Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We have a winner ...

... as of 10:19 E.T. tonight (7/23). Congrats to James Cubby of Fair Lawn, N.J., who was the first to message me with all 14 correct answers. He walks away with these prizes.

And now, the answers:

14: This celebrated sessionplayer and Warren Zevon compatriot can be seen going down with the ship in the original THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. Name the performer.
Robert "Waddy" Wachtel. In addition to being Zevon's long-time guitarist, he plays a member of the band performing on the S.S. Poseidon during its ill-fated final cruise.

13: When it was released in the United States, this British film was retitled to make it seem as if it were based on a work by Edgar Allan Poe, with a new voiceover by its star to cement the connection. Name the film’s original title.
WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968). When it was released in the U.S., it was retitled THE CONQUEROR WORM, after the Poe poem, which star Vincent Price reads over the credits.

12: In 1977’s NEW YORK, NEW YORK, Jimmy Doyle and Francine Evans first meet during a performance by what band?
The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. In the film, Dorsey is played by real-life trombonist and bandleader William Tole.

11: Though he went on to star in other films for director Akira Kurosawa – sometimes in lead roles – this actor has only the briefest walk-on in the director’s 1954 classic SEVEN SAMURAI. Name the actor.
Tatsuya Nakadai. He appears briefly in the scene in which the searchers are sizing up passing samurai as possible hires. Reportedly, he and Kurosawa spent five hours on the scene, because the director didn't feel his walk was natural enough.

10: How old is Travis Bickle at the beginning of TAXI DRIVER?
26. He gives his age while he's applying at the cab company.

9: How many men are left behind to fight the rearguard action in Sam Fuller’s FIXED BAYONETS?
48. One of the easier questions, but taken from an excellent low-budget film set during the Korean War, while the war was still going on.

8: In the words of Warner Oland, this plant “is the only known cure for werewolfery.” Name the plant.
The mariphasa, as avowed by Dr. Yogami (Oland) in 1935's WEREWOLF OF LONDON.

7: Quentin Tarantino named a now-defunct distribution company after this violent 1970s B-film. Name the film.
ROLLING THUNDER (1977). Scripted by TAXI DRIVER writer Paul Schrader and directed by John Flynn, it was about a Vietnam vet (William Devane) who turns vigilante after his family is brutally attacked. An early (and great) co-starring role for Tommy Lee Jones.

6: This Hong Kong action classic makes use of a Lionel Richie song as a musical code among undercover police. Name the film.
HARD-BOILED (1992). This John Woo-directed action epic even has star Chow Yun-Fat singing lines from Richie's hit song "Hello."

5: In Steven Spielberg’s CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, government forces mobilize using trucks bearing the logo of this real-life supermarket chain. Name the chain.
Piggly Wiggly, the nation's "first true self-service grocery store." It operates mainly in the South and Midwest.

4: In the circus soap opera CARNIVAL STORY (1954), a stunt diver (Lyle Bettger) and his wife (Anne Baxter) are featured in a photo spread in a real-life magazine. Name the magazine and the person on its cover.
Life Magazine, featuring then vice president Richard Nixon on its cover.

3: What iconic image – a fixture of almost every werewolf film – does *not* appear in the 1940 classic THE WOLF MAN?
The full moon. It's never shown in the film.

2: Before helming a science fiction blockbuster, this writer/director helped create a popular TV show and co-wrote and co-produced an acclaimed crime drama from 2000. Who was it?
Matt Reeves. The CLOVERFIELD director co-created TV's "Felicity" with J.J. Abrams, and co-wrote and co-produced the crime drama THE YARDS with his film school classmate James Gray.

And finally ...

1: Who are Charles Rains, Joseph Scilose and John Doe and in what Best Picture nominee are they characters?
They're the three men Travis Bickle kills at the climax of TAXI DRIVER. Their names aren't mentioned in the film or in the credits, but they're visible in the newspaper accounts of the shooting that adorn Travis' wall at the end of the film (though winner Cubby correctly notes that it should be "Anthony Scilose" instead of "Joseph"). Rains (or alternately "Rain") is Harvey Keitel's character, though he's referred to as both "Matthew" and "Sport" in the course of the film. (screenwriter Schrader reused the name "Charlie Rane" for the hero of ROLLING THUNDER, played by Willian Devane, see above). Scilose is the mafioso played by Bob Maroff, and the John Doe is Iris' timekeeper, played by Murray Moston, who loses his right hand to Travis' .44 Magnum.

However, it might well be that Cubby had an inside line on that final answer, being that he hails from Fair Lawn, which, as everyone knows, is also home to Henry Krinkle.

And that, folks, is the end of The Ultimate Post-Internet Movie Trivia Contest, now and forevermore.

I'm going to leave these questions and answers up for about a week and then delete them from the blog for space reasons. Hope someone had some fun with them along the way.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Generation Kill"

I've now seen all seven episodes of the new HBO miniseries GENERATION KILL, which premieres tonight, and I have to say it's like nothing I've ever seen on television before. Taken from Evan Wright's book, drawn from his time embedded with a Marine Recon unit in Iraq in 2003, the series feels more like journalism than drama. It's a straightforward you-are-there narrative told from the point of view of the boots on the ground, with little or no time spared for big-picture perspective or pondering what it all means. It's brutally realistic, profanely funny and often disorienting. It's been brought to the screen by David Simon and Ed Burns, creators of THE WIRE, and, like that show, it never stops to fill you in or explain what's happening or who's who. It drops you into the midst of the chaos and trusts you'll figure it out along the way.

Because of that, like THE WIRE, GENERATION KILL may end up playing better on DVD than weekly television. Even watching the early screeners pretty much in a row I had to backtrack to pick up story elements or key points of dialogue I missed the first time. And it's so filled with military terminology and jargon that it can be hard to parse what exactly's being said, much less who's who in the chain of command.

I showed the screeners to a friend who spent four years in the 82nd Airborne (albeit 25 years ago) and he was over the roof about the show's verisimilitude and tone. Even though many of the details were Marine Corps-specific, he immediately recognized character types and parallel situations to the ones he'd experienced back in the day. And he gave high marks to the humor, which he found to be dead-on and precise. The show was "a lot like Shakespeare," he wrote me. " You don't need to know everything about it to get it."

Star-Ledger TV critic Alan Sepinwall has more on the show today, including interviews with Simon and Wright.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Random Readings, Vol. 5

This installment of Random Readings is from Lorrie Moore's 1986 novel ANAGRAMS. Some thoughts on growing older and new experiences ...

The teacher took a walk before her afternoon class. Near the campus were several old houses rented by some of FVCC's full-time students and from them blared radio jabber and stereo music. That is the difference between the young and the not-so-young, she thought. The young keep their windows open so that the world can fly in and out. By the time you hit your thirties, you're less hospitable; you start closing up the windows. You've had enough of the world; you have, you think, everything you need for the wintry rest of life. You can't let anything else in, for you will never understand it. And the nightmare, of course, is that as you slowly start shuttering up your house, you turn and suddenly see, with a gasp, that you are the only thing in it.

- From "Anagrams," copyright 1986 by Lorrie Moore