The Journal Editorial Report | April 8, 2005 | PBS
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briefing and opinion
April 8, 2005

A Pulitzer for Criticism
Awarded to Joe Morgenstern of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL for his reviews that elucidated the strengths and weaknesses of film with rare insight, authority, and wit
1. Passion of the Christ
2. The Terminal
3. Fahrenheit 9/11
4. Sideways
5. The Incredibles


In Mel Gibson's 'Passion', artful story of Christ's pain is brought low by violence The Passion of the Christ

Though Not Exactly Anti-Semitic, Its Gore Is Very Anti-Audience; Is It Commerce or Self-Therapy?

FEBRUARY 27, 2004
"Mel Gibson has said that he wanted THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST to show the enormity of Christ's sacrifice through scenes so shocking as to push us 'over the edge.' The film does that, though where we land depends on who we are. Some will be inspired by the message of love and hope that emerges from torture depicted in hideous detail. I found myself stunned, then horrified, then defensively benumbed, by a level of violence that would, in another genre, be branded as pornographic. No one who watches Mr. Gibson's dramatization of Christ's final hours will come away unaffected by its intensity. His direction combines the fluency of modern techniques -- the craftsmanship is impressive -- with a central performance, by Jim Caviezel, that sometimes evokes the primal, ecstatic style of the silent era. Yet this work of manifest devotion, financed by Mr. Gibson himself, is overwhelmed by his obsession with physical suffering to the exclusion of social, political and metaphysical context."

Links:
Read the review
Film web site


A Case of 'Terminal' Boredom

JUNE 18, 2004
The Terminal "THE TERMINAL is a terminally fraudulent and all-but-interminable comedy starring Tom Hanks. He plays Viktor Navorski, a traveler from Eastern Europe who is forced to spend a year living in the international transit lounge at JFK. (A revolution back home has rendered him stateless, so he can't enter the United States.)...From an implausible start, the story meanders through a succession of perfunctory episodes. It's patently absurd that airport authorities, represented by a rigid bureaucrat named Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), can't provide an interpreter -- Viktor's English is rudimentary -- let alone cope with the urgent needs of a political refugee. But belief is strained to the breaking point throughout: by the explosive growth of the hero's vocabulary (Viktor learns English faster than Tom Cruise learned Japanese in THE LAST SAMURAI); by the ease with which he finds a good job inside the terminal; by the blossoming of his artistry (he builds a fancy decorative fountain out of love for the flight attendant, Amelia), and by Amelia's own pitiable plight. (She's been waiting seven years for a phone call of commitment from her boyfriend.)"

Links:
Read the review
Film web site


Burning Bush: Moore mounts assault in 'Fahrenheit 9/11', but shots are mostly cheap

Fahrenheit 9/11
Overheated Polemic Trades Logic For a Couple of Good Zingers

JUNE 25, 2004
"At one point in the course of Michael Moore's rambling, troubling and sometimes rousing FAHRENHEIT 9/11, I recalled a remark that the media-savvy satirist Harry Shearer made years ago about the newspapers of the time in San Francisco. Reading them, he said, was "like getting your news from the crazy lady in the laundromat." Well, watching Mr. Moore's film means getting your news from the media village's most famous or infamous bomb-thrower, self-promoter, used-theory salesman, glib falsifier, discomfiting truth-teller, aggrieved patriot, shrewd lampooner, serial ambusher and, in his latest feature-length polemic, Bush-beater with a seething vengeance."

Links:
Read the review
Film web site


Fruity, heady, wise, funny: Two guys hit road to wine, love in splendid 'Sideways'

Sideways
Payne Directs a Sheer Pleasure

OCTOBER 22, 2004
"Each character is a vivid creation in a film that's as droll as it is wise about loneliness and the search for true love. The most earnest searcher is Miles. Last year Mr. Giamatti gave a gloriously prickly performance as the comic-book writer Harvey Pekar in AMERICAN SPLENDOR. Now he has brought another flavor of perfection (that doesn't qualify as a wine reference) to the role of a middle-school English teacher who has too many fancy words at his disposal, and too few accessible feelings. Miles's verdict on one wine: "quaffable but far from transcendent." My verdict on Miles: Lovable and transcendent, thanks to Mr. Giamatti's ability to rise above the Woody Allen stereotype of nebbishy neurosis by playing Miles absolutely straight and fiercely smart."

Links:
Read the review
Film web site



Now That's 'Incredibles': Cartoon Heroes next door have super-comedic powers

The Incredibles
Pixar's Dazzling Satire of Suburbs Takes Flight With Director Bird

NOVEMBER 5, 2004
"The disconsolate suburbanite, Bob Parr, once chased around saving the world, or significant parts of it, as the masked and red-underweared Mr. Incredible. Now, gone to fat and working as a clerk at an HMO, Bob (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) lives in a modest tract house with his wife, Helen (Holly Hunter), formerly the supersvelte Elastigirl, and their three superkids, who must pretend to be normal so as not to attract attention. ... Bob takes a dim view of his new community's bogus values. Refusing to attend his son's graduation from fourth to fifth grade, he grumbles, 'They keep inventing new ways to celebrate mediocrity.' Still yearning for another shot at heroism, he sneaks out at night, on the pretext of going bowling, to do good deeds and perform risky rescues with another defrocked superhero, his buddy Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), who used to encase his enemies in ice. Sneaking back home from a collapsed building late at night, Bob is trapped in one of those scenes where the wife finds a strand of another woman's hair on her husband's clothes, except that here it isn't hair. Picking at his sweater, Helen asks suspiciously, 'Is this... rubble?'"

Links:
Read the review
Film web site