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Movie Answer Man (04/16/1995)

Q. Don't you ever read your old issues of "Premiere?" One of your readers noticed that the credit for the "ADR" or "automatic dialog replacement" director is almost always Barbara Harris--and then asked if this was the same Barbara Harris who was a Second City veteran. You printed a reply from another reader saying, no, this wasn't that Barbara Harris, but the B.H. who was married to Cary Grant. Actually, it is neither one. As the enclosed clipping and photo from "Premiere" show, the ADR Barbara Harris is a black woman who started out 10 years ago doing voice-overs, and now has her own ADR company, the Looping Group, which is the most successful in Hollywood. (Bill Russell, Westmont, Ill.)

A. At last we have the right Barbara Harris! The task of an ADR director is subtle but crucial: Replacing movie dialog either with improved readings by the same actors, or substitute readings by other voices if the original voices are found unsatisfactory.

Q. I'd like to hear why you think the Academy continues to perpetuate categories like "best animated short subject" when most theatres these days find it more profitable to run ads, trailers, or snack bar promos in their place. And the cartoons that actually do get shown in theatres (including such recent Warner Bros. releases as Chuck Jones' "Chariots Of Fur," which was released at the head of "Richie Rich") don't merit any Academy consideration at all. (Dave Mackey, Toms River, N.J.)

A. I think they'd happily drop several of those categories except that (a) there would be an uproar, and (b) if the show is long, that means more commercials. Chuck Jones, still active at 80, is currently working on a Bugs Bunny version of "Casablanca," called "Carrotblanca."

Q. Over the past few years I've seen stories on the future form that cinema will take, such as HDTV via satellite to theater. Most of these stories seem to think that filmgoing as we know it--a group experience in a large theater with actual celluloid--will die out. Nevertheless, seeing a beautiful reissue of "The Wild Bunch" recently gave me hope that 40 years from now I'll still be able to walk into a cinema and be able to catch a restored print of the great films I grew up with. What do you think will happen to the film experience in the future? (Chris Giardino, Toronto)

A. There is no substitute for celluloid. Even the best video has a sharp drop-off at either end of the visible spectrum, diluting the bright whites and dark shadows that are essential to film. Also, according to video theorist Jerry Mander, in his book Four Arguments for the Abolition of Television, video and film work on the human mind differently. Film creates a dreamlike reverie state, while TV creates a form of mild hypnosis. This helps explain why we remember old movies better than old TV shows. The subject came up at this year's pre-Oscar dinner for the cinematography nominees, where George Fisher, chairman and CEO of Eastman Kodak, told me flatly: "If video ever replaces film in theaters, it will not be in the foreseeable future. If I didn't believe that, I would not have left Motorola to come to work at Eastman."

Q. I'm writing from Taipei again where there's a movie playing called "Fart King." This is the actual title as it appears in the newspapers here. That's NOT the unusual part. The UNUSUAL part is the banner across the bottom of the newspaper ad that promises the movie has: "ACTION WITH UNECESSARY SPECIAL EFFECTS" Question: How unnecessary does a special effect have to be before the director determines that it should be kept? (Bob Zix-Kong, Taipei)

A. Thanks for your continuing updates on cinematic developments in Taipei.

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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