Sometimes, it feels as if we are eavesdropping on day-to-day conversations rather than just hearing the usual litany of platitudes and regrets.
Q. The first question this month is from the Movie Answer Man. In my review of "Jurassic Park," I mentioned that some of the dialog was hard for me to understand, and wondered if the newfangled digital sound system was to blame. Do Hollywood's techheads get so carried away with the surround sound and special effects that they drown out the words of the actors? I posted a query on CompuServe, asking if others had problems hearing the words, and got a lot of feedback, boiled down here:
A. "I saw it twice in different theatres, one with and one without DTS. When I saw it with DTS, I caught every word, sound, etc. It was much more enjoyable watching the technical work of the film the second time." (Byron S. Yee, Walnut Creek, CA.)
Q. I enjoy watching movies because doing so lets me forget my own reality. The one thing that absolutely destroys this reality displacement is to hear a reference to a telephone number beginning with 555. When I hear this, it is like a wake-up call that suddenly reminds me that I am watching a movie. I know that attempts have been made to mask the 555 thing. For example, some movies use KLondike-5 as a telephone prefix. Why can't production companies just pay for a few real phone numbers and use them in their movies? (Rodger Ellis, Anchorage, Alaska)
A. The "555" prefix is used, of course, because no real numbers begin with those digits. One movie that did hire a real phone number was Phil Alden Robinson's computer caper, "Sneakers" (1992). If you called the number, you got a fake answering machine message.
Q. I am extremely disquieted by the blatant feminist slant of "Jurassic Park." Three examples: 1. At one point, Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) states: "Man creates dinosaurs. Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth." This was NOT IN THE BOOK. 2. As the Dern character is about to venture outside to restore power to the compound, the Attenborough character suggests he go, since he is a man. Sattler's response: "Cut the crap." AGAIN, NOT IN THE BOOK. 3. In the movie, it is the young girl who restores the computer, which saves the remnant. NOT IN THE BOOK! In the book, it is a male character. P-U-L-E-E-E-Z-E!! I am beginning to believe the most prescient person on film today is indeed Michael Medved, who says it is rare to find a film which does not have a liberal agenda. (Wayne Steadham)
A. Are we all agreed that portraying competent female characters is a liberal trait?
Q. Has any critic noted the weightist bias in "Jurassic Park?" At the beginning of the movie a plump kid is made to seem obnoxious while asking questions about the velociraptors. When Sam Neill's character objects to the idea of having kids, Laura Dern's says something like, "Well, not like that one." Then the only other heavy person in the movie turns out to be the principal villain, resentful, willing to kill everybody else off, and worst of all , incautious around dinosaurs. (Joseph Kaufman, Hollywood, CA)
A. NOT IN THE BOOK!! Get me Medved!
Q. You are a kind and generous man. Giving a 2 and 1/2 star rating to Arnold's last movie is surely a sign of impending madness. It was the most tedious and disjointed piece of moviemaking I have ever seen. I knew it was going to be bad but nothing prepared me for the awful truth. Please see it again and revise your rating or else get off Arnold's payroll. (George Kuiper, Lawrenceville, GA.)
A. You know, it was sort of touching, the way Arnold explained to me that with his budget already up over $80 million, he could only afford enough of a bribe for a negative review.
Q. Saw "Groundhog Day" and found a blooper. The train that pursues Bill Murray in the crazy driving sequence has a Burlington Northern engine. Pretty slick, considering that BN doesn't get within 500 miles of Pennsylvania. (Bill Becwar, Wauwatosa, WI)
A. The movie was shot in Woodstock, Ill.
Q. Hi, my name is Sandra and I live in Puerto Rico. I am looking for the name of a movie, and am going to describe it to see if you can help me. Is of this college guy that likes this college girl so much that he dresses like a girl to be her roommate, but she discovers he is a boy one day when she sees him doing pipi standing. She likes him, but she has a boyfriend. In tennis the boy (dressed like a girl) was his partner in doubles and in the tennis finals they kissed, and everyone was like, what is happening? The only thing I remember was that his name as a girl was Jennifer and as a boy was Joey (I am not sure about this).
A. I'd like to help, but I'll need more to go on.
Q. In May, a reader wrote and asked about several scenes from "The Prince of Tides" which she felt were missing when she viewed it on HBO. You answered that HBO shows movies in their original theatrical versions, and accused the reader of being a victim of the Phantom Scene Syndrome, in which the imagination provides "memories" of scenes that were not actually in the film. I beg to differ this opinion. I have found many scenes missing from movies on Showtime. Not pivotal scenes or lines...but a camera pan here and there...lingering on a scene or subject a little less. In a few cases, I own the film on video, and have used a stopwatch to back up what I initially thought was my imagination (with "Dances with Wolves," for example). They have time constraints and maybe want to squeeze in a promo of upcoming movies or keep the schedule from straying too far from the top of the hour. They should notify the viewer that any scene is cut and for what reason. They cannot just assume we are so stupid as not to notice that the picture is altered. (Matthew Miller)
A. The Phantom Scenes were apparently my own. Others wrote in with complaints similar to yours, adding that many local stations use "time compression" to squeeze movies into shorter running times. That's not news; local stations treat movies like sausages. On a premium cable channel like Showtime or HBO, however, what is the viewer paying for, if not the movie as actually made?
Q. Please answer a question that my friends and I have about your TV show. How come we never get to see the left side of Gene Siskel's face? My friends say the reason is that Siskel doesn't have a left nostril. (Ben Oelsner, San Francisco, CA)
A. That is in fact the left side of Gene's face you are seeing. Do you have us confused? Both of us have left nostrils.
Q. 1. Where do you recommend sitting in a theater in order to get the full impact.? 2. What do you do when the lights dim and someone within earshot won't shut up? (Chip Castille, Tampa, Fla.)
A. 1. Sit twice as far back as the screen is wide. 2. Move.
Q. I hereby nominate "Body Of Evidence" for consideration as laserdisc of the year. MGM/UA's bold, innovative decision to index the chapter stops with descriptions of the closest dirty part puts them up there with the greats. (Andy Ihnatko, Westwood, MA)
A. The decision may have been forced upon them. Did "Body of Evidence" have any parts that weren't dirty?
A rebuttal to Joni Edelman's piece on "Inside Out."
MTV's Scream and CBS's Zoo premiere tonight. One is worth your time. Which one?
Three films starring Gina Lollobrigida have been released on Blu-ray; Glenn Kenny looks at them and her entire career.
An essay on the underrated scores of late composer James Horner.