Pooh-Poohing the Poll 

To listen to Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin tell it, they’re just a couple of knuckleheads who want to have some fun. The film-making duo, who created Universal Soldier and Independence Day, are the masterminds behind the highly-publicized effects extravaganza, Godzilla, the $150 million update of the 1956 Japanese monster classic that had a man in a suit playing the King of the Monsters.

Director Emmerich and co-writer/producer Devlin, vying to have this summer’s blockbuster, push the limits of all the latest ’90s technology to create their 400-foot-long, 30-story, 500-ton fire-breathing lizard. The result is pretty much what you’d expect from a cheesy cult-classic updated with state of the art effects. But as the young film makers say, they weren’t making an art film. It’s just meant to be a summer fun ride.

The world has really had enough violence, says Devlin. The first movie Roland and I did (Universal Soldier) was pretty violent. When we sat down and watched it we were kind of embarrassed. We said, let’s never do that again. These movies are meant to be fun, they’re meant to be a hoot. You don’t need to see body parts, you don’t need to see blood. It isn’t even effective anymore.

He recalls how horrified he was the first time he watched Sam Peckinpah’s graphic depiction of a man being shot with machine guns in The Wild Bunch. It was effective because it deglamorized violence, it showed it to you in all of its ugliness, and it shocked you. But after 5,000 slow motion bullet shots and a billion blood splatters, now it’s desensitizing. It has no effect on you. And that’s the worst thing a filmmaker can do is to desensitize you to things.

Emmerich agrees, I don’t like seeing gory stuff myself. Summer ride movies shouldn’t have gore. It’s OK if you’re making an anti-war movie, but not this.

Who is the movie made for?

Us, says Devlin, who grew up watching the old Godzilla movies on Saturday morning television. We’re such knuckleheads, we make movies that crack us up with goofy stuff to entertain us.

The two view themselves more as film fans than film makers and say they have more fun watching movies than making them. We never lose perspective that we’re a couple of knuckleheads who got lucky in Hollywood. When we finish a picture and get over the silliness of it, if we want to see a movie and it isn’t playing, we make it. We’re the only production company that doesn’t have a development department. We leave the country, yell at each other, and after a couple of weeks, we have a movie.

These guys really have a great time, says Arabella Field, who plays the wife of a cameraman. They’re so relaxed they’re like kids playing with a giant set of Legos. They’re good people who are masters of their genre. I don’t think they’re schlockmeisters. It’s not like they’re making art films. During filming, Roland would keep saying, It’s not serious. It’s about a 30-story lizard.

Vickie Lewis, who plays a paleontologist, seconds that. These guys immediately give the impression they want to have a good time, and they want people around them who have a good time. They love what they’re doing.

Roland and Emmerich handpicked the film’s leads, who, not surprisingly given their desire to have fun, are comic actors. Saturday Night Live alum Harry Shearer plays an obnoxious anchorman—an impersonation he has perfected in his comedy work.

Hank Azaria (the gay Guatemalan houseboy in Birdcage and, like Shearer, a voice of The Simpsons) plays a cameraman named Animal.

Matthew Broderick is cast as the youthful-looking biologist who works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission studying radiation mutated worms at Chernobyl before the biggest radiation freak—Godzilla—appeared.

Devlin, who at 35 is still constantly carded, admits a fondness for characters looking young and not getting the respect they deserve. It’s the story of my life, he says.

Maria Pitillo, who looks like she just left a junior high sock hop, plays Broderick’s love interest, an anchorman’s assistant who wants to be a real reporter.

So, where do they go after Godzilla? Where else? The sequels. Sony has already optioned two of them, and Emmerich and Devlin, just a couple of guys always up for more fun and games, hope to be involved. u Arts & Entertainment - Monster Mash DC75B095-1372-FCBB-835FE2BD51DF129D 2007-09-06 14:14:34.0 1 1 0 1998-05-28 00:00:00.0 54 0
Ben Fulton

The hands of a large, round-faced clock hanging on Quarterly West’s office wall haven’t moved in years. Time stands still, you could say.

And Quarterly West staffers, mostly graduate students of the University of Utah’s English and creative writing departments, need all the time they can get.

Consider their schedule: It’s under relentless, postal attack from hundreds of people nationwide. More than 300 fiction submissions pour into the mailbox every month, backed up by 150 pieces of poetry. Every submission hopes for the ultimate—publication in a literary magazine—but less than 2 percent make the cut.

Even with five associate editors and a slew of assistants, the pace adds up to a lot of blurry eyes. The product, however, is widely regarded as one of the nation’s better reads of aspiring, and even professional, fiction and poetry. Amid all the budget-cuts for higher education, the largely university-funded Quarterly West was one of eight publications of its type to score a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Perhaps even more important, both past and current decisions by the magazine’s staff have been in step with current literary fashion to a remarkable degree. Short stories and poetry first judged worthy by Quarterly West have later been published in Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Story anthologies. In 1991, the prestigious Flannery O’Conner Award went to past QW contributor Antonya Nelson. Raymond Carver, one of the best American short-story writers of this century, even graced its pages long ago.

No mistake about it, even with yearly changes in staff, the folks at QW know how to pick winners.

We do tend to let things simmer around the office, says Editor Margot Schilpp, the first woman to call the shots at QW since its founding in 1976. Some pieces will get three or even four reads before we’ve decided it’s worth putting into print.

The job isn’t all beard-stroking and aesthetic jousts around the coffee table, however. There are tense moments and hearty laughs. Enough, in fact, to make even the stiffest graduate students forget their impending theses.

Tense, because you might receive veiled threats deep from inside a Texas prison: This may not be the best environment for pursuing a writing career (despite what Norman Mailer may think), but I am trying, wrote an inmate, Meanwhile, fuck you.

