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Desson Howe
Desson Howe
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Behind the Screen
With Desson Howe
Washington Post Film Critic

Monday, June 02, 2003; 12:30 p.m. ET

Washington Post film critic Desson Howe 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? Howe has answers to these and other questions about filmmaking.

Howe, 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.

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.



Desson Howe: Hard to believe. But yes I am back. It has been eventful, especially with a visit to the Cannes film festival. But glad to be back. And glad to be chatting with the movie online posse again. Welcome to all of you!

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Springfield, Va.: "Film" making? Isn't it really "computer generated images" making these days?

Desson Howe: It has to be whatever it has to be to survive. And if the artistry continues or evolves, this is good news. And there's always room for low tech filmmaking.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Desson!

Don't mean to be catty here, but why all the hype these days about Renee Zellweger?

First of all, she looks terrible, bony with a puffy face and scrunched up eyes. Her acting seems nothing special. Why the hype? Have her agents just invested that much in her that they have to continue?

Desson Howe: She's been in some really successful films. She's a talented actor. She proved that she can go from scratch to song and dance in Chicago. And even though she has eyes like Mister Magoo, I rather like her. But to each his or her own, right?

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British Film Lover: Rented "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" this weekend on a recommendation by a friend. Absolutely loved it although had to use subtitles to understand the accents! While comparable to "Pulp Fiction" in terms of violence and music, this movie had more subtle humor and better plot. I thought the intertwining of the five groups of characters was brilliant and less "forced" then I thought it would be. And with crooks, ganja, a Samoan pub, and Sting what more could one want?! Too bad Guy Ritchie can't make movies like this anymore.

Second, what's the buzz on "Johnny English?" Is it coming across the pond anytime soon?

Desson Howe: Haha glad you liked Lock Stock. Well, Ritchie DID do it again with Snatch, which is equally brilliant. Let's cut him a break on Swept Away and blame the wife on that one.

As for Johnny English, it's definitely coming over very soon. Its huge reception in Europe guarantees that.

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Columbia, Md.: Have you seen 'Devdas'? (It's a Hindi movie.)

Just wondering what your thoughts were on it.

Desson Howe: No, but tell me more.

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Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: Hi Desson --

I saw "L'Auberge Espagnole" on Friday at the (yay!) beautiful Avalon Theatre. Lots of fun. I have to recommend it to anyone who has studied abroad or who would like to do so. It brought back lots of good and good/crazy memories.

Desson Howe: Glad you liked it. I was wandering that way on Sunday and saw the Auberge screening. Was told it was sold out. A good sign for the theater. And the movie.

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Ballston, Va.: My question is a little off the wall, but I hope you or others can help.

I am looking for movies appropriate for an 8-year-old interested in Jackie Chan-type Kung Foo Hong Kong-style action movies. My husband thought some of the old Bruce Lee movies would do -- short answer: no. They are rated 'R'. I don't know this genre, and would appreciate any help!

Thanks

Desson Howe: I put it to the jury. Of course, for starters on the western side of things, there are the Powerpuff Girls and the 2 (soon to be 3) Spy Kids movies ...

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Cubeland, Washington, D.C.: A non-film question (although I saw "The Italian Job" this weekend and loved it). What's up with Cairo Fred?

Desson Howe: I am going to assume this question wasn't PLANTED by members of my own band looking for CHEAP PUBLICITY. Cairo Fred is on hiatus at this moment, still interviewing drummers, working on the perfection of background vocals and trying to find a gig in which all 6 or 7 of us can show up at the same time. We'll be back and running come September. Maybe one or two summer gigs before that, I don't know.

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Washington, D.C.: Four very Over-rated 4-star movies ... agree?

1. Gold Rush (1925)

2. Singin' In The Rain (1951)

3. The Graduate (1967)

4. Atlantic City (1981) ... tho I love Louis Malle.

Desson Howe: I disagree. They are all great movies. I'd say Atlantic City is the weakest of the bunch, though. And the sentimental sections of The Gold Rush are just horrible. Singin' in the Rain is simply sublime. And the Graduate is a special film, one of the films of a generation. Chaplin is a genius despite all the snobs who revere Keaton (who is also a genius.)

