Lisa Schwarzbaum
September 12, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

An EW critic on discovering new talent

When was the last time you felt you were seeing a major talent for the first time? — Andrea
Ah, Andrea, I’ll never forget the time I got an advance look at ”Home Alone” all alone in a snazzy studio screening room so many years ago and I saw that little blond Macaulay Culkin slapping his cheeks and I thought, Wow, who is this kid? But I digress: My critical socks were most recently blown off two years ago when I saw Ryan Gosling playing a Jewish neo-Nazi in ”The Believer.” Here’s a young actor who burns with such talent that it’s a challenge to find a project that can sustain his heat.

Which movie’s legacy has suffered the most from a sequel? Which movie’s legacy has been improved by a sequel? — Tom Rorb
It’s the perceptive word ”legacy” that makes these paired questions a winning entry. I’d go with ”The Silence of the Lambs” as the sick-thrill corker whose queasy brilliance is junked up, in my memory, by the flashy grotesquerie of ”Hannibal.” (For me, it’s Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling or it’s no one.) On the other hand, the unexpected zip and wit of ”X2: X-Men United” has allowed me to rewatch the gawkier original with more affection for the whole superheroic enterprise.

Do you ever get so distracted by some aspect of a film that it’s hard to keep your focus while reviewing it? — Cynthia Cohen
Big collagen lips! I’m telling you, big collagen lips on people who used to have regular human lips are killing my concentration. How can I pay attention to a character when the camera zooms in close and I’m thinking, Ouch, needles!

What is one of the worst acting performances in one of the best movies? — Darwin Bell
Four words: Billy Zane in ”Titanic.”

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