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Movie Answer Man (05/05/2002)

Q. As I was watching the credits at the end of "Panic Room," I noticed that three people were listed as "puppeteers." I can't for the life of me imagine a single scene in which puppeteers could possibly have been used in this movie. (Phil Brown, San Francisco)

A. Director David Fincher says they were used in creating the illusion of the broken collar bone on the husband (Patrick Bauchau) of the Jodie Foster character.

Q. You had an item about how the sound effect of peeing in "Panic Room" was created by a" Foley artist," a person who dubs in sound effects. I am fascinated by a sheer coincidence. I am a medical doctor and for your information, a Foley catheter is a soft plastic or rubber tube that is inserted into the bladder to drain the urine. (Sean Chin, Malaysia)

A. Another amazing coincidence: Frederic Eugene Basil Foley, who invented the catheter, and Jack Foley, who gave his name to Foley artists, were both born in 1891. I don't think I could handle it if they were twins.

Q. I noticed that "Frailty," a movie that most critics seem to like, isn't making much money. My question for you is, do you think a movie can be TOO critically acclaimed? In other words is it possible to see a four-star review and think "Oh, that's an artsy movie. I don't want to see that." (Grant Lankard, Indiana PA)

A. Absolutely. One of the great mysteries is why people will cheerfully attend movies they expect to be bad, but approach good movies with great caution. This is an actual conversation I had years ago:

Q. In your review of "The Scorpion King." you address the line "As long as one of us still breathes, the sorcerer will die!" by saying "See if you can spot the logical loophole." I can't. Given that almost every other line in the movie has some logical flaw or another, I am willing to trust you on this. But for curiosity's sake, what exactly do you mean? (Bruce Spence, New Brunswick NJ)

A. What happens if none of them still breathe?

Q. Why was there no scene index on the "Mulholland Drive" DVD? (Kevin Montgomery, Otisco IN)

A. Director David Lynch believes that films are intended to be seen from beginning to end, and deliberately didn't provide chapter stops for "Mulholland Drive" or "The Straight Story" because he didn't want you jumping around. There is also no director's commentary track on the "Mulholland Drive" DVD, because he wants the film to speak for itself (and is famous for not supplying explanations). The helpful "berserker37" of West Chicago has however provided do-it-yourself chapter stops, using the movie's time code, and you can find them at

Q. In "Mulholland Drive," the license plate on the limo is the same as the license plate on Steve Martin's thunderbird in "LA Story." Do you believe this to be a mere tribute to Martin? (David Allen, Los Angeles CA)

A. If you start looking for them, you'll see those California 2GATI23 plates in a lot of movies. They're the equivalent of the non-existent "555" prefix on movie telephone numbers.

Q. I heard Samuel Jackson in a pre-awards interview mention that he had attended the Black Oscars the night before. What is this ? I never heard you mention these awards. Who nominates and votes? (Glenn Charvat, Chicago IL)

A. The NAACP Image Awards are held in Los Angeles in March, and taped for a later telecast, most recently on Fox. I've attended twice, and was impressed by of the depth and variety of the work nominated; the Oscars just skim the surface.

Q. You didn't acquit yourself very well in your article on "Amadeus." You are presumably a film critic and quite evidently not a literary critic. Anyone who thinks Thomas Mann is not a great writer, worse still, that P. G. Wodehouse is, doesn't know much about literature. (Franz Schulze, Department of Art, Lake Forest College, IL)

A. The kind of person who thinks Mann a great writer and Wodehouse not a great writer is precisely the kind of person who would believe that professional credentials are necessary to make such judgments.

Q. In a recent AM, you said Don Cheadle's name was omitted from the credits of "Ocean's Eleven" as a kind of "reverse-prestige thing." For what it's worth, Tom King of the Wall Street Journal has reported that after contentious salary and credit negotiations with the film's producers, a disgusted Mr. Cheadle voluntarily withdrew his name altogether from consideration for inclusion in the credits. (Ben Bass, Chicago)

A. Thanks for setting the record straight.

Q. Why do so many movie trailers use the the music from "The American President?" This evening there was a trailer for the new Mel Gibson movie and it was using the "American President" theme music. I have heard other movie trailers using that music as well. What gives? (Gene Nimtz, St. Joseph MI)

A. For an answer, I turned to David J. Bondelevitch, a faculty member at the University of Southern California and an award-winning music editor. He replies:

"There is no simple answer. Most of the time the music for a trailer is chosen by the person who edits the trailer, or by a marketing person who supervises the editor. Since music is not necessarily their specialty, they often choose something fairly obvious. There is also a belief that people respond more to the familiar, so if music worked in an earlier trailer (especially for a film that had a huge opening weekend), then they think will work for a similar trailer.

"You could also ask why all trailers use the same three voice-over artists. And why all trailers start with the words 'IN A WORLD ... where ...' "

Q. I recently watched the DVD of "Heist," and while I had no problem with Mamet's "money" joke, I did have a problem with this joke Delroy Lindo told a would-be thug: "Know why the chicken crossed the road? Because the road crossed the chicken." What the hell does that mean? Does that mean the road angered the chicken and that the chicken crossed it out of spite? (Drew McGary, New York)

A. IN A WORLD...where chickens cross roads and roads cross chickens--it's payback time!

Q. What do you feel is the funniest movie title of all time? In my opinion, it's "Dracula: Dead and Loving It," which is the only title that has made me laugh out loud. (Matt Sandler, New York)

A. I lean toward the most egotistical title in movie history, "God is My Co-Pilot." For more inspiration, I polled a couple of experts on obscure movies. Leonard Maltin likes "Ski Lift to Death" and "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar." And Steve Friedman, "Mister Movie" on Philadelphia radio, nominates "Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh," "Nice Girls Don't Explode," "Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama," "Attack Of The Killer Bimbos" and "Teenagers From Outer Space."

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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