Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Movie Lists and Sporcle Quizzes

Pathetically enough, two posts in the same month is now a flurry of activity for me. But while I haven't been writing much, I haven't stopped making an excessive number of lists.

Katie recently introduced me to Sporcle, a site that hosts an easy to use toolkit for generating user-made online quizzes. I was immediately addicted. We stayed up to about 4am our first night of playing around on it.

I'm made four movie quizzes so far, and will probably do more as the whim strikes me. Here they are:

101 Time-Travel Movies - And yes, I have seen most of them. And yes, I am that obsessed.

Directors by Signature or Trademark - How well do you know your auteurs?

Giallo Titles by Synonym (e.g. "The Feline with the Nephrite Peepers" for "The Cat with the Jade Eyes")

War Films by War - From the Crimean War to the Cambodian Civil War, from ancient Rome to the contemporary Middle East, humanity has had a terrible history of bloodshed and a wonderful tradition of films about them, but can you name titles that span almost 50 different conflicts?

Exactly Why has also entered the fray with:


Lastly, I do want to mention that I've happily sifted through a lot of "Best of the Decade" lists over the last few months, but good or bad most have been pretty predictable. That's why I was really glad to see Filmlinc's ruthlessly highbrow, unabashedly challenging Top 150 Films of the Decade.

Two films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul in the top ten? 8 Taiwanese New Wave films including at least one I've openly disparaged? No Batman or Lord of the Rings? And yet this is a list with something to say, with material worth seeing and worth discussing. Innovative films, gutsy filmmakers and expansive ideas are well represented in a way that the box office, the Oscars and the majority of our media just doesn't cover. I've got nearly a third of the list still to see and I'm really excited to track them down!

Not nearly as good or consistent, but still on the right train of thought is Slant Magazine's list. It has the added advantage of short reviews and is more than capable of furnishing some recommendations.


Patti said...

Great description of Filmlinc's list... that's the sort of thing that makes me want to pay attention!

I'm still meaning to try some of these quizzes... I apologize for me delay.

FilmWalrus said...

It's such a good list, even though it is possibly too highbrow even for me. I would gladly drop some of the Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Jia Zhangke to make room for "Synecdoche, New York", "City of God", "The Saddest Music in the World", "Requiem for a Dream" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" for example (which are hardly what most people would call lowbrow).

Oddly, the few guilty pleasure (mainstream) films that do show up on the list strike me as ill chosen: AI, Miami Vice, Death Proof. And there are a few internal inconsistencies like having Cronenberg's "Spider" but not "Eastern Promises", Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Distant" but not "Three Monkeys", Bong Joon-ho's "The Host" above his "Memories of Murder" and Haneke's "Cache" above his "The White Ribbon" that strike me as iffy.

But it was based on votes, so what can you do?

Alon said...

I'd gladly contest that CTHD can be watched as a lowbrow movie; wuxia have been a B-rate favorite for decades, and there is nothing stylistically or visually so innovative in the film that cannot be accommodated by one's intuitive feel for the genre.

"The Saddest Music in the World", on the other hand, is an unfortunate omission. That was Maddin at his best.

FilmWalrus said...

I'm going to argue with you even though at heart I kind of agree (I'm just in the mood). It's a B-rate genre, but with A-rate acting, and isn't really lowbrow in the same sense of something like Fist of Fury, Five Deadly Venoms or Master of the Flying Guillotine. Personally, I do think the action choreography is really quite innovative, bringing a smoothness and elegance that I'd argue isn't seen even in King Hu masterpieces like "A Touch of Zen" (a wuxia many critics deign to take seriously).

But it kind of bothers me that only certain types of innovations are intrinsically liked by the critical elite, if we're honest. In my mind there's no question that there were long-take directors in the last decade who were taken more seriously for no reason other than that slowness is now equated with seriousness and a resistance to Hollywood norms. A film like 2001's "Moulin Rouge" that broke new ground with applying ultra-rapid-editing on the typically long-take genre of musicals is offhandedly dismissed. Cleverly manipulating speed, should it be in the wrong direction, is often given no more consideration than the creative mixing of music, if it happens to be pop music.

I could make the same argument about the (albeit understandable) critical bias towards realism, which would never give a highly visually innovative film like "Amelie" a chance.

Obviously I happen to like CTHD, Moulin Rouge and Amelie and I don't think that because they're entertaining and feel-good, that they don't have their share of stylistic innovations. Nor do I think that because I enjoy them it makes them deeper than they are. My feeling is just that these movies provide little to contemplate, discuss or challenge and so the Filmlinc list may do rightly in leaving them on the wayside.

While I'm still carping I would also add Satoshi Kon's "Millennium Actress" to the list of films I'd have found room for. I'm glad Slate Magazine managed to fit it into their list.

Mad Dog said...

Just thought I'd point out that on one of the time travel movies, I was thinking of the right movie, but a spelling mistake in its entry caused me not to be able to guess it. I'd say which one it was, but I wouldn't want to ruin the clue for anyone else.

FilmWalrus said...

I will fix it. You can just say which one; nobody reads these comment sections anyway. Or you can email me or give me the hint that corresponds.

A nice Sporcle feature is that you can make a whole bunch of alternative acceptable answers (eg Grand Tour, Timescape and Disaster in Time all being acceptable for the same film). So for sequels I usually include both the number and roman numeral version. I also try to include common misspellings. So any advice in those senses, I would also appreciate.

FilmWalrus said...

I figured out which one and made the correction. I guessed it had to be an anime, and one that almost nobody else would have known either way. Sorry about that! Hope it didn't eat too much of your timer.

And thanks for introducing me to that film too! Quite underrated.

Mad Dog said...

No sweat!

Patti said...

I read your comment sections!

I also took the quiz finally. 26/101 isn't too bad, eh? I tried to avoid "cheating", but I also knew several whose names there was no way I could remember, like the Czech films, although their names are pretty great.

Anyway, good work.

FilmWalrus said...

26 is very good. I'm quite impressed! I also find myself cheating on the quizzes in the sense that if I know most of the title or the director or a major actor, but can't think of the exact title, I let myself do a quick crossreference. I figure you sacrifice time, so you still make a tradeoff.