Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this survey.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.
Q: A short question this week, borrowed from the Dead Milkmen’s Rodney Anonymous: What movie prop would you like to own?
Danny Bowes, Salt Lake City Weekly, The A.V. Club
The falcon from “The Maltese Falcon,” so whenever I have civilians over and they ask “What’s this?” I can say “The stuff that dreams are made of.”
Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News
Who wouldn’t want The Maltese Falcon? It’s the stuff that dreams are made of! Or the bejeweled “Topkapi” dagger? Or even the doll stuffed with heroine from “Wait Until Dark”? Movie props are ephemera. If you actually had one these precious items that movie characters would kill for, wouldn’t you worry about it being stolen? Even collecting clothing from films seems dubious. Would you ever actually wear the dress Marilyn Monroe had on while her undies were in the icebox in “The Seven Year Itch,” or would you covet the underwear Gael Garcia Bernal had on (and stripped off) swimming in the pool in “Bad Education”? Movie souvenirs are fun — “Star Wars” collectibles initiated a whole craze of memorabilia — but marketing props like the shower curtain from “Psycho” to hang in the guest bathroom, sort of takes things to an extreme degree. Hell, I know at least one person who wants the box with Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in it from “Se7en.” So with all the possible props out there, I think I would want something that was especially created for a film: the double-sided Kandisky from Flan and Ouisa Kittredges’s Fifth Avenue apartment from the film “Six Degrees of Separation.”
Peter Labuza, The Cinephiliacs
The cane from “Citizen Kane”!….wait a minute. There was no cane in “Citizen Kane.”
Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second
The cane from “Citizen Kane”! Seriously though, it’d have to be the eponymous MacGuffin from John Huston’s “The Maltese Falcon,” not least because one of the props used in the film sold for over $4 million at auction in 2013. Thinking a little bigger, I’ve always loved the Cyclops from “The Big Bus.”
Tomris Laffly, Movie Mezzanine, Film Journal International
It’s a coin toss between the hoverboard from “Back to the Future Part II” and the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.” But I guess I’ll go with the latter as they seem to be a more reliable mode of transport.
Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter
Teddy from “A.I.,” but only if he can talk and is sentient and therefore can accompany me to my next viewing of “Chappie.”
Alison Nastasi, Flavorwire
When thinking about this question, I became aware just how much I favor costumes over props. Fashion is important to me, but I suppose costumes offer a more tactile experience. A well-fitted dress, heavy skirts, corset, or pair of shoes would transform your gait and mannerisms, evocative of the actor who wore them. But props are akin to relics, which has its own appeal. I’m drawn to the sinister animal masks in Robin Hardy’s “The Wicker Man,” because they look handmade and could be fashioned from the mud and twigs of Summerisle. I’d also adore the scarlet ballet slippers from Powell and Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes.” Watching them come to life for the first time was such a wondrous experience.
Noah Gittell, Washington City Paper, RogerEbert.com
When I was 20 years old, my favorite film of all time was “Magnolia.” For my birthday the following year, a thoughtful family member tracked down a prop from the movie on eBay: a gelatinous frog used in the climactic sequence. It was incredibly realistic, and it has freaked my dogs out on more than one occasion. Like the movie itself, it hasn’t aged particularly well, but I have never had the heart to throw it out.
Piers Marchant, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pop Matters
The mind reels with possibilities — an “Alien” flame-thrower? Popeye Doyle’s pork pie hat? The bike from “Bicycle Thieves”? —but how could you not want Jack Torrence’s typewriter from “The Shining”? Versatile, ironic, and perhaps the perfect representation of the insanity inherent in the writing process.
Jason Osder, The George Washington University
The Millennium Falcon, obviously.
Carrie Rickey, Yahoo! Movies, The Philadelphia Inquirer
The False Maria Robot from “Metropolis.”
Scott Mendelson, Forbes
Am I allowed to say Tony Stark’s bank account?