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Alexandria, Va.: Does it ever bother you that summer blockbuster season starts earlier each and every year?

P.S. That love scene/tribal techno orgy really took away from the Matrix 2. Ugghhhhh.

Desson Howe: Yes, it bothers me on one level. But the summer is a dramatic and significant event which produces unfathomable influence on the industry. It's always good, in some way or another.

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Nani: Oh, I adore Rene Z! She isn't your typical "beauty", but quite appealing and attractive in a more interesting way. And, if you caught her on Inside the Actors Studio, you'd see that this young lady is highly intelligent, witty and an eloquent speaker. Oh, she's going to be around for a long time and I anticipate watching her grow with each film.

Desson Howe: Nani and Renee sitting in a tree ...

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Alexandria, Va.: Last night my wife and I enjoyed watching the French film "My Wife Is An Actress" starring Charlotte Gainsbourg.

We did not understand why Ms. Gainsbourg smoked constantly throughout the film as if smoking were sophisticated or something. Do the French moviemakers just not get it?

Desson Howe: What's wrong with smoking all the time? At least, that was the only conclusion to be drawn from going to France. There is smoke everywhere. Even the dogs smoke. It's a normal part of the lifestyle. So for such a thing in a French film means nothing to the French viewer. We're at the other extreme here. Nowadays, if someone smokes, it means they are the villain or wanton or in desperate human need of something. No one can just light up any more. This may be great for the health industry and so on. But it's PC business as usual.

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Kung Foo Movies: Short Answer: There are none appropriate for an 8-year-old.

Desson Howe: Maybe so.

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Crossville, Ala.: "Rabbit Proof Fence." Did you review it? It's my latest favorite since it recently came out on DVD?

Also, some months ago there was a discussion about changes after a movie has played. Wasn't the F word taken out of closing scenes of "Simple Plan" and changed to "Mess it Up, How could we Mess it Up?"

Wonder if anybody else caught it, or am I deluded?

Desson Howe: I didn't review but saw it. I thought it could have been better. Thought the story was done adequately and competently. But I wasn't blown away. The real story behind it was the real mind blower. But the execution of the story rather average.

Anyone else on the 2nd comment? Certainly that kind of thing happens for a favorable rating or TV airings.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Desson,

The Cairo Fred question was not a plant. I am as surprised as you to see it (although it is delightful to see).

Desson Howe: Yes and thanks for posting.

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Office cubicle (I should be working!): Did you see "The Brown Bunny"? Is it really as bad and as shocking as I have read?

Desson Howe: Worse. Worse.

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Dupont, Washington, D.C.: How was Cannes? The New York Times had an article recently called "Cannes 2003: Worst Festival Ever." Was it really that bad? There were some shining moments, no?

I must say as much as I hear Brown Bunny was the worst film ever to be in competition there, I'm sort of perversely drawn to see it. Is it so bad it's entertaining?

Desson Howe: I am about to post my 4th of 5 articles I did on the festival for the Post. Tell me SOMEONE READ IT. Cannes was tremendous for me. A real scene. It has everything: the great and the tacky, the stars and the bums, the Hollywood excess and the poor artists trying to make waves with small films. But yes, it was the worst selection of films seen in a long time. And my posted article will outline my experience with Brown Bunny, which was Vincent Gallo's film in the competitive section. And yes, there were good films, which I'll get into in a minute.

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McLean, Va.: For the 8-year-old -- the "3 Ninjas" series is pretty cute. "Sidekicks" with Chuck Norris is quite a nice movie. "The Karate Kid" is rated R for language but the sequels are all PG.

From the Movie Mom

Desson Howe: Ah, the Movie Mom is with us. Thanks Movie Mom.

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Arlington, Va.: How did you feel about The Dancer Upstairs?

