A rough and unsparing film.
Q. In your review of "Ice Princess," you wrote, "The surprise is that Michelle Trachtenberg seems able to skate, too. That didn't look like a double on the ice, although Variety, the show-biz bible, reports, 'Four different skaters sub for Trachtenberg in the more difficult performances.'"
As you probably have heard by now, there WERE doubles, although I agree it really looked like the actress herself. How do you feel about the visual trickery? Susan Lake, Urbana
A: I would have been fooled if not for the information from Variety. Dennis Berardi of Mr. X Inc., in Toronto, produced the visual effects for the film, and writes me: "As one of the effects studios responsible for face replacement on the film, we're taking your words as a compliment. Miss Trachtenberg indeed demonstrated considerable natural skating ability during filming, and her talents provided the foundation for our studio's effects work. But Variety was correct. There were four different skaters who took the ice for Trachtenberg (Jennifer Robinson, Sandra Jean Rucker, Cassandre Van Bakel and Lauren Wilson), as well as extensive if invisible visual effects. Our studio was responsible for seamlessly replacing the faces of the stunt skaters with that of Miss Trachtenberg. Ultimately, the best effects are those that look so real that they cannot be seen. So, you actually paid our digital artists the ultimate compliment, by not recognizing their work."
Q. In "Ice Princess," Casey (Michelle Trachtenberg), discussing the science of skating, says "... by tucking in my arms, this will increase my moment of inertia and so I will spin faster." This is incorrect. Tucking in her arms decreases her moment of inertia and by conservation of angular momentum, she spins faster. All the fourth-grade students I have explained this phenomenon to will become horribly confused. Dave Kupperman, Oak Park
A. They're studying moments of inertia and conservation of angular momentum in fourth grade? When I was in grade school, we didn't even have them as spelling words.
Q. The Canadian release of the DVD "Finding Neverland" contains an advertisement for an American automobile manufacturer. It is bad enough that we must watch ads in the theaters, but now on DVD?
I've registered a complaint with the film company and the manufacturer but am not naive enough to believe it will have any effect. It would not be as bad if there were an ability to fast forward or skip the ad but that option is not available on this disc. J.W. Leman, Edmonton, Alberta
A. This is a new low. Advertising supports programming that I receive for free, on radio and television, and that's fine with me. But when I pay, I expect to see only what I have paid for. Ads in theaters are an abomination, hated by most of the moviegoers I talk to. To be locked into a compulsory viewing of an ad on a DVD, on top of the useless FBI warning that also cannot be skipped, is a new species of outrage. And years after that car is off the market, you'll still have to look at the ad, as it breeds continuing ill will for the manufacturer.
Q. I just rented the excellent John Malkovich-Dougray Scott thriller "Ripley's Game" and my question is, why didn't this ever show up in theaters? It's riveting, and the performances are brilliant. It's one thing for something awful to be relegated to video shelves, but this is a fine film featuring an Oscar-worthy turn by Malkovich, that earned a lengthy write-up in the New Yorker. It's the kind of class act that deserves a late-year Oscar run, not a quick turn onto the Blockbuster rack. J.D. Frankfort, Los Angeles
A. Richard Roeper and I admired "Ripley's Game" and reviewed it on the show, despite its straight-to-DVD status.
A week ago, my wife and I hosted a benefit for Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre at which the movie was shown and John Malkovich and producer Russell Smith discussed it.
This is a movie that would have made my Best 10 list, had it been released. Directed by Liliana Cavani ("The Night Porter"), it is a masterful evocation of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley character, more true to her vision than "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) and the equal of Rene Clement's great "Purple Noon" (1960). Smith said he thought the film fell through the cracks because New Line at the time was obsessed with "The Lord of the Rings." Internal studio politics also may have been involved.
Q. Can you shed some light on the conflict between the Directors Guild and Robert Rodriguez? More specifically, why does the DGA have its "one director, one film" policy -- and why could it not be relaxed for "Sin City," when it has been waived in other, seemingly similar situations (Coen brothers and other siblings; collaborative projects like "Four Rooms")? Laurie Morgan, Sacramento, Calif.
A. Rodriguez wanted to share directing credit with Frank Miller, author of the "Sin City" comic books, and with Quentin Tarantino, who directed one scene in the film. Told by the DGA he couldn't do that, he indeed asked about other teams, such as the Farrellys, the Hugheses and the Wachowskis, and was told they always worked as a team and joined as a team. Exceptions could not be made for individual films. At that point, he resigned from the DGA.
Q. Just watched the new trailer for the re-release of Godard's "Masculine-Feminine," the movie that makes the famous statement, "We are the children of Marx and Coca-Cola." The new trailer says it's a movie about Paris, sex and "the Pepsi Generation."
No children of Marx and Coca-Cola here. Then, at the end of the trailer there's a copyright notice for Pepsi -- followed by the statement that Paris and sex are still in the public domain. What is going on here? Did Coke forbid the mention of its product? If not, why would they substitute Pepsi? Jim Emerson, Seattle
A. Bruce Goldstein, of Film Forum and Rialto Pictures, replies: "The Pepsi disclaimer at the end of the trailer was a little joke of mine. No one asked us to add the copyright notice, nor does PepsiCo even know about it (maybe they will after reading your column). And there was no interference by the Coca-Cola company. Originally I tried working 'the Children of Coca-Cola' into the trailer, but felt it was too academic and a little off-putting. However, in the movie, Chantal Goya is asked if she's a member of 'the Pepsi Generation,' so it's a fair reference. (Her answer: 'J'adore Pepsi.')"
Q. I just read your article regarding "Volcanoes of the Deep," the IMAX movie that several IMAX theaters in the South have chosen not to run, most likely because the movie dares to mention the 'E' word (evolution).
My own local Fernbank Natural History Museum has chosen not to run it on their screen, saying not that there was a problem with the film's content, but because it was "slow-moving and a little dry." The film's maker, Stephen Low, says this is a cop-out, and these museums and science centers don't want to admit they're kowtowing to religious pressure. Steven Stewart, Atlanta
A. Now that the film has become the center of controversy, of course any self-respecting science museum will insist on showing it, to demonstrate its support for sound mainstream science and its refusal to cave in to pressure groups. Right? Uh-huh.
I have not seen the film, although I did see and admire James Cameron's "Aliens of the Deep," another recent IMAX film that also shows life under incredible conditions on the sea bed. Confusingly, Cameron was also executive producer of "Volcanoes."
Although different directors and crew members are listed for the two films, the Variety review of "Volcanoes" suggests it has much the same material, even including speculation about life on Jupiter's moon, Europa. "Volcanoes" was first released in September 2003; "Aliens" in January 2005.
It is important to make clear that the IMAX theaters that have declined to show "Volcanoes of the Deep" did not do so because of protests from anti-Darwinists, but simply because they feared such protests. Any administrator of a mainstream science facility allowing decisions to be made on that basis is a disgrace to the profession.