Sunday, January 15, 2017

MOONLIGHT (2016)



Rated: R

STARS: Trevante Rhodes, Naomi Harris, Mahershala Ali, Andre Holland
DIRECTOR: Barry Jenkins
GENRE: Drama

Chiron is a skinny kid. A real quiet kid. He gets bullied at school. His mom is a crack whore, so no father figure. On top of that, Chiron has questions about his sexual identity. One day a man in his Miami neighborhood finds Chiron hiding out from some kids who are taunting him. The man is a good man. He has fatherly instincts. He becomes something of a surrogate dad to the boy. Oh yeah, the man is a dope dealer. Nobody's perfect, and ya gotta do what ya gotta do to get along in this world, eh? But it's the same shit he dispenses on the corner without a prescription that feed's Chiron's mother's habit. Life can be so ironic. And there you have Moonlight.

It's a coming of age story. It's a coming out story. Two for the price of one. Though it moves along sort of aimlessly. Like Chiron. Like his mom. Like the man who has taken Chiron under his wing. But there are 
plenty of hard hitting dramatic moments to keep you focused on what eventually develops into a poignant tale about a lost soul making his way through this world. And a love story of sorts. But the full brunt of that won't grab you until the heart-wrenching ending.  

Moonlight is told in three parts--following  the protagonist, Chiron, from young boy, to teenager, to young man. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes do the honors respectively. As one might expect, it is Rhodes' portrayal of the physically beefed up, yet emotionally vulnerable man Chiron has become that provides the most depth of character in what is a highly character driven film. Rhodes should receive an Oscar nod for supporting actor...if there's any justice in this world that is...but then the film reminds us that, of course, there isn't.  Naomi Harris also shines as Chiron's ever-desperate-for-her-next-fix mother.   


The creative camera work--there are more intimate close-ups than you'll find in a spaghetti western--will tell you you're in for something different with Moonlight from the get-go. You know that spinning 360 merry-go-round shot that is normally reserved for two lovers getting all goo goo eyed with one another? Director Barry Jenkins gives us that with two crack dealers just hanging out on the corner--for what reason I'm not sure, but I liked it. And the soundtrack. From languid hip-hop beat...to lush orchestral arrangement...to golden oldie love ballad. It surprises and delights at every turn.  


Grade:  B + 

JILL'S TAKE

After every movie Tim and I see, I ask him when I can start nagging him about sending me his review. It usually takes him a couple of days to put his thoughts in order. Most of the time, my opinions are instantaneous. "It's great!" "It sucks!" "I liked this part but I hated the ending." In the case of Moonlight, I'm actually glad Tim took his time. It gave me a chance to change my mind. (Sort of like when you first meet someone you think is terrific but, in retrospect, turns you off.)

Moonlight is definitely a "politically correct" film and will, in my opinion, receive kudos (and probably Oscar votes) from both the African American and LGBT communities. But for me, it was too fragmented. And when you have a main character who is painfully mute—justifiably so—it's difficult to wait...and wait...and wait for him to speak. I also found the transition from young black boy, to gawky teenager, to muscle-bound adult hard to follow. And to make it even more confusing, the main character used different names during these transitions.

Be that as it may, there were parts of this movie that had me totally involved. Emotional moments with his junkie mom begging him to love her; scary moments when the school bully taunted and tormented Chiron; touching moments when, as a vulnerable teenager, he questioned his sexuality. But overall, it had too many plotlines and too little focus.


Grade: C

Saturday, January 7, 2017

LION (2016)



Rated: PG-13

STARS: Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Abhi Shek Bharate
DIRECTOR: Garth Davis
GENRE: Drama

The longing for "home"--wherever and whatever that might be--is universal, as we learned in E.T. the Extraterrestrial. Adapted from the memoir The Longing For Home by Saroo Brierley, Lion chronicles the amazing story of a young boy separated from his family at the age of five, who follows a harrowing, circuitous route to find the place of his origin once again.

The young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) lives with his mother and older brother, Guddu (Abhi Shek Bharate), who eke out a hardscrabble existence in rural India. One day, while hopping trains with Guddu, Saroo becomes separated from his brother and mistakenly ends up on a train that carries him a thousand miles in the wrong direction. He disembarks in Calcutta, where he joins other children who sleep on the streets. He ends up in an orphanage, and is later adopted by a white Australian couple. Now he's a very long way from home. But his new mom, Sue (Nicole Kidman), and her husband love him dearly, and he grows to care for his adoptive parents as well.


