Freeheld stumbles over too many hurdles to recommend it. The film’s heart is in the right place, but its focus is not.
Q. I've read enough of your writing to gather that you admire, or did admire at one time, the film "Pink Floyd - The Wall." This is one of my all-time favorite films, and you are my all-time favorite film writer. I've read enough of your reviews and commentary to pick up on multiple references to this film, always positive, but have never read your actual full length review of the film. I assume there must be one. Maybe there isn't. I can't find it on IMDb.com or your own website. Paul Apel
A. I did and do love it. I have no idea why I didn't review it at the time. It has been chosen for opening night of Ebertfest 2010, and between now and then I plan to write a Great Movie piece about it.
Q. Am I the only one that's noticed that the AMPAS has somehow managed to nominate Quentin Tarantino in the wrong category for Writing (Original Screenplay) for "Inglourious Basterds?" It was obviously based on Enzo G. Castellari's original 1978 Italian War film "Quel maledetto treno blindato" (translated as "That Damned Armored Train"), yet released in the United States as "Inglorious Bastards," and since he's never been shy about admitting his influences, shouldn't Tarantino technically have been nominated in the Writing (Adapted Screenplay) category? Tarantino even appears with Castellari on the original Bastards 3-disc DVD extras as part of an interview, discussing his admiration of Castellari, his original film. Kevin Fellman, Phoenix, AZ
A. Tarantino quotes, borrows from or pays homage to so many different films that the Academy could hardly list who he has "adapted." That said, his screenplay is an original, not least with the Tarantinian dialogue. It draws inspiration from earlier works, but sets out anew. Sort of the same relationship that the New Testament has with the Old Testament.
Q. In general I don't like activities done with irony, because it drips of hipsterness. I listen to the music I listen to because I like it, same with TV and film. I made an exception recently when I was compelled to go see "Old Dogs." Is it as bad as I've heard? It seems hysterically bad, so I just had to see it. I have to say it was worth making the exception. The movie's physics alone are worth the price of admission (at a discount theater mind you). Do you ever enjoy a film on that level, the so bad it's good level? Jim Bruce
A. "Stupefying dimwitted" was one of the descriptions I used in my review. Its physics? Are you referring to the strap-on rocket mount that drops Robin Williams in that pond in a shot repeated from four different angles? I believe in the concept of "so bad it's good," but "Old Dogs" was so bad it fell below that, to "so bad it's bad."
Q. You picked "Mississippi Burning" as your top film in 1988. What do you think about the movie in retrospect? Does it still hold up? It drew quite a bit of criticism at the time from some civil rights movement veterans as well as journalists. It may fascinate you to know that the movie played a role in the reopening of the real case, ending in the 2005 conviction of Edgar Ray Killen. Is this a movie we should show high school and college students? Jerry Mitchell
A. It was said, accurately, that the movie made the FBI look more proactive in civil rights investigations at that time than it really was under J. Edgar Hoover, whose enthusiasm for civil rights was limited. True. But the film itself remains a powerful story, a parable if you want. Its facts may not be accurate but its feelings are powerful and sound. And Gene Hackman and Francis McDormand have a scene together that is one of the best in either of the careers.
Q. Remember at the beginning of "The Player," Buck Henry is pitching a sequel to "The Graduate," because all the principals are still alive, etc? Here's one that makes sense: a sequel to "Body Heat." Again, all the principals are alive. The movie came out 29 years ago, and when we last left Ned Racine (William Hurt), he was facing double murder charges. And Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) was enjoying her millions on a beach somewhere. So, now he is being released, and, I'm imagining, he's pissed. Mike Spearns, St. Johns, Newfoundland
A. Promising, but simple. There needs to be a twist. Like, Matty joined Mother Theresa's order, and has devoted her life to good works. Ned still hates her, but when he sees those helpless little kids who depend on her, he sees a way to steal their endowment and pin it on her.
Q. I recently watched Pasolini's "Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom." I got tired of people telling me it was "the most disturbing movie ever made" and that I'd regret ever watching it and gouge my own eyes out to try and take away the memory but I'm sorry to say that none of that happened. Simply put, I don't think its THAT bad. Sure some of it is pretty hardcore (the nails in cake scene springs to mind) but nothing to "mess you up" as my friend said it would. It you've seen it, what are your thoughts? Qasim Hussain, Staffordshire UK
A. I've owned that movie since it came out on laserdisc and still haven't viewed it, because time and time again I was told it was unbelievably revolting. Not "horror movie revolting" but really revolting. Your question leads me to realize the time is now. Or one of these days soon, for sure...
Q. I just watched "Strange Days" for the first time and didn't know until the closing credits it was written, produced, edited, etc. by James Cameron (though directed by Kathryn Bigelow). Naturally, I was struck by the strong virtual reality concept it had in common with "Avatar." You gave "Strange Days" four stars back in the day. Any comment? David Zimmerman, Oklahoma City, OK
A. Cameron seems fascinated by the general theme of characters who control, or are controlled by, forces or methods outside their control. I frankly don't think he'd be interested in a straightforward human story. "Strange Days" is certainly a great film, and I don't understand why it didn't do better.
Q. In "Avatar," how does the good-guy hero mate with the female wookie (or whatever the hell they're called)? This is important stuff, Rog, like all those questions from readers in the back of old "Superman" comics, where they want to know how Superman's X-ray vision knows when to stop X-raying. Jeff Greenfield, New York City
A. Superman's X-ray vision only saw the specific things it needed to see. Like, he could see hostages locked in a bank vault by looking straight through three city blocks and still seeing the hostages with all their clothes on. I shouldn't have to be telling you, of all people, that this is easily explained on a quantum level.
As for sexual relations between humans and Na'vi, I have no idea, in the words of the old limerick, who would do what, and with which, and to whom. Since Na'vi are not mammals, they have no apparent need of mammary glands, but Cameron insisted that their females wear bras--and require them, if you follow me. I have speculated this was because the sight of Jake Scully smooching with a breastless Neytiri would inflame anti-gay crusaders.
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."