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'V' for vagaries

Q. In your review of "V for Vendetta," you write: "There are ideas in this film. The most pointed is V's belief: 'People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.' I am not sure V has it right; surely in the ideal, state governments and their people should exist happily together. Fear in either direction must lead to violence."

I would defer to Thomas Jefferson, who said the following: "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." D. Saul Weiner, Buffalo Grove

A. This reminds me of John F. Kennedy's statement at a White House dinner for Nobel Prize winners: "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

Q. I remember watching movies as a kid. Looking up, you could see the light rays coming from the projection room, reflecting against the dust in the air. I never see that anymore. What happened? Wai Chu, New York

A. Moviegoers are no longer allowed to smoke in theaters.

Q. Are there future plans to produce "A Confederacy of Dunces"? This movie must be made! Ginger Williams, Knoxville, Tenn.

A. The movie of John Kennedy Toole's great comic novel, with David Gordon Green directing and a script by Scott Kramer and Steven Soderbergh, was put on hold in late 2004. Green told the Answer Man in May 2005: "Politics over the property rights -- torn between Miramax, Paramount and various camps of producers -- put a weight on the project that wasn't creatively healthy to work within."

Green now tells me: "The rights to A Confederacy of Dunces have been cleared at Paramount. The project is in development once again. The adaptation from the last effort has been put aside for legal reasons and a new one is in the works. I'm editing a film I just shot and hoping to begin putting more energy toward the potential of what I believe a proper production of that book might be. We'll see."

Q. Is Whit Stillman still involved making movies? All of his films were excellent, even if they were not seen by a majority audience. Fred C. Mound, Los Angeles

A. Stillman is the director of such perceptive and witty slices of yuppie life as "Metropolitan," "Barcelona" and his most recent film, "The Last Days of Disco," which appeared in 1998. Filmmaker magazine reports in its winter 2006 issue: "To justify the long silence, I've been working on a number of scripts that are in various stages," Stillman says, adding that one of them is ready to go. But his writing process can't be hurried. "Metropolitan," for example, took four years to write, on and off, in the wee hours of the night in a caffeinated haze. "I don't think a script is very authentic until I've thought about it and gone over it a few times," he adds. "For me, time is the biggest luxury."

Q. Did you happen to see the item about you in Premiere magazine for April 2006? Sundance Film Festival people were polled for their good and bad memories. Kerry O'Connor, La Grange

A. The item quotes Myles Rademan, director of public affairs and communications for Park City: "One year we towed Clint Eastwood's car. He came in and said: 'I deserved to be towed. I'll pay the fine.' He sounded just like Dirty Harry. Roger Ebert was the worst when he got towed. He made a real scene about it, and we all gave him a thumbs-down."

Myles Rademan of course has had the Myles Rademan Spirit of Hospitality Award named after him, "presented to an individual who has contributed to the tourism business in the Park City area." Since I have been attending the festival since 1981, even before it was called Sundance, I have long dreamed of winning the Rademan Award, but now my hopes are dashed.

Yes, I recall that incident, and wrote about it in 1997. I paid my fine and did not make a scene. I've been around too long to make scenes in police stations. I remember being treated pleasantly by the Park City police, who even gave me a lift to the distant lot where my car had been towed. The police sympathized with me about how the city had made a deal with free-lance car-towers who cruised the streets looking for cars to snatch. They were bounty-hunters, paid by the car, in the Park City Spirit of Hospitality. Not only were the police nice, but every single Park City citizen and Sundance volunteer I have ever met has been a warm and wonderful person; I have, however, never met the director of communications and public affairs.

The real headline, of course, is that a big star like Clint Eastwood not only drove and parked his own car but turned up in person to redeem it. Wouldn't you think he would have had a limo driver, and a publicist to pay the ticket? But it sounds like Myles Rademan must have been an eyewitness at both of these incidents. At the very least, in the Myles Rademan Spirit of Hospitality, he should have torn up Clint's ticket. If Clint really sounded like Dirty Harry, I would have.

Q. You mentioned in your "Resident Evil" review and again in reviewing "The Hills Have Eyes" that metal always makes a particular sound in horror movies. My favorite moment in "The Hills Have Eyes" is when the chain that slices the tires was pulled back and it growled. True inspiration. Phillip Kelly, Valley Village, Calif.

A. Thank you for a previously unidentified variation on the Snicker-Snack Effect, defined in Ebert's Little Movie Glossary: "In horror movies, whenever we see a knife with a big shiny blade, we inevitably hear the scrape of metal against metal, even if it touches nothing."

Q. In your review of "Ask the Dust," you state, "I have been lucky enough to know a great writer in his shabby apartment, with his typewriter, his bottle and his cigarettes, and I know he had a famous romance, and that later he hated the woman, and having achieved all possible success was perhaps not as happy as when it was still before him."

I know to whom you refer. He is one of my literary heroes. I met him and you on a Saturday night in the early '70s. I was with my good friends Gary Houston and Hedda Lubin at the first Miomir's Serbian Club on Evergreen Street. I can still see the fake stalactites coming from the ceiling, back-lit with black light colors, and Miomir clapping his hands and dancing with the women to the music of the bald gypsy violinist. I knew that you and Gary worked at the Sun-Times together before he left for full-time acting. You came over to our table and asked Gary if we would like to join you and Nelson for dessert. After Gary assented, I asked him, "Who's Nelson?" Gary replied, "Nelson Algren." My heart leaped. It is an evening I will never forget. We closed Miomir's, got a bottle of Bull's Blood and went to Nelson's apartment down the street. The apartment was a wonderland of 1930s radicalism ephemera, mixed with autographed pictures and the usual bachelor apartment disarray.

I cried when sometime later I turned on the news and Nelson was being interviewed. He was selling all of his belongings to move to New Jersey to work on his Hurricane Carter book. I cried again when I heard of his lonely death. Martin Gaspar, Chicago

A. The famous romance, as everyone knows, was with Simone De Beauvoir. Let us once again quote Algren's Law: "Never play poker with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own."

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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