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Movie Answer Man (05/21/2000)

Q. I saw the movie "Gossip" at my nearby multiplex. The picture was very dim and some of the indoor scenes were barely visible. After the movie, I complained to the manager. He said that I should have complained earlier. Since I was in a distant auditorium, I would have missed a significant part of the movie. I said that it appeared the projection bulb was set to a low setting to extend its life. He said that there is no such thing. I informed him that you have written about it. He said that Roger Ebert is wrong; they only have one setting. (John Keating, Chicago)

A. The manager is mistaken. Many theater chains routinely order projectionists to turn down the bulb intensity in the mistaken belief that will extend the life of the expensive bulbs. As a result, films look darker than their makers intended. The Answer Man quoted Carl Donath of Kodak in February 1999: "A dirty secret is that movies are under-lit in most theaters. Films are produced with the intent that they be projected at the brightness of 16 foot-lamberts. Field research by Kodak found that they are often shown at between 8 and 10 foot-lamberts, well under the SMPTE standard for brightness. To get theaters up to this and other standards, Kodak is introducing the Screencheck Experience program." Ironically, testing shows that bulbs burn just about as long at full power, so theater chains are not only cheap, but stupid. Clip this item, laminate it, and have it ready to show theater managers at a moment's notice.

Q. What in heaven's name can be done to bring the Oscars in at under four hours, and make the show less of a snore-fest? (Greg Nelson, Chicago)

A. Your question languished in my inbox for weeks, because I was helpless to answer it. Nothing can be done, I would have said, and eventually the Oscarcast will run all night, like a talk show. But then the mail from London brought the Spectator, and in it I found a brilliant suggestion by Mark Steyn, the magazine's film critic: Why not forbid winners to thank anyone? He asks: "Why can't the Academy, just tell these butt-numbing yawn-mongers that all the people they want to thank will be listed on the official website but that they will have to use their 45 seconds on TV to say something else?" This is an inspired idea. Among its other virtues, it would provide a test of whether the winners have 45 seconds' worth of anything to say.

Q. The previews for "U-571" show the captured German submarine captain telling the Americans, "When they realize what you've discovered, they'll send every ship in the Navy to destroy you." Actually the characters say several times in the movie that if the Germans realize the Enigma has been captured, all the Germans have to do is change their codes. (Bennett Haselton, Seattle, WA)

A. Yeah, the whole point of sinking the German sub is to conceal the fact that its Enigma machine had been snatched. But that line sure sounds great in the ads.

Q. Allow me to be probably the ten millionth person to mention that the line John Landis uses in every movie is in fact "See you next Wednesday," not "Tuesday." (Michael Jennings, Sydney, Australia)

A. Quite so. And Answer Man correspondent Jared Sorensen adds: "Re the AM's comments on Tom Hank's frequent onscreen micturation, Stanley Kubrick's

Q. Just a note to say that the undefeated champion in "Gladiator" is not named Titus. The first time I saw it, I thought the announcer was saying Tigros, but a check of the credits reveals that the character's name is Tiger, obviously to match the animals he fights with. Wonder how his career would've been different if his parents had named him Bunny, Lamb, or Puppy? (Greg Dean Schmitz, creator,

A. For that matter, do you think we would have liked the emperor Commodus better with a less Kubrickian name?

Q. I'm a film and video grad student who was recently told by a professor that taking a painting class was a waste of time to someone studying film, and that I should be concentrating on taking computer courses like motion graphics if I expect to get a job. I believe very strongly that other mediums like painting and photography contribute a great deal to the development of a successful film maker. What is your opinion on this? (Dana Duffy, Savannah GA)

A. The professor is correct if he intends you to become a technician rather than an artist. He sounds to me like he should be teaching in a trade school.

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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