A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Q. Considering the mixed reaction Elia Kazan got for his Lifetime Achievement Award--due to his artistic brilliance but lousy moral judgment--do you think Leni Riefenstahl will be acknowledged during the "in memory of" presentation at the next Academy Awards? If so, do you predict applause or protest? (Alexander Higle, Stamford CT)
A. Riefenstahl, sometimes described as "Hitler's favorite filmmaker" although she claimed she was never a Nazi, died Sept. 8 at 101. Of course the Academy must include her in its portraits of movie giants who died during the year. There may be some boos. Kazan, who died last week, will also be included in the memorial tribute; when he got his Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, as many as half the audience members withheld their applause, but no one booed.
Q. I have heard that Fox Searchlight will release Bertolucci's "The Dreamers" as an R-rated film, instead of as unrated, or NC-17. If Fox knows that the audience for the film will be adults, and that educated adults will not want to see a compromised version of a movie by a great director, then why are they releasing it as an R? Why not have it be like "Y Tu Mama Tambien": and release it as unrated? (Gary Rancier, Brooklyn NY)
A. The NC-17 rating is unworkable, thanks to Blockbuster, which refuses to stock such films, and the MPAA, which refuses to create an A (for "adult") category that would stand between the R rating and actual pornography. The movie could and should go out unrated. If Fox Searchlight does not want audiences to see the movie that Bertolucci made, then they should do the decent thing and give up distribution rights to a company prepared to stand behind its films. To buy a film and then cut it because of the MPAA rating amounts to vandalism.
Q. Re: the Answer Man discussion of Japanese stereotypes in "Lost in Translation": One thing Western writers have largely missed is how much experience Sofia Coppola personally has of the whole "western celebrity in Japan" thing. Her first film, "The Virgin Suicides," was an enormous arthouse hit in Japan, grossing more than its entire American gross on one screen in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, and it was one of the key films that launched a boom in American independent cinema in Japan. I can only assume that rather from caricaturing stereotypes, Sofia Coppola is in fact writing from pretty extensive personal experience: Japan is at times incomprehensible and deeply strange, but somehow many people from both sides have great fondness for the culture of the other side. (Michael Jennings, London)
A. It's also true that the movie deliberately and obviously sees Japanese culture from the outside, through the eyes of tourists who are preoccupied with one another. The movie is in Japan but not of Japan.
Q. In your review of "The Fighting Temptations," you note that Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character returns to his hometown and is promptly re-smitten with his "childhood sweetheart," played by Beyonce Knowles. I understand the movie math that allows characters played by Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones to be possible romantic partners as adults. But even in celluloid-fantasy reality, wouldn't anyone played by Cuba Gooding Jr. be way too old to have had the hots for anyone played by Beyonce Knowles in childhood without the authorities (or at least an angry father) becoming involved? (Harris Fleming Jr., Dumont NJ)
A. Let's see. Cuba Gooding Jr. was born in 1968, and Beyonce Knowles in 1981. When he was in love with her, she wasn't even born. No wonder she has to remind him who she is.
Q. I saw an ad for "The Rundown" with a whole series of alleged critics' raves, including one saying something like "Quite possibly the first perfect action movie." My question: Do you think a single human being in that movie -- including the director (Peter Berg of "Corky Romano" infamy), writer (R.J. Stewart, whose finest credit appears to be "Remington Steele"), or stars (The Rock and Christopher Walken among them) would actually say that it was the first perfect action movie? Or that it is a perfect action movie? (Bill Childs, Washington DC)
A. No, although it's a good one, but congratulations on discovering the first perfect action movie blurb.
Q. Have you ever loved a movie so much that you never wanted to see it again? That you never wanted to revisit it at another time or place in your life when you might look at it differently? That is how I feel about "The Hours" and "Far from Heaven." They got to me at the right time and the right place and I am therefore reluctant to see them again. (Jeff Young, Las Vegas, NV)
A. I love my favorite movies more the better I know them, and have been through most of my favorites one shot at a time. I've probably seen "Citizen Kane" at least 50 times that way. But there are some movies based on surprises that lose power once you know when to expect them. "Jaws" would be an example.
Q. I have been following with great amusement "The Brown Bunny" imbroglio. Now, Vosges' Haut-Chocolat, a chocolate store in Chicago, has introduced the "Vincent Gallo truffle." I had a sample and it is delicious, a blend of cheese, walnut, and chocolate. It's also bigger than their other truffles. Vosges's website describes it as "arresting in its visual shape." The owner of Vosges, Katrina Markhoff, said in her monthly email to Vosges members that she knows Mr. Gallo and made the truffle for him. (Gelsey Kinsey, Chicago IL)
A. Now the question is, how does Chloe Sevingy like it?
A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.
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