Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Getting to know an Unknown White Male

Confounded doctors admit that they’ve only seen it in movies and textbooks. But in this documentary a mystery, perhaps the ultimate mystery occurs.

A healthy and successful young man wakes up on a train to Coney Island to discover – nothing. He has no idea who he is and nothing to indicate his name or address. He has completely lost his “episodic memory,” all of the details of his own personal experience – relationships, education, work, his own subjective reactions to the world. He retains the basics of his “semantic memory,” enough to let him conclude that the place to go for help is a police station. But everything else is just…gone.

And so, he goes from discovering an almost endless nothing to discovering an infinite everything. Like a visitor from another planet, he is an adult man for whom everything he sees is brand new. His family and friends are reassuring but also confusing – is he still the man they say they cared about if he cannot remember any of the shared experiences they describe? The wonders the rest of us take a little bit for granted, from the ocean to chocolate mousse, come to him pure and undiluted.

After a few days of detective work, he learns his name: Doug Bruce. But after months of medical tests and trying to remember the people and places everyone tells him were once part of his life, he still does not know who Doug Bruce is. Or, he does know who Doug Bruce is. He just doesn’t know who he was.

A documentary, “Unknown White Male,” takes us on this journey with Doug, the man who lost his memory. Director Rupert Murray was a close friend of Doug’s before he lost his memory. “I wrote him a letter and said, ‘Hi, I used to be a friend of yours and I'd like to make a film.’“

His movie is not just the story of Doug’s journey to finding himself but a meditation on the nature of identity, memory, and connection.

Murray and I met in Washington D.C.’s Madison Hotel to talk about the film.

What were you trying to say with this film?

I hope that people will apply this story to their own lives. That's the really interesting thing about this; it’s an amazingly rare story, an amazingly rare medical condition visited upon a unique character. The film allows you to experience in your own life the revelations and experiences that Doug does. With a documentary you allow yourself -- the way I filmed it particularly -- I wanted you to experience what it might have been like to wake up in Coney Island and not know where you are, to taste ice cream at age 35 for the first time.

How is Doug now?

He’s finished school, starting to become a photographer, still with the girlfriend you see in the film.

Why did he decide to go back to studying photography when everything in his life was so uncertain and unsettled?

It was something for him to do at the time, something other than wandering around the streets of New York watching. Everything was so new to him that he found it fascinating to watch people behave, how men reacted around women, how people dressed. Photography was a new experience for him that he felt quite at home with. He wanted to know whether he could regain that skill. A lot of it was already wired into his procedural memory but he was a quick learner with a huge appetite for information and experience. His memories are still there, he just doesn't have access to them.

How did you use the techniques of film to create the sense of unsettledness as he tries to cope with his lost of memory and of freshness as he encounters everything for what feels like the first time?

By filming those particular items and putting them in the film. It sounds very simple, but that’s what it was. That was all me eating in that time lapse, by the way. I cut it together, a montage of me going to four restaurants around my office, as Doug described the feeling of eating different foods for the first time.

How do you plan for a movie when you have no idea how it is going to end?

Welcome to the world of documentaries!

Do you consider yourself friends? Is he a new friend or your old friend?

Both -- we're very close now. He’s there and he's not there. The more I get to know the new person the more the old person becomes very old, very far away. He is essentially the same, getting closer, converging with to the person he was going to be.

But he used to be sarcastic and more guarded. He seems so different now.

If you had a bad car accident you'd be frightened about riding in a car, you’d make the most of your day, you’d try to be nicer to people. Catastrophes have an effect on your life; if they didn’t you wouldn't be human. He is different because of the all-encompassing effect on his life. Having to deal with the situation that was that emotionally draining gave him great strength. It is a lesson to us all that he held it together and got it under control and worked through it.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Stephanie Zacherek's Overlooked Performances list

Salon's Stephanie Zacharek has a terrific piece about the performances that should have been nominated for Oscars. I was especially happy to see her mention Joan Plowright's wonderful performance in "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont." Since she makes a full disclosure, I will, too. The wonderfully sensitive script was written by my friend Ruth Caplin. Here's what Zacharek has to say about Plowright:

Let's end with one performance that relatively few people caught in theaters; this is one that will have to be savored on DVD. Judi Dench is a marvelous actress, and in the performance she gives in "Mrs. Henderson Presents" she is, at least, serviceably enjoyable. But in a more perfect world, the actress the voting members of the Academy would have noticed is Joan Plowright, in a small, sweet picture called "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont." (It was directed by Dan Ireland who -- full disclosure -- is a friend of mine.) Plowright plays an aging widow of modest means who moves into a humbly appointed London hotel, where she finds a small community of new friends who are around her own age. But she also happens to meet a much younger man, a somewhat aimless aspiring writer (played by the impossibly charming newcomer Rupert Friend, who also played Wickham in "Pride & Prejudice"), with whom she finds a kinship that renders their age difference inconsequential.

