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Movie Answer Man (02/22/1998)

Q. Something I haven't seen anyone mention about the fictional story in "Titanic." If Rose had only stayed in the lifeboat when she had the chance, then Jack would have been able to survive by floating on the debris that saved her life. (Larry Boyers, Nashville, TN)

A. Do you suppose they edited out a shot of Rose banging her palm against her forehead as that thought belatedly occurred to her?

Q. This happened during a screening of "Titanic." Just as the credits started and Celine Dion's award-nominated song began, a guy in a black suit gave an order through his walkie talkie and the projectionist turned the lights on, rolled down the curtain and stopped the projection. I demanded this guy turn the projector back on and resume the credits. He said it was not possible: Once the curtain is down and the projector off, you cannot restart it. Is this true? I demanded my money back but he refused, so I told him I was going to call the president of the company. Then he started lying to me, saying that there is a limited time programmed into the system and that "Titanic's" credits are too long, and so is the movie, so the system automatically shuts down. Then he made the projectionist come down tell me another tall tale; that the last roll of film had become entwined on the magnetic heads and would have snapped if he hadn't turned it off. Finally, they gave me four passes for another show. It's rude to interrupt the credits and worse to lie to a customer. Is the theatre under any contractual obligation to show the whole movie, from start to finish, including the credits? (Jose Luis Silva, Naucalpan, Mexico)

A. David J. Bondelevitch of the CompuServe ShowBiz Forum, an expert on matters of exhibition, replies: "Yes, theater contracts require them to show the whole movie, although the credits are routinely cut off in many theaters. You could inform the distributor of the film, but they probably would not do anything." So what can you do? Stand up in your seat and inflame the audience by shouting, "Hey! They're cutting off Celine Dion's nominated song! Free passes for everyone!" There is strength in numbers.

Q. I was channel-surfing the other night, and came across "Die Hard" for the umpteenth time. It was on the USA channel, where all the bad words had to be bleeped out. Got to wondering about this: In "Die Hard," several characters chatter among themselves in German; what they say isn't subtitled, presumably because it's not important to the story that we understand what they're saying. But when showing a movie filled with dirty words that hafta be bleeped out on TV, do the people who do the bleeping consider what's being said in foreign languages? I mean, what if one of the bad German men was saying bleep in German? Is someone brought in who can understand the foreign stuff? (Binky Melnik, New York City)

A. "Obviously, the question you pose to us is hypothetical," says Jayne Wallace, director of media relations for the network. "Of course, as we review movies and television shows that air on the USA Network, we review content and language. If there is a foreign language being spoken, and it is determined that something inappropriate is being said, we make the decision to excerpt or 'bleep' it."

Q. Re your Answer Man item about how a real ship was sunk in "The Last Voyage," they not only sank a real ship, but it was the Ile De France. This was one of the great ships of its day and was one of the ships that rescued the passengers from the Andrea Doria after that ship was struck by the Stockholm. Since "The Last Voyage" had a number of plot points that were pilfered from the story of the Andrea Doria, it seemed ironic to me that the particular ship they used was so intimately involved in the original tragedy and met such an inglorious end. (Danny Weber, Acton, Ma)

A. The (bleep) de France, you say!

Q. Stanley Motss, the character played by Dustin Hoffman in "Wag the Dog," has an oddly-spelled last name. I wonder if you know that MOTSS is an abbreviation for "Member of the Same Sex," in Internet-talk and classified-ad-speak. Stanley Motss in "Wag the Dog" never seems to have a family, just his assistants, Manuel and Grace. During his obituary, there are no survivors mentioned. I wonder if this was a shot at closeted gay Hollywood bigshots. (Alex Christensen, Lexington, VA).

A. The abbreviation also commonly stands for "More of the Same (bleep)," which would certainly fit the Motss character.

Q. I just rented "Donnie Brasco" and noticed that one of the executive producers was Alan Greenspan. Is this the same Alan Greenspan who's the head of the Federal Reserve? (Chad Polenz, Schenectady, New York)

A. Here's how to tell them apart: One runs the Fed, while the other makes movies about the Feds.

Q. How can you possibly support DIVX? DIVX will place too much power in the hands of the manufacturer. They will know what you watch and when you watch it. Price fixing and censorship can run rampant. And just imagine, you won't be able to take your copy of "Ishtar" over to Gene Siskel's house for viewing, since DIVX is player-specific. If you've unlocked your copy of "Casablanca" in your living room player, you and your loved one can never snuggle up and watch it in the bedroom. DIVX is far too restrictive a medium, and especially destructive in the immature arena of DVD. (Tom Thayil, Galveston TX).

A. I don't support DIVX. Where'd you get that idea? In my opinion, the format is dead before launch. To explain: DVD discs are the hot new technology that is being touted to replace VHS tapes; they are said to be nearly three times as good in picture quality, and contain all sorts of bells and whistles. You buy or rent a DVD disc just like you buy or rent a tape. There are 240,000 machines already in use, and disc sales are ahead of projections. But DVD's country cousin, DIVX, adds a hare-brained twist: They give you a disc which you activate over the telephone with your credit card, after which you can watch it a specified number of times. Then it goes dead unless you reactivate it. Incredibly, the advocates of this goofy format expect consumers to buy special $500 machines to enjoy this privilege (regular DVD machines won't work). The key reason DIVX is doomed is that home video profits heavily from two genres where repeat viewings are the norm: Children's films, and porno. Kids watch a video zillions of times, not just twice. Adult porno fans scarcely want to supply their name and credit card numbers over the phone.

Q. You said it was a Leonardo DiCaprio fan shouting in protest when his name was not read among the "best actor" nominees when the Oscars were announced. Actually, it was a Howard Stern fan named Mason. He told Howard all about it on the air shortly afterwards. (Charlie Smith, Chicago)

A. Anybody could have made that mistake! The names sound so much alike.

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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