Hearty laughs, because some people will write anything outrageous enough to get an editor’s attention: You should take this story for the following reasons, one hopeful wrote. 1. It comes from the heart. 2. It’s printed on acid-free paper. 3. It contains bretnal, a drug known to relieve heart-burn in laboratory animals. 4. Its passion transcends the glands.

Then there’s this all-time classic, penned in the late ’80s:

Dear You,

Hi. Here’s a story of mine I’d like you to consider for Quarterly West. Go ahead, read it. You’ll find a man trying to stick up for himself. A woman doing the same thing at the same time. It’s multiple. It’s mutual. It’s colossal. It’s stupendous. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. It’ll become a part of you (I hope).

So who is this nut with a story? I’m one of the best kept secrets in small presses and little quarterlies. Give Spider a read and see what you think.

(signed) Me

Missives like that, deliberately strange or not, go into the staff’s classics file of cover letters and literary creations so bad they’re good.

Seamless, word-tight fiction and poetry gets the lion’s share of staff time, of course. I’d have to say I couldn’t really tell you how I know a good piece from a bad one, says Schilpp. You just have this feeling of being held in thrall.

The key is including pieces that operate from a variety of aesthetics, she says. The range is wide. QW’s autumn/winter issue of last year contains a dense, side-by-side narrative by Christine Brooke-Rose titled, Is Self-Reflexivity Mere? A bit like those T.S. Eliot poems from your high school days, it’s a small river of metaphysical text surrounded by canyons of Brooke-Rose’s own analytical footnotes. It’s the perfect antidote for anyone who finds conventional fiction pass?.

It’s important to provide a place where someone can explain their work like that, Schilpp says.

On the flipside, the staff is well aware that conventional narrative isn’t about to die anytime soon. The newest issue, out this week and available at independent bookstores like Sam Weller’s, contains a coming-of-age story that could almost be filmed as an after-school special television program. Adam Novy’s Distant Bedrooms centers around a young protagonist who struggles through one of life’s first trials, the hopeless, boyhood crush. There’s lots of pot-smoking and vandalism along the way as our hero Paul falls in with the wrong crowd to impress the girl of his dreams. I was filled with love for Kara, Paul says, but the love you can’t give ruins you.

High-brow musings? Ivory tower conceits? Nah, says Schilpp. This is not academic stuff, it’s something anyone can pick up and read to enjoy.

As with all things artistic, though, QW runs a tenuous financial tight-wire. Like the U.’s student newspaper, The Daily Utah Chronicle, the literary magazine gets its funding from the Publications Council at a rate of $21,000 a year. The majority of that goes toward printing costs, and maybe a little coffee for the staff. And while the recent NEA grant is certainly a compliment, it’s a double-edged sword of sorts. With that money coming in, the powers at the university might just cut back QW’s present share.

Our funding is not guaranteed every year. We have to cross our fingers and hope they provide for us, Schilpp says.

So the magazine keeps going boldly forth, spreading the gospel of the written word to a national audience whose only image of the university might be Rick Majerus’ jumbo-sized sweaters.

There’s still room for writers who can produce work that moves beyond the usual themes of cancer, AIDS, anorexia and cheeky, soft-core porn. We’re always waiting for something good and unexpected to come through the mail, Schilpp says. Something that makes us say, ’God, I wish I had written that.’ Arts & Entertainment - Reading Frenzy DC75B0C4-1372-FCBB-8329BE053F98C889 2007-09-06 14:14:34.0 1 1 0 1998-06-04 00:00:00.0 55 0

Who says you have to go outside to enjoy yourself this summer? Other than half of the advertisers in this week’s paper, that is? Why not protect yourself from harmful UV rays by staying inside and enriching your brain with nutritious TV rays instead?

Summer is the time when television networks burn off shows that they believed were too lame to make it in the fall starting line-up, or even as midseason replacements—that’s right: shows worse than Ask Harriet or Players actually exist. Of course, there are also some brand-new, watchable programs that turn up in the summer—you just need a licensed professional to guide your remote finger. UPN (KJZZ 14, TCI 3) hasn’t yet figured out that they can put Star Trek: Voyager’s Jeri Ryan in anything—Jeri Ryan goes to the zoo, Jeri Ryan does her taxes, Jeri Ryan watches Caroline In the City, etc.—and it will attract viewers, so they’re sitting the summer out. The WB (KUWB 30, TCI 12), on the other hand, has already started airing Invasion America (Mondays, 8 p.m.), an animated sci-fi series about aliens taking over Earth. Since the only one who can save the planet is a 17-year-old boy, all is lost: He’s too busy watching a Jeri Ryan special on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Speaking of cable, there’s plenty happening there, as well: On that very Sci-Fi Channel (TCI 74), the canceled 1995-’97 Fox series Sliders returns (Mondays, 7 p.m.). Jerry O’Connell and token babe Kari Wuhrer are back, but the Pavoratti-lookin’ professor is still dead. Or in another dimension. Or playing a Pavoratti-lookin’ professor on Caroline In the City in another dimension. A Town Has Turned to Dust (June 27, 8 p.m.), a futuristic movie based on script by The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling, is not about the demise of Magna in 1999 after the heads of MagCorp get drunk and decide to really turn this sucker loose! Nor is there a special guest appearance by Gov. Mike Leavitt as El Pollo Diablo.

Between dazzling City Weekly promos and Vegas! repeats, F/X (TCI 19) is now running the all-new, all-twisted Bobcat’s Big Ass Show (weeknights, 11:30 p.m.). It’s a game show hosted by the greatest comedian of our generation, Bobcat Goldthwait, so what more do you need to know? This month, another sector of Rupert Murdock’s Fox Borg, Fox News Channel (TCI 8), debuts The Beltway Boys, wherein former McLaughlin Group drones Fred Barnes and Morton Kondrake discuss ... sorry, dozed off for a moment.

