David O. Russell out-Scorseses Martin Scorsese himself with "American Hustle," a rollicking '70s crime romp that’s ridiculously entertaining in all the best possible ways.
Q. Why do you seem to categorically refuse to review Tyler Perry movies? "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" is now the No. 1 movie in America, as were a few of his previous films, but there is rarely a review on your site. Am I missing it or are you avoiding reviewing them?
Letitia N. Patterson, Detroit
A. The Tyler Perry movies are never screened for critics, preventing opening-weekend reviews. I've been intending to see one in a theater, but was covering the Toronto Film Festival when the latest one opened. (Perry was here too, as executive producer of "Precious.")
When I reviewed "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" (2005), I confessed I had never heard of Perry or his character Madea before going to see it. After my negative review, I was branded as a racist on two Chicago radio stations, apparently by people unfamiliar with my reviews over the years. I was relieved that many others came to my defense. I suspect Perry's films may be critic-proof.
Q. You ended your movie review of "Julie and Julia" by mentioning that you are writing a cookbook for the rice cooker. I am very curious to know whether this is true or a joke. (If a joke, I'm sorry to be so dense.) If it is true, I am incredibly interested. My husband and I received not one but two rice cookers as anniversary presents that we were unable to exchange or return, and I have no immediate need for even one. I love to cook, and I'd love to be able to use it for something else. Would you mind letting me know? If this is a real project, I'd also like to know how/when to obtain a copy.
Mrs. Lynn Frassetti
A. Very true indeed. The Pot and How to Use It will be published in the spring by Andrews & McMeel. In a pinch, a rice cooker is almost the only cooking implement you need for every meal all day long, starting with flawless oatmeal for breakfast, cooked with fruits. Oatmeal with bananas and peaches! Yes!
Q. My wife and I went to (and loved) "Julie and Julia." The audience was audibly shocked by the number of scenes (I counted 15!) in which a boom microphone appeared. To be honest, I've never noticed such apparent sloppiness in a big-budget film. It wasn't just our print; I've found many references to this on the Internet (google "Julie and Julia boom mike"). This seems easily fixed in post-production by just cropping the frame, so why wasn't this done?
Dr. Eric Kujawsky, music director, Redwood Symphony, Redwood City, Calif.
A. Nine times out of 10, when you see a boom mike, the reason is an improperly framed film in the projector of your theater. If it happens several times, the odds go up to 100 percent. If you complain to management, they'll explain, "It was made that way."
Q. In replying to a question about your review of "Brüno" in July, you said that "in all fairness" you wrote: "It is no doubt unfair of Baron Cohen to victimize an innocent like Ron Paul. Watching Paul trying to deal with this weirdo made me reflect that as a fringe candidate, he has probably been subjected to a lot of strange questions on strange TV shows and is prepared to sit through almost anything for TV exposure."
I note how you believe you were responding in "all fairness." I suppose that in your expressed mainstream liberal view, you believe you were fair. But consider this: Ron Paul as a "fringe candidate"? He is a Republican U.S. congressman from the 14th District of Texas, my district. How is it that makes him fringe? OK, I know the answer. He is not a Republican or Democrat member of the mainstream war party. He seriously supports the Constitution of the United States. Presidents give an oath to support the Constitution. Neither Obama nor Bush showed anything but contempt for that oath.
I believe you probably watched many of last year's presidential debates. Did you notice how the mainstream media hosts treated Rep. Paul with contempt while fawning over every mainstream candidate, including the likes of Giuliani and Huckabee? Ron Paul showed equanimity and calm under the sarcasm of the "pundits."
A. As a presidential candidate, Ron Paul is "fringe." That's a fact, not an opinion. I often find him refreshing and forthright. He often cuts straight through the cliches and boilerplate of politics. It is perhaps only as a fringe candidate that he feels the freedom to be direct and blunt, since he isn't seriously expecting to be nominated. The Democrat Dennis Kucinch is also, I would argue, a fringe candidate, and likewise empowered. The MSM treats both with disregard. However, if a mainstream candidate dared to say some of the things those two say, the MSM would smack him back into line.
Let me speculate, however, that if Ron Paul were to announce in the 14th District of Texas that he thought there might be some validity to the theory of evolution, he could not win re-election. I guess you pick your fights. I keep waiting for the MSM to smack down any politician who doesn't accept evolution, but that doesn't happen.
I believe Ron Paul, as a physician, should be more forthright on the subject. In the Jordan Hall of Science at Notre Dame, these words are embossed in the floor: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
Q. I agree with your reader Todd A. Kennard who questioned making Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter novels into PG-13 movies. As I'm sure you know, those novels were originally written for adult readers. The last I heard, "A Princess of Mars" (retitled "John Carter of Mars") was going to be made by Disney. Their treatment of Tarzan may have been OK in the same sense that most of the previous Tarzan movies were. However, I believe that given treatment like Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" or Lucas' "Star Wars," Burroughs' novels would be financially and critically successful.
Tom Muelleman, West Chicago
A. In an attempt to maximize opening weekends pitched at the teenage audience base, many "naturally" R-rated movies, even horror films, are being scaled back to PG-13. This movie would possibly not be made if it had to be an R. That said, it could be the launch of a colorful new franchise like "Indiana Jones." The director is Pixar's Andrew Stanton, who is temporarily leaving animation for live action. He directed "Finding Nemo" and "Wall-E," and those good films were not handicapped by their ratings.
Q. I haven't seen Sandra Bullock's "All About Steve," but judging from your description, it sounds a little like someone was trying to synthesize, for a female lead, the Adam Sandler formula for highly profitable movies. Bullock's character sounds like a borderline crazy person with a "gold heart," who means well but proceeds to wreak havoc on the lives of normal people around her while having "cute" eccentric affectations of some sort.
Kevin McLoughlin, Albany, N.Y.
A. Yeah, you could say that but Adam Sandler movies are better. After I wrote that review, it occurred to me that a great many movies are about people who are actually insane. If I started pointing that out with any consistency, there'd be no end to it.
Gerardo Valero sees the potential for a good remake in "Escape from New York."
Omer Mozaffar reflects on "12 Years a Slave."
The first in a monthly series of video essays about unloved films, Scout Tafoya's video essay is an appreciation of "...
Erik Childress looks at the first awards of the season and their possible impact on the Oscar race.