Desson Howe: Great performance by Javier Bardem. Although much of the movie was compelling, I wasn't completely enthralled by it. Watching Bardem, though, that was the best part of it for me.

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Washington, D.C.: I stumbled onto "Bully," the Larry Clark film, last night on HBO and still can't decide if I found it disturbing or disgusting. What are your thoughts on his movies?

Desson Howe: Kids is a truly disgusting film. I despised him for it.

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Washington, D.C.: At last Desson you're back! They've been playing a lot of old Warner Bros. flicks down at the Library of Congress. My favorite actress Joan Blondell appears in one film after another. Now my question to you is what's keeping "Nightmare Alley" (1947), which starred Ms. Blondell and Tyrone Power, from getting on to VHS and DVD? It hardly plays on TV and has never, to my knowledge, had a video release.

Desson Howe: Thanks for the welcome. To be honest, I don't know what governs the issuing of a classic movie. Anyone?

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washingtonpost.com: Unspooling at Cannes: Great Expectations(Post, May 25)

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Charlottesville, Va.: Desson, is Spellbound playing in Washington? I'm pretty sure it'll never come to Charlottesville, so should I make a special trip to see it? BTW, I'm a regional spelling-bee refugee.

Desson Howe: It's in town, playing at the Dupont Circle and Landmark Bethesda Row.

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Washington, D.C.: The Karate Kid was NOT rated R. It's a great family movie.

Desson Howe: Thanks.

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The In-Laws: I loved The In-Laws. And this is someone who got a kick out of the original. "Serpentine, serpentine." I know you didn't review it in the Post, Desson, but did you get a chance to see it?

Desson Howe: Not yet. Loved the original tho.

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X3 - X infinity?: Clearly the set up has been made for an X-Men 3. How long do you think the franchise can stretch? There are so many stories to be told!

I just hope the stories don't end up in the toilet a la Jason vs. Freddy ... what were movie execs thinking with that one?

Desson Howe: I'm sure there'll be an X3. It's selling enough.

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Embassy Row, Washington, D.C.: First I visited the Landmark Theaters in Bethesda for the first time this weekend and was very pleased. In addition to the great independent and foreign film selections (I saw Nowhere in Africa) the concession stand was above average in terms of offerings and the theater screens were big and had stadium seating. Definitely a great way to see quality non-Hollywwod films.

But to a Hollywood film question ... I was very disappointed that Matrix Reloaded was not at the Uptown ... any chance of its IMAX release appearing somewhere in the D.C. area? I still haven't seen it as I am hoping to get as big a screen as possible to view it.

Desson Howe: agreed on Beth Row. Great place and great for the Washington film market and its people. I was shocked to see Matrix not at the Uptown too. A friend said to me: That is so wrong. I agree. No word that I know of about it getting in there or anywhere else. There surely has to be more than a few choices for a decent sized screen in this area where it's currently playing, no?

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Re: Renee Z-weger: Desson, I'm with you on this. I think she rocks. In her appearance on Letterman a bit ago she reaffirmed her appeal to me. She comes across as the girl next door from Texas. And I believe that's part of the charm that helps her win over audiences.

Desson Howe: Right on.

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Nemo: Just saw "Finding Nemo" at a 10:10 p.m. showing. It was all adults -- how great! The movie is excellent but may be a little frightening for very small children. Pixar's best movie yet!

Desson Howe: That's fascinating. All adults! Yes, it's a very good film. Saw it Saturday afternoon although my 11 year old son was too cool to like it. So was his friend. One day they'll get older and see how cool it is to be uncool and appreciate great kid films.

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. H: Why am I a snob for preferring Keaton to Chaplin? Of course, both were great, but Chaplin's sentimentality is often just grating. Not that Keaton wasn't sentimental, I just prefer him.

Desson Howe: I guess I've heard too much from cineastes who hate to like Chaplin because he's sentimental and accessible to so many audiences. Imagine: an exception to one of my generalizations. Hate it when that happens.

