Like Ficarra and Requa’s 2011 comedy Crazy Stupid Love, Focus begins promisingly and bops along enjoyably for a while, only to run out of steam…
Q. I am disappointed with the latest Sight & Sound poll. The omission of both Keaton (the greatest filmmaker who ever lived) and Chaplin from both the critics' and directors' lists is disheartening. I feel sorry for all the people who will never be exposed to the beauty of Keaton and Murnau, the pathos of Chaplin, the revolutionary techniques of Griffith and Eisenstein, and the fierceness of Lang. I'm involved in my high school film club. Some members wanted to show "Fight Club," "Requiem for a Dream" and any Wes Anderson or Kevin Smith film. I'm not saying those films are bad, it just illustrates ignorance concerning our film heritage. I convinced them to let me show Keaton's "The General" (1927), "Steamboat Bill Jr," and "The Navigator." Everyone was laughing their heads off. (Matt Stieg, Carmel IN)
A. The critics included two silent films on their list ("Sunrise" and "Potemkin"), the directors none. I don't know if Keaton is the greatest filmmaker in the history of the cinema, but he is certainly the greatest actor-director.
Q. I was fascinated by the wide range of films which received at least one vote in the recent Sight & Sound poll. But I was shocked that not a single Disney animated movie received even one vote! I expected to see at least "Beauty and the Beast" or "Snow White" and was stunned they weren't there. Why do you think this is? Do people in the business believe animated movies are on a different level than the standard fare? (David Becker, North Wales PA)
A. The Sight & Sound votes are influenced by the auteur theory and the notion of the Great Director; animation by its nature is teamwork. Although Disney was shut out, the Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki got two votes for "My Neighbor Totoro," and three for "Spirited Away," which Disney will release in the U.S. this autumn.
Q. Were documentary films excluded from the Sight & Sound poll? I was surprised you didn't include "Gates of Heaven," "Hoop Dreams" or the "Up" documentaries on your own list. Perhaps there is an unspoken mindset that comparing documentaries to fiction films is like comparing apples and oranges. (Mike Spearns, St. John's Newfoundland)
A. I voted for "Gates of Heaven" in a previous poll, and my votes this time reflect "no diminution of my esteem for titles on my earlier lists." But it seemed like a vote for a doc was wasted on the S&S crowd.
Q. Re the S&S poll: I wonder what justification there could be for considering Godfather 1 and 2 as a single entry, while excluding Godfather 3? Seems to me they should be judged individually or as a trilogy. Do you agree? (Jeff Schwager, Seattle WA)
A. Combining the votes of the two films (which therefore placed second with the directors and fourth with the critics) seems sneaky enough to deserve an asterisk. The poll says Parts 1 and 2 got 27 votes from the directors and 23 from the critics. If you look at the breakdown, Part 2 actually outpolled Part 1 among those voting individually (critics 13 to 8, directors 15 to 12). Eight critics and six directors voted for the two together; one critic and one director voted for the trilogy. A lack of ground rules conspired to favor the Godfather team.
Q. Re: the AM discussion of "Never Again," in which you doubted that the character would talk so loudly about her sex life in a beauty salon: Kay Robart of Austin, Texas, wrote you saying you wouldn't believe the things some women say in front of others. Then Joanne Plummer of Chicago, disputed that claim and used Kay's Texas residency as an explanation for such vulgar behavior. Being a Texan myself, I want it to be known that I have had countless sexual encounters in which I performed remarkably well. I suppose it's my own fault for taking offense to the pompous chuckle you fueled by an inaccurate generalization of Southern etiquette. After all, you ARE from Chicago. (Dana Byron, Houston TX)
A. The question isn't whether you performed well, but whether you talked about it in a beauty parlor. Countless people perform well. The well-bred do not discuss it loudly before strangers and do not categorize such behavior as "etiquette." Of course, I AM from Chicago.
Q. In your review for "24 Hour Party People," you write that the Wilson character "explains how the invention of broccoli funded the James Bond movies," and then comment, "there is a shred of truth there, actually." Please, don't leave us hanging! What's the connection between broccoli and Her Majesty's Secret Service? (Phil Edwards, Dayton OH)
A. Albert R. (Cubby) Broccoli (1909-1996) produced most of the James Bond pictures. According to New York Times articles at the time of his death, "He was descended from the Broccoli family of Calabria in Italy, which crossed cauliflower and rabe and named the new vegetable after themselves," and "Mr. Broccoli said one of his uncles brought the first broccoli seeds into the United States in the 1870s."
Q. In your review of "Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat," you noted "If it proves nothing else, this movie establishes that it is impossible for a film to get the NC-17 rating from the MPAA for language alone." Except for Lawrence's first concert picture, "You So Crazy," which received an NC-17 in 1994. And so did "Dice Rules" (1991), with Andrew Dice Clay. (Jeremy Gruenwald, Hoffman Estates IL)
A. The R rating suggested to me that the MPAA had relaxed its standards. MPAA spokesman Richard Taylor tells me: "The ratings board must have determined that the language contained in the more recent film by Mr. Lawrence was of a less explicit, less crude nature than that found in 'You So Crazy.' This is not to say that the language in 'Runteldat' is family fare which is why it still received a rating requiring a parent or adult guardian to accompany any under the age of 17." I may have to rent "You So Crazy" to remind myself of the amazing language it must have contained, since the new Lawrence film leaves few words unsaid and it is impossible to imagine language more "explicit and crude."
Q. I saw a preview last night for "Punch-Drunk Love," the newest offering from the Adam Sandler hit factory. Today, I looked for it on IMDb.com, and it already has 58 votes from people who "saw" this movie. Is this movie really showing somewhere, or is somebody cooking the star ratings on IMDB? (Ben Brown, Wilmette, IL)
A. The movie played at Cannes in May, so it has been publicly seen; 78 percent of those voting gave it a "10," the highest rating. This movie is obviously a contender for the 2012 Sight & Sound poll.
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