There’s a pleasant, old-fashioned feel to Alpha.
Q. In "The First Wives club," when the women are discussing plastic surgery, Bette Midler says to Goldie Hawn, "Did you have just a little done, or did you get the full enchilada?" If memory serves me correctly (and I'm sure it does), in the theatrical preview containing this scene, Midler says "or did you get the full Ivana?" During the actual film, it is very apparent that they did an audio dub over "Ivana" to replace it. I'm wondering if, considering Ivana Trump was in the movie, they felt that they should change it. (Matt Thiesen, Maple Grove, Minn.)
Q. On the new Revolving Thumb segment of your TV show, you guys say that Quentin Tarantino should just get going and direct another movie. By chance I overheard QT himself talking about the subject. He said he's "nailed the door shut" on his apartment in order to concentrate on writing, giving himself an entire year for the project. (He lives, by the way, in the same duplex that he's had since before he became a success.) Personally I admire him for working this way on the script. In an era where most films are rushed into production, Quentin is respecting the importance of the writing process. Certainly whatever comes out of his self-imposed exile will be better than if he jumped into something just to get another film going. (Joseph Kaufman, Hollywood, CA.)
A. Good news. Tarantino has the stuff of genius, but I hope he doesn't burn himself out by playing the public role of one. (I note that even after he nails himself into his apartment, he is still careful to be overhearable.) As to whether he's rushing into the next movie, I am told by QT-watcher Michael Dequina of UCLA, "Quentin is currently writing an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's 'Rum Punch,' which he will direct. Word has it that he may start shooting as early as January."
Q. Is the nose ring that Anna Paquin wears in several of the scenes in the latter half of "Fly Away Home" real? I would find it odd that the filmmakers would include the nose ring themselves as part of her character. It's especially distracting since she is wearing it some scenes on not others. (Michael S. Zey, Austin, Texas)
A. A spokesman for Columbia tells me the nose ring that Anna Paquin wears in "Fly Away Home" is not real, but only a clip-on. She wore it to the set one day and the filmmakers decided to include it in the movie.
Q. I recently watched Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey" once again. Crewman Frank Poole, played by Gary Lockwood, is engrossed in a game of chess with HAL 9000, the spacecraft's on-board computer/villain/genius. The chess position is clearly shown on a computer screen, and the dialog describes several moves, ending with HAL saying, "I'm sorry, Frank. I think you missed it. Queen to Bishop three, Bishop takes Queen, Knight takes Bishop--mate." Frank resigns. But there is something wrong here. Although HAL does, indeed, have an overwhelming attack, the explanation of the winning line is flawed. He should have said "Queen to Bishop SIX", not "three." Since a properly functioning computer would never make this type of mistake, there are two possibilities: (1) This is a flaw in the film, or (2) This is a deliberate hint, albeit a very subtle one, that something is wrong with HAL. As "2001" is my all-time favorite film, I would like to think the second of these is correct, but perhaps only Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke know for certain. (Clay Waldrop, Jr., Garland, Texas)
A. You went into great detail on the chess problem, even including a diagram of the board, and I will print your complete letter online on CompuServe (GO EBERT) and the Web (http://www.suntimes.com/ebert/ebert.html). As for the answer, Kubrick is as usual incommunicado, so I took your query to Arthur C. Clarke, via e-mail to Sri Lanka. He replies: "Meaningless to me--I deliberately avoided learning even the basic moves of chess when I was a boy--afraid I'd be engulfed.
Q. You and other critics took Bob Dole to task for calling "Trainspotting" a pro-drug film. You say it is anti-drug. Surely much depends on the basic attitudes of the beholder? From your point of view it might be anti, but from a more conservative point of view it might be pro. (Ronnie Barzell, Chicago)
A. After viewing "Trainspotting" at Cannes in May, Mrs. Virginia Bottomley, Minister of National Heritage for Great Britain's Conservative government and a frequent critic of drug-oriented movies, was quoted as giving a "thumbs up" to "Trainspotting" as a work that does not promote drug use.
Q. Being in the UK, I wasn't aware that Dole slammed "Pulp Fiction" and "Trainspotting" for glamorizing the use of drugs. I wonder if he considered the film "Nixon" to have glamorized the life of a convicted criminal? (Brian Walker, London)
A. Brian, Brian, Brian. Nixon was never convicted of anything. It does strike me as strange, however, that the GOP candidate for president would have attended, so far as we know, only one movie in recent months, "Independence Day." Wouldn't you think sheer curiosity would have driven him to see "Nixon?"
Q. In your review of "Basquiat", you wrote: "His work is good (when you see it in the movie, you can feel why people liked it so much). I understand the paintings in the film attributed to Basquiat were actually done by Julian Schnabel! So, Schnabel created not only the paintings for Gary Oldman's character, as you noted, but also the strikingly different ones that were putatively Basquiat's. (Bradley B. Miller, Dallas, Texas).
A. Zounds! You're right. Basquiat's father would not allow the original paintings to be shown in the movie. Well, the work is good, anyway, even if Schnabel did it. In "Surviving Picasso," by the way, permission as denied to use Picasso's work, so the filmmakers created fake Picassos. This leads to a rather strange scene in which two women roll on the floor fighting for Picasso's love, while he paints "Guernica," which is not seen.
Q. I just saw "Grace of My Heart" and it was wonderful. What a fun, sweet, terrific movie. Great date bait. Then I bought the "original soundtrack album" and it wasn't. Same music, different artists. Kinda disappointing. What's the deal with that? (Luigio Salmo, New York, N.Y.)
A. Jeffrey Graebner, movie soundtrack expert from Columbus, Ohio, has good news for you: "You may have a collector's item. Apparently a mistake was made causing a number of "Grace of My Heart" soundtrack CDs to be shipped using a cover version of at least one song instead of the version actually used in the film. The CDs were recalled and replacements with the correct recording have been shipped. Supposedly, the incorrect CDs are already being sought by collectors."
Q. You recently ran the following Movie Glossary entry: "In the movies, if the parents are good, the kids will be bad, or vice versa, unless they get along, in which case they're either both good or both bad." What other cases are there? (Steve Wideman, Birmingham, Ala.)
A. None. This splendid Glossary entry covers the entire range of possibilities.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A tribute to the Queen of Soul.
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An essay about Alien 3, as excerpted from the latest edition of the online magazine Bright Wall/Dark Room.