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Movie Answer Man (12/14/1997)

Q. I saw "Starship Troopers" last week and I was wondering: If the humans have guns and the aliens have no projectiles, why do the humans run up to the beasts to get slashed up? Are they too dumb to keep a safe distance? (Peter Krouzelka, Vancouver, BC)

A. Yes. We're not talking rocket science here. Well, actually, we are, but...

Q. The credits for the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" refer to the book the movie was adapted from as a "novel." I always thought that the book was presented as nonfiction, yet when I referred to a copy of the book I found that it was being referred to as a "non fiction novel." What exactly is a "non-fiction novel?" (Bruce Worthen, Salt Lake City)

A. Dominick Dunne's best-seller about the Simpson trial, A City Not My Own, occupies the same terrain between fact and fiction. Basically, such a book begins with facts, which the author manipulates freely for greater dramatic effect. "Midnight" author John Berendt, for example, actually first visited Savannah after the alleged murder was committed by Jim Williams, but for greater effect caused it to happen after the character was established.

Q. In your book "Questions for the Movie Answer Man," you weren't able to determine which movie was the first to use the "F-Word." According to the Psychotronic Video Guide and Marianne Faithful's autobiography, it was an English movie, "I'll Never Forget What's 'Is Name," directed by Michael Winner in 1967. The word was spoken by Faithful. (Peter Sobczynski, Gab and Velocity magazines, Chicago).

A. Are you sure that title wasn't "I'll Never Forget What's 'Is Bleeping Name?"

Q. I read in your "Questions for the Movie Answer Man" book that the movie that used the "F-word" the most was Scorsese's "GoodFellas." It is probably in the top three, but Brian De Palma's "Scarface" should be first. A popular drinking game amongst my friends is to watch "Scarface," with the rules that every time the word is used in the movie, you have to drink. After the first half-hour of the film everyone is so drunk they can't concentrate on the rest. (Josh Korkowski, Dayton, MN)

A. "Scarface" ends with powerful anti-drug images, if your buddies are ever conscious long enough to absorb it.

Q. Have you heard anything about "Mononoke Hime" ("Princess Mononoke"), the Japanese animated film that broke the Japanese box office record set by "E.T.?" Disney plans to release it in the States next year. There's a theater across the street from my school. Every afternoon for the last three months, there was a line outside the theater. The animation is amazing, very realistic. (Jason Chau, Niigata, Japan.)

A. "Princess Mononoke" is said to be the last film planned by the great Japanese master of animation, Hayao Miyazaki ("My Neighbor Totoro"). According to RoboGeek, a Web-based expert on "anime" (the Japanese style of animation), it has grossed $140 million in Japan, and broke the box office record four times faster than "E.T." A tenth of the population has seen it. (Disney's top grosser in Japan, "Aladdin," took in $19.7 million). Disney will release the film in the U.S., but since it's R-rated, it may be handled by the studio's Miramax division, perhaps opening in spring or summer of 1998. RoboGeek writes in a report for the "Ain't It Cool" web site that "it's a sweeping, bloody epic adventure, set in the Muromachi period (1333-1568). It tells the tale of a war between the ancient gods and man for dominion over nature." It's 133 minutes long, took three years to make, and "consists of 144,000 hand drawn cels--some 80,000 were drawn by Miyazaki himself." There's feverish advance interest in this film; in animation circles, it's said to be "Star Wars" and "Braveheart" wrapped up into one.

Q. Recently the Charles Chaplin estate has been allowing "City Lights" to be shown with a live orchestra playing the score. This of course necessitates taking Chaplin's original track off the film (or at the very least shutting it off). Lately it's been revealed that there are even prints of the film with the Carl Davis-conducted recording actually on the film--replacing Chaplin's original music track. It is reportedly the intention of the family that both versions will be available for rental. I don't know about you, but this strikes me as deplorable. "City Lights" is not a silent film. Chaplin's original music track is an integral part of that film, and for the estate to rip it off the film amounts to the musical equivalent of colorization. (Tom Moran, New York City)

A. Chaplin released the film in January 1931, with no dialog (except for some squawks and sound effects) but with a score composed by himself on the sound track. Conductor Carl Davis, who collaborated with Kevin Brownlow on restoring the film, re-recorded the same score around 1990, and it is this version that's heard on most video versions of the film. In an interview at the time, Davis said he thought Chaplin was "not very satisfied" with with original film version: "It was the beginning of sound recording. The splendor that he heard in the recording studio contrasted with the sound he heard on the film." My feeling? I'd like a laserdisc or DVD with both versions on alternate sound tracks. Performing the score live is a way to make a screening more special, will happen only rarely, and doesn't much bother me. ("City Lights" will be next week's selection in my "Great Movie" feature.)

Q. I am the person who posted Kevin Smith's original script for the new "Superman" movie on the Web. I wonder how you feel about the methods I used to get the script out to the public. I know that I was, in effect, breaking the law, and subjecting myself to a lawsuit from Warner Bros. I did, indeed, receive a cease and desist letter from them, but do you think the public deserves to have the opportunity to read such a well-known and much-talked about script? (Jason C. Charnick, Bronx, New York)

A. A script in development has the same legal status as a commercial or trade secret. Legally you had no right to do it, and WB would have won in a walk if they had sued you. The desire of others to read the script, Kevin Smith's reputation, etc., are all irrelevant: This is pretty much an open-and-shut case. Nice script, though. Wish Tim Burton had liked it more.

Q. I saw the original "Superman" movie on cable recently, and was surprised to see scenes I've never seen before. These included: When Superman is trying to get to Lex's underground hideout, he is subjected to machine gun fire, a giant blowtorch, and is frozen in ice. Lex Luthor plays the piano in several scenes. Lex feeds Miss Tessmacher to some lions (Superman saves her of course). Where have these scenes been hiding all this time? (Matthew Gurvitch, Brooklyn)

A. Film expert Ed Slota, a member of the CompuServe Showbiz Forum, says: "What happened here was, in the mid-80s ABC-TV bought the network broadcast rights to "Superman." Their deal included all the footage which was cut from the theatrical print, which ABC re-inserted in order to stretch the movie into a two-night 'event.' This is the print you saw. As far as I know, this footage has never made it into the video prints."

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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