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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Movie Answer Man (02/26/1995)

Q. When I walked out of "Hoop Dreams," I said to my date it was the best movie I had seen in years. After talking endlessly about it to anyone who would listen to me, I have convinced myself that it was one of the top three movies I have ever seen. The fact that it was not nominated for an Oscar tells me the Academy is a political backscratching organization that doesn't have a clue. I cannot express how disappointed I am. (Kevin Brouillette, Kansas City, Mo.)

A. The bizarre oversights of the Academy's documentary committee have been a scandal for years. One good thing may result from their egregious snub of "Hoop Dreams": The resulting stink has been too big for the Academy to overlook, and its president, Arthur Hiller, has promised an investigation. The Academy has been able to ignore protests in past years from critics, documentary filmmakers and other "outsiders," but this year, I understand, there was an outraged outcry from many Academy members themselves, including some members of its board of directors.


Q. I see almost all the latest movies and stay until the final line of the credits. Often I am the only one left with the cleaners and ushers. I read in the Answer Man about what the Foley Artist does, but what is the job of ADR Voice Casting? Barbara Harris is usually listed. Is she the same actress who was in Second City? (John P. Keating Jr., Chicago)

A. No, she is not "the" Barbara Harris. ADR Voice Casting stands for "Automatic Dialogue Replacement," according to Chicago film consultant Jeffrey Marden, who says: "The person holding this title brings in people to dub background voices or, in some cases, replace a lead actor's voice."

Q. Re the "interactive" movie "Mr. Payback." The whole idea of interactive cinema makes me itch. I mean, in the good old days, the only way your fellow audience members could ruin the movie for you was to talk and throw food. Do we really want to give these lugnuts the power to skeezix the story, too? Now I'll have to arrive at the theater an hour earlier--not to get the best seat, but to stand by the entrance and screen the audience before I commit to using my ticket. Perhaps some sort of written exam should be implemented. (Andy Ihnatko, Westwood, Mass.)

A. In the film intro to "Mr. Payback," the announcer encourages audience members to "shout, scream, whistle, offer advice, and in general act like you were born in a barn." There comes a time in everyone's life when he begins to believe that civilization as we know it is going to hell. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but that moment didn't come for me until I heard this announcement.

Q. One of my favorite films is "The Cook, the Thief his Wife and her Lover." It totally disgusted me and throughout the entire movie I had my thumb on the stop button, yet never pushed it. (Gus Koerner, Utah State Univ., Logan, Utah)


A. This certainly qualifies as one test of a great movie.

Q. I'm glad your review of "Before Sunrise" didn't make note of the date. The action in the movie takes place on June 16, known as "Bloomsday," the day of all the action in James Joyce's novel Ulysses. If I wanted to stay home and read books, I wouldn't go to the movies. (Bob Kamman, Phoenix, Ariz.)

A. Too bad they cut away during the love scene in the park. For those who are curious about what happened between the bottle of wine and sunrise, the director's cut on laserdisc will include dialog where Julie Delpy turns to stately, plump Ethan Hawke and says, "Yes I said yes I will Yes." ((cq--this punctuation and capitalization EXACTLY; these are the last words of Joyce's novel))

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