The most surprising thing about "The Martian" is how relaxed and funny it is.
Q. Is it my imagination, or are the numbers of producers credited per film on the rise? "Michael," for example, has no less than 10 producers, executive producers, and associate producers listed. Similarly, "Jerry Maguire" credits 8 such people. What gives? (Jonas Grant, Van Nuys, CA)
A. Some kind of producer credit is now a perk written into the contracts of agents, managers and lawyers, especially those associated with big stars who have the clout to say, "give my guy a credit." The "real" credits include "executive producer" (the person who raised some or all of the money), "line producer" (who cracked the whip and ran the physical side of the show) and just plain "producer." One way to tell a real producer from a perk producer is that the perk producer can be heard halfway across the cigar store saying, "I produced the new John Travolta/Tom Cruise/Mel Gibson picture." Real producers are usually too proud to say that, or too powerful to need to.
Q. Sometimes when I attend a movie or watch a video, the running time does not seem to match the time listed in the paper or on the video box. How do they count running time? Who does it? (Ronnie Barzell, Los Angeles)
A. The studios include a running time in the press kits that accompany movies. But the trade papers run their own stopwatches. Recently I sat near Variety film critic Leonard Klady during a screening of "Turbulence." According to the distributors, the movie was 103 minutes long, but Klady clocked it at 100. He said Variety's guidelines require timing a movie from the start of the opening logo (in this case, the MGM lion) until the fade out after the last credit.
Q. I recently saw your show with the Viewers Thumb segment by a young boy who looked about 10 years old, and complained that he saw "Hoop Dreams," felt it was boring, and wanted more basketball action. This opinion is typical of kids and teens around the world. With TV and flashy ad campaigns for big budget films like "ID4," kids will get bored if the film expects them to think. I am 18. A lot of my peers think "Tommy Boy" and "Billy Madison" are two of the best films ever made. It's hard to convince anyone my age that this guy named John Ford made some good movies. Any words of encouragement or suggestion would be great. (Peter Eskelsen, Redmond, Washighton)
A. You don't need encouragement; you're obviously already on the right track. My only suggestion would be, find a peer group that can keep up with you.
Q. The newspaper ad for "Mars Attacks!" consists of multiple one-word reviews, probably all taken out of context, such as "Wild!" "Hilarious!", and "Outrageous!" One of them, "Funny!," is attributed to "Siskel & Ebert." Funny, but I thought Gene liked it but you gave it thumbs down. (Rhys Southan, Richardson, TX)
A. Funnily enough, on the show in question, the word "funny" was used five times: Three times by Siskel, who thought it was funny, and twice by me, who thought it was not. I complained to the studio, and they rewrote the ad to attribute the quote to Siskel, thus giving credit (or, in this case, blame) where due.
Q. I saw "Beavis & Butt-head Do America" and noticed most of the dubbed voices were not credited. Reportedly some of the dubbers were famous friends of the filmmaker, Mike Judge. Can you confirm this? (Charlie Smith, Chicago)
A. Aaron Barnhart of Evanston, who produces the Late Show News netzine, wrote in a recent issue: "Sharp-eyed moviegoer Collin Cannaday reports that the voice of 'Motley Crue Roadie #1' in the new major motion picture, 'Beavis and Butt-head Do America,' is supplied by none other than 'Earl Hofert,' aka David Letterman, who just might be the number-one fan of the toonful twosome. Letterman's 1994 cameo in 'Cabin Boy' was also attributed to 'Hofert,' which happens to be the name of one of his Indiana uncles."
Q. Why does the Hollywood "left" seem to constantly espouse filth and crap produced by people like Larry Flynt as "protected" under the First Amendment, but then show up on shows like "Politically Incorrect" and state firmly that people like Rush Limbaugh, Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, etc, should be "shut up?" (Greg Barnard, Nashville, TN)
A. I think they suggested they "shut up," not BE shut up. Conservatives and liberals alike should hail Flynt's Supreme Court victory--since if the case had been decided against him, such shows as "Politically Incorrect" and "Rush Limbaugh" might well be off the air. Supporting Flynt's right to expression is not the same as endorsing the content of his magazines.
Q. You suggested that Steven Spielberg, who brought Clark Gable's Oscar for $550,000 and then donated it to the Motion Picture Academy as a gesture against the selling of Oscars, may in fact have helped establish a lucrative market for additional sales. However, as I'm sure you recognize, just because Clark Gable's Oscar sold for more than $500,000 doesn't mean that any other Oscar (or, at least, most Oscars) would sell for anywhere near that amount. (Evan Zucher, San Diego, California).
A. True. What would you take for yours? $50,000? $10,000? Actually, I think there's nothing wrong with selling an Oscar, should you be lucky enough to have one. In an industry that sees nothing wrong with spending $500,000 on a campaign to win an Oscar, what moral principle is being defended here?
Q. In your re-review of "The Wizard of Oz," you wrote, "The special effects are glorious in that old Hollywood way, in which you don't even have to look closely to see where the set ends and the backdrop begins. Modern special effects show (italics) exactly how imaginary scenes might look; effects then showed how we (italics) thought about them." I think this is a really important point. There is something to be said for that old Hollywood way of creating special effects that we "know" are special effects but still suspend our disbelief (maybe we should say, "sustain our belief"). Recently the goal has been to make things more and more precisely "real." There was some kind of visual "fuzzy logic" to those earlier Hollywood effects that seems just fine. Heck, some of the early process shots are wonderful, and create a world all their own that seems just as believable as the latest high-tech stuff. (Tom Norris, Braintree, MA)
A. I wonder if the "digitally enhanced" new version of "Star Wars," arriving on Jan. 31, will be more or less fun. "King Kong" has effects that look crude by today's standards, but there is an aura about them; in a sense, they're scarier because they're more primitive.
Q. I hatehatehate people who walk out of movies because "they're bored" or "they don't understand it." The only time you should walk out is if: (a) the quality of the print being shown is unwatchable--in which case you demand your money back; (b) you've left the door open, not put the alarm on, left the stove on, etc.; (c) the film being shown is morally sickening and you don't want to waste your time with filth; or (d) you've fallen asleep and you want to watch the film properly--and intend to come back another time. (Ian Mantgani, Liverpool, England)
A. Don't forget (e) it stars Paulie Shore.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
An interview with Michael Shannon on Freeheld, 99 Homes, Boardwalk Empire, and more.
A comparison of Frank Costello in The Departed and Whitey Bulger in Black Mass reveals weaknesses in the latter.
A FFC review of "The Look of Silence."