"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.
Q. My wife and I went to see "The Beverly Hillbillies" and, while I'm no expert on special effects, it seemed that the scene in which Dolly Parton entertains at the Clampett's party was strung together using a blue-screen technique, and that Parton was not really there for most of it. Am I right? (Ted Bridis, Tulsa, OK)
A. No, you are wrong. According to Nancy Meyer of 20th Century-Fox, Dolly Parton was present for the filming of the entire scene. ("Blue screen," by the way, is a process in which different shots can be combined into one. TV weathermen use it to seem to be standing in front of maps.)
Q. I recently saw "Gone With the Wind" on TBS amd after five minutes, I felt I was on amphetamines. Actors were scurrying up and down staircases like mice. Vivien Leigh was reciting her lines so fast she sounded like a chipmonk. The entire tempo of the movie was much faster than I ever saw it in the past. I know that rock stations speed up their music to give their shows punch, but I've never heared of a TV station playing a movie at a faster speed. Is it possible or am I on drugs? (J. L. Abrams, Chicago)
A. I cannot speak for your body chemistry, but Bill Cox, VP of programming at TBS, says "we did not edit or electronically alter the film in any way."
Q. Do you know that one national video store chain is renting "Bad Lieutenant" as an R-rated film, hacking out so much footage that it becomes ineffective as the psychotic, real-life horror story it is supposed to be? I rented the film thinking that it was the original theatrical release, and started wondering why it was so badly edited. I then noticed the box said, not "edited," but merely "Rated R Version." This is not only misleading, but a vile and sneaky form of censorship. If this were done to a book, people would be outraged; this is no less a slaughtering of art. (Joe Clarke, New York City)
A. "Bad Lieutenant" was rated NC-17 in its theatrical release, and I agree with you that the cuts necessary to make it an "R" destroy the point of the film. That was the very reason the director, Abel Ferrara, refused to trim it for the R rating. Video stores should have the courage of their convictions, and not try to make money off of bowdlerized versions of films they will not handle in the NC-17 director's cut. This is one more example of the way the MPAA's rating system, allegedly designed only to advise parents, actually results in de facto censorship.
Q. I attended "Demolition Man" recently, and had the least enjoyable time I've ever had at a movie theatre. A couple next to me chatted away long into the movie. There was a family with two small kids behind me, who talked at full volume throughout the movie, as if they were at home. I didn't know what to say without being totally rude myself. (Gerald R. Hogsett)
A. Why not go ahead and be totally rude yourself? Many moviegoers are, frankly, too afraid of noisemakers. Why not seize the initiative? Turn around and say, slowly and distinctly, "The next person who talks while I'm listening to this movie goes home in a box." Let me know what happens.
Q. In your review of "The Hunt for Red October" you asked how come the Russian sailors smoked so much when they should be watching their on-board oxygen supply. Modern subs have plenty of oxygen. Fresh water is pumped into an oxygen generator. Electricity seperates the hydrogen from the oxygen. Hydrogen is pumped overboard and oxygen is bled into the sub's atmosphere as required. (Alex Phillion, Montreal, Canada)
A. Just do me a favor. Don't break this news to the cast of "Run Silent, Run Deep."
Q. Re your comment about the serial killer subplot in "Malice." If Andy hadn't been required to have his sperm checked to clear him as a suspect, he never would have known he was sterile. What tangled and twisted webs we weave! (Russ Orlando, Harrisburg, PA)
A. And it goes without saying that the only way for a movie to show that a character is sterile is to make him a serial-killing suspect, so he has to have his sperm checked.
Q. Something has been nagging me for years. In "Casablanca," in the scene where Claude Rains arrests Paul Heinreid, and Bogart pulls a gun on Rains, Bogart tells Rains to call the airport. Instead, he calls Major Strasser, the Nazi. WHY?? All through the film Rains never acted pro-Berlin unless Strasser was there, and then he "put on a show" for the Germans. Rains never would have called Strasser; there was nothing in it for him. Even if Strasser had caught Bogart, Bergman and Henreid, he would have arrested Rains for leting them get that far. I just can't come up with a good reason why Rains called Strasser. (Barry J. Ingram, Baton Rouge, LA.)
A. Maybe for dramatic reasons. If Rains had not called Strasser, Bogart could not have killed Strasser, and Rains could not have said, "Round up the usual suspects." Instead, the movie would have ended with everybody just going to the airport and getting on the plane: An anticlimax, denying us some of the best moments on the movie.