Okay, in terms of an actual prop, let’s go with the time tuning gadget from the third Harry Potter film, which is inexplicably used only in the third film to resolve the least horrible thing that ever happens at the end of a Harry Potter book. Don’t use time travel to stop Voldemort from coming back or to undo the slaughter that occurs in the last film/book, but totally use time travel to save Hagrid’s pet that one time. But yeah, time travel would be an amazing thing to play with, and the time tuner seems more portable than a DeLorean or the other more complicated time machine devices.
Nell Minow, Beliefnet
I love the episode of “Big Bang Theory” where they buy the title chrono-poration device from George Pal’s “The Time Machine.” Hard to beat that, as long as it really does allow you to time-travel. But, as the “Big Bang” guys discover, it takes up a lot of room, so I think I’d go with the alarm clock in “ParaNorman.” If you have to get up in the morning, it seems appropriate and even cheering to be awakened by a skeleton arm coming up out of a grave.
Glenn Kenny, Some Came Running, RogerEbert.com
Oh, “The Great Whatsit,” of course. What would be the point of anything else?
Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine
The first movie that comes to mind is “Singin’ In the Rain,” and while I could go with the easy answer — the umbrella Gene Kelly used in the title sequence — I’m going to stick with my first inclination: the dummy that Donald O’Connor dances around with in the second half of the “Make ‘Em Laugh” number. O’Connor’s dexterity and virtuosic dancing in this sequence have been justly championed for decades, but the goofy charm he exudes with this stuffed dummy remains one of the great joys of the film for me. (Runners-up for this question include the javelina head from “The Royal Tenenbaums,” the lemonade stand from “Duck Soup,” and the literal stairway to heaven from “A Matter of Life and Death” — even if I don’t have a storage space big enough to hold it.
Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit
The prop I think I would most like to own is the DeLorean from “Back to the Future.” As an added bonus, I’d now have a car as well, so it’d be practical as well!
Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket
I’d love to own the ECTO-1 from “Ghostbusters.” That’s one of my favorite movies ever, and I’ve always loved that car. I would spend all day driving around town, with Ray Parker, Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” and Bobby Brown’s “On Our Own” blasting from the stereo at full volume. What could be cooler? Incidentally, I also ain’t afraid of no ghosts.
Peter Howell, The Toronto Star
The Aries moon lander from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” of course. Most gorgeous space vehicle ever — why couldn’t the real lunar landing module be as sleek and cool as this? Guillermo del Toro actually has one of these in his office man cave, which makes me want to break in and liberate it.
Richard Brody, New Yorker
Before laying claim to the prop I’d most like to own, I should admit to one that I actually owned. As a child in the mid-nineteen-sixties, I was an obsessive model-builder, painting and gluing styrene replicas primarily of racing cars but also of other figures, including athletes and one particular object that pleased my horror-movie-centered fancies, namely, a functioning little guillotine that actually detached the head of a little plastic prisoner. I was utterly unaware at the time of a recently-released film called “Masculine Feminine,” in which a young man and a young woman use exactly that model to mock the overheated and oblivious rhetoric of André Malraux during France’s 1965 presidential campaign, but some might call it destiny. As for the coveted object: the album of the Brahms Second Piano Concerto — “a recording made in Vienna before the war” — that Addie Ross gives Kirk Douglas (I mean, George Phipps) for his birthday, in “A Letter to Three Wives.” But I’d give it back in order to get another wish: seeing the living-room scene, in which he inflicts that recording on the radio executives who came to dinner, run for the full duration of the concerto, around forty-five or fifty minutes, in order to hear the music and to observe the reactions, from his bliss to their boredom, that it arouses. That would be included in the conductor’s cut.
Jeff Berg, Las Cruces Bulletin, ABQ Free Press
Clint E’s entire ensemble from the “Dollars” trilogy… or perhaps a truck from “Sorcerer.”