Lion is a film in two distinctive parts. The first section is the tense and action filled story of the young Saroo. The second is a more cerebral tale of Saroo as a young man (Dev Patel) who is haunted by the memory of his family of origin--sensing that they have been searching for him all these years.


Saroo begins a laborious internet search, exacerbated by the fact he doesn't remember the proper spelling of his village, or have any idea where it is located. At first, he doesn't want to reveal to his adoptive parents what he's up to, not wishing to hurt them. But it eventually comes out. It has to.


Dev Patel, who has matured greatly as a serious actor, gives a first-rate performance. And Oscar winner Nicole Kidman--in my opinion there is no finer actress on the silver screen today--delivers a multi-layered, emotionally searing turn (in limited screen time) as a mother who only wants her son to be happy. The lovely Rooney Mara--also with a host of nominations and awards to her credit--has a similarly small part as Saroo's Australian girlfriend, Lucy, who rides that emotional roller coaster along with Sue when she learns of Saroo's intentions to make the trans-continental journey to connect with his roots. I always admire big stars who sign on for relatively small roles in certain films because it tells me their egos are firmly under control!


With gorgeous cinematography from Grieg Fraser, Lion is part adventure tale and travelogue (capturing the teeming beauty of India), and part love story in the many manifestations of the word that exist. A film that is surprising in its depth. And the ending will knock you out.


Suffice it to say that if you don't carry a box of tissues into the theater with you, you'll be sorry.


Grade:   A


JILL'S TAKE

Make that two boxes of tissues! (I was bawling at the end, unable to be objective about anything.) Despite its misleading title, Lion is a cinematic gem. There's nary a lion on-screen unless you count the courageous five-year-old Saroo, who survives in a city where he doesn't even speak the language. The child actor who plays him (Sunny Pawar) is unabashedly beautiful. Hell, I'd adopt him and I don't even like kids!

It's always difficult when a film has two definite storylines but, in this case, director Garth Davis did a masterful job holding my interest in both. He has very few movie credits, as he is better known as an internationally successful commercials director. But after Lion, I'll bet a lot of rupees his directorial skills will be in serious demand. The screenplay was created by the original author Saroo Brierly and Luke Davies. After seeing the film, I'd like to read the book. I'm sure his love story was explored in  more detail. For me, in the film version, it felt tacked on. I resented Lucy's neediness (i.e. love for Saroo), as I was way too caught up in his homeward journey to care about it. I also got impatient with his Google-searching. Yes, it was necessary. But how visually interesting is seeing fingers typing on a keyboard?

Still, this film is absolutely worth seeing. Aside from the emotional impact Lion has on its audiences, the scenery (from aerial shots of a desolate countryside, to the stampeding masses of human bodies in Calcutta) will take you out of your own story and into his.


Grade:  A



Friday, December 30, 2016

LA LA LAND (2016)



Rated: PG-13

STARS: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend
DIRECTOR:Damien Chazelle
GENRE: Musical/Romantic Drama

Not since Fred and Ginger have I seen a couple trip the light fantastic as if they are dancing on air--in fact Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone literally do rise into the air and dance among the stars in one of their numbers in the feelgood movie of the year, La La Land.


Who knew what they were capable of?

The tone is set in the opening scene. A line of cars stuck in a traffic jam on an L.A. freeway. Then, one by one, the peeps get out and begin frolicking about--on top of their cars, everywhere--in an energetic and acrobatic number requiring part accomplished dancer and part stunt person to pull it off--to the tune of Justin Hurwitz's  bright and bouncy "Another Day Of Sun." 

Take the infectious energy and the sheer kinetic joy of the final scene in Slumdog Millionaire and ladle it liberally throughout an entire film and you have La La Land; set in present day Los Angeles and Las Vegas, yet unabashedly paying homage to the big screen musicals of the past. 

In many of those musicals that we recall, the plot could seem like little more than a vehicle to get you from one song and dance number to the next, but here we have a developed romantic set up that would stand on its own minus all the great music--with echoes of Streisand and Redford in The Way We Were.