Lifetime (TCI 22), otherwise known as the Chick Channel, debuts three series on August 18: Any Day Now (8 p.m.), Maggie Day (9 p.m.) and Oh Baby (10:30 p.m.). All three shows are about strong-yet-vulnerable women struggling to make it as a single mom/attorney/veterinarian in a world run by bad, icky men. If you own a penis, this channel has likely been programmed out of your remote.

In July, the cable network that dared to cancel the great Duckman, USA (TCI 24), brings the 1995 cyber-thriller The Net (debuts July 19, 6 p.m.) to TV—this is very wrong. Why? Three words: No Sandra Bullock. Making matters worse, Melrose Place irritant Brooke Langton attempts to replace Bullock—my, uh, connection just went down. Another horrible mistake from USA this summer is a brand-new season of Pacific Blue (debuts July 26, 6 p.m.), with more Spandexed, bicycling butts than ever before chasing criminals who don’t have the good sense to just get in a car and drive away from, or over, bike cops.

Besides bringing us the hit-and-miss Howard Stern show (weeknights, 12 a.m.), E! (TCI 51)can also be depended upon to present a gratuitously sexy bikini special any time of year, not just summer: Mark that calendar for July 5, history buffs, when Kathy Ireland and Gena Lee Nolin team up for Sexy Swimsuits, a 48-hour, 24-part series from Civil War producer Ken Barry. Kathy and Gena Lee re-enact every major war (or, in this case, catfight) involving scanty beachwear in our nation’s history. OK, the name and the stars are correct, but the Ken Barry angle is just wishful thinking—who said summer viewing shouldn’t be educational? Arts & Entertainment - TV Summer DC75B102-1372-FCBB-833CF07468FDB9B3 2007-09-06 14:14:34.0 1 1 28402489-1372-FCBB-8308BACD41058F95 0 1998-06-11 00:00:00.0 56 0
Christopher Smart

OK, what are those things masquerading as windmills outside the Salt Palace on West Temple? Is that art?

It reminds me of a frog’s egg right at fertilization—dramatic, true, but I’m afraid the justices are right: They do look foolish beneath it.

I set out from the City Weekly offices and marched up West Temple toward the Salt Palace through hordes of southbound Southern Baptists, breaking from their convention. I considered the six windmills twirling above their heads, all pointing in slightly different directions. Is that art?

I had to solidify my own definition of art in order to answer the question. Here’s what I came up with: Art is that creation that sets the mind to wandering. It jump starts the imagination. It is larger than the sum of its parts and inspires the observer—in this case, me.

Some might say that art should capture a time and a place. It should reflect a culture and its values. But that stuff is beyond me. My simplified definition, then: if makes you feel good, it’s art.

Previously, I had been uninspired by the windmills when driving downtown. But as I pondered them, I have to admit they kinda grew on me. Are they art? I was still unsure.

Next stop: Right across the street on 100 South is a giant mural on the west side of the old Dinwoody building. It’s a contemporary mural in which you might see a redrock arch a la« Canyonlands. It is without doubt my favorite piece of public art in Salt Lake City. There isn’t a time I see it that I’m not gratified, in at least some small way. When I can consider it for more than just a second, I find myself pulled in by it and sent off into a magical world. Now, that’s art.

Next stop: Brigham Young. You know the old joke about the Brigham Young monument at the intersection of Main and South Temple: He’s got his back to the Temple and his hand out to the bank.

Ha, ha. Still, I thought I’d consider Brigham because his statue is nothing short of a land mark.

Up Main I went, passing by one of those smallish bronze statues you see around town—usually of children playing. This one is a woman brushing her daughter’s hair. It didn’t qualify as art for me. Those things are more like decor than art and are always located near financial institutions.

There stood Brigham. Handsome, yes, but he didn’t meet my standard for art. He represents the power structure. The statue just didn’t inspire me. Not art. Sorry, dude.

Funny thing. On my way to see Brigham, I bumped into Nancy Melich. She knows a lot about the arts. I told her about my quest and she filled me in on the rest of the story concerning the windmills. That is, when the windmills turn they power a number of gongs inside the glass tower at the Salt Palace.

No foolin’? Thanks, Nancy.

Next stop: The fountain in front of Abravanel Hall. Two dozen spigots shoot water up from the ground on a timer that varies the flow. You call that art? Well, it makes me feel good and it does set my imagination wandering. Is it art? No, it’s a fountain, stupid.

Back down 100 South to the windmills I went. I stood inside the glass tower and listened as one wooden gong after another would thud and resonate. Hey, cool. I wondered what they would sound like in a hurricane. The William Tell Overture? Maybe this is art, after all. Rube Goldberg, anyone?

Next stop: the mural on the east side of the Artspace studios at 300 West and Pierpont Ave. Although colorful, this mural isn’t what you’d call pretty. In it, artists are painting and sculpting and throwing pottery. It’s a striking painting and reminds me of something a socialist might paint because the artists seem to appear as workers with big muscles doing hard labor.

I like this socialist painting because it gets in your face. It stands there making a statement to all the bourgeoisie driving by in their nice, new cars. You can feel the strain of the artist/workers, just by looking at it. Yep, that’s art.

Next stop: Gallivan Plaza on 200 South between State and Main. There, atop a 30-foot rectangular pole of dark-gray slate is a rather large chunk of red sandstone. Hey, how did that rock get way up there? You call that art? Nah, way too contrived. It looks like someone was sitting around thinking, hey, what can we do that will look like art?

Half a block up, at 141 So. State, a Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics logo is brightly painted on the side of the old Camera Den building. As far as logos go, it’s all right—fair to middling, I’d say. But is it art? Not even close. It’s about money and politics, period. It is a false, commercial image—the opposite of art.

