blockbuster. I saw it when it was new, forty years ago, and I’ll never
forget the experience.

***    Andy Ross ‏@ThatAndyRoss
Do either of you still own any defunct media formats: VHS,
Laserdisc, and the means to watch them?

     I own EVERY defunct media format going back to 8mm film and
even 8mm video (does anybody remember that?). I’ll admit I almost never use
them, but I can’t bear to part with some of my collection for sentimental
reasons. I finally gave up almost all of my laserdiscs, but I have tons of
material on VHS tape that I’ve never had a chance to copy over or organize
digitally. I have a feeling I’ll always have at least a few boxes packed with
videocassettes, so I have to keep at least one working machine on hand. But
then, I get sentimental about the 8mm home movies I bought when I was a
kid—even though I never run them through a projector anymore.

***   Thomas Perry @tommyjoker73  
If you had to pick one recent horror film that was
particularly exceptional, what would it be?  

     I am not a fan of contemporary horror films, mainly because
I’m such a wimp. But I do like eerie, creepy films like Let the Right One In (and its American remake Let Me In), The Babadook,
from Australia, and I’m always a sucker for the right mix of horror and humor.
At last year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin I became a fan of the Norwegian film Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead, which revels
in the kind of graphic gore that usually repels me—but it was so outlandishly
overboard that I bought into it and found it hilarious.

Dead Snow 2-680***  Miten Soni ‏@MitenSoni
I’m trying to initiate some friends to the films of classic Hollywood.
Recommendations? They only watch new movies

     Nothing is foolproof, but I find musicals are often a good
entrée: something like Singin’ in the
Rain
is hard to resist. There’s nothing like it today, and since it’s
already a period piece it doesn’t seem married to its own time period, the
1950s. If they go for that, perhaps you can get them to try some others.

***   Lewis Walker ‏@walkerlewis
what are your thoughts on Otto Preminger? I feel like he is
hugely overlooked in today’s modern criticism.

     I find Preminger a fascinating figure, personally and
professionally, and I like a lot of his films. Some of them, like Anatomy of a Murder, hold up extremely
well, and I suspect his expose of Washington, D.C., Advise and Consent, does, too.

 ***  John Rivett @johnrivett  
Do you believe there is a copy of the Welles cut of The Magnificent Ambersons out there,
somewhere?

      There is always the possibility that a work print might have
survived, possibly in South America, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. On the
other hand, a number of unlikely discoveries have been made in the past few
years, so who knows?

***  Victor Kong  @WizardVictor 
How can we preserve movie theaters and the importance of the
cinema in a world of smaller and smaller devices?

     That’s easy: support them. Go to theaters that are well-run
and show good movies, and encourage your friends to do the same. If there are
revivals of classics, bring friends—especially young people—along so they can
have the experience of seeing a great movie the way it was meant to be seen.  
 
***   Joshua McLaughlin    FB: Joshua.McLaughlin.293 
What helps you get through (or get over) watching a bad
movie?

     Nothing washes away the bad taste (or aftertaste) of a bomb
like a really good movie. If there’s nothing new on the horizon I’ll dip back
into the past and remind myself why I fell in love with movies in the first
place.

By the way, Baron Vaughn
and I are back at the microphone with a new episode about Funny Ladies
available right now at https://soundcloud.com/maltin-on-movies/38-funny-ladies
or at iTunes.

