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Movie Answer Man (10/01/1993)

Q. In "Scent of a Woman," toward the end the musical score picks up Charlie Chaplin's hauntingly beautiful melody from "City Lights." Since both movies deal with blindness, it seemed significant, yet I saw no mention of "City Lights" or Chaplin in the credits. (Barry G. Silverman, Phoenix, AZ)

A. David J. Wally, the film's associate producer, tells me that although Brest is such a lover of Chaplin that he named his company City Lights Films, the use of the song is coincidental. The song from "City Lights" is "La Violetera," written by Jose Padilla, not Chaplin. When Brest was researching music for the movie, he came across several recordings by The Tango Project, which he decided to use. One of them was "La Violetera." Both Padilla and the Tango Project did receive credit in the end titles.

Q. The credits at the end of films are obviously made for the big screen, and when they roll past on home video, they're too small to read. Why don't they make them bigger? (Joan Baxter, Chapel Hill, N.C.)

A. Larger titles would take even longer to roll past, and some are already approaching the 10-minute mark ("Benji's dog chow catered by...," etc.) Exhibitors believe few people read the titles; briefer titles increase the time available for selling popcorn, etc. That's why some theaters close the curtains while the titles are still running. Larger titles on home video, especially collector's editions, would be a bonus.

Q. I am Cheryl Sites, alias the character "Pearl" in the movie "This Boy's Life." I take exception to your references about my father in your review. How can you state as fact incidents regarding our lives when very little in the movie is true? My father didn't die in Concrete, Oregon, and in fact we never lived in Concrete! There was no love lost between my father and "Jack" (the character based on author Tobias Wolff), but there wasn't the violent relationship depicted in the movie, either. "Jack" didn't toil at his paper route only to have my father steal his money. I shared that route. We used the money to buy what we wanted. I don't understand why it was important to portray my father as an idiot, when in fact he was an intelligent man and had a much better vocabulary than "Shut your pie hole!" I'm sorry life was miserable for 'Jack," and it was, but a good deal of it was brought on my his own actions and prevarications. I don't intent to make my father a saint because he wasn't and we didn't have the "Leave It to Beaver" or "Father Knows Best" household, but it wasn't all bad, either. (Cheryl Sites, Kent, WA)

A. I made the mistake, common to movie reviewers, of discussing the characters in a movie as if they were real. Robert De Niro's performance as the father was obviously based much more on artistic inspiration than on fact, and as a general rule when the words "The following is a true story" appear on the screen, they're as fictional as anything that follows.

Q. I heard that Spike Lee is going to shoot a movie in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. True? (Ronnie Barzell, Chicago)

A. Lee has purchased the rights to a Univ. of Chicago Press best-seller named Slim's Table: Race, Respectability and Masculinity, by Michael Duneier, which records the conversations and friendships of a group of men who gather for lunch in Hyde Park every day. He wants to use it as the basis for a TV series about black working-men and heads of families, who are almost invisible in the mass media. Lee will probably only shoot some exteriors in Chicago.

Q. I'd like to know why, in the movie "Hero" (1992), Chevy Chase isn't listed in the credits. (Dan Gerson, Santa Clara, CA)

A. Stars sometimes pass up billing for supporting roles, as an ego thing. Hoffman co-stars seem to have a special fondness for the practice; Bill Murray was also uncredited for his funny work as Hoffman's roommate in "Tootsie."

Q. "Jurassic Park" is just a remake of an old Japanese film. Am I the only one to remember it? Unfortunately, I have forgotten the title. Godzilla and all the other monsters were kept on an island under scientific supervision. As you can imagine, they escaped to terrorize the world. (Dorothi St. Ives, Chicago)

A. You may be thinking of "Godzilla on Monster Island" (1972), which was, of course, the first movie in which Godzilla talked. The original twist in the Spielberg film was the idea of cloning the dinosaurs from ancient DNA. Also, all of the actors could speak much better than Godzilla.

