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rec.arts.movies.current-films Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Archive-name: movies/faq/current-films

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Last change:
Mon May 22 11:26:41 EDT 2000

This FAQ is cross-posted to rec.arts.movies.current-films and

Copies of this article may be obtained by anonymous ftp to
under /pub/usenet-by-group/news.answers/movies/faq/current-films.  Or,
send email to with
"send usenet-by-group/news.answers/movies/faq/current-films" in the body of
the message.

Questions include:
    1) "Does anyone know this movie?"  <plot summary follows>
    2) "What stories/movies/tv shows are about X?"
    3) How can I get an address &/or a phone number for (some famous
    4) "Does anyone want to talk about X?"
    5) What is letterboxing?
    6) What does the number at the end of the end credits mean?
    7) What "ethnic" actors have won/been nominated for Academy Awards?
    8) What are all the James Bond films and who played Bond?
    9) What are those funny dots that blink on in the upper-right corner of
   10) How do films, actors, etc., get nominated for Academy Awards?
   11) What are the top twenty grossing films of all time?
   12) How can I find out where a certain movie is playing?
   13) What is a director's cut?
   14) Are there any Web sites for movie scripts?
   15) What is Roger Ebert's CompuServe address?
   16) Is Jodie Foster gay?
   17) Is FARGO a true story?  Was the "Victim in the Field" really played
       by the Artist Formerly Known as Prince?
   18) When does a movie break even?
   19) Why aren't there more G-rated movies released?

Topics include:
    1) Product placements in movies

For the following items, see the rec.arts.movies.past-films FAQ (there is
	some overlap):
    1) "Does anyone know this movie?"  <plot summary follows>
    2) "What stories/movies/tv shows are about X?"
    3) How can I get an address &/or a phone number for (some famous
    4) "Does anyone want to talk about X?"
    5) Did Audrey Hepburn do the singing in MY FAIR LADY?  Did Andy Williams
       dub Lauren Bacall's singing voice in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT?  How come
       Julie Andrews did not reprise her Broadway performance of Eliza
    6) What movie did the quote: "Badges?? Badges?? We don't need no
       stinkin' badges?" come from ??
    7) What is the earliest *numbered* sequel?
    8) What is letterboxing?
    9) Why are clips of old films always fast?
   10) What are the Hitchcock cameos in all his movies?
   11) What are the references to "See You Next Wednesday" in John Landis's
   12) What does the number at the end of the end credits mean?
   13) What "ethnic" actors have won/been nominated for Academy Awards?
   14) What are all the James Bond films and who played Bond?
   15) What are those funny dots that blink on in the upper-right corner of
   16) What is the secret of THE CRYING GAME?  (rot13'd)
   17) What are the top twenty grossing films of all time?
   18) What is a director's cut?
   19) Are there any Web sites for movie scripts?
   20) What is the poem in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL?
   21) What is the significance of the stones at the end of SCHINDLER'S
   22) Where in THE CROW did Brandon Lee get shot?  Did they leave it in?
       And how did it happen?
   23) Is it true that a hanged person (munchkin) is visible in the
       background of one scene in THE WIZARD OF OZ?
   24) What are some movies that were better than the books/stories they
       were based on?

For the following items, see the rec.arts.sf.movies FAQ:
     1. Star Trek.
     2. The animated LORD OF THE RINGS by Ralph Bakshi covers only the
        first half of the trilogy.  Bakshi did not make the second half.
     3. Frequent subjects.
     4. Abbreviations commonly used in this group:
     5. BLADE RUNNER: the sixth replicant, why voice-overs, and Deckard a
     6. "Can the X beat the Y?" where X and Y are mighty ships or alien
        races from different space opera movies/series.
     7. Is the movie HEAVY METAL out on video?
     8. Why is there an acknowledgment to Harlan Ellison in the credits of
        THE TERMINATOR?  or  Doesn't THE TERMINATOR have the same plot as a
        TWILIGHT ZONE episode?
     9. What about the relationship between HAL (the computer in 2001: A
        Space Odyssey) and IBM?  (If you add 1 to each letter in HAL you get
    10. Who was the voice of the seductive Jessica Rabbit in the film
    11. What are all of the "cute" gimmicks in the film BACK TO THE
    12. What role did Jamie Lee Curtis play in THE ADVENTURES OF
    13. When is George Lucas going to make more STAR WARS films?  What
        will they be about??
    14. In OUTLAND and TOTAL RECALL, astronauts exposed suddenly to vacuum
        promptly explode.  In 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, a few seconds'
        exposure to vacuum doesn't bother one at all.  Which is right?
    15. What does "FTL" mean?
    16. I was told that the director's cut of DUNE was seven hours long,
        and did a much better job of portraying the novel.  Where can I
        find it?
    17. What are the two minutes of new footage on the STAR TREK VI: THE
        UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY videocassette?
    18. What are the various Quatermass films and the names they go under?

Items covered in the FAQ (cf):
	Q6. What is that [classical] music in [insert TV show/movie

rec.arts.movies.* are newsgroups devoted to discussions of movies.  They
are high-volume newsgroups and this article is intended to help reduce the
number of unnecessary postings, thereby making them more useful and
enjoyable to everyone.

If you have not already done so, please read the articles in
news.announce.newusers.  They contain a great deal of useful information
about network etiquette and convention.