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Castle Shannon, Pa.: "Singin' in the Rain" is not over-rated. It's the best musical Hollywood has ever made. Now if you want to talk about an over-rated flick, "Lawrence of Arabia" comes to mind. I know those are fightin' words with you, Desson, but I've tried four times to watch it, and still can't get into it. Maybe I'll give it one more whirl.

Desson Howe: We Lawrence fans don't need your blessing, date breath. :) Just kidding my friend. But I hear you big time on Singin' in the Rain. I'm amazed you tried 4 times by the way.

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Kung Fu movie site: Kung Fu Superstars

Most HK films are waay violent for an 8-year-old.

But, you might do well trying to find movies with "historical" settings and kung-fu warriors (good guys in white, bad guys in black) with long pony-tails.

Desson Howe: Thanks!

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Baltimore, Md.: The NY Times recently added many old movie reviews to their Web site. I thought I would check out some of my all-time favorites and see what their reviewers thought. Maybe I shouldn't have.

Klute (Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland). Which is in my top 5, was completely panned. Do you remember that one and if so, what was your take on it?

Desson Howe: I loved Klute when I saw it. Watched a chunk of it on TV recently and thought it held up well. Noticed too that all thrillers ever since still use the same cliches that--in that time--seemed original.

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Brown Bunny . . . : . . . come on, Dess, tell us more. I wasn't the world's biggest fan of Gallo's Buffalo 66, but the advance word on Bunny is just unbelievable. Or is it?

Desson Howe: The movie spends about 80 minutes following Gallo around as he drives all over the country. he stops when he sees women. He gets out and tells them he loves them. they all seem hypnotized by his appeal. (He directed and wrote this of course). Then he meets an old girlfriend (played by old g/friend Chloe Sevigny) and they have a one-way graphic sexual transaction. And then he gets into a van and drives to his death. She turns out to be a ghost. The audience booed this movie. And rightfully so. When Gallo's character dies on the road, the audience stood up and cheered.

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Springfield, Va.: Any opinion on Bob Levey's two movie review columns? Please help him translate "fanny" properly in Billy Elliot.

Desson Howe: Haven't read them. Sounds like I shouldn't.

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Washington, D.C.: I recently finished the book "Seabiscuit" and am looking forward to the movie starring Toby Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, and perhaps an upcoming horse star playing the great Seabiscuit.
What's the early word on the movie?

Desson Howe: Pretty good.

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Arlington, Va.: How come X2 didn't go to 5100 Wisconsin and Reloaded go to Uptown? Chicago was playing at 5100 for way too long, that would have been the logical choice to me.

Desson Howe: God knows. I don't hang with the theater bookers who work in dank, secret pockets of hell.

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Louisville, Ky.: What do your sources tell you about ManU signing Tim Howard? Will it happen?

And, in a welcome sign that the world's greatest sport is catching on everywhere, the winning horse in yesterday's feature at Churchill Downs was named R. Baggio.

Finally, on a cinematic note, saw "13 Conversations About One Thing" on DVD over the weekend. Thought it was weird, but interesting, with a great cast, especially Alan Arkin. What did you make of it?

Desson Howe: 13 Conversations was a very decent, worthy film, I thought. Not great. But watchable. As for ManU signings, I'm waiting to hear if Beckham's leaving or not and if they're going to sign Ronaldinho. There are about 70 people who are rumored to be signing for Manu. Considering the team's only looking for about 2 or 3 signings, that's ridiculous.

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Nemo -- DeGeneres: DeGeneres/Dory steals the whole movie! She's exuberant and vulnerable. It's great when she does WHALE-speak.

Desson Howe: Agreed. She's funny doing that.

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Baltimore, Md.: Re: The Phantom Matrix

While the love scene did detract from the movie, not nearly as much as the absolute crap script!

Desson Howe: So you liked it?

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Dupont again: Sorry, Desson! Don't take it personally! I was out of town, so I haven't read what are sure to be your fascinating missives on Cannes. I just 'happened' to start with the NY Times archives and will get to you directly. We still love you!

Desson Howe: Waaa. Thanks. Sob.

