The Big Sick
Finds that laughter-through-tears sweet spot, often in the unlikeliest of places.
Q. You mentioned that Stanley Kubrick always has a bathroom in his movies, and John Landis always uses the line "See you next Wednesday." What about Dan O'Bannon's chickens? O'Bannon started screenwriting in college with classmate John Carpenter. Their first full feature together was "Dark Star" in 1974. I haven't seen this film for myself, but I believe there is a scene in it which involves the world's crappiest joke--pulling a rubber chicken from a jacket and shaking it to make it look alive. Ever since then, Dan O'Bannon has incorporated a chicken into each of his film scripts. In "Alien" a chicken's membrane appeared on the monitor when John Hurt was being scanned. In "Blue Thunder" a missile takes out a fried chicken restaurant. In "Return of the Living Dead" the joke appeared on a billboard in the background. In "Total Recall" me and a couple of friends are pretty sure it appeared at the end of the film--the alien "handprint" on the atmosphere-creating machine being in reality a mold of a enlarged chicken's foot. (Graham Keith, Haslingden, England)
A. The scene I am waiting for is a man in a bathroom, telling a chicken, "See you next Wednesday."
Q. In a recent Answer Man, you wrote: "McDonald's and Batman have been a coosome twosome for years." Then you said their original pairing inspired the "Four Glass Rule" in Ebert's Little Movie Glossary. Actually, "Batman Forever" is only the second Batman film to be merchandised by McDonalds. The 32-oz plastic cups featuring 1989's original "Batman" were from Taco Bell (with free refills and a sample of "cinnamon Bat-Wings"). The McDonald's connection began with "Batman Returns." And, as I recall, it only took three McDonald's cups to sum up "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" in 1988. (Thomas Allen Heald, Rapid City, S.D.)
A. Were those bat wings served with ranch dressing?
Q. Would you agree that one of the biggest failings of recent blockbusters has been poor editing in terms of continuity and plot development? The latest "Die Hard" film seems extremely jumpy, and "Jurassic Park" needed another reel to tie up the loose ends. Has Hollywood decided that given enough stunts and special effects, the viewer won't notice that things don't make sense? (Larry E. Jones, Ontario, Calif.)
A. Basically, yes. Another problem is that blockbusters are rushed through editing in order to make crucial opening-date deadlines. And often their endings are re-shot after "test screenings." In the case of "Die Hard III," several endings were filmed, and the print arrived in theaters hardly dry from the lab.
Q. What would you say is the all-time most embarrassing prop goof? An example: I watched "Oceans 11" yesterday and the most unintentionally funny moment in the movie was when a studious doctor told Richard Conte he might die of a serious illness. The chest X-ray the doctor was studying was upside down. (James O'Brien, Hermosa Beach, Calif.)
A. I liked it in "Jaws IV" when Michael Caine's seaplane landed on the ocean and was chewed into toothpicks by the giant shark. On board a nearby yacht, his death is mourned--until he pulls himself on board, miraculously alive. Even better, his shirt is dry.