Before we begin, two pieces of net.etiquette.  Both of these are
mentioned in news.announce.newusers, but since they are so frequently
violated, and at least one of them is particularly relevant to this
group, we mention them here:

SPOILER WARNINGS:  Many people feel that much of the enjoyment of a film
is ruined if they know certain things about it, especially when those
things are surprise endings or mysteries.  On the other hand, they also
want to know whether or not a film is worth seeing, or they may be
following a particular thread of conversation where such information may
be revealed.  The solution to this is to put the words SPOILER in your
header, or in the text of your posting.  You can also put a ctl-L
character in the *first* column for your readers who are using rn.  Some
people think that spoiler warnings are not necessary.  We don't understand
why, and do not want to discuss it.  Use your best judgment.

REPLIES TO REQUESTS AND QUESTIONS:  When you think that many people will
know an answer to a question, or will have an answer to a request,
RESPOND VIA E-MAIL!!!  And if you don't know the answer, but want to
know, DON'T POST TO THE NET asking for the answer, ask VIA E-MAIL!  If
you think a lot of people will want the same information, you might
suggest that the person summarize to the net.

Even if you don't see an answer posted, and you have the answer, please
send it e-mail.  The thirty other people who answered may have already
sent it, and your site just hasn't gotten it yet.  It clogs the net and
gets very tedious to see 30 people answer the same question, and another
30 people asking for the answer to be posted.  All of that should be
done via mail.  The net is a highly asynchronous medium.  It can take
several days for an article to make it to all sites.  It is also quite
common for followups to messages to reach a site before the original.

Please keep in mind two points:

	1.  Always remember that there is a live human being at the
	other end of the wires.  In other words, please write your
	replies with the same courtesy you would use in talking to
	someone face-to-face.

	2.  Try to recognize humor and irony in postings.  Tone of
	voice does not carry in ASCII print, and postings are often
	snapped off quickly, so that humorous intent may not be
	obvious.  More destructive and vicious arguments have been
	caused by this one fact of net existence than any other.  It
	will help if satiric/ironic/humorous comments are marked with
	the "smiley face," :-)

The first part of the list is a compendium of information that has been
posted to rec.arts.movies.* many times in the past.  If you have received
this list through e-mail, without requesting it, this is most likely
because you posted one of the questions on the list.

The second part of the FAQ list contains a series of topics that are
repeatedly discussed, along with a bit of editorial comment on each one.
The reason for including this information is merely to provide new
readers with some background and context.  In no way do we mean for this
to preclude anyone from discussing these topics again.  While the items
listed in part one are (indisputable??) facts, the topics in part two
are objects of opinion.  As such, they can be discussed ad infinitum
without any resolution.  Do so if you wish.  Remember the first

The last part of the FAQL contains a few further bits of information for
readers of rec.arts.movies.*.  This includes several other lists that are
kept by members of the group, trivia contests etc.  Interested readers
should seek out the companion FAQ in rec.arts.sf.movies.

If you have any questions about this list, or if there is something you
think should be added, you can contact me through e-mail at:

Now, here are some frequently asked questions...

PART ONE: Frequently asked questions, and some answers (and some
of them may be right).

0) "What movies has X appeared in/directed/written etc.?"

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) can answer a huge range of movie
related questions, so it's always worth checking out before posting to
the groups.  The IMDb has over 1,000,000 filmography entries for more
than 75,000 movies.  It includes filmographies for actors, directors,
writers, composers, cinematographers, editors, production designers,
costume designers and producers; plot summaries; character names; movie
ratings; year of release; running times; movie trivia; quotes; goofs;
soundtracks; personal trivia; alternative names; certificates; color
information; country of production; genres; production companies; sound
mix; reference literature; filming locations; sequel/remake
information; release dates; advertising tag lines; detailed technical
data; box office grosses, language and Academy Award information.  Many 
thousands of movies are covered completely from the major actors to the 
minor bit players.

The IMDb FAQ contains full details and is posted weekly to the many of
the groups, alternatively copies can be obtained by anonymous ftp to under /pub/usenet-by-group/news.answers/movies/movie-database-faq
or send e-mail to <> with:

  send usenet-by-group/news.answers/movies/movie-database-faq

in the body of the message. Here's a quick summary of how to access the 

(a) Web access:                                  (USA)                                  (UK)

(b) To use the e-mail interface, send a message with the subject:


    to <> and the movie mail-server will respond with 
    a copy of the help file.

(c) For local interactive access to the database, the FTP site has software for several operating systems:

      Unix   in  /pub/info/imdb/tools/moviedb-3.2f.tar.gz
      MS-DOS in  /pub/info/imdb/tools/msdos/cb153.arj
      Amiga  in  /pub/info/imdb/tools/MovieMUI3_2.lha

1) "Does anyone know this movie?"  <plot summary follows>

When making this kind of request, ask that all responses be e-mailed
back to you.  After having found out what it is, then post the correct
answer to the net.

If you know the answer but are unable to send a message to the requester,
wait a few days.  It's likely that someone else will post the correct
answer, thus sparing you the effort.

Do not post messages like "I want to know, too" to the net.  E-mail the
person who asked the question and request that they send you any
information they get by e-mail.  Only if you cannot reach the person by
e-mail *and* no one has posted about the request after several days
should you post.

2) "What stories/movies/tv shows are about X?"

When making these kind of requests, ask that all replies be e-mailed to
you and that you will summarize.  Note that a summary is not just
concatenating all the replies together and posting the resulting file.
Take the time to strip headers, combine duplicate information, and
write a short summary.

3) How can I get an address &/or a phone number for (some famous

You *can't* get phone numbers.  But you can often get contact addresses
(usually an agent or publicist), by calling the Screen Artists Guild at
213-954-1600.  They will give you a phone number and/or address for the
agent.  The agent can provide you an address to write and may send
pictures on request or provide the publicist's addresses.  Another method
(if the star has written a book) is to send mail in care of the publisher
of that book.

4) "Does anyone want to talk about X?"

