Helping to #PayClassicsForward

My blog “neighbor” Aurora at Once Upon a Screen has hit upon the most wonderful holiday idea for us movie-loving bloggers. She has suggested that we take a cue from “The 12 Days of Christmas” and share 12 elements of movies that we like, listing them on our own blogs and using the hashtag #PayClassicsForward.

So my list follows. I must preface the list by saying that I know not all of these movies are classics; in fact, some of my choices will probably leave you scratching your heads. But they are all people or moments in movies that have affected me a great deal, so I think they are worth sharing. Many of the movies listed therein have been reviewed by me on this blog and can be found in my blog index; others can be easily found on YouTube or elsewhere on the Internet. I encourage you to seek them out wherever you can find them.

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One writing-directing debut:

Kevin Smith’s Clerks (1994)

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Two rock music movies:

The Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

The Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense (1984)

 

Three movies about movies:

Richard Rush’s The Stunt Man (1980)

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Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011)

 

Four paranoia-inducing movies:

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Strange Invaders (1983)

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The “It’s a Good Life” segment from Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

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Brazil (1985)

 

Five slices of cheesecake:

Jane Russell

Jayne Mansfield

Adrienne Barbeau

Valerie Perrine

Christina Hendricks

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Six soundtracks:

Max Steiner’s King Kong (1933)

Bernard Herrmann’s Taxi Driver (1976)

Pino Donaggio’s Dressed to Kill (1980)

Miklos Rosza’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)

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John Williams’ E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Alan Menken’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

 

Seven cartoons:

Max Fleischer’s The Spinach Overture (1935)

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Tex Avery’s Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937)

Bob Clampett’s Coal Black an de Sebben Dwarfs (1943)

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Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera’s The Cat Concerto (1947)

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Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940)

Chuck Jones’ Bully for Bugs (1953)

George Dunning’s Yellow Submarine (1968)

 

Eight show-stopping musical numbers:

Carmen Miranda’s “The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat” from The Gang’s All Here (1943)

Jane Russell’s “Lookin’ for Trouble” in The French Line (1955)

Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr’s “Shall We Dance?” in The King and I (1956)

Tony Randall’s one-man-band Cinemascope intro to Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)

Mel Brooks’ “The Inquisition” in History of the World Part I (1981)

Charles Durning’s “Dance a Little Sidestep” in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)

“Every Sperm Is Sacred” in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)

Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” in Dreamgirls (2006)

 

Nine scenes to die for:

Barton Keyes’ (Edward G. Robinson) soliloquy about suicide statistics in Double Indemnity (1944)

Constable Kockenlocker (William Demarest) laying down the law to his possible future son-in-law Norval (Eddie Bracken) in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)

Sir Alfred’s (Rex Harrison) literal dressing-down of his brother-in-law August (Rudy Vallee) in Unfaithfully Yours (1948)

Tom Ewell at the start of The Girl Can’t Help It (1955), “converting” the movie to a wide-screen format

Jerry Lewis and a piece of cake in Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959)

Woody Allen as a sperm in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972)

Blake’s (Alec Baldwin) “Always be closing” speech in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage) explaining to his psychiatrist why he’s too screwed up to commit suicide in Matchstick Men (2003)

Mama Lucas (Ruby Dee) quietly giving hell to her gangster son Frank (Denzel Washington) in American Gangster (2007)

 

Ten heroes:

Douglas Fairbanks as Zorro in The Mark of Zorro (1920)

Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca (1942)

Victor Mature as Lt. Candella in Cry of the City (1948)

Henry Fonda as Juror # 8 in 12 Angry Men (1957)

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky (1976)

Denzel Washington as Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 (1995)

Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin in The Patriot (2000)

Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker in Spider-Man 2 (2004)

 

Eleven heroines:

Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Katharine Hepburn as Rosie Sayer in The African Queen (1951)

Lillian Gish as Rachel Cooper in The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien (1979)

Diane Keaton as Louise Bryant in Reds (1981)

Norma Aleandro as Alicia in The Official Story (1985)

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Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in The Terminator (1985)

Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking (1995)

Victoire Thivisol as Ponette in Ponette (1996)

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Jodie Foster as Ellie Arroway in Contact (1997)

Julia Stiles as Sara in Save the Last Dance (2001)

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Twelve comedies:

Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr. (1924)

The Marx Brothers in Duck Soup (1933)

Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times (1936)

Laurel & Hardy in Way Out West (1937)

Preston Sturges’ The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (1974)

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Richard Pryor Live in Concert (1979)

Abrahams-Zucker-Abrahams’ Airplane! (1980)

Albert Brooks’ Lost in America (1985)

Joel and Ethan Coen’s Raising Arizona (1987)

Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988)

The Three Stooges in GENTS WITHOUT CENTS (1944) – Slowly they turned

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This is the second of my two entries in my See You in the ‘Fall’ Blogathon, covering great moments of physical comedy in movies and TV. Click on the above banner to read terrific tributes to same from a wide variety of blogs!

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Today is the 71st anniversary of the release of the Three Stooges short subject Gents Without Cents. So I cannot resist sharing my personal history with this delightfully silly film.

I was a huge Three Stooges fan when I was a kid, but as I grew older, I subconsciously decided that I needed more motivation in my comedy. Watching three guys knock each other around just for the sake of it seemed rather pointless.

But one day at the library, during one summer a few years ago, I was hard up for a movie to watch, so I checked out a DVD of Three Stooges short subjects. One of the shorts was Gents Without Cents, which was positive for me in two ways.

First, it was a short that began with the Stooges as fairly regular guys — they were performers rehearsing their act in their apartment. Second, the short featured the “Niagara Falls” routine (also known as “Slowly I Turned”), a famous knockabout comedy sketch that dates all the way back to vaudeville. (If you’re unfamiliar with it, click here for a brief history of it.)

As it happened, my then-8-year-old son watched Gents Without Cents with me. He was so enamored of the sketch, he insisted that we learn it. So that summer, any time we could get someone to sit still for us for five minutes, we performed a truncated version of “Niagara Falls” for them (minus the rowdier slapstick violence — after all, my son was only 8). It remains one of my fondest parenting memories.

My son, the Curly surrogate.

My son, the Curly surrogate.

(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

At the start of Gents Without Cents, Moe, Larry, and Curly are rehearsing “Niagara Falls.” But just when they get to a crucial line in the act, there’s tapping on the ceiling, and a light fixture falls on Curly’s head. It turns out that this same interruption happens every time the boys reach that particular point in the act. The trio to resolve to go upstairs and fight with whoever lives on the floor above them who has been disrupting their rehearsals.

But when the Stooges get to the upstairs apartment, they find three leggy women enthusiastically rehearsing a dance number. The boys introduce themselves to the girls as Moe, Larry, and Curly, and the girls give their names as Flo, Mary, and Shirley. (Symmetry in action!) The six of them become friends and go to a talent agent named Manny Weeks (John Tyrell) to show off their talents.

Left to right: Laverne Thompson (Mary), Betty Phares (Shirley), and Lindsay Bourquin (Flo).

Left to right: Laverne Thompson (Mary), Betty Phares (Shirley), and Lindsay Bourquin (Flo).

At first, Weeks is unimpressed with the boys, but eventually they win him over, and Weeks lets them accompany him to a local shipyard where entertainment is needed for its defense workers during a lunch hour. The Stooges perform “Niagara Falls” to an enthusiastic audience.

"Slowly I turned..."

“Slowly I turned…”

When Weeks receives a telegram that the scheduled act cannot make it in time, the girls then perform a dance routine, and the Stooges do a comedy sketch as Army soldiers. The Stooges are such a hit that Weeks signs them up to appear in his Broadway show. Moe tries to give the girls a fond farewell, but they’re too assertive for that. The group ends up as three married couples — and don’t ask where they go to spend their honeymoon.

Here’s the movie. The entire short subject is worth watching, but if you want to skip ahead to the “Niagara Falls” routine, it begins at the 8:39 mark. (If you enjoyed this blog entry, click here to read my first blog entry, about Steve Martin as “The Great Flydini.”)

