There’s a pleasant, old-fashioned feel to Alpha.
Q. I noticed the letter in the Answer Man from Daniel Stender of Ames, Iowa, who had a project of paintings of scenes from movies featuring people dressed in bear suits but who could only think of two titles, "The Shining" and "The Science of Sleep."
Although I do not claim to be an expert in this arcane film field, a few titles immediately leap to mind. I recall Sean Connery in the big-screen version of "The Avengers," Nicolas Cage in Neil Labute's wildly underrated and completely misunderstood remake of "The Wicker Man," and Warren Beatty in the not-underrated-at-all "Town & Country."
Of course, there is also the moment in the immortal "Road House" in which Patrick Swayze subdues one of Ben Gazzara's henchmen by immobilizing him underneath a giant stuffed bear, which deserves at least partial credit. Thank you, however, for including a picture of Nastassja Kinski, the single most beautiful woman to ever step in front of a movie camera, clad in her bear suit from "The Hotel New Hampshire." I can only hope that someone out there asks you to think of movies featuring people wearing snakes so that you can run an even better photo of her. Peter Sobczynski, efilmcritic.com, Chicago
A. Credit for Kinski goes to my editor, Laura Emerick. But I am providing the snake photo (see below) to make your day, and perhaps inspire artists to move in another direction.
Joe Blevins, Arlington Heights: "As someone who once played the role of a bear (and indeed donned a bear costume) in a third-grade play, I was moved by Daniel Stender's request. A few more movies: "Girls Nite Out," "Mr. Write," "Bei Mir Liegen Sie Richtig" (German), "Micawber" and "Mrs. Henderson Presents." I'd also recommend a 1993 episode of 'The Simpsons' titled 'Rosebud' (available on DVD). As the title indicates, it is a "Citizen Kane" parody. How a grown man dressed as a bear figures into the plot, I would not dare to spoil."
Charles Sweitzer, Pasadena, Calif.: "My favorite faux-ursine character in cinema -- the juggling polar bear in Louis Malle's "Zazie Dans Le Metro."
Jonathan Richards, Fredericton, New Brunswick: "Jack Lemmon wears a bear suit, both with a head and without, in "Grumpy Old Men." Lemmon also dances with a person in a panda bear suit in "My Fellow Americans."
Q. You know what bugged me the most about the ghost movie "Over Her Dead Body"? That you could see Eva Longoria's shadow. It's on the wall, on the couch, on the chair. Why would a ghost cast a shadow? Miriam Di Nunzio, Chicago
A. Why, indeed? The Web site ghoststudy.com lists three types of shadow ghosts, but suggests they are in fact ghosts, rather than the shadows of ghosts.
Q. As Juha Terho of Helsinki, Finland, noted in an insightful Glossary entry, "All feature films directed by James Cameron since 1984 have names that begin either with the letter A or with the letter T." This is one entry you won't have to remove soon; the next feature film by Cameron, scheduled for release in 2009, is named "Avatar."
But there's a storm coming. Very quickly after that one he plans to release a manga adaptation called "Battle Angel." This would be a crushing blow to the integrity of the Glossary, were it not for one mitigating factor. You see, the manga is actually called "Battle Angel Alita"! I'm asking you to exert whatever pull you have with Cameron or his associates, and try to get him to change the name of the movie. "Alita, the Battle Angel" is a great name, completely faithful to the books, and also Cameron-orthodox. I think we can all agree on the importance of this change to the cinematic oeuvre of James Cameron, integrity of your own Glossary and, ultimately, world peace. Mate Srsen, Blace, Croatia
A. I will definitely exert whatever pull I have.
Q. Could you ask C. Morris of Noblesville, Ind., whether "Googleplex" is some kind of search engine for wrestling maneuvers, or possibly an enormous Internet cafe? Or did he mean "Googolplex"? "Google" is a search engine, "Googol" is the number defined as 1 followed by 100 zeroes, and "Googolplex" is the number defined as 1 followed by a googol zeroes. Is "taking it in at my local googleplex" some kind of euphemism for watching an illegally downloaded movie on your home computer? I guess I just can't keep up with the hip language these days. Rourke McKibben, Tecumseh Miss.
A. You are backed up by Robert Bala Jr., Garden City, N.Y.: "If we're going out of our way to be hip, we should probably note that the local multiscreen theater would be a "Googolplex," what with its 10^100 power screens and all."
My guess: C. Morris was thinking of a Goggleplex, where you goggle at the movies. (Dictionary: "To look with wide open eyes, typically in amazement or wonder.")
Q: I saw the great "There Will Be Blood" and wonder if can you reconsider if the son was actually adopted. Most reviewers are in agreement that Plainview used the boy as a prop to get land for oil, but I think there are holes in that argument: 1) When the boy is born/adopted, Plainview was not quite the oilman and appears to have only struck oil once when we see him interact with the boy. Unless he was the most forward-thinking entrepreneur, he could not have been thinking merely to use the boy to help his business. 2) How do you explain the close and touching relationship between Daniel and H.W. earlier in the film (especially after H.W. became deaf and Daniel felt guilty for sending him away)? 3) Couldn't Daniel's reaction to H.W. at the end be attributable to his descent into madness and alcoholism? Keeshia Moultrie, Washington, D.C.
A. I think you're right about No. 3 in any case, but as for the child's origins, Jim Emerson, the editor of rogerebert.com, informs me after another viewing: "It's clear that the boy belongs to the man who is killed at Plainview's original well, and Plainview takes over caring for the boy. I think he does love H.W., as much as Plainview is capable of loving anyone, which isn't much."
Q. In your review of "There Will Be Blood," you cite "its lack of women" as a shortcoming. A major female role would have done nothing for this film but detract from the quality of it, and perhaps appease some segment of the audience. Pardon my naivete, but art isn't about appeasement. Matthew Rauseo, New York
A. You are right. Again, Jim Emerson has done some research and says: "It will probably be clearer in the inevitable Director's Cut (as it is in the shooting script available online for awards consideration) that the only women in the story (besides Mary Sunday) are mothers (Mother Sunday) or whores (an anonymous woman at a bar who helps to demonstrate Plainview's sexual impotence -- another thing that indicates he couldn't have fathered H.W. even if he'd wanted to). This is another American tale of Men Without Women."
Q. In your "Cloverfield" review, you said they were trying to rescue somebody on the 49th floor of a skyscraper, so a girl had to climb 49 flights of stairs in heels. She would only have had to climb 48. Chris Lamb, Austin, Texas
A. True, but they had to climb up the next building to as high as the roof of her building and climb down a flight. On the other hand, since her building was leaning, perhaps they didn't have to go that high in the building they climbed in.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A tribute to the Queen of Soul.