If nobody seems to be discussing what you want to talk about, post a
(polite) message opening the discussion.  Don't just say, "Does anyone
want to talk about X" or "I really like X" however; try to have
something interesting to say about the topic to get discussion going.

Don't be angry or upset if no one responds.  It may be that X is just a
personal taste of your own, or quite obscure.  Or it may be that X was
discussed to death a few weeks ago, *just* before you came into the
group.  (If this is the case, you'll probably know, though, because
some rude fool will probably flame you for "Bringing that up
*AGAIN*!!!"  Ignore them.)

5) What is letterboxing?

In case you hadn't noticed, movie screens have a different shape than
television screens.  This means that when a movie is shown on a
television screen, it doesn't fit.  Up until recently, this meant that
either the left and right ends of the picture were cropped off, or the
picture was "panned and scanned" (the camera would seem to go back and
forth between the left and right sides, usually done for scenes in which
the two characters speaking were at the far left and right of a scene),
or that the picture was warped so that everyone looked tall and thin
(this was usually done for credit sequences so the full names could fit
on the screen, or you would think you were watching "ne with the Wi").
Now some companies are releasing "letterboxed" versions of films on
videocassettes and videodisks.  These have a black bar at the top and
bottom of the screen, allowing the full width of the picture to be
included, but resulting in a smaller picture--that is, a character ten
inches tall in a non-letterboxed version might be eight inches tall in a
letterboxed one.

Long answer:
From Matthias Walz (

Some remarks related to the pan&scan-theatrical-format-confusion in several 
film-related groups (sorry for being lengthy, but the matter is 

Once or twice a week I'm working as projectionist in a repertory cinema, 
where four (!) different formats are used for projection (1.33:1, 1.66:1, 
1.85:1 and CinemaScope, 2.35:1). My job includes assembling the different 
reels (usually five for 90-100 minutes) of the film before showing it the 
first time. During this process, the projectionist has to figure out which
picture format to use for projection. This is sometimes quite confusing - 
a few remarks about the topic:

1. Up to the Fifties, all films were shot in 1.33:1 and also intended for 
projection in this aspect ratio.

2. Since the Fifties, many films were still shot in 1.33:1 (probably for 
financial reasons), but most of them are intended to be shown in 1.66:1 or
even 1.85:1. If you'd show them in 1.33:1, you'd see exciting things like 
dolly tracks at the bottom or microphones and even studio lights at the top 
of the picture. Once I used 1.33:1 (by mistake) for Hitchcock's "North By 
Northwest", with the result that in the forest scene preceding the 
Mt.Rushmore finale, studio lights as well as the top of the stage decoration 
depicting the forest became visible. This ruined the effect of the scene 
completely - the magic was gone.

3. To make things even worse, sometimes different aspect ratios are used in 
one and the same film - up to three (the reason for tgis? I'm not sure. 
Maybe the film studios use up film material that's left over from other 
projects). I can remember a print which contained shots in all three 
"normal" formats: 1.33:1, 1.66:1 and 1.85:1. In this case, you have to show 
the print in the widest format (1.85:1), otherwise you'd have a "letterbox 
effect" on the screen during scenes shot in 1.33:1 or 1.66:1 !

4. The reason why film companies don't bother about using different formats 
for the same film lies in the fact that most cinemas use only two different 
formats for projection anyway (one theater-specific lens in the range from 
1.66:1 to 1.85:1, and 2.35:1 for anamorphic projection). Therefore, if a 
1.33:1 film is shown in such a theatre, portions of the picture are cropped 
at the top and the bottom of the screen.

Now to the film-on-tv-thing:

The normal TV screen has an aspect ratio of about 1.3:1. If the network 
wants to show the film in the format intended by the filmmakers, it has just 
the same problems as the poor theatre projectionist dealing with four 
different formats. If the network doesn't care too much for artisitc 
subtleties and follows a "full screen"-policy (as some German commercial 
networks do), you'll see effects like the above-mentioned (North By 


If the film is shown on TV in the aspect ratio it was intended to be shown, 
it has to be letterboxed, except for the 1.33:1 films. In the case of 
CinemaScope films, there's definitely nothing hidden by the black bars. In
all other cases of letterboxing, there may be something hidden behind the 
bars - but something you wouldn't care for anyway.

I hope this brings all this nonsense (B. Faber et al.) about censorship by 
letterboxing to a well-deserved end in cyberhell. Letterboxing is the only 
way to show a film on TV as it was meant to be shown.

6) What does the number at the end of the end credits mean?

The Motion Picture Association of America (the MPAA) is responsible for
assigning these numbers.  It is part of their film rating service.  Any film
can be submitted to the MPAA for rating (the G/PG/PG13/R/NC-17 ratings 
Americans are familiar with), for a small fee.  Any film rated by the MPAA
is issued a unique number.  Any film can be submitted, but many aren't,
including most adult sex films, many foreign films, industrial films and
other training and educational films, television films, and some
independently made films.

The rating service (and the numbering associated with it) was started
in 1968.  There is no publicly available list of films and numbers, and
the MPAA information office does not have the title of the film issued
certificate #1 readily available.  [Joshua Kreitzer,, pointed out after this was written that cccording
to Mark A. Vieira's SIN IN SOFT-FOCUS, the first film to receive a
certificate under the Production Code was John Ford's THE WORLD MOVES
ON (1934).]

Films before 1968 were assigned numbers based on their agreement to the
Production Code, instituted July 1, 1934.  Under that scheme, the film SHE,
released in 1935, has number 985.  Rod McKim (
reports that THE SCARLET EMPRESS, released in 1934, has number 16, the
lowest by far that he has seen.  Reports of any other low number
spottings would be appreciated.  Given that the current number is in
the 30,000, I believe the current numbers are continued from those,
rather than restarted in 1968.

