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Office Christmas Party

Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…

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Harry Benson: Shoot First

The filmmakers are themselves too celebrity besotted to comment in a meaningful way on how Benson’s career balanced depictions of the rich and famous with…

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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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Movie Answer Man (05/03/1998)

Q. We bought the Jerry Springer uncensored tapes, only to find that the four-letter words on them were still bleeped. What's going on here? (Charlie Smith, Chicago).

A. First Springer gets bounced from his Chicago station, then it's charged that the fights on his show are staged, and now this. Darren Howell, VP of Marketing for Real Entertainment, the tapes' distributor, says: "We have a complete line of videos--some that are uncensored like 'Too Hot for TV!' and some that are compilation tapes of great moments on one theme like 'Secrets and Surprises.' The uncensored tapes contain language and nudity not shown on the television show. The compilation tapes contain actual footage from the show. This reader probably watched one of our themed tapes and thought it was one of the uncensored tapes."

Q. Somebody who works in the film industry has given me advice about how to "move up the ladder of success." He said in no uncertain terms that "anyone who doesn't want to remain a Production Assistant for the rest of their career needs to have sex with the right people." He then elaborated on who I should have sex with (example: don't have sex with a director, but the casting director is okay). He explained how he had to do this to move from a location scout to a location manager. He said that EVERYONE in the industry does this and there is no way around it. I will not prostitute myself. What should I believe? (Debbie Vanden Dungen, Abbotsford, British Columbia)

A. I forwarded your message to Nancy De Los Santos, who began in Chicago as a production assistant on the Siskel & Ebert program, moved up to producer, and then moved to Hollywood, started as a production assistant and climbed the ladder again; her most recent credit was as Associate Producer of "Selena." She writes:

"Is it necessary to sleep with someone in order to be a success in Hollywood? Absolutely not. If only it were that easy! I don't know anyone who is successful who had to sleep with someone in order to succeed. To be successful in Hollywood, you need three things: talent, tenacity and confidence in yourself. Being intimate with someone higher on the food chain might get you an 'in,' but it won't keep you there. You also have to consider what you think is 'successful.' I feel it's when you are respected and sought after for your work. I also have to question your contact's theory regarding sleeping with the 'casting director' but not the director. The director is the most powerful person (next to a high-priced star) on a film. If someone wanted to exchange sex for a chance at job advancement, the director would be a good choice, but only if he or she is currently in production. Your contact's route of advancing from location scout to location manger because he slept with someone only makes me think he must not have been a very good location scout. Delivering what you're hired to do is how to succeed in Hollywood. Don't let anyone tell you different."

Q. Watching the film "Oh, God!" on the Family Channel, I noticed that it had been subtly edited, perhaps for philosophical reasons. John Denver plays a man who talks with God (played by George Burns). I sensed something was missing on the broadcast version, so I rented the video. I discovered that the Family Channel had edited out a moment when Denver asks Burns, "Was Jesus the son of God?" Burns responds: "Jesus was my son, Buddha was my son. The man who said, 'There's no room at the inn'--he was my son, too. Let's move on." Was this dialog edited out because the Family Channel broadcasts many Christian fundamentalist programs, and didn't want to show a scene suggesting there is more than one path to salvation? (Michael West, Gloucester, MA)

A. Ann Abraham, publicity manager for the Family Channel, replies: "The Family Channel does not follow a written policy for editing decisions. Programs are cut for time and/or content based on the assigned editor's discretion. In the case of 'Oh, God!,' the editor had to cut four minutes out of the movie. The segment in question, along with another short segment, fit the time constraints and was not considered integral to the story."

Q. Rented "Jurassic Park: The Lost World,", and during the "Support Vehicle Falling Over The Cliff" sequence I thought I was watching something I'd seen before, but couldn't put my finger on it. Then I saw Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" and there it was--this time in black and white, silent, and with computer-free special effects, but essentially the same event: Chaplin is in a cabin that's see-sawing on the edge of a mountain, he grabs onto a rope that's tied off outside the cabin, the cabin falls out from under him, he holds onto the rope, and survives. I don't recall any of the reviews of "The Lost World" mentioning the sequence as an homage to Chaplin, but perhaps I missed one or two. By the way, who was it who said, "You call it stealing; the French call it homage?" (Robert Atkinson, Portland, Ore.)

A. The parallel is perfectly obvious, now that you mention it. And in a follow-up you mentioned another homage: The opening sequence of "Jackie Brown" is a lengthy shot of Pam Grier on a people-mover at an airport. Dustin Hoffman is shown in a similar shot in the opening of "The Graduate."

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