I saw this “Editor’s Note” attached to a post on a movie website today:
To help you get to know our writers better, we’ve asked them to respond to the following questionnaire.
Immediately I wished that I were one of that site’s writers, so I too could answer some questions. But then I realized that I could simply steal their questionnaire—so I’ll do that, after sharing this image…
1. Where did you grow up, and what was it like?
USA, in the southern suburbs of Minnesota. It is Hell: I hate it. But I have never left, not even for a vacation. And I will never leave.
2. Was anyone else in your family into movies? If so, what effect did they have on your moviegoing tastes?
My family was not into movies.
3. What’s the first movie you remember seeing, and what impression did it make on you?
When I was 8 years old, I fell in love with Teen Wolf (1985) starring Michael J. Fox. It made me want to embark on a career as a werewolf; and not even the present economy can make me abandon that goal.
4. What’s the first movie that made you think, “Hey, some people made this. It didn’t just exist. There’s a human personality behind it.”
I suspend my disbelief so thoroughly during movies that I’m almost never aware of the filmmakers’ presence: I only notice the actors & atmosphere, the mood; I just get lost in the world of the film. I’m not sophisticated enough to discern all the fineries of craftsmanship, but I hope that I am in tune with the film’s poetry. Unless the movie overtly calls attention to itself as a thing that required work to be created, I simply invest my care in the situations and characters that are presented. I prefer to feel through an artwork with my intuition, rather than to analyze it with my brain. But brainy analysis is enjoyable too: only I save that until after the movie has ended. I like to keep my domestic partner up all night listening to me theorize. So I guess I’m changing my tune as I type: let me start over…
I saw Persona (1966) when I was in my teens. I instantly accepted it as an ideal. “Who made this!?…& how’d they do it!?” —It’s still my favorite Ingmar Bergman movie.
5. What’s the first movie you ever walked out of?
I’ve never walked out of a movie. I’ve had ushers escort me out of theatres for being too young, but I’ve never left willfully. I come from a line of stingy masochists: we always finish our meals, even if they taste awful.
6. What’s the funniest film you’ve ever seen?
I do not find any films to be funny. Life itself makes me laugh a lot, but I never laugh at films. And the movies that try to be funny are the least funny. The world is happy, but its people are sad; so the funniest films will be those that acknowledge our distance from utopia, which is the place where we should be. But recently I remember laughing hard at The Saddest Music in the World (2003).
7. What’s the saddest film you’ve ever seen?
A Woman Under the Influence (1974)—when that film ends, I sob and sob and sob.
8. What’s the scariest film you’ve ever seen?
For personal fear: The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
For universal fear: The Fog of War (2003).
9. What’s the most romantic film you’ve ever seen?
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)—Don Lope de Aguirre’s love for his own ambitious vision is so steadfast that it nullifies reality.
10. What’s the first television show you ever saw that made you think television could be more than entertainment?
The 1st season of Twin Peaks (1990), especially the Lynch-directed episodes, hinted to me that television could be as sublime as any medium. And then the 2nd season, excepting the Lynch-directed episodes, proved that TV will never be more than entertainment.
But Errol Morris’ First Person (2000) rejuvenated my hope. And I also love Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (2007-2010).
11. What book do you think about or revisit the most?
Walt Whitman’s Selected Poems, edited by Harold Bloom for the American Poets Project and published by The Library of America. (I give this specific info because I think that there are more bad books of Whitman available than good ones.) However, on second thought, I only like Volume 1 of my Collected Self-Amusements.
12. What album or recording artist have you listened to the most, and why?
I only like rap music from around the late 1980’s because I value words and rhythm and mechanical noise. But I admire Philip Glass’s entire career, and I share Nietzsche’s love for George Bizet’s Carmen. Plus I’m a fan of the rock group Ween. And my favorite album is Free-Form 3 by Bryan Ray. (That last statement was a genuinely funny joke, because I myself am Bryan Ray and I endorse this message.)
13. Is there a movie that you think is great, or powerful, or perfect, but that you never especially want to see again, and why?
Breaking the Waves (1996) is great, powerful, and perfect, but just too sad to watch again.
14. What movie have you seen more times than any other?
I’ve watched Wrong Cops (2013) more than any other movie—even though it’s a newer film, I’ve seen it upwards of ninety million times, because it’s our age’s Ubu Roi. Plus I love every performance, the writing, the low highs, the high lows, and all of the music.
15. What was your first R-rated movie, and did you like it?
I’ve never seen any R-rated movies; and I don’t believe that I would like them, because they contain too much objectionable material.
16. What’s the most visually beautiful film you’ve ever seen?
17. Who are your favorite leading men, past and present?
I hate having to narrow it down to two, but, since it’s totally ridiculous, I’ll do it. For the past, I choose William Holden and Robert Mitchum. And, for the present, I choose Philip Seymour Hoffman.