A word or two more about MPAA ratings.  The ratings are assigned by a board
composed of "ordinary citizens", largely parents, as the intent of the
rating system is to protect the tender minds of children from harm.  The
board watches the film and collectively assigns a rating.  If the producer
doesn't like the rating, s/he has a couple of options.  The rating can be
appealed to the MPAA official in charge of rating films.  On a few
occasions, the appeal has been successful.  Not too surprisingly, appeals by
large studios tend to have a better success rate than appeals by smaller
studios.  Alternately, the producer can recut the film and resubmit it.  The
MPAA rating board will tell a filmmaker what caused a film to get a rating,
but they never actually tell a filmmaker that if this scene is cut, you will
get that rating.  Somehow or other, though, the information tends to get to
the filmmakers, so that Alan Parker, for instance, somehow knew that cutting
a few seconds of Mickey Rourke humping Lisa Bonet while blood drips from the
ceiling changes ANGEL HEART from a film no child should see to a film merely
requiring parental presence.

While we're at it, what is the MPAA?  It's an industry organization for the
American film production business, particularly for the major studios.  Its
members are Disney, Columbia, MGM, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal,
and Warner Brothers.  These companies pay fees to the MPAA that are used as
the primary source of financing for the organization.  In addition to the
ratings, the MPAA performs other services for their members, including
lobbying the government.  (They prefer to refer to this service as "working
on issues important to the film industry.")  Jack Valenti, the head of the
MPAA, is a prominent spokesman who speaks for "Hollywood" as a whole,
generally on issues important to all the studios, like film piracy, trade
disputes with other countries, and censorship.  The MPAA was founded in 1922,
so it's been doing this sort of thing for quite a while.

[Thanks to Peter Reiher,, for this answer.]

7) What ethnic actors have won/been nominated for Academy Awards?

(This question seem to come up every year at Oscar time.)

"Actors of ethnic extraction other than European/Mediterranean who have
been nominated for Academy Awards" (so we don't start quibbling over Omar
Sharif).  I'm not a big fan of groupings by race, but it has its educational
values in a situation like this, showing Hollywood's record in honoring
minority contributions.  In borderline cases, we have gone by the "as
generally perceived" standard--thus no Ben Kingsley, who seems thoroughly
British despite the fact that his father was Gujrati, and none of the many
American actors who proudly say they're "part Indian" when they mean 1/16 or
1/32.  With that ponderous preamble out of the way, here's the list:


Hattie McDaniel        1939   supp   Gone with the Wind   WON
Dorothy Dandridge      1954   lead   Carmen Jones
Sidney Poitier         1958   lead   The Defiant Ones
                       1963   lead   Lilies of the Field  WON
Juanita Moore          1959   supp   Imitiation of Life
Beah Richards          1967   supp   Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Rupert Crosse          1969   supp   The Reivers
James Earl Jones       1970   lead   The Great White Hope
Paul Winfield          1972   lead   Sounder
Cicely Tyson           1972   lead   Sounder
Diana Ross             1972   lead   Lady Sings the Blues
Diahann Carroll        1974   lead   Claudine
Howard E. Rollins Jr   1981   supp   Ragtime
Louis Gossett Jr.      1982   supp   An Officer and a Gentleman  WON
Alfre Woodard          1983   supp   Cross Creek
Adolph Caesar          1984   supp   A Soldier's Story
Whoopi Goldberg        1985   lead   The Color Purple
                       1991   supp   Ghost                WON
Margaret Avery         1985   supp   The Color Purple
Oprah Winfrey          1985   supp   The Color Purple
Dexter Gordon          1986   lead   Round Midnight
Morgan Freeman         1987   supp   Street Smart
                       1989   lead   Driving Miss Daisy
                       1994   lead   The Shawshank Redemption
Denzel Washington      1987   supp   Cry Freedom
                       1989   supp   Glory		 WON
                       1992   lead   Malcolm X
Jaye Davidson          1992   supp   The Crying Game
Laurence Fishburne     1993   lead   What's Love Got to Do with It?
Angela Bassett         1993   lead   What's Love Got to Do with It?
Samuel L. Jackson      1994   supp   Pulp Fiction
Cuba Gooding, Jr.      1996   supp   Jerry Maguire	WON
Marianne Jean-Baptiste 1996   supp   Secrets & Lies
Denzel Washington      2000   lead   The Hurricane
Michael Clarke Duncan  2000   supp   The Green Mile

                  ASIAN (including Polynesian)

Miyoshi Umeki          1957   supp   Sayonara             WON
Sessue Hayakawa        1957   supp   The Bridge on the River Kwai
Mako                   1966   supp   The Sand Pebbles
Jocelyn LaGarde        1966   supp   Hawai`i
Haing S. Ngor          1984   supp   The Killing Fields   WON
Noriyuki "Pat" Morita  1984   supp   The Karate Kid

           [whatever your term is for] PRE-EUROPEAN NORTH AMERICAN

Anthony Quinn          1952   lead   Viva Zapata           WON
Anthony Quinn          1956   supp   Lust for Life         WON
Chief Dan George       1970   supp   Little Big Man (Squamish)
Graham Greene          1991   supp   Dances with Wolves (Oneida (Iroquois))

Rita Moreno            1961   supp   West Side Story       WON
Norma Aleandro         1987   supp   Gaby--A True Story
Andy Garcia            1991   supp   The Godfather Part III
Rosie Perez            1993   supp   Fearless
Fernanda Montenegro    1999   supp   Central Station

Note that John Singleton is now the first black to be nominated as
best director (1991, BOYZ N THE HOOD).

