Curb Appeal

Last week I had the good fortune of sharing my current research on Jewish humor with faculty, students, and other interested parties at a special lecture sponsored by the Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies at Carleton University. It’s always fun to share my ideas with others, and this event was no exception. I spoke about the influence of Jewish humor on the comic style of Larry David and his HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Compared to my principal research on cinema sound, humor studies is, well, funnier. Comedians aren’t lying when they say that getting a laugh is highly addictive and satisfying. I came equipped with an arsenal of clips from the show to not only prove my points, but also elicit some laughter. What’s a paper on humor without some jokes?

I was overwhelmed by the positive response my talk received from scholars and fans alike. It surprises me that the show continues to avoid any real discussion among television critics and humor scholars. While Seinfeld was over-saturated with attention, David’s own series remains an unexplored text that remains popular with audiences after six strong seasons on HBO (TMN in Canada). Most people that I’ve spoken with about the show can’t pinpoint what about it makes them laugh. They just seem to know that it’s funny, and that Larry is an inherently funny character.

Only after being invited by the Zelikovitz Centre to discuss my research did I begin to realize the comic question mark that Larry David poses to mainstream audiences. In the days leading up to the talk I was interviewed by the Ottawa Sun and two CBC radio programs. Each wanted to know the same thing: What is funny about Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm? Of course, I try to answer this in my paper, but I never thought the question was relevant outside the confines of my own scholarly interest.

The show seems to avoid critical inquiry because of its own comic complexity. It doesn’t surprise me to read capsule reviews of the show that emphasize its reliance on the “cringe” aesthetic, for this is no doubt the most obvious and elemental quality of the show’s comic identity. For the uninitiated, cringe humor emphasizes the awkward nature of social situations, best exemplified in the two versions of The Office and the work of Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat). In other words, we laugh because we are uncomfortable. Larry often inflames an already sensitive situation by treating the moment in a lighthearted manner, thus adding insult to injury. By dismissing a serious situation with an off-the-cuff remark, Larry invites criticism from his wife and friends, and remains an outsider in his own social circle.

As a timely and some would call “edgy” sitcom that blurs the line between reality television and situational comedy, Curb is absurdist, surreal, cringe worthy, but most of all Jewish. As an outsider, Larry upholds some of key characteristics of Jewish humor. He is, like the classic schlemiel character, a victim of circumstance, blamed for disrupting the flow of social codes and conventions. In a Halloween episode entitled “Trick or Treat,” Larry refuses to distribute candy to a pair of teenage girls who show up on his doorstep sans costume. Later, when Larry finds his front yard strewn with toilet paper, he and Cheryl argue over whether he is justified in his Halloween “rule,” that teenagers and persons without costumes do not deserve free candy. Here’s a clip from the episode.

Jewish humor questions social customs from the periphery, the sidelines — a position to which Jews have historically been relegated. Larry has his own set of social rules that often conflict with those of society. He is disgusted by the “socially accepted” rule that dry cleaners will lose your garments. He is horrified that someone would steal shrimps out of his Chinese take-out box and deny it. In several episodes, Larry exposes the ridiculous and unspoken codes that govern our culture, albeit in a refracted and absurdist manner.

He is a modern schlemiel — victimized by society and besieged by people who don’t understand him. At the same time, Larry is aggressive, forthright, and exudes an attitude of entitlement. These aren’t necessarily incommensurate attitudes. Larry’s television persona blends the put-upon mensch figure made popular by Woody Allen with an acidic edge reminiscent of Lenny Bruce. He combines the “I get no respect” mantra of Rodney Dangerfield with the self-deprecating nature of Jackie Mason. Is he a self-hating Jew? See for yourself here.

There are so many nuances to the comedy of Curb Your Enthusiasm that a single blog entry cannot address them all. It’s decidedly Jewish, but open to all audiences. It’s cringe comedy without an overt reliance on the technique. It’s observational and highly irreverent. As Larry would say, it’s pretty, pretty, pretty good.

My work on the show will be published in 2009 in The Journal of Popular Culture. The article attempts to situate Larry’s sense of humor in the larger sphere of Jewish humor.

Sounds Like Oscar: The Sequel

As a relative newcomer to the world of blogging, I’m still learning the ropes as it were, and just learned a valuable lesson: deleting a post can’t be undone. I accidentally deleted my most recent post on the Original Score nominees, which I will now try to re-construct through memory.

