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Shattered Glass
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"Would I Lie To You?

Two young men tell extraordinary lies in both "The Human Stain" and "Shattered Glass" and the ramifications are catastrophic. Though the truth set no one free, audiences will be compelled to evaluate the complexity of human nature watching these psychological profiles.


Audiences will either appreciate the debate the new film "Human Stain generates or will walk out frustrated by the unanswered questions which abound throughout. Personally I haven't discussed the intricacies of a film in such depth since "Y Tu Mamá También."


Based on Philip Roth's bestseller, "Human Stain" tracks the complicated life of Coleman Silk (Anthony Hopkins), the former Dean at a university who attempts to swim out of his rage by building a friendship with a famous reclusive novelist (Gary Sinise) and a love affair with Faunia, a seemingly unbalanced woman half his age (Nicole Kidman). Though both he and Faunia attempt to move forward and simply cherish the moment, each cannot escape their sins of the past, our human stains we can never remove, from our psyche or our hearts.


Director Robert Benton has already directed three Oscar winning and three additional nominated performances. He's a patient director and his actors show remarkable range under his eye. Kidman is electric as the despondent woman torn between her desire for isolation and her need for affection. I wish she had not won last year. She deserves the gold for this. Also stirring are Anna Devere Smith and Wentworth Miler as identity-conflicted mother and son. Smith poignantly plays a woman rejected by her son but so deeply loyal she succumbs to his cruel wishes.


Benton and the late cinematographer Jean Yves Escoffier paint a poetic world. Two striking scenes involve atypical dance sequences. Kidman performs a sensual striptease to an oboe version of "Cry Me a River." Earlier in the film, Hopkins and Sinise dance awkwardly but jovially to "Cheek to Cheek."
Nicholas Meyer has the difficult task of weaving past and present stories seamlessly. He ignores a central question regarding Coleman's hidden identity which still baffles me, but in his characterizations, his adaptation is gripping.
Some movies are engineered to win Oscars ("The Hours"); others are just too good to be ignored by the Academy. "The Human Stain" will affect audiences and force them to do what most movies don't, discuss.

 

In 1976, William Goldman turned the American Journalist into superman, champions of justice, sworn to bring down corruption. After "All The President's Men," it appeared newspaper men could do no wrong. Though it didn't take long for journalists to be knocked off their pedestal (Sydney Pollack's 1981 thriller "Absence of Malice" accomplished that), never has a reporter so blatantly defecated on the news ethical code than Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a true-life columnist for "The New Republic," who was exposed in 1998 for consistently fabricating his articles. But instead of painting this boy as a callous opportunist who played the in-flight magazine of Air Force One for suckers, writer-director Billy Ray portrays him as the most delusional hero since Blanche DuBois.


Glass is a charmer. He compliments his co-workers on their grooming, always brings an extra coffee or soda for a colleague, and spins tales at staff meetings that had everyone in stitches. He is also a pathological liar who even convinces himself that his tall tales are truthful. When an online publication catches an inaccuracy, they unravel the holy shroud around the publication, causing humiliation for everyone involved. "The New Republic"'s editor (Peter Sarsgaard) brings down his own star reporter, in spite of the unwillingness of his staff to support him.


Ray and Christensen work together to form Stephen Glass as a complicated boy who believes his own press. Christensen's performance is electric. Even when being confronted with hard evidence against him, his character continues fibbing to the merriment of the audience. You almost want him to succeed with his deceit.


Glass's tale fascinates because you never expect a lauded magazine like "The New Republic to fall for such a con. You're sure that since this travesty, all of journalism's hallowed editorial rooms are now armed with the possibility of such an outrage. Therefore, no other paper could allow such a perpetration again. Especially a big paper like say, "The New York Times." At least for many years. Much more than.say.4.
Grade: "Human Stain": A-; "Shattered Glass": A+

 
 
 
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