Q. What is your opinion on making movie classics Politically Correct? I bought the "Fantasia" video. The box said it was the "complete, restored" version, yet a sequence was missing: In the Greek mythology part, when a female centaur is getting ready for a date, an a small black centaur is polishing her hooves. This part was missing. I detest stereotypes as much as anyone, but we are discussing a classic, here: a period piece. Should we do the same to "Gone With the WInd" or "Birth of a Nation"? Should we cut out the "Beaulah, peel me a grape" scene from the Mae West film? (Alexander Braun)
A. Your query appeared in the ShowBiz Forum of CompuServe, where Sam Wass replied: "I have a near perfect memory of this sequence: The little 'black' attendant had big, exaggerated lips and a curly 'fro' with pink ribbons, and did a shuck and jive exclamation--shaking the head rapidly side to side and smiling, mugging with wide open mouth, "Lawsy I do declare those hooves are shiny!" I remember, as a child, seeing the movie for the first time, hearing laughter from the audience around me and shrinking down in my seat embarrassed--and I'm white! But I was thankfully taught by my parents that these things aren't funny, just ignorant. I understand your concern about 'classic' film, but maybe there are some things better left on the cutting room floor."
Q. Something I've always wondered about Brian De Palma's "Body Double": In the movie, the hero finds his girlfriend in bed with someone else. The woman is in a sitting-up position, and is clearly enjoying herself. Later, the boyfriend recounts this to another character, saying "there she was, lying there, glowing," when she clearly WAS NOT lying down. My theory is that DePalma was having a little fun with his audience. What's your theory? (Jacqui Deegan)
A. My theory is the woman was having a little fun with her boyfriend.
Q. Whilst reading your review of "Hear My Song," I found myself appalled at something you said about "Appalachian Hillbillies" and talk shows. Are you suggesting these "hillbillies" are too backward to converse with talk show pundits? People who live in the Appalachians are not "hillbillies", an offensive term that suggests inbred ignorance. I am sure a man of your "political correctness" could find a better way to describe Irish secretiveness. (Thomas W. Shipp Jr., Dublin, OH)
A. My exact wording was, "The locals in Ireland are so secretive they make Appalachian hillbillies look like talk-show guests." This is not great literature, perhaps, but read it carefully, and you will find it favorably compares taciturn Appalachians to blabbing talk show guests. No opinioj is expressed about the ability of Appalachians to hold their own on talk shows, nor do I imply that all Appalachians are hillbillies, although a current movie, "The Beverly Hillbillies," believes that some are. Speaking of Political Correctness, I am rather offended, now that I think of it, by your phrase "Irish secretiveness." I was referring only to certain Irish locals, while you attribute this quality to an entire nation. Surely you do not mean to imply, etc., etc...
Q. Was interested in the reaction to "The Program," the movie that showed football players lying down in the middle of the road. I was an Oklahoma State offensive lineman from 1986 to 1991. You would be surprised what a student athlete would do to demonstrate school spirit. Headbutting a car window is kind of mild. Try a minimum of 60 hours a week for "the program", and then a full class schedule. The pressures to perform on the field and in the class are enormous, and people driven to emotional extremes do extreme things to release that pressure. Sure there are crazies in college football. With some of the stuff that we did in school, I could write a book. My guess is that if you condensed the highlights of my five years of college football into a two hour show, the drama, the emotional highs and lows on top of the stupid human tricks would leave "The Program" looking like "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm." (Joel Fry, Hermosa Beach, Hermosa Beach, CA)
A. Maybe Letterman could use the stupid human tricks.
Q. I agree with your review of "The Good Son." My 10-year old son kept bugging me to take him to see it. I asked him why and he said, "Because the Home Alone guy is in it." After a lot of begging from him I finally agreed to take him. I was wrong. Now he tells his 5-year old sister, "I'm going to push you off a cliff if you don't listen and do what I say." Then he said to me, "I'm copying the Home Alone guy." I have learned never to take him to see a movie like this again. I just hope I can return him to his old self so he won't act like "the Home Alone guy." Any suggestions? (Merlin Chowkwanyun, San Marino, CA)
A. Yes. Don't take him to see "The Program."
Q. In your revirew of "Needful Things," you wrote: "The story takes place in one of those peaceable little Stephen King towns where everybody knows each other and they're mostly all doomed. The town is named Castle Rock, after the name of the company that is releasing the film (ho, ho)." I guess you are not a reader of Stephen King's books, because many of them, from "Salem's Lot" on, have been set in his fictional town of Castle Rock, which is much like Bangor, Maine (King's home for many years). I think that Castle Rock Productions was started by Rob Reiner when he made the film "Stand By Me" from one of King's novellas, also set in that town. (Reid Powell, Guelph, ON, Canada)
A. You were the first of about four dozen people to correct my mistake about Castle Rock. Any ideas why there's no company named Guelph Productions?
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