Day 1 recap of the SEE YOU IN THE ‘FALL’ BLOGATHON

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The autumnal equinox is still a few days away, but the autumble equinox has just begun. Welcome to the Day 1 recap of our tribute to physical comedy, the See You in the ‘Fall Blogathon! If the descriptions below whet your appetite, just click on each of the blogs’ names for terrific tributes to long and loud laughs!

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BNoirDetour gives a shot-by-shot analysis of Keenan Wynn and Whit Bissell offering brief comic relief in the otherwise heated film noir Shack Out on 101.

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Nitrate Glow discusses the chase scene of Buster Keaton’s amazing silent comedy Sherlock Jr.

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Girls Do Film details M. Hulot’s befuddlement with modern life in Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle.

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Movies Silently explains just why grown man Lupino Lane is dressed up like a bratty kid in the silent short comedy Naughty Boy.

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Love Letters to Old Hollywood shows the lengths to which Jerry Lewis will go to get a laugh in his acclaimed comedy The Nutty Professor.

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Barbra Streisand takes Ryan O’Neal on the ride of his life, in Moon in Gemini‘s critique of the chase scene in Peter Bogdanovich’s screwball-comedy homage What’s Up, Doc?

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CineMaven offers a double feature of the no-holds-barred finale of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, and blind Mr. Muckle’s disastrous tour of W.C. Fields’ store in It’s a Gift.

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British situation comedy gets its due, as Serendipitous Anachronisms chronicles the price that one woman pays for “Keeping Up Appearances.”

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And lastly, your faithful correspondent shows Steve Martin gathering comedy on the fly, in his unique magical act “The Great Flydini.”

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And the fun is far from over! We still have three days left in this bungling blogathon, so keep checking back for more great entries. We’ll post another recap after all of Monday’s entries have been submitted!

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THE GANGSTERS ALL HERE Live Tweet movie for Sat., Sept. 26: THE STREET WITH NO NAME (1948)

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When a 1948 movie opens with a message crawl from J. Edgar Hoover, you can bet it’s going to be a love letter to the F.B.I. This week’s gangster-infested scumfest, The Street with No Name, tells how the Feds sent in one of their own to infiltrate a nasty gang and demobilize it — because, darn it, you know that’s what J. Edgar insisted upon!

When a crime wave blows through “Central City” (which looks suspiciously like Los Angeles), FBI Inspector Briggs (Lloyd Nolan) provides rookie agent Gene Cordell (Mark Stevens) with the new identity of “George Manly” (Note that last name!) and sends him undercover. Soon enough, “Manly” becomes part of Central City’s major gang, led by mastermind Alec Stiles. Don’t be fooled by that milquetoast name — we know right away that Alec Stiles must be bad, because he’s played by…

Richard Widmark!

Richard Widmark!

Looks like the FBI and George Manly have their hands full with this one!

BettyPageFannyIndexOn a scale of 1 to 5 fannies, I rate this movie a 4. This is good-guys-vs.-bad-guys played to the hilt, the “good” represented by a ripe-for-parody monotone narrator and frequent unsubtle nods to the virtue of the FBI, and the “bad” represented by gangsters spouting endless street slang, hoisting drinks, and packing rods. Did I mention that Richard Widmark is in this movie?

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THE GANGSTERS ALL HERE Live Tweet movie for Sat., Sept. 12: JOHNNY O’CLOCK (1947)

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After the late-1950’s grittiness of our first two Live Tweet entries, BMovieBoss has decided to go back to the land of fedoras and fast-talking hoods, with the 1947 entry Johnny O’Clock.

Former song-and-dance man Dick Powell plays the title role, a high-rolling casino co-manager who is constantly being tailed by cigar-chomping Police Inspector Koch (Lee J. Cobb, nicely underplaying for a change). Koch has plenty to investigate when Harriet, a hat-check girl who was friendly with Johnny, dies in an apparent suicide. When Harriet’s sister Nancy (Evelyn Keyes) comes to town to try and find out what really happened to Harriet, sparks and motives fly all over the place.