18. Who are your favorite leading ladies, past and present?
I love every single leading lady ever, so here are the first two that I can rattle off of the top of my mind right now: Barbara Stanwyck, Anna Karina, Monica Vitti, Lauren Bacall… And for contemporaries: Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, etc., etc.
19. Who’s your favorite modern filmmaker?
Five years ago, I would have said: hands down, David Lynch. Now I say: it’s a tie between David Lynch and Paul Thomas Anderson.
20. Who’s your least favorite modern filmmaker?
I myself am my least favorite modern filmmaker, because I haven’t allowed even one single film, of the many that are simmering in my mind, to come to a boil and escape into reality yet. I keep selfishly enjoying, alone, via my imagination, all of the movies that I hope someday to make—I deprive the world of their splendid provocation; all because of a lack of courage and funds.
21. What film do you love that most people seem to hate?
If limited to just one film, I’ll list these four: Dogville (2003); The Master (2012); The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) (which is still my all-time favorite of Wes Anderson’s films); and of course Wrong Cops (2013).
22. What film do you hate that most people love?
I’ve never hated a film that most people love. The popular movies, the blockbusters: I love them all! My taste embraces and transcends the taste of the masses.
23. Tell me about a moviegoing experience you will never forget—not just because of the movie, but because of the circumstances in which you saw it.
I watched my first Lynch film Blue Velvet (1986) with a friend from high school; and I remember the discussion that it sparked. I was confused: “Why would a movie that contains so much sublime material want to start with idyllic scenes of suburbia (white picket fence; firefighter giving a friendly wave from his firetruck; man watering lawn; etc.)?” And my friend explained: “That’s just what David Lynch does.” So this was my introduction to the idea that artists are above the law. (Later I concluded that the reason for the film’s placid opening was to provide a relative norm from which to descend into fearful strangeness.)
Also, on the strength of Blue Velvet, I persuaded another friend to drive me to a faraway video rental shop (it was the only one in our state that had what I wanted) and offer its shifty owner my roommate’s credit card so that we could rent the only VHS copy of Eraserhead (1977). And it turned out that the cassette was damaged; so, halfway though, the movie stopped and automatically ejected from the player, and we saw that its magnetic tape had been torn and was being held together by a glob of translucent adhesive. So we were compelled to advance the stubborn tape forward manually; thus I missed about 30 seconds of the lady in the radiator.
24. What aspect of modern theatrical moviegoing do you like least?
Crowds make me nervous; so, when I go see a movie at the theatre, I frequently feel the urge to urinate—sometimes two or three times during the picture. For this reason, I must retire to use the restroom. Meanwhile the projectionist rarely, if ever, agrees to pause the film for me alone; therefore I end up missing key sections of the plot (cursed be it). So I offset this misfortune by bringing a flask of alcohol into the restroom, which I partake of liberally after relieving myself. But soon this additional alcohol induces the need to urinate again. So that is my cycle. It’s pretty enjoyable. I guess there’s nothing that I don’t enjoy about moviegoing.
25. What aspect of moviegoing during your childhood do you miss the most?
When I was a child, my dad would accompany us in the theatre. So I can’t say that I miss any aspect of childhood moviegoing.
26. Have you ever damaged a friendship, or thought twice about a relationship, because you disagreed about whether a movie was good or bad?
No, never. People are far more important than movies; so, even if my friends completely despise a film that I am passionate about, I would never sever a relationship over it (after all, I’ve been wrong more often than I’ve been right about things in this life—so I always assume that maybe the dissenters have a stronger point, which I’ll soon grow to understand).
Here is one among countless reasons that humans are worth more than motion pictures: People are capable of changing; whereas films, however wild and poetic, are condemned to remain static. The developments in one’s own being produce the illusion that movies themselves change from viewing to viewing. Here are some lines from Hart Crane’s ‘To Brooklyn Bridge’:
I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen…
Movies are precious because they give us a touchstone against which to measure our own lives. I find it most thrilling when I am able to learn to love a film that I previously hated: this suggests that I’ve achieved genuine self-augmentation, which is always my goal. (And, of course, I hope to expand rather than contract.)
So, if I disagree with a friend about the value of an artwork, our clash provides an opportunity for us to get to know each other even better. The last thing that I would do is terminate a friendship over a movie. In fact, the only thing that tends to get on my nerves, regarding films that I love, is when someone has a lackluster reaction. I’d prefer that people approach everything with an opinion that is strong yet malleable: either LOVE or HATE. As it is written: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”
But, like I said, I pretty much try to love everything; even the lukewarm opinions of lackluster people.
27. What movies have you dreamed about?
The only feature film I’ve ever dreamed about is Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974).
On different occasions, I’ve assumed that I had dreamed about The Exterminating Angel (1962), Last Year at Marienbad (1961), and Synecdoche, New York (2008); but it turned out that I was mistaken—those experiences were actual life, not dreams.
28. What concession stand item can you not live without?
The cashier. I always develop a secret crush on the cashier.