Q. In "Jurassic Park," why do the electrically-powered cars have ignition keys and gear shifts? When T. Rex turns one over, why do you clearly see an exhaust system underneath? The one thing you don't see is any kind of pickup device making a connection between the cars and the rain the vehicles are supposed to run along. Somebody ought to take Spielberg for a ride on the 'L' sometime, so he can learn how electric vehicles work. (Bill Becwar, Chicago)

A. Better still, in the sequel, maybe he could have one of the dinosaurs attack the L, in the great tradition of King Kong.

Q. Did you really like "Castle of Fu Manchu?" The Mystery Science Theater critics said, "Roger Ebert liked this!" (Don Donovan)

A. I've never seen it. Maybe they had me confused with Gene Siskel. Happens all the time.

Q. I saw you on Letterman with Gene Siskel. You were discussing "Free Willy" when you made a cutting remark about Gene's weight being similar to the killer whale's. Was that a media thing? (Jim McNeely, Fresno, CA)

A. Yeah, it's a media thing. But you have us confused. It was Siskel who made the remark about my weight. I was the one who used admirable restraint in not observing that Gene should have identified with Willy because they are both large hairless mammals.

Q. This may seem like a goofy question, but is Goofy a dog? My daughter says he doesn't have a species, he's just a cartoon character. Now wait, I argued. Donald is a duck, Mickey is a mouse, and Pluto is most definitely a dog. Goofy has what appear to be canine teeth, lop ears, a snout, and a blank nose. Is he a dog or not? (Vic Sussman, Washington, DC)

A. My rule is this: If they walk upright, they're cartoon characters. If they walk on all fours, they're dogs. Maybe it would help you to think of Goofy as a little further up the evolutionary ladder than Pluto.

Q. I read your review on "The Good Son" and as both a parent and a school psychologist, I couldn't agree with you more. The movie is violent for the sake of violence. Unintended consequences of scenes like the Highway Man are likely. Macaulay Calkin is a hero for many youngsters who are too young to separate the actor from the character. They may be prone to confusion, psychological distress, and possibly increased aggression as a result. So the movie was rated R? Since when has that ever been enforced? Is there anything that can be done discourage future productions of movie like this? (David Hardy, Carlisle, PA)

A. Unfortunately, the movie has been successful at the box office, so there may yet be a "Good Son II." You mention the scene where Calkin throws a dummy off a bridge and causes a traffic pileup. A reader, Michael Beemer, informs me that last Halloween, near Detroit, pranksters dropped a dummy from a freeway overpass. A pregnant woman swerved to avoid hitting what she thought was a person, and was killed. It is chilling to reflect that this incident, far from deterring the filmmakers, may have inspired the Highway Man scene.

Q. Computer science has reached the point where producing a synthetic, realistic, original full-length movie with stars like Gable, Astaire, Garland, Bogart, etc., is possible. These are not just lifts from old movies (such as in soda commercials), but full-action computer models, convincingly real in speech and visual appearance. I look forward with anticipation to these new synthetic movies because they combine old talents with new directors and writers. How about morphing the looks of a Clark Gable with the dancing skill of Astaire and the voice of Pavarotti? (Lloyd E. Clark, Millersville, MD)

A. And the legs of Betty Grable? The use of Frankenactors is immoral--a violation of the rights of the dead to have the book closed on their own lives. What actor would relinquish to a computer his control over tone, nuance and emotion? If we see new movies with a computerized Bogart, will those "performances" then affect our view of his actual work? Such appropriation of images is artistic theft. The people who make those TV commercials with ripped-off footage from old movies should be ashamed of themselves. As punishment, they should be forced to watch porno flicks starring their grandmothers.

Q. I recently rented "The Verdict," one of my favorite Paul Newman films. In your Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion, you give it four stars, but then you write, "...it has a lot of truth in it, right down to a great final scene in which Newman, still drinking, finds that if you wash it down with booze, victory tastes just like defeat." But Newman isn't still drinking! He's sitting in his office sipping coffee. You got it wrong. Do yourself a favor and watch the last five minutes again. Humor me. (Paul Kornacki, Cheektowaga, N.Y.)

