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Behind the Screen

Hollywood and Indie Offerings

Desson Thomson
Washington Post Film Critic
Friday, December 10, 2004; 12:00 PM

Washington Post film critic Desson Thomson brings Behind The Screen Live Online for a discussion on filmmaking and the art of the cinema. Have you ever wanted to know what the director had in mind when making a particular film? Or why the producer altered the original screenplay? Why was an actor or actress cast over another? Thomson has answers to these and other questions about filmmaking.

Desson reviews "Ray" (Article and Video) Soulful Foxx Shines as 'Ray' (Post, Oct. 29)

Desson Thomson (washingtonpost.com)

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_____The Name Change_____
I have changed my name to Desson Thomson. The story is thus: I started life as Desson Patrick Thomson. But my parents divorced when I was a wee lad of five. I lost touch with my father. And my mother remarried to a Howe. To cut a long story short, I was Desson Howe for 40 or so years. And after some personal events which I'll glide over, I felt a need to go in search of my birth father (I have learned not to say "real" father to respect those who are fully connected with their adoptive parents). I eventually traced him to Aberdeen, Scotland. We met and had a wonderful reunion. I also discovered two siblings I didn't know I had. So suddenly, the family name of Thomson made a lot more sense to me than Howe. So I changed my name, and so did my three sons. Hope that explains it, said the Critic Formerly Known as Howe.


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Thomson, a movie critic at The Washington Post for 15 years, was raised in England where he was entranced, like most, by Hollywood movies. And it was a visit to see David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia," that made him realize movies had to be a part of his life.

Submit your questions and comments before or during today's discussion.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Desson Thomson: Good slushy morning to you. Rain and nothing but. But is that gonna stop us chatting movies? Naa. How is everyone out there?

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McLean, Va.: When does a movie generally come out on DVD? Is there a set timetable? Six months after a movie ends its run at the box office?

Desson Thomson: Hey McL. I don't think there's a rule of thumb. But obviously if there's a strong theatrical run, the studios want to ride that puppy all the way. It certainly takes anywhere from 3 - 8 months between the end of the run and the dvd release I would say, although I'm not watching those things closely. Spiderman 2 has just come out now, for instance. So have the Manchurian Candidate, Collateral and the wonderful movie Maria Full of Grace. So you can do the math.

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Herndon, Va.: As a fan of the original 'Flight of the Phoenix', should I start running now from the re-make that is almost upon us? Does it have anything in common with the original, save (presumably) the beginning and the end?

Desson Thomson: The verdict will come next Friday, my friend. That's when the review will run. Haven't seen it yet to comment.

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Sterling, Va.: Desson,

Is "Sideways" the best movie of 2004?

Desson Thomson: My top ten list is coming out in Weekend Jan 31st. Drum roll............... (more drum roll................) it might be the best film of the year. Maybe. I'm just sayin....... You'll have to read the Weekend section. Hehehheheh. In all seriousness it is way near the top. It is a candidate. It will be in the top 3 of my list, however I finally decide. Bottom line: great movie.

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Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: When and where am I going to be able to see Almovodar's Bad Education in Washington?

Desson Thomson: It opens Jan 14. Not sure which theaters but there will be choices I am sure. At least 3 I would guess if not more. It is worth the wait. A great film too.

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Sterling, Va.: Are we looking at a Lemony Snicket's series, in the realm of Harry Potter, how rich does Jim Carrey plan to be?

Desson Thomson: Many a book was made of Lemony's, right? So, many an opportunity. Hollywood wants to make as much money as it can. What do you think? They're obviously going to wait and see. Anticipation is very high.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Thanks for taking questions. Rumors among the business community in downtown Silver Spring suggest that the AFI's wonderful Silver Theater is taking a financial beating and the AFI is contemplating shutting the theater down. Do you have any insight on this?

