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Crash (I) (2004)
Smart film-making, weaker writing
6 November 2006
Last year, the New York Times Magazine featured an article on how good television has surpassed good film-making. The smart shows with converging plot lines that make demands on their audience for active viewing are largely absent from movies, which still emphasize a more passive entertainment.

Crash doesn't do that, and that's largely the reason for its glowing reception, in addition to its natural cachet for tackling a "tough" subject.

But the dialog for the film is clumsy and overdone, implying that racism abounds only in overt forms. Quiet racism is just as insidious and much more common: for every scene where Matt Dillon brandishes open racism with his personnel officer, there are thousands more where both parties know that racism is what is driving the conversation, yet neither comes out to say it.

As much as the film-making trusts its audience to put together pieces of different story lines, the dialog doesn't trust its audience at all. Not a single act of racism slides across the screen without a spotlight and flashing arrows.

Keep track of the stories, but don't worry about the point of any given scene: you can't miss it.
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The F Word (2005)
Extremely satisfying film, politics aside
6 November 2006
>I expect the distribution for this film will be limited to meetings of liberal organizations.

That's a shame, because while it's definitely a political film, it's also good film-making.

I don't disagree with the previous reviewer's comments, but I want to add how fresh this film is despite its quickly-revealed perspective on an event from six years ago.

The mix of real-life footage with acting is sharp and engaging: several of the night scenes blend the two especially well, rewarding the viewer for close attention.

And the character of Hamilton fits perfectly in this vein. He's Bob Newhart-esquire as a calm presence amid lunacy. I don't mean to imply that he's similar in personality, or that the film carries a light-comedy feel: it doesn't (though it does have laugh-out-loud moments, and others of uncomfortable chuckling). But Hamilton gives the film a center while allowing attention to focus on what goes on around him. It's a perfect choice for an intelligent, surprising film.
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The Advocate (1993)
Under-appreciated, rewarding film
6 November 2006
This film deserves to be far better known. It's clever, fun, and a terrific balance of successful Hollywood pacing with non-traditional, non-Hollywood storytelling.

Yes, it's a historical murder mystery. But it's a film about excess, as is the recent Marie Antoinette, but this one is darker and more substantive. The dialogue is sharp, often funny, and vaguely unsettling.

Like all good films, several elements work together. The photography, the costuming, the soundtrack, and the characterization all underscore the script's emphasis on indulgence. It's really very well done.
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