Darkest Hour stands apart from more routine historical dramas.
A. They are like those double acrostic clues that make perfect sense once you have solved the puzzle.
Q. Jodie Foster recently said : "Winning the Oscar is no measure of performance. It's just bingo. You get five names that are thrown in a hat. One name is going to get pulled out and somebody goes, 'bingo!' You just wish it was your name." Three cheers for Jodie! Her comparison of an Academy Award to Bingo may not have been a wise career move, but at least she's telling the truth. In the Best Director category alone, I doubt anyone can list four American directors who have received Oscars who are better than these four who have not: Kubrick, Scorsese, Hitchcock, and Altman. (William Swenson, Minneapolis MN)
A. I agree. But because famous people are involved and four out of five of them will lose, there is a certain fascination in the Oscars--especially when we feel strongly that one of the finalists should win. When Halle Berry won, somehow for me it was a lot more than Bingo.
Q. I've seen ads for the movie "Frailty" that boast recommendations from directors like Sam Raimi and James Cameron. While these are preferable to quotes from the fictitious critic David Manning, can directors be considered as reliable as critics? Is the quality of a director's work any indicator of his or her tastes as a viewer? (Lisa Tittle, Stanford WI)
A. Novelist Stephen King was also cited as a supporter of "Frailty." These are all people with reputations to protect, and were under no pressure to endorse the movie, so we can assume they are sincere. And, yes, I think the quality of a director's work might be an indicator of his taste.
Q. (Spoiler alert: Reveals film secrets.) To me, it was quite obvious at the end of "Frailty" that Dad was actually on a real mission from God. Remember when Andy's character said that God would protect him, the cameras in the FBI agency all missed his face, and no one could even remember what he looked like. (Anthony Galica, San Jose CA)
A. Is Dad deluded into thinking an angel has ordered him to kill demons on human form, or did God really send him that message? And if God did, why would God have chosen as His instrument a father with two young sons who were irreparably harmed by the experience? I wrote in my review, "The movie contains one shot, sure to be debated, that suggests God's hand really is directing Dad's murders." It also contains subjective shots showing the sins of the people Dad kills. But are those shots trustworthy, or are they part of Dad's delusion? Is it not possible that even the FBI agent's transgressions, while true, are coincidental? The movie offers us a choice: Dad is deluded, or God has changed His methods, abandoned the notion of free will, and become a psychological child-abuser. Under traditional Christian theology, I believe Dad should have refused the angel's instructions, because Thou Shalt Not Kill.
Q. In your AM column of April 7, responding to Neil Ferguson's question regarding the use of a "Bladder Double" in "Panic Room," you stated: "You were probably hearing the work, in more than one sense, of a sound effects editor." Wouldn't that actually be the work of a Foley Artist? (Doug Dalrymple, Hanover PA)
A. Quite right. Katz's Film Encyclopedia defines a Foley artist as "a member of the sound crew who, during the film's post production creates certain sound effects heard on the effects track, particularly those made by people rather than machines or natural objects."
Q. How did the Academy overlook Pauline Kael in their In Memorium tribute? True, she wasn't a producer, actor, director, or screenwriter, but is Hollywood's relationship with critics so poor that they cannot take a few seconds to remember a woman who made such a large contribution to both film and film reviewing? (Ken Elliott, Ottawa On)
A. Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy, replies: "We didn't 'overlook' Pauline Kael. As much as we love (most) critics, we've always restricted the In Memoriam segments to filmmakers, and usually to Academy members. Even with that limitation, we always have to leave out an agonizing number of people each year who have made memorable contributions to the art form. This year's roster of painful omissions includes acting nominees Dorothy McGuire and Peggy Lee, the remarkable character actress Kathleen Freeman, and other master moviemakers such as animator Faith Hubley, cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski, makeup specialist John Chambers and production designer Gary Wissner."
Q. The Answer Man might be interested to know that between nominees and presenters, this year's Oscarcast was a Who's Who of people who are appearing as characters from Marvel comic books. Halle Berry and Ian McKellen played Storm and Magneto in the X-Men movie, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst will be Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson in the upcoming "Spider-Man" film, and Jennifer Connelly will be Betty Ross in the upcoming Hulk flick. Appearing on tape (as themselves) were also Wesley "Blade" Snipes and Patrick "Professor X" Stewart. I don't know if the camera caught Ben Affleck in the crowd. He's gonna be Daredevil. (Andy Ihnatko, Westwood, MA)
A. Wow, almost as good a turnout as AA members!
Stop watching movies made by assholes. It'll be OK.
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