A. I did. I still sense that it's not coffee in the cup. For an informal survey, I posted your question in the ShowBiz Forum on CompuServe. Here are some replies: "My impression has always been that the Newman character booted the booze at the end, as part of his 'redemption,' and whatever he was drinking was sans alcohol. (Jon Woolf, Beavercreek, OH) "Well, having just dragged out the laserdisc: He's asleep at his desk, the phone startles him awake, he ignores the phone, and takes a sip from the mug on the desk. He then goes back to sleep. During this scene, he's upset over his failed relationship with Charlotte Rampling. On the whole, I don't think it was coffee." (James M. Curran, Bloomfield, NJ) "I don't think Newman drinking again would have fit very well with the redemption theme of the film. His summation seemed far too coherent for someone who had jumped off the wagon." (Lance Ulanoff, PC Magazine)

Q. The Star recently ran an item saying that you got a call from an outraged Woody Allen, furious that you revealed the ending to his "Manhattan Murder Mystery" on the Siskel & Ebert program. "Woody made a huge fuss," the paper said, "and told the roly-poly reviewer that the show would no longer get advance clips from his movies." Is this item true? What else did Woody say? (Harris Allsworth, Chicago)

A. The item is completely fictitious. Woody never called, made no threats, withheld no clips. Nor did I reveal the ending, except in an indirect way. The Star's article about my recent weight loss was completely accurate, however--although since they call me "roly-poly" here, I guess they didn't believe it.

Q. What was in that bag that Tommy Lee Jones gave Harrison Ford at the end of "The Fugitive?" (Peter Sherman, Monroe, LA)

A. "An ice pack for his swollen hands," director Andrew Davis replies.

Q. In "The Fugitive," why was a U. S. Marshal involved in the search for an escaped convict in Illinois? Kimball was convinced of a state offense in Cook County Circuit Court and was on his way to a state prison, yet a Marshal entered the investigation almost immediately, before there was any evidence he committed a federal offense. (Robert J. Smith)

A. Back to Andy Davis again: "It is little known, even within the law enforcement community, that U. S. Marshals have long been primarily responsible for fugitives from the law. It was implied in our movie that a joint operation of federal, state and local authorities was set up to investigate the train wreck, and that the governor of Illinois had personally asked the U. S. Marshal to see to the matter Downstate. If Richard Kimble had crossed state lines, the case would definitely have been handled by the FBI."

Q. In "Scent of a Woman," toward the end the musical score picks up Charlie Chaplin's hauntingly beautiful melody from "City Lights." Since both movies deal with blindness, it seemed significant, yet I saw no mention of "City Lights" or Chaplin in the credits. (Barry G. Silverman, Phoenix, AZ)

A. David J. Wally, the film's associate producer, tells me that although Brest is such a lover of Chaplin that he named his company City Lights Films, the use of the song is coincidental. The song from "City Lights" is "La Violetera," written by Jose Padilla, not Chaplin. When Brest was researching music for the movie, he came across several recordings by The Tango Project, which he decided to use. One of them was "La Violetera." Both Padilla and the Tango Project did receive credit in the end titles.

Q. The credits at the end of films are obviously made for the big screen, and when they roll past on home video, they're too small to read. Why don't they make them bigger? (Joan Baxter, Chapel Hill, N.C.)

A. Larger titles would take even longer to roll past, and some are already approaching the 10-minute mark ("Benji's dog chow catered by...," etc.) Exhibitors believe few people read the titles; briefer titles increase the time available for selling popcorn, etc. That's why some theaters close the curtains while the titles are still running. Larger titles on home video, especially collector's editions, would be a bonus.

