The Great Wall
Unlike any American blockbuster you've seen, a conservative movie with action set pieces that are actually inventive and thrilling enough to be worthwhile.
Q. Just saw and enjoyed "In and Out" but couldn't listen fast enough during the funny Oscar scene. In addition to the Matt Dillon character, who were the other nominees for best actor, and what were their films names? (Susan Lake, Urbana, IL)
Q. I just saw "The Game" and thought it was terrific fun, though because it was directed by Evil Dave Fincher ("Seven"), I kept anticipating the arrival of another head in a box. But you want to know the best thing about it--what really makes it work? No opening credits. Just the title, that's all, and then the movie begins. I wish more filmmakers understood the importance of establishing this immediate sense of illusion, rather than trying our patience with a long resume of actors and production people. Can't they wait to see their names until the end? (Craig Simpson, Reynoldsburg, Ohio)
A. Depends on the movie, I think. I enjoyed the way "Fargo" started out without credits, but with many movies I enjoy the credit sequences, which tip me off to actors I might not recognize (I hate spending a whole movie wondering--who IS that guy?).
Q. Have you noticed that all three of David Fincher's films ("Alien3," "Seven" and "The Game") feature a suicide in the conclusion? What's the deal with this guy? Is he going to spend his whole career trying to find the perfect suicide? (Daniel M. Conley, Chicago)
A. You gotta admit the suicides are at least getting less fatal.
Q. In your review of "In and Out," you say the screenplay was by Paul Rudnick, "who under the pen name Libby Gelman-Waxner writes a funny column for Premiere magazine." What are you telling me -- THERE'S NO LIBBY GELMAN-WAXNER?? PAUL RUDNICK??? I am stunned. The column is just so . . . so . . . FEMALE. How could HE possibly have such an insight into my feelings for Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson? I'm hoping that he's gay, therefore, as it would give me at least some small comfort. (Denise Leder, Las Vegas).
A. From what I understand, you have reason to hope.
Q. I want to draw your attention to something I call the Tribal Memory Fallacy. Remember the scene in "My Best Friend's Wedding" where everyone's at dinner and a couple of people sing fragments of a Motown song, only to have the whole restaurant join in? Who taught all these people the entire lyrics to the song? Do you know anyone who knows more than a few bars of any pop song? I don't. I can sing and mumble my way through bits and pieces, but the movie silliness about whole restaurants being able to join in is like a big anti-fictive dream alarm bell. (Paul Kedrosky, Vancouver, B.C.)
A. You are referring to the lyrics to "Say a Little Prayer For Me." That's nothing. I went to see "Hamlet," and everybody in the movie was spouting Shakespeare.
Q. I have yet to see this hidden joke from "Liar, Liar" mentioned anywhere, and was wondering if you had noticed it: When Jim Carrey's character first tries to overcome his inability to lie, he has an amusing tug-of-war with a blue pen. At the end of his futile battle, Carrey rises from behind his desk with the word "BLUE" written repeatedly all over his face. Among those scribbled BLUEs was the name "B.B. King." down by his chin. For some reason, I felt there was a reason to look for a "blues" joke there, and I found it! (Matt Webb Mitovich, New York City)
A. You've got me so worked up, I'm searching for the "Dragnet" reference in your name.
Q. I saw the film "A Chef in Love" and read your review of it. As you quote the chef, he says communism will pass but great cuisine will live forever. Actually, good food was available in Georgia in Soviet days, but now, with perestroika, McDonald's and Pizza Hut have taken over. What persists is corruption. (Prof. Ralph Slovenko, Law School, Wayne State University, Detroit)
A. Corruption, and the double-stuffed crust.
Q. I had no idea "Copland" was set in the future. In one of the early bar scenes in the town of garrison, Ray Liotta's character is teasing one of the cops about betting against the "five-time champion Chicago Bulls." Check me if I'm wrong, but since they just became five-time champs this past spring, and the new season doesn't start until the fall of '97, the time period for this movie would have to be sometime in the future (during the 1997-98 season at the earliest). (Patrick R. Hicks, Milford, CT).
A. Yeah, and footage from the film was screened at the Cannes film festival in May of 1997, while the Bulls were still playing Miami. We are left with one of two possibilities: Either the movie is set in the future, or Liotta's character is wrong. Since no fan in a bar has ever been wrong about the Bulls, I go with your theory.
Q. I went to see Truffaut's "Day For Night" yesterday--it's in revival at a local theater--after lo these many years. Did I see Graham Greene in there in an uncredited cameo role? I could have sworn that he played the Englishman who gives Truffaut and the producer the bad news from the insurers after Alexander dies in a car crash. I believe that Greene was living on the Riviera at that time, and it is the kind of inside film reference (Greene-"The Third Man"-Orson Welles) that Truffaut would have enjoyed making. (Gerry Howard, New York)
A. That is indeed Graham Greene, according to the Internet Movie Database.
Q. Although you reviewed the film "Bliss" favorably last June, it never played in Boston this summer. I made a couple of calls to Sony/Triumph to inquire why it never found its way here only to be told that Boston was not one of Sony's seven major markets! Never mind there are over 250,000 college and graduate students in Boston. Finally, the film arrived this past week at an out-of-the-way neighborhood theatre in remote Dedham. There were no standard ads in the Boston Globe. I just thought you'd want to know how utterly lousy Sony/Triumph was about distributing this film. (Vicki Landrum, Boston)
A. When a film doesn't make a quick takeoff, studios move to cut their losses. Unfortunately, movies like "Bliss" doesn't tend to open strongly, and need time to find their audiences. The summer's two genuine art house hits, "The Full Monty" and "Shall We Dance," were platformed carefully and will make big profits.
Q. What about the famous "hanging scene" in "The Wizard of Oz?" What was the name of the stagehand who hangs himself? Are you protecting MGM studios? I do not understand your motives. (Dave Wade, Aurora)
A. This is The Question That Will Not Die. I like to run a version of it every 12 months or so, for old times' sake. Once again: No dead body can be seen hanging from a tree in "The Wizard of Oz," and no one hanged himself, and this story is only an urban legend. Honest.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...