Movie Article

Reel Answers

Our new column has critics tackling your film queries. Lisa Schwarzbaum answers the first round of questions

Image credit: Reel: Michael White

Our new column has critics tackling your film queries

Do you ever have second thoughts on a movie after your review is published? -- Andy
This is a great question to start off our new column, Andy, because it speaks to one of the biggest challenges in film criticism. Most critics get to see a movie only once, anywhere from months to hours before we write about it. The write-from-the-gut critic Pauline Kael made it a point of pride to see each movie one time only, trusting the initial rumblings of those influential intestines. I, like most moviegoers, emerge with strong immediate responses to the movies I see. But I prefer to think I'm also aware enough of my own personal tastes (an allergy to Jerry Bruckheimer blow-'em-ups, say, or an undue affection for foreign-language films in which no one speaks any language at all for minutes on end) to work out critical arguments sturdy enough to outlast first impressions.

When my opinions shift -- sometimes after a second viewing, sometimes simply after more mulling -- the movement is usually a matter of degree rather than a reversal. I still really like ''The 13th Warrior,'' but probably appreciate ''Auto Focus'' even more than I did last year. I still stand by my pan of ''Fight Club,'' a review that prompted the most negative mail I'd received in years. And while I still don't love ''The Matrix,'' I have come to admire its dazzle much more than when I wrote about it in 1999. The movie remains a cold, shiny, mess-with-the-head visual spectacle of limited philosophical and emotional depth. But I get it now: It's, like, whoa.

Why do movies always end with stupid scenes where the guy and gal smooch to stirring music? -- Kate Floros, Pittsburgh
The answer, Kate, is simple: The stirring music is added because kissing is actually a static and unphotogenic activity on screen, not nearly as interesting as good conversation. Or sex. And the scene is at the end of the movie because happily-ever-after dramas in which lovebirds order pizza are even less interesting. You'll notice, though, that the more exciting the kiss, the less necessary the musical accompaniment: No violins were needed when Adrien Brody smooched Halle Berry on Oscar night.

Send questions to reel_answers@ew.com, or post them below.

Originally posted May 30, 2003 Published in issue #712 May 30, 2003 Order article reprints