Q. I am Cheryl Sites, alias the character "Pearl" in the movie "This Boy's Life." I take exception to your references about my father in your review. How can you state as fact incidents regarding our lives when very little in the movie is true? My father didn't die in Concrete, Oregon, and in fact we never lived in Concrete! There was no love lost between my father and "Jack" (the character based on author Tobias Wolff), but there wasn't the violent relationship depicted in the movie, either. "Jack" didn't toil at his paper route only to have my father steal his money. I shared that route. We used the money to buy what we wanted. I don't understand why it was important to portray my father as an idiot, when in fact he was an intelligent man and had a much better vocabulary than "Shut your pie hole!" I'm sorry life was miserable for 'Jack," and it was, but a good deal of it was brought on my his own actions and prevarications. I don't intent to make my father a saint because he wasn't and we didn't have the "Leave It to Beaver" or "Father Knows Best" household, but it wasn't all bad, either. (Cheryl Sites, Kent, WA)

A. I made the mistake, common to movie reviewers, of discussing the characters in a movie as if they were real. Robert De Niro's performance as the father was obviously based much more on artistic inspiration than on fact, and as a general rule when the words "The following is a true story" appear on the screen, they're as fictional as anything that follows.

Q. I heard that Spike Lee is going to shoot a movie in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. True? (Ronnie Barzell, Chicago)

A. Lee has purchased the rights to a Univ. of Chicago Press best-seller named Slim's Table: Race, Respectability and Masculinity, by Michael Duneier, which records the conversations and friendships of a group of men who gather for lunch in Hyde Park every day. He wants to use it as the basis for a TV series about black working-men and heads of families, who are almost invisible in the mass media. Lee will probably only shoot some exteriors in Chicago.

Q. I'd like to know why, in the movie "Hero," Chevy Chase isn't listed in the credits. (Dan Gerson, Santa Clara, CA)

A. Stars sometimes pass up billing for supporting roles, as an ego thing. Hoffman co-stars seem to have a special fondness for the practice; Bill Murray was also uncredited for his funny work as Hoffman's roommate in "Tootsie."

Q. "Jurassic Park" is just a remake of an old Japanese film. Am I the only one to remember it? Unfortunately, I have forgotten the title. Godzilla and all the other monsters were kept on an island under scientific supervision. As you can imagine, they escaped to terrorize the world. (Dorothi St. Ives, Chicago)

A. You may be thinking of "Godzilla on Monster Island" (1972), which was, of course, the first movie in which Godzilla talked. The original twist in the Spielberg film was the idea of cloning the dinosaurs from ancient DNA. Also, all of the actors could speak much better than Godzilla.

Q. In "Jurassic Park," why do the electrically-powered cars have ignition keys and gear shifts? When T. Rex turns one over, why do you clearly see an exhaust system underneath? The one thing you don't see is any kind of pickup device making a connection between the cars and the rain the vehicles are supposed to run along. Somebody ought to take Spielberg for a ride on the 'L' sometime, so he can learn how electric vehicles work. (Bill Becwar, Chicago)

A. Better still, in the sequel, maybe he could have one of the dinosaurs attack the L, in the great tradition of King Kong.

Q. Did you really like "Castle of Fu Manchu?" The Mystery Science Theater critics said, "Roger Ebert liked this!" (Don Donovan)

A. I've never seen it. Maybe they had me confused with Gene Siskel. Happens all the time.

Q. I saw you on Letterman with Gene Siskel. You were discussing "Free Willy" when you made a cutting remark about Gene's weight being similar to the killer whale's. Was that a media thing? (Jim McNeely, Fresno, CA)

A. Yeah, it's a media thing. But you have us confused. It was Siskel who made the remark about my weight. I was the one who used admirable restraint in not observing that Gene should have identified with Willy because they are both large hairless mammals.

Q. This may seem like a goofy question, but is Goofy a dog? My daughter says he doesn't have a species, he's just a cartoon character. Now wait, I argued. Donald is a duck, Mickey is a mouse, and Pluto is most definitely a dog. Goofy has what appear to be canine teeth, lop ears, a snout, and a blank nose. Is he a dog or not? (Vic Sussman, Washington, DC)

A. My rule is this: If they walk upright, they're cartoon characters. If they walk on all fours, they're dogs. Maybe it would help you to think of Goofy as a little further up the evolutionary ladder than Pluto.

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