Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature in five years is a mysterious and alienating series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity.
Q. Thank you for your heads-up regarding Rod Lurie's "Nothing But the Truth," but I have to cringe in anticipation of Kate Beckinsale's character. If she is indeed meant to be [New York Times reporter] Judith Miller, I dearly hope she is not portrayed as some saintly, sympathetic figure. The real Miller carried so much water for Bush's attack on Iraq that some of us may never forgive her. I hope her role in the rush to war is not forgotten in the examination she may get from this movie. Bob Koelle, Wilmington, Del.
A. "Nothing But the Truth" is a powerful film that has not yet been released for tangled reasons having to do with the Hollywood economic crisis. It portrays Miller in a generally favorable light, but is not about Iraq, on which I suspect Lurie agrees with you. It deals specifically with the fact that she indeed went to prison rather than reveal her sources as a journalist.
Q. I have not seen "Taken," but I would like to briefly comment on your assertion that if CIA agents were as skilled as the Liam Neeson character, bin Laden would have been in custody in September 2001. On an episode of "60 Minutes" from a few months ago when they interviewed a Delta Force Commander, he said he and his troops have twice been within 300 yards or less of bin Laden, only to have their operation impaired by the "forces that be" of their supposed Afghan escort. I submit there has been no sincere effort to capture or kill bin Laden. James B. Bolen, Memphis, Tenn.
A. Did the Afghan "impairment" involve threats of violence? There's a scandal here.
Q. I would like to lodge a formal complaint against you for your deceptive review of "The Wrestler." You should be forced to paper-cut Mickey Rourke with a 30-pound printout of your review. You have given a slew of misguiding four-star reviews. Exhibits A-C this year alone are "In Bruges," "The Dark Knight" and "Taxi to the Dark Side."
But "The Wrestler" is worse. 'Tis a siren among songbirds. A grizzly among goldfish. It is not permissible for an Ebert review to segregate a brilliant "acting" performance from the underlying ocean of cliched compost. How did it come to pass that you gave a perfect score to a horse-poopy film based on Mickey playing Rourke? Mr. Ebert, thou hadst erred. Helga Mohammed el-Salami, Beverly Hills, Calif.
A. I have self-administered 100 lashes with a wet noodle.
Q. Do you agree with the Film Threat comment that kids should watch "Let the Right One In"? On a base level, the supposed heroes of our story are vengeful, violent kids. Don't you think more children will come away from this thinking extreme acts of violence are OK? Do you really want little girls finding a new hero in Eli? I found the movie a bit troubling and can't say that I'd recommend ANY parents showing it to their tweens or teens. Kevin Mendonca, Hollywood, Calif.
A. For kids, no. For teenagers, it depends on their level of maturity. If nothing else, the movie provides a real cinematic experience in contrast to the fantasy of "Twilight."
Q. Your "Benjamin Button" review observes that fiction, generally, should have a "forward flow" for time (flashbacks and forwards notwithstanding). As an exception to this, might I suggest Martin Amis' novel Time's Arrow? While the focus of his story differs from the (F. Scott) Fitzgerald and film versions of "Button," it does consistently show the flow of time backward and, in my opinion, works well. Paul D'Amboise, St. Hubert, Quebec
A. If you didn't believe or "know" that time flowed forward, could you distinguish it from backward time? If a participant saw one of his tasks coming undone (a painting unpainting itself, for example), would it seem subjectively to him that he had painted it first? We assume time flows from past to future, but physicists assure us that it's relative. When the universe finishes expanding, maybe time flips, and it flows backward to its beginnings. Stop me before I start babbling.
Q. Like most people, I knew the CGI in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was groundbreaking, but I had no idea of the extent of the achievement. Aside from one brief appearance in an early scene, the real Brad Pitt literally does not appear in the first 52 minutes. Even experienced CGI artists are impressed by this milestone achievement. While I personally think "Benjamin Button" is somewhat overrated, it will be scandalous if it does not win Oscars for FX and makeup.
Regarding the widely reported similarities between his screenplays for "Forrest Gump" and "Benjamin Button," it's obvious that Eric Roth has been creatively lazy, but he's also deviously clever: After all, if he sues himself for plagiarism, he wins either way. Jeff Shannon, Seattle
A. Of course Brad Pitt had to do enormous amounts of acting and body movement to provide a baseline for the CGI, and that is thankless but skilled work. And Roth had to write "Forrest Gump" as a baseline for "Button."
Q. Am I alone in thinking that in recent years the Internet Movie Database voting system has been skewing its Top 250 list to the relative detriment of the world's great classic films? Specifically, and to be blunt, I'm talking about what seems to be ballot stuffing on the part of a predominantly buzz-motivated teen population for certain fashionable fanboy films.
Short of scrapping the voting system altogether, I wonder if it wouldn't be more fair for the IMDb to begin an entirely new count and then put a moratorium on the polling of any new film for, say, at least one year from its release date. By keeping any candidate beyond the Academy Awards' marketeering season would mitigate the temporal zeal and level the playing field somewhat. "Casablanca" had to wait and work to build its reputation. Why shouldn't "Wall-E"? I have doubt the IMDb will act on this as the all-American obsession with "the best of tops" is firmly part of their bread and butter, but perhaps with a petition, we could move the gods. Soren Rasmussen, Paris
A. Keith Simanton, IMDb's managing editor, replies: "Our Top 250, as voted by users, is just that, a list of the Top 250 films as voted on by our users. It's not a classic (ah, there's a subjective term!) list by any measure, nor is it a critic's list. We leave that to the professionals.
"We do get bouts of irrational exuberance for some titles. I rather like it and find it analogous to my own experience. I've often felt more fondly about a film upon leaving the theater than my tempered opinion of it as the weeks and months pass. Our "this too shall pass" approach has proved itself out as this inflation value of the new is not a recent phenomenon. In 1991, "Beauty and the Beast" was the No. 1 title on the Top 250 and now it's not even in the chart; great movie though it is, things do tend to balance out over time.
"At any moment there are always some recent titles in the list but they do find their level eventually. Some of them even continue to maintain a high level, one I personally would not have accorded them. We do appreciate the suggestion, however, as we're always looking for ways to improve the service, and this kicked off a great internal debate."
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A new look at the role of hero and villain in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner."
Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."
An appreciation of the actor's perseverance through age 63 despite depression.