Q. Big problem arose last night for me at Spielberg's "Lost World: Jurassic Park." When T-Rex goes storming through San Diego, there's a brief shot of a group of Japanese businessmen fleeing along with the rest of the crowd. I laughed aloud (as did many others in the house). My spontaneous outburst, in appreciation of what I saw as Spielberg's tip of the hat to a convention of Japanese monster movies, set my fiancee off on a tear that began with an elbow in my ribs and a warning to behave myself, and a berating as soon as the house lights came up. Her reason: The folks seated to her left were Asian--and my applause was an indication of racism. Roger, look at that scene: It's shot from the same low, three-quarters behind the characters angle, with the characters' faces turned to look back as they flee (running slo-mo), just like any Godzilla, Rodan or Mothra movie. It is a tribute to the genre; use of a cinematic convention. She says it's a stereotype--because bad monster flicks "are all they make in Japan" and that Spielberg is no better for including it than I am for liking it. (Gerard Farrell, Bay City, TX)
A. I laughed, too. Spielberg is obviously basing an affectionate in-joke on the Japanese monster movie genre, and no racism was intended or should be found. By the way, your financee should know that fans of Japanese monster movies think they're better than "Lost World."
Q. When I recently visited the Wall Street set of "Godzilla," the extras running away from the imaginary beast carried signs proclaiming their support for Mayor Ebert (who will be portrayed by Michael Lerner). Did screenwriter Dean Devlin name the character after you? The on-site publicist allowed that the character's name was an in-joke inspired by the fact that you gave "Independence Day" a blistering review, and in print or television expressed the wish that Devlin and director Roland Emmerich would no longer be allowed to make movies. Is this the first time a character has been named after you? How do you feel? (Emerson Thorne, Chicago)
A. I did give "ID4" a borderline negative review (two and a half stars), but never have I ever suggested that its makers not be allowed to make another movie.
Q. I'm told that director Steven Spielberg can briefly be spotted reflected on a TV screen, showing him sitting on a sofa with Jeff Goldblum and eating popcorn. Is this true? (Kelly MacNamara, Chicago)
A. Blair Finberg of Universal confirms that Spielberg is seen briefly reflected during a scene where characters are watching a CNN broadcast. David J. Bondelevitch of the CompuServe Showbiz Forum adds: "My memory of the shot is that it starts with Goldblum asleep on the couch with the daughter eating popcorn, and pans over to the TV set where they are reflected."
Q. On a recent "Geraldo" show, Rex Reed made a serious allegation regarding the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Mr. Reed alleged there has been a massive cover-up involving the winner of the 1992 Best Supporting Actress award. According to Reed, a blunder by presented Jack Palace erroneously resulted in the awarding of the statue to Marisa Tomei for "My Cousin Vinny," instead of Vanessa Redgrave. Reed explained a "stoned" or "drunk" Palance read the last name on the Teleprompter and did not properly open the envelope and name the winner as Redgrave. Can you shed any light on this alleged incident, which Reed described as Hollywood's best-kept secret? (James Berg, Chicago suburbs)
A. The Answer Man thought he had already settled this question in the column for April 20, but it has a life of your own. Yours is one of several more recent queries, and the "secret" is everywhere on the Internet. To nail this story for once and all, the A.M. turned to Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy, for an official statement, to wit: "The legend of Marisa Tomei's "mistaken Oscar' has appeared in various forms over the last four years and in that short time has achieved the status of urban myth. There is no more truth to this version than to any of the others we've heard. If such a scenario were ever to occur, the Price Waterhouse people backstage would simply step out onstage and point out the error. They are not shy." To which the A.M. can add: If the story is true, how did Reed find out the winner was Vanessa Redgrave?
Q. Re Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo:" All sources say that the "vertigo effect" was done by zooming in while pulling the camera out, whereas what we can see on the screen is clearly the reverse: Pushing the camera forward while zooming out. Is it possible that Hitchcock perhaps "did" film it the way everybody says he did but the sequence was edited in backwards? (Jan Bielawski, Molecular Simulations, San Diego, CA)
A. You are referring to the shot looking down the steep staircase inside the old mission tower, during the film's climactic scene. I referred your theory to the two ranking experts on the film, James