I am very fond of the “technical” categories, even though most viewers tend to take bathroom breaks or change the channel altogether during these long segments where various image and sound awards are presented. To the uninitiated, the achievements in picture editing or visual effects are uninvolving and exclusionary honors that have little impact outside the various societies and trades to which these nominees belong. Strangely, however, I’ve always found these categories to reflect a more honest impression of the year’s achievements in filmmaking. No one has ever accused Gary Rydstrom’s Oscar-winning sound design to Jurassic Park to be “politically motivated.” If there can be a purity to the pageantry, then these awards represent just such a belief. Indeed, no other major filmmaking award honors the best in “Film Editing” or “Sound Mix” along with “Best Picture of the Year.”

Turning to the Achievement in Original Score, I was surprised to see the Academy recognize the talents of two composers who, despite their growing filmographies, have never been nominated. Marco Beltrami began composing for films in the mid-1990s, and immediately found a niche writing music for thrillers and horror films including the Scream trilogy, Mimic, and Hellboy. Michael Giacchino began writing music for video games (Medal of Honor), then moved to television scoring where he began a collaboration with J.J. Abrams that has transitioned to feature films (Mission: Impossible 3). Giacchino’s impressive weekly scores for Lost have drawn comparisons to early Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes).

Beltrami is nominated for his work on 3:10 to Yuma. It is, without doubt, Beltrami’s finest dramatic score to date. As a western score, he incorporates the raw instrumentation and transparent melodies of Ennio Morricone’s 1960s Italian westerns and somehow makes it sound fresh and modern. That’s a hard thing to accomplish, since Morricone’s “spaghetti” scores have always represented the leading edge of musical modernism in cinema. Beltrami hangs the score on two principal themes that are woven into the larger musical tapestry without sounding repetitive.

The percussive textures and highly original orchestral colorings contribute to the music’s originality in the film and on album. Here is a sample. For comparison, check out this clip from Morricone’s Per un pugno di dollari.

3:10 to Yuma is one of my favorite scores of the year, not only because I admire western film scores, but also because Beltrami understands the importance of melody, rhythm, and color to the western genre. It does not surprise me that Beltrami has been nominated for a western, since in the last ten or fifteen years the film industry has begun repackaging staple genre pictures like 3:10 to Yuma as prestige pictures. It was only in 1991 and 1992 that a horror film (Silence of the Lambs) and a western (Unforgiven) won Best Picture honors. It is a shame, however, that throughout the 1960s and 1970s, when composers like Jerry Goldsmith and Ennio Morricone were cutting their teeth on material like 3:10 to Yuma they received little to no recognition from the Academy.

Michael Giacchino’s score for Ratatouille continues the composer’s collaboration with Pixar and Brad Bird, for whom he scored The Incredibles. To be honest, The Incredibles music is more interesting and involving than Ratatouille, which never escapes the “mickey mousing” aesthetic of early cartoon music. I can’t be sure if Giacchino is using the stereotypically “French” instruments (accordion and fiddle) ironically or if he somehow still believes that Parisian locales should be underscored with accordion solos. Even if it’s supposed to be ironic, it’s not that funny. The joke’s been done to death, frankly. Judge for yourself here.

Alternatively, The Incredibles built on John Barry’s highly distinctive brass writing from the 1960s James Bond pictures. It even shares a similar melodic structure with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Hear for yourself here and here. While Ratatouille was a visual treat, its strength was not its music. I still prefer Giacchino’s inspired writing on Lost. Listen here.

Atonement is on nearly every critic’s Ten Best list for 2007. The romantic tale sports a musical score by Dario Marianelli, who was nominated in 2005 for Pride and Prejudice, which was also directed by Joe Wright. Much like Pride and Prejudice, Marianelli does not stray far from convention and has written a competent romantic score. There aren’t many orchestral flourishes one might expect from an old fashioned romance, but he does infuse the music with a nifty little gimmick: the sound of typewriter keys. For those familiar with the book or film, this will no doubt make sense. The technique never does become anything but a cute “in-joke,” and sounds as odd as the electric guitar solo in Attack of the Clones.