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is an accomplished jazz pianist (and he is really playing--no body double) who dreams of one day opening his own club. Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress who drags herself from audition to audition, frustrated by her lack of landing a significant part. From their initial "meeting" (she flips him off from her car window after enduring his incessant honking) they appear to be an unlikely couple, but the traditional rom-com formula--opposites attract--is in play here, as they keep running into each other, and eventually discover they are each pursuing a dream, and maybe they'd be better off chasing rainbows together than separately.  

And while La La Land soars into the stratosphere musically, kudos go to writer-director Damien Chazelle for keeping the plot grounded in down-to-earth reality. Couples meet...they fall for each other...all looks rosy at the start...time passes...they have their differences... the relationship is tested. Sometimes it all hinges on careless words uttered during an argument. 

After the screening, I ducked into the restroom and encountered a guy who was standing at the urinal, whistling and humming the haunting refrain from the main theme in the film, which goes: da da DA da da de da...da da DA da da da de...and doing it in a very accomplished manner! (Don't know if anyone has ever been discovered and put on America's Got Talent under such circumstances.) Obviously, he was taken with the movie. As was I. 

La La Land is likely up for a slew of Oscar nominations. It's a milestone of a film, coming along at the time it did, in the respect that we may not see anything quite as breezy or gleefully life-affirming in tone from Hollywood any time again soon (considering where the world could possibly be headed), for like, the next four years. 

Grade:  A

JILL'S TAKE

I give Tim's review a lot higher grade than La La Land. But readers of our jointly-written opinions tell me they much prefer when we don't see eye to eye. (Or, in this case, toe to toe-tapping!) My lack of enthusiasm may be due to a serious lack of sleep the night before I saw it.  Still, I felt La La Land was trying too hard to be original. (A poor man's version of the 2012 Oscar winning The Artist – which I thought was brilliant.)  Like The ArtistLa La Land takes us back in time to the glory days of Busby Berkeley. Huge production numbers, each one more lush and dazzling than the one that came before it. 

For me, the real star of La La Land is Mandy Moore. (No, not the actress in NBC's new hit series This Is Us. I'm talking about the choreographer who has honed her skills creating the production numbers on Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.) To quote Miss Moore, she admits that choreographing the numbers inLa La Land has been "the Super Bowl of my career." And she definitely deserves Super Bowl applause!

The fact that movie actors are now required to sing in roles that require it (i.e. Les MizRay, Walk The Line, etc. ) is proof that today's crop of superstars deserve their mega salaries. Gone are the days of lip-synching and cringing while watching Clint Eastwood as Pardner in Paint Your Wagon.... (Amen!)

For all the hoopla surrounding this film's seven Golden Globe nominations, I still say it doesn't hold a candle to The Artist. I also felt some of the musical numbers were way too long. It will be interesting to see if La La Landwins the same amount of awards at Oscar time. (If it does, I've promised Tim I'll kill him!)



Grade: C





Wednesday, December 14, 2016

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016)



Rated : R

STARS: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Lonergan
GENRE: Drama


The reasons why people behave as they do aren't going to be obvious to most of us unless we know their back story. But initially all we know about Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) in Manchester By The Sea is that he's a blue collar guy--employed as a janitor and handyman in the Boston area--who has two speeds: sullen and uncommunicative, or volatile and on the verge of exploding at the slightest provocation.  He gets into disputes with the tenants in the building where he works. He gets into bar fights. He's not the sympathetic character most are going to identify with. 

But then, through a series of flashbacks, we begin to learn what makes Lee, the time bomb, tick. It's rooted in personal tragedy and loss. His heart is broken. And so we begin to comprehend, and we soften to him. The story question is: will the man himself ever soften? Will we see the traditional arc of personal growth and conquering one's demons in the end?

Being haunted by the past is one thing, but then Lee's brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), passes away, and in his will he has assigned custody of his teenage son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), to Lee, who is ill-prepared for and resistant to the idea of taking on that level of responsibility.  But as it turns out, there is no one else remotely suitable.

The relationship that develops between Lee and his nephew--who is something of a ladies man at age sixteen--and just as hard-headed in his own way as his uncle, is stormy at times, darkly humorous at others. Patrick wants his uncle to move to Manchester, where he has his school hockey team and his girlfriends. Lee is stubbornly resistant and wants to move Patrick to Quincy with him, not wishing to return to the scene of painful memories.

The acting in Manchester By The Sea is superb, and Affleck is likely in line for an Oscar nomination. And I've been an ongoing fan of Michelle Williams, who plays Lee's ex-wife as a"tough broad" in the flashbacks to her life together with him, and then as the broken woman she has become in an aching scene where the two of them meet again after all that sea water has passed under the bridge. Some hurts you live with forever. 