Desson Thomson: This is a rather serious rumor to be floating around. So I called the AFI Silver. Ray Barry, Deputy Director of the AFI, told me the following, and I'm paraphrasing: there is absolutely no basis for this. "Categorically untrue," he said. They are not doing poorly, not are they contemplating it. In fact Neverland (at the Silver) was the number 2 performing venue in the greater area including Baltimore and Norfolk.

The AFI is a great place and it shows movies you won't see anywhere else. So I personally am cheered to hear it's doing fine.

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Virginia: Happy Friday, Desson. I had the opportunity to go to a preview of Beyond the Sea last night. Kevin Spacey was there for a Q&A and that was great; he does a passable (surprisingly) job of singing/dancing. But the movie is a mess! Have you seen it? Reviewed it? What's your opinion? Thanks.

Desson Thomson: I saw the film too and, although it might be churlish to attack a movie ahead of its release, I can't say I disagree with you. The movie is scheduled to open on the 29th Dec.

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Boston, Mass.: Hello Mr Thomson,

I was wondering if you have heard anything about the CS Lewis Naria movies? JRR Tolkien was a winner the past few years. Will the movies made from Lewis books be a winner?

Thanks! Enjoy the weekend.

Desson Thomson: Hello Boston. Still enjoying the post-World Series rush of being a Bostonian? I hope so. Yes, Walt Disney is making The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, filming in New Zealand now. Shrek director Andrew Adamson is skedded to direct. Check this Web site for updates: http://www.narnia.com/movie/index.htm

If it's done well, it ought to be great. Loved the book.

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Vienna, Va.: Desson: I'd like your opinion of what I consider my favorite holiday movie: "Comfort and Joy" by the Scottish director Bill Forsyth, from the '80s. Technically, Christmas time is the setting and not the theme of the movie, but it still captures the holiday spirit in its own wacky way (with kleptomaniac ex-girlfriends and Italian clans warring over ice cream ... in Scotland). I love that movie. Your thoughts on it and any news on its availability on DVD? Thanks.

Desson Thomson: I love Forsyth's movies and I enjoyed that one too. Yeah it's on video/DVD. You can get it on Amazon.com or netflix.com. Trying to get my good friends at Dotcom to post my long-ago review sometime this session.

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Washington, D.C.: What ever happened to writer/director, Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona, Last Days of Disco)? I love his films, but am starting to wonder if he's ever going to release another one. It's been years since his last one, "Last Days of Disco". Is he still directing?

Desson Thomson: Good question. http://www.gyford.com/whitstillman/ is an unofficial fan site which posts news. I see no evidence of a movie project. Anyone heard anything? I didn't realize he directed an episode of Homicide in 1996. Interesting.

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Washington, D.C.: Does anyone know what's happened to Madeleine Stowe and Joanne Whalley (ex of Val Kilmer)? I liked both and haven't seem 'em for about 10 years or so now.

Desson Thomson: Two more missing people. Well, Joanne Whalley (born a stone's throw from the Manchester United soccer ground)has a project called The Californians with Illeana Douglas. No information other than that. Sorry. And Madeleine S. had a recent project called Pulse or Octane last year in which she rescues her daughter from a cult. I didn't see it. Must have been rushed into DVD.

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Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Dear Desson,

Thanks for your chats -- I love them! My comment today is about the movie 'Closer' -- I thought your review was dead on. I thought that there were some witty one-liners, and the cast was easy on the eyes -- but the dialogue was impersonal. I didn't feel that the relationships between any of the characters were deep or genuine -- so it was hard to empathize or even care about them. To make it worse, the rest of the people in the theater were cracking up at the most mundane parts -- which made me think that they were trying to cover up the uneasiness they had with the story and dialogue. The whole movie just gave me a negative vibe -- I don't get the hype about it at all. I would say it is the most overrated movie I've seen all year.

Desson Thomson: Adams Morg, thanks so much for that. And I can't add much more to your sentiments other than agreeing with you!

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Washington, D.C.: Because the Lemony Snicket books are so short I hear the first movie is actually the first three books. So they'll go through them pretty fast at that rate.