Alberto Iglesias’s music for The Kite Runner is also nominated. Now, over the past decade or so Academy voters have had a strange relationship with the Original Score category. There have been several instances where film music critics and fans have been left scratching their heads at the eventual outcome of the category. Most recently, Gustavo Santaolalla won back-to-back awards for his underwhelming and over-rated Brokeback Mountain and Babel music. Both scores amounted to little more than guitar strumming and simple chord changes. Back in 1995, Il Postino won over Braveheart; in 1998, Life is Beautiful won over Hans Zimmer’s ethereal The Thin Red Line; in 2002 Frida won over Catch Me if You Can and Road to Perdition; and in 2004, Finding Neverland won over The Village and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

These choices reflect, in my opinion, a preference for scores with an international pedigree over American “studio” films. The Kite Runner is an interesting score, offering an eclectic range of styles that often transports the listener to the distant time and place of the narrative. The music effectively mixes familiar Middle Eastern flavors with a Celtic rhythm, particularly during the kite flying sequences. There’s no real architecture to the music; in other words, there’s no real structure tying all the pieces together. Here’s a sample.

Finally, there’s James Newton Howard. He’s an Academy favorite, but he’s never won. I’ve never been a particular fan of Howard, although I do own several of his soundtracks, including Dave, The Village, and The Fugitive. He’s very much a journeyman composer, providing effective underscore for several different genres. He’s at home scoring an animated fantasy like Dinosaur, a political comedy like Dave, and a thriller like Unbreakable. This year, Howard scored six films, including Charlie Wilson’s War, The Water Horse, The Lookout, and I am Legend. He has been nominated for Michael Clayton, by far the weakest of all six.

Michael Clayton also happens to be weakest of all five score nominees because it falls under the category of “music as sound design.” Basically, Howard has fashioned a score out of quiet, minimalist rhythms that exists somewhere between ambient room noise and textural music. It just drones along and seems to hang uncomfortably like sonic wallpaper at the edges of the soundtrack. There’s no discernible theme or recurring motif, except the minimalist patterns that Philip Glass innovated twenty years ago. Listen here.

It is a shame that the scoring community did not see fit to nominate Hans Zimmer’s outstanding Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End or John Powell’s equally satisfying The Bourne Ultimatum. Listen here and here for clips from each. Both of these work marvelously with the movie and on album. I’ve always thought that if a composer can provide a unique “musical signature” to a film’s soundtrack, then they have succeeded in writing an effective score.

This year, the Academy is changing the way voters listen to film music. In the past, voters received “For Your Consideration” CD soundtrack albums to assist in the adjudication process. This essentially removed the need for voters to see the film for which the music was written; the music could be judged on its own merit. Now, the FYC albums have been eliminated and voters must judge the music as it appears in the film. I’m not sure how I feel about this new rule. While it might ensure that the music fulfills its cardinal function — to work within the narrative — I believe that nuance and musical detail will be lost on voters.

Indeed, the old Hollywood film music adage that “music shouldn’t be heard at all” might come back to haunt this year’s nominees.

Who Should Win? 3:10 to Yuma.

Who Will Win? Atonement.

Blame the typewriter.

Sounds Like Oscar

With the release of the nominees for the 80th Annual Academy Awards reverberating in our collective consciousness, it’s probably a good time to bring into sharp focus a few categories that are usually overlooked, and which remain my own critical bread-and-butter. I, of course, am talking about the technical awards that recognize the work of film composers and sound editors in the Score, Sound Editing, and Sound Mix categories.

Film music and sound design often shape the tone of a film, much like the cinematography and set design reflect its dramatic texture and feel. Sound is as much an architectural phenomenon as the visual mise-en-scene (or, what is put in front of the camera). We are often immersed in the world of a film because the sound design fills out the image. Music does not so much fill out the space as heighten our senses to the emotional and dramatic. This is an undoubtedly abstract phenomenon, since we can’t see sound or pause it for further examination like we do with still frames.

Simply mute the volume on a film soundtrack and it becomes clear that sound is not only half the cinematic experience, but also the essential aspect that immerses us in the fictional worlds of movies. I’m not just referring to the importance of dialogue–an element that is all but lost when sound is turned off. Sometimes ambiences (traffic noise), Foley (footsteps), hard effects (explosions), and music shape the meaning of a scene. The helicopters in Apocalypse Now, the voice of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the lightsabers in Star Wars, the newsroom in All the President’s Men, and the harmonica-tinged vocals in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly are sonic signatures that identify these films by their unique soundscapes.