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Washington, D.C.: In the film industry I've noticed a long list of beautiful women, who have everything to live for, yet they commit suicide. Some include silent actress Barbara LaMarr, Jean Seberg, Pier Angeli, and the wonderful Capucine. The list goes on but why this trend do you think?

Desson Howe: There are books and books to be written about the noble female victim, and how we love to make women die, perish, suffer noble, but pretty much always come up a cropper as they say in England. It's a mindset that even the great scriptwriters have that women must flame out, even when they're the lead character.

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X2 at the Uptown: I would imagine that when the Uptown agreed to show "X2," there was some sort of contractual requirement that it show for a minimum number of weeks, a longer period of time than the two-week period between "X2" and "The Matrix Reloaded."

Desson Howe: That's the sort of thing that would be going on, yes.

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Re: Old reviews: Speaking of old reviews, Wild at Heart was playing on IFC over the weekend in leterboxed splendor. I love that movie. I was searching online for old reviews of it and was surprised to find out that Roger Ebert hated it. Did you like Wild at Heart?

Desson Howe: I thought it was great for the first half. Then it began to lose me.

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Alexandria, Va.: Saw L'Auberge Espagnole over the weekend and I really liked it. I want to get the soundtrack. I have checked Olsson's at Dupont. No luck. Amazon takes 4 weeks. Anyone out there know of some other places I can try to get this ?
Thanks

Desson Howe: Anyone?

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Chaplin: How about a comparison with Laurel and Hardy? I read an old Groucho Marx interview where he and the interviewer are debating some of the Marxes' contemporaries. Groucho was a huge Chaplin fan. The interviewer said he never got Chaplin's humor, but L and H consistently made him laugh.

Desson Howe: Comedy is one of my favorite subjects. I adore Laurel and Hardy whose humor has many of the sight gag/vaudeville aspects of Chaplin. (Stan Laurel and Chaplin worked together as standup acts.) But they are entirely different entities. Both Chaplin and L/H are funny in different ways. Both are great. As is Keaton. And Harold Lloyd. I could go on.

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Washington, D.C.: Went to the gala last night for the Avalon. I was surprised and delighted to hear that L'Auberge has been sold out on many nights! The restoration of the theater is fabulous -- if all you have ever seen is a mall multiplex, you owe it to yourself to go to the Avalon and see what a movie theater was meant to be. I expected to see Gary Cooper or Ava Gardner there. I hope people patronize this theater and keep it open. It is an antidote to the big box mentality.

Desson Howe: Right on Washington.

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Ballston, Va.: Re: Kung Foo movies.

Thanks for the recs! I had forgotten about Karate Kid.

Just to inform, Jackie Chan has a cartoon now, which has fed my son's fascination.

Desson Howe: Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm one of those people who DID read your reports from Cannes in the Post -- it was great to get these updates on the festival, and your impressions. (The downside was the absence of D.H. reviews in the Weekend section over the past few weeks -- glad you're back!)

Desson Howe: Well, what a nice thing to post. Thanks Dad. Just kidding.

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Fairfax, Va.: Ooh, Cannes. Give us the dish. Did you see Dogville, Mystic River? Elephant? Any others we should be looking forward to?

Desson Howe: Dogville was a good film but I wasn't as wowed as I was supposed to be. And its kneejerk anti-Americanism was a little tiresome. You don't have to be Republican to get sick of this stuff. I enjoyed Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, which will be a strong contender for performances and so on at the Oscars, I;m sure. Elephant I liked quite a bit. That's Gus Van sant's movie about Columbine. Well, a fictional version of Columbine.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Do you have to pay you own way at Cannes or does the Post pick up any of the costs?

Desson Howe: The Post pays. I didn't write that stuff for free.

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Courthouse: Hi Desson: Have you seen the film Chaos yet? It was playing at Visions recently. If so, what did you think of it? What a wonderful film, in my opinion.

Desson Howe: Michael O'Sullivan liked it . He reviewed it.