Plowright isn't particularly well known to American movie audiences except as an "older" actress; her long and varied career in the English theater is a life apart from the Plowright most of us know. But Plowright intuitively understands the difference between playing a character and playing an age. How many of us have heard older friends and relatives lament that even though they feel 20 inside, their bodies are giving out around them, betraying the people they really are, and really want to be? Plowright opens that world of feeling to us in this compact, resolutely unsentimental performance. We may not know much about what the young actress Plowright was like onstage, and yet somehow, she's right here before us, in Mrs. Palfrey, particularly in the look of mischievous willfulness that flashes across her face now and then. Even her tentative, careful steps betray traces of youthful vitality.

I suppose we should be grateful that the Academy is willing, at least in the nomination process, to pay some attention to actresses over 65. It's just too bad that this time it couldn't be Plowright. She's had a longer career than most American moviegoers are aware of. Maybe it takes that many years to know how to play, to any convincing degree, the feeling of being 20.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

How do we know great acting?

I have a great deal of respect for the Washington Post's fine critic Ann Hornaday (her "idolspize" piece was a real gem), but found myself disagreeing a bit with today's Imitation Flavored article about what distinguishes performing from impersonating.

She puts Reese Witherspoon in "Walk the Line" and Jamie Foxx in "Ray" into the second category. Okay, I liked both very much but that's just a difference of opinion and taste. Samw with her (widely shared) admiration for Amy Adams in "Junebug," which I thought added little to the exquisite work she did in "Catch Me if You Can." For me, "Junebug's" standouts were the always brilliant Celia Weston and the always-intriguing Alessandro Nivola. The scene where he sings a hymn a capella is the highlight of the movie for me.

I agree with her completely that what makes a performance great is when it is "about people and their lives, rathr than mere characters and a plot" and that we love to see performances where we can't catch them acting.

We disagree, though, on how to find that. Hornaday has a great quote from acting coach Larry Moss: "a performance that has enormous technique, filled to the brim with what I call emotional justification" (so far, so good). But then he explains where it comes from: "that's the private work the actor does to identify within himself the emotional cost of a character's desires." That's a good description of the "method" style of acting. But I don't think that's the only way to achieve a great performance and I am pretty sure that there's no way to tell from the outside whether an actor is plumbing his own emotional depths to create the character from the outside in or using some other technique. I saw a discussion on PBS some years ago between Helen Hayes, a traditional outside-in performer, and Maureen Stapleton, a method actor. Their gracious good manners and considerable acting chops did not quite disguise the way each was disturbed by the other's description of how she prepared for a role. But I've seen both perform, on stage and on screen, and whatever they did to get there is fine with me. If you can get past the obsequious self-regard of James Lipton's notecard questions, you can get a wonderful sense of the range of techniques and approaches of different actors on "Inside the Actors Studio." Sally Fields was especially thoughtful and candid on this point.

I don't think our readers care much about how actors find their characters. Such a focus is a distraction from the main work of art, like walking around behind the magician to see how the trick is performed, rather than focusing on the impact of the illusion. You can't say that both aren't equally valid (or you'll come across as bossy) but you can say that her approach is better suited for mechanical engineers who want to analyze how the trick was performed than for an audience of thrill seekers who want to be charmed and regaled.

Critics and paying audience members should look for performances that make use think -- make us know -- that the character has a life that goes beyond the scene and beyond the edges of the screen. We want to know that this character buys groceries and goes to the dentist and is wondering whether he remembered to lock the door, even as he's cross-examining a witness or shooting at the bad guys. The actors who show us a real person instead of star power and wisecracks are the ones we should treasure. With any luck, they will keep us so absorbed that we won't have time to wonder whether they got there from dredging up childhood traumas or picking up mannerisms from someone they saw in the street.

