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Movie Answer Man (06/03/2001)

Q. Re "Pearl Harbor." The lines you quote from the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto are accurate. He was not sympathetic to the militarists like Tojo (he once pulled Tojo's chair out from under him!) and was opposed to war with the U.S. He had studied in California, liked America, and feared her industrial might. (Steve Thompson, Alexandria VA)

A. I wrote that his lines had been "rewritten" but should have said "singled out."

Q. Doris Miller, the African-American cook who shot down two planes and saved the captain's life, was not honored "posthumously" as you say in your review but was given the Navy Cross on May 27, 1942, on the deck of the carrier Enterprise, personally presented by Admiral Chester Nimitz. (Malcolm Kelly, National Post, Toronto)

A. I unwisely relied on the movie's official press notes, which state: "A controversial figure, Miller posthumously received the Navy Cross..." Since historical accuracy is not the movie's strong point, I was foolish not to double-check.

Q. Why does mainstream Hollywood persist in its stereotypical, racist depiction of history in films such as "Pearl Harbor?" The beautiful shot of Japanese planes flying low over white kids playing baseball is symptomatic. Hawaii has a multiracial population, but you'd never know it from the film. (Vernon Miller, Woodland Park CO)

A. My best guess: The filmmakers never gave that a moment's thought. Either that, or they made a conscious decision to leave out Asians.

Q. Having missed it in the theater I was excited to rent "Requiem for a Dream" on video. However, Blockbuster only carries the "Edited Version" of the film without giving the customer any choice. Is this a policy? This makes it seem as though all the fighting Darren Aronofsky did to keep his original, uncut vision was in vain once the movie hit the video shelves. (Jeremy Sigel, Rockville, MD)

A. Some chains want to protect you from yourself. They ban unrated and NC-17 films, but don't put their money where their mouths are by refusing to carry such films altogether. Instead, they offer edited versions which distort the director's original vision. The chains should be honest enough to ban the films outright, instead of taking business from stores that respect the original versions.

Q. I was musing over your indignation about objectionable scenes or language being removed from movies for viewers who request such. At a restaurant, am I obliged to eat everything served, even items which disagree with me? Or can I skip the clam chowder? If I may discriminate in those areas, why should I not have the option of selecting a movie in which the f-word has been excised 83 times? Will my understanding of the "art" somehow be diminished if I deprive myself of the whole experience? (W.D. Grissom, Cabot AR)

A. You don't have to order the chowder, but you can't go into the kitchen and remove spices from the chef's recipe. My theory is, either see the movie the director made, or don't. If you think as movies as a pastime, this may not seem important. If you think of them as an art, it is.

Q. In a recent Movie Answer Man column you stated that the title "Shrek" is not a reference to Max Schreck since the screenwriters of the recent animated film were not familiar with Murnau's masterpiece "Nosferatu." How can this be? How can someone get to the point where they are making mega-budget movies that actually get produced and yet be so ignorant of film? (Gil Jawetz, Brooklyn NY)

A. You pose an excellent question.

Q. If the moral of "Shrek" is to not judge others (or yourself) based on superficialities such as physical appearance, how can we reconcile this message with the disparaging remarks about the King's height? Green stinky ogres shouldn't be subjected to ridicule, but it is acceptable to make jokes at the expense of short people? Maybe instead of worrying about going bald, I should die my head green. (Nick Smith, Erie PA)

A. Good idea, Stinky!

Q. At a Cannes press conference for his "Elegy of Love," the French director Jean-Luc Godard was critical of Steven Spielberg and lashed out at "Schindler's List," saying, "To reconstruct Auschwitz the way he did, as an artist, an author, he did not have the right to do that, and it's my duty to point a finger at him." Can you shed any light on why Godard feels such contempt? Is he saying that some people "own" culture and others don't? (Danny Stuyck, Houston TX)

A. It is valid for Godard to criticize the film if he doesn't like it, but to say Spielberg had no right to make it is arrogant and ignorant. In Godard's new film, a character says that Mrs. Schindler "was never paid, and lives in poverty in Argentina." This neatly, perhaps maliciously, ignores the fact that Spielberg devoted his film's profits to setting up the Holocaust Memorial Project, which has videotaped the memories of some 50,000 Holocaust survivors. Godard should be ashamed of himself.

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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