Friday Screen Test has welcomed many distinguished intellectuals, but Melissa Prusi is the only one to hear her name prefaced with "and our returning champion..." Yes, Melissa is a Jeopardy winner, and a multiple night winner at that. I saw Melissa's victories in January, and witnessed her shoot down category after category with a ruthless efficiency reminiscent of a young Charles Bronson. Melissa was even able to display her film knowledge on the show, with categories of "A Cinematic Feast" and "Bit Parts." If you weren't able to see the Jeopardy episodes, Melissa's wit is on display full time at Gorilla Pants, with a large archive of her opinionated reviews and also lists of her favorite Quirky Teens and Monster Movies. And no, none of her movie verdicts are presented in the form of a question.
EARLIEST MOVIE WATCHING MEMORY: 'I remember when I was a little kid my big brother being really excited that The Poseidon Adventure was going to be on TV, so of course we turned it into a big event. We had our snacks all laid out and planted ourselves in front of the TV right before it started, and nobody was allowed to talk during the movie. For a few weeks afterwards I practiced holding my breath in case I ever had to swim underwater for a long time.'
LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'Lost Season 3, but if we’re talking strictly movies it would probably be It’s a Wonderful Life. (That and Scrooged are the two Christmas movies I have to see every year.) I don’t actually buy a ton of DVDs, but I did get a Coen Brothers box set for Christmas.
IF YOU WERE A TCM GUEST PROGRAMMER, WHAT THREE MOVIES WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BEST REPRESENT YOUR TASTES, OR A FAVORITE GENRE OR THEME: 'Representing my tastes is way too much pressure for any three movies to bear, or maybe I’m just not introspective enough to pick them. I’ll go with my underappreciated sci fi list: the dark side of genetic perfection in Gattaca, the trippy dream-world noir of Dark City and the unfairly maligned AI: Artificial Intelligence. (Yes, I said it and I’m not taking it back.) I know that even people who were with AI most of the way usually hate the third act, but I think that’s what really makes the movie for me. I’m not sure why it’s considered a sentimental happy ending; to me it’s rather dark and disturbing.'
FAVORITE GROSS-OUT MOMENT: 'I love the scene in Shaun of the Dead where the zombies are ripping David apart. The movie’s been getting progressively more dramatic over the last ten minutes or so and that over-the-top gore snaps it back to into horror-comedy mode. Brilliant.'
WHAT MOVIE ARE YOU ASHAMED TO SAY YOU HAVEN'T SEEN, AND WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE: 'I’m probably most regretful that I haven’t explored French film as much as I’d like, particularly the French New Wave. But my greatest single shame would have to be Raging Bull. I got it from Netflix and it sat on my entertainment center for two months before I returned it, unwatched. Since then I’ve decided that movies should never be an obligation. No matter how much of a classic something is, if I’m not interested in it I’m not going to try to force myself to watch it.'
PICK ONE OF THE FOLLOWING FOUR MOVIES AND WRITE TWO SENTENCES ABOUT IT:
The Two Jakes
Two Lane Blacktop
2 Days in the Valley -- 'I had no idea what to expect from 2 Days in the Valley, which may be why I ended up loving it. I have no recollection of the plot, I just remember all those great character moments – Paul Mazursky and his dog at the cemetery, Jeff Daniels sitting in his lonely apartment staring at his gun, Danny Aiello and Glenn Headly bonding over . . . was it pizza?'
Return of the Living Dead Part 2.
FAVORITE KIND OF MOVIE TO REVIEW: 'Something that makes me a little dizzy with love for it so that I can’t wait to tell the whole world – or at least the small fraction of it that reads my site – about it. The Lord of the Rings movies and I Heart Huckabees are some that have had that effect on me. Or else something really awful. I particularly love to shred lazy plotting, because generally it would have been easy to fix so there’s no excuse for it. (I’m looking at you National Treasure: Book of Secrets.)
LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, AND WHAT DID YOU SEE: 'I can’t swear that this was absolutely the last time, but the last one I have a clear memory of was when I was in college. The movie was Gotcha!. Anthony Edwards plays a college student who gets caught up in international intrigue. I’m sure it was a double feature with something similar. Actually, around the same time there was another drive-in in town that specialized in porn (yes, porn) and I went there once so that may have been my last drive-in experience. Yeah, let’s go with that.'
FILM ERA OR GENRE YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: 'Well, despite what you may have read in question 8, it’s not porn. I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with anything, but I go through phases – film noir, heist movies, science fiction. I’d love to cultivate a good obsession of some sort, but they never seem to last long for me.'
LAST TIME YOU VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE OVER FILM: 'I had a heated exchange with a reader over Signs, which he thought was deeply allegorical (possibly) and I think is just disappointing. Film is so subjective that I rarely get upset when someone disagrees with me, but this guy seemed to think that if I didn’t share his opinion I had no business having one. I also got a little worked up when a friend suggested that the Lord of the Rings movies were just a commercial for the war in Iraq, which I think is a radical interpretation of the text.'
FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'One I really enjoyed is Joe Leydon’s Guide to Essential Movies You Must See If You Read, Write About or Make Movies. It’s not just another list of great movies; in fact, some of the films discussed aren’t even that good. It’s a series of essays on landmark films, why they’re important and how their influence is reflected in the works of generations of filmmakers. It’s an intelligent, organic approach to film, and a fun read too.'
DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM INTAKE: 'Not as frequent as it used to be. I probably make it to the theater 2-3 times a month and watch another 6-8 movies a month on DVD. I should probably make an effort to up that total; I feel like I’m losing my chops!'
THREE THINGS YOU'VE LEARNED FROM WATCHING MOVIES:
1. Don’t worry so much about explosions because usually you can outrun them.
2. If God starts talking to you, you’d better hope you’re in a comedy.
3. Never underestimate the value of being underestimated.
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