An article that influenced me a great deal described the "movie magic" of certain classic performances created by editing an actor's takes, as when Hitchcock reoriented the action around Montgomery Clift's eccentric head jerks to make it appear that he was turning his head to look at something happening off screen. The result was what appeared to be an unusually focused "performance." Whether that performance was Clift's or Hitchcock's should not matter to the audience or to the critic.

You be the editor

anyfilms.net gives you six scenes from a movie and lets you assemble them in any order you like. All the elements are there -- a pretty girl in a bar, a mysterious suitcase, lots of money, some underwear, and a gun. Try all the combinations and see if you can solve the mystery.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Sounds of Movie Critic Silence

A new study by marketing professors concludes that

most critics passed on films that generally fell within the neutral range. But 13 of the 46 critics in the study showed a greater tendency to be silent about movies that their colleagues disliked. On the other hand, three critics -- Hazel-Dawn Dumpert of LA Weekly; Elvis Mitchell, formerly of The New York Times, and Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today -- seemed more likely to pass on films that won a "thumbs-up" from other reviewers.
The authors say that next they will focus on which critics seem to have the greatest impact on box office. This study of "silence" is interesting in light of the astonishing number of "cold opens" this year, the number of movies that were not screened for critics in time for reviews before opening day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Five Best Movies for Shareholders

Sometimes my two jobs overlap. An interview with me in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine this month inludes my thoughts on The Five Best Movies for Shareholders.

Vote for the worst movie ever

Slate is conducting a contest to determine the worst movies ever in three categories: western, biopic, and musical. Be sure to listen to this podcast to enjoy the commentary and clips from the nine nominees and cast your vote by March 2 with an email to badmovieguy@gmail.com.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Lazy Muncie

One of my favorite things about the new technology is the way it enables people to respond to art -- entering into a dialogue or adding an enhancement, the way Marcel Duchamp responded to the Mona Lisa by giving her a moustache. This response to the SNL's "Lazy Sunday" is a delight that gave me more laughs in three minutes than "Date Movie" and "Pink Panther" did put together. If you don't think so, you can go to Fort Wayne!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Interview with a mermaid

I thought the new mermaid movie, "Aquamarine" was not just adorable but also wise, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to interview the mermaid herself, the delightful Sara Paxton:

What’s on your ipod?

It's really random! I really like the Rolling Stones, he Beatles, the Doors, but I also like rap -- 50 cent, The Game, people like Natalie Imbrulia...

In the movie, you play a mermaid who is befriended by two girls who are just getting out of middle school. What was it like working with younger girls who are not as experienced as you are?

They’re both very mature and they've both been working in the industry for a long time. Sometimes I would forget there was an age difference. I would ask JoJo [Joanna 'JoJo' Levesque] for advice. I felt like we were kind of on the same wavelength because even though I was older in the movie I was seeing the world through a child’s eyes, and they had to lead me and be the adult.

This was director Elizabeth Allen's first feature film. What was it like to work with her?

She is really amazing! She’s not only really talented and I liked her opinions about the movie but she is but so great to get along with. It was like working with one of the girls. She speaks my language. And I was so buzzed that I got to work with her and be in her first film. The producer and one of the screenwriters were also women so it was a very female environment and I think that really helped the movie.

I agree -- I think that is particularly evident in the way the movie ends.
Yes, it takes you down a different path, but it’s a unique ending that still leaves you happy. I hope people leave the theater feeling touched and inspired.

The book by Alice Hoffman has a very different tone. Did you read it?
Yes I did! One of the main differences between the book and the movie is that she never gets legs in the book. That works when you’re reading but doesn’t work on screen.

What was the biggest physical challenge in making the movie?
The tail! It took 2½ hours to get into it and then I couldn’t go to the bathroom or move and was stuck in it all day, even have my lunch break in it. Then when I did take it off, my whole body was wrinkly. Luckily there were more leg days than tail days.

What did you do to try to move like a mermaid?
Luckily, since it was my dream since I was a little girl to be a mermaid I’ve been practicing all my life. "Little Mermaid" and "Splash" were my favorite movies and I am so lucky I actually got to live out my dream. I had pretended and practiced so much when I was little that when I got started in the movie people paused and said, "How did she get it so fast?"

What's next for you?
It's a crazy year! I just got a part in the new Rebecca Romijn show "Pepper Dennis" and I was nominated for an Emmy for Darcy's Wild Life. And I'm graduating from high school and hope to start college in the fall at USC.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

More Mirrormask

Thanks to David Apatoff of the wonderful Illustration Art blog for the comments on "Mirrormask." I am proud to say that the Washington Area Film Critics Association for the first time added production design/art direction to our awards categories last month, in recognition of the importance of this element of film-making. Those who would like to see more about Mirrormask can check out here, here, and here.

