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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 (08/27/2000)

Q. Many have remarked on the Columbia Logo Lady's striking resemblance to Annette Bening. Did my eyes play a trick when the logo came up before "What Planet Are You From?," or was she changed to actually be Annette Bening? Let me cast my vote solidly in favor of studios that allow filmmakers to play with the logo in such a manner; it's often the most creative moment in the film. (Steven P. Senski, Plover WI)

A. A Columbia spokesman replies: "Nothing was done to change the logo. It is not Annette Bening and has never been Annette Bening and we get this question constantly." (The Answer Man nevertheless not unreasonably wonders: If it isn't Annette Bening, why did Columbia make it look so much like her?)

Q. I recently attended a screening of the film "Boiler Room," and was horrified at how many times the boom mike fell into the picture from the top and, at one point, from the right. It ruined what I felt was a fairly solid film. I was told afterwards that the boom mike plunge was the fault of the projectionist. However, it would seem to me that a good director wouldn't permit the boom to be shown in any part of the final print. Who's to blame? (Andrew Magary, New York NY)

A. You were told correctly. When you see a boom mike in a movie, 99 percent of the film the fault is not with the director or cinematographer, but with the projectionist, who has framed the movie incorrectly. If you could see the entire surface area of every frame in every film, you'd see a lot of boom mikes. But you're never supposed to.

Q. It recently came to my attention that there is a ghost in "Three Men and a Baby". If you start the tape at 1:01:13 the camera pans across a window behind Ted Danson and Celeste Holm, who are walking into a room, and at a spot by the window curtains, the rifle that was presumably used in the killing of a young boy may be clearly seen, with the barrel pointing down. At 1:02:53, they move back, passing the window again, and where the gun was 40 seconds earlier, there is a young boy standing whose feet do not appear to be touching the floor. The figure of both the gun and the boy are very clear and unmistakable. I was told that a boy was killed in the very room where the filming took place, and that no one has an explanation for the apparitions that appear in the background of this scene. (Jim Cameron, Soddy-Daisy TN)

A. And Amy Akpan of Eager, Ariz., writes: "I was just wondering, in the movie "Three Men and a Baby," if the boy in the background of one of the scenes is really a ghost?" And Daniel Lutz of Orangeburg, N.C. writes: "A friend of mine told me about something called "The Ghost of 'Three Men and a Baby'.." And Patrick McManus of Yardley, Pa., writes, "there is a part where the mother comes over to see the baby and while walking past the window there is a kid behind the curtain..."

No, there is no ghost in "Three Men and a Baby." The Internet Movie Database explains: "When Jack's mother comes to visit Mary, you can see in the background what appears to be a little boy standing in a doorway. There is a rumor that this is the ghost of a little boy who died in the apartment in which the film was shot. This rumor is false, as the interiors were all shot on a sound stage in a movie studio. The 'ghost' is actually a cardboard cutout of Jack wearing a tuxedo. This prop appears later in the film, when Mary's mother comes to collect her."

Q. (Spoiler warning). In the recent movie "Magnolia," the ending seen showed frogs pouring from the sky. Why was this happening? (Janet Brown, Hermosa Beach CA)

A. Well, frogs do sometimes just rain from the sky. Stranger things have happened. But the movie contains a clue by providing several references to Exodus 8:2, which says: "Let my people go, that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold I will smite all thy borders with frogs, and the river shall swarm with frogs, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneading-troughs, and the frogs shall come up both upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants." Then God and Moses have a conversation about the frogs and how to get rid of them.

Q. My friends say you can see a dead man hanging in a tree in "The Wizard of Oz." I have looked for it but can't find it. Can you help me? (Joseph Rogers, Evanston)

A. I've written several times that there is no hanged man in a tree. How likely is it that MGM could shoot a Judy Garland musical on a sound stage with a crew of hundreds, and not notice the body? Again I am indebted to the Internet Movie Database: "At the beginning of the 'We're Off to See the Wizard' sequence, there is a disturbance in the trees off to the right. This was rumored to be one of the crew hanging himself, but is in fact an animal handler recapturing an escaped animal."

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