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Transcendence

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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 (03/12/2000)

Q. Here's an idea for the Oscar show presentation of "Blame Canada" that I only hope the Zanucks will attempt to realize. It could be the best "song" number since Isaac Hayes performed "Shaft!" It should begin with a solo by Anne Murray, who is joined, as the song builds, by other Canadian warblers, one by one: Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Gordon Lightfoot, and so on, until it reaches a Canadian crescendo. (Jim Emerson, Seattle, WA)

A. A brilliant idea. Alas, Entertainment Weekly reports that Anne Murray can't appear as she has a golf tournament that day. And we all know that a golf tournament is way more important and lots more fun than the Oscars. Here's my backup plan: John McDermott, the Irish-Canadian tenor from Toronto, should recruit his Three Irish Tenors stablemates and give the song the performance it deserves.

Q. How should Oscar-nominated songs judged? Should it be based on the song standing on its own as a song, or should the scene is accompanies be taken into account? I bring this up because I came close to crying while watching the "When She Loved Me" piece in "Toy Story 2." I've never made up my mind if it was the song, the images accompanying it, or the combination of the two, that caused that reaction. (Mark Reichert, St. Louis, Mo)

A. My guess is that songs that reinforce the emotional content of scenes have a better chance, because voters are more likely to remember them. My own choice would also be Randy Newman's "When She Loved Me."

Q. There has been considerable uproar over the slicing and dicing of "American Psycho" and I don't mean on the screen. As I live in a remote northern Canadian town I thought I would not get the opportunity to see this film before the studio was forced to make edits to satisfy the MPA

A. But it turns out the Canadian release of the film will be intact. Each province in Canada looks after its own film ratings and our most populous province, Ontario, has already rated the film "R" as it presently exists. How, in the era of free trade, can the MPAA justify an edited version showing in Detroit, Michigan while across the river in Windsor, Ontario the original cut is freely available? Do you think the MPAA would respond to pressure from studios or theatre owners if Americans along the US/Canada border boycotted the American release in favor of the original version showing in Canada? (Frank McCallum, Fort Vermilion, Alberta)

Q. The DVD version of Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" is indeed be the censored U.S. theatrical print, but the injustice to this underrated film doesn't stop there. Warner Bros., as per Kubrick's wishes, will not be releasing the film in widescreen format. This is the same practice used on the director's previous two films, "The Shining" and "Full Metal Jacket." All three films were shot in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the top and bottom of the film frame being "masked" for theatrical exhibition. When released to TV and video, the full frame of the film is visible, meaning the full width of the film is present, with a hair more information at the top and bottom than could be seen in theatres. All well and good, some might say, but the original theatrical composition is forever lost. Can anyone explain why a filmmaker as meticulous as Kubrick would not only allow but prefer such questionable video treatments of his films? (Louis Gutenberger, Reno NV)

A. Kubrick preferred his films to fill the video screen, and so he shot them with an eye to compositions that would look good both in theatrical wide screen and on the TV screen, where extra head and footroom is visible. "The framing on the full screen presentation looks perfectly balanced in every shot," says the hard-to-please Douglas Pratt in his DVD-LaserDisc Newsletter. The irony is that when wide-screen HDTV arrives, Warners will have to decide how to interpret Kubrick's wishes: Did he intend for the 1.33:1 composition to be centered in the wider screen?

Q. Re the Answer Man for February 27: As an old "Plan 9 from Outer Space" fan from way back, I can confirm that the music in the "Rear Window" trailer is indeed the main title music from Ed Wood's epic, although it's certainly not in "Rear Window" itself. This is not unprecedented: Back in 1988 when I reissued "The Manchurian Candidate," the malletheads in MGM/UA's marketing department simply took the original trailer, wiped the soundtrack, and laid in stock music--which was instantly recognizable from the original "Night of the Living Dead!" (Michael Schlesinger, Sony Classics, Culver City, CA)

A. You're lucky they didn't look at the title, decide it was a political campaign film, and lay in "Happy Days Are Here Again."

Q. I have and continue to build a nice library of VHS videos and am not really interested in DVD. Will I eventually be forced to go that route and invest in the equipment because I will find no one to repair my VCR, and VHS tapes will no longer be produced, etc.? I fear technology/the economy-machine is driving our choices and don't like it. Does one really have a good choice in this matter? (Donald J. Nevin, St. Paul MN)

A. VHS tapes will continue to prosper for the foreseeable future. The only immediate casualty of DVD is the laserdisc. But eventually DVD home recording machines will become available, and when they become affordable, VHS will fade away, because DVD picture quality is so much better. Personally, I like having the choice.

Q. I lost my passion and love for movies. How do I get it back? (Romolo Perriello, New York City)

A. Start all over again at the beginning. First Buster Keaton, then Chaplin, then you might be feeling good enough for the Marx Brothers. They made a movie with Marilyn Monroe...and by now, you're back in the swing.

Q. In both "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary," the Farrelly Brothers have used the name Mary as the main female character. Seeing that they have only made three major movies, and "Mary" is in two, is this a coincidence, or do they really like someone named Mary? (Jack O'Brien, Rocky Hill, CT)

A. Peter Farrelly tells me: "No. Our mother is named Marion, but that's not the same." So it's just one of those strange unsolved mysteries.

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