David Ansen

Stories by David Ansen

  • OR NOT TO BE: ONE MAN'S FIGHT TO DIE

    Alejandro Amenabar's "The Sea Inside" arrives garlanded with festival prizes, Golden Globe nominations and strong indications that this Spanish entry is the movie to beat for the foreign-film Oscar. It's possible that Javier Bardem will get a best-actor nomination for his subtle, soulful performance as Ramon Sampedro, a bedridden quadriplegic who spent 28 years fighting in the courts for the right to die with dignity.Sampedro, whose case was a media sensation in Spain, was a husky sailor with a lust for life when he was crippled in a diving accident near his home in Galicia. Unable to use his body, he wrote poems, gave TV interviews and published a memoir, "Letters From Hell." The force of his wry, rational, seductive personality drew women from all around. In Amenabar's film, he is cared for by his sister-in-law (Mabel Rivera) and doted on by two women, one a stunning lawyer (Belen Rueda), also suffering from a degenerative disease, who falls in love with him while working to help...
  • A HERO WILL RISE

    Dapper, meticulous and obsequious, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) is perfectly suited to his job as hotel manager of the elegant Hotel Mille Collines in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Impressed with fine Scotches and adept at flattering his European guests, he would not seem a likely candidate for heroism. Yet in 1994, in the midst of one of the most horrific genocides in history, in which close to a million people were slaughtered in a 100-day reign of terror, this brave Rwandan used all the tricks in his book to save more than 1,200 Tutsi and moderate Hutu refugees from the machetes, rifles and clubs of Hutu militias, sheltering them in his hotel while vainly hoping that the Western powers would intervene to end the killing."Hotel Rwanda," like "Schindler's List," chooses to illuminate a historical nightmare by focusing on a true story of hope. There are those who will object in principle to George's focus on the inspirational, but let's get real: how else could this movie have...
  • THE AVIATOR: 'SCUSE ME WHILE I KISS THE SKY

    Howard Hughes envisioned by Martin Scorsese and embodied by Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Aviator" is the ultimate can-do American, a ruthless, shoot-from- the-hip capitalist not afraid to gamble his fortune buying TWA or spend four years and a record-breaking budget to produce and direct his airborne World War I epic "Hell's Angels." He's a charming vulgarian, a lanky Texas shark with a voracious appetite for fame, fortune, aviation, beautiful women, the picture business--and the sheer pleasure of speed. Scorsese channels Hughes's hyperactive energy in his razzle-dazzle, high-flying biopic, his swooping, restless camera and virtuoso editing inducing a contact high.But there's another side to Hughes--a streak of mental illness that stops this prince of perpetual motion in his tracks. An obsessive-compulsive with a lifelong phobia about germs, Hughes goes into the men's room at the Coconut Grove to clean a food stain off his shirt and becomes paralyzed, unable to exit because he can't...
  • SPANGLISH: LANGUAGE OF LOVE

    Under its sitcom setup--beautiful Latina housekeeper who speaks no English goes to work for rich, dysfunctional white family in Bel Air--James L. Brooks's "Spanglish" has a lot on its mind. This culture-clash comedy is about parenting; Latin and Anglo notions of masculinity, femininity and family; the lure and perils of assimilation, as well as the dangers of getting a four-star restaurant review in The New York Times. The man who made "Terms of Endearment" and "Broadcast News" can always be counted on to explore crannies of upper-middle-class life that Hollywood usually ignores. "Spanglish" isn't Brooks's best (a tall order), but it feels like one of his most personal.Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni are the Claskys, whose shaky marriage becomes even more unhinged when Flor (Paz Vega) and her smart 12-year-old daughter Christina (Shelbie Bruce) enter their lives. Deb (the spectacular Leoni) is a self-loathing, self-absorbed neurotic. She's the sort of clueless mom who thinks she's being...
  • MILLION DOLLAR BABY: CLINT DELIVERS A KNOCKOUT

    As F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, there are no second acts in American lives. Somebody forgot to tell Clint Eastwood, who, at 74 and well into his third act, is doing the best, most assured work of his career. And he's doing it in his usual quick, thrifty, no-fuss manner. A year after the dark, epic "Mystic River," he weighs in with "Million Dollar Baby," set in the nether regions of the boxing world. The focus is tighter, more intimate: Eastwood plays a guarded, solitary gym owner and fight manager in Los Angeles who reluctantly agrees to train 31-year-old Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), an Arkansas redneck who has nothing in her life but her fierce determination to fight.This is a setting, and a setup, that comes booby-trapped with fight-movie cliches stretching from "Girlfight" and "Rocky" back to the '30s. This is not, however, Eastwood taking one of his genre-movie breathers; it may be a smaller movie than "Mystic River," but it's every bit as uncompromising, and even...
  • HOTEL RWANDA: A HERO WILL RISE

    Dapper, meticulous and obsequious, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) is perfectly suited to his job as manager of the elegant Hotel Mille Collines in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. Impressed with fine Scotches and adept at flattering his European guests, he would not seem a likely candidate for heroism. Yet in 1994, in the midst of a horrific genocide, in which close to a million people were slaughtered in a 100-day reign of terror, this brave Rwandan used all the tricks in his book to save more than 1,200 Tutsi refugees from the machetes, rifles and clubs of their Hutu enemies, sheltering them in his hotel while vainly hoping that the Western powers would intervene to end the killing.Terry George's "Hotel Rwanda," like "Schindler's List," chooses to illuminate a historical nightmare by focusing on a true story of hope. There are those who will object in principle to George's focus on the "inspirational," but let's get real: how else could this movie have gotten made? And it's a...
  • THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA: INTO THE NIGHT

    In Joel Schumacher's "The Phantom of the Opera," it's sometimes hard to tell the characters from the candelabra. This lavish screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical is so chockablock with decorative detail the human figures are often competing with the decor for attention: Baroque balustrades, flower-strewn dressing rooms, a chandelier to end all chandeliers, and the title character's murky subterranean grotto, which, depending on your point of view, evokes either a brooding 19th-century painting or a new Disneyland ride. Sometimes the sets win, but not when Emmy Rossum is around as Christine, the lovely chorus girl whom the disfigured Phantom (Gerard Butler)--her mysterious "Angel of Music"--is molding into the Paris Opera's next great star. The 18-year-old may not have the acting chops of a seasoned pro, but with a pure-as-crystal soprano voice to match her dark beauty, she's a heart-stopping presence.What can I tell the millions of fans who've made Lloyd Webber's breast...
  • Movie Club: 'The Third Man'

    I think I was about 14 years old when I first saw "The Third Man" on television, at night, all alone in my room in Los Angeles. It took me deep inside a place and time--postwar Vienna--that I couldn't shake and under no circumstances wanted to shake. It transformed the way I looked at the world.I'm sure you know it can be dangerous to revisit one's favorite movies from childhood. In the harsher light of adulthood, their sterling virtues can evaporate like mirages. But the thing about Carol Reed's 1949 "The Third Man" was that no matter how many times I saw it over the years its magic never failed. Its sophisticated, world-weary glamour never lost its allure. The movie only got richer as my own experiences got richer. I kept discovering dark new delights, and the classic moments remained every bit as classic.I hate being asked what my favorite movie of all time is. It's too hard. There's too many to choose from. But when push comes to shove, I always name "The Third Man." And so when...
  • INVADING HIS SPACEY

    Beyond the Sea" tells the life story of singer Bobby Darin (Kevin Spacey), framing it as a musical film he's making about his life. Raised in the Bronx, Darin's not expected to live past 15, a consequence of rheumatic fever. He becomes a teen idol ("Splish Splash"), nightclub star ("Mack the Knife") and Hollywood actor, marrying Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth). His life falls apart in the late 1960s.DAVID ANSEN: You manage to avoid some of the problems of the biopic. Your movie has a flow to it. It doesn't play like, "This happened and then this happened... " There's a theatrical flair that you bring to it as a director.KEVIN SPACEY: In the Italian sequence [when Darin meets Sandra Dee], I wanted the film to take on an MGM Technicolor musical look. All those incredible colors.But your choice of doing it as a kind of '50s musical seems strange. I don't associate Darin with that kind of movie. I think of him as primarily a nightclub performer.Bobby Darin was a guy who sang his guts out,...
  • STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE

    The boys are back in town. Actually, they're in several European towns this time--Amsterdam, Rome, the shores of Lake Como--all because nasty Vegas entrepreneur Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the man from whom they stole $160 million in "Ocean's Eleven," has tracked them down and is demanding full repayment, with interest. Or else. So the team, with George Clooney and Brad Pitt leading the way, has very little time to pull off several very lucrative heists. In "Ocean's Twelve," however, nothing goes according to plan, and Danny Ocean's gang has more to worry about than Benedict. The glam Europol investigator Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is hot on their trail, and a rival thief, the highly competitive "Night Fox" (Vincent Cassel), wants to beat them at their own game.It was the characters that made the first movie such a debonair delight. Unfortunately, there's so much going on in Steven Soderbergh's sequel--George Nolfi's screenplay seems like three slightly different movies...
  • THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE, FROM CHAT ROOM TO BEDROOM

    Mike Nichols's "Closer," based on the acerbic 1997 play by Patrick Marber, brings the battle of the sexes into the brave new world of cybersex. One pair of the story's heterosexual London quartet--a dermatologist named Larry (Clive Owen) and the divorced photographer Anna (Julia Roberts) meet because Larry thinks she has summoned him to a rendezvous after a salacious chat. In fact, Larry was chatting with Dan (Jude Law), an obituary writer and failed novelist posing online as Anna, whom he lusts after even though he's living with the waifish waitress/stripper Alice (Natalie Portman). This is but the first of the dirty tricks the men play on each other in this nastily funny erotic roundelay. As the four ardent, duplicitous characters keep changing partners, it becomes clear that when push comes to shove, male competitiveness trumps romantic desire. Dan and Larry are straight, but they're more obsessed with f---ing with each other's minds than f---ing the women they think they love...
  • NOT SO GREAT

    How do you make a movie, in 2004, about a man who wants to conquer the world? That question hangs uneasily over Oliver Stone's three-hour epic about Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king who, by the age of 25, dominated the greater part of the known world, lording it over an empire that stretched from Greece to India. To contemporary eyes that kind of ambition might seem a tad, shall we say, insane. And on screen, world domination has tended to be the purview of James Bond villains and aliens from outer space.That's not the way Stone sees it. He's always been, for all his anti-establishment rages, a hero worshiper. Powerful men fascinate him ("Wall Street," "JFK," "Nixon"); "Alexander" is clearly meant as a celebration of the most powerful of them all. But with this sometimes stunning, ultimately stupefying epic Stone has met his Waterloo. Though filled with spectacular battles, opulent sets and grand Hellenic passions, this madly ambitious film doesn't compute. Stone's movies,...
  • BOYS WILL BE GIRLS

    Under the opening credits of "Bad Education," Alberto Iglesias's roiling, Bernard Herrmann-like score prepares you for something darker, more Hitchcockian, than we have come to expect from Pedro Almodovar. An intricately constructed film noir about obsession, role-playing, revenge and shifting identities, it is obviously influenced by "Vertigo," yet "Bad Education" feels bracingly new. No one but Almodovar could have made it.The movie's present tense is the 1980s. A 27-year-old film director, Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez), is desperate for a new project when a young actor (Gael Garcia Bernal) comes into his office with a story he's written. He claims to be Ignacio, the boy Enrique loved 16 years earlier in a Roman Catholic boarding school. It's the story of their schoolboy affair: how they were separated when the pedophile priest, Father Manolo, banished Ignacio from school in a fit of jealousy. And then it tells of what happened to Ignacio: how he became the transvestite performer...
  • SNAP JUDGEMENT: MOVIES

    Birth Directed by Jonathan GlazerA wealthy Manhattan widow (Nicole Kidman) is about to remarry, a decade after her husband's death, when an intense 10-year-old (Cameron Bright) appears, insisting he's the reincarnation of her late husband. The setup of Glazer's ("Sexy Beast") often hypnotic movie suggests a supernatural thriller, but the execution is pure European art film. Kidman gives a bold performance as a woman in extreme distress, but the script is hooey. "Birth" is ridiculous, and oddly unforgettable.Finding Neverland Directed by Marc ForsterThere's a reason plays are called plays, explains the Scottish writer J. M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) to the four brothers who would inspire "Peter Pan." This gentle eccentric's playful spirit, and his grown-up's awareness of lost innocence, infuse this lovely fictionalized account of the creation of "Peter Pan" with a charm both sprightly and melancholic. It's the story of a platonic love affair between the Llewelyn Davies family--the boys...
  • REVIEW: UNDRESSING AMERICA

    It makes deep sense that Alfred Kinsey, whose 1948 study "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" revolutionized American thinking about sex, was raised by a rigidly puritanical father. Dad, played by John Lithgow in Bill Condon's engrossing biopic "Kinsey," gave Sunday sermons denouncing the zipper as a fiendish new device that gives "speedy access to moral oblivion." Rebellion was the father of invention. Kinsey (sensitively played by Liam Neeson) wanted to burn away myth with science.The battle between Kinsey father and son could be a microcosm of America's schizophrenia about sex--today, as well as in the 1950s, when Kinsey's study of female sexuality provoked outrage.It's hard to think of a Hollywood movie that has focused so exclusively on sex. But writer-director Condon ("Gods and Monsters") keeps sensationalism at bay. He pays tribute to Kinsey as a pioneer. The drama, however, lies in the tensions between Kinsey's personal life and his scientific curiosity. It was his own sexual...
  • SNAP JUDGEMENT: MOVIES

    Being Julia Directed by Istvan SzaboFilms about great theatrical divas (so temperamental! So divine!) all strike familiar notes. This Somerset Maugham adaptation is no exception. But Annette Bening, playing the queen of the '30s London stage, makes it worth another go-round. As Julia Lambert, a married star whose midlife crisis hurls her into the arms of a callow young American (unsexy, miscast Shaun Evans), she delivers a cunning, beautifully modulated, seriocomic portrait of a woman who can't not act. Familiar, but like a good English tea service, satisfying.Enduring Love Directed by Roger MichellA man falls to his death in a hot-air-balloon accident, an event that will shatter the lives of the two witnesses. Joe (Daniel Craig), the man of science, is haunted with guilt; Jed (Rhys Ifans), a creepy religious zealot, stalks Joe, convinced that something deep has passed between them. The gifted Michell, working from a smart adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel, works up an unnerving...
  • COOL IN THE SHADES

    "Ray," Taylor Hackford's ambitious, honest, music-drenched, handsomely mounted, wonderfully acted biopic of the great Ray Charles, has so much good stuff going for it that it ought to be a killer. So why did I keep looking at my watch? It certainly wasn't the music: you can never get tired of hearing Charles sing "I Got A Woman" and "What'd I Say." Nor does "Ray" fall into hagiography: while it pays tribute to Charles's refusal to regard his blindness as a handicap, his activism and his seminal contribution to music, Hackford isn't afraid to show us his flaws: the many infidelities (it's said the Raelettes got their name because they had to "let Ray"), the heroin abuse, the kiss-offs to old friends for the sake of a more lucrative deal. Genius isn't nice.Charles crossed over from blues to gospel to R&B to country to pop, from black to white audiences at a time when segregation reigned. And at the age of 7 he crossed over from the world of sight to the world of the sightless, not...
  • LIFE IS A CABERNET

    Alexander Payne has to be the most unassuming great filmmaker in America. And the better he gets, the less attention he calls to himself: there's not a frame in his wonderful new movie "Sideways" that asks you to marvel at the director's virtuosity. Even more than "About Schmidt," which was dominated by Jack Nicholson, a huge presence even inside the skin of a mild insurance salesman, "Sideways" stays resolutely life-size. And that, in this age of hype and hyperventilation, may be the most radical thing about it.This deceptively modest comedy leaves a long aftertaste. It follows two clueless middle-aged men making a last-hurrah tour of the Santa Barbara wine country before one of them gets married. Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a failed novelist who teaches eighth-grade English. A tightly wound bundle of anxiety and self-loathing, he's still licking his wounds from a bitter divorce. But all his self-pity and uncertainties vanish in the face of his passion for wine. As an obsessive,...
  • TRANSITION

    Rodney Dangerfield, 82Dangerfield was the patron saint of losers everywhere. Dangerfield (born Jacob Cohen) didn't hit it big until his mid-40s, when he started roasting himself with lines like "I was very, very ugly. When I was born the doctor slapped my mother." Within a few years, he had come up with his trademark quip, "I get no respect," and Dangerfield became a hangdog icon, appearing regularly on TV and in films. He also opened one of the country's first comedy clubs, Dangerfields, and helped launch the careers of Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carrey, for which he deserves more than a little respect.Janet Leigh, 77She took the most famous shower in movie history, and her demise in "Psycho" will always be the first thing that Leigh is remembered for. Also that she was the wife of Tony Curtis, and the mother of Jamie Lee. But movie fans who grew up with her in the ' 50s and ' 60s cherish her brittle blond beauty, the sharply chiseled face atop that voluptuous body. Leigh paid her dues...
  • OF DEALS AND DEVILS

    Dinah Lasker, who had briefly been a communist in her youth, agrees to name names to the House Un-American Activities Committee. She does it to save her husband Jake's career as a writer and director of Hollywood comedies. She does it to hold on to the Beverly Hills life she's provided for her two kids. In most books and films about the Hollywood blacklist era, Dinah would be cast as the villain. In "Cheat and Charmer," Elizabeth Frank's juicily melodramatic page-turner of a first novel, the informer turns out to be the most sympathetic character. Not because Dinah, or the author, approves of McCarthyism. It's that everyone else in this sprawling tale is far more accomplished than she in the arts of duplicity and selfishness. Dinah struggles with her conscience. Most of the others--including her loving but philandering husband, Jake --don't have one.Calamitous events result from Dinah's testimony, but the blacklist isn't really what the novel is about. It's the catalyst for an...
  • THE GLARE OF THE LIGHTS

    In Odessa, Texas, high school football is no casual pastime, it's a passion religious in its fervor. And the teenage boys who play for the Permian Panthers--Texas's most successful high-school team--are treated, in those all too brief years of glory, like gods. That is, when they play well. Journalist H. G. Bissinger followed the team through its 1988 season, and his best-selling book "Friday Night Lights" has become a kind of classic. It chronicles a town whose identity is inextricably tied to the fate of its team: an exhilarating, and terrifying, prospect.That ambivalent electricity courses through Peter Berg's bone-crunching, heart-twisting movie. "Friday Night Lights" gets you cheering for the Panthers, but it's a far cry from the usual rah-rah sports-movie formula--closer, in texture and ambition, to the documentary "Hoop Dreams" than to the pious "Remember the Titans." While its concentration rarely strays from the gridiron, it has lots to say about race, class, celebrity,...
  • SNAP JUDGMENT: MOVIES

    Stage Beauty Directed by Richard EyreIn 1660, when women were barred from appearing onstage, Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup) is England's most cherished performer of female parts. But the star's world collapses when Charles II (Rupert Everett) decrees that henceforth women will play women. It's a marvelous premise, and Crudup's serpentine performance has a venomous grace. But Jeffrey Hatcher's screenplay too often sacrifices psychological insight for bogus theatricality.Going Upriver: The Long War of John KerryDirected by George ButlerWhen charismatic 27-year-old Vietnam vet John Kerry testified against the war before a Senate committee, the Nixon White House knew it had a formidable enemy who had to be destroyed. (The man it recruited to do its dirty work, John O'Neill, is still at it--he's the founding member of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.) Butler's stirring film wasn't made to refute its slanders, though it does. It's a richly documented history of Kerry's war- time experience...
  • SNAP JUDGMENT: MOVIES

    Shark TaleDirected by Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron and Rob LettermanNot up to "Shrek" level, but a feast for the eyes, DreamWorks' computer-animated underwater adventure is crammed to the gills with pop-culture in-jokes, movie quotations and a stellar vocal cast including Robert De Niro and Renee Zellweger. All this provides amusing distraction from a formulaic story. The odd couple in this mobster buddy movie are Will Smith's jive-talking (and tiresome) Oscar, a cleaner wrasse who lies his way to fame by claiming to be a shark killer, and Jack Black's Lenny, a timid vegetarian shark."Shark Tale" is full of invention, but under the colorful icing is a slightly stale cake.Motorcycle DiariesDirected by Walter SallesIn 1952, the asthmatic young Argentine medical student Ernesto Guevara (the compelling Gael Garcia Bernal) set off on a cranky motorcycle to explore South America with his pal Alberto Granado (scene-stealing Rodrigo de la Serna). Guevara--who would later become the legendary...
  • What The Huckabees?!

    Unlike Altman or Scorsese, who have instantly recognizable styles, David O. Russell ("Flirting With Disaster," "Three Kings") never takes you to the same place twice. He's a tough guy to pigeonhole or predict. Now, in his first film in five years, he pushes the envelope with the one-of-a-kind "I [Heart] Huckabees," a whacked-out philosophical comedy that stirs slapstick and metaphysics into a playfully frenetic froth. It's like a '30s screwball comedy that's gone to grad school.This is not an easy movie to explain: its protagonist, a tortured environmental activist named Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is in search of... well, The Meaning of Life. Or at least the meaning of his life. So, naturally, he hires two "existential detectives" to get to the bottom of his metaphysical case. The detectives--the husband-and-wife team Bernard and Vivian Jaffe--are played by Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin, who make a daffily inspired comic couple. Spying on every aspect of Albert's life,...
  • Snap Judgment: Movies

    Infernal Affairs Directed by Andrew Lau and Alan MakFinally arriving stateside, this 2002 Hong Kong hit thriller has already spawned two sequels and a planned U.S. remake by Martin Scorsese. Tony Leung and Andy (not director Andrew) Lau star as two moles--Leung a cop posing as a gangster, Lau a gangster who's also a respected cop--each of whom needs to root out the other before his cover is blown. The pace and plot are dizzying, but the movie also works as a study of fractured identity: the two have led double lives so long they're no longer sure who they are. Expect to be confused for 10 minutes. Then sit back and enjoy the ride.A Dirty Shame Directed by John WatersLeave it to the raunchy, shameless Waters to concoct a comedy that features an entire town going into heat. Starring a fearless and hilarious Tracey Ullman as a square middle-class mom who gets a bump on the head that turns her into the embodiment of raging lust, this exercise in bad taste is the "Dawn of the Dead" of...
  • High-Society Girl

    She's no mere social climber," a character observes of Becky Sharp in Mira Nair's sumptuous condensation of "Vanity Fair." "She's a mountaineer." Scheming, beautiful, seductive and utterly self-serving, Becky--played with great verve and an impeccable English accent by Reese Witherspoon--is one of the most vivacious monsters in 19th-century literature. Her tenacious ascent from orphan to high-society shark allowed novelist William Makepeace Thackeray to cast his shrewd eye on the vanity and duplicity of an entire society.Some of what Thackeray intended comes through in Nair's literate, well-cast, handsomely shot epic. But Nair and Witherspoon pull back from the ferocity of Thackeray's portrait: they're afraid we won't find Becky Sharp likable enough. Yes, she's the most brilliant, bold and vibrant creature in this social panorama, but she should also be chilling. The movie turns her into a proto-feminist heroine--up to a point. But to do so means declawing Thackeray and draining...
  • HISTORY IN THE FAKING

    Leaving Aileen Wuornos and her murderously unglamorous ways far behind, Charlize Theron dons 1930s garb and vamps her way through "Head in the Clouds" as a French-American heiress, bohemian and international heartbreaker named Gilda Besse. Gilda's supposedly irresistible charms leave every man and woman prostrate at her feet. Her foremost devotee is the Irish-born Guy (Stuart Townsend), who falls under her spell as an undergrad at Cambridge and later rekindles his flaming devotion in Paris, where Gilda, now a photographer, shares a flat with Mia (Penelope Cruz), a Spanish model-stripper-nurse-activist with a limp. Soon all three are happily living together in what may or may not be a menage a trois (the movie is a bit coy). Reality intrudes in the form of the Spanish Civil War, followed by the even more inconvenient World War II. While conscience calls Guy and Mia to the battlefront, the hedonistic Gilda proclaims them all party poopers and stays behind to await her darkly ironic...
  • PAST THE BOILING POINT

    If talk radio and Fox TV are the preferred media of the right, film has emerged this year as the left's not-so-secret weapon. There's never been an election in which political documentaries played a significant role--until now.Michael Moore's incendiary "Fahrenheit 9/11" packed movie houses, but most of these new documentaries are meant for home viewing; theatrical distribution is just the icing on the cake. The major movie companies won't touch these films: Disney famously refused to release "Fahrenheit," and last week Warner Bros. announced it was pulling an antiwar documentary David O. Russell made to accompany the re-release of "Three Kings" both in theaters and on DVD, claiming it was "inappropriate" in a political season. And Sony got cold feet about the DVD of "The Control Room," a documentary on Al-Jazeera that is implicitly unsympathetic to the war in Iraq; Lions Gate will bring it out instead.In addition to "Fahrenheit" (DVD Oct. 5), this explosion of urgent and angry...
  • YOU GO, GIRL

    "She's no mere social climber," a character observes of Becky Sharp in Mira Nair's sumptuous condensation of "Vanity Fair." "She's a mountaineer." Scheming, beautiful, seductive and utterly self-serving, Becky--played with great verve and an impeccable English accent by Reese Witherspoon--is one of the most vivacious monsters in 19th-century literature. Her tenacious ascent from orphan to high-society shark allowed novelist William Makepeace Thackeray to cast his shrewd eye on the vanity and duplicity of an entire society. ...