It's not a film for everyone. It's two and a half hours long and slow paced. And the ending will take you unawares and likely expecting more--and make you gasp, perhaps, as the audience did audibly in the showing I attended.  But Manchester By The Sea is a film of subtlety. Subtle movement. Subtle changes, not marked ones. Much more like real life than the way life is normally portrayed in the movies. For some, that might be hard to live with. 

Grade: B


JILL'S TAKE

For those who know me, subtle I'm not! And Manchester By The Sea is, by anyone's standards, beyond subtle. The subject matter is not easy to make simple. Grief never is. And without giving away too much, the event that turns our once-loving character into an emotional stone would be difficult for anyone to get over. Casey Affleck—in my view a far better actor than his brother—turns in another stellar performance. For me, he has the same vulnerable qualities as a James Dean or Montgomery Clift. (Oophs, I'm dating myself.)

Being originally from New England and quite familiar with Boston and its environs, I give high marks to director-writer Kenneth Lonergan for his visuals of that area. The bay's bleakness, the unending snowfall, the row houses, cluttered interiors. They add to the film's claustrophobic darkness.

Okay. I've praised this Oscar-contender enough. Now let me tell you what I really think. The musical score was overdone and intrusive. The suddenness of the ending left me feeling both confused and resentful. The length of the film tested my patience.  Worst of all, the character arc—if there even was one—was way...too...subtle.



Grade: C-




Sunday, December 4, 2016

Nocturnal Animals (2016)



Rated: R

STARS: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon
DIRECTOR: Tom Ford
GENRE: Drama/Thriller


This film is not directed by Brian De Palma, though if you're a fan (as I am), you may have to keep reminding yourself that Nocturnal Animals is Tom Ford's movie. Ford (A Single Man) admits to an Alfred Hitchcock influence in his work, and De Palma--as I like to refer to him--is the poor man's Hitchcock. He transported the essence of the master into the modern day, with all the realism (erotica, graphic violence, etc) that Hitchcock's repressive era wouldn't allow. Completing the noir effect in Nocturnal Animals is Abel Korzeniowski's mesmerizing score;  it had me flashing back to Pino Donaggio's equally captivating soundtrack in De Palma's Body Double.

All that aside, Ford has given us what surely is the most memorable film of the year!  It grabs you from the opening scene, which cannot be adequately described (nor would I want to ruin it for you)--you've got to see it to believe it!

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is a Los Angeles art gallery owner who selects themes for their shock value, but she's bored nonetheless. She has a pretty good life--married to a pretty boy businessman who replaced her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), of twenty years ago. Edward was the sensitive type. A writer. A romantic. She figured he was going nowhere. 

When current hubby exits early on for a business trip, Susan is left to her own devices. She receives a novel manuscript in the mail. It's from Edward--after all this time. The book is dedicated to her, and as she begins to read, it's clear that the main characters closely resemble herself, Edward, and Susan's teenage daughter. The novel unfolds upon the screen, and suddenly we are following the fictional narrative right along with Susan, drawn into an intriguing world of danger, violence, remorse and revenge.  We alternate between parallel universes--the fictional one and Susan's present day reality-- interspersed with flashbacks to dramatic moments of her previous life with Edward.  

Something happens that causes Susan to question her current relationship, and as she reads on she's becoming emotionally drawn back to Edward through the fictional world he has created. Then he shows up in town. 

They agree to meet for dinner.

I become more and more impressed with Amy Adams' talent with every film of hers I see. She has that rare ability to convey a ton of emotion with nothing more than the slightest twitch up of her upper lip. (Elvis had that same ability, but he was conveying only raw sexuality!) Amy Adams is one fine actor. In fact, there are great performances galore here (perhaps my collaborator will expand on that). 

The themes of loss, betrayal, and revenge are explored in multi-layered and multi-level fashion--and you'll be ruminating on them...connecting the dots...before you hit the theater exit. The only thing that seems slightly out of balance is the amount of time devoted to the the fictional tale in relation to the present day reality. I thought the "real" story could have been more developed. Then again, if all reality stems from imagination (which it does) then who's to say what is real (as The Moody Blues so poignantly posited), and what IS an illusion?  Have you ever been so engrossed in a book--so in love with the characters--that you grew saddened at the prospect of it ending as you turned those final pages? Imagination has grabbed hold of your reality (as indeed it has for Susan) and become part of it. 