Desson Thomson: I'm sure there'll be room for one more at least, if push comes to money-making shove. But this is idle conjecture--my best skill.

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Bethesda, Md.: Desson: with so many remakes out there and more scheduled to come ('Flight of the Phoenix,''The Longest Yard,', even 'Oh God'), plus endless conversions of TV shows to the big screen, would you say that Hollywood is pretty much devoid of new ideas or just lazy?

Desson Thomson: Why "or"?

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Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: Shouldn't there be a 'speed limit' on how fast credits fly by at the end of movies? Sometimes I want to see who did the music, or where the movie was filmed, and they are off the screen in a flash. The problem is even worse when movies are shown on television. I've seen entire pages scroll in less than a second.

Desson Thomson: Yes, I know what you mean. I guess people figure most people are in a rush to get out or change channels at that point. Of course, the credits are known within the industry, so the Best Boy, caterer and asst set director get their appropriate dues.

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Washington, D.C.: What are the odds of Bill Murray getting an Oscar nomination for "The Life Aquatic?"

Desson Thomson: Good question. I think he may have missed his best chance last year. We'll see. It is a good performance he does in the new film. His best shot is a Golden Globe nom for comedic role in my opinion.

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Washington, D.C.: Moolade at E Street: terribly depressing and disheartening, or or can I walk out of the theater not feeling like a schmuckette for not doing more to help women in Africa? Thanks for your advice.

Desson Thomson: Well, it sets up a very distressing picture -- the notion of young girls undergoing genital mutilation for ritual purposes and to get married, otherwise they are treated as pariahs and not permitted to marry. But there is a kickbutt heroine in that movie, a woman with mystical powers who takes on the patriarchal elders who push that law. It's a superb film. I think it's uplifting in its own way.

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Bethesda, Md.: Is Dodgeball worth renting on DVD? What are your favorites that I should rent this weekend?

Desson Thomson: Well, you could start with Dodgeball . It was extremely funny. And I liked Collateral. Jamie Foxx was great in that film as well as Ray.

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For Bethesda: How can you say that Hollywood is devoid of new ideas with recent movies like Malkovich, Memento, Eternal Sunshine, Punchdrunk Love, etc.? It seems to me that the movie output in any given year is at least 80 percent dreck, but there are always great innovative movies mixed in there too.

Desson Thomson: Depends what you call Hollywood. I believe all of those films are independent or created by studio boutique studios --their indie arms. So it is the poorer cousins who are making the greater films. In general of course.

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Elgin, S.C.: Everyone loves a movie that's truly unpredictable; ones that suddenly take a sharp turn you didn't see coming. Some of my favorites in this regard are Psycho, L'Aventura, The Crying Game, House of Games, The Usual Suspects, Pulp Fiction and most of the later films of Luis Bunuel. What are your own favorites, where the story went way off the expected path?

Desson Thomson: Nice question. I would have said all of those titles if you hadn't mentioned them. M. Night Shyamalan is brilliant at this, 6th Sense and so on --- even in the rather failed film The Village. So is Alfred Hitchcock--almost anything he's made. There are a ton of great twists in many films. I could go on and on. You mentioned some good ones.

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Bethesda, Md.: I recently saw "Sideways" and while I enjoyed it, I wasn't overly impressed with it (nor with Thomas Haden Church's performance, which people keep raving about; I will say that Paul Giamatti was fantastic in it). Same with "The Incredibles." I feel like maybe certain movies are just being built up as these fantastic movies and aren't living up to my expectations. Any advice for how to counteract that?

