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 aboutMission: 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 and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the underrated ‘Owning Mahowny’ (2003).
*** 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.
RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman, and Thomas Mann in ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,’ one of my favorite films of 2015 (Photo by Anne Marie Fox – Courtesy of Fox Searchlight)
*** 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.
The late James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus bond in a scene from ‘Enough Said.’
*** 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.
An emblematic scene from ‘Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead.’ You’ve been warned.
*** 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 Ambersonsout 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.
Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight.
He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies.
His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia.
He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation.
He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?)
He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]