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On a scale of 1 to 5 fannies, I rate this movie a 4. This movie has eye-catching settings and stylish dialogue to spare. Directed in best melodramatic style by Robert Rossen (who went on to direct All the King’s Men and The Hustler), you’ll hardly want to budge from your seat in order to see and hear what happens next.

If you’d like to know more about the movie, click here to read Turner Classic Movies’ program notes about the film. Below is a trailer for the movie. See you on Saturday, gangster junkies! twitter.com/BMovieBoss #GangstersAllHere

The Least Liebster-Worthy Recipient Ever

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Today I was informed by Karen at the blog Shadows and Satin that she nominated me for a Liebster Award. And so, standing humbled before you, I proudly carry on the Liebster tradition. When you win a Liebster, you are asked to:

(a) Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you;

(b) Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself; and

(c) Nominate up to 11 other bloggers to receive the award, and give them 11 questions to answer on their blogs when they post their nominations.

So let me begin with the questions I received from Karen:

1. On your perfect viewing day, what five films would air back-to-back on TCM?

I’ve seen a lot of great movies, but I can think of only three that mainline me with pure joy from the moment they begin: Preston Sturges’ The Palm Beach Story, The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, and the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. Honorable mention to Laurel & Hardy’s Way Out West and the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. An eclectic quintet, to be sure, but that’s what I’d go for.

2. What’s your favorite movie-related book?

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The Silent Clowns, by Walter Kerr. It’s a coffee-table book that transcends coffee-table books. It’s as beautifully put together as the best silent movies, and its critiques of the era read like a summer breeze.

3. Name an underrated film that you’d recommend.

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Strange Invaders (1983), a deadpan, dead-perfect send-up/tribute to 1950’s sci-fi flicks, filled with delicious performances and dry wit.

5. What’s your favorite western?

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You won’t believe this, but it’s Django Unchained. I have never been romantic about the American Western and have longed to see a movie that peeled away the cobwebs of the genre’s sentimentality. Quentin Tarantino done it.

4. What movie do you watch every time it comes on TV?

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The Beatles cartoon Yellow Submarine. That “Once upon a time” opening sucks me in every time.

6. If you had Aladdin’s lamp, what three wishes would you make?

I am actually quite happy with my lot in life as is. The only wish I would make is to go back in time and make passionate love to my freshman English teacher. (She had enormous breasts. I don’t expect you to understand.)

7. What movie have you seen more often than any other?

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was a teenager right when it became a midnight phenomenon. As for how many times I’ve seen it, I lost track after 50.

8. Name one thing you believed as a child that turned out not to be true.

I wish I had a nickel for every adult who lorded it over me because I was a kid who knew nothing and they knew everything. It’s amazing, what you see from the other side once you become an adult.

9. What is your favorite guilty pleasure movie?

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Swamp Thing. It gets by on a pass because it’s based on a famous comic-book series, and it has a fairly decent plot. So not everybody notices that you’re waiting for the scenes where Adrienne Barbeau bounces around bralessly.

10. Name a movie that it seems everyone has seen except you.

I have seen none of the post-’90s Batman movies. Nihilism just doesn’t do it for me.

11. Humphrey Bogart or Robert Mitchum?

Bogie. He could play a creep, but he always had somewhat of a redeeming quality. I’m not sure Mitchum even tried to ever have that.

Now, because nobody asked, here are 11 random facts about me.

1. My job is Social Media Specialist. It’s too complicated to explain, except that it involves a lot of writing and Facebook. But I’ve been at it for two years, and I absolutely love it. I’ve been in the workforce for 30 years, and I never thought I’d be able to say that about any job I ever had.

2. I have written, directed, and starred in plays — nothing you’ve ever heard of, but I have done a number of them on a local basis. If you have a creative bug, don’t ever let anyone talk you out of it. Do whatever you can to get your work seen (or heard or read, or whatever). I haven’t done a play in years because I no longer feel the need to do so. I got it all out of my system after keeping it bottled up inside for decades.