Desson Thomson: Gosh. I loved both those films. So I don't know what to tell ya. Maybe you should see them before you listen to the hype. Imagine if you'd seen those without being told how great they were.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Desson,

I am really looking forward to "Ocean's 12". I've read a lot of reviews (yours is one of the more positive), and regardless, I will be in line to see it. However, in all of the reviews of the movie that I have read so far, not one of the critics willfully identified the big cameo in the film except one: Stephen Hunter. I am kind of disappointed, to be honest. If critics are asked by studios not to give away key points or cameos, I can understand the unwillingness by some to appear to be less-than-independent, and (the perception, at least) being compliant with the studios' wishes. But what about the moviegoing public -- don't we have a right to see surprises for ourselves? At least posters on this chat preface a question or comment with SPOILER ALERT. I guess my question boils down to: where does Stephen Hunter get off? A Pulitzer? BFD.

Desson Thomson: I appreciate your compliment. As for the rest of your commentary, well, I can say this: It should be the golden rule to give away as little as possible. I have strayed once or twice and regretted it. So I hear you.

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Rockville, Md: Desson,

Have you seen motorcycle diaries? I think it's one of the best independent films to come along in a long time. My wife didn't even realize it was Che Guevara until the end.

Desson Thomson: Oooh, giving it away! Just kidding. Yes, a lovely film. Glad you enjoyed!

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Armchair asks: Got any good word or impression(s) on Scorsese "The Aviator" yet?

Desson Thomson: Nope.

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Morristown, N.J.: Do you find all this hype about Oceans 12 as annoying as I do? I am so sick of hearing how all these mulit-millionaire stars just love each other, and joke with each other, and pull pranks on each other. They have become so tiresome that I have no desire to see the movie.

P.S. Sideways is the best movie of the year.

Desson Thomson: I understand what you mean. Glad you liked Sideways. Stars are what make people come to the movies, unfortunately. Can't get around it.

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Potomac, Md.: Hello Desson,

Thanks for bringing some cheer to this dreary day. I saw "Closer" last night, and I am still wondering, what was the point? Honestly it left a bad taste in my mouth and my night was a bust because of it. Did any of the chatters like it? If so, why? Thanks again!!

Desson Thomson: Yeah, people. Why???

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Brookland, Washington, D.C.: Hi, Desson. For several years I've been attending the excellent Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, held each year in November, which showcases dozens of excellent films of all genres. For the first time this year, several films had already neen shown in the D.C. area (Otar, Facing Windows, Red Lights, The Agonomist, My Architect, A Touch of Pink, several others). This was good, because even so I watched 16 films in 4 days! Several of them were excellent. In several years of going, I've never seen an out-and-out clunker.

So my question is, is there anything I can do, as a lowly film-goer/film-lover, to get some of these movies more widely released?
Audiences rate each film, and they give out awards, but even some of the films that don't get awards receive high approval ratings. I know because I've asked. Not everyone can make it to the festival, and many of the films sell out. So folks are missing out on some really great films! Your thoughts?

Desson Thomson: Hi Brookland. I have heard nothing but great things about that festival. There's a very smart and sophisticated audience base out that way. So it's good they're getting good films. All of those movies have been shown in Washington. You should make it your business to attend films at Bethesda Row, the E St, Cinema and the American Silver and the Avalon. That's where you'll find those films. Bring friends to the DC venues and maybe it will help keep those films coming.

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Washington, D.C.: Are you competitive with the other reviewers at the Post? Friendly? Do you interact with them at all? (or does everyone just sit quietly in their own cube and bang out their reviews?) What is the Movie Reviewer community like at the Post?

Desson Thomson: We are vicious and we fight tooth and nail. No, seriously, I get along great(ly?) with Steve and Ann Hornaday, and my colleague Michael. I would say that on the page but not in person, I make it my business to write the best review in the country, let alone the newspaper. At least, that's what I aim for. So I would say it's friendly competition.

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Washington, D.C.: When is "House of Flying Daggers" coming to D.C?

Desson Thomson: Soon, in the first few weeks of January. It's great. Super. Go see it. Better than Hero.

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Re. Closer: I did like it. I thought the dialogue was actually "real." I thought Clive Owen was great (he should be the next Bond). I thought it was funny. And, I thought, "finally, an adult movie, where stars are saying something I might actually say in that situation."

