The Magnificent Seven
Rarely have so many charismatic actors been used in a film that feels quite as soulless as Antoine Fuqua’s update of The Magnificent Seven.
Q. I'm someone who lived through the real story of "Remember The Titans." I was a teacher at T.C. Williams from 1967 to 1972, and was the football PA announcer. To answer the questions posed at the end of your review: There were actually three high schools in Alexandria before 1971. G.W. was the downtown school and had a 50/50 racial split, T.C. Williams had a 70/30 white/black ratio, and Hammond was pretty much all white. Herman Boone was actually the head coach at T.C. for two years before the schools merged. Yoast was the coach at Hammond. The G.W. coach was ready for retirement and did so. So while the decision to give Boone the head job was gutsy it wasn't that big a deal. The black players at T.C. weren't upset about the decision because they knew Boone knew them pretty well. The movie makes Alexandria look like Redneckville. It wasn't, although the coaching fraternity was a "Good Ole Boy Network". I cannot remember one racial incident or fight in the halls either before or after the three schools merged. I think Boone's job with the team helped make that happen. I watched the movie on Friday night with a friend who had been a junior at T.C. in 1972. We both agreed that what happened in Alexandria in 1971 wasn't that big a deal. but we loved the movie and in retrospect think that it was a hoot being a part of history. (Don Kubie, Westport, CT)
A. In other words, T. C. Williams was already integrated, and Boone was already its coach, when mostly-white Hammond was merged with it, and Boone simply kept his job rather than taking Yoast's job? And there were no racial incidents or fights? I guess that wouldn't have made as good a movie.
Q. I could not agree more with your review of "The Exorcist" re-release, I think it is a blatant example of ego and greed trampling over fine art. The additions add NOTHING to the film and disrupt the momentum. William Friedkin would have done better to stand by his original cut of the film rather than mysteriously change his view shortly after releasing a DVD version that has him defending, on the sound track, every cut he has now restored of the "lost footage." He was right about every point he made and now suddenly takes it all back. I feel cheated. (Kevin Ullery, Chicago)
A. Friedkin told me he made these changes to respect the wishes of author/producer William Peter Blatty. He insisted they had nothing to do with another DVD release, and said: "I don't even know if they're going to bring this out of DVD." I was in San Francisco over the weekend and discussed this issue with the director Werner Herzog, who told me: "Three months after I finish a film, I destroy all the unused material. A carpenter does not sit on his shavings."
Q. The other night I saw an advertisement for the Sally Field-directed beauty pageant movie "Beautiful." The ad said Rosie O'Donnell called it funny. Is this movie so bad it can't even find praise from obscure venues like "Wake Up Winnipeg!"--and has to take quotes from talk shows where the actors appear to plug the film and the host therefore gives clearly-biased praise? (Matt Rogina, Chicago IL)
Q. Re your query about how the serial killer got hooks on his back in "The Cell:" He could go to any body-modification shop to get piercings and have just about anything hanging from just about anywhere, no questions asked. Ask someone what a "Prince Albert" is. (Barbara Ann White, Baltimore MD)
A. I did. I wish I hadn't.
Q. As a birthday present I received my mother in law's autograph collection which was compiled by a relative of hers in a silver store located in the Mexico City airport during the 1940s and 50s. It includes names such as Errol Flynn, Orson Welles, Ann Miller, Paulette Godard, Joe Louis, Joe DiMaggio and Cantinflas. Whenever I show it to anybody they claim it must be worth quiet a bit. Is there a market for such a thing, or just sentimental value? (Gerardo Valero, Mexico City)
A. Various kinds of DiMaggio signatures go for between $50 and $200. Ann Miller is closer to $10. Might be interesting to try selling the whole collection as one item on eBay.
Q. I've noticed that some scenes in certain movies are being deleted or edited for video. "Beetlejuice" and "Basic Instinct" are two examples. In "Basic Instinct," the infamous interrogation scene was blurred in the crucial area, and in "Beetlejuice," my favorite line in the whole movie, "Nice (bleeping) model!", was deleted. Is there some kind of marking on the packaging alerting the consumer that the movie is an edited version? (Roger J. Rialmo, Chicago IL)
A. Certain video chains silently edit some films to conform to their ideas of what is proper. Because they do not want to lose sales, they are not frank about this practice. If you get an edited film from a video store, my advice would be to stop patronizing that store.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...