If sound matters, then why does it routinely fall on deaf ears? Well, we don’t necessarily see the set design and cinematography categories getting much more attention in the popular press, either. These categories are populated with individual craftspeople who are not, by and large, household names or even physically recognizable. I’m sure we’ve all had that experience of saying, “Oh that’s what James Horner looks like!” For those who don’t even know the name, he’s a composer, perhaps best known for his Oscar-winning score to Titanic.

Sound is so intangible that it is difficult to remember the “soundscape” of a film, whereas it’s easier to remember a particularly well-photographed sequence or visual style. Everyone seems to remember the noirish brilliance Conrad Hall brought to Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition. But do you remember Scott Hecker’s sound mix or Thomas Newman’s score?

With this in mind, let’s turn our ear to this year’s nominees.

Achievement in Sound Editing and Achievement in Sound Mixing are two very different awards that, on the surface, appear to recognize the same thing. In fact, the nominees are virtually the same this year with one exception (more on that later). Aren’t mixing and editing the same thing? Well, no, not even close.

The Sound Editing category addresses the role of the sound editor or “sound designer” in creating a unique soundscape for a film. The sound effects, ambiences, and Foley work are central to this award. Again, Ben Burtt’s sound editing in the Star Wars saga represents highly original effects that give a sonic signature to the films. The Sound Mix category recognizes the work of sound editors and/or sound designers in fusing the aforementioned effects with voice and music in the final “sound mix.” To create a “perfect” mix, where voice is clearly audible, music fills the space like a mist, and effects punctuate the on-screen action, takes great skill.

In the past, films with Blockbuster soundtracks–that is, loud and exhausting–often vie for the Sound Editing statue, while musicals with complex changes in voice, music, and effects often vie for the Mixing statue.

Achievement in Sound Editing

The Bourne Ultimatum: Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg

No Country for Old Men: Skip Lievsay

Ratatouille: Randy Thom and Michael Silvers

There Will Be Blood: Christopher Scarabosio and Matthew Wood

Transformers: Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

Here, we have a legitimate mix of summer blockbusters and autumn prestige picks. The Bourne Ultimatum continues to be discussed for its image editing techniques, relying on fast cutting and close framings to disrupt and disorient. See David Bordwell’s informative discussion of the film’s use of “intensified continuity” here. However, no one has mentioned the extent to which its sound design has contributed to the hyperkinetic visual scheme. In an e-mail to David Bordwell, I outlined how the sound track often compensated for the unintelligible imagery by providing sonic emphases on key sounds that move the story along. Check out the bathroom fight mid-way through the film and pay attention to how the sound of knives and other weapons clue the viewer to Bourne’s fight for survival. It’s an ingenious technique.

No Country for Old Men is the critical darling in several other categories. If it’s the Coen bros.’ year, then I suspect this will walk away with the award. Is it undeserved? No, and let me explain why. Skip Lievsay’s sound design is notable enough to merit a full-length article in the New York Times here. The film’s sparse sound track is at issue here. The sound of silence; more specifically, the play of individual sounds that echo in an empty space: footsteps on a creaky floor, a lone truck engine purring on a desert road, the intricate sound of a single-barrel shotgun being cocked and fired. With little dialogue and even less score, No Country is dangerously quiet, which no doubt contributes to its overall drama.

Ratatouille and Transformers are two films that require sound effects to breathe life into CGI animation. The entire sound world of Ratatouille–gutters, Parisian streets, bustling dining rooms, and crowded kitchens–are created from scratch, much like the animated images. Randy Thom has won an Oscar for his work on Pixar’s The Incredibles, where his sound design provided weight and mass to the lumbering athleticism of Mr. Incredible. Transformers is a live-action action adventure with CGI characters, who must interact with the real world. And since by “interact” I mean “demolish,” the film’s sound design not only fills out the characterization of the Autobots and Decepticons, but also reflects the physical impact of the ‘bots on city streets. I actually expected more from the Transformers effects. To my surprise, the sound crew emphasized the voices of the ‘bots over the sound of their moving parts. Pay close attention during the Optimus expressway fight: very few metal-on-metal mechanical sounds are heard, whereas the digitized voices–full of grunts–are prominently featured.

