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Movie Answer Man (08/10/1997)

Q. I noticed that in the credits for "Men In Black" there was the standard mention of Humane Society monitoring but it did NOT say "no animals were harmed." Is this because cockroaches were killed? (Dan Sachs, Merrick, N.Y.)

A. You can rest easy. Not a single bug was squished. "No cockroaches were killed for 'Men in Black'," I am told by Gini Barrett of the American Humane Assn. in Encino, CA. "When Will Smith was 'stomping' on the cockroaches, rubber cockroaches were used. Mustard packets were used to get the colored squished bug effect. The cockroaches were counted after each scene."

Q. In your review of "Air Bud" you left the impression that trick photography was used in the scenes where the dog shoots baskets. I saw this particular dog on TV, and he is capable of everything he did in the movie. (Carol Otakis, Skokie, IL)

A. The movie is about a dog that plays basketball. To my amazement, I learn from Michael Strange of Keystone Productions that you are absolutely right, and the dog did indeed shoot all of those baskets itself, bouncing the ball off its nose. The dog's name is Buddy, and Late Show News correspondent Thomas Allen Heald tells me he was a star performer for David Letterman's Stupid Pet Tricks.

Q. I was perusing this week's issue of that paragon of journalistic integrity, the Star, and I was quite shocked to see amid the celebrity gossip an item about you, of all people. It said that you're suffering from arthritis, and it hurts when you have to extend your thumb. You're quoted as "telling a pal," "I'm having a problem with the thumb thing; I don't know how much longer I can do this." Any truth? (Michael Dequina, Los Angeles)

A. First, I don't have arthritis. Second, I don't need my thumb to be a movie critic. Third, you don't have to be able to move your thumb to give "thumbs up"--you need to be able to move your wrist. Fourth, I am amazed that the Star would devote its valuable columns to boring errors about my allegedly arthritic thumb when it completely ignored the rumor about the evening that Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney and I got naked, covered ourselves with talcum powder, and rode bareback around her back yard. What a night it was!

Q. In your review of "Addicted to Love" you question the plausibility of the opening scene, in which astronomers can see the stars through their telescope at high noon--and then lower their sights so that Matthew Broderick can look at his girlfriend. This is kind of weird. Even weirder is what they actually say. The professor chap comments that Broderick has predicted that Alpha Orionis will go supernova. Alpha Orionis, better known as Betelguese, is one of the brightest stars in the sky. If it were to go supernova this would be the most spectacular astronomical event in recorded history. It isn't impossible that it might rival the sun in brightness for a few days. Of course, if such an event did occur, most astronomers would be so excited about it that they would likely not sleep, eat, focus their telescopes at their girlfriends, or even notice that their girlfriends had left them for weeks. Anyone who successfully predicted such a thing would win fellowships, professorships, prizes, and celebrity, and would, I think, be rather too busy to be involved in the events in the rest of the movie. (Michael Jennings, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, The University of Cambridge, England)

A. Do you mean to say that would be an even bigger deal than being jilted by Kelly Preston? Man, you guys are serious.

Q. You should switch your reviews of "Air Force One" and "Spawn" around. "Spawn" sucked. We should have left the theater (the last time we left a movie was "Hudson Hawk"--enough said). "Air Force One" was enjoyable from beginning to end. It was made to be a summer action fun movie and that's what it accomplished. I wanted to leave "Spawn" during the opening credits that actually hurt my eyes. Maybe closing my eyes during the opening credits actually saved my mind; you watched the credits and received the brainwashing effects from them. That's the only reason for a favorable review on this movie. (Paul Berker, Lake Villa, IL)

A. "Air Force One" was a movie that has been done, in one form or another, many times before. "Spawn" tried for originality and for a consistent, creative style reflecting the ground-breaking comic book it is based on. "AF1" is basically the old "it's up, it's in trouble--now how do we get it down?" formula used in "Airport," "Turbulence" and so many other movies. Just this summer the formula was better handled in "Con Air," which had more interesting characters on board instead of the standard Noble Wife, Threatened Child, Sinister Double Agent, etc. It had a better villain, too, and superior special effects.

Q. In your review of "Air Force One" you wondered whether it was actually possible to phone Moscow from Washington DC with a cellular phone. Last year I used a cellular phone to call one of our sons, who was working as an accountant in Vladivostok, from the right field stands of Jacobs Field . I described the last of the 9th against the California Angels. Reception was so good he put it on the speaker phone at work. The call cost me over $70, but it was worth it, since Manny Ramirez hit a 3-run homer to win it, 5 to 4. The crowd cheered for the next 2 or 3 minutes. One of the Russians at the office asked, "How can so many people be so happy for so long?" (Jim Rozmajzl, Akron, Ohio)

A. For your next experiment, why not place a call from a White Sox game, so the Vladivostokians can wonder why so many people can be so sad?

Q. In looking over your new book Questions for the Movie Answer Man, I was surprised to read a misconception that has arisen about my behavior on "Nixon." Certain journalists have no shame about spreading negative rumors about me. In this case, a San Francisco critic included these comments in her rage-ridden review about the film, and probably this was passed around the critic community. The fact is we rushed the film through a difficult and hurried post-production by early December that culminated in New York City in front of a huge press audience. This hardly qualifies as holding the film back. We provided full cooperation to the Golden Gloves and all of us, the actors and myself, attended their press conference. "Nixon" was ignored for the most part. The critics were mixed on the film often having made up their mind, I believe, before they even saw the movie. (Oliver Stone, Los Angeles)

A. This is in reference to a question about why Stone's "Nixon" did not win more Golden Globe nominations. I wrote in my answer: "Oliver Stone may have lost the 'director' nomination for himself. In behavior that seemed positively Nixonian, he took personal control of the preview press screenings of the movie, insisting on approving every name. In most cities he allowed only a handful of 'leading' critics to attend. The Golden Globe membership is made up of Hollywood foreign correspondents--few of them on Stone's A-list... Stone's policy may have aced him out a nomination." Whatever happened, "Nixon" certainly deserved more recognition and praise than it received.

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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