Seeking Geeks

Film buffs can reach for the stars at the Ultimate Film Fanatic competition.

I like movies as much as the next person, but I'm not certain how I'd fare in next month's Independent Film Channel's Ultimate Film Fanatic competition. After all, I enjoy watching Ben Stiller, but don't ask me his shoe size.

Still, this trivia tussle is tempting. The champ will earn a $10,000 cash prize and get a chance to play host of the cable channel for a night. IFC's Debbie DeMontreaux says the station's "highly engaged audience" frequently sends in suggestions and insights about movies, so the company responded by launching a national talent search.

To win, a Hollywood hopeful must be able to correctly answer movie-minutiae queries and expound on film fanaticism. Bonus points will be given for how many times the cine-geek has seen his favorite flick and how extensive a collection of memorabilia is stuffed in his closet. Presumably, if you possess Johnny Depp's Pirates of the Caribbean outfit, you'll do well. Sadly, all I have is an Independence Day T-shirt with the phrase "Whatever you do, don't look up" on the front.

Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith

But if I were to audition, I wouldn't be Clueless. I possess a smattering of filmic knowledge, often gleaned from savvy friends. To a query about who D.W. Griffth's cinematographer is, I can reply "Billy Bitzer." If the stumper is about the Godfather series, I can respond that one word never uttered during the films is the obvious one: Mafia. And the shoe Charlie Chaplin consumed in Gold Rush? It was made of licorice.

My favorite pictures are my strongest suits. Should the line of inquiry involve the 1959 Hitchcock classic North by Northwest, I'd seem like a big-screen brain. The monogram of Cary Grant's character? "R.O.T.," which certainly describes him, as well as being the initials of his name, Roger O. Thornhill. What does the "O" stand for? Nothing, as Grant says. Or maybe if Chuck Norris were the topic, I could quote from his 1985 Chicago cop drama, Code of Silence. Tough guy Chuck sneers at one hoodlum, "When I want an answer, I'll beat it out of you." Want obscure? There was one Smell-O-Vision film (1960's Scent of a Mystery, which bankrupted the producer, Michael Todd Jr.), and in John Waters's homage to it 21 years later, Polyester, Divine plays the saintly Francine Fishpaw. (Speaking of Waters and Depp, I recall that the latter played Cry-Baby in the former's spoof of the same name).

As far as fanaticism goes, I'm a lightweight. I once read that the late Buddy Ebsen had to bow out of the role as the Tinman in the Wizard of Oz because he had a nearly fatal reaction to the aluminum makeup, but I can't pretend to know the ins and outs of that classic. I've probably seen it a dozen times, but not for a decade.

My only leg up on know-it-alls might be in tiny niches. Documentaries, for example. Filmmaker Steve James, whose basketball tale Hoop Dreams was stupidly snubbed for an Oscar, also did a doc about a troubled boy he once mentored, the disturbing Stevie. Or animation. Having interviewed Conifer's Trey Parker, I know the origins of his paper-cutout style, which evolved into South Park's characters. And if all else fails, I can mine my shallow reserves of all things Tucker: Chris, Forrest, and Tucker: The Man and His Dream, the 1988 biopic about the visionary car maker.

Think you can do better? Auditions for the film competition will be held locally on Friday, January 30, at the Buell Theatre. Interested parties should go to www.IFCTV.com for applications and information.

The casting call, co-sponsored by IFC and Comcast Cable of Denver, isn't open to gawkers, though pasty-faced movie buffs can stop in and let organizers know they're ready for their close-up. Don't look for me, but, to paraphrase a song from the 1991 animated hit Beauty and the Beast: Be my guest, be my guest, with my celluloid treasure chest.

 
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