Freeheld stumbles over too many hurdles to recommend it. The film’s heart is in the right place, but its focus is not.
Q. Regarding your recent Answer Man item on interspecies dating in Disney cartoons: I'm sure I won't be the first to point out that while Disney tends to keep things pretty strict, over at Warner Bros., it's "Toons Gone Wild."
Consider Bugs Bunny's transvestite dalliances with the all-too-human Elmer Fudd -- not only interspecies, but same sex! They even got married, for the sake of opera, in "What's Opera, Doc?"
And of course, the great Pepe Le Pew, a skunk who more than once danced off with a feline female at the end of the short (of course, she usually had a bad head cold at the time.) It may not have been as family friendly, but it was a lot more fun, in my book. Ken Bearden, Wyandotte, Mich.
A. In turning to Leonard Maltin for an expert answer, I specified only Disney films. At Warner Bros., as the late and great Chuck Jones used to say, they got away with murder.
Q. You and Leonard Maltin both neglected to mention that in a series of Goofy shorts from the 1950s, Goof lived in blissful domesticity with a human wife. I suppose you could argue that Goofy is exempt from discussions of interspecies romance considering that we still don't know what species he is, but I thinks he qualifies, and your reader thought so too. Also, don't forget about the most famous interspecies couple in American history, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Stephen Silver, New York City
A. I've always thought of Kermit and Miss Piggy as just very, very good friends.
Q. I've read your review of "What the #$*! Do We Know?," a film that attempts to explain some of the more interesting aspects of quantum physics. These explanations are given by what you describe as "experts" in the field.
I am a professor of physics at the University of Massachusetts, doing research in the field of experimental particle physics. I glanced at the cast names and did not recognize any of them as leading names in the field of theoretical particle physics or cosmology. I even searched for their names using the search engine of the High Energy Physics database, which references authors of papers appearing in the leading journals of the field. Nothing came up.
I suspect that the persons appearing in the film are not physicists who have a rigorous training in the very mathematical and non-metaphysical theory of quantum mechanics. If this is indeed the case, then I warn you that the content of the film may have little or nothing to do with the actual theory of quantum mechanics. Carlo Dallapiccola, Amherst, Mass.
A. Since the expert who made the most sense to me was JZ Knight, who claims to be channeling Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old mystical sage from the lost continent of Atlantis, this does not come as a shock.
Q. I recently saw a film at a drive-in theater in Tucson which I had already seen in a "regular" theater. OK, I'll admit it was "Alien vs. Predator." At the drive-in, I noticed that the film was a LOT darker than it had been previously. Since it takes place 2,000 feet underground in an abandoned pyramid, it is already a dark film, and the added darkness made it incomprehensible at certain points.
You've discussed the problem of under-lit films before. Could this problem be even worse at drive-in theaters? After all, with fewer tickets being sold, the theater managers have less incentive to provide quality cinematic displays. David O'Brien, Redwood City, Calif.
A. It's not a problem limited to any kind of theater, but caused by shortsighted, greedy, stupid management. Many theater owners continue to believe that if they turn down the power of the expensive projector bulb, the bulb's life span will be lengthened.
As the Answer Man has tirelessly explained, this is not true. The only result is that moviegoers see a dim and washed-out picture, and have little reason to return to that theater again.
Martin Scorsese has been especially active in sending assistants with light meters to theaters, to measure the actual strength of the light falling on the screen. Some films are legitimately dark, such as his own classic "Taxi Driver," but you cannot appreciate the play of light and shadow if a dimmed bulb obscures everything.
Q. Who are some of your favorite new directors from the '80s up? Some of mine are Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Joel Coen, Kevin Smith, Tim Burton, Spike Jonze and Martin Scorsese -- whoops, Scorsese isn't new. Jeff Paxton, Chicago
A. Scorsese will always be new for me. Here at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival, I've been reminded of some of the most creative directors of very recent years, including David Gordon Green, whose "Undertow" is as good as his great "George Washington"; Todd Solondz, whose "Palindromes" is likely to be one of the year's most contentious films; Alexander Payne, whose "Sideways" takes the buddy movie and rotates it into a funny, touching consideration of the loneliness of single men, and Lodge Kerrigan, whose "Keane" is another of his films about people living at the edge of sanity and hanging on for dear life.
Q. You are a fan of the work of Ingmar Bergman. According to his biography on imdb.com, he retired from directing in May 2004. How did this make you feel? Joey Laura, New Orleans
A. Grateful for his work, and aware that he is one of those rare people who can retire knowing he achieved what he set out to achieve and did it brilliantly, and it will endure.
A. For the source of last resort, please check out Facets Multimedia (www.facets.org), which has the nation's largest catalog of videos, including obscure or rare ones.
Q. I just wanted to thank you for bringing to my attention the word "barmy" by using it twice (in the reviews of "Anacondas" and "Danny Deckchair").
It has now joined "meretricious," "lubricious" and several other wonderful-sounding words I might not have run across outside your reviews. Another is "fragrant," used as a quick way to communicate that a character is a beautiful woman. Jake Cremins, New York City
A. "Fragrant" was first used in that sense by a British judge smitten by the wife of a defendant charged with adultery. How could the husband possibly cheat on such a woman, asked the judge: "Is she not fragrant?"
Currently, I am working to popularize labyrinthine, tumescent and rumpy-pumpy.
A note from the Answer Man: I still have no follow-up information on Daryl Enfield, the "Before Sunrise" victim I wrote about in the previous column. I keep looking hopefully in the daily mailbag at firstname.lastname@example.org, where so far all I have are helpful hints about conducting better online searches.
An interview with Michael Shannon on Freeheld, 99 Homes, Boardwalk Empire, and more.
Our monthly series digs into the career of Wes Craven and comes out with his 3D 2010 film, "My Soul to Take".
A comparison of Frank Costello in The Departed and Whitey Bulger in Black Mass reveals weaknesses in the latter.
A letter to Angelina Jolie about the casting of her upcoming take on "Cleopatra."