Desson Thomson: Okay, thanks for making your point.

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Favorite surprise, knock-down ending: "Tne Vanishing" (original from Europe, not the awful U.S. remake).

Desson Thomson: Excellent choice. One of my favorite movies of all time.

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Tyson's Corner: Based upon your review, I saw Vera Drake. It is the most thought provoking film I've seen in ages. Thanks so much. I also saw Closer, which was very disturbing and I can't figure out if I liked it or not. What is the holiday flick I should not miss?

Desson Thomson: So glad you appreciated that film. I thought it was pretty brilliant too. Best flicks this Christmas? That I've seen and liked? House of Flying Daggers, Spanglish, Phantom of the Opera, Infernal Affairs, the Woodsman, Hotel Rwanda and Bad Education.

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Herndon, Va.: No soccer questions yet? Anyway, which is it -- in Hunter's review of "12" the movie is 120 minutes long, and in yours, it's 130 minutes. Or did yours just SEEM like 130 minutes?

Desson Thomson: I double checked. 120. I must have written the wrong time. Ooopsie.

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Bethesda, Md.: Mr. Thomson,

Was that you I heard this a.m. on Z104? I wasn't quite awake so I'm not sure (was I dreaming?!) Will you be on again?

Thanks

Desson Thomson: Hey Bethesda. Yes, that was moi. I started today. Every Friday between 8 and 8:20. We talk movies for 5 or so mins. It's great fun. Mat Blades is the host. I enjoy it.

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Lake Ridge, Va.: When making that list of Top Ten Movies, don't forget Kill Bill, Vol 2 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind! Two great movies that came out early in the year.

Desson Thomson: Absolutely.

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Re: Madeline Stowe: Madeline Stowe recently co-starred in "We Were Soldiers" as the wife of the Mel Gibson character and I believe is appearing onstage in N.Y. now.

Desson Thomson: Thanks.

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Alexandria, Va.: Desson,

I'm getting mixed signals about "Spanglish," with Adam Sandler. Have you seen it, and if so, what did you think of it? Usually I avoid his movies, but some reviews make this one sound promising.

Love the chats!

Desson Thomson: Thanks Alexandria. I liked it. See review Friday next.

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Alexandria, Va.: We're divided in our office on whether Polar Express is really a children's movie. Some say it used deceptive advertising and that it's really of more interest to adults. I saw it with three kids who loved it (but loved the Incredibles more), and I think I enjoyed Polar Express even more than they did. What's your take on it? An old-fashioned story for adults or a new classic for all?

Desson Thomson: I liked that as well. It can be seen by all ages, I would think.

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Laurel, Md.: At a recent family gathering, some elderly relatives were discussing the "good" old days (yeah, right) including how going to the movies was different before TV. Notice how we still say we're going to the movies (plural) even though you usually only see one picture.

Anyway, I was wondering about the old serials featuring the likes of Batman or The Lone Ranger. Are there any of these series that are considered classics in the sense of being excellent? Perhaps some famous director made his name doing them better than anyone else? The ones I've seen looked pretty much like assembly-line filmmaking, like TV serials.

Desson Thomson: I've always found the original TV series is better than the modern updated movie. The 1st Batman movie was good though, different from the amusing, tongue in cheek TV show which I also liked. So that's one exception.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Desson,
I recently rented "Home at the End of the World" and had mixed feelings about it. It was one of those movies that I wanted to like but was not satisfied. It did resonate with me on some level because I did think about it days later. What was your take on it?

Desson Thomson: Mixed. When it was good it was great. But it was uneven.

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Boyds, Md.: Desson, I was channel surfing on DirecTV last night and stumbled across a Clash documentary, about the making of London Calling. I realize it sounds trite, but the Clash changed my life from listening to the Grateful Dead and CSNY to listening to the Clash, which morphed into the Ramones and ultimately Black Flag, Minor Threat and Government Issue and bands of their ilk.

