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Movie Answer Man (08/18/1996)

Q. My 10-year-old son and I took off half a day so we could see "Jack," our favorite actor's "sweet little movie," as Robin Williams described it on Leno. I was stunned by the highly sexualized depiction of boys in the fifth grade. Since we have one, I can assure you that Penthouse magazine is really not part of the picture at this developmental stage. My greatest concern was the conduct between Fran Drescher and Robin Williams. None of the little boys were laughing or even connecting with the weird scene of Williams pawing his friend's mother. The french kiss was offensive, and proved that somehow Hollywood felt it had to even the score by showing that boys can be exploited by women. What was the point? This was hardly intended for the same audience as "The Graduate" or "Summer of '42." My son's reaction was confusion and disgust as he tried to figure out why this was in the movie. My reaction was, the movie was a colossal betrayal by Mr. Williams. FYI, I am a lawyer and have spent much of my professional career involved in the representation of children and the creation and implementation of laws related to child abuse and neglect. Please consider the content of the movie as people need to at least be aware that it is hardly the benign little story it is cracked up to be! (Myra Werrin Sacks, Harrisburg, Pa.)

A. I am in substantial agreement. I felt that the one sequence that did work involved the teacher (Jennifer Lopez) tactfully but firmly explaining to Jack why she couldn't go to the prom with him. (He had asked her because she was the only person his size.) The scenes with Dreshler, especially the one in the bar, were filmed by and for adults who had long since forgotten what it was like to be in fifth grade. Maybe I have, too; re-reading this, I asked myself--do they have proms in the fifth grade these days? I thought school dances didn't start until about seventh grade. In fifth grade we would rather have done arithmetic than dance with a girl.

Q. Just saw John Ford's "Stagecoach" and was reminded again of a question that occurs to me every time I see a western. There must be a reason why the wagon wheels seem to turn backwards, but what is it? (Susan Lake, Urbana, Ill).

A. There is a reason, which has been explained to me countless times, after which all I remember is, "that's the way wagon wheels look when they're photographed." This is not a helpful answer, and so I was happy to pick up the August issue of "Discover" magazine, and find a concise explanation: "Were the film speed perfectly in sync with the rotation of, say, a wheel being filmed, the wheel would complete a rotation whenever an image of it occurred, making it appear stationary. As it happens, though, a wheel of a moving vehicle often lags slightly behind the film speed, so that a spoke has not quite returned to its initial position at the moment an image is taken. As we focus on a spoke's original position, the forward-moving wheel appears on film to turn backwards."

Q. Is it a fact that the most-often uttered phrase of movie dialogue is "Let's get out of here"? (Bo Bradham, Charlottesville, Va.)

A. It probably ranks right up there with "Look out!," "Take this!" and "****!"

Q. Whatever happened to the epic movie "Hurricane" that was supposed to be produced by Dino De Laurentiis? (O. Wallace, Chicago)

A. Questions like yours bring tears to the eyes of movie makers. "Hurricane" was produced by Dino De Laurentiis at a cost of untold millions, was widely advertised, was released, was a critical and box office disaster, sank without a trace, and can now be found on video. And here you are still waiting for it. I actually spent a week in 1978 on the island of Bora Bora watching "Hurricane" being filmed, and attending the local Bastille Day celebration with Trevor Howard, who was on the wagon and thus not in the mood to celebrate much of anything. The production was doomed almost from the start by financial, logistical, script and romantic complications, and the experience of being involved in it was documented in a book by Tim Zinnemann, who was an assistant producer.

Q. Do you sneak candy into the theater like me because the cost of movie theater candy is so outrageous? (Ryan Thompson, Albany, Ore)

A. No. While I agree with you that the price of movie candy is high, there is a reason for that: The refreshment counter provides operating expenses and the margin of profit at most theaters, where in the early weeks of the run of a big movie, 90 percent of the ticket price goes to the studio.

Q. How come I can't buy one of those little glass balls with water and imitation snowflakes and a vintage house with a sled out in front that says "Rosebud?" I can buy cells from "The Lion King," a replica of the Maltese Falcon and probably one of Mae West's bustles, but not this. America's memorabilia industry is letting us down. (Win Smith, Chicago)

A. There has never been a "Citizen Kane" collectable paperweight, according to Lisa Kentala of Chicago's Metro Golden Memories. So you should obviously manufacture them. Put me down for one.

Q. A while ago, I read that Quentin Tarantino claimed to have acted in Jean-Luc Godard's "King Lear." Now I recently read that he only put that on his resume to try and sneak his way into getting an acting job. Yeash! (Mike Hatch, North Kingston, RI)

A. Funny, how with a hot young director, something like that is seen as colorful chutzpah, while with a political candidate or company official, it would be cause for dismissal. I'm sure Tarantino would agree with King Lear in Act IV, Scene 7: "Pray you now, forgive and forget."

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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