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Ad Astra

This is rare, nuanced storytelling, anchored by one of Brad Pitt’s career-best performances and remarkable technical elements on every level. It’s a special film.

Always in Season

A very hard sit for many, but this film should be seen. It is an unflinching look at how the racial sins of the past…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Movie Answer Man (12/10/1995)

Q. What is your opinion of Sen. Robert Dole's attack on the movie "Money Train" and how it might have inspired the subway firebombing in New York City? (Harris Allsworth, Chicago)

A. It is a relief to me that movies apparently have such a small influence on behavior. This year more than one billion movie tickets will be sold in the United States, and yet only a few incidents have been linked to the supposed influence of movies. On the other hand, an estimated 10,000 people will die annually if Dole and his colleagues in both parties successfully raise the national speed limit. Apparently they are prepared to risk more lives in the cause of faster driving than to the idea of free speech.


Q. Just saw "Toy Story" and agree that it is a wonderful film. However, I kept thinking that the humans and the dog looked no different from the toys, and they should have. Do you think that the humans should have been played by human actors (and the dog by a real dog), a la "Roger Rabbit?" (Rob Solomon, Sylmar, Calif.)

A. It was necessary for everything in the movie to look like part of the same visual universe. "Roger Rabbit" was about humans who co-existed with 'Toons, so of course they looked different. But "Toy Story" is not about two different worlds. It is about one world, in which toys are intelligent.

Q. Re the comments on computerized vs. human animation: In all of Disney's recent animated films, humans still animate the characters but computers are used to do all the coloring of the images as well as all the 'camera moves' like multi-plane shots, for example. There are no more cels used in Disney's animation, and no paint. If you walk into the animation department, all you see are animators using computer terminals. They are using CAPS, a program which was written for Disney by Pixar. This has been true for every animated film since "Rescuers Down Under." Disney has only recently talked publicly about this. (Rob Hahn, Los Angeles)

A. In other words, the "original collectors' cels" of the more recent Disney films were not necessarily used in the production of a movie. They're more like "limited editions" from the Franklin Mint. But what I want to know is: Since "Toy Story" was created entirely within computers, how will Disney produce any "collector's cels" of its animation? Will they sell you a floppy disc and tell you to display it on your computer?

Q. The ads for the Cindy Crawford movie "Fair Game" say, "He's a cop on the edge!" Not long ago on the Letterman show, they had a running gag with Bruno Kirby playing a police officer who kept saying, "I'm not just a cop. I'm a cop ON THE EDGE!" Do movie studios honestly think we'll respond to worn-out catch-phrases like these? (John Thompson, Chicago)


A. They certainly do.

Q. How does Woody Allen do it? How does he make Helena Bonham Carter (of all people!) sound exactly like Mia Farrow, who sounded exactly like Diane Keaton? (Eric Isaacson, Bloomington, Ind.)

A. Well, I'm a verbal chameleon, and start sounding like the people I'm talking to; I'm more British in London, more southern in Virginia, etc. Maybe there's something about Woody's vocal patterns that influences his co-stars. One thing you have to admit: Mira Sorvino, his co-star in "Mighty Aphrodite," didn't sound like anybody he has ever worked with before.

Q. Is this a new trend, or what? I'm talking about ads that appear within an ad for a movie. The "Moonlight and Valentino" ads feature a pitch for a discount chain and a cruise line. (Hank Ottery, Chicago)

A. It all started 20 years ago when Universal added a tag to all of its larger print ads: "When in Southern California, visit Universal Studios!" When they started adding this tag to the movies themselves, directors were bitterly opposed. I think such cross-plugs look cheap, and are a tip-off that the movie is not respected by its studio.

Q. So okay, what's the scoop on you and Gene appearing on that controversial Jay Leno show with Howard Stern? Were you offended? Amused? (Susan Lake, Urbana, Ill.)

A. We could have handled the situation easily had we only been able to turn ourselves into a heavy metal rock group.

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