Jason Gorber, Twitch
Spielberg already has the sled from “Kane,” and it’d be churlish for me to grab it from him. So that leaves it a tough call between two Harrison Ford-related totems. While the Ark of the Covenant would make for a hell of a leg rest in front of my couch, I’d still likely choose to hang Han in Carbonite to hang on my wall, if only to laugh Jabba-like as my cat chortles in a high-pitched, Salacious B. Crumb-ian sort of way.
Joanna Langfield, the Movie Minute
While I’m so tempted to make a “Boogie Nights” reference here, and know the lightsaber fans in my household would out vote me, I would crack up every time I looked at the watch from “Pulp Fiction.”
Chase Whale, The Playlist, Twitch
As soon as I read “If you could own a prop from any movie, what would it be?,” only one immediately danced around in mind: Mark Wahlberg’s prosthetic penis in “Boogie Nights.” (Yeah, I’m weird.)
Ethan Alter, Film Journal International, Yahoo! Movies
In the hypothetical home theater I’m constructing in my hypothetical mansion, my ideal chair would be David’s pilot seat from “Flight of the Navigator.” Embed various remote controls into those silver armrests, add a cup holder or two and change the vocal setting on the detachable “Max” unit from “Paul Reubens” to “Nicolas Cage,” and I could easily pass eight Earth years ensconced in that room.
Luke Goodsell, Movie Mezzanine, Empire
Elizabeth Taylor’s headdress from “Boom!”
Greg Cwik, Indiewire, Movie Mezzanine
I think it would be pretty sick to own Jon Finch’s severed head from Polanski’s “Macbeth.” For nostalgic reasons. Or Rosemary’s baby from “Rosemary’s Baby,” since I don’t want actual living, breathing children to take care of. But the best would be if I had the Ark of the Covenant from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” so I could make all my enemies bow before me. I’d never have to wait in line at an artisanal coffee shop again.
Jordan Hoffman, NY Daily News
I want Asta the Dog from the “Thin Man” movies. What’s that? You have him for me in this box? Oh, thank you, this is great and — OMIGODD Asta! Asta!!! Nooooooooooooooo!
Marc V. Ciafardini, GoSeeTalk, The Film Stage
For my money, I would love to own the Cirrus X-3. What is the Cirrus X-3 you ask?? It’s a rocket… like in the comic books. Yes, I have been a fan of “The Rocketeer” for years and it’s been on my Christmas List since I was 11. Still never got it, but man, how cool would it be to have the whole get up, mask and all. Anyway, a real close second would be the ZF-1 from “The Fifth Element.” Some days, you just want to have all that hardware on hand in case some idiot talks or texts during a movie.
John Keefer, 51 Deep
Oh boy, this is quite the question. The kid in me would like Batman’s grappling-hook gun. The teenager in me wants the guitar case full of guns from the Mariachi series. The adult in me wants a Godzilla suit from late in the Showa era. And all three of them want to live in Del Toro’s “Bleak House” because I imagine all three of those things would be there. Anyone who could arrange that please email me.
Anne-Katrin Titze, Eye For Film
The first thing that came to mind when I read the question was an object that I really desired to own as a child. I remember watching George Cukor’s “Holiday” on TV at my grandparents. Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant have a marvelous time in the Seton playroom and my five-year-old self became obsessed with the toy giraffe. I can’t think of any prop ever since that I wanted so fervently.
Jason Shawhan, The Nashville Scene, Interface 2037
The Omegahedron (including the Coffer of Shadow) from “Supergirl.” That’s the kind of movie prop to be tastefully displayed in one’s parlor just to observe people’s responses.
Scott Renshaw, Salt Lake City Weekly
I’ve never felt that attachment to the “stuff” of movies (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I’ve been to the Smithsonian and to the Great Movie Ride at Disney World and to Universal Studios, and nodded politely at seeing dresses or shoes or what-have-you that played a role in some cinematic classic. But for me, the props aren’t the magic, even by connection to some of my favorite movies. The work itself is the magic. So when the auction rolls around, you’ll have one less competitor for the goodies.