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Movie Answer Man (04/23/1995)

Q. With Tom Hanks winning impressive back-to-back Oscars, do you think, after his next film, "Apollo 13," the Academy will vote for him three years in a row? Has this ever happened? (Thomas Allen Heald, Rapid City, SD)

A. A three-peat? Not likely, although, as Hanks himself pointed out, the Academy's attention span is so short they might forget they had voted for him before.

Q. How gracious of you to show my letter about "Forrest Gump" to Tom Hanks. He wrote me a letter of thanks and sent me $15 to take a friend with me to the movies and buy some popcorn. Thank God for people like you and Tom Hanks to take time out of your busy days to make a 84 years old feel important. (Marie Hangel, Chicago)

A. Your letter of praise for Hanks' performance struck me as so heartfelt that I really wanted Tom to see it. By the way, Mrs. Hangel, I received a separate letter, that you may not know about, from your friend Mindie Bright. She wrote: "Mr. Hanks sent her $15 for ONE movie with a friend and popcorn. Are you kidding? Marie will go to the Senior Citizen's ladies showings for 50 cents or $1. She'll be at the movies all year around now!"

Q. More and more films have night scenes with steam coming from all over to emphasize the drama. Today I just got suckered and saw the film "Bad Boys," which takes place in Miami. In the opening scene, there was steam everywhere: In the buildings, in the stairways, on the streets. I'm from Florida, but I've been gone a few years. Have they started installing underground steam-heating lines in Miami? When I lived there most buildings had air-conditioning instead of steam heat. Or, as I suspect, have the "production designers" finally lost their marbles? Come on guys, let's try to make an action movie that doesn't look like a bad MTV clip. (Richard Hubbell, Arlington, Va.)

A. That's not steam. It's smoke from the dry ice used to cool the fresh stone crabs.

Q. I recently bought the sound track to "Pulp Fiction," so of course I had to go see the movie for the third time. I noticed in the cab ride after Butch (Bruce Willis) kills the other boxer that all the scenery outside the cab is in black and white. Is there any particular reason for this? Also, did you notice that Butch put a shirt on without ever taking his cigarette out of his mouth? (Joe Long, Redmond, Wash.)

A. In old movies, the street scenes seen through the back windows of cars were usually "back projection" onto a screen behind the car window, and sometimes they didn't match--the cars outside would be 15 years too old, or a car would turn directly from the Champs Elysses to the countryside. The autos themselves never left the sound stage. Tarantino probably made the scenery black and white to call attention to the artifice. In "Family Plot," Alfred Hitchcock also used deliberately phony back projection through a rear car window.

Q. Ever notice that when characters in costume dramas use a term modern audiences aren't likely to understand, they immediately follow it with the definition? In "Rob Roy," for example: "He's a vile Jacobite! A supporter of the exiled King James!" (Rich Elias, Delaware, Ohio)

A. This is just a precaution. Hollywood learned its lesson with titles like "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway" and "Searching for Bobby Fischer," which bombed because nobody knew who Ernest Hemingway or Bobby Fischer were. On the other hand, "Beethoven's 2nd" was a hit because everyone knew Beethoven was a dog.

Q. I'm going on a second date with a woman who says she prefers Gene Siskel to you. Do you think I ought to pursue a relationship with such a person? (Joseph Kaufman, Hollywood, Ca.)

A. Does she prefer Gene to you?

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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