The most surprising thing about "The Martian" is how relaxed and funny it is.
Q: Much as Annette Bening may like to take credit for being the model for the Columbia Pictures logo, as you reported in quoting her recently, it simply isn't true. A story about the "Columbia Pictures Lady" portrait by Doug McCash, art critic for the New Orleans Times Picayune, reports that Bening's claim "was interesting news to the French Quarter artist who painted it and the former New Orleanian who modeled for it." A retraction would be appreciated. Brian Flores, New Orleans
A: Quite so. But in fairness to Annette Bening, she didn't volunteer the information; I asked her, and she said that so she had been told. Doug McCash put me in touch with the artist Michael Deas, then of New Orleans, now of New York, who sent me a photograph of his actual model, writing me: "I am the illustrator who in 1992 painted the latest version the Columbia Pictures logo. I am troubled by recent claims by the actress Annette Bening that she was the inspiration for my painting. But I have never met Annette Bening, nor have I ever spoken to her.
"While Ms. Bening is a talented actress, she was not the model for my Columbia Pictures lady. The actual model is Jenny Joseph, a homemaker and mother of two children now living in the Houston area. She was an exceptionally gracious and unassuming model, and received very little compensation for her work in 1992. The face of the Columbia lady is perhaps one of the most famous in the world ... and it happens to belong to Ms. Jenny Joseph."
Jenny Joseph, the artist's model for the Columbia Pictures logo, in a photo taken in the artist's studio in 1992. Photo by Kathy Anderson
Doug McCash's story quotes the model: "These days, Jenny Joseph is a Houston muralist and mother of two. She is bemused by Bening's recent appropriation of her moment in the sun. 'When I go to the movies, I get my 15 minutes of fame,' she said. 'The kids get a kick out of it.'"
Q. I remember reading in one of your reviews of the late '90s that you felt Chris Rock should be considered as a host for the Oscars. It seems that you have prophetic insight! What do you think of the current news that Rock will host the upcoming awards ceremony? Ben McMaster, Sunshine Coast, Australia
A. I feel vindicated. I've been suggesting him for years. He's quick, he has an instinct for the comic angle, and like Billy Crystal, he can think on his feet.
Q. Re: Rodney Dangerfield and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences: I heard that dipsticks at the academy later decided that Mr. Dangerfield was in fact amusing, and offered him a membership. Mr. Dangerfield declined, being the dignified class act he was (not counting "Meet Wally Sparks").
Another thing: In your review of "Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear and Selling the American Empire," you drew an analogy of Larry punching Curly, who retaliates by punching Moe. Ignoring any comments on the aptness of your observation, even the most casual Stooge observer knows that Moe initiated the punches, pokes, slaps and eye gouges. To the extent that punches traveled down the line, it would be Moe punching Larry, who then punched Curly (or Shemp -- nobody cares about Curly Joe). May you forget to place your open hand against your forehead on the next two finger eye poke. Bill Abendroth, Portland, Ore.
A. You are right about the Stooges, who I may not have studied as carefully as I should have.
As for Rodney Dangerfield not becoming a member of the academy, Bruce Davis, executive director of the Motion Picture Academy, tells me:
"Dangerfield was proposed at one point for membership, but was not one of the candidates accepted that year by the committee of actors who make the decisions for the Actors' Branch. It's not at all unusual for candidates not to be accepted on their first trip to the plate, but Mr. Dangerfield evidently took the news badly, a somewhat surprising reaction for a man who built a career out of the lack of respect the world paid him. In any case, he was re-proposed at the next meeting and accepted. He never responded to the invitation, though, so he was never on our roster."
Q. I was touched to read your recent column on Daryl Enfield and his "Before Sunrise" story. Since then, I've had a few "Before Sunrise" experiences myself. It's amazing how much I can open up in an encounter in a foreign land with a woman I've never met before. It may be that you feel no inhibitions about baring your soul, because you are fairly sure you won't ever meet this person again. I applaud the quest to find out what happened to Daryl.
As for me, I ended up marrying my "Before Sunrise" gal, who I met in China. You can see pictures from our wedding at: http://bryanchan.net/ Brian Nomi, Camarillo, Calif.
A. If I never receive a message like this from Daryl, at least I received one from you. Readers who came in late to this story can search for our man Daryl at rogerebert.com. By the way, I'm told by one of his old friends that the correct spelling is Elfield, not Enfield.
Q. I really enjoyed "Sky Captain," but I think I know why it failed at the box office. The sepia tone was fatal to the movie's success. Sometimes people who appreciate movies love a new style. Yet for the vast majority of people, a new innovative style distracts from the story line. Cal Ford, Corsicana, Texas
A. I wonder if you're correct. I thought the color was the perfect choice for the material, evoking as it did the rotogravure newspaper sections of the period, but of course no one under 40 has seen rotogravure, and wit and style can turn off slack-jawed action fans. I've been saying for years that black and white is more mysterious and evocative than color, but lots of people continue to "hate" it, little realizing how much that reveals about their taste.
Q. What's proper behavior for sharing the arm rest with a stranger next to you? Some people tend to commandeer the arm rest, and in those cases, I subtly assert myself by gradually reclaiming half of it back. Should people really be keeping their arms within the confines of their seats as defined by the arm rests? Tom Clark, Columbia, Md.
A. Once again I turned to my friend Dear Prudence, who writes the advice column for Slate.com, and once again Prudie offered counsel:
"Prudie is amused by the vision of reclaiming half an arm rest -- leaving both parties with the equivalent of a very narrow ledge on which to prop up an arm and assert territorial rights. This is one of those situations involving strangers where non-verbal communication comes into play. Your default position, no pun intended, is of course the way it's going to work out for the less aggressive arm-rester: arms within the confines of the seat.
"Perhaps being a non-confrontational wimp, whenever Prudie feels the neighbor's arm, she immediately retreats. Often, the other person will do the same thing. Sometimes there will be a silent agreement to alternate. Should the person be obstinate, you have no choice but to let it go ... either that, or take it out into the alley."
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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