The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash
A solid documentary about a great musician, with passages of greatness.
Q: I, like you, fell in love with "Across the Universe." However, I am somewhat taken aback by how many critics seem to HATE it. There's quite a lot of vitriol toward this movie. Why do you think this is? Kevin Fuld, Dallas
A. It mystifies me. No other movie this year has generated such favorable feedback to the Answer Man. But it's "Rotten" on the Tomatometer, and some critics are savage. I'll bet if the movie were allowed to hang in theaters, it would find a big audience. It will be in revival for years. I agree with Stephen Holden of the New York Times: " 'Across the Universe' captured my heart, and I realized that falling in love with a movie is like falling in love with another person. Imperfections, however glaring, become endearing quirks once you've tumbled."
Q. A friend and I went to see "Across the Universe" last weekend. We are critics ourselves and both loved the film (I'm going again), but we realized that there seemed to be some abrupt stops and starts. I remember that earlier this year Julie Taymor and her executive producer Joe Roth had a falling out when Roth re-edited the film after a test screening. Both my friend and I are convinced that this isn't Taymor's final cut and are wondering if we should be holding our breath for a director's cut on DVD? Eric Offill, Houston
A. Director Julie Taymor told Edward Douglas of ComingSoon.net at Toronto: "No, what you'll see on the DVD extras, which will be a gas, is expanded musical numbers, which I always knew would be cut. You'll get those because we shot them, they're there, not necessarily the whole song, but you'll get more. You'll see there is a huge dance number at the end of 'Come Together' that we knew early on in the editing wouldn't work. The story just becomes performance. This is the director's cut, I'm happy to say, and I was very supported by the studio on that."
Q. Here's one more for your list of sound clips that turn up again and again. There's a police radio call that I first heard about 12 years ago when my son had a computer game that let him create his own Spider-Man cartoons. The sound was one you could add to the cartoon. Since then I've heard it on TV shows (the very first episode of "E.R." was one) and in numerous movies, including the current "We Own the Night." If there's anything that can break the spell of a movie for me, hearing that standard sound clip is it. Liz Keuffer, Cincinnati
A. I asked Keuffer what we should listen for. She replies: "My son, who is now 15 and no longer owns the Spider-Man game, says he hears it all the time in video games and on TV. It's a woman's voice, and she recites a string of numbers, clearly ending with 'Code 6.' "
So to the Wilhelm Scream, the Flipper Giggle and the Prairie Players we now add Spidey Code 6.
Q. There are horns that I've dubbed the Waterfront Horns. They're part of the score of "On the Waterfront" and are also covered in Curtis Hanson's "L.A. Confidential" and David Mamet's "Heist." I also maintain that "The Imperial March" in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "A Spoonful of Sugar" from "Mary Poppins" are just a couple notes apart. Hum one and you'll start humming the other, and not understand why. Scott Collette, Los Angeles
A. The Wilhelm Scream, the Flipper Giggle, the Prairie Players, Spidey Code 6, the Waterfront Horns and the Empire Spoonful.
Q. What I want is a DVD player on my computer or iPod that will play a movie and allow me to play another soundtrack over the (turned-down) movie soundtrack. This way, I can purchase a DVD of a movie and obtain commentary on the movie (by you, Criterion, Michael J. Nelson, etc.) separately, but play them simultaneously. Once such a system is available, anyone who wants to can make a commentary on a film without having to license the film or anger the copyright gods. Will you please ask the geniuses of the world to hurry up and invent this for me? I've been waiting a long time. Dominick Cancilla,Santa Monica, Calif.
A. Already invented. If I connect my Macintosh to an external speaker, I find that it will simultaneously use input from two sound sources, such as iTunes and Speech, or MP3 and streaming video. The volume slider on each is adjusted separately, so Bob's your uncle.
As the proud inventor of the DIY Commentary Track (in an old Yahoo Internet Life column), I am glad that Web sites exist to support them, such as renegadecommentaries.co.uk. There is even a program at sharecrow.net that allows you to associate a DIY commentary with a DVD and skip around at will, always in sync.
Q. The Israeli film "The Band's Visit" has been disqualified by the Motion Picture Academy because it has too much English dialogue. The Israeli Academy is planning to appeal the decision. Yair Raveh, Tel Aviv
A. To qualify as a "foreign-language film," no more than 49 percent of the dialogue can be in English. At a time when English is becoming the international language, this rule needs an overhaul. If "Before Sunrise" had been about a Swede meeting someone from Singapore in Manila, it probably would have been in English.
Q. I just went to see "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." There is an odd acknowledgement in the end credits for use of footage from "Ryan's Daughter" (1970). Any idea what, if any, footage that was? I've seen both but cannot see the connection, and IMDB has nothing on it. Arlene Charris, Las Vegas
A. Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter speculates: "Possibly those mighty waves crashing on a dark, rocky shore."
Q. "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" has blatant disregard for history. All films set in Elizabethan/Shakespearean, times, etc., ignore the fact that most people, even queens, had lost most of their teeth by age 30. And I suppose it was irresistible to have a meeting between two such formidable figures as Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, although in truth, Elizabeth sent Mary to her death without ever having come face to face with her. Joan Nye, North Haven, Conn.
A. Couldn't stand the sight of those teeth.
Q. The AV-Club's Web site has a list of 24 Great Films Too Painful to Watch Twice. I have seen over half of them multiple times, including the No. 1 entry: Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream" (his style makes a sickening story palatable for a cinema-head like me). What do you make of the list? Eric Robert Wilkinson, Oregon City, Ore.
A. I often quote Derek Malcolm, film critic of the London Evening Standard: "A great film is a film I cannot stand the thought of never seeing again." And I often quote myself: "All bad movies are depressing. No good movie is depressing."
Below is the list from www.avclub.com. The site does an expert job of describing each film, and includes clips and trailers that are apparently not quite too painful to watch:1. "Requiem for a Dream" (2000); 2. "Dancer In The Dark" (2000); 3. "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (Dreyer); 4. "The Seventh Continent"; 5. "Winter Light"; 6. "Bad Lieutenant"; 7. "Straw Dogs" (1971); 8. "Audition"; 9. "Sick: The Life & Death Of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist"; 10. "Come and See"; 11. "In a Year of 13 Moons"; 12. "Safe"; 13. "Irreversible"; 14. "Boys Don't Cry"; 15. "Grave of the Fireflies"; 16. "When the Wind Blows"; 17. "Leaving Las Vegas"; 18. "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple"; 19. "S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine"; 20. "The Last House on the Left"; 21. "Million Dollar Baby"; 22. "United 93"; 23. "Lilya 4-Ever"; 24. "Nil by Mouth."
A tribute to Robert Forster.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A short film about two friends trying to get through a period of loss.
The experts sound off on what films to watch in honor of Indigenous Peoples' Day.