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Movie Answer Man (01/14/1996)

Q. I just finished reading your review of "12 Monkeys" and you mention that there is a time-travel paradox in the film. I have wracked my brain and can't for the life of me figure out what and where it is. (John F. Coyle, Tulsa, Okla.)

A. It is apparent that the hero (Bruce Willis) is the little boy who sees himself (as the adult Willis) killed, and that would mean that he exists twice at the same time in the same place, which must be a violation of the law of conservation of something or another, don't you think?

Q. The AP's movie report last weekend was centered around the fact that Oliver Stone's "Nixon" didn't place in the top ten. It didn't mention that it was still in limited release, and actually doing very well on a per-screen basis. How can you account for this total dishonesty? I'm not saying the film will do the kind of box office "JFK" did, but I am saying that media like the Associated Press are trying to influence people to not see it. What is so terribly stupid is there is so much crap put out by Hollywood, and AP usually cheers it. (Vickie Weimar, Norman, Oklahoma)

A. Oliver Stone's sin is that he is the only major American director who consistently tackles controversial political issues, and has the temerity to do so from his own point of view. The "box office winners" lists are meaningless unless you understand that a film on 2,000 screens is obviously going to outgross a film on 400 screens. Young moviegoers turn out in hordes over Christmas for "Jumanji"-type movies, but the adult audience for a movie like "Nixon" builds more slowly. If all movies are required to do blockbuster business the instant they open, we'll get nothing but movies for teenagers.

Q. We rented "Apollo 13" on video and wondered: What happens after one of the astronauts throws up? And how does it smell? (Sean McHugh, Three Oaks, Mich.)

A. Stuart Williams of the NASA Flight Crew Operations Directorate replies: "We have a standing rule: He (or she) who looses it cleans it up! Actually, the inside of the aircraft doesn't smell any different because of the lost lunches. It does have a sort of 'old house' odor to it. The interior is padded with basically the same foam rubber that acts as a cushion in the soles of running shoes, and this foam rubber is getting kinda old, so I think that is the source of the odor."

Q. I am excited about the overdue "black filmmaking renaissance" of the past few years. But have you noticed: Not one "white" film, to my knowledge, in the past 25 years has had a negative black character in it without somewhere in the film there also being a positive black character. However, I can name a dozen "black" films with negative white characters in them, without a single positive white character anywhere else in the film. Have you noticed this? (Brett Roth)

A. I have. But I have also noticed black-themed films like Spike Lee's "Clockers," where the major favorable character is a white cop (Harvey Keitel). . And, of course, if you go back more than 25 years, you get to long decades during which almost all black characters in Hollywood films were negative. What goes around, comes around.

Q. I'm a reporter doing a story on movie-hopping, where a scofflaw buys a ticket at a multiplex for one movie, watches it, and then ducks into another auditorium for a free viewing. Is this ethically wrong? Is it ever justified? (I'm told by theater owners that the typical response when someone is caught is that they feel they are justified because of high ticket prices.) Did you ever do it? And what would be an appropriate punishment for those caught in the act? (Steve Pokin, Riverside, Calif.)

A. I never did it because when I was growing up there was only one movie per theater--but I did sometimes sit through them twice, which I think is a moviegoer's right, and I oppose the barbarous modern practice of emptying the auditorium after each screening. Is movie-hopping justified? Maybe you could make a case under situational ethics, but, in general--no, it's stealing. Punishment? Throw 'em out.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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