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Movie Answer Man (10/20/2002)

Q. Last week the Tomatometer at read 98% favorable for Miyazaki's "Spirited Away," because of a single negative review by someone whose name I can't recall now. Today I see that the green splatter is gone, and the meter is pegged out at a solid 100% "fresh." If there's one film that I've seen recently which deserves a 100% tomato rating, it's this one, so I have no objection to the removal of that negative link. But I am wondering how often RT adjusts its ratings in this way. Do they do it according to some standard, or in response to user complaints? (Joe Lippl, Minneapolis)

A. Stephen Wang, chief technical officer of Rotten tomatoes, first replied: "Mr. Lippl makes reference to the once 'rotten' and now 'fresh' review for "Spirited Away" by esteemed film critic Rob Blackwelder of SPLICEDwire. I believe this is a rare case where a reader's enlightened response to his review shed light on the film that changed Rob's own critical view of the movie. This demonstrates that online criticism enjoys the benefit of a healthy back-and-forth with its readers.

Q. I read on an Australian web site that Heather Rose has passed away. As one who admired and loved her film "Dance Me to My Song," I wonder if you can give more details. (Susan Lake, Urbana, Il)

A. Heather Rose, who brought sunshine to my first Overlooked Film Festival in 1999, died suddenly on Oct 5, a day after her 36th birthday. She wrote and starred in "Dance Me to My Song," which was directed by Rolf De Heer and won a standing ovation at Cannes in 1998. A victim of severe cerebral palsy, she communicated by typing voice messages on a computer with the one finger she could control. In the movie, she plays a character who has two goals: (1) To meet a man and make love, and (2) to have revenge on the corrupt caregiver who insults her, ignores her and steals from her. Despite her handicaps, she is triumphant. The movie is powerful and deeply affecting, a masterpiece that never blinks in regarding the nature of her disabilities, but has not found distribution in the United States--perhaps because of competition at the time with "The Theory of Flight" (1998), a sentimental and manipulative movie about a woman with ALS, starring Helena Bonham-Carter and Kenneth Branagh. In that one, the heroine was taken flying in her new lover's hand-made plane. The Heather Rose character's journey to the sidewalk in front of her house is much more difficult and inspiring.

Q. In "Red Dragon," I could swear that Emily Watson's ex-boyfriend was played by Frank Whaley and that the museum curator who showed Francis Dollarhyde the painting of the dragon was Mary Beth Hurt but I couldn't find their names in the credits or on the page for this new movie. Could you confirm? (Jeff Young, Las Vegas.)

A. A rep for Universal Publicity says yes, Frank Whaley and Mary Beth Hurt did make uncredited appearances in the movie.

Q. You have mentioned before your view on the Clean Flick movie chain and chains like it. What is your opinion of editing a film for television or for an airline flight? (Peter Felt, Provo UT)

A. It happens. I never watch airline movies, and avoid channels that censor their films. I believe the director has a better idea of what should be in the film than some bluenose video-jockey. Companies like Clean Flick "edit" movies to remove offending words and images. They produce such annoying results that some of their frustrated customers are inspired to seek out the actual film. The Directors' Guild of America is currently suing to stop the practice--but is on shaky ground, since it agrees (over the dead bodies of some of its members) with airline and broadcast censorship.

Q. Who can I sue?? The movie "Saving Private Ryan" had to be, by far, the worlds worst movie of all time. Thank God it was on TV & I did not spend $ to see it, how could you give it a 4-star rating? Any "Combat" episode is 10k times better. You have to be getting a kick-back, or be on dope, to not recognize a stink-bomb. (Ross Lyngstad, Warrenton, OR)

A. I suggest you sue your local educators.

Q. In three of your recent reviews--"The Rules of Attraction," "Tuck Everlasting" and "White Oleander"--you mention that you have not read the novels the films are based upon. Do you think that reading them may enhance your viewing? Do you ever seek out books to read before/after seeing the movie? And, if you have read the novel, do you try and forget about it whilst watching the film, or do you make a comparison? (In your review of "The Fellowship of the Ring" you constantly refer to the book) (Adam Whyte, Scotland UK)

A. I use different approaches for different films. There is not time to read every book that every movie is based on, and so my usual approach is to judge the movie as a movie. If I have read the book, and useful insights occur, I will use them. I am currently reading "The Shipping News," by E. Annie Proulx, which many people assured me was better than the movie. They are correct.

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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