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Quiz Show is a 1994 American historical drama film which tells the true story of the Twenty One quiz show scandal of the 1950s.
As I sit here, typing this, it appears that the next President of the United States will be Donald J. Trump.
Why, you ask, is that relevant to this film?
Because this film is about lies. At their core. The simple act of making someone think something that isn't true. They take different forms. In the film, the lies can be promises that aren't kept, they can be denial of wrongdoing, they can be assurances that what you're being asked to do is "the right thing," no matter how wrong it feels.
But more to the point here, Donald Trump is television. I don't only mean that he comes from the background of "reality TV,"…
Film #50 of Project 90
”Sixty-four thousand dollars for a question, I hope they are asking you the meaning of life.”
Confidently directed, perfectly acted and delicately written, Robert Redford’s Quiz Show is a shocking eye-opener that portrays a world in which media and giant companies take control of public’s mind and trade the innocence of individuals for money and fame, it gets more powerful and striking as its story unfolds and with morally devastated characters who are getting crushed under the overwhelming pressure of their doubts it is a film of dramatic decisions and emotional challenges.
In a film like this – which relies so heavily on its characters – it is of utmost importance to have great actors…
"The problem is, Dad, is that it seems I was one of those frauds."
In a career of such mammoth roles as Amon Goethe in Schindler's List, M. Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel and even Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, I still find its Fiennes' Charles Van Doren which really forces me to sit down and admire an actor capable of such restrained humanity and nuanced reaction. What most people probably wouldn't think is Ralph Fienne's best performance, might well be his most accomplished work in Quiz Show. A man of such regretful circumstance balanced with a performance of such unapologetic honesty make this an acting masterclass which is so effective, it's been criminally overlooked since its released. This is a performance for the ages.
I watched this film for Ralph Fiennes, and from that point I wasn't disappointed. However, the movie was bland, predictable (even without any prior knowledge of either the game show or the scandal) whilst being, as far as character arcs go, downright confusing.
File this one under "Simply Couldn't Care Less".
Revisited for a Scenic Routes column in which I basically call Redford a hack. Nonetheless, I still like the film overall, mostly because it's one of very few I can think of that overtly addresses the subject of toxic privilege. Van Doren finally confessing his role in the scandal and then being praised by multiple Congressmen for his candor, as vilified whistleblower Stempel watches in disbelief, says more about how power works in America than something like Arbitrage (even though I kinda dug that one)—it's not about money or violence, but about what others will automatically be inclined to assume or forgive, based on a surface impression. Still wish there was more focus on the inner workings of Twenty…
So is it significant that this movie, largely about unquestioned class privilege and the illusion of social mobility, doesn't feature any non-white faces? Perhaps an MP and not a YP. Either way at its best this manages to coast on good performances and an interesting, esoteric subject, and it's full of lovely period production design.
Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Shawshank Redemption, and Quiz Show. 1994 was a hell of a year for film. Quiz Show is the true story of the Twenty One quiz show scandal in the 1950s. Great movie. Solid cast. Great performances by Fiennes and Turturro. Well-shot, well-written story. Great ending.
Quiz Show can be really entertaining at times, but it's so unfocused and unorganized that it can also be extremely difficult to become engaged in. Read the following description of the film from its page on IMDb:
A young lawyer, Richard Goodwin, investigates a potentially fixed game show. Charles Van Doren, a big time show winner, is under Goodwin's investigation.
Just from the summary, you can tell that no one is quite sure who or what this movie is about. Sometimes it's about Goodwin, the investigator without any character, and sometimes it's about Van Doren, a great character with too little screen time. In the first 30 minutes, one could easily think that John Turturro's Herbie Stempel is the protagonist, however it's slowly revealed that he is just a pivotal character---in fact, Turturro actually has top billing on the film's IMDb.
Quiz Show needed a protagonist. If it had one, the movie could've been much, much better.
Quiz Show is a very good, well acted movie. I don't have much to say about it other than I've been in the classroom where Ralph Fiennes teaches in the film. Columbia, my ass.
One of the best movies of the 90s, and more angry and sinister beneath the polished veneer than ever (opening and closing the film with different renditions of "Mack the Knife" is one of many masterstrokes). It's easy to see why Redford identified with Van Doren. What's remarkable is his interest in and empathy toward Herb Stempel. Paul Attanasio's brilliant screenplay covers class, money, education, status, ethnicity, provincialism ("Queens is not New York"), entertainment, fame, and the mystery of integrity or lack thereof. Phenomenal performances from Turturro, Fiennes, Paul Scofield, David Paymer, Allan Rich, Barry Levinson, Martin Scorsese, and, yes, Rob Morrow. (He's a television actor - that's the point.) The opening scene with Goodwin at the car dealership, one of my favorite prologues ever, has nothing to do with the rest of the story and yet sets the stage for everything.
Featuring the fourth best use of the dolly zoom, perhaps?
Quiz Show has moments of greatness, but takes this very interesting story and makes it dull very straight laced and only brings out the drama in the investigative portion. And the film just kind of ends with this voice over that is beating the audience over the head.
Checking off another Redford directed picture. This time it is Quiz Show and it proved a decent one. A semi-historical film, it follows the efforts of a network to fix its game show winners and attempts to become a larger commentary on society. It has mixed results at that but its strong scheme of leading actors ensure that it is lifted into an enjoyable film if very much low stakes.
John Turturro is the meek nerdy champion of the famous show, Quiz Show, until the network notices his ratings are slipping and arrange for the young brilliant college professor Ralph Fiennes take over. These two performances certainly make this film. Fiennes and Turturro play off of each other as well…
Nostalgia gets me every time and I'll be the first to admit it. Quiz Show gave me all the 50s vibes in a very entertaining and insightful package. This movie is an exceptional look into the early days of television's practice of blurring reality and fiction.
It's pretty surprising how under the radar Quiz Show has become. Big director, killer cast, but it never seems to be brought up in conversation. Hopefully it gets a few more views on Netflix.
I like how the films of the 90s were, to me at least, story driven and more original. We could REALLY use that right about now.
Solid overall but John Tutorro's voice sounded like Roger Rabbit at times.
7.75 (out of 10).
Every film that has ever been nominated for an Academy Award in any category. Enjoy!
Combined the average ratings (Critic's & Users) from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and Letterboxd, and then weighted and tweaked the results…