And here's my epiphany from this movie: While it appears on the surface that Nocturnal Animals is Susan's story--indeed we are led down that path by the sheer weight of her onscreen time--it's actually Edward's story. But I didn't grasp that until the very end. 

Now go, and tell me what YOU get out of it!


Grade:  B +       


JILL'S TAKE

I always read what Tim writes before I add my "take." And this time, when I came to the line "She receives a novel manuscript," I laughed out loud. Yes, the manuscript is a novel which is what I believe Tim meant. But it is also novel as in "different from anything seen or known before." That definition could easily apply to Nocturnal Animals in general. It's a disturbing as well as memorable film from start to finish. And trust me, the beginning sequence – one I wish I could forget! – sets you up for a whole lot of discomfort throughout.

Nowadays, when I walk out of a movie theater, I usually ask the same two questions, i.e. "What did you like?" and "What didn't you like?" This time, however, my queries were more script-centered, i.e. "What do you think the meaning of X was?" and "What was the film's ultimate message?" Nocturnal Animals is definitely a thinking man's movie.

As Tim's "collaborator," I shall follow his lead and give Amy Adams' costar Jake Gyllenhaal his due. Anyone with such a complicated last name that can become a bankable movie star deserves special praise. But even if his moniker was Jake Smith, his acting would shine through. He's been in so many movies I've enjoyed (NightcrawlerSouthpaw and, of course, Brokeback Mountain) and those eyes of his? Chick magnets for sure.... I'd also like to mention another extremely talented actor in this film. Michael Shannon. He plays the fictional cop in Edward's 'novel' novel. The minute I saw him on screen, I recognized him from HBO's "Boardwalk Empire." Talk about intensity? This guy has it in spades.

I could go on and on (and probably ruin the movie for you) but before I sign off, my one miniscule criticism would be that sometimes the director/writer Tom Ford lingered a bit too long on closeups. Who wouldn't with two such beautiful actors' faces?

As Tim was reminded of Brian DePalma, who got his MA from my alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College (the first male student to do so, I might add.), I was reminded of Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress. When you see the movie, you'll understand why.

Grade: B ++




Saturday, November 26, 2016

ALLIED (2016)



Rated: R

STARS: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
GENRE: Drama/Action-Adventure/Romance

Allied has a little something for everybody. Action...adventure...intrigue...espionage...suspense... romance...and the eye candy of Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. (So I guess they can be forgiven for not coming up with a more imaginative title!)

Pitt is Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan. Cotillard is French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (don't make me spell that name again). Eye candy meets eye candy behind enemy lines in 1942 Morocco, where they devour each other upon first glance. It's not love at first sight, but it is marriage at first sight, as their cover story is that they are husband and wife. They hit the ground running with their act for the benefit of friends and Nazis. Their mission is to assassinate a high ranking German official and high-tail it outta Dodge (or Casablanca in this case).

Playing a role can sometimes put you in the mood for the real thing, and Vatan wants to make her his wife for real, which they take care of in London. Before you know it, a little one--Anna--pops out, and the three of them have one idyllic year together before the feces hits the fan. Max is called to Special Operations headquarters where he is informed that Marianne just might be a double agent, working for the Germans. Imagine his conflicted emotions when he is informed that if suspicions are true, HE will be expected to eliminate her. His wife...the mother of his child! Everything that comes after that would be a spoiler. But there's a lot to reflect on, primarily about how loyalty to duty and country trumps all human considerations in time of war. Could he carry out such a mind-bogglingly horrific order--if it comes to that--or will love conquer all (or at least take a valiant stab at it) in the end?

There is one quirky little scene in Allied that seems out of place. Vatan is shuffling cards like a magician to prove to a skeptical Nazi that he's a serious poker player, but the sequence goes on for so long it becomes cartoonish. I started to wonder if we were going to veer off into serio-comic territory, a la Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but fortunately the rest of the film plays it straight.

Pitt and the doe-eyed Cotlllard create some onscreen steam together, which probably wasn't difficult since rumor has it they were hooking up romantically for real throughout the filming.

That's called taking your work home with you.

