Sunday, April 30, 2006

Character Issues

As I mentioned in my last post, I don't watch many movies. The last movie I saw in the theater was the 3rd Harry Potter about a year and a half ago. This is kind of stupid, because my student ID entitles me to the free second-run movie on campus every week, and they're mostly popular big screen licks. I could have seen Brokeback or Crash or Willy Wonka or any of a good number of recent films for just the cost of a couple of hours of my time. What I actually spent it on, I do not know, but I'm a weaker quizzer, and quizmaster, because of it.

The writing of movie questions from reference works, rather than from actual viewing of the films, leads to a duller and easier type of question. Let's use the April 2006 issue of Premiere magazine as our source. The cover story this issue is "The 100 Greatest Performances of All Time." This could be fodder for a number of very dull questions of varying challenge.

Who played Jeffery "The Dude" Lebowski in "The Big Lebowski"? (1)

In what movie did Angelica Huston play Lilly Dillon? (2)

Question 1 is okay, but question 2 is free of any kind of context which would make it interesting. We could work an "Oscar-nominated" in there, I suppose. Many of the roles in this article garnered their performers nominations, although in most cases you'd just have to already know that if you were writing the question.

Who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Sarah Tobias in "The Accused"? (3)

You can tart up the questions in other ways, too, with "title role":

Navin Johnson, played by what actor, was the title role in the movie "The Jerk"? (4)

or by adding the year:

Who won an Oscar for playing the title role in the 1977 film "Annie Hall"? (5)

That question's not too bad, really. Bland, but not as dull as it could be. Then you can throw in some hints,

Ralph Fiennes played concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth in which 1993 film? (6)
Cary Grant played paleontologist David Huxley in what 1938 film? (7)

so if the character name doesn't give it to you, you can work it out by knowing the occupation. It bugs me when questions say that "such and such" an actor did something, when really it was their character who did it. Knowing the character name leads to better questions.

The sidebars have some interesting facts:

What actor played 8 roles in "Kind Hearts and Coronets," including the Parson, the Admiral, and Lady Agatha? (8)

There is a lot of transvestitism in this article, actually:

Who played actor Michael Dorsey, who pretended to be Dorothy Michaels, in the movie "Tootsie"? (9)
Hilary Swank won an Oscar for playing Teena Brandon/Brandon Teena in what 1999 movie? (10)
In what comedy did Jack Lemmon play a musician named Jerry who disguises himself as a woman named Daphne? (11)

If I had seen either of those 3 previous movies, I would be able to write better-phrased questions than those above. I'll fully admit that this is a weakness for me. Nevertheless, there is also a place in quizdom for quick-and-dirty revision, and things will even themselves out in the end, when you play against a real film buff.

Last bit of questioning here.

Who played the following characters with unusual names:
Lili von Shtupp in "Blazing Saddles" (1974)? (12)
Clementine Kruczynski in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004)? (13)
Bill "The Butcher" Cutting in "Gangs of New York" (2002) (14)

And finally, one that would've gotten me an extra $1600 on Jeopardy! if I'd have known the character name 4 years ago:

What was the name of Humphrey Bogart's character in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948)? (15)

Knowing the character name can sometimes make all the difference in the world.

Answers to questions may be found in the comments.


Myron said...

1. Jeff Bridges
2. "The Grifters" (1990)
3. Jodie Foster
4. Steve Martin
5. Diane Keaton
6. "Schindler's List"
7. "Bringing Up Baby"
8. Alec Guinness
9. Dustin Hoffman
10. "Boys Don't Cry"
11. "Some Like It Hot" (1959)
12. Madeline Kahn
13. Kate Winslet
14. Daniel Day-Lewis
15. Fred C. Dobbs

Myron said...

The article which inspired much of this post can be found at