Trial by Fire
The film plods at points, trudging along, and there are a few misguided narrative "devices" tacked on, but still, "Trial by Fire" bristles with anger.
Q. Something smells, uh, fishy. In your latest Answer Man column, you printed a letter saying there were "some groups" protesting "Finding Nemo" because of Ellen DeGeneres' involvement in the film. I've looked and looked, but the only references I can find to anybody protesting "Finding Nemo" both come from the Chicago Sun-Times, one of those being your column, the other being a similarly unsourced quote from the "Quick Takes" column. By contrast, the Christian/family sites making comments about "Finding Nemo" have nothing but positive things to say. Now, I too think that anyone who protests a movie in this manner is an idiot; however, I'm also not particularly fond of beating up straw men to prove that I'm not one of these idiots. Who are these anti-Nemo groups? (Brian Lundmark, Norman OK)
A. It was wrong to refer to "some groups." The protest came from only one source that I'm aware of: Tom Perrault, weblog editor of Crosswalk.com, a Christian family group. He writes: "Ellen DeGeneres is, apparently, the only female they could find to voice one of the main characters. Clearly, the Pixar/Disney folks just assume that Ellen is a perfect casting choice, and only those in the hate-mongering religious right would have any issues with the selection...Although Ellen might be a sweet person (I have no idea) and a good choice for the role (whatever), we're once again reminded just how far removed most of us are from the cultural epicenter of America. With literally hundreds and hundreds of perfectly viable options, Disney goes with someone whose personal lifestyle is antithetical to the throngs of families who are supposed to eagerly flock to the theaters..."
Q. Last night, we went to go see "The Matrix Reloaded - The IMAX Experience." We felt ripped off. The image projected filled 2/3 of the screen and appeared no bigger than the giant screens at modern multiplexes. But at $11.50, $3 more than the regular ticket price, we anticipated a true IMAX experience. What kind of print are they projecting? How can they get away with calling this an IMAX experience without filling the whole screen? (John Aden, Denver CO)
A. The IMAX screen has a ratio of 1.33:1, or 4 feet wide for every tghree feet tall. "The Matrix Reloaded" was filmed in the ratio of 2.35:1. Therefore, to show you the entire width of the picture, IMAX has to "letterbox" it. If the whole IMAX screen were filled, they'd have to cut off the sides of the image, and that would make you even unhappier. It was the preference of the Wachowski brothers that it be shown by IMAX in this way.
Q. When have you become so jaded that you sidestep the unnecessary vulgarities in "Raising Victor Vargas" which caused about a dozen viewers (including myself) to walk out after twenty minutes? The positive review may have been deserved otherwise, but the language did not allow a lot of people to hang around long enough to find out. How sad that we think foul mouths are inspiring. (Paul Victor, Pasadena CA)
A. The MPAA rated the film R "for strong language." I am sad that you and others left this wonderful, life-affirming film which has no gangs, no guns, no drugs, and shows a Latino family that stays together during the crisis of the hero's coming-of-age. The language is exactly as real people do often speak in today's world, I am not jaded in "sidestepping" it but simply realistic about current norms.
Q. In reading some articles on "Star Wars," I read that the left-to-right direction is considered positive in film, and good guys move in this direction. I have not been observant enough to notice this, so is this a common practice for directors? And what are some reasons to identify the left-to-right direction as positive? (Victor Chen, Houston TX)
A. Yes, movement to the right is considered positive, to the left negative. Louis D. Giannetti writes in Understanding Movies, his invaluable book about cinematic language, "Since the eye tends to read a picture from left to right, physical movement in this direction seems psychologically natural, whereas movement from right to left often seems inexplicably tense and uncomfortable."
Q. I must say I take exception to your use of Vincent Gallo's assertion that he is a "conservative Republican" as ammo in your response to his "curse" on you. You tack on his political affiliations like they are part of the evidence against him. I can think of plenty of loony, self-pontificating liberals in show business, but I've never heard you use it against them. While you are certainly justified in defending yourself against Gallo's ridiculous personal attacks, the inclusion of his political views seems like your way of trying to scapegoat a viewpoint from the unrelated ravings of an obviously troubled individual. (Gabriel Frost, Boston MA)
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A tribute to Doris Day.