Could you please provide a link to your appreciation article about Joe Strummer? I remember reading it and thinking "This is why I subscribe to the Post". The documentary has me in mourning again, perhaps as much for my lost youth as the loss at such a young age of someone who meant so much to the music scene. It's a dreary, rainy day and I'm succumbing to my emotions. I'm going home to listen to London Calling and Sandinista and wonder what might have been ...

Desson Thomson: I always have time for a Strummer fan and a Clash fan. One of the all time greatest rock singers/bands ever. I will try and get that appreciation posted. And thanks so much!

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Silver Spring, Md.: Madeleine Stowe, courtesy of Richard Leiby:

Production is underway in Vancouver for a TV movie based on "Saving Milly," Washington journalist Mort Kondracke's book chronicling life with his late wife, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the late 1980s. Bruce Greenwood, who portrayed President Kennedy in "Thirteen Days" and was more recently seen in "I, Robot," will play Kondracke. Madeleine Stowe, whose films include "The Last of the Mohicans" and "We Were Soldiers," plays Millicent Kondracke, who died in July.

Desson Thomson: Okay then and thanks!

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Washington, D.C.: Any chance that Virginia Madsen will get nominated for Sideways? She never lived up to the berry big hype in the 80's. I thought she was terrific!

Desson Thomson: Yes she was terrific.

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Middletown, Conn.: I rarely go to the movies, but I think today's rainy weather calls for a trip to the theater. What is the one movie, playing right now in major theaters, that you would recommend?

Desson Thomson: Sideways, Incredibles.

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Chantilly, Va.: Desson: what's the buzz on Meet the Fockers? If I'm going to use up my in-laws' babysitting wherewithal on a movie, it better be a good one.

Desson Thomson: I can tell you next time. I don't see it till next week.

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Raleigh, N.C.: I love foreign films and one of my favorites is Ingmar Bergman. I thoroughly enjoyed 'Wild Strawberries'. That said, I had a very hard time even understanding 'Seventh Seal'! My question to you is: as a person who loves cinema, how do I go about learning to appreciate it? To be able to understand what the director/writer is trying to convey and appreciate the technique involved takes a lot of work. Where do I begin? Any books you can recommend?

Desson Thomson: Gosh big question. I would start with Understanding Movies by Louis Giametti. Great book.

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Washington, D.C.: I saw Rashevski's Tango last night at the Avalon as part of the Jewish Film Festival. It was a wonderful and thoughtful comedy. I recommend it and the festival to you.

Desson Thomson: Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: After you have written a review, do you read other reviewers, i.e., Ebert/Roper, others to see if you remain in the consensus of other film reviews? Has it ever made you want to retract?

Desson Thomson: I read them afterwards so I don't get tainted. I have to trust myself to be "wrong" but honest on my own, I guess. I don't feel like retracting too often, thank goodness.

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Re: Sideways top ten?: I don't know if I'm just missing something with Sideways, but I don't really see it as the best film of the year. (Nothing else leaps to mind, but I was out of the country for most of 2004.) The whole film just seemed very depressed, like it was weighted under wet cotton. But then you're asked to make this real emotional leap at the end that I don't think bears much of a resemblance to the reality the film portrayed for the rest of the time. I don't think it was bad, just sort of eh. Didn't really connect the dots for me.

(But I'm kind of a doofus sometimes.)

Desson Thomson: I very much doubt you are a doofus. But I know I saw a different movie.

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Bethesda, Md.: Desson,

Why does a film studio release a movie early in New York City and Los Angeles yet make the rest of the movie viewing public wait until Christmas? I'm referring to the Wes Anderson film, "The Life Aquatic" starring Bill Murray. Is it poor distribution, not enough copies yet made, bad test screenings, or marketing that influences such a decision? I suspect it's money driven, as usual, but in what sense would it apply here?

