The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Black, more than anyone else, should have been the one to wind up The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Too bad he doesn't…
Q. The documentary "Touch the Sound," which is about a deaf musician named Evelyn Glennie, will not be released theatrically with subtitles. Think about this for a second. While many people might want to see this film, I would guess that the movie will be of particular interest to the hearing-impaired. They would require subtitles to appreciate the content in any meaningful way beyond visual imagery and perhaps lip-reading.
But according to a representative of the distribution company, the director felt that "the visual aspect of the film is as important as the aural" and that "the subtitles would be hurtful" in the theatrical release. So this film is about deaf people, but is not for deaf people. I believe that citing aesthetic reasons for not using subtitles is insensitive and against the very spirit behind this particular film. Heather Chan,Toronto
A. I mentioned this peculiar decision in my review, and queried the distributors, Shadow Distribution. Spokesman Ken Eisen replies:
"'Touch the Sound' is being exhibited theatrically without subtitles, in its original English-language version. While there are about 250 screens in U.S. theaters that have the capability of screening rear-projected closed captioned versions of films, none of those screens show art films, and so authorizing such a version would not be helpful.
"We are, instead, working with theaters in each city in which 'Touch the Sound' plays to set up at least one special screening at which the film will be interpreted by a sign language interpreter so that it is as accessible as possible to all audiences who wish to see it. Such a screening will happen in Chicago at the Music Box."
Ebert again: This answer sidesteps the possibility of actually subtitling all prints of film. The special screening with sign language is not much of a solution, since all the other screenings will be inaccessible, and watching signing during a movie is more difficult than reading subtitles, particularly given the lighting conditions. I believe the non-subtitle decision by director Thomas Riedelsheimer is wrong-headed. Carla Leete, assistant to Evelyn Glennie, informs me: "We are currently in the process of creating a statement addressing the subtitle issue, which will eventually be found on Evelyn's site (www.evelyn.co.uk)."
Q. I was recently at the Santa Fe Film Festival where I had the opportunity to see Thomas Riedelsheimer's amazing new documentary "Touch the Sound." Given that the subject of the film was the nature and spirit of sound and silence, I was traumatized to have the man sitting next to me fall asleep and snore through the entire film. It completely ruined my experience, but honestly, I didn't know what to do. I nudged him a few times to make him stop, which he did, but only temporarily. Bloody hell. Should I have wakened him, or asked him to leave? Sridhar Reddy,Chicago
A. The Answer Man's expert on matters of etiquette is Dear Prudence of Slate.com, who responds:
"This is an unfair impediment to watching a movie, so if such an occurrence absolutely wrecks the movie for you, explain it to the box office and ask for a free return ticket. Your situation gives new meaning to the old exhortation: 'Get a room.' Other strategies: (1) try to move your seat. (2) If a new neighborhood in the theater is not possible, nudge the guy awake every time you hear the zzz's start. (3) Looking for the manager would take you from the movie, so go back to No. 2."
Q. You made the comment that one room on the spaceship in "Serenity" looked like a loading dock. Not the case here. "Serenity" was built as two huge sets -- no pre-existing sets were used. The reason that room looked like a loading dock was, it was a loading dock. Serenity is a cargo ship and used to transport goods. She is nothing but a loading dock and warehouse with everything else built around them. Barbara Jungbauer, St. Paul, Minn.
A. Then I was right!
Q. I just read Nicolas Lacroix's apoplectic response to the absurdity of "Flightplan" and to your review of it for failing to point out how illogical that movie was. Well, let me get apoplectic. I've heard many critiques like Mr. Lacroix's about the lack of logic or realism in various movies, and I'm tired of that kind of sniping.
Every creative work has its own set of rules and expectations, and the work should be critiqued on those grounds; real world logic hardly ever enters the picture. To criticize a movie because it's not logical is to criticize it for something it's not attempting to be. Juan Felipe Calle, Tamarac, Fla.
A. Unless, to be fair, the lack of logic distracts us in the wrong way or at the wrong time. "Flightplan" only becomes impossible on reflection, after it's all over. Until then you don't know it's illogical because you don't know what's going to happen, unless you were unfortunate enough to read the Associated Press story about how flight attendants hate the movie; the AP story gave away the ending in its first paragraph!
Q. I would like to get your opinion of the artwork in "Junebug" that is a central plot point of the film. The local townspeople seem to have the upper hand on the art dealer. They realize that the "art" is nothing more than the racist and sexually explicit ravings of a disturbed man. Do you think the director is trying to show that the fatuous paintings are fooling the pseudo-intellectual Embeth Davidtz character or am I on my own here? Michael Hein, Cincinnati
A. I do not believe the artist intends to be racist, although his limited intelligence and experience lead him to expressions that would be racist coming from a competent person. He is a disturbed man whose work falls within the definition of outsider art. He says, for example, that he cannot paint a face of someone he does not know, and since he knows only white people, the slaves in his paintings have white faces. This is not racism, but naivete shading into insanity.
Q. I enjoy reading your movie reviews. However, I have no desire to read your political opinions. You have expressed gratuitous political views in two recent reviews, "The Great Raid" and "The Constant Gardener," and you need to stop. Stick to what you know. Keep your nose out of what you don't. Dick Brown, Matthews, N.C.
A. Both movies were inescapably political and to pretend they were not would have been dishonest. I have my views. You have yours. Please continue to express yours, which in fact you have done by urging me not to express mine.
Q. Where was the spoiler warning in the recent Movie Answer Man question about "Corpse Bride"? I've really been looking forward to seeing the film (and I still am), but I wish you would've given readers a chance to avoid knowing Victor's choice in advance! Joe Madden, Urbana, Ill.
A. The name of the movie is, let's see here ... yes, here it is: "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride." The poster shows the movie's hero and the corpse dressed for a wedding and holding hands. Obviously different artwork should have been chosen and the movie's title should have been: "(Spoiler Warning) Tim Burton's Corpse Bride."
Q. I notice that the poster for "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" includes the quote, "Sure to be one of the best films of the year." Unfortunately, I saw the poster on the Web, and the type was too small for me to see which critic made this extraordinary statement. How can anyone know without seeing it that a film is "sure" to be good? Greg Nelson, Chicago
A. I have also been squinting at the poster and can't read the name. Could this by any chance be a slogan entered in the family tradition by a member of the Ryan family of Defiance, Ohio?
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