Scarlett Johansson is an intriguing blank in Luc Besson's "Lucy," which is stranded somewhere between a stranger-in-a-strange-land action thriller and apocalyptic science fiction.
Q. I haven't seen "Never Again" and I probably won't, but I have one comment about your review, where you said that a woman wouldn't tell her stylist about her sexual exploits in a voice loud enough to be heard by all. You are definitely wrong about that. I have been a monthly visitor to hair salons for many years, and you wouldn't believe the things some women (and men, I might add) say in front of everyone. I have never understood it, but some women seem to use the salon like a confessional. (Kay Robart, Austin TX)
A. I continue to doubt that the woman in "Never Again" would have said those things in that way in real life. Then again, no one goes to a beauty salon looking for real life.
Q. In "Minority Report" there is a scene where Tom Cruise is on a train and a stranger, who is reading the newspaper, looks up at him in suspicion. This man seemed to resemble Cruise's directorial buddy Cameron Crowe, who on his last project, "Vanilla Sky," had Spielberg make a cameo. (Ryan Kirkby, Waterloo, Canada ON)
A. Cameron Crowe replies: "Okay, I admit it. It's me. Steven Spielberg came to the 'Vanilla Sky' set one day to visit Tom Cruise, and I urged him to walk into the birthday sequence we were filming. He was a big hit, improvised dialogue, stayed a couple hours, and left threatening to put me into 'Minority Report.' Months later, his costumer came to our office with an armful of bizarre ill-fitting clothes, and told me I'd been cast as a futuristic bum. Mercifully, Spielberg later re-cast me as a businessman on the subway holding an interactive USA Today. Excitedly chomping on an unlit cigar, he explained the USA Today would be alive with moving-images, a newspaper from the future. He's a truly joyful director. Cameron Diaz, who was also visiting his set that day, plays a businesswoman talking on a cellphone right behind me. Diaz and Cruise gave me acting tips, which I promptly forgot. It's a great movie, one of Spielberg's very best. Not even my poor acting could hold him back."
Q. Shouldn't the movie "Eight Legged Freaks," without a hyphen, be about eight freaks who have legs? (John Vieira, Calgary, AB Canada)
A. For years we have had to struggle with the Grocer's Apostrophe, the extra apostrophe after the name of a fruit or vegetable ("banana's," "onion's"). Now we are faced with the Eight Legged Hyphen.
Q. I was amused by the emailer who said he was "convinced of the greatness" of Maxivision, though he had never seen it in use. Cost issues aside, why should Maxivision be considered superior to digital? And why don't we hear more about it in the general press? (David Newbert, Albuquerque NM)
A. Apart from the fact that it would cost only eight percent as much to install, would play any film ever made and would not have to be replaced every three to five years, Maxivision is superior to digital projection because--well, because it is. The picture quality is four times as good. A few weeks ago, George Lucas invited a lot of directors up to Skywalker Ranch to lecture them that film was dead and digital was the future. He is a zealot for digital, but I was encouraged that a director like Oliver Stone actually told Lucas, "Film is what we do. It's what we use. You'll be known as the man who killed cinema."
Q. I saw the preview for "Tadpole," and I have three questions. (1) Why is it when a teenage boy has sex with older women (as in "Tadpole," "American Pie," and episodes of "Dawson's Creek" and "Frasier") it's portrayed as a funny or touching coming-of-age situation, but when a teenage boy has sex with an older man ("L.I.E.," "Our Lady of the Assassins") it's portrayed as exploitation? (2) In your review of "L.I.E," you described the character of Big John, an older man who has sex with 14 and 15 year old boys as "an admitted pedophile." Is the older woman who has sex with the 15 year-old boy in "Tadpole" an "admitted pedophile?" (3) Why does "L.I.E" merit an NC-17 rating, but "Tadpole" gets a PG-13? (Richard Lindsay, New Haven CT)
A. (1) There is a double standard at work. Society views men as sexual predators, and when the tables are turned on them, that is seen as comic. (2) Not admittedly, but, yes, legally a pedophile. (3) "L.I.E." was a more serious and specific film, deserving an R rating. If it had been about heterosexual sex, it probably would have received one, instead of the NC-17.
Q. In "The Road to Perdition," those wool coats in the rain kept taking me out of the movie. Ever get a wool coat wet? It's STINKY! And heavy! Well-dressed gangsters with any brains in their heads woulda been wearing raincoats. All I could think was, "My God! How can they stand upright with twenty pounds of stinky wet sheep hanging from their shoulders?" (Binky Melnick, New York)
A. The road to perdition is long, hard and wet.
Q. I recently saw "The O'Reilly Factor" where he was challenging Hollywood politics. He listed a few conservatives among the majority of liberals in Hollywood. Being a liberal, I feel this is a good thing, since most films I find thoughtful and intelligent involve liberals ("T2" and "The Sixth Sense" starring Arnie and Bruce are a few exceptions). The only questionable actor in Hollywood is Mel Gibson. What are his political views? (Samuel Mills, Salt Lake City UT)
A. Mel Gibson is a conservative. As for O'Reilly's views, he is correct. Liberals tend to be drawn toward the arts more than conservatives, just as conservatives tend to appear more often on Fox News than liberals.
Q. I have a theory as to why many people, parents in particular (including my own father), object more to the depiction of sexual content in movies than the depiction of violent content. Sex makes humans (and any animal for that matter) more vulnerable to an attack. Violence is supposed to repel attackers. My thinking is that if parents have to deal with anyone being attacked, they would prefer that their own offspring be the attacker rather than the attackee. It's all on a subconscious level, I guess. (Jan Lookabaugh, Gurnee IL)
A. You may be correct, although it is a sad commentary that sex is so often seen in terms of aggression instead of in terms of tenderness and love, and violence is so often seen as a solution instead of a problem.
Q. Following the Answer Man shebang about the funniest movie title of all time, I would like to pose the following question. Is the quote "Those aren't pillows" the funniest line of movie dialogue ever? (Ali Arikan, London UK)
A. The problem with funny dialogue is that it usually needs a context to work. If we remember the scene from "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," yes, that is great dialogue. But what about dialogue that doesn't depend on context and is funny all by itself? Something like, for example, "Everybody needs money! That's why they call it money!"
A. Taylor, in a knock down and drag out.
The first part in a four-part series on what film can teach us about the relationship between Israel and Palestine.
An obituary for the legendary James Garner, who has passed away at the age of 86.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A report on the atmosphere at the 2014 Jerusalem Film Festival and its best film, "Maidan."