(Although Anthony Quinn is often listed as Hispanic, comments by
him about his ancestry on "The Actors Studio" lead me to list him
as "Pre-European North American."  I will not entertain arguments about
whether Montenegro is Hispanic or not--there are at least several
definitions that would include her, and I'll fall back on "generally

[Thanks to Jon Conrad,, for bulk of this answer.
John Cawley,, maintains a list of Native American
actors and their tribes.]

8) What are all the James Bond films and who played Bond?

   "Casino Royale" episode of CLIMAX TV series   1954   Barry Nelson
   Dr. No					 1962   Sean Connery
   From Russia With Love			 1963   Sean Connery
   Goldfinger				         1964   Sean Connery
   Thunderball				         1965   Sean Connery
   Casino Royale				 1967   David Niven*
   You Only Live Twice			         1967   Sean Connery
   On Her Majesty's Secret Service		 1969   George Lazenby
   Diamonds Are Forever			         1971   Sean Connery
   Live and Let Die			         1973   Roger Moore
   The Man With the Golden Gun		         1974   Roger Moore
   The Spy Who Loved Me			         1977   Roger Moore
   The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation
        as We Know It			         1977   x
   Moonraker				         1979   Roger Moore
   For Your Eyes Only			         1981   Roger Moore
   Octopussy				         1983   Roger Moore
   Never Say Never Again			 1983   Sean Connery
   The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.	 1983   George Lazenby+
   A View to a Kill			         1985   Roger Moore
   The Living Daylights			         1987   Timothy Dalton
   Licence to Kill				 1989   Timothy Dalton
   "Diamonds Aren't Forever" episode of ALFRED
   	HITCHCOCK PRESENTS		         1989   George Lazenby=
   Goldeneye                                     1995   Pierce Brosnan
   Tomorrow Never Dies                           1997   Pierce Brosnan
   The World Is Not Enough                       1999   Pierce Brosnan

* Woody Allen plays his nephew, "Jimmy Bond"
+ Only a cameo--Lazenby drives an Aston Martin with license plate "JB" in
  this made-for-television movie and is clearly supposed to be Bond,
  though he is never called by name.
= Lazenby plays "James ... [sic]" 
x Bond does not appear, but "Miss Moneypacket" drives a car with a "JB 007"
  license plate.

(Many people say that CASINO ROYALE is not a real Bond movie, but
rather a parody.  NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN is a movie not made by Broccoli
& Co, but otherwise has the usual look.  "The Strange Case...," "The
Return of ...," and "Diamonds Aren't Forever" are also not part of the
"main line" of Bond films.)

(Michael Golan mentions also CANNONBALL (1976), but in that Roger Moore
is explicit that he is *Roger Moore*, not James Bond, in spite of all
appearances.  Still, some may want to count this.  "M" and "Miss
Moneypacket" appear in "The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation as
We Know It," a 1977 British television production starring John Cleese;
they were played by Kenneth Benda and Charlotte Alexandra respectively.)

Bruce Long ( says, "The 'Hostage'" episode of 'The Master'
(series starring Lee Van Cleef) has George Lazenby and David McCallum as
guest stars.  Each of them are obviously supposed to be his famous
character (but McCallum is the villain, as though Kuryakin had become
cynical in his later years)."

9) What are those funny dots that blink on in the upper-right corner of

These are cue marks, or "reel-change dots," signaling the projectionist
that it is time to change reels.  There is actually a set of dots.
Four consecutive frames are marked with a little circle in the upper
right-hand corner of the frame.  The first set (4 frames) of cue marks
(the motor cue) is placed 198 frames before the end of the reel.  (198
frames is 8.25 seconds, or 12.375 feet.) There are 172 frames between
the first set of cue marks and the second set of 4 frames, the
changeover cue.  There are 18 frames between the changeover cue and the
runout section of the trailer (or foot) leader.  The projectionist
threads up the next reel of film so that he has about nine feet of
leader between the lens and the start of the film.  At the first cue
mark, he starts the motor on the second projector.  This gives the
projector time to get up to to speed and for the speed to stabilize.
On the second cue mark, he throws the switches that change the picture
and sound sources.  In some old films on TV, you'll see long changeover
cues since some projectionists were paranoid that they would not see
the marks.

Video versions usually do not have these dots because when the transfer
was made, the original negative was used, or a postive that was made
from the original negative was used.  Sometimes an interneg is used.
In any event, only prints that make it to the theatre have the
change-over dots.  For older movies, sometimes the only available
print is a release print, which means the dots will appear.

(Paul Parenteau [dog@sequent.COM], Ron Birnbaum [], Harris
Minter [], Jeffry L. Johnson
[], and Mike Brown

10) How do films, actors, etc., get nominated for Academy Awards?

The general model is that the Academy members who work in the particular
specialty make the nominations.  Thus, the Academy's actors nominate the
performers (no sex differentiation - actors/actresses both nominate actors/
actresses), directors nominate directors, writers nominate writers, etc.
All Academy members get to nominate films.  In the categories of foreign
language film, documentary, and short film, the Academy does things a bit
differently.  (See below.)

All Academy members get to vote on all awards, except for the foreign
language film (and possibly the documentary and short film awards).
Only members who have seen the nominated films get to vote on the foreign
language film awards.

