The result is a pretty exemplary popcorn movie.
Greg Nelson, Chicago
A. Neil Gaiman writes: "It wasn't me who said it; the Hollywood Reporter ran a front page story in 2003 (when 'Coraline' was optioned) saying that I was the person with the most things optioned but never made. They listed lots of them, and interviewed various people about how hard it was to make my stuff. Even at the time I thought it was a silly way for them to do an article on me and didn't take it seriously. I'm sure there are many more people than me with worse runs of getting things made (and I have three movies coming out in the next 12 months, so I'm definitely off the meter now)."
And Harlan Ellison writes me: "I've no idea what my pal Neil Gaiman claims for a total of unproduced screenplays but (including films intended for TV, as well as theatrical, but not series) I had the list printed out, and at the moment, it stands at a terrifying 27 screenplays written and unproduced. (All were paid for at exorbitant rates, thank goodness.)"
Q. I have long been a dedicated reader of your reviews. You were responsible for directing me toward the works of Bresson, Bunuel, Bergman, Tarkovsky and Herzog (particularly Bresson) and thus inspiring my love for the movies. I will forever be indebted to you for having changed my life in this regard.
I am also a proud American who enlisted voluntarily in the United States Marines Corps. I served for one year and a half in Iraq . I saw more of the destructive impact of war on the lives of the Iraqi people and those of the men around me than you will ever know. And I am proud to have done so. I know a lot of men and women who were similarly proud to fight what they felt was a just war against a common enemy to all of humanity, a regime of mass destruction. Contrary to what you may believe, many serve the American cause because they want to. The soldiers fighting there fight in the name of universal justice that many of the liberal elite take for granted.
Your review of "No End in Sight" deeply wounded me, as one who has come to place tremendous value upon your opinion. I may no longer be in the fight, having served my term and studying now at the University of Chicago . But the message you've sent to your readers is painful all the same for me to receive. I urge you, Roger, to not be so self-possessed in the future, that you presume to know the hearts and minds of men who do not share your worldview.
Evan Bernick, Chicago
A. Thank you for your heartfelt letter. Those who fought and fight in Iraq are brave and patriotic, and risk their lives in the name of their country. My review was not about them. It was about those who sent them into battle. What makes "No End in Sight" unique is that its subjects are almost entirely men and women who served in the U.S government, military, intelligence and diplomatic corps, and now feel they were lied to and betrayed by their superiors; they all supported the war, but their advice from the ground was ignored by ideologues in Washington. I hope you see the film, which is about your leaders at the time you served. At the least, you will find it provocative.
Q. In your Aug. 10 column, you mentioned that you thought Sturla Gunnarsson would be the first Canadian director to punch you for calling him an American, although he was from "the offshore American island of Iceland." I hope not. As far as I've ever read, Iceland is a part of Europe, not North America.
Paul Gibson, Reston , Va.
A. I had a big argument with my editor about that. "Surely," I said, "in an item about how we should call Mexicans and Canadians 'Americans,' everyone will see I was making a joke."
Q. Is it actually possible that "Desperately Seeking Susan" was named best film of the year 1985 by the New York Times? That's what Wikipedia says in its entry on the film. Or is this just another case of Wikipedia demonstrating the power of consensus-driven reality?
Andy Ihnatko, Boston
A. The New York Times, as itself, does not name any film the best of the year. The critics do. Janet Maslin, who was a Times film critic at the time, writes me: "I don't know how it works now, with all three critics making lists. But we used to have a single list from the chief critic, with 10 films listed in alphabetical order. Except for the year (this really happened) when Vincent Canby got mixed up and listed only nine. We also had a brief, happy period of being able to make a 10 worst list. Then it was decided that that was too mean-spirited and un-Timesian. I was sorry to see that go."
Canby did include "Susan" on his list of the year's 10 best. In alphabetical order: "Desperately Seeking Susan," "Kiss of the Spider Woman,'' "Prizzi's Honor" "Purple Rose of Cairo," "Ran," "Secret Honor," "7 Up/28 Up," "Shoah" and "The Trip to Bountiful." That's only nine, and a later correction says the list should also have included "Young Sherlock Holmes" (1985).
Q. I have a "Godfather" question that NO ONE can answer. In "The Godfather" (1972), just before Michael leaves to kill Sollozzo and police Capt. McCluskey, the family is in the Corleone home, trying to determine where Michael will have this meeting. There are six people in the room: Michael, Sonny, Tom, Clemenza, Tessio and an unidentified person wearing a brown suit. He has only seven seconds of screen time and no dialogue.
Who is he? Only the top "family" members would be there as they discuss killing a police captain. Why would anyone outside of the elite group be there?
Phil Giordano, Plainfield , N.J.
A. I am reminded of the great movie line, "And there was another man -- a third man." You list all the possible identities for the sixth man, and explain why it couldn't be any of them. I asked Tim Dirks, author-manager of filmsite.org, which supplies countless invaluable plot details, and he replies: "It looks like Phil Giordano is searching for some 'logical' answer. And he has already dismissed guesses that may be correct. I don't think there's going to be a definitive answer to his question, because of the way he has made assumptions about who the person must be."
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