Desson Thomson: Just the way it is. NYC and LA are the first born sons in terms of movie platforms. Not much to be done about it. Maybe if we get statehood one day. :) But Aquatic is coming here in the next couple of weeks.

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Nani, Texas.: I absolutely WAS going to see Beyond the Sea, thinking there'd be a CD soundtrack with Bobby Darin's greatest tunes (Mack the Knife, Dream Lover, Beyond the Sea). Then I read that Kevin Spacey will doing the singing. No disrespect in the slightest degree, but I want to hear Darin sing, not Mr. Spacey. Haven't seen Ray, yet, but the soundtrack is just wonderful.
Also, this past rainy weekend, I watched tapes of Angela Lansbury in the original Manchurian Candidate and The Picture of Dorian Gray. She was so evil in MC and so sweet in PDG. Has she ever rec'd an Oscar?
Thanks for doing these chats. I don't get many new films out here in the middle of nowhere, but always check out your reviews and chats.

Desson Thomson: Thanks Nani. Sorry. I am rushing for time now. Yes, Angela was superb, wasn't she?

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Washington, D.C.: SPOILER ALERT: I have a complaint more than a question. Just read part of Stephen Hunter's review of Oceans 12. Had to stop when he started revealing specific plot points, the identity of the 12th person -- who I understand could have been one of several characters -- and an uncredited cameo that I suspect was uncredited so it would be a surprise for the audience. I don't care how predictable a movie is, whether or not it will be great movie or not, or even if I could have guessed that something may happen in a movie before I saw it. A reviewer doesn't need to to give away specific plot points to say whether a movie has a plot structure. And if a reviewer can't explain his opinion without revealing the plot, then he's really not that good at his job. Of course a movie will be predictable when the reviewer has already revealed the plot to the audience. To me, it's either laziness, lack of talent, or arrogance, and I will never read a review from Hunter again.

Desson Thomson: Uh oh. Steve better lie low today. I guess I would refer to my previous response. I agree that it's not good to reveal the plot beyond the first 15 minutes. But it's hard to give your opinion on things without giving away some stuff. It's a tough act to do.

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Need a Rec: Our family has a tradition of going out to a movie on Christmas eve. We like good movies (!), and not a total popcorn flick. Also, no major downers for the holiday. Knowing this and what will be out by then, what is the perfect Christmas Eve movie?

Desson Thomson: I guess I would refer you to previous Xmas /holidays response?

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Washington, D.C.: Saw Kinsey, and although I liked it, I felt it became too self-important. You know, with the ponderous music and the dramatic fainting and the Troubled Genius Face. I don't know if it's the writing, or the acting, or what, but I think most biopics have this problem. Do you know any biopics that break the mold? I've heard The Life and Death of Peter Sellers does it but haven't seen it myself. Bios that I found bland and self-important included The Hurricane, Ali, Man on the Moon, and to a degree, De-Lovely -- although that one was helped by musical numbers and pretty costumes.

Desson Thomson: Yes, all those bios you mention are wanting, I agree. I was not impressed with the Sellers film to be honest. Among those you've mentioned, Kinsey is by far the best.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Desson,
My Fiance' and I are planning on just staying home all day for Christmas and maybe watch some holiday movies, but as you know some of them are really cheesy and some are overdone. Suggestions? One of our thoughts was to watch "Elf" with Will Farrell since we haven't seen that one yet.

Thanks!

Desson Thomson: Big question. Why not get out of the house and see the all time Christmas movie greats that the AFI Silver is showing around that time. Check it out. AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, can't remember which way around it goes.

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Desson Thomson: Hey folks. Over the time limit as usual. Got to run. Sorry to close this down, there are always more questions than I can answer. Apologies to those I missed. Please come back again and I will try to answer. I believe we won't reconvene until after Christmas, so have a great holiday all of you. I believe the 2 postings of articles (comfort and Joy and Strummer piece) I requested will be put on v soon, so keep checking this chat. Thanks all. Ciao for now.

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