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Washington, D.C.: You saw Klute recently on TV? You're lucky. It must have been cable. Don't you wish the broadcast networks would get it and show some of the great old films, even if they're censored. But how many times does The Third Man or Casablanca show up on TV, other than (maybe) PBS? God, I'd watch them all the time? What gives?

Desson Howe: Cable is a great relief.

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Icebergville, Minn.: Is it snobby or just un-informed to like Harrold Lloyd best?

He is just so good in "Speedy". (I DO like Chaplin and Keaton too).

Desson Howe: He was the real Mr. Popular during his heyday. So it wouldn't be snobby to like him.

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. H: Since we're bringing up favorite films -- "Malice," a lovely nasty piece of work with Nicole Kiddman, Alec Baldwin, Anne Bancroft (cameo), and George Scott (cameo) among others. Was not a hit -- I've only seen it on TV and thought it was great.

Desson Howe: Thanks.

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Atlanta, Ga.: This may be too far back in the archives of film history, but your mention of Keaton reminded me of something I'd been pondering regarding his extended family -- namely his sisters-in law, Norma and Constance Talmadge. I've read a few critics who have said that Norma perfected the tear-jerking pokerface long before Garbo even got off the boat, and Constance created the screwball comedienne image that made way for folks like Roz Russell and Myrna Loy in the 30s and 40s. If their contributions were as important as they say, why is it that most of their films no longer exist? Tragic loss, or were they spoken of so highly simply because everyone loves a sister-act (and because they made for great gossip)?

Desson Howe: Good questions. Much of the early stuff is forgotten, likely, because of the difficulty of preservation of everything, including early films which contained flammable silver nitrate. The work of the Talmadges is pretty the stuff of movie history books for film students.

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Vaudeville, Md.: What about the Three Stooges?

Desson Howe: Hey, love 'em too. And it's always great to meet women who do. The big cliche is that they're humor for (childish) men.

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Uptown rejection: Loews showed Matrix at the new Georgetown theaters instead of the Uptown so everyone would know how about the new G'town spot and go there. It was a pretty straight-forward, understandable and disappointing business decision.

Desson Howe: Hmm. Interesting.

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Re: Cannes: So, did the Post book you a posh five-star hotel? Did you have an expense account to eat, drink and be merry on? We're you chatting with celebs? You live the good life, ya lucky man.

Desson Howe: Hey, knock it off. I was in a hotel barely better than a motel. And I was a long way off from those 5-stars. And I was too busy trying to see the films to eat, drink and be merry. Didn't put so much as a toe in the sand. But still had a great time appreciating the ambience.

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Classic Movies: Well if it's according to AMC, "Dirty Dancing" is now considered a classic. That's why I watch Turner Movie Classics these days, plus no commercials.

Desson Howe: Thanks.

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Arlington, Va.:
What are your thoughts on French actress Audrey Tautou? Saw He Loves Me Not at Visions recently and thought she was great. Also loved her in Amelie, Venus Beauty Institute and others. I really think she can act and has great screen presence, not to mention am impressed that she seems to have said no to mainstream Hollywood. And as a straight woman, I have to comment that she is a heck of a lot more appealing than Julia Roberts and the rest of the Hollywood starlets.

Desson Howe: I'm a fan of Audrey.

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Washington, D.C.: The VHS box for Martin Lawrence's "Runteldat" comedy film has a quote attributed to you. You said something about how this was a brilliant and hilarious piece of work.

I watched the first 15 minutes. After sitting through a bit about trachea sex, then a bit about how Martin thinks all Arabs look like Osama bin Laden, we turned it off. If Martin Lawrence has talent, then this was an awful showcase.

Did you really even watch this film? I've good broad tastes; but this was offensive without being clever. The material never moved beyond what I could get from any thirteen-year-old deliquent.

What were you thinking?

Desson Howe: I hated that movie as much as you. I'm surprised to hear about this. I'll have to see what this quote says.

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Bethesda, Md.: How is Dogville anti-American? I've read this several times, but haven't heard why or any examples.