Grade:  B +



JILL'S TAKE

Tim pretty much covered the main points of Allied and he'll get no arguments from me. As for the two lead's pheremone-filled chemistry? I definitely feel Angelina had just cause to worry! And all through the movie, I kept being impressed with how well-preserved Brad is at age 52. Nary a wrinkle graces his cherubic face -- and he's got a nice ass, too! But enough about the film's more profound points...

Allied is definitely an attention-grabber. Just as I thought I knew what was happening, a new plot twist would emerge and foil my assumptions. Is Vatan's wife a spy? Will he be forced to execute the woman he loves? This brings up my one bone of contention which is how Brad Pitt's character could be, on the one hand, such a cold-blooded killer and, on the other, so blinded by love? I'm not sure director Robert Zemeckis (Back To The FutureCast Away,Forrest Gump) could have directed it any differently. And if he had, the film might have lost a lot of its impact.

I won't give anything away by this, but I do want to mention and praise the acting of Marion Bailey who plays Mrs. Sinclair, a kindly baby sitter. 

Grade: B+ (sorry to be such a copycat, Tim)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

DENIAL (2016)



Rated: PG-13

STARS: Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson
DIRECTOR: Mick Jackson
GENRE: Docudrama


In 1996, American academic/historian Deborah Lipstadt was sued for libel by British historian David Irving for characterizing him in her book as being a holocaust denier. Among other "Nazi friendly" assertions, Irving had maintained that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. Despite the damning nature of his stated positions, Irving sued for damage to his reputation, essentially denying that he was a denier.  Denial is the docudrama of the ensuing trial, which took place in Britain in 2000.

Given the subject matter, I was expecting fireworks, but for the most part, Denial is as staid as the British courtroom where most of the "action" takes place. He-said-she-said. The fascination that does exist revolves around the larger issue: By having to defend her statements about Mr. Irving, Lipstadt essentially has to call the holocaust as a witness to prove its own existence.

In preparation for the trial, Lipstadt and her team visit the real Auschwitz--a desolate looking place that time has softened into a haunt for ghosts. You must use your imagination now--not hard to do--to conjure up the unspeakable depravity of what took place there. It's a sobering moment.

It's a pedestrian turn for previous Oscar winner Rachel Weisz, as Lipstadt. When she's pleased, she's bubbly. When she's perturbed, she's frowny. But there's no nuance or subtlety of emotion. And an inordinate amount of time is spent drinking wine with her chief defense strategist, Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson). Maybe it was real wine. Wilkinson gives a more fleshed-out performance as he calls the shots for Lipstadt's defense strategy. Timothy Spall, as David Irving, is pompous and jowly, and comes off as being more obnoxious and annoying than villainous.

Conspiracy theories abound. Social media is crawling with them. 9-11 was an inside job. The moon landing was fake. The Sandy Hook massacre was staged. On and on. Few of them ring of credibility to the logical mind--the JFK assassination notwithstanding. It appears obvious that there was more to that than just a lone malcontent named Lee Harvey Oswald. But compelling evidence is in play there. The holocaust denier is a breed apart. He tries to tell us that we didn't see what we saw in all of the ghastly newsreel, documentary, and photographic evidence that exists. Not only does he insult our intelligence, he aligns himself with a dark energy that needs to fall back into the cesspool of history from whence it came.

I was expecting more HEAT in Denial...something on the order of what I just felt in penning the preceding sentences. But for the most part, it left me cold.

Grade:  C +



JILL'S TAKE

Finally, Tim and I disagree! (But not by much.) I went to this film, curious to know how holocaust deniers rationalize their beliefs. And right at the beginning, Rachel Weisz as Professor Lipstadt points out the four explanations deniers give. The one that really made my eyes pop? It was a publicity stunt promoted by the Jews to promote Israel. (Are your eyes popping now, too?)

I knew going in that Denial would be a courtroom drama but I found the subject matter so preposterously fascinating that I never got bored. I also learned a lot, not just about holocaust deniers but how different the English legal system is from ours. There, you're basically guilty until proven innocent. All of the actors involved did admirable performances but I especially admired how fanatic Timothy Spall was David Irving -- whose rabid intensity out-Hitlered Hitler's.

On a personal note, a few nights later I was having dinner with some friends and mentioned Denial in passing. One of them then told me about an interview she'd read in Hadassah Magazine where Rachel Weisz talked about the fact that all her own relatives perished in concentration camps.

Talk about art imitating life!


Grade: B+