The Big Sick
Finds that laughter-through-tears sweet spot, often in the unlikeliest of places.
A. Malkovich plays Teddy KGB, a Russian-American gangster and ace poker player who provides the ultimate test of the skill and nerve of Mike, the Matt Damon character. Teddy KGB likes to eat Oreos while he plays. Mike spots his "tell"--a poker term for an opponent's unconscious way of revealing whether he has the cards or is bluffing. The Oreos have been much discussed in the Internet discussion group rec. gambling.poker, where John Harkness of Toronto writes: "If he breaks it in front of his face, it means nothing. If he breaks it to the side of his head, as if listening to it, he's got the nuts."
Q. Re the Answer Man's discussion of the disappearance of the words "The End" at the end of modern movies: Audiences no longer require it. Once they've seen every scene that was in the trailer, they know that the movie's over. (Tim Carvell, New York)
A. Either that, or they see Jackie Chan with his leg in a cast.
Q. In your review of "Urban Legends," you mused: "There must be a name for the kind of loud, sudden chord that slasher movies depend on." I've been told by a composer that it's called a "sting." (Chris Rowland, Plainsboro, N.J.)
A. Or a "stinger," according to other mail I've received. My other favorite movie composer jargon is "Mickey Mouse music," which refers to music which exactly mirrors the physical actions of characters on the screen.
Q. I'm writing about the Answer Man remark of yours regarding movie profits. You stated that we people who do not buy at the concession stands are being subsidized by others who do. 1) I'm allergic to chocolate. 2) I don't like the "liquid" that's put on popcorn. It's real butter or nothing for me. 3) If they raise the price because of me, SO BE IT! I have a choice to buy or not. That's the American way, okay? I don't like snide remarks. (Cara Williams, Blue Island, IL)
A. So be it! I was simply pointing out that your local theater makes most of its money at the refreshment counter and sends most of the ticket price to the studios. If theaters didn't sell refreshments, an $8 ticket would cost about $12. It's the American Way.
Q. I've noticed a trend the past couple of years that I can't figure out. It seems that two major studios will release films within weeks of each other that appear to be nearly identical in concept. Last year we had "Volcano" and "Dante's Peak." This past summer it was "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon." Now in the fall we have two animated insect films, "Antz" and "A Bug's Life." What's going on here? (Jack Hagerty, Livermore, CA)
A. Synchronicity is the generally accepted explanation. Ideas seem to be in the air, ripe for plucking by more than one studio. What's interesting is that when it becomes obvious that two similar projects are in the works, neither studio is inclined to blink, since that would concede they think the other studio can do a better job. It's not the story peg, anyway, that makes a movie good, but how it's handled.
Q. In your review of "Rush Hour," you mention that it has "even a reference to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, of 'Jackie Brown' fame." This appears to presume Roscoe's is a fictional place invented in the 'Jackie Brown' film. Let me assure you that Roscoe's is a REAL PLACE in Los Angeles, with two locations I know of. I've enjoyed their hot fried chicken and waffles many times, in their improbably rough/refined place on Pico, filled with both street folk and stars, nearly all black, while even more improbable music (often Barbara Streisand or other mid-road white artists) argues with the whole scene. It's a treat. (John Nagy, Los Angeles)
A. I knew Roscoe's was a real place, but let's face it: More people heard of it in "Jackie Brown" than have visited it in life. I believe your recommendation, because, in the movie, a guy allows himself to be locked into a car trunk just because he's promised chicken and waffles as his reward.
Q. Re Gus Van Sant's remake of Hitchcock's "Psycho:" Do you think Van Sant will go so far as to also re-create Hitchcock's original trailer (in which he showed the audience the sets and explained what went on in each set)? (Ed Slota, Warwick, R.I.)
A. That's one of the most famous previews in movie history, with the rotund Master of Suspense in his black suit leading a guided tour of the Bates home and motel. Assuming you think the remake is a good idea in the first place (I have grave doubts), then why not remake the trailer, too? Of course, that would fly in the face of current studio wisdom, which says the coming attractions have to summarize and reveal the entire movie. On the other hand, in this case everybody knows the whole movie anyway.
Q. At the end of Disney's remake of "The Parent Trap," a closing credit dedicates the movie to "Hallie." I know that Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of producer/directors Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, was credited as one of the girls in the camp. Was this simply a tribute to the child or did something happen to her? (Len Klatt, Los Angeles)
A. Suzanne Farwell, Nancy Meyers' assistant, says: "So many movies feature boys as the hero that Nancy and Charles wanted to make a movie where the hero is a girl (or girls, in this case). Nancy says that 'The Parent Trap' empowers girls who are the exact age of her daughter, Hallie. Nancy and Charles wanted Hallie to have this to look back on for the rest of her life, as a film that her parents made as a valentine to her. In 1987, Nancy and Charles dedicated their 'Baby Boom' to their other daughter, Annie, who was 7-years old at the time."
Q. I recently saw "Out of Sight" and noticed Michael Keaton's character seemed very similar in that movie to his character in "Jackie Brown." So I looked back in the novel "Rum Punch" and saw that Keaton's character was also named Ray Nicolet, the part he is playing in "Out of Sight." Is he playing the same character here? (Steve Dermentzis, Scotia, NY)
A. Yes. Both movies are based on novels by Elmore Leonard, who carried Nicolet over.
Q. I recently watched "Donnie Brasco" on TV. Can you tell me what Al Pacino was supposed to be doing at the end? He put some things in a drawer--left the drawer pulled out on purpose, put on glasses, and walked out the door. What are we supposed to think happened to him? Did I miss something? (Mary Fran Purse, Northfield, IL)
A. He knows he's going to his death, and is leaving those valued possessions for his wife to find, as kind of a message of love.
Q. I recently saw "Saving Private Ryan" I have one problem with the film. When some of the officers hit Omaha Beach, their rifles were in plastic bags. Plastic was not invented yet. How could Spielberg and his advisors make such a mistake? (Nancy Geraci, Park Ridge, IL)
A. Plastic had indeed been invented by then. Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian who moved to America, cooked up the first form of manufactured plastic in 1907. He called it Bakelite. Many soldiers in World War Two, however, preferred another product to protect the barrels of their weapons: Condoms.