Finally, There Will Be Blood offers an intricate, detailed sound design of America at the turn of the 20th century. The juxtaposition of machinery and nature is evident in the film’s soundscape. As in No Country for Old Men, sound-as-metaphor is an important function of sound design.

Who Will Win? No Country for Old Men. Who Should Win? The Bourne Ultimatum

Achievement in Sound Mixing

The Bourne Ultimatum

No Country for Old Men


3:10 to Yuma


As I mentioned earlier, there is one difference between the two sound categories this year. 3:10 to Yuma is nominated in the Mixing category, but not the Editing one. It’s not uncommon for a different crop of films to be nominated in each category, since the criteria remains different. While an animated film may win the Editing category, a musical bio-pic could very well walk away with the Mixing award. It’s happened. Check your Oscar history.

The sound mix to 3:10 to Yuma is covered, in part, by David Bordwell, here. Westerns have always had iconic (or is it “earconic”?) sound tracks. You can’t watch a western without hearing the sound of spurs, creaky wooden carriages, dusty wind, twisted leather, or gunfire. 3:10 to Yuma offers a detailed understanding of Western sound cues for the digital sound era. But the film is being nominated not for the effects, but the overall mix. It’s my pick in this category, since it deftly blends Marco Beltrami’s score with a busy vocal track and the detailed effects and Foley track. Although, No Country for Old Men could nab it for the same reason.


It is important to remember that the Academy votes on the nominations en masse, so it’s fair to assume that voters won’t necessarily be technical critics. By contrast, the nominations are derived from persons ONLY in the sound field.

Next time, I’ll tackle the Best Original Score category.

Pop Quiz, Hot Shot!

To begin the new year and my first year of blogging, it seems apt to share my answers to one of the most thoughtful and intellectually satisfying movie quizzes currently circulating on the net. It originated over at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule on Christmas Eve. If only the bulk of film criticism were as insightful and creative as the content of this holiday game.

1) Your favorite opening shot

The film student in me cries out, “Touch of Evil!” But for sheer dramatic impact, the shot that most resonates with me is from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). The bold cut from the main credits (over a black screen) to a blinding shot of the Sonora Desert is musically matched by an orchestral crescendo. As the music takes shape, you are compelled to listen more intently, especially when the credits have ended and Spielberg leaves the screen black for an additional few seconds. Nothing beats the visual/sonic “blast” that follows this eerie moment.

2) Tuesday Weld or Mia Farrow?

Mia Farrow, simply for putting up with Woody Allen all those years.

3) Name a comedy you’re embarrassed to admit made you laugh

Clifford (1994), an all but forgotten Martin Short/Charles Grodin stinker, where Short plays a ten-year-old. It had its moments.

4) Best Movie of 1947

Crossfire, starring Robert Ryan.

5) Burt Reynolds was the Bandit. Jerry Reed was the Snowman. Paul LeMat was Spider. Candy Clark was Electra. What’s your movie handle?

My movie handle? McFly.

6) Robert Vaughn or David McCallum?

Vaughn, no doubt about it. He convinced me that Kalfus and Nachman represent the best personal injury legal team in Virginia.

7) Most exotic/unusual place/location in which you’ve seen a movie

Most unusual place was the basement “theater” of a college professor, whose outdated equipment and uncomfortable chairs made a viewing of Gloria virtually unwatchable.

8 ) Favorite Errol Morris movie

The Fog of War.

9) Best Movie of 1967

Bonnie and Clyde.

10) Describe a profoundly (or not-so-profoundly) disturbing moment you’ve had courtesy of the movies

The immolation scene in Schindler’s List (1993) left knots in my stomach, and still makes me numb.

11) Anne Francis or Julie Newmar?

Catwoman, er, Julie Newmar.

12) Describe your favorite one sheet (include a link if possible)

Superman: The Movie (1978)

13) Best Movie of 1987


14) Favorite movie about obsession

Rudy (1993)

15) Your ideal Christmas movie triple feature

A Christmas Story (1983)
Die Hard (1988)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

16) Montgomery Clift or James Dean?

Montgomery Clift.

17) Favorite Les Blank Movie

Can’t say that I’ve seen any of his films or even heard of the man. And yes, I still consider myself a cinema buff even without this knowledge.