Foreign language films are nominated by a complicated [and totally
ineffective] process.  Each nation of the world (except possibly the
United States) [though there was a Puerto Rican entry a few years ago]
can submit one film per year for consideration.  The film must have had
its first run in that country that year, and there are a variety of
other arcane, frequently changing rules to determine eligibility.  (A
few years ago, the Dutch film "The Vanishing" wasn't eligible because
of a rule that stated the film had to be almost entirely in the
language of its native country to qualify; "The Vanishing" had much
more French than Dutch.  That rule was changed.  Recently, a supposedly
Uruguayan film was removed from consideration because the Academy
determined that the Uruguayan participation in it was insufficient to
make it truly Uruguayan.)  The national film boards of the various
countries select the film they will submit, and there is room for
controversy here, too.  A couple of years ago, the German national film
board caused a major fuss by refusing to nominate "Europa, Europa" for
the award.  Both German and American filmmakers protested, but to no
avail.  The nature of the nominating process is such that, some years,
two great films will come from one country, but only one can be
nominated.  In some cases, the producers of the other will use various
tricks to get it submitted by another country.  For example, "Close To
Eden" was a French financed film, but was made in Russia by a Russian
director, and hence could be submitted by Russia.  More
controversially, "Black and White In Color", a French film largely in
French, by a French director, but set in Africa, was submitted by the
African nation where it was filmed.

A board of "experts" [and Lord only knows what makes them experts!]
then reviews all submitted foreign films to select five to nominate.

In the case of documentary and short films, anyone can send their film
to the Academy for consideration.  The film basically has to have been
made for theatrical purposes (this issue is very fuzzy, but an obvious
television episode is not eligible), and has to have had its first
release that year.  There are separate boards for documentaries (full
length and short) and short films (dramatic live action and animated).
They review all submitted films and select at most five for
nomination.  [And apparently they often don't view each film
completely.]  The animation board frequently chooses only three films,
rather than five.  These boards are generally made up of volunteers who
may or may not work in the particular fields.

This process has come under fire in the last few years, particularly as
regards documentaries.  Many of the best known and best reviewed
documentaries of the past five years [as of the writing of this]
("Roger and Me", "The Thin Blue Line", "Paris Is Burning", "Brother's
Keeper", and "A Brief History of Time", to name a few) have not been
nominated.  There are periodic calls to do something about it, but,
basically, the Academy doesn't give a damn about these categories, and,
in fact, is trying to drop the short film categories.  (In the
interests of, in the words of one commentator, "more smoke and dancing
girls" at the Awards ceremony.) Short films received a one-year
reprieve in 1993, but may be dropped from future Award ceremonies, or
perhaps be treated like the scientific and engineering awards.  [Though
even in 1993, the winners were merely announced; they did not get to
come up and accept the awards, or give a thank-you speech.]

Special awards (like those recently given to Audrey Hepburn and
Federico Fellini) are handled specially.  They are chosen by the
Academy's board, and they are not necessarily given every year.

I'm not sure what the procedure is for the special and scientific
awards.  I suspect that the Academy has committees that handle these.

[Thanks to Peter Reiher,, for this.]

11) What are the top ten/twenty grossing films of all time?

This data can be found at: (for USA box office), (for non-USA box office), and (for world-wide box-office). is
a constantly updated list that is adjusted for inflation.

12) How can I find out where a certain movie is playing?

There are many web sites for this, including:

In many areas, there is also a phone service to help you.  Call
777-FILM (*) and follow the instructions (you punch in the first three
letters of the film title and your ZIP code) to find out the theater
closest to you with a particular film, and the remaining show times.
You can also order tickets by credit card through them.

(*) In some areas it's 444-FILM or 222-FILM or possibly something else.

For something more esoteric (like films that play at universities,
libraries, etc.), you're out of luck unless you know the distributor
and call them.

13) What is a director's cut?

Contracts under the terms of the Hollywood Director's Guild allow about
six weeks for a director to assemble a cut without studio
interference.  This is fully edited and has a synchronized sound track,
however, it is usually not color-corrected nor density-corrected and
may not have the final music and effects track.  In more recent times
due to an expanding video aftermarket, the term director's cut has
acquired a popular meaning that implies a finished final print,
different from the theatrical release, that the director has complete
artistic control over.  []

Bob Morris ( believes the first widespread use of
the term was with the 1989 re-release of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

14) Are there any Web sites for movie scripts?

The following is one WEB site i know of:  There are probably others.  There
may be also scripts at sites with archives related to specific films or
sub-genres.  Don't forget that most scripts are copyrighted.  Scripts
may be obtainable by stores dealing in movie materials or books; see
the rec.arts.books FAQs on bookstores for some suggestions.

15) What is Roger Ebert's email address?

As advertised in the CompuServe Roger Ebert Forum as the "talk to Roger"
address, it is  The Sun Times lists

16) Is Jodie Foster gay?


17) Is FARGO a true story?  Was the "Victim in the Field" really played
by the Artist Formerly Known as Prince?

No and no.  The actor's name is J. Todd Anderson, who has been a
storyboard artist on this and other films for the Coen brothers.  The
"symbol" credit for him was a joke; note that in the credits, the Prince
symbol appears on its side.

[Answer provided by Joshua Kreitzer (]

18) When does a movie break even?

There are multiple answers to that question, and it differs for every
movie, not just because they had different production costs.  Assuming
we're talking about genuine profits (as would be recognized by most of
us), and not the contractual definitions that keep net profit
participants from collecting a cent on even the biggest grossing films,
here are some rules of thumb, and a few important exceptions.

First off, we're talking about major Hollywood films that are
distributed by the studio that made them.  That's important, because
the distributor takes a big cut off the gross.  If the distributor is
the same studio as produced the film, then, from an outsider's point of
view, it all ends up in the same pockets in the end.  If the film was
produced by someone else, then you have to lop off the distribution fee
before determining if the film was profitable.  Also, let's ignore for
the moment co-productions, and certainly ignore low budget independent

The capsule answer, as a rough rule of thumb - if a film's domestic
gross equals its negative cost, it will be profitable.  Thus, for
example, if we accept a negative cost for "Titanic" of $200 million, a
US/Canada gross of $200 million would probably lead to a profit.

