The most surprising thing about "The Martian" is how relaxed and funny it is.
Q. Concerning "The American President," I agree with your high rating, but take exception to your saying it took courage to portray a president as a liberal. I can not remember any recent movie that shows any high-ranking political figure as both clearly conservative and a "good guy." What would have been courageous would have been for Rob Reiner, a liberal, to make the president a conservative who's cast in a good light. I didn't expect to see that happen, and guess what? I was right. The left wing of Hollywood would never let a conservative political figure be shown as anything other than a greedy, uncaring fiend. (Steve Graham, Jackson, Miss.)
A. What I wrote was that it took "nerve" to portray the president as having any politics at all, rather than taking the safe route and making him an amorphous, apolitical slug. It's not so much that there's a liberal conspiracy in Hollywood, as that most artistic, creative types tend to be liberal, just as most business, investment and military types are more likely conservative. There are exceptions, of course. The conservatives in Hollywood with real clout (Willis, Stallone, Schwarzenegger), despite being able to get movies made, have been notably absent from the ranks of films with political themes.
Q. Did you notice that there wasn't a vice president character in "The American President?" I've seen the movie five times already (I'm in love with the film!) and I never really thought about it before. I think maybe another character would have cluttered the movie. (Christi Scheirer, Rockledge, Fla.)
A. Funny, but no, I didn't notice. I wonder if Al Gore did.
Q. Regarding "It Takes Two," with the Olsen twins playing two girls who look just alike: I had already decided to pass on this film as it strikes me as a last-ditch effort to exploit the Olsen sisters before they outgrow being cute. The identity-switching bit seems a part of our collective consciousness and will undoubtedly keep reappearing in movies for better or worse. At least no one has come up with triplets changing roles. Would that give us the good sister, the evil sister, and the mediocre sister? (Larry Jones, Ontario Calif.)
A. Now there's an exercise for screenwriting class: Write a story in which there are identical triplets, and find a way for the audience to keep them straight. At least with twins we always know we're looking at this one and not the other one.
Q. Could we suggest to Dolby, et al., that when promoting their fancy-schmancy sound systems at the start of features, they NOT use sounds that make us cringe, like the "knife sharpening" sound for instance that practically sends me running from the theater with my hands over my ears? Shouldn't this promo be a PLEASANT experience rather than something that makes you wish you'd stuffed your ears with sealing wax? (Jan Strnad, Los Angeles) (cq Strnad)
A. Either that, or they could change their slogan to, "The Audience Is Cringing."
Q. You said in your "Toy Story" review that the launching in "Apollo 13" was done entirely by computer animation. Actually, the launch was a killer catalog of special effects techniques. The ground was a digital stitch of aerial photos, the smoke and other particle effects were 100% computer animation, and the rocket was a 1/96th scale model (an off-the-shelf Revell model, interestingly enough). The whole kit and kaboodle was composited digitally, of course. I gotta say, though, that I'm offended by ads which refer to "Toy Story" as a Disney film ("More Warm, Heart-Touching Classic Disney Magic!" --Debbie Stylingel, KSYA). Disney taking credit for "Toy Story" is like Ford Motors taking credit for the NFL superstar who was conceived in the back seat of a Mustang. (Andy Ihnatko, Westwood, Mass.)
A. The movie's animation was done outside the Disney shop, by Pixar, an company started by George Lucas and later purchased by Apple pioneer Steve Jobs. Steve Lasseter, the movie's director, works at Pixar. But Disney was deeply involved in fine-tuning the characters and story.
Q. I thought "Toy Story" was phenomenal. Do you think it will make future audiences think of traditional cell animation as "old fashioned" and "inferior" in the same way that a previous generation preferred Talkies over Silents? Could this be the watershed moment in the history of the animated film? (Ed Slota, Warwick, R.I.)
A. My experience in talking to "ordinary people" who saw the film was that they didn't much notice that the animation was different, and just related to it as an animated film, period.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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