Public art, Olympic junk notwithstanding, is a good thing. There’s lots of it downtown. But I’m outa space and this walking tour is over. Take a look for yourself, sometime. And don’t miss those wooden gongs at the Salt Palace. Arts & Entertainment - You Call That Art? DC75B170-1372-FCBB-83B9A29C5A518911 2007-09-06 14:14:34.0 1 1 0 1998-06-18 00:00:00.0 50 0
Mary Dickson

Handicapped kids and the boys who befriend them — it’s a common theme, especially coming on the heels of Simon Birch.

In another tale of friendship between two misfits that is more like the sleeper, My Bodyguard, Kieran Culkin (Macaulay’s brother) plays a seriously-ill crippled boy with a big brain, and Elden Henson his oversized, not quite as bright, friend.

While Sharon Stone gets top billing, the real heart of the film are the two young performers who carry this moving story about the power of friendship.

The film is based on the acclaimed novel, Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrush. Max Kane (Henson), is the big-for-his-age seventh-grader who has been held back twice and has no friends. Teased by the other kids as Godzilla and Neanderthal, he’s the strong, silent type who thinks it best to suffer the slings and arrows of unkind kids and avoid trouble. In other words, he’s short on courage.

But the burden he carries is much heavier than his girth. He’s also a boy with a tortured past. His father is in prison for killing his mother — a tragedy he witnessed. He’s now living with his grandparents, Gram and Grimp (Gena Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton), who nervously watch for signs that the boy may be like his father — the abusive man who killed their daughter.

Young Max is more worried than either of them about the curse of his paternity. When he looks at a picture of his father, he sees himself. If he looks so much like this man, he reasons, he must harbor some of his badness as well. No wonder the poor boy is withdrawn and refuses to protect himself.

Living next door to Max is Kevin, the brainy crippled kid in leg braces the other kids call the freak. Unlike his shy neighbor, the feisty Kevin isn’t afraid to stand up to bullies. But like Max, Kevin, also, is fatherless. Kevin’s father deserted him the day he heard the word birth defect, which left his mother (Sharon Stone) to raise him alone.

Stone, who takes her smaller role seriously, actually makes a very believable mother. It’s a better role than she usually gets.

When Max is sent to remedial reading, Kevin is assigned to be his tutor. Kevin gives Maxis King Arthur to read, and the story unites the boys as they disappear into mutual fantasies.

Despite his disability, Kevin is a confident, self-assured kid who is also very resourceful. In Max, he sees someone who can be his legs. He pays him $5 to take him to see the fireworks. And when Max lifts Kevin to his shoulders, it’s as though they’ve become a single unit. Kevin is the brain, Max the legs. The bond that forms between them is the soul of this film, which though sometimes uneven, is marked by such good performances, such good-heartedness, and such a good message that the lapses are easy to overlook.

Kieran Culkin, a charmer who’s very good in the role of Kevin, has a real facility for the one-liners, but it’s the young Henson who gives this film’s strongest performance. He plays Max with a brooding, understated anguish. It’s a performance that would be impressive from an actor of any age. He doesn’t need to say much; his face shows the deep pain with which he’s grappling. He so fears the legacy of an evil father that in many ways he’s more crippled than his friend.

Both funny and inspirational, the film is also an adventurous tale. Kevin, who lives in the world of books and words and ideas, drags Max into his world of brave knights determined to right wrongs. Perched atop his friend’s shoulders, Kevin guides him to fight knaves, rescue damsels in distress, return stolen property to its rightful owners, and perform a gaggle of other good deeds.

In fanciful scenes, the boys envision themselves riding along with Lancelot, Galahad and other knights of the Arthurian legend. These excursions into the mythical help them triumphantly transcend the earthly restrictions that have rendered them outsiders.

Reality comes crashing down, however, when Max’s father is given early parole. He and his grandparents are terrified, though court orders prohibit the man from getting too close to any of them. When Max’s worst nightmare is realized, it’s Freak who now must act alone in a real-world adventure — risking everything to make the biggest rescue of his brief knighthood.

The Mighty is a celebration of friendship — showing what you can achieve when you lean on someone else. A friend can complement your weaknesses, give you confidence, help you overcome your fears, show you the importance of dreaming, and help you understand that, as long as you love someone, they’ll live forever — valuable lessons in a cynical world. For kids or adults, The Mighty creates two young heroes who indeed slay dragons, save women and walk high above the world. Kevin pairs his smarts with Max’s strength to fight real and mythical demons in The Mighty. Cinema - The Mighty DC75B4EA-1372-FCBB-833BCBDD054A13A5 2007-09-06 14:14:35.0 1 1 0 1998-10-15 00:00:00.0 20 0
Mary Dickson

What do Mormon missionaries know about orgasms? What does South Park co-creator Trey Parker know about Mormons? The answer in both cases: apparently enough.

In Orgazmo, mild-mannered Mormon missionary Joe Young ends up in the pornies as superhero Captain Orgazmo. The captain fights crime by brandishing his secret weapon, the Orgazmorator, which stuns criminals with an instant orgasm so intense they’re incapacitated. We’re talking high concept.

Campy films about Mormons. There is probably enough material out there to offer some sort of course. Start with Trapped by the Mormons, the 1922 British silent film about the evil missionary Isolde Keene on the prowl in Great Britain for fair and delightsome young maidens to drag back to his harem in the Temple of Salt by the waters of the Great Salt Lake. He hypnotized unsuspecting lasses with his flashing eyes.

The Great Salt Lake also figures into the 1962 cult film, Carnival of Souls, about a couple of drag-racing dames whose car plunges off a bridge. The sole survivor moves to a small Utah town to escape her traumatic past and become a church organist. Little does she know that she now belongs to the clan of the living dead. The waltz of hollow-eyed zombies at the SaltAir Pavilion is a classic.

