Trial by Fire
The film plods at points, trudging along, and there are a few misguided narrative "devices" tacked on, but still, "Trial by Fire" bristles with anger.
Q. Re the controversy over "A Beautiful Mind" changing some of the facts of John Frobes Nash's life: That I pretty much forgave, knowing that transferring a life to film is a messy affair, and not always truthful. But changing the ethnicity of a main character, a character who was pivotal in this man regaining his life, is more than an oversight. Alicia Nash is an El Salvadoran, and has been changed into a WASP named Alice in the movie. This provides a role for Jennifer Connolly and denies a role to a Latina actress. Hollywood filmmakers have a choice to make, and chose the easy route. In this case, they denied the role of a lifetime to a Latina, and also spit on any sense of allowing the world to know us in a different light, a positive light. Maybe if his wife had been a whore, a maid, or had left him in his darkest moment, they would have allowed a Latina to have the role, and probably would have accented the fact that she was Latina. (Nancy De Los Santos, Los Angeles)
A. My best guess: They went with the actress they wanted, and adjusted the character accordingly.
Q. My wife and I rented "Pearl Harbor" the other day and after an hour I left the room in disgust while she finished watching it. At the end she claimed it was a Chick Flick. I believe that the term Chick Flick not only refers to movies with lots of romance in them, but also excuses bad writing and bad acting as long as it's mushy. I do like romances like "When Harry Met Sally..." (Bill Chalk, Victoria BC)
A. Yes, but "When Harry Met Sally..." is not a Chick Flick. Take a photograph of Billy Crystal, the hero of "When Harry Met Sally," and compare it to photographs of Josh Hartnett and Ben Affleck, the heroes of "Pearl Harbor," and see if you can figure this one out for yourself.
A. A Universal Focus studio rep says David Lynch does not know whether the apartment used in "Mulholland Drive" is the same one as in "In a Lonely Place." If it is indeed the same place, Lynch was not aware of that and did not make the choice because of the earlier film.
Q. In your "Great Movie" review of "Laura," you write: "That 'Laura' continues to weave a spell--and it does--is a tribute to style over sanity. No doubt the famous musical theme by David Raksin has something to do with it: The music lends a haunted, nostalgic, regretful cast to everything it plays under, and it plays under a lot." David Raksin's score came out of similarly somber tones. Struggling for days over a suitable theme. Raksin only found the infamous theme to the film after his marriage fell apart. That night, learning his wife had left him, he composed the classic music. (Paul West, Seattle, Wash)
A. Just on the basis of the music, I think he still loved her.
Q. Where did it begin--that priggish Slow Clap in the movies? Example: The sheepish star gives a heartfelt, unplanned speech. At first the audience is silent. Then one man (it's always a man), jaws clenched, claps his hands together--once. About two seconds later, he claps them together again. Around the room, others join in the slow clap, like the proverbial Chinese Water Torture. Eventually the whole sentimental group joins in full-fledged normal applause. When does this happen in real life? It's one of those "only in movies" devices, like the run-up-a-wall-turn-upside-down-and-windmill-kick-the-bad-guy-while-wearing-a-black-leather-trenchcoat scene. (Jim Carey, Warrenville, IL)
A. Your question moved me, and I was inspired by your bravery in asking it. Clap...clap...
Q. I noticed the microphone overhead in the "A Beautiful Mind" movie, and towards the end it was almost blatant. Did they do this on purpose? Surely they could have deleted this from the film. It made it seem almost like an amateur film. (Curtis Goodman, Carmel IN)
A. You have not been playing attention to the Answer Man, who has written about boom mikes again and again and again. One more time: When you repeatedly see a boom mike in a movie, 99.9 percent of the time it is NOT the fault of the film's director, but of the projectionist in your theater, who has framed the film incorrectly. Many films contain additional real estate above and below the frame, to allow the picture to bleed off the edge of the screen. A complaint to the theater manager may do the trick.
Q. Does watching so many movies and having to critique them take the pleasure and escapism of the moviegoing experience away from you? Or does it make you appreciate it more when a good movie finally comes out? (Lanford Beard, Birmingham AL)
A. Some critics, like my hero Dwight Macdonald, finally tired of the dreck and retired from reviewing. When I first got my job I thought five years was about as long as anyone could do it. But I have never tired of going to the movies, and even in a bad one you can see people trying and failing, which can be almost as interesting as seeing them trying and succeeding. When a truly great movie comes along, it cheers me up for weeks.
Q. I was looking through the quotes section of the Internet Movie Database and ran across this exchange from "Me and My Pal" (1933): Oliver: You know what a magnet is, don't you? Stan: Sure, it's a thing that eats cheese. I must not be as fluent in old movie/vaudeville jokes as I thought I was. "Magnet" sounds nothing like "mouse", so I'm stumped, unless it's just Stan Laurel being silly, I'm stumped. (David Westhart, Philadelphia PA)
A. Everybody likes magnets. That's why they call them magnets.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...