Desson Howe: It's allegorical. A nice female stranger comes through an American small town and asks for help from a gangster who's after her. At first acting neighborly as if they sprung from the pages of Reader's Digest, these small town residents become treacherous and ill treat her, betray her, etc. This leads to more bad things which I won't reveal.

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College Park, Md.:
I recently saw "Bend It Like Beckham" and enjoyed it. However, I liked "Real Women Have Curves" better, which brought a subtler message on a similar topic.

Desson Howe: Both movies brought a good message in different ways.

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New York, N.Y.: For the 8-year-old who likes Jackie Chan: A lot of Jackie Chan's older movies (made before he was well-known in the U.S.) frequently play on cable channels like TBS and USA late at night -- usually on the weekends. They are pretty tame to begin with and edited for television so they should be okay for someone that age, and if you are taping them you could screen them first to make sure.

Desson Howe: Thanks.

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Southern Maryland:: Why do producers/directors change the entire plot of a story when made into a movie? Two examples: "Frenchman's Creek." The original had Joan Fontaine, followed the original story line pretty well. A remake with Tara Fitzgerald totally went off on a tangent. Not nearly as good as the original or the story. Second, "Random Hearts" with Harrison Ford. That was based on a true story from the Air Florida plane crash into the Potomac in 1982. The final film version was so awful I was embarrassed for the actors, although it could have been the basis for a really good film.

Desson Howe: Various reasons that are pretty much specific to the particular project. Hard to get into in a general way. But it has to do with making a movie that the filmmakers think will appeal to their audience of that day and age.

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Alexandria, Va.: Re: Dirty Dancing -- speak for yourself! To any woman who was a teenager when it came out, it IS a classic.

Desson Howe: Thanks.

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12th Floor Metro Center: Have you seen "The Trip," the indie showing at Visions. The reviews were so-so, but the plot looks good. Is it worth checking out? Also, how much was expected from "Finding Nemo" opening weekend. I was astounded by its $70 million opening weekend. Had no idea it would open that big. Were others surprised?

Desson Howe: Didn;'t see it. Our reviewer who went was mixed about it. Pixar makes great animation and the public knows this, so not too surprising about Nemo.

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College Park, Md.: So if your boss sends you to Las Vegas for a conference, does that mean you are out doing the party thing? NO, you are working.

Give DH a break. When people do the work they deserved to get paid. Some deserve to get paid more than others. I'd put DH in the "more" catagory.

Desson Howe: I'll pass this on to my boss. :) Thanks.

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Washington, D.C. filmnut: Saw an interesting German Expressionist movie last weekend, "Opium" (1919). Though painful to watch (the restoration was as good as technically possible, but vary murky and difficult), it presaged a lot of more notable flicks like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920) and Fritz Lang's "M" (1931) in that mental disorder, sexual deviancy, and moral decay seem inextricably intertwined.

My question to you is, given how many movies you've watched and how erudite your writing indicates you are, do you buy Siegfried Krackauer's argumnt about how German Expressionism films presaged the dire and desperate hunger for order that paved the way to Hitler's election to Chancellor in 1932?

Is this a statement that movies are that influential, or do they merely reflect the contexts we inhabit?

Desson Howe: I've read Kracauer's "From Caligari to Hitler," to which you refer and the book is fascinating, brilliant. I don't completely buy that particular interpretation. It's a sort of Monday morning quarterbacking of the German psyche and I happen to think that Germans (and any other race) don't/didn't act with conveniently classifiable attitude. But Kracauer has many other insights worth reading for anyone who wants an understanding of German Expressionism.

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NW D.C.: I, too, encourage people to patronize the Avalon, and hope it prospers ... but I admit I didn't much like L'Auberge Espagnole --pretty fluffy for a European film, and I found the lead actor pretty dull (and not even all that cute).

Desson Howe: Thanks.

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Desson Howe: To my friend in Montg. County, sorry I din't come up with the top 5 films of the past 10 years. Maybe next time. Thanks to all of you for being part of this. Great to hear from all of you. See you all in two weeks!

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washingtonpost.com:

That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

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