And let us not forget the late Mike Cassidy’s The Attack of the Giant Brine Shrimp, in which the creature climbs out of the sludge of the Great Salt Lake, thumps on the Salt Palace, then scales the walls of the Temple and hurls the Angel Moroni on the panicking masses below.

Jump ahead to 1995 when Trent Harris tackled Mormons, sex, aliens, Nephites and polygamy in Plan 10 From Outer Space. Aliens traveled in beehive-shaped spaceships from the Planet Kolob, and a mad Mormon prophet buried the Plaque of Kolob (written in the Deseret Alphabet) near the shore of the Great Salt Lake, where a young girl found it generations later and embarked on a search for the secret of the bees.

The aliens in Plan 10 may have been sex fanatics disguised as angels, and the vampire-like Isolde Keene in Trapped by the Mormons may have been hypnotizing the ladies for his own foul purposes. But when it comes to sex, those Utah cult favorites pale next to Orgazmo.

Parker, who plays Elder Young, was reportedly upset that his farce got an NC-17 rating when Something About Mary — with its semen hair gel and pink naughty bits caught in zippers — mustered a good old-fashioned R. He has a point. There’s nothing as blatantly gross in Parker’s film. Sure, it’s vulgar and perversely sophomoric, but it has precisely the kind of humor that’s guaranteed to make it another cult favorite in this neck of the woods. It has plenty of local references (even a joke about cold fusion), shiny-faced missionaries, aging porn starlets and outlandish sex toys — a winning combination regardless of how stupid it gets. I’m not sure how it will play in the rest of the country, though Variety magazine has already given it rave reviews.

The film opens to two whistling, sunny-faced missionaries knocking on doors in Los Angeles. What would you say if someone offered you peace and happiness for all eternity? they ask a sweet-faced old woman. You two boys can just fuck right off! she smiles sweetly. And there you have Trey Parker’s sensibilities in a flash. It’s the same mind that created the infamous underground video, Spirit of Christmas, in which Jesus battles Santa Claus outside a mall. Parker’s unique twist accentuates the unexpected with hilarious — some would say offensive — results. It’s the kind of thing that makes you laugh even if you’re determined not to.

When Elder Young, who majored in theater at BYU, knocks on the door of porn producer Maxxx Orbison (Michael Dean Jacobs), he stumbles into big-time temptation: two days of work for $5,000. It will pay for his wedding in the pricey Salt Lake Temple. (A detail Parker gets wrong, of course.)

Anytime there’s actual penetration we’ll bring in another penis, Orbison assures the camera-shy Young, before upping the ante to $20,000. The wholesome Elder is convinced he can get the cash and still not compromise his standards. Even if things are crude, I think the Lord understands you need money, his companion assures him.

Young signs on to play Captain Orgazmo, whose trusty little sidekick Choda-Boy (Dian Bachar) is an MIT graduate who invents sex-toy weapons and wears a dildo helmet. Though he consorts with trashy porn stars who wander around the set wearily asking who they do today, the valiant Elder Young remains steadfast in his faith, reading from his Book of Mormon on the set and saying things like, Fie on you, Satan. He’s so naive, when someone yells, Jesus! he asks, Where?

Captain Orgazmo becomes such a hit that Elder Young is signed on for sequels. But when he discovers real-life crime, he starts using the Orgazmorator to fight real-life L.A. criminals. Gosh darn it! he says in a moment of epiphany. I’m not a superhero. I’m a Latter-day Saint.

Orgazmo was first presented as part of Midnight Madness at the Toronto Film Festival, and also played at last year’s Sundance Film Festival — where lines formed two hours ahead of the Tower Theatre’s midnight screening and snaked around the block. In the proud tradition of Trapped by the Mormons and Plan 10, the zany Orgazmo is another late-night camp classic for posterity. South Park co-creator Trey Parker brings new meaning to the phrase Happy Valley. Cinema - Orgazmo DC75B596-1372-FCBB-83B0D1C48967A000 2007-09-06 14:14:35.0 1 1 0 1998-10-22 00:00:00.0 20 0
Mary Dickson

Modern life seems pretty dreary for David (Tobie Maguire). His mom is divorced and heading off to the mud baths with a man nine years her junior. His sister, Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), is going through her heavy slut phase. His teachers deliver gloomy news of impending doom. To him, Pleasantville, the 1958 sitcom on the rerun channel, is the ultimate escape.

He tunes in every night to a place where cheery couples inhabit twin beds; dads perkily announce their arrival with Hello, honey. I’m home; moms serve Rice Crispie snacks and hearty breakfasts; bouncy coeds wear poodle skirts and sweater sets; the high school basketball team never loses; a fireman’s only job is rescuing cats from trees; and the weather report is always for another sunny cloud-free day.

David, who has memorized every episode, longs for that easier place and time where two-parent families are the rule and happiness abounds. When the TV remote control breaks in a fight with his sister, the Reliable TV Repairman (Don Knotts) gives him a new remote with a little more oomph in it. The new remote transports him and his sister into the carefree black-and-white world of Pleasantville, where they become series’ regulars Bud and Mary Sue Parker, offspring of the cheery George (William Macy) and band-box fresh Betty (Joan Allen).

Don’t be fooled. This film isn’t simply a Back to the Future case of corn-ball time travel. In fact, it defies easy categorization. It’s serious comedy, good-natured drama and imaginative fairytale that, as promised, turns the concept of Oz on its head. Making an auspicious directorial debut, screenwriter Gary Ross (Big and Dave) has created a timeless allegory more in the tradition of The Truman Show. Like its predecessor, the inventive Pleasantville is another thoughtful statement against the tyranny of ignorance is bliss complacency. Brilliantly executed, continually amusing, often touching and quite provocative, this is one of the year’s most life-affirming films.