3. Via phone, e-mail, and (rarely) in person, I have interviewed some damn interesting people: cartoon director Chuck Jones, movie director Richard Brooks, movie composers Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, actress Adrienne Barbeau (see #9 above), and Laurel & Hardy biographer Randy Skretvedt. Nobody cares about interviewers — you don’t read an interview with Brad Pitt to catch the byline “By Joe Blow.” But I’m pretty proud to have talked to some people whom a lot of other people would love to chat with.

4. I saw Diane Keaton once, in a mall in L.A. I saw her across the counter, and I guess my eyes must have lit up, because she gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look, as if to say, “Please don’t embarrass me in public!” I just smiled wildly and moved on.

5. I love chicken. As I’ve grown older, most of my tastes have changed and I’ve given up a lot of the junkier foods, but I can still hunker down on a chicken. Fried, roasted, grilled, somewhat raw, it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen the PETA videos and I know I should care more about the bird’s welfare, but I maintain the same philosophy that I’ve always had: If it’s a choice between me and the chicken, the chicken’s gonna lose every time.

6. I have a 22-year-old daughter. Having a 22-year-old daughter is like starting out a drive on the most beautiful pathway in the world, then heading into a deep, dark, seemingly interminable tunnel, and then being gratified to finally reach light on the other side. Seasoned parents, you know what I’m talking about.

7. I appreciate my bed at this point in my life far more than I ever previously did. These days, when I wake up on Saturday mornings, I will remain in bed for a half-hour and luxuriate in the fact that I don’t have to rush to be anywhere.

8. I’m not a workaholic by any means, but I am amazed at the amount of time that people waste at my office just wandering around and shmoozing with co-workers — and they’re getting paid for it! And a lot of them can’t figure out why I’m not more social with them. I’ll tell you why I’m not more social with you —  I GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL 35 YEARS AGO.

9. I despise whistlers. I guess that’s silly, but when someone starts whistling, I get so distracted that I’m caught up in actually trying to figure out what tune they’re whistling. But no matter what tune they’re whistling, it always sounds as though they’re farting out the wrong end.

10. I love blogging. I always thought I had to be Roger Ebert, sharing my brilliant reviews with millions of eager readers. Now I figure, what’s wrong with having just 100 followers? That’s 100 more people than were interested in my reviews a few months ago.

11. I saved this one for last. A lot of my readers and fellow bloggers are female, so I truly hope this won’t offend you. But I have to confess, I am mesmerized by large breasts. I don’t get it, it’s embarrassing, and I try my best not to stare. But then, Christina Hendricks. Or somebody who dresses like her. And then she’s mortified that I’m wide-eyed over the very appendages that she’s put on display. It’s God’s curse on me.

I mean, come on.

I mean, come on.

Now that I’ve offended virtually my entire readership, here are the blogs I nominate as the recipients for a Liebster. I didn’t go for 11, but the ones that I’ve nominated are great blogs, so check them out!

Silent-ology

Girls Do Film

Outspoken and Freckled

Once Upon a Screen

A Shroud of Thoughts

And here are my 11 questions for my Liebster-lings:

1. “All-time favorite movie” is too tough. What is your favorite genre, and what is your all-time favorite movie in that genre?

2. “Theatrical” is too easy. What’s your all-time favorite TV-movie?

3. The Great Movie Genie is allowing you to permanently change the ending of one movie. Which one do you choose, and why?

4. You’re the latest heinie-kissing Hollywood exec, slavishly following trends. Which movie, good or bad, would you like to sequelize or remake?

5. Name the movie whose screening you’d like to co-host on TCM with Ben Mankiewicz.

6. Describe your most memorable movie occasion — not necessarily your favorite film, but a movie you enjoyed with friends, one that evoked a particular memory, etc.

7. What is your favorite line of movie dialogue?

8. Why are movies special to you?

9. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

10. What is your favorite book about movies?

11. You have your favorite movie actor or actress to yourself for 24 hours to do with what you will. Name, please.

And that is that! I’ll be interested to read everyone’s responses!