Dear White People
You could make a (film geek) party game out of guessing director Justin Simien's influences, but his vision seems to spring directly from what's up…
Q. What is the significance of the title in the movie, "Shine?" (Grace Jablow, Palm Springs, CA.)
A. "Shine," the story of the gifted pianist David Helfgott, who had an emotional breakdown and a slow recovery, is one of this year's top Oscar candidates, but the title bears no apparent relationship to the movie. Scott Hicks, its director, tells me: "I have a favorite piece of music from the 70's--Pink Floyd's 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond.' I hoped to use it in the film as the lyrics were so appropriate (being about Syd Barrett, founding member of Pink Floyd, who went off the rails and retired to the shadows very young). However, the cost was prohibitive. I told Jan Sardi, who wrote the screenplay, about the track, and he played it a lot during periods of waiting. When we were agonizing over a title, Jan (being a master of reduction) suggested 'Shine.' It seemed to convey the feeling of optimism and uplift that I had felt when I first saw David play, and which I wanted to share with the audience. During the title search we toyed with dozens of ideas. My first draft of the script was called 'Flight of the Bumblebee' for example. Later I tried 'The Piece for Elephants'(!) which was Rachmaninov's name for his Third Piano Concerto. But 'Shine' was destined to stick--thank goodness!"
Q. I saw Wes Craven's "Scream" last week. At the very end of the credits, it says, "No thanks whatsoever" to the school at which "Scream" was partially filmed. Did Craven and the school have a falling out? Or, was this an inside joke? I've never seen a movie with end credits saying NO THANKS! (Michael Hatch)
A. Janet Hill of Miramax tells me, "The Santa Rosa School District reneged on a verbal agreement to allow the production to school in that school. At the 11th hour, Craven had to find another location. The school in the movie was filmed at the Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma, CA." Robin Warder of the CompuServe Showbiz Forum adds: "What made Craven really mad was that the very week after, the same school allowed Ron Howard to film a movie there. Apparently, they were happier to accomodate Opie than the creator of Freddy Krueger!"
Q. I recently saw "Evita" at my local theater. The projectionist loaded two of the reels in reversed order, so that Eva Peron toured Europe and returned to start her foundation before she and Juan Peron were married and Peron was elected to the presidency! I alerted the manager to this, who told me I was the first to bring this to his attention after four days in the theater, so several hundred people saw a major portion of the film out of chronological order. What's disturbing to me is that they weren't sufficiently aware of this glitch to report the error. What does this say about the quality of the screenplay of this show, and (horrors!) the knowledge of history of those in the audience? I saw the movie on Saturday, told the manager on Monday, and went to see itagain Tuesday afternoon, and the problem still wasn't solved! Do you have any suggestions as to how I can convince the manager of the theater that I'm right and not just some crazy person? (Thomas P. Pusateri, Dubuque, Iowa)
A. I have no suggestions. Anyone who pays intelligent attention to the continuity and logic of a modern film is obviously deranged in some way.
Q. When I went to the Beavis and Butthead movie, I wasn't expecting them to be sitting in front of me. You may remember the scenes in which our erstwhile heroes are crawling through the desert, dying of thirst. Beavis takes that big bite of "cactus," and things start happening. Well, at that point, the two morons in front of me said (in stereo), "Dude, 'shrooms!" (Katherine Keller, Las Vegas, Nev.)
A. Heh, heh.
Q. Saw the trailer for "The Lost World," Spielberg's sequel to "Jurassic Park," and it had an in-theater gimmick I'd never seen before. As lightning flashes onscreen, lights in the back of the theater flash in sync. The flashing must be cued by inaudible signals on the digital soundtrack. I'm wondering if many theaters around the country have been set up with this little piece of showmanship. (Joseph Kaufman, Hollywood, CA.)
A. Spielberg expert Steven Sherman of Montreal replies: "There's a list of theaters that have been prepped for the special trailer on "The Lost World" home page, at www.lost-world.com. Is Spielberg trying to be William Castle (The Tingler) all of a sudden?"
Q. I ran across something in a recent Bill Gates column that I thought you'd enjoy. Gates writes, "It surprises me that movie studios can't spend, say, 10 percent of budget to create a trailer and then do focus groups to predict how popular the movie will be and whether production should continue. That must not work or somebody would have done it by now--but it stuns me that it doesn't." (Paul Kedrovsky, London, Ontario)
A. Trailers always feature the big stars and the most spectacular special effects (the White House being blown up, etc). Think of the cost of hiring stars and doing special effects only for a trailer! It would be much more than 10 percent; I think the trailer for "Mission: Impossible" showed every big scene in the movie. Would a Tom Cruise sign up to do a trailer on spec? Gates' statement goes a long way, however, toward explaining the methods of the software industry.
Q. In your review of "The Relic," you wrote: "Early in the film, Dr. Green tells Lt. D'Agosta about the tanks of chemicals they use to strip the flesh from rhino bones. Later in the film, she hides in such a tank herself, yet emerges with all her flesh." Actually, these tanks contained only water. (James Benson, Kaneville, IL)
A. I must have heard wrong. I thought they contained some kind of solvent, and then the beetles ate the remaining flesh. But you must be right; Dr. Green, played by Penelope Ann Miller, emerges with all her bones still wonderfully upholstered.
Q. Is "Michael Korda," the villain played by Michael Wingate in Eddie Murphy's "Metro," meant to be an inside reference to Michael Korda the famous New York publisher and author? (Charlie Smith, Chicago)
A. According to Thomas Carter, the director, "It is a coincidence that the names are the same. No inference was intended to link the publisher to the character." Besides, it's such a common name.
Q. I'd like to give you my nominee (early, I know) for worst film of the entire 1990's. It is "Weekend At Bernie's, Part II." As you recall, the original film was a comedy about a weekend party with a corpse which nobody notices is dead. My favorite aspect was that "Sunday" in the first film took place in 1987 and "Monday" in the second film happened around 1993. Andrew McCarthy especially didn't age too well overnight! I remember saying to my wife, "What happened to HIM?" (Jim Crossan, Columbia, South Carolina)
A. And he wasn't even the corpse.
Q. You will be delighted to know that "Jungle 2 Jungle," starring Tim Allen and Martin Short in an American remake of the French film "Little Indian, Big City," will be released on March 14. Since you selected "Little Indian" as one of the worst films of 1996, save space on the '97 worst list now. (Michael Dequina, Los Angeles)
A. Although remakes are usually inferior to the films that inspired them, no film could possibly be worse than "Little Indian, Big City," so I am cautiously optimistic.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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