Folks in the protected and insulated community of Pleasantville are as oblivious to the outside world as they are to their own inner landscapes. Passion, rain, even toilets don’t exist. Books are filled with blank pages and life ends at Elm Street. When the new Mary Sue asks her geography teacher, What’s outside of Pleasantville? the class is aghast at the concept that anything at all exists outside their picture-perfect community.

David may know all Bud’s lines by heart, but his sister is definitely not following the script. You’ll throw their whole universe out of whack, he warns, which is precisely what happens.

Things first begin to unravel when this spirited Mary Sue takes Skipper to Lover’s Lane and shows him what men and women do where she comes from. That’s when color begins to seep onto the black and white canvas of Pleasantville. It begins with one red rose, one pink bubble and just keeps spreading.

The most glorious infusion of color comes after Mom asks Mary Sue what sex is. Your father would never do that! she exclaims. There are ways you can enjoy yourself without Dad, Mary Sue hints. And when Mom does just that, she triggers a Technicolor display so intense that the tree outside her bathroom window bursts into flame. For Mom, all innocence has been lost. She’s tasted the forbidden fruit and there’s no turning back.

It’s a metaphor that figures heavily into this film. At one point a girl literally picks a red apple off a tree and offers it to a boy. As the innocents in this paradise are enlightened, they don’t just become mortal, they become colored.

And that panics Mom who, despite her yearning for self-awareness and her struggle to become human, tries to hide her new-found color behind gray makeup so that she’ll still fit in. Joan Allen is such an amazing actress that she infuses what could have been a simply comic role with a depth that makes her character’s conflict as touching as it is universal. It’ll go away, her husband tries to assure her about her flesh tones. But I don’t want it to go away, she says, fighting back tears in a very poignant scene.

William’s Dad, baffled when he comes home to a dark house with no dinner and no wife to greet him, is sympathetic as well. He’s just confused by changes beyond his control.

He’s not alone. One man is thrown off balance when his wife scorches his shirt because she was — shudder — thinking. At the soda fountain, Mr. Johnson (Jeff Daniels) begins wondering about the point of cooking all those cheeseburgers the same way everyday. He’d rather be painting. Bud has opened his eyes to the possibilities and nothing will be the same again.

But Bud worries that, We’re messing with their whole universe.

Maybe it needs to be messed up, Mary Sue tells her brother, confident that No one’s happy like this; they just don’t know any better.

A revolution has been sparked. Kids ask what’s outside of Pleasantville. Words appear on the empty pages of books, and reading becomes as big a craze as parking at Lover’s Lane. They discover that sex is being alive, and so is intellectual curiosity and unfettered creativity. Witnessing the wonder of their awakening is thrilling. They’re soaring outside their box for the first time, and it’s as frightening for some as it is exhilarating for others — which divides the town for the first time.

The old guard — primarily the men in charge — doesn’t like its predictable, ordered universe upset. The Mayor lays down new codes of conduct to maintain the status quo and keep the townspeople from straying. It’s the classic reactionary response — destroy what scares you; strip away what gives life color.

Yes, the real world is loud, it’s scary and it’s dangerous, but Ross makes the compelling argument that it’s the better place to live. Perfection is, after all, an illusion. His inspiring film is perfect for this community, where predictability and being pleasant are so highly prized. As his appealing parable shows, the most subversive act of all is being bold enough to live without expectation or certainty, and having the courage to show your true colors. Pleasantville has no sex, no color and no words in its books — sort of like living in Utah. Cinema - 981029 -Pleasantville DC75B613-1372-FCBB-83E8783BD437BF05 2007-09-06 14:14:35.0 1 1 0 1998-10-29 00:00:00.0 20 0
Mary Dickson

When it won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, Life Is Beautiful sparked a bit of a controversy. Yes, there’s something unsettling about a comedy that deals with the Holocaust.

But Italian comedian Roberto Benigni leaves it to others to document the brutal reality of that ghastly chapter of history, and instead delivers a moving fable celebrating the human spirit and imagination in his own uniquely inventive fashion. As the narrator says in the film’s prologue, this is a simple story.

While often comic, it’s unfair to categorize Life Is Beautiful simply as a comedy. It’s far more serious than that misleading designation. The way Benigni deals with tragic events makes his film both emotionally powerful and unexpectedly hopeful. His marvelous fable is full of sorrow, but as the title implies, it is also full of wonder, grace and beauty.

Benigni, Italy’s Steve Martin, is a comic genius who is at times reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin. He first won over American audiences as the impish Italian prisoner, Roberto — but you can call me Bob in Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law. Life Is Beautiful, which he also co-wrote and directed, has already won eight of Italy’s top film awards, including best picture, director and actor. Benigni plays the charming, cheerful and clownish Guido, a waiter at a posh Italian resort and a natural optimist who makes you share his rosy vision of the world.

Guido’s story unfolds in two parts, almost like two separate films. The first half, which plays like an enchanting fairytale, is wonderfully whimsical. It’s 1938 and Guido is driving through the lush Tuscan countryside with his friend. He stops at a roadside stand, where he introduces himself as a prince. When the beautiful Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) falls out of a barn knocking him into a haystack, he can’t believe his good luck. A princess has literally fallen on him from the heavens. Buon Giorno, Principesa! becomes his greeting whenever he — literally — runs into her.

When he finds out she teaches school, he impersonates the fascist official who is scheduled to discuss the country’s new race manifesto with students. In a hilarious scene that could have come straight out of Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, the scrawny Benigni jumps on the table, offering himself up as an example of racial purity. The Manifesto of Racist Scientists, which Benigni so brilliantly spoofs, actually existed. Mussolini adopted Hitler’s racist policies after forming a military alliance with him in 1938.

