Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
A remarkable tale of immigrant success, wrapped around a crime story.
Q. There are a few things you got wrong in your "Godzilla" review that might have added a tenth of a star to that 1.5-star rating. (1) 1. Godzilla doesn't "breathe" fire. In the two shots where that appears to happen, I'm pretty sure it's exploding vehicles that provide the flames. (2) They don't say Godzilla's female. In fact, they make it clear that his reproduction as a male is paradoxical, which leads to all that silliness about asexual reproduction. Of course that's crap writing in itself, since it's only there to explain how they could get a Godzilla's-Nest plot without a second adult giant mutant lizard and without rewriting forty years of Godzilla lore (Godzilla's always been a guy). (Blair P. Houghton, Phoeniz, Ariz.)
A. I think Godzilla does indeed breathe fire, and have checked it with a couple of other people who saw the movie. The problem is, the fire-breathing is used as atmosphere, not as a plot point, and has no consistency, so that two intelligent people (such as ourselves) are left unsure about whether the centerpiece of a multi-million dollar epic does or does not breathe fire. The movie should leave no doubt on this point. As for (2), my contention is a creature that lays eggs is a female, but I concede there is dialog explaining why this does not apply in Godzilla's case, so I was wrong. If Godzilla is indeed a male, however, we are left perplexed by his apparent lack of reproductive equipment, although of course if he can impregnate himself it may be all built in.
Q. I just saw "Godzilla," and I thought the spoof of you and Gene Siskel was pretty funny! Boy, they really didn't try to hide the symbolism in those characters! It's surprising they didn't get killed! I'll bet if you guys give it two thumbs up, Devlin and Emmerich will bring them back for the sequel, but if you give it two thumbs down, they'll probably kill them off in the sequel! (Chad Polenz, Schenectady, NY)
A. I think we got off pretty easy. I expected to be squished like a bug. I liked the way Mayor Ebert of New York makes all the obligatory wrong-headed decisions, including not wanting to evacuate Manhattan; he's obviously inspired by the real estate mogols in "Jaws" who didn't want to clear the beaches.
Q. I'd like to add one more dumb thing about "Godzilla" that most people likely didn't notice when watching it. Producer Devlin and director Emmerich need to learn or at least identify Japanese (or Korean) first before they remake a Japanese movie (or any other). When Broderick's character reaches the boat destroyed by Godzilla in Panama, he picks up a can of tuna on the ground in front of the wreckage. This can of tuna was made in Korea, and it clearly says "Dong-won Chamchi (tuna)" in Korean on it. First of all, let me tell you that there are plenty of tuna cans produced in Japan, and they don't need another tuna can imported from Korea. And second, wasn't it a fishing boat? Then why do they need to carry a can of tuna when they can fish for fresh one? Maybe it doesn't matter to Americans, but it's insulting to me as a Korean. (Min Woong Lee, Irvine, CA)
A. Whoa! I've heard a lot of mean things said about "Godzilla," but yours is the first attack on the movie's use of Korean canned tuna. Insulting? Hey, the Japanese prefer Korean tuna! Be proud.
Q. My local alterna-weekly reviewed "Horse Whisperer" and "Bulworth" this week, and in both cases the critic observed how incredulous the relationships between the grizzled actor-director and his decades-younger love interest were. I think "Titanic" pretty much made it clear that women would rather see the heroine fall in love with someone her own age than someone old enough to be her dad. (It wouldn't have been anywhere near as big a hit if the DiCaprio role had been filled by, say, Kevin Costner.) It's partly a generational thing: a lot of women my age have fathers who left their mothers for a younger woman. There's a growing intolerance towards that kind of behavior in the media, like the Tea Leoni subplot in "Deep Impact" and the sitcom "Just Shoot Me." though in both cases, the dad gets off the hook pretty easy. (Lucius P. Cook, Dallas, Texas)
A. Incredulous, they were. Incredible, maybe not. I am reminded of a TV news feature I saw when "Indecent Proposal" came out--the movie where Demi Moore has to decide whether to accept $1 million for spending a night with Robert Redford. The reporter was asking a young woman in a shopping center if she would sleep with Redford for $1 million. "Sure," she said. How about $500,000? "Sure," she said. How about $100,000? "Let's cut to the chase," she said. "I'd do it for 50 cents."
Q. I see that the Showtime and Sundance channels will air the Adrian Lyne version of "Lolita" starting in August. Morality in the Media and other watchdogs are on their soapboxes with threatened bans of both channels and angry cries at Robert Redford (who controls Sundance) for defending the environment but not children. I don't get it. The film was never distributed in theatres here because of the outcry. There are far worse films shown on cable most nights. I don't think parents are worried about their children seeing this. I doubt that paedophiles will garner sympathy because of the film. What's the flap? (Vicki Halliday, New York City)
A. "Lolita" has played all over the world with minimal repercussions. Its reputation is apparently much worse than its reality. So why, you ask, single it out from the countless trash films playing on cable? Simple. Nobody has heard of them, and so the watchdogs can't enhance their visibility by attacking them. High-profile targets mean more publicity. All the better if someone like Redford is involved, so they can shirttail on his fame.
Q. What will 20th Century-Fox do with their name in two years? The name is going to sound a bit dated when we enter the 21st Century. (Howard Eberly, Richmond, Virginia)
A. The Answer Man has dealt with this query before, but as the deadline approaches curiosity grows. According to Fox source Nancy Meyer, the studio has no plans to change its name. My hunch? It will become just plain "Fox" in the logo at the start of movies, and the "20th Century" will remain mostly on legal documents.
Q. I have followed with interest your discussions about the various sources, homages and references in "Pulp Fiction." I noticed another thing recently when I went to see the new film of "Les Miserables." The opening scene of "Les Mis" is almost identical in dialogue to the closing scene of "Pulp Fiction" in which one character is "buying back" another character's soul. I may be mistaken, but I believe I read that Tarantino was a fan of Hugo's as well. (K. Peter Toth, Chestnut Ridge, NY)
A. There are times when I don't know if "Pulp Fiction" is a movie or an anthology. That it remains the most fascinating and talked-about film of the past five years suggests, however, that whatever Tarantino was doing, he should keep right on doing it.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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