Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
Q. I agree that people spend too much time digging for subliminal sex in cartoons while ignoring the more blatant examples all around us. And I agree that any Disney animator caught adding such scenes likely would wind up as crocodile bait. But the key word is "caught." I recently heard an interview that animator Chuck Jones, who invented Yosemite Sam, did with Terry Gross of National Public Radio. In it, Jones described how he and other Warner Brothers animators took great delight in adding one-frame naughty bits to cartoons, then screening them on a movieola for studio execs they enlisted to "find the glitch we're having trouble with." According to Jones, the execs invariably turned purple and demanded the offending frame be removed, to which Jones replied "Oh, but it's finished, and to redo it will cost too much and besides, it's only 1/24th of a second. No one will ever see it." Jones says they did it out of sheer boredom. Kind of makes you wonder what might be written in those clouds of dust raised after Wile E. Coyote is squashed by a boulder, doesn't it? (Dave Molter, Pittsburgh, Pa.)
A. I'm starting a campaign to replace the Road Runner's "beep-beep" with "(bleep)-(bleep)."
Q. Regardless of what influences the tobacco industry may have on the movie industry, and regardless of what you or I might think of smoking, it is IN FACT cool again among teens and young 20-somethings. If a film is to portray or appeal to this age group, smoking is one of the costume accessories. Urging censorship of portrayals of this self-destructive behavior is no more virtuous than any of the other censorship cries being leveled against movies today. (Robert G. Haynes-Peterson, Boise Idaho)
A. I suppose you're right. Here's an acid test, however, of whether product placement is at work: Smoking among young African-Americans is at an all-time low, recently estimated at less than a third of the rate of smoking among whites of the same age. If we were to see a lot of young blacks suddenly smoking in the movies, that might set off an alarm bell.
Q. I recently moved here from Los Angeles to manage the Fox theater in Watsonville, and I stopped into the local Blockbuster to order the letterboxed version of "Jaws" coming out later this month. The manager did a check on their computer and told me that they could not order it for me, as they will not be carrying it. (Ed Havens, Santa Cruz, Calif.)
A. Blockbuster appears to avoid the letterboxed versions of movies, even though true movie buffs dislike "pan and scan." Earlier this year, the chain first said it would not carry the letterboxed version of "Pulp Fiction," then reversed itself. With "Jaws," they are back to ground zero, despite director Steven Spielberg's long and loud support of letterboxing.
Q. I am a Quentin Tarantino fan and was pleased with your TV special on him, where you mentioned that one of QT's favorite films is "Blow Out," by Brian De Palma. Two nights ago, my friends from school and I rented "Body Double", another De Palma film. At the end of the movie the villain's dog leaps into a reservoir. Is it just possible that this is the origin for the title of the film "Reservoir Dogs?" (Jesse Cohen, Potomac, MD)
A. Tarantino steadfastly refuses to discuss the meaning of the title. That makes your theory as good as anybody's. Maybe better.
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