18) This past summer food critic Anton Ego made the following statement: “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize that only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” Your thoughts?

Perhaps if film criticism was as self-reflexive and honest as Monsieur Ego, then my own favorite films and filmmakers would get the respect and attention they deserve.

19) The last movie you watched on DVD? In a theater?

On DVD, sadly it was the tepid fourth installment in the Die Hard saga. In the theater, it was the overly ambitious but still satisfying American Gangster.

20) Best Movie of 2007

Having not seen many new films this year, I don’t want to sell short the slew of potentially excellent movies that have been released in 2007. Out of the handful that I saw, Zodiac impressed me the most. In fact, it continues to linger in my mind months after first seeing it.

21) Worst Movie of 2007

Transformers. Not even the creative genius of ILM practitioners could save this one.

22) Describe the stages of your cinephilia

2-8 years old – My parents insist that the first film I saw was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in the theater. I was two years old and apparently sat quietly for two hours and just stared at the screen. And with that, my love of the movies was born. From there, I saw Superman: The Movie for the first time on home video and wore out a few copies. By the time I was six, Back to the Future caught my attention and I was officially a movie geek. While I had no real concept of narrative or film style, there was something about flying supermen and flying cars that piqued my interest.

9-12 – I never lost interest in fantasy films during this period, but my taste began to shift to the horror genre, as I discovered John Carptenter’s Halloween (1978) late one light on network TV. I soon began directing my own short videos with school friends, and borrowed heavily from the visual styles of Spielberg, Carpenter, and Hitchcock.

13-18 – The local video store was a treasure trove of old, dusty VHS tapes, which served as the tools of my real cinema education. While Spielberg’s 1993 double-header of Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List ignited my fondness for the bearded-one’s style, this “stage” was ultimately informed by my discovery of Hitchcock, Kubrick, Steve Martin, Preston Sturges, and Roger Corman’s AIP catalogue. There was nothing like finding a worn-out copy of a forgotten ’70s exploitation film in the basement of Bonanza Video.

19-Present – My cinema studies education at the University of Toronto refined my understanding of film history and theory. My undergrad was spent arguing against the love of Godard and Resnais, and discovering my love of Fellini and the post-war Italian filmmakers. As I continue with my PhD, I find it difficult to fall in love with movies as easy as I once did. But the spark is still there.

23) What is the one film you’ve had more difficulty than any other in convincing people to see or appreciate?
Without a doubt, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001). For the last time: Kubrick’s vision INCLUDED the final act where 30th century robots discover David and shut him down.

24) Gene Tierney or Rita Hayworth?

Rita Hayworth, because she survived studio mis-treatment.

25) The Japanese word wabi denotes simplicity and quietude, but it can also mean an accidental or happenstance element (or perhaps even a small flaw) which gives elegance and uniqueness to the whole. What film or moment from a film best represents wabi to you?

The contrast in sound as Danny rides his tricycle over carpet and wood floors in The Shining (1980).

26) Favorite Documentary

American Movie (1999).

27) Favorite opening credit sequence

Superman: The Movie

28) Is there a film that has influenced your lifestyle in a significant or notable way? If so, what was it and how did it do so?

I always wanted one of Marty McFly’s puffy vests. Never got one. Then, years after I outgrew the fascination with Coast Guard life-preservers, I find out that The GAP sells them to tweens and high school ski bums.
29) Glenn Ford or Dana Andrews?

Dana Andrews.

30) Make a single prediction, cynical or hopeful, regarding the upcoming Academy Awards

I hold out hope that there will be an awards ceremony this year, despite the continuing and worsening writer’s strike.

31) Best Actor of 2007

Haven’t seen enough performances to justify an answer. But I hear Daniel Day-Lewis was pretty, pretty, pretty good.

32) Best Actress of 2007

It’s even sadder that I can’t even think of a best actress contender.

33) Best Director of 2007

I’d give it to David Fincher, if only because he took a crime procedural with no real outcome and turned it into nearly three hours of riveting entertainment.

34) Best Screenplay of 2007


35) Favorite single movie moment of 2007

Homer Simpson unleashing his middle fingers on the angry mob, then using them to dig his way out of the sink hole.

36) What’s your wish/hope for the movies in 2008?

I join the denizens of fans who are hoping that Indy 4 sucks as little as possible. Can I get an “Amen”?