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American Sniper

American Sniper proves the dictum “never count an auteur out” by proving itself as Eastwood’s strongest directorial effort since 2009's underrated Invictus pretty much right…

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The Interview

Opportunities at rich satire flatten out into Hangover dude-dope-doodoo jokes, where the premise is that there’s nothing funnier than watching over-privileged grown men act out…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Movie Answer Man (02/23/2003)

Q. The Hollywood Reporter said on 1/29 that "The Hours" was disqualified in the Best Makeup category because of a technicality--some digital work had been done on Kidman's prosthetic nose. What the heck does that actually mean? What did they DO to the schnozz? And why would they NEED to do it? You hear about an actor's hairlines being filled in digitally, but what could it mean for a nose? Why didn't they simply make the prosthetic the way they wanted it to look in the first place? (Mary Jo Kaplan, New York NY)

A. I'm told: It's not so much a question of creating Virginia Woolf's distinctive nose as of making it look absolutely realistic in big-screen color closeups. If it didn't look right in post-production scrutiny, it was too late to re-shoot the scenes, but not too late to make subtle digital improvements.

Q. I think Meryl Streep is great, but the articles that came out after the nominations for Oscar are technically wrong. They claim Streep has passed Katherine Hepburn in total number of nominations. In general, yes. But two of Streep's nominations are for supporting actress, leaving her with 11 for lead actress. All of Hepburn's are for lead actress; none for supporting. that leaves Hepburn with 12 and Streep with 11 in the lead category. I know it is a small point. (Myron Heaton, Las Vegas NV)

A. But not an invisible one.

Q. You mentioned in your Oscar nominations write-up that the nomination for Donald Kaufman for co-authoring "Adaptation's" screenplay was the first time the academy knowingly nominated a fictitious personality. This is actually the second time this has happened, the first being Roderick Jaynes' nomination as editor for "Fargo." Jaynes is of course a pseudonym used by both Joel and Ethan Coen. (Rhett Miller, Calgary Alberta)

A. A key distinction is that Joel and Ethan Coen both actually exist.

Q. I recently took my 10-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter to see "Citizen Kane," which they loved. They were unnaturally alert during the scene in which Kane throws a party celebrating the hiring of talented reporters from his rival newspaper, and trots out a line of chorus girls. Whereupon everyone bursts into a song, "There is a man, a certain man..." After a few lines, my kids were mouthing the words. I was incredulous until they told me these were the lyrics to a song by the White Stripes, "The Union Forever," on the hit album "White Blood Cells." While the tune is utterly different, the lyrics are exactly those in the film and they are bracketed by other significant lines from the "Kane" script. Yet the CD liner copy reads, "All songs written and performed by the White Stripes." "Citizen Kane" is neither mentioned nor credited. Is this flagrant, unpunished plagiarism, or did Jack and Meg White receive special dispensation from the Orson Welles estate? (Phil Freshman, St. Louis Park, MN)

A. Early in the White Stripes song, the lyrics say "sure I'm C.F.K.," which would be Charles Foster Kane. Later this dialogue is quoted from the screenplay: "I'm not interested in gold mines, oil wells, shipping, or real estate." (In the movie Kane adds, "I think I might like to run a newspaper.") The song then quotes more dialogue by Kane: "What would I liked to have been? Everything you hate." Here are some of the purloined lyrics:

Q. Maybe the MPAA is finally getting things right. In today's Boston Globe they gave "How to Lose a Guy tn 10 Days," a PG-13 rating for "profanity, sexual situations, karaoke." I don't mind my kids hearing a little tasteful cussing, but karaoke? Never. (Jose Dundee, Boston MA)

A. The official MPAA site mentions only "some sex-related material." Doesn't even discuss the type of microphone used.

Q. It is generally acknowledged that the character of "Z-Man" in your script of "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is based (loosely, I presume) on Phil Spector. Have you given any thought concerning the violent conclusion of the film given the recent events in Spector's life? I know it is a morbid question but hey, I'm a morbid chap. (James Boswell, Wollongong, Australia NSW)

A. "Inspired by uninformed and feverish fantasies about Phil Spector" would be more accurate, since neither Russ Meyer nor myself ever met Spector or knew any more about him than your average music fan. Speculation on the morbid parallels I will leave to morbid chaps like you.

Q. What is the shortest review you've ever written? (Chris Phillips, Los Angeles CA)

A. I don't know. But I know the shortest movie review of all time. "I Am a Camera" on both stage and screen inspired the review "Me no Leica," which has been attributed to John Collier, Kenneth Tynan and others.

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