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Movie Answer Man (05/19/2002)

Q. Everyone in Hollywood thinks CGI is the end-all of special effects. The way it is being used in some movies is a big step back. I heard how much it cost to make "Spider-Man," but I felt like I was watching a cartoon half the time. The "effect" is spoiled when I can effortlessly tell when it's a real person and when it's a computer image. This is why I hated Jar Jar Binks in "Star Wars." I didn't for one second think there was something physically there. In the old "Star Wars," you could tell there was a real being there. In "Blade II," I'm watching a great fight sequence, then suddenly two flimsy cartoon creatures jump around. The last great movie I saw that used it right was "The Matrix". (John Dingess, Nashville TN)

A. Although CGI is supposed to render f/x scenes more realistic than the older techniques of models, backdrops, matte paintings, stunt men, etc., sometimes they undercut themselves by being too slick to be true. There is a kind of weight and presence that we expect even in scenes we "know" are special effects, and we miss them when CGI gooses the action beyond a certain point.

Q. In response to your mention of the con in "Nine Queens," the way you 'play' the twenties is you buy something that is, like, 23 cents. Give the clerk a $20 bill, absentmindedly take the change from the 20 while you are hunting for change, telling the clerk "I know I have exact change." When you finally give the clerk the change, he will give you the twenty back and (you hope) forgot about the 19-plus dollars that he has already given you. (Matthew Cleary, Miami FL)

A. I can't wait to try this.

Q. I am nine years old and in grade 4. I saw "Spider-Man" on Friday. In your review, you write, "I have one question about the Peter Parker character: Does the movie go too far with his extreme social paralysis?" I know the answer to your question: Like his uncle told Peter, "Great power means great responsibility." Peter HAS to fight crime because he has super strength. The Goblin tried to kill his Aunt and his girlfriend to get at Peter. So, he can't have a girlfriend or her life will be in danger. I agree with most of your points about the movie but I will still tell my friends to go see it. My 11-year-old sister, Emily, saw it also and she would tell her best friend, also Emily, to see it. (James Stajov, ON)

A. In the last paragraph of my review I floated various theories about why Peter told Mary Jane they could never have a relationship. You are the youngest of some 200 indignant readers who informed me that Peter is protecting Mary Jane, since he knows he will be a target for evildoers. I knew that. I was just trying to make a little joke, to bring some sunshine into my readers' days. Obviously, I failed miserably in my attempt at humor.

Q. Amanda Peet has two short scenes in "Changing Lanes," but the first is so powerful, so chilling in its way, that I think it deserves an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. Is it possible for such a small role to get nominated, and what is the smallest role to ever be nominated or win? (Phineas Gage, Napa Valley CA)

A. Everybody who has seen that movie remembers that amazing scene, where Peet dares her husband to cheat. Is it too brief for an Oscar nomination? Sometimes the Academy goes for impact rather than length. Beatrice Straight won in 1977 for "Network," for a brief scene.

Q. Why is it that Disney has been sitting on a completed version of Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky" for two years without releasing it? This movie could do at least as well on video/DVD as "Kiki's Delivery Service", and yet it has languished on the shelf. Is Disney still so angry over "Princess Mononoke" that they are refusing to even attempt to realize gains on a project that is already paid for? (Archer Sully, Boulder CO)

A. You are referring to Disney's purchase of the complete works of Studio Ghibli, the geniuses of Japanese anime, and its great director Hayao Miyazaki. His new "Spirited Away" is the biggest box office hit in Japanese history. For a reply, I asked Drew McWeeny, an anime expert who writes as "Moriarity" for Ain't It Cool News. He responds:

Q. Let's say that "The Cat's Meow" gets it right and that Hearst got away with the murder of Thomas Ince. If he had killed Chaplin, though, as he intended to, could he have pulled it off? (Charles Wharton, Richmond CA)

A. No. Leopold and Loeb would have had to move over as the Crime of the Century. "Citizen Kane" would never have been made. Buster Keaton would have gotten his due as the best silent comedian.

Q. I was watching "The New Guy" this weekend (DJ Qualls is charming, what can I say), and during the Braveheart parody scene, I noticed an incredibly visible camera. There is a side shot of the students running toward the stadium, and at the far right side there is a camera and a cameraman. How can a major release movie have such an error? C'mon, I didn't explain a lot from a silly teen comedy, but this is just plain lazy. (Dan MacRae, Regina SK)

A. Something about the general tone of "The New Guy" leads me to believe it was not made with fierce attention to detail.

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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