At one point, I checked the time code on Netflix and saw that the movie had over forty minutes to go. I visibly winced.
Q. I watched the new CBS show "Early Edition" and found out that they use Chicago Sun-Times as their one-day-ahead-paper. When the paper was zoomed in, I could clearly see and read "Roger Ebert's movie review" on the paper. I was wondering if you have seen the show or not. (Min Woong Lee, Costa Mesa, CA.)
A. I haven't yet seen the show, because I've been so busy with the flood of new movies to review. But you've given me an idea. If I could read the Sun-Times two days ahead, I could simply copy down my review and send it in to the paper, making it unnecessary for me to write it. This would save me a lot of work, and I could watch more TV.
Q. Is it safe to predict, as 1996 edges toward a close, that the future holds a movie titled something like "Independence Day 2?" If you know anyone foolish enough to bet otherwise please send them my way. (Chris Foreman, Takoma Park, MD)
A. My contact at 20th Century-Fox says there will "definitely" be a sequel to "Independence Day" but no story has been settled on, and "ID4"-makers Roland Emerick and Dean Devlin haven't committed to it.
Q. I'm a freelance reader in Hollywood. Since you'll see Barry Levinson's "Sleepers" soon I'm writing to urge you to address author Lorenzo Carcaterra's alleged fabrication of the "true story." My work as a "story analyst" comes from one of the industry's biggest directors. "Sleepers" came his way, and therefore my way, on an "overnight read." This, boasted the agent, was a hot property--and bids would be considered first thing in the morning. I hunkered down for an all-nighter and plowed through the manuscript. Billed as a "true story," the manuscript was punchy and overwrought--and an obvious lie. That's what I reported the next morning on a conference call with the company's producers. Not long thereafter, Lorenzo Carcaterra sold the book's movie rights for a reported $2 million. I asked one of the company's producers what he thought of an obvious fraud like "Sleepers" selling for $2 million. "What fraud?" said the producer. "It's a movie." As far as "Sleepers" living up to its billing as a "true story," the producer was unconcerned: "That's not something I obsess over." I feel strongly that billing a story as "true" to inflate its appeal is a fraudulent practice. "Sleepers" may have some merit as a revenge tale, but in my opinion, what sold the story and made Carcaterra rich was nothing less than fraud. (Name withheld by request)
A. "Sleepers" is the new movie starring Robert De Niro, Kevin Bacon, Dustin Hoffman and Brad Pitt in the story of tough New York kids who grow up and take revenge on a reformatory guard who abused them. The New York Times researched the Carcaterra novel at the time it was published, and concluded it was unlikely the novel could have been based on fact. Yet the new film begins with the words, "This is a true story." That bothers me, because the movie shows moral decisions being taken which, in the real world, would have been impossible to justify.
Q. I understand Kodak has stopped producing sound Super-8 movie film, and the future of the entire format is in question. I think that this is a pity for us amateur filmmakers because 16mm is way too expensive for a hobby. (Alan Mark, Salt Lake City)
A. A company spokesman tells me Kodak has stopped producing sound Super-8 movie film. As soon as the current inventory is exhausted, sound Super-8 will no longer be available. The reason: "Environmental regulations have negatively impacted the manufacturing of sound stripping and in order to continue, it would take a substantial capital investment in order to retrofit the manufacturing area. Based on the low level of Super-8 film sales, together with declining sales trend, it doesn't make good business sense to make that kind of investment." He adds that Kodak is exploring alternatives, and will continue to offer Super 8 without sound.
Q. The new edition of Ephraim Katz's Film Encyclopedia says that Annabeth Gish is Lillian Gish's granddaughter. Is that true? (Steven Siferd, Alpine, CA)
A. Miss Gish never married or had children and was said to have loved only one man, D. W. Griffith.
Q. What is the length of time of a "reel?" Is that term still being used in the business? (Gary Currie, Montreal, Canada)
A. In the old days, films used 10-minute reels because that was how much would fit in the camera. Then reels became 20 minutes in length, dictated by how long the old carbon arc lamps would last in a projector. Today, movies are shipped in 20-minute reels, but at most theaters they're spliced into one continuous length of film while being projected, and then broken down again for shipping.
Q. I am following the installation of a new elevator at work, and I am sorry to say that it is now mandatory (in Ohio anyway), that the overhead doors in the roofs of elevators are locked! Movies will suffer as a result of this. Heroes will no longer be permitted to climb through the top of the car to escape before the car crashes to the bottom of the pit. On the other hand, the villains will now have more difficult access to the riders of stranded cars. I will do my own research over the next year to see how the movie death toll is affected by this legislation. At this writing, I have not heard of any laws requiring guardrails around fruit stands, so that one is still safe. (Scott Moff, Marietta, OH)
A. What will they think of next? Making the drivers in chase scenes wear seat belts?
Q. I'm intrigued by actors who have either lost or gained a lot of weight during the filming of a movie--for example, DeNiro in "Raging Bull," and more recently, Matt Damon in "Courage Under Fire." I hear Stallone just put on a lot for his upcoming role, but what was especially interesting about the first two movies I mentioned is that the actors were fat and skinny in THE SAME MOVIE. I'd like to know whether they started the filming fat and then fasted for a month, or whether they started filming skinny and then ate milk shakes all day to change their bodies. (Mark McSweeney, Indianapolis, IN)
A. Don't know about Damon, but director Martin Scorsese shut down the production of "Raging Bull" for three months so that De Niro could go to Italy and pig out on pasta, putting on some 60 pounds.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
Part two of Jana Monji's essay about the portrayal of Asian characters in cinema.
A review of the History Channel remake of the landmark mini-series, "Roots."
Separating the artist from the art isn't as easy as it sounds.