Friday, February 17, 2006


"Mirrormask" is out on DVD this week and is well worth a look. The story is a murky version of the ususal lost-in-a-magic-land-and-have-to-find-the-way-home a la "Alice in Wonderland"/"Wizard of Oz"/"Phantom Tollbooth" but the visuals by the Henson company are truly stunning and fabulously imaginative. Here's a sample.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Jeff and Jer know how to treat a girl!

I had a blast visiting Jeff and Jer in San Diego. This is the car they sent to take me to the studio!

Media Mom on Mars

It was a great treat to interview the director, producer, and star of the new IMAX movie "Roving Mars" for the Chicago Tribune.

Mars in IMAX: Two rovers that just won't quit

By Nell Minow
Special to the Tribune
February 14, 2006

Imagine standing in Los Angeles and trying to throw a basketball into a hoop in New York City without touching the sides.

Now, imagine the hoop is moving.

That gives you some idea of what's involved in trying to send a spacecraft from Earth to Mars. Two-thirds of the time, it fails.Or so says the new IMAX movie playing at Navy Pier, "Roving Mars," that tells the story of the summer 2003 launches and January 2004 landings of Opportunity and Spirit, two exploratory vehicles called rovers. They are still sending pictures and data back to us, long after they were expected to run down.

In this film, photos from the rovers and animated footage meticulously based on what NASA has learned give us the most accurate vision of the Red Planet anyone has ever seen.

Producer Frank Marshall, director George Butler and Steven W. Squyres, the scientific "principal investigator" for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project, talked about the film in interviews before the world premiere last month at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C."

We wanted to break the mold of IMAX movies," said Marshall, best known for blockbusters such as the Indiana Jones movies and "The Color Purple.""People think they're very educational but dry, and even boring. We tried hard to resist the omnipresent narrator who tells you what you're feeling. Instead, we got [Cornell University astronomy professor] Steve Squyres, who has infectious enthusiasm, and we have the heart-in-the-throat moments like a regular movie, what I do in my day job."There were heart-in-the-throat moments behind the scenes too.

"Our original idea was three acts -- building the rovers; the journey to Mars; the rovers die," Marshall said.

Act 1 looked firm: The rovers got built. Then, as the movie shows, an experiment shortly before launch tested the parachute to be used for the Mars landing. It shredded into irreparable tatters. Would there even be an Act 2?

Of course, eventually the rovers launched and landed safely. But that brings us to Act 3, when Marshall went from worrying that his movie would have no middle to worrying that it would have no end.Things on Mars went right. Righter than anyone imagined. The rovers, expected to operate for just 90 days, kept going like interplanetary Energizer bunnies.Two years later, they are still sending back data, and Marshall had to change his movie's theme."

We made [it] exploration," he said. "Humankind has always been great explorers -- what's over that mountain, across that water, where is the new frontier?"Butler and Marshall want this movie to inspire today's children the way the photos from the 1975 Viking mission to Mars did Squyres when he was in college."

I got a key to the Mars room [in the university library], before the Internet when you can find anything online," he says. "This was a special room with these Viking pictures on rolls of photographic paper. I was sitting on the floor leafing through binders and exploring a new world. I didn't understand what I was looking at, but nobody understood this stuff."

Squyres adds: "I walked out of that room four hours later knowing what I wanted to do with my life."

All three men are often asked whether we can justify the expense of Mars exploration when so many concerns on Earth are not yet resolved.Marshall pointed to the knowledge gained in mastering the engineering challenges involved in launching, landing and operating the rovers, not to mention analyzing the geologic data from Mars."

What if we found something that helped us cure cancer?" he asks.

Butler said pressing problems at home should never deter us from learning more about what lies beyond.

"When Vasco da Gama was going around the Horn of Africa, the Black Plague was rife in London. Part of the human spirit is to explore, and some of the most wonderful stories ever told are about explorers," he said. "That's what keeps you on tiptoes and alive."

But for Squyres, what matters is that what we learn about Mars helps us to understand our own beginnings."

A mission like this has no Tang, no Teflon, no spinoffs. It doesn't fill in potholes, put a roof over anyone's head, put textbooks into schools -- but it does put information in the textbooks. And questions about how life comes into being are of deep significance to every living being," he said.

