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A Letter to Momo

Even scenes that work, such as a climax on a rain-soaked bridge, feel like they could have been trimmed by a few hand-drawn frames. Maybe…

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Cannibal

Visually striking and confident but frustratingly hollow in terms of character and narrative.

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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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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Movie Answer Man (08/24/2003)

Q. I've noticed an interesting trend over the last few years: You can sometimes tell who the "bad guys" are in a movie or TV show by what computer they use. For instance, on "24" all the bad guys used PC's while the good guys all used Macs. The same holds true for "Austin Powers," "Legally Blonde," etc. Why do you think Apple always gets the plumb roles? I'm of the opinion that Hollywood loves the underdog and has a close relationship with Apple computer, whereas PCs seem controlled by a megalomaniac in Seattle. Are there a lot more Mac zealots like me in Hollywood? Does Apple pour sponsorship money in big-budget studio movies? (Justin Toomey, Athens OH)

A. Since many Windows machines look alike, Apple is the only manufacturer that can gain by product placement, which accounts for some of the Macs. It's true that the movie industry and creative types in general prefer the Mac. The novelist Tom Clancy sends e-mails with this signature line: "Never ask a man what computer he uses. If it's a Mac, he'll tell you. If it's not, why embarrass him?"

Q. I am fuming and must rant while my ire is at its height. Tonight I attended a showing of "Northfork," only to find that the projection was horrendously out of focus. The entire left side of the screen was blurry, making signs and license plates all but unintelligible and ghosting bodies and cars. Being the good audience member, I was the first to miss a portion of the film to complain. I continued to complain because the problem had not been remedied and no one else seemed to notice. After my fourth complaint, the staff finally informed me that because it was a reel from a different theater they were having projection problems and only then did they offer me a movie pass. I do not know which angers me more, the fact that a theater was showing a reel which they could not focus or that the audience did not even notice! (Derek Muller, Royal Oak MI)

A. "A reel from another theater." Priceless. When projection is bad, the fault is almost always that of the projectionist in the theater, but you will invariably hear that something is wrong with the print. As for the audience not noticing--you'd be amazed how many times people show off their new wide-screen TVs and then expect me to watch a movie or TV show where everyone looks too wide and squished, just because they want to stretch the non-widescreen signal. Just as youth is wasted on the young, sight is sometimes wasted on those with eyes.

Q. I heard something about the Polish twins sneaking a movie in-joke into the script of their new movie "Northfork." What is it? (Susan Lake, Urbana, IL)

A. The brothers told me they got complaints that their first two movies lacked a "story arc," and so they added a story "ark" to "Northfork." It is built by a man who plans to ride out the flood waters, and he doesn't have two of everything on board, but he does have two wives.

Q. Re: your review of "Gigli"--I'm stunned. This has to be the worst-reviewed movie in years, and you were in the top 5% of reviews. This movie WAS actually dreck. And while, it might be possible to be kind, and find something to say that was nice about it (the acting wasn't horrible for what they had), you actually praise it for its script, and dialogue?! That was the worst part of the movie! I actually felt embarrassed for the actors, having to recite it. Particularly the "genitalia comparison" scene, which was painful to watch them have to utter. Tracy and Hepburn couldn't make that dialogue work. Christopher Walken's drug induced speech was so bad and incoherent, people were uncontrollably laughing at how bad it was. Everyone has different tastes, and things are open to interpretation, but for you to praise perhaps the worst part of a universally reviled movie....I don't know, I'm worried about you Rog. (Chris Connelly, Ann Arbor MI)

A. Amazing how concerned people are when a critic is "out of step." I gave the movie a negative review, but not negative enough to please those who want to burn it, mix the ashes with salt and rub them into the wounds of the filmmakers. But, hey, Walken's scene was hilarious, loved even by those who hated the movie, and if you think the audience was laughing at how bad it was, either (a) you are wrong, or (b) you had the misfortune to join an extraordinarily stupid audience, in which case the Shavian dialogue about genitalia would of course have been totally beyond its reach. It is not the job of a critic to conform to the results of the Tomatometer, but to express a personal opinion. Since 98 percent of the reviews (including mine) were negative, why insist on 100 percent?

Q. I was pleased, seeing your review, to find that I wasn't the only film critic alive who granted "Gigli" anything higher than the equivalent of one star. Not only has it received the worst reviews of 2003; but some of our fellow critics have even been declaring it "the worst movie ever" (a ridiculous statement, to say the least). I agree, the movie isn't great, but clearly it's not THAT bad. It's my opinion that all of this negative buzz is obviously a transparent --and frankly, pathetic-- need for our petty friends in the entertainment media to gang up and take the movie's high-profile celebrity couple down a notch. "Gigli" never had a chance. (Shawn Hobbs, Temple, TX).

A. Some critics were gunning for J-Lo and Ben, yes, but most were no doubt sincere. Martin Brest is not a filmmaker to be dismissed lightly, however, and most reviews never even mentioned him. Perhaps once the wolf-pack mentality took over, some were shy to praise what are, after all, creative and daring elements in the film.

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