The Seventh Seal courtesy The Criterion Collection
The difference between movies and films, songs in movies and more

Send your movie questions to FlickChick.

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Question: I was wondering: What's the difference between a movie and a film? I know that if anybody can tell me, it will be you. Thank you for your response. - Jay

FlickChick: Strictly speaking there's no difference. Movie and film are literally synonymous. But nuance and implication are everything, and the word movie - the shortened form of "moving picture" - usually implies an entertainment: Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Charade (1963). Film - which, curiously, is the more literal word, coming as it does from the physical material of the medium - has come to suggest art: The Seventh Seal (1957), L'Avventura (1960), The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). "Picture" has always carried a hint of bizspeak to me, "motion picture" (almost always preceded by the word "major") smacks of a kind of middlebrow pretension, while "the cinema" is a favorite of the art-house crowd. Flick (short for "flickers") always strikes me as dismissive: A flick isn't just entertainment, it's throwaway entertainment.

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Question: Hi, love your column and look forward to it every Thursday. This may be a bizarre question, but when I was a young kid, my mom and dad took me to the drive-in. I don't remember the first movie, but the second was about these tough women that went around killing men. All I remember was these women showed up at a farm; the farmer had a big strong son who was mentally slow, and at one point they were digging up a tree stump - the son pushed while a mule pulled. Then one of the women sat on top of the son and I think was having sex with him. He starts to yell that she's making him feel funny and she shoots him in the head while her friends are holding the dad hostage and making him watch. Was there ever such a movie or did I somehow get something mixed up as a kid? If it was a movie, I'm glad it didn't scare me about sex. Anyway, you have answered several of my questions before and I hope you could answer this one. - JR

FlickChick: Your parents took you to see Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1966) when you were a child.... I'm not sure whether that's utterly cool or kind of horrifying. Granted, they probably went for the first movie and had no idea what the second was going to be, and maybe they thought you were asleep by the time it came on. In any event, it is indeed about three busty, ass-kicking strippers - Varla (the formidable Tura Satana), Rosie ( Haji) and Billie ( Lori Williams) - who drift around making trouble, which often includes killing men. And I'm glad it didn't scare you to death about sex, because I can certainly see how it might have!

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Question: I recently saw Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye on TV. I really enjoyed it and was struck by the very effective use of the single theme song throughout the movie. Are there other movies that use a single song so effectively to help establish atmosphere? - Sue

FlickChick: You're right, Altman's use of John Williams (yes, that John Williams) and Johnny Mercer's "The Long Goodbye" is both unusual and striking (my favorite version of the song is the muzak version Elliott Gould hears in the supermarket). Instrumental leitmotifs are more common in movies: Think of the themes from Star Wars (Williams), Rocky ( Bill Conti), the James Bond films ( John Barry) or The Pink Panther ( Henry Mancini).

But I can think of a few songs that are used repeatedly in films to establish and reinforce atmosphere:

Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter" in Mike Nichols' Closer (2004)

Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" in Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Erroll Garner's "Misty" in Clint Eastwood's Play Misty for Me (1971)

Dave Berry's "The Crying Game" in Neil Jordan's The Crying Game (1992)

Jack Lawrence's "Linda" in Dan Klores' documentary Crazy Love (2007)

Ary Barroso's "Aquarela do Brasil" in Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985)

Kay Starr's "Wheel of Fortune" in Peter Medak's Let Him Have It (1991)

Readers, other suggestions?

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Question: I thoroughly enjoyed Daniel Handler's novel The Basic Eight and remember hearing recently that the film rights had been picked up. Do you have any more information on this? What is the status of the film version? - Tom

FlickChick: Unfortunately, Handler's The Basic Eight, a satirical high school novel written before he transformed himself into Lemony Snickett, is in turnaround. That means that the producing company - in this case New Regency Productions - has decided not to go ahead with the project. In theory that means the rights holders can go out and find someone else to bankroll the property. But in practice it usually means the project is dead. I don't know why The Basic Eight fell apart. Perhaps you could console yourself with the deeply twisted Rick (2003), a very dark fable inspired by Rigoletto. Handler wrote the original screenplay just after The Basic Eight, in part because his agent thought having an original screenplay to show would make it easier to sell movie rights to Basic Eight. Rick is incredibly mean and clever.

Send your movie questions to FlickChick.