What fascinates him, for example, is the way Mars rocks are both like and unlike what we have seen on Earth and the moon, and how the rovers can analyze the rocks to reveal not just what Mars is like now, but what it was like and what has changed.

"Geology is a forensic science," Squyres said, "looking at the clues and trying to find out what happened a long time ago."The pictures sent back from the rovers are instantly available online. But as vivid as they are, they do not convey what it is like to be on Mars the way the film does, according to Squyres.

"Every day I've been looking at pictures on a computer screen, but they don't come close to capturing the grandeur, the sheer visual impact," he said. "IMAX has a power to deliver that in a way that no one else has."

Butler, Marshall and Squyres want children to be inspired by seeing what Mars looks like and wondering what else there might be to find. The movie points out that the first person who will walk on Mars is not an astronaut now; it is someone who is still in school."My fondest hope," Squyres said, "is some 8th grader is sitting there watching the movie -- and then actually goes there."

For more information see Mars Rovers and NASA

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Beliefnet's Film Awards

I wrote the essays on George Lucas and Maryl Streep and the "con" essay on Junebug for Beliefnet's first ever movie awards. Start here to see the nominees for best spiritual film, best spiritual documentary, and lifetime achivement and cast your vote.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Mark and Kim get a star!

One of the highlights of my week is talking with KOST's Mark and Kim about movies on Friday mornings. I am so thrilled that they have been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Frank Marshall on his new film, "Eight Below"

Super-producer Frank Marshall (the Indiana Jones series, the "Back to the Future" trilogy, E.T. ) occasionally steps behind the camera to direct. His films as director include one of my favorite guilty pleasures, Arachnophobia as well as Alive, the story of the Uruguayan rugby team stranded in the Andes after a plane crash.

I had the great pleasure of talking with Marshall about his newest film, “Eight Below.” Inspired by the true story of dogs who were left in Antarctica and found a way to stay alive, the movie tells the story of eight sled dogs who are left behind and the man who loves them. In parallel stories, both humans and canines learn something about teamwork and what it takes to survive.

(Warning: some spoilers below)

NM: How do you deal with the challenges of filming in such cold and remote locations?

FM: The wind was the worst. The cold was okay but we had to hunker down with the wind. It really became spiritual, because it was so remote and beautiful, and we were all in it together because there were no trailers for people to go to and because being the captain I didn’t want anyone to do anything I didn’t do.

At night, in the town, we did have a hot shower and a bed but it was really like battle conditions, making sure we had the right clothes, boots, sunscreen, a buddy system to watch each other. If your buddy's nose started to get red that meant it was frostbite. We had to be very careful with feet and hands. When you’re skiing you’re pumping a lot of blood into them but when you’re filming they get cold and numb very fast.

NM: What drew you to this story?
FM: I'm a dog lover and this is an uplifting heartwarming story about the dogs. I was also drawn to the challenge to make it – this was a story I could tell. It's about survival, the power of hope, and spirit, with loyalty, trust, determination, teamwork – on the dog side and the human side. I didn’t want it to be cute; I wanted to respect the dogs in the telling of their story.

NM: How did you handle all that white?
FM: I went to a lot of great pains to create not only the harshness but the beauty of the environment. We had a saying I came up with after Alive, that “white is white.” So we were able to combine locations to get what we needed. For almost three months we were 800 miles north of Vancouver called in a town called Smithers, but we were able to use footage from Greenland and Norway (the ice breaking scene) and we bought several shots from documentary films from Antarctica.

NM: Were the dogs trained as sled dogs and then taught to “act” or the other way around?
FM: There were four dogs for each character, two sled dogs, and two stunt and acting. That meant we were dealing with 32 dogs every day. And they came from everywhere, even Tennessee and Florida.

NM: What do you know as a producer that helps you as a director and what do you learn as a director that helps you as a producer?
FM: You’re supposed to know as a director not to do stories with animals, so I didn’t learn that lesson! The producer side was the challenge of learning how to do this, the organization and logistics and the ability to put together all the elements to make it look like it was one place. I worked very closely every night on the phone with the second unit director to make sure that we had a consistent sense of place even though in some scenes when you’re looking one way it’s Canada and another way Greenland. Those were tricks I learned as a producer.

