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Movie Answer Man (12/01/1996)

Q. Friends in Toronto tell me David Cronenberg's "Crash (1997)" is the most challenging movie they have seen. I read on the Internet that Ted Turner doesn't like it and will not open it in America. It was scheduled for an October release, I heard, but has been pulled out of the schedule. True? (Susan Lake, Urbana, Ill).

A. "Crash (1997)" is a bloody, brutal, painful, difficult movie, and stirred up enormous controversy when I saw it last May at Cannes. It deals with masochists whose sex lives revolve around automobile crashes. Ted Turner doesn't like it ("I personally am appalled by it. The people with warped minds are going to love this movie.") There is speculation that New Line Cinema, sold by Turner to Time-Warner, delayed the release until early next year, when Turner can distance himself from it. Meanwhile, in England, minister of culture Virginia Bottomley has expressed her doubts that it should be seen. In Canada it did big business and drew sharply-divided reviews, strongly pro or con.

Q. I recently saw "The Island of Dr. Moreau," and noticed that Val Kilmer he wore a blue brace on his left elbow. In the movie "Heat," there's a scene where Kilmer and De Niro have a conversation at a beachhouse. Kilmer's elbow seems to be inflamed . Is this a coincidence? Did Kilmer have elbow surgery? (Rob Dybas, Chicago)

A. Val Kilmer replies: "It is a coincidence."

Q. Rumor has it that Kenneth Branagh's full 4-hour "Hamlet" will only be shown in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, with a 2-hour-plus version elsewhere. Do you know anything about this? (Steve Schlesinger, San Diego)

A. Branagh wants to release the uncut version. Distributors aren't warm to a movie they can show only once a night. "Hamlet" is being screened at the longer length for critics, in hopes of generating Oscar buzz. The marketing debate continues. Much may depend on how good the studio feels the movie's Oscar prospects are.

Q. I read that you recently did a workshop at the Hawaii Film Festival comparing the work of Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan. One walks into a Jackie Chan film to escape reality and watch a master performer amaze you with physical acrobatics and creativity, and thrill you with eye-popping stunts. Jackie Chan has repeatedly said that he would love to be in a Spielberg or Lucas film, that he'd love to see what would happen with his action and their special effects. Wouldn't the perfect role for Chan be as a Jedi Knight in the new "Star Wars" trilogy? (David Hunt, Springdale, AR.)

A. In the workshop, we used stop-action laserdisc to look at some of Chan's great action sequences. I was impressed once again by his physical grace and agility, and the way so much of what he does is touched with humor. He could be a fascinating addition to the "Star Wars" mix. Of course, with the glacial process of Lucas' new trilogy, Jackie may be retired by the time filming begins.

Q. I went to the Hillside theater recently to see "Set It Off" with some friends. After paying for our tickets, we went into the theater and then noticed our stubs said "Ransom." We asked the manager and were told to just go into "Set It Off" and not worry about it. Was this a practice to inflate the box office for "Ransom" and take proceeds from "Set It Off?" (Celeste Lengerich, Chicago)

A. Box office grosses are tabulated by computerized ticket machines. Your money was credited to "Ransom," not "Set it Off." It may have been a one-time error by the ticket-seller, although director Spike Lee has said in the past that some theaters act in this way to deflate the grosses of black-oriented films.

Q. I saw "Ransom" this weekend and was amazed by the number of times the boom mike was visible. I saw the mike 20 different times once I started counting. I could hear people in the theater commenting on it during and after the movie. I found myself relieved whenever the movie moved outside since I knew I would not have to worry about it ruining those shots. I haven't noticed anything quite like it in other movies. Sometimes there are mistakes but I have not seen one mistake repeated so often and so prominently. I just kept wondering how they missed it or if they just didn't care. (Tracey Storey, Columbia, Md.)

A. When you see a boom mike in a movie, it is almost always the fault of the projectionist in the theater you are attending, who has "framed" the movie incorrectly. However, reports of visible boom mikes in "Ransom" have been epidemic all over the country, even prompting an article in the Los Angeles Times where Brian Grazer, the film's producer, says the mikes will not show if the film is properly projected, but concedes the film may have cut things a little too close. For a technical explanation of this phenomenon, I turned to Jeffrey A. Graebner of Los Angeles, whose knowledge of film procedures is encyclopedic. His detailed analysis:

Q. Saw and enjoyed "Bound." I found the parts where they "laundered" the bloody cash a stretch. $2.176 million in $100 bills means 21,760 individual bills. Running them through a washing machine is probably possible, but hanging up 21,760 bills to dry, as depicted in the movie, would require over 6,600 feet of line (more than a mile and a quarter), and one would also need 21,760 clothes pins. As for ironing the bills, assuming the ironer can do one bill, both sides, in 10 seconds, with no rest--that would take 55 hours. Yet the syndicate group was on its way from the airport during that time. Someone was way out in left field on this one! (Ronald J. Moran, Lake Forest, Il.)

A. I'm still wondering how the cops failed to notice the dead bodies stacked in the bathtub.

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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