Capote - Truman Capote spent five
years researching In Cold
Blood - the book that would be his last - and sophomore director Bennett
Miller's film is a telling and rather literate fly-on-the-wall dramatization of that time. The biggest appeal is Philip Seymour Hoffman's bravura Oscar-winning performance as the eccentric
author, which he takes beyond mere affectation and into full-on obsession as Capote's research into the 1959 murders of
a Kansas family consumes him in every way. It is nice to see professional seether Catherine Keener in another nice-gal role, here as Capote friend and
soon-to-be To Kill A Mockingbird scribe (Nell) Harper Lee. Miller and writer Dan Futterman (adapting Gerald
Clarke's book) do not quite commit to a direction for the story, and humanizing killer Perry Smith (a dependable Clifton Collins Jr.) is time unwisely spent, though Hoffman, who also
produced, sees that we remember the film for other reasons.
Wendy - Thomas Vinterberg, working from a script by Dogme 95 crony/mentor Lars von Trier,
ponders America's obsession with guns and violence in this story about a young man (Jamie Bell) in a nameless Midwestern town who starts a gang of fellow
gun-lovers. Bell's narration is pervasive and grating, making the didactic duo's Statement seem forced and fake and too
much like a lecture (as if Dogme 95 wasn't enough of a soapbox diatribe).
Debbie Does Dallas:
Uncovered - While this British TV documentary may not be as sharp (or factually sound) as Inside Deep Throat, it is effective
enough in illuminating the so-called curse of the 1978 porn touchstone and the distinctly non-glamorous lifestyles of
the stiff and famous. The film runs only 47 minutes, which is why the companion, warts-and-all Diary Of A Porn Virgin, which
shadows three British wannabe adult film stars, is so complimentary.
and Good Luck.- George Clooney's latest shot at directing
works brilliantly in the way that it conveys the paranoid timbre of the times a half century ago when junior Wisconsin
senator Joseph McCarthy's Communist witch hunt destroyed
countless lives in the name of preserving American liberties. Shot more like a play than a sweeping docudrama (and in
crisp black-and-white), it features a fiercely stoic Oscar-nominated performance by character actor David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow, the trusted CBS newsman who took on the
blind-firing Red-baiter at immense personal risk. The parallels to our compromised, post-9/11 world are intended and
apparent, not due to any heavy-handedness on Clooney's part, but through a boldness similar to Murrow's in stating that
our reticence in the face of oppression marks our complicity in it. HBO's 1986 film Murrow, starring Daniel J. Travanti, is worth the trouble of tracking down through your local
public library consortium.
A History of Violence - It is difficult to hate professional weirdo David Cronenberg's pensive thriller, with its awkward angles, inappropriate
close-ups, occasionally wooden dialogue, a score (by Aviator composer Howard Shore) that is sometimes intrusive and a second half that crawls like
a brain-damaged turtle on Quaaludes. Viggo Mortensen's Jekyll-and-Hyde
performance, Ed Harris's bulldozer baddie and William Hurt's Oscar-nominated turn as a midlevel mobster who can't get no
respect are all high points that help negate at least some of the film's handicaps. Cronenberg is not being terribly
bold by stating then showing that violence has consequences, but it is an effective enough attempt, nonetheless.
The Prize Winner of
Defiance, Ohio - It was unfortunate that DreamWorks did not put much marketing support behind this dramatic
comedy when it was released in the fall, because it is a sweet little movie. Julianne Moore plays Evelyn Ryan, a suburban mother of 10 who enters jingle
and slogan contests to help support her family of baby boomers. Emmy-winning director Jane Anderson adapts the material sensitively and sensibly, with Moore as
her beaming anchor and Woody Harrelson in a memorable supporting role as
her alcoholic husband. (Cinematical spoke with
Anderson about the film in the fall.)
Three Of Hearts: A Postmodern Family - As if the furor over Heather having two mommies isn't enough
to confuse kids, now they have to deal with the complicated matrix of a triad - in this case, one mother and two
fathers. The interaction of personalities in Susan Kaplan's documentary
is interesting enough, even if her subjects are living in a self-designed bizarro world where a ménage such as
this isn't better left as a fantasy (or an episode of Big Love).
Through The Fire - Jonathan Hock, who wrote and cut the large-format favorite Michael Jordan To The Max, trains
a keen eye on Coney Island ball court wizard Sebastian Telfair
in this ESPN-produced documentary. As engaging as Hoop Dreams (and produced on the same kind of basketball shoestring budget), Hock isn't afraid to
take on the moral grey area around the principles of recruiters and corporate hucksters, and gives sports fans a lot of
fierce court action to enjoy, too. Also out today is NBA Entertainment's surprisingly thoughtful doc about Chinese
behemo-baller Yao Ming, The Year Of The Yao.