Another one was that we couldn’t wait for the weather. We designed a system where every day we would prepare three scenes –- one for sunny, one for white out, one for blizzard – so whatever weather we encountered we could still get a day’s work. And there was everything I learned on Alive -– how do you keep the coffee warm on the set, rake out footprints, how we come into the set and where people can go.

NM: How do you handle issues like abandonment and the death of the dogs and the challenges of the Antarctic environment in a PG context?
FM Those are important life lessons, but you have to be very careful about how you tell the story. In the original script three dogs were lost. I felt the audience couldn’t take that. Today’s kids have seen a lot of movies and they know about loss, but you have to balance it with success and uplifting moments. For Jerry (played by Paul Walker), it’s a growing up journey as well. He has to face the real world. He decides that the way for him to combat his demons is to go back one way or the other and honor them for saving his life. Kids understand the alpha dog stuff and the themes of friendship and teamwork for both the dogs and the humans.

NM: How did you adapt the “inspired by” story and how much did you take from the original Japanese film?
FM: Just the event – the fact that the dogs were left for over a year and some of them survived. We tried to introduce the real animals that the dogs in the real story interacted with in finding food and in protecting themselves. The sea leopard is the top of the food chain in the South Pole the way polar bears are in the North Pole. They are very vicious and very violent carnivores.

The characters were all created to help tell the story. Jason Biggs, what a joy to work with, sitting in the snow reading a book every day. We wanted some comic relief and people who work in Antarctica are pretty eccentric and quirky, so he was that character. He’s funny without telling jokes. Then there's Bruce Greenwood (who plays the scientist), the total opposite of the Paul Walker character (who plays a guide), so that both discover something, learn something from each other. Greenwood has such dignity and carries himself so well. He is smart – you believe that he’s a scientist.

NM: What do you want people to take away from the movie?
FM: It really is dedicated to the explorers and dogs who lived down there, in that incredibly demanding place. When I first read the story I thought it was incredibly compelling, inspirational, in its way spiritual because hope is a very powerful thing. You can underestimate anyone's will to survive. I would go up the mountain every day alone in this remote place. Even though making a movie is different from the experience that the characters and the real-life people who live there experience, it still gives you a special kind of spiritual awareness of yourself, and that is one of the things that drew me to that story.

I am not posting a link for this one and you can guess why

The people at New Line have decided that a good way to promote their new movie, "Running Scared," is to have an online game in which you (the player) get points not just the good old-fashioned way, but shooting people, but also by successfully pleasing "your" wife with oral sex. Helpful arrows point the way. Yes, you have to tell them you're 17 to play, meaning that anyone who knows the birthdate of someone over 17 can punch in the info and be following those arrows in moments.

Thanks to Ain't It Cool's Harry Knowles for spotting this atrocity.

Best Kiss (according to IMDB poll)

In honor of Valentine's Day, Amazon and the Internet Movie Database have put together a (highly unscientific) poll on the best movie kisses and the most romantic performers.

Their findings:

Acrobatic and/or messy kisses are "in" this Valentine's Day! Spider-Man and its upside-down kiss topped the polls for "Best On-Screen Kiss" with 15 percent of the vote. The Lady and the Tramp came in second place with 11.9 percent of the vote for its spaghetti kiss.

A little eccentric? No problem! The man most women would want to send a "Please Be Mine" Valentine to is none other than Johnny Depp, with 15.3 percent of the vote. Depp consistently captures hearts (and votes) whether dressed as a pirate or an eccentric candy-maker.

Red is the color of passion, and 2006 is the year for Scarlett. Red-hot actress Scarlett Johansson topped voters’ list of female stars they most want to send a "Please Be Mine" Valentine to, with 15.2 percent of the vote.

Team Aniston or Team Jolie? Angelina Jolie narrowly upstaged Jennifer Aniston as a leading lady fans would like to send a "Please Be Mine" Valentine to, capturing 6.2 percent of the vote versus Aniston's 2.5 percent.

Stomping on Oprah's couch and Brooke Shields' feelings will not result in a full mailbox on Valentine's Day. Tom Cruise captured only 1.2 percent of the votes for the Hollywood hunk fans would most like to send a "Please Be Mine" Valentine to, making him the lowest ranked male on the list.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Movies and the seduction of the cigarette

Movies and cigarettes came of age together and black and white films and whips of seductive smoke were made for each other. In I smoke, therefore I am Lynn Barber rhapsodizes about the appeal that smoking and movies gave each other in the good bad old days.