The most surprising thing about "The Martian" is how relaxed and funny it is.
Q. John Candy's last film, "Canadian Bacon," was directed by Michael Moore, who made "Roger & Me." But it has never been released. What's the story? (Tank Drummond, Boulder, Colo.)
A. The movie is about a war between the U.S. and Canada. It was shelved for many months by Propaganda Films, some said because the company didn't like it, others because of its unfashionably leftist politics. I ran into Moore at the Independent Spirit Awards and he told me he has regained control of the film and, to the consternation of Propaganda, it has been accepted as an official U.S. entry at this May's Cannes Film Festival.
Q. I notice that the advance ads for "Tank Girl" quote Jeff Craig of Sixty Second Preview as saying, "This movie kicks major butt!" As a critic, what is your reaction to his review? (Susan Lake, Urbana, Ill.)
A. Jeff Craig's name in a movie ad is a one-second tip-off that the distributors are desperate. They would not use him if they had more legitimate critics to quote. (See this week's Glossary definition, below.) According to People magazine, Craig provides rave quotes for virtually every movie he considers--even though he doesn't see most of the movies he "reviews," depending on eight staff members. (Funny: I actually find time to see all the movies myself.) Craig's pay-off is seeing his name in print in a movie ad. In the case of "Tank Girl," it's a good question whether anyone from Craig's staff even saw the movie, since United Artists strictly embargoed all preview screenings until the Tuesday before it opened--several days after Craig's "major butt" quote first appeared.
Q. What's the story on the refusal of the actor's branch of the Motion Picture Academy to admit Rodney Dangerfield to membership? (Charlene Smith, Dubuque, Iowa)
A. He still don't get no respect. Dangerfield has been top-billed in five features, two of them grossing more than $100 million, and last year had an acclaimed supporting role in "Natural Born Killers." But his bid for Academy membership was turned down. "I got a letter from Roddy McDowell, the head of the actor's branch," Dangerfield told me. "He wrote that I should 'improve my craft,' and apply again later. Hey, I'm 73 years old. What am I gonna do? Apply again when I'm 104?"
Q. We saw "Red" and were so deeply impressed by this great film that we rented "Blue" and "White" on video. Can it really be true that Krzysztof Kieslowski is actually retiring and will make no more films? (Emerson Thorne, Evanston)
A. I asked Kieslowski, 53, about that at the Academy Awards, and he insisted it was true, although "nothing is forever." But two days earlier, at the Independent Spirit Awards, Julie Delpy, the star of "White, smiled and said, "Krzysztof loves to kid. It may just be for publicity."
Q. Ah, the British Press. What would we do without their legendary dedication to clarity and fair-thinking? The AP reported that "the British press sulked about being snubbed at this year's Oscars." Said the Daily Express: "We don't want to appear bad losers, but we can't help wondering if someone like Mr. Gump was in charge of the judging.'' Christopher Tookey in the Daily Mail described Gump as "a menace to society. The man is so stupid that he just might make it as far as the White House.'' And the Independent's Bryan Appleyard wrote: "The Oscars are not really about talent. If they were, then dozens of other British actors would be winners.'' (Andy Ihnatko, Westwood, Mass.)
A. Whatta bunch of cry-babies! Brits won the best actor award three years in a row (Day-Lewis in 1989, Irons in 1990, Hopkins in 1991). Emma Thompson won for best actress in 1992. In 1993, three of the five best actor nominees were British, and in 1983, for cryin' out loud, four of the five were. The French invented cinema, and they hardly ever get nominated, but do you hear them complaining? Mais non!
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.