7 comments

  1. JLewis says:

    A few months ago, I was updating the wikipedia page titled "List of short subjects by Hollywood studio". The number of books and articles covering short films of Hollywood’s golden age (c. 1910s through ’70s) have been practically nonexistent compared to the limitless volumes dedicated to popular features, directors, stars and so forth. My favorite movie history books still remain both Maltin’s dog-eared 1972 THE GREAT MOVIE SHORTS and Geoff Alexander’s more recent (2010) ACADEMIC FILMS FOR THE CLASSROOM, covering an art-form quickly deteriorating in its 16mm format because libraries and schools often chucked well-crafted educational films in favor of more "modern" (and questionable) audio visual formats. Close behind is Raymond Fielding’s THE AMERICAN NEWSREEL: A COMPLETE HISTORY (also published in that by-gone year of 1972, but fortunately updated 2006). It is a shame there isn’t a better way of making this part of cinema history more accessible. Although animated cartoons have survived (with OF MICE AND MAGIC, of course, helping in their 1980s "rediscovery"), only a select number of MGM and Warner shorts get aired on TCM and released through the Warner Archive. Sony has started with a few DVDs covering comedy shorts not featuring the 3 Stooges (before losing interest… unfortunately), but I wonder if the other companies even know if any short films exist in their vaults. Don’t get me wrong. I am not against THE WIZARD OF OZ, THE SOUND OF MUSIC and GOLDFINGER being upgraded with each new "format" since they are cash cows. Just that there is so much I know I will NOT see in my life time, because the powers-that-be have no interest in seeing what may be decomposing in a canister.

  2. JLewis says:

    Ha ha! Thanks for reminding me, CC. Yet that wasn’t ALWAYS the case. Bottom line, Hollywood is not often "forward" in the subject matter of their award winners.

  3. CC says:

    -JLewis
    Hollywood is run by liberals. There are no Conservatives in power.

  4. Jody Morgan says:

    It’s wonderful to see you posting again, and I agree wholeheartedly with your review of "Inside Out". On that note, since you’re a bona fide animation buff, are there any overlooked, underappreciated, or just plain obscure animated films you would love to see become more well known? Personally, while I think "Persepolis" is flawed, it’s more than good enough (and important enough) to merit a wider audience; and while Studio Ghibli has a reasonably-large fanbase, "Whisper of the Heart" seems all but ignored in animation circles, and even less well known among film fans at large.

  5. Tim Davis says:

    Gee, Leonard, if you really, really want to get rid of the rest of your Laserdiscs, you’ve got my email! Seriously, I still collect and enjoy the old formats. Mark Evanier once made the comment that they kept improving home film formats just so he’d have to go buy "Goldfinger" again!

  6. JLewis says:

    Regarding the "Biggest turkey to win best picture", I think the whole problem is that the winner is usually the "trendy" choice of the moment (i.e. Shakespeare In Love, A Beautiful Mind)… or the drama that addresses the most important issue that Hollywood feels is important (i.e. Gentleman’s Agreement) or causes the least trouble with The Conservatives In Power (i.e. The Greatest Show On Earth, since DeMille was anti-Commie, and Crash, winning over Brokeback Mountain because the voters were nervous about promoting a "gay" movie during the Bush years)… or features a popular lead performance (i.e. Olivier in Hamlet, among others). Therefore, we look at the winners as "reflections of their times". The fact that a few wound up as much loved classics (i.e. It Happened One Night, Gone With The Wind, Casablanca, Best Years Of Our Lives, On The Waterfront, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather I & II, Annie Hall, Gandhi, Schindler’s List, etc.) can be summed up as the "law of averages" that the Academy, always operating just like a presidential election with "the most popular" vote, will pick at least one in ten that will be remembered AFTER the producer and cast are congratulated back stage. I do agree with your choices of Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood being superior to Birdman. It is not that Birdman is a "bad" movie, just a good "average" actors’ piece that is enjoyable once (unless you are a die-hard fan of the stars or dialogue). Although Boyhood has some flaws that viewers can nitpick with subsequent viewings, it fits what Vincente Minnelli once said in an interview about how we like to see "a hundred different little things" in our entertainment. For example, I like all of the "twos" in that film, such as whales (Blue Whale movers, daddy’s description of them from Alaska), returning characters played by the same actors after many years. At least as an "experiment", you know it will get discussed mre than Birdman in film/TV schools in the future.

  7. Chuck Mathias says:

    Do movies belonging in the so-bad-it’s-good category qualify as "turkeys"? If so, then the Academy picked a fifty-pound gobbler for Best Picture in 1953 with DeMille’s "The Greatest Show on Earth."

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