Into Guido’s world of whimsy creep signs of impending doom. His horse is painted bright green with a sign proclaiming it a Jewish horse. Guido is Jewish. His beloved Dora, a high-bred daughter of a powerful political official, is engaged to a fascist officer — but Guido captures her heart. At her wedding dinner, as guests nonchalantly discuss saving state funds by eliminating undesirables, the beautiful princess slips under the table in a sea of pink chiffon and begs Guido to take her away. As the opulent feast is served by a parade of costumed servants carrying ornately decorated trays, Guido rides in on his green horse, whisks the princess away and carries her into the courtyard of his uncle’s house.

When they walk out of the courtyard, it’s five years later. Mussolini has been ousted and the Germans have occupied Italy. Guido has opened the bookshop he’s dreamed of, and his son is by his side, wondering why so many shops have signs declaring, No Jews and No Dogs. Guido’s explanation? There are some stores where they say, ’No Chinamen and No Kangaroos.’ He asks his son, What do you hate? And so they put a sign on their door prohibiting spiders. This is how Guido shields his young son from the insanity around them. He turns it around, presenting the horrors as something benign. This is his greatest gift.

When Guido and his son are rounded up and shipped to a concentration camp three months before the war’s end, Guido convinces him they’re taking a special birthday trip and that they’re playing a game in which the winner gets a real tank. In the barracks, as menacing German guards bark orders, Guido translates for the prisoners. They said that whoever gets the most points wins the tank! he shouts. No crying for Mommy! No asking for snacks! The wide-eyed boy believes whatever his father tells him. When the other children are sent to the showers, Guido hides his son in his barracks, telling him that he must now play hide and seek. If he is caught, he will lose all his points and some other child will win the tank. The father’s love for his son is boundless. Though exhausted, he sustains this charade for months, expending all his energy to present a cheerful face to his young son.

The horrors of the situation are underplayed in this fable, but it’s not meant to be a realistic depiction of the camps. There is one surreal scene in which Guido carries his son through the fog and sees a ghostly mountain of bodies through a clearing in the mist. Surreal as the image is, it’s the film’s most chilling reminder of where they are. Guido clings tightly to his sleeping boy, more determined than ever to save him from that hellish mound. He will save him by his wits and boundless ingenuity, sacrificing everything for his child. He cannot succumb to the horror of overwhelming tragedy, even when it’s staring down at him through the mist. If he waivers at all, they’ll be lost. If he plays the clown, they may have a chance.

Benigni’s performance is brilliant. Like all great comedians, it’s the pathos underneath the laughter that makes him so great. His film is indeed a daring departure, but it’s a beautiful testament to the power of love, imagination and humor. The two faces of Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful portray Jewish-Italian life during Hitler’s war. Cinema - DC75B690-1372-FCBB-83B9B36E577560FB 2007-09-06 14:14:35.0 1 1 0 1998-11-12 00:00:00.0 20 0
Mary Dickson

A booted man, swastika emblazoned on his chest, brings his foot crashing down on another man’s head, crushing it against the pavement. Masked skinheads fueled by irrational hatred ransack a store and beat and torture its immigrant workers. A man pinned against the tiles of a shower is brutally raped.

Those horrifying images linger, even though the film American History X drives home its point: Hatred is not only absurd, but a hypocritical sham; violence only begets more violence; and order is a fragile thing. But it’s a hard-learned lesson.

American History X is not easy viewing. Some scenes in this hard-boiled look into the evil heart of hatred are so assaulting, they’re impossible to watch. In fact, I couldn’t sleep the night after I saw it because its chilling images were so vivid.

Filmmakers Tony Kaye and David McKenna spare no details in their unflinching exploration of hate and decay, which is why it’s hard to recommend this film. But under its showcase of terror is a story of redemption and, dare I say, hope.

Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton in his most stunning performance to date) is a skinhead who, after three sobering years in prison, comes to regret his chosen path and misspent youth. He leaves prison a changed man, having rehabilitated himself after discovering that his skinhead comrades there have loyalty to no cause but themselves, and that the black man with whom he shares laundry duty is his real friend. He comes out of prison determined to start a new life and to save the younger brother who idealizes him and is following in his footsteps.

But Derek’s old friends, fed on racist rhetoric, aren’t eager to let him repent and move on. For this film to work, we have to accept Derek’s change of heart, which is difficult initially. In fact, I kept jotting in my notes what changed him?

The film, which unfolds in black and white flashbacks often rendered in slow motion and interspersed with color scenes of the present, paints Derek as a monster. When his brother tells him that black gang members with guns are breaking into his truck, Derek climbs off his white-trash girlfriend (Fairuza Balk in the film’s weakest performance), grabs his gun, swaggers to the front door with his sculpted muscles rippling, shoots the three burglars, then finishes off the one who’s still breathing with his boot.

When arrested, Derek smiles a self-satisfied smile that is pure evil. When he’s released from prison in the next scene, he’s so changed he even looks different. His hair has grown out and he’s a more subdued man. What caused this metamorphosis? Be patient. It’s all part of how the filmmakers reveal the many layers of this character, showing the origin of both his hatred and repentance in this cautionary tale.

His father was a fireman murdered by drug dealers he tried to save from the flames. Coming from a home where racism was spouted, and a community disintegrating into crime ripped apart by rage, this tragedy is what sparked Derek’s descent into a hate-spewing thug. (Beware, the crazed racist propaganda is painful.)

Unlike his hulking friends, who are merely as stupid as they are misguided, Derek is especially dangerous because he is both bright and a natural leader intent on recruiting foot soldiers to reclaim what they view as lost territory.

