"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.
Q: If Cate Blanchett were to win the Oscar for her portrayal of Elizabeth I at next year's Oscars, would Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II give her the Oscar? And do you think the actual Queen Elizabeth will be watching the Oscars just to see such an event? Kathryn Boussemart,Washington, D.C.
A. I think the show comes on too late for Her Majesty. In any event, the best actress award is usually given by the previous year's best actor. If Blanchett were to win for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," that would mean she'd receive the award from Forest Whitaker. He won for "The Last King of Scotland." I hope he doesn't hold the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots against her.
Q. I was surprised by Francis Ford Coppola's accusation that De Niro, Pacino and Nicholson have all become professionally and artistically lazy. "I don't feel that kind of passion to do a role and be great coming from those guys, because if it was, they would do it!" Coppola says in the October issue of GQ. If nothing else, haven't these particular actors painted more than their fair share of the cinematic landscape? Jimmy Jacobs, Columbia, S.C.
A. I think you could say so. In the 10 years since Coppola last directed a movie, the three actors have collectively worked in 62 films. But I learn through Movie City News that Coppola believes he was misquoted. "I was astonished because it wasn't true, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for them," Coppola told the International Herald Tribune. "These are the three greatest actors in the world today, and they are my friends. So I have nothing but affection for them."
To which David Poland of Movie City News footnotes: "A nice opportunity for GQ to put the full transcript online?"
Q. Re your review of "30 Days of Night": The town in Alaska is named Barrow, not Barlow. Kristi Kingery, Killeen, Texas
A. So that explains why Google hadn't heard of it! I have now located it on a Google map. Just for fun, ask for "driving instructions" from Barrow to anywhere.
Q. When I recently saw some of the great Coen Brothers films again (like "Blood Simple," "Fargo," "The Big Lebowski" and "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001)), I was fascinated by their ability to mix elements of classic film noir with their own idiosyncrasies. The constituents of film noir (the atmospheric photography, the labyrinthine plots, the femme fatale, the anti-hero) seem to be appropriate and popular at almost any time in almost any genre in movie history. Do you think "film noir" is a self-contained genre or should it rather be defined as a special mood or technique? Oliver Hahm, Siegen, Germany
A. The genre is defined by mood, look, story and characters. Classic film noir can be dated to any time before the French gave a name to the genre, in the 1950s. Modern film noir is by definition more self-aware, but can be played very straight ("Red Rock West," "Chinatown") as well as with an angle ("House of Games," "After Hours"). Good place for rental ideas: Noiroftheweek.blogspot.com.
Q. A wide range of common (probably royalty-free) sounds can turn up in movies. One I've heard a lot is what I call the "Transfusion Crash." The first time I heard it was on the 1956 novelty record "Transfusion" by Nervous Norvus. Each lyric of the song was punctuated by the sound effect of a few seconds of screeching tires, cut off by a split-second, higher-pitched squeal before the sound of the actual crash. It's from the "Standard Sound Effects Library" owned by many radio stations in the '50s. Mark McDermott, Park Forest
A. Brian Hagan of Boonton, N.J., adds: "In addition to the other stock sound clips you are collecting, there is a stock "hospital page" that appears in countless movies, TV shows and soap operas. It's 'Paging Dr. Hamilton. Dr. Jay Hamilton. ...' "
By the way, there are hilarious compilations of the famed Wilhelm Scream on YouTube.com. Search by scream.
Q. The latest Facets Movie Lovers DVD Guide has a fascinating section where more than 100 movie-industry people, including many great directors, list 10 films about which they are passionate. I'm familiar with most of the listed films. There seemed to be a direct correlation between the types of films that the directors listed and the types of films that they create themselves.
For example, those who named films that make you think, such as the works of Bergman, Ozu, Renoir and Bresson, tended to make films that also make you think. On the other hand, those who cited films that are basically entertainment tended to create that type of film as well. Do you agree? Robert Simanski, Sterling, Va.
A. Facets Multimedia has the world's largest inventory of hard-to-find videos, as well as all the usual ones, and its catalogs are works of art. What surprised me was how some relatively unexpected pairings turned up: "The Bad News Bears" (Ethan Coen), "Cane Toads" (Werner Herzog), "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" (Takeshi Kitano), "The Fountainhead" (Jerry Lewis), "Last Year at Marienbad" (Michael Mann), "Auntie Mame" (Camille Paglia), "Trainspotting" (E. Annie Proulx) and "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" (1995) (John Waters). More info at facets.org.
Q. It seems that your reviews since your return from illness are "nicer." Are you viewing life and films differently now? I can't remember ever seeing so many three- to four-star reviews from you, week after week, as I have in the past few months. Or do you think that movies are just getting better? What has changed, you or the quality of the films? Garry Hasara, Tampa, Fla.
A. Maybe I'm just so happy to be writing reviews. Or maybe several other factors are at work: (1) Oscar season began in September, and autumn movies are traditionally superior to those of other seasons, (2) I no longer automatically review virtually every movie released and so tend to choose the ones that seem more interesting, (3) distributors have stopped screening most horror films for critics, (4) I enjoy calling attention to less-known indie films and tend to choose those I like, and (5) when I double back to review a movie that I missed earlier, of course I don't go looking for lousy ones.
Q. In "Michael Clayton," what was the significance of the three horses in the field, and how did Michael Clayton happen to stop his car there? Trish McDonald, Cincinnati
A. Weary and depressed, I think he simply saw the horses and wanted to stop and breathe some fresh air. No symbolism. Good timing, though.
Q. After seeing the title of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," I no longer had any desire to see this film, although I am sure it is worth watching. This title for this movie apparently gives away the outcome of its most climactic sequence. Following this logic, "The Sixth Sense" should have been titled "Bruce Willis Is a Ghost." Why did the producers think it best to reveal the outcome of "Jesse James" in its title? Brian A. Peterson, Peoria
A. Dunno. For a sequel, they're planning "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln by the Coward John Wilkes Booth." Who would ever attend a movie about Jesse James or Abraham Lincoln except to find out who killed them?
Q. I really wish people would stop saying that Al Gore has won an Oscar. I admire Gore and am delighted that he has received a Nobel Prize, but he has no Academy Award on his mantel to put it beside. Though he was the host of "An Inconvenient Truth," the Academy Award is given to the director. Gore is as much the winner of the award as Muhammad Ali was for "When We Were Kings." Johnathan Dunbar, New York City
A. Correct. The Oscar went to director Davis Guggenheim.
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