Now let's talk about why this is a reasonable rule of thumb, then why
it sometimes isn't.

Films make their money from three basic sources - domestic gross
(counting only the US and Canada), foreign gross (box office receipts
from everywhere else), and other sources.  The largest component of the
latter is video, but cable, pay-per-view, and broadcast sales are also
often significant, and lesser revenue streams like in-flight movies,
rentals to colleges and art houses, and others also chip in.  For
certain films, merchandising adds hugely to this figure.  For others,
it adds nothing.

Still speaking roughly, the current breakdown is that these three
revenue sources are approximately equal.  Not quite.  In the last
couple of years, foreign box office has slightly exceeded domestic, for
example.  And there are many exceptions, which I'll get to later.  But
for rough calculations, equality is around right.

There are other important considerations.  First, the costs usually
bandied about for making films are the negative costs.  The negative
cost of a film is the price paid from the moment the project was
thought of to the instant that the studio owns one complete, finished
negative of the movie.  There are still big bucks to pay for a major
Hollywood release, however.  The biggest bucks are for advertising and
distribution, with a significant cost to make all the prints.  (If you
put out 2000 prints, a not-uncommon run for a big film nowadays, at,
say, $10,000 a print, you can see it adds up.) Advertising and
distribution varies quite a lot.  People used to assume that the total
print and advertising costs for a big film were approximately equal to
its negative cost, but $100 million plus negative costs blew that
estimate out of the water.  I doubt if anyone ever spent $100 million
advertising a single film.  For a large scale film, $50 million for
prints, adevertising, and other distribution costs (like shipping 2000
really heavy sets of boxes containing the prints all over the country)
is not an unreasonable estimate.

A second consideration is that theaters take a share of the gross.
Again, things are complex.  The short rule of thumb is that the
theaters take half.  But the way the contracts actually work, the
theaters' cut is on a sliding scale, with the studio taking a much
larger percentage in early weeks, and the theaters gradually getting
more and more as the run continues.  Thus, the attendance pattern of a
film makes a big difference.  So far, "The Lost World" and "Men in
Black" have grossed in the same general ballpark, something like $250
million.  However, "The Lost World" made a vast amount of money in its
first week, and dropped off quickly, while "Men in Black" did very well
its first week, but has held audiences longer.  The distributor thus
ended up with more of the gross from "The Lost World" than from "Men in
Black."  Assuming you're not a professional or obsessive, live with the
50% estimate.

A third factor.  For many big films, there are gross profit
participants.  These folks, typically the really heavy hitters like
Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, and Michael Crichton, get a percentage
of all money collected by the distributor.  In some cases, the
contracts allow the distributors to deduct certain costs off the top,
in others they don't.  The dollars that go to gross profit participants
cannot fairly be considered as contributing towards the studio's
recoupment or eventual profit, since they don't get those dollars.  In
some cases, like "The Lost World," we're talking serious chunks of
revenue, perhaps 20% total or more.  Let's not worry about that, for
the moment, but don't forget it completely.

A fourth factor.  Foreign theaters keep a larger percentage of the
profits than US theaters.  So, while the foreign gross is slightly
larger than the domestic gross (averaged over all films), the domestic
box office still returns more dollars to the studios.  Also, the
distribution costs mentioned above only covered US distribution.
You'll need to advertise it in other countries, too, and perhaps even
come up with ad campaigns customized to each country.  More costs.
Overall, let's just factor everything here together and say that
studios end up with 50% of the foreign gross.  Not too accurate,
perhaps, but we'll balance it against an inaccuracy in the opposite
direction from other sources.

A fifth factor.  There are distribution costs associated with the
other, non-box-office revenue streams.  It costs something to stamp out
a videocassette, and to ship it to the store, and to advertise it.
Some of the other revenue streams have lesser costs (like selling to
cable), some have significant ones.  For airline screenings, you
typically have to recut the film, for example.  Let's again assign a
50% return of gross here.  It's probably a bit higher, but we'll
balance that against our earlier overestimation of foreign returns.

Finally, as a general rule the domestic box office is the engine that
drives the other revenues.  There are many exceptions, but foreign
gross and video sales (and other revenue streams) are largely
predictable given domestic gross.

OK, let's review the bidding.  The studio spent the negative cost plus
maybe $50 million on prints and advertising.  Speaking roughly, they'll
get 50% of each of the three reveune streams.  Roughly, again, that
means that for a $200 million negative cost film, they need to have
around $250 million roll in various doors before they've really shown a
profit.  Thus, if the film makes $500 million domestic, it's shown a
profit before any other revenues are considered.

For a bare profit, that $200 million film then has to return $85
million or so in domestic box office.  (Since that would translate to
another $170 million in money from other sources.)  $85 million + $170
million = $255 million, slightly above the $250 million negative plus
advertising plus distribution cost we'd estimated.  But, remember,
we're only getting half the money, so for an $85 million domestic
return, we need a $170 million gross.  That's not quite its negative
cost, but it's in the ballpark.  If you assume they'd have to spend
more on advertising such a big film, or you're going to strike a whole
lot more prints, the revenue requirement goes up a bit.

This is already an obscenely long posting, so I won't go into the
exceptions in detail.  But action films will do better overseas, dramas
not so well, films with local tie-ins to major foreign markets (Japan,
UK, Germany, France) may do significantly better there, children's
films (especially animated ones) will kick butt on video, and comedies
based on dialog will bomb outside English-speaking countries.  There
are many other exceptions - Disney would be ill-advised to predict any
revenues on "Kundun" from China, for example. Sometimes, for completely
unpredictable reasons, a film does a whole lot better in some foreign
market than in the US or anywhere else.

Actually applying this all to "Titanic" gets complicated, unless you
are willing to accept all the rules of thumb and ignore all the
exceptions.  For example, "Titanic" was a co-production of two studios,
one of which had a cap on its share of production costs, and owns only
the US gross.  The other had no cap, and has all other rights.  So the
right thing to do, really, is to figure the two studios' profits

Also, Cameron is one of those heavy hitters I mentioned earlier.  He
undoubtedly started the exercise with large gross profit
participation.  However, due to his severe budget overruns, it's
possible (but not certain) that he traded back or lost some of his
gross points.

And what about merchandising?  Will every parent in America buy his kid
a Titanic toy that sinks in the bathtub while an internal waterproof
music box plays "Nearer My God To Thee," leading to a merchandising
bonanza?  Who knows?

Bottom line, if "Titanic" grosses less than $100 million in the US,
folks lose a lot of money.  If it grosses more than $200 million, folks
get a lot of money.  In between, it's variable, highly dependent on
whether "Titanic" proves to be one of the exceptions, and generally too
close for outsiders like us to call.

[Thanks to Peter Reiher ( for providing this.]

19) Why aren't there more G-rated movies released?

[This was originally a response to someone complaining about the bad
language added to THE IRON GIANT which made it PG.  If anyone wants to
write a more concise or general response on this, please do.]

As many people have pointed out, no matter how much parents say they
*want* G-rated films, they just don't take their children to them
(unless the film is from Disney).  The IMDB lists 32 theatrical films
BOY and THE STRAIGHT STORY.  The successful ones were TOY STORY 2 and
TARZAN--both Disney.

And I wouldn't trust the rating too much.  I think that THE IRON GIANT
is much better--from every standpoint--for a very young child to watch
than THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, in spite of the latter's "G" rating.
(Which, by the way, is something that made everyone ask, "What was the
MPAA thinking?!!")

It's in some ways a vicious circle.  If parents can't/don't trust the
ratings, they are forced to preview all the films.  Since it's too
expensive to do this in the theaters, they wait for the videos, then
preview it one night and show it the next.

I'm not sure what the "cut-off" age between G and PG is, but most
children below that age probably don't have a long enough attention
span or social skills for a theater, which is another reason parents
prefer videos.

*If* the MPAA were at least consistent, G-rated films *might* have a
better chance in the theaters, but as long as something like THE
HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME gets a G, they won't be trusted.  (And their
ratings at the other end of the scale are equally bizarre.)

For that matter, consider BABE: no bad language, but Babe's mother gets
carted off to the slaughterhouse at the beginning in a scene that could
easily be very scary for young children.  And then there's the mad

(BABE, by the way, is one of the few non-Disney G-rated films that has
been successful.)

With the new policy of requiring ads to carry explanations of why a
film got a "PG", "PG-13", or "R" rating, there may be some


PART TWO: Frequent Topics and other things we just thought you might
like to know.  First a few general notes... The readership of
rec.arts.movies is in the whole very knowledgeable about a wide
range of movies.  However, it is my informal assessment that
science fiction and fantasy movies are discussed and analyzed far
beyond their popularity in most of the rest of the world.  This is
neither good nor bad, and the reason for it seems fairly obvious
to me.  The readership of this group reflects the broader
readership of USENET.  This latter population is top heavy with
computer scientists and other forms of science scholars.  There is
a correlation (though not necessarily a causal relationship) between
being in one of these professions, and an interest in science
fiction and fantasy.  Okay, enough of that.  Now, here are some
things which come up often, and, while you are free to discuss
them, you should be forewarned that some long-time readers may get
fairly fed-up with you.

PART THREE: Frequently discussed topics:

1) PRODUCT PLACEMENTS IN MOVIES.  In many films, the film company
will get paid by some companies to use their products.  Some
readers object to this as a fairly manipulative and distracting
presence.  Others do not object, commenting that people really do
use name-brand products, so using them in films makes sense.
Many have commented on the pack of Marlboro cigarettes in DEAD AGAIN,
saying this was the best product placement they had ever seen.

Other information:  There are several lists revolving around film that
are kept by netters.  These frequently come up.

One major project is a list of votes/ratings of a plethora of movies.
This list is maintained by Colin Needham (, and votes can
be cast through the Internet Movie Data Base.

The reviews are archived as part of the IMDB.

Bob Niland (rjn@hpfcso.FC.HP.COM) has several articles on Laser Disc
technology and availability available from his archives.  You may request
any of these at any time.  Recent copies are also available for anonymous
ftp on: (, directory pub/Video/Niland) and (, (

Lastly, there are a series of movie trivia contests.  Some of these
even offer prizes!  The initial contest postings generally include
information on how to enter.  The important point is that you
should never post answers, but should send them e-mail.


(Contributions for addition to this FAQL gratefully appreciated.
Suggestions for things *I* should write to add to this FAQL are not so
gratefully appreciated.)

Copyright Notice

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 1) They will contact the FAQ maintainer to obtain the latest version for
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 2) They will provide the FAQ maintainer with information on what collection
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 3) They will agree, in writing, that the FAQ will be included in the
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 4) They will agree, in writing, that the collection including the FAQ will
    be distributed on either a non-profit basis, or have some percentage of
    profit donated to a non-profit literacy program.  Project Gutenberg

Information contained in the FAQ is compiled from many sources.  No
guarantees are made as to its accuracy.

To support this, this FAQ is Compilation Copyright 2000 by Evelyn C. Leeper
(the FAQ maintainer).

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