The metamorphosis of Derek Vinyard hinges not only on the script, but on Norton’s performance — which is absolutely electrifying. In a career that’s included primarily supporting roles, he makes the leap to lead with Oscar-caliber flair in this complex role. Norton, unlike so many of his contemporaries, is not just a pretty face sleepwalking through his lines, but an actor’s actor. He is chillingly convincing as the raging skinhead, but equally as believable as the remorseful repentant.

The contrast between these two facets of character is enormous, but one Norton skillfully bridges. When Derek looks into the bathroom mirror of his mother’s house and sees the black swastika that almost consumed the heart it covers, his shame is boundless. He can’t escape his past anymore than he can hide under his hand the swastika on his chest.

Edward Furlong plays Derek’s kid brother, Danny, a lost boy whose greatest crime is choosing the wrong idol. Though his is a good performance, it’s harder to see why this mild-mannered boy morphs into a hate-spouting skinhead after watching in sheer terror as his brother became a self-appointed executioner. We never see why, after such a traumatizing experience, he would still follow in Derek’s footsteps. Nor do we see why the black principal at their high school would go to such lengths to save them both.

The film’s title, by the way, comes from the name of a special after-school course the principal creates for Danny after he writes a paper extolling Hitler as a civil rights leader. If this sick, confused child can learn such babble, he can unlearn it, the principal reasons. In American History X, his assignment is to write the story of his brother, analyzing and interpreting his life, which becomes a device for the film’s structure. Hate, Danny comes to see, is baggage. Life is too short to be pissed off all the time.

The assignment is successful; both Danny and Derek discover the better angels of our nature, but this powerful film’s greatest tragedy is that they have found it too late. Derek killed three men in cold blood, and while he got only three years in prison, his crime ultimately leads to a punishment with all the dimension of a Greek tragedy. As he cries what have I done? in the final gut-wrenching scene, you know he will live the rest of his life with the terrible consequences of his sins. American History X teaches lessons hard-learned — for the characters and the viewer. Cinema - American History X DC75B6BF-1372-FCBB-831FFD5EABD7301F 2007-09-06 14:14:35.0 1 1 0 1998-11-19 00:00:00.0 20 0
Mary Dickson

The man sitting next to me walked out when the chain saws came out, the bloody bodies starting bouncing in the bathtub, and the audience laughed. I wish I had followed him. He was spared more gratuitous gore: a man smashed into a minivan by a Suburban, a man’s face pummeled with a steel hat rack, legs literally flying as cars crashed head-on.

Peter Berg, who stars in TV’s Chicago Hope, makes his motion picture debut with what is billed as a savage comedy. He’s one sick puppy. There is absolutely nothing funny about Very Bad Things. It’s just a very bad film with grotesque, pointless violence masquerading as comedy.

Truly frightening, however, was the number of people in the audience who kept laughing at the sordid slop; even more distressing was the presence of several young children, dragged along by irresponsible parents who remained glued to their seats as the kiddies chomped on gummy bears and the body count mounted.

What starts as a potentially interesting concept about the demons inside ordinary people, quickly falls apart and becomes an excuse to shock for the sake of shocking. Berg’s comedy turns disgustingly offensive precisely because it is only pretending to be comical. I repeat: There is nothing funny about this film.

Five friends at a bachelor party accidentally kill the prostitute they’ve hired. They’re regular Joes — except for the demented Robert (Christian Slater), a sleazy real estate hustler with no redeeming qualities. Robert has arranged a night out in Las Vegas for booze, drugs and wild sex before Kyle (Jon Favreau) ties the knot with his bossy bride-to-be (Cameron Diaz).

While four of the boys get totally looped, wrestle each other and smash furniture, eager-beaver Michael (Jeremy Piven) heads into the bathroom with the 105-pound hooker, his pants already around his ankles. During vigorous thrusting against the tiled wall, she catches a hook in the back of the head, it pierces her brain and she dies instantly.

The revelers freak out, rightfully so, especially Michael’s brother, Adam (Daniel Stern), who is a happily married father of two. But the amoral Slater cautions against calling the police. Preaching calm and urging consideration of the options, he suggests burying the body in the desert. Take away the horror, the tragedy of death, the morals, and it’s 105 pounds to move between point A and B, he says. Instead of seeing their pal as a psychopath, they accept his suggestion. They’ll dispose of the evidence, return home and dedicate themselves to living respectable lives, as though nothing has happened.

When a security guard knocks on the door and spots the body, the plan unravels. As the boys fall over themselves confessing, El Demento Slater attacks the guard with a corkscrew and locks him in the bathroom to die. Now there are two bodies to take between point A and B, and it is at this point that the film turns rancid. As the audience laughs — God knows why — the music turns bouncy and the boys march down the aisle of a hardware store brandishing chain saws and burial tools. Body parts go in bags, and they head to the desert.

It’s completely implausible that four otherwise-respectable men would go through with this grisly disposal plan. They’d recognize Slater as the psychopath he is, and run screaming from his madness instead of anointing him their leader. Slater can ruin any movie he’s in, and in this case his character could have been eliminated entirely if Berg wanted his movie to make a point. Not only is Slater’s character a cold-blooded killer, he’s also a self-actualized worm brimming with annoying psycho-babble. This isn’t man’s base nature surfacing, it’s the annoying Slater in a ridiculous caricature.

Of course, the five friends begin to turn on each other, shedding any veneer of civility, while the witless Cameron Diaz (Who can take her seriously after There’s Something About Mary?) can only whine about the seating arrangements for her wedding. None of them grasp the gravity of the situation except Adam. Consumed by guilt, he’s heading into psychological meltdown and he may start talking. No problem, his brother guns the Suburban and crushes him against his own minivan. All you can do is groan.

Even when it’s down to two survivors and