It’s a gloriously mixed bag this week – a certified Oscar contender, an interesting independent Academy wannabe, a collection of revamped classics, and an overlooked effort that had the unfortunate luck of being the second in the Truman Capote/In Cold Blood sweepstakes. Toss in another failed Hollywood comedy (someone should keep a running total on the number of these lackluster laughfests the industry releases each year) and an unusual documentary, and you’ve got a nice selection of cinema to choose from. So break open the piggy bank, plan your purchase strategy carefully, and choose between these 13 February releases:
As the illustrious LL Cool J once warned, don’t call it a comeback. Indeed, Martin Scorsese has not been hiding along the fringes of cinema, waiting for another certified gangster blockbuster to resurrect his implied lagging artistic credibility. Since his last film, The Aviator
, was nominated for several Oscars, it seems silly to suggest that the certified American auteur is arriving from anywhere but the top. Besides, some of his best films – Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
, The King of Comedy
, The Last Temptation of Christ
– have nothing to do with mean streets and goodfellas. This does not lesson the impact or import of this brilliant Boston crime drama – no one does operatic brutality better – but Scorsese is much more than movie mob boss. He doesn’t deserve such stereotyping.
It’s the height of post-War desperation in Italy. Citizens are still in shock over how Fascism has failed them. Then light comedy filmmaker Vittorio De Sica decides to explore the devastation from the inside out. The result was this seminal example of neo-realism, made even more important by the new presentation from the preservation experts.
Inner city school teacher Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) leads a lamentable double life. By day he enthralls his lower income students. By night he’s a raging crackhead. When the two worlds collide, an unusual sort of relationship is the result. What could be a sappy After School special is saved by brilliant acting and a no holds barred approach to its subject.
Writer/Director Douglas McGrath and his wonderful all star cast deserved better than to be considered a Capote
afterthought. Indeed, this far sunnier look at the author behind In Cold Blood
and the crime that would alter his life forever is more playful – and powerful – than the more sober, somber Oscar winner.
Paul Robeson – Portrait of the Artist: Criterion Collection
He was Ivy League educated, sang opera as well as popular songs, and was considered a real Renaissance man. An amazing triumph for a member of a beleaguered race at the turn of the century. Thanks to Criterion, Robeson’s career as an actor (which he ended early, arguing that there were no good roles for blacks) can now be reviewed for all to see and celebrate.
School for Scoundrels
Proving that it will be tough to overcome his pitch perfect performance as Napoleon Dynamite, Jon Herder follows up his equally unimpressive turn in The Benchwarmers
with this dopey relationships comedy. While Billy Bob Thorton obviously enjoys doing these kind of over the top slop comedies, we expect better from the man who made geeks groovy. Sadly, there is more horror than humor here.
And Now for Something Completely Different
The US vs. John Lennon
In one of the strangest cases in the history of the Federal Government, the Nixon Administration, in connection with Hoover’s hated FBI, conspired to deport ex-Beatle John Lennon over his pronounced peacenik views. Along with his obvious influence amongst the youth, and his ability to continuously capture the attention of the media, Lennon was the loose cannon the ebbing pro-Vietnam Establishment couldn’t control. The way they went about their plan, however, failed to do anything but further damage an already reeling leadership. Now, thanks to the Freedom of Information act and a decision to contextualize Lennon’s cultural import, filmmakers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld have created a composite of one man, and his undeniable impact on the society that surrounded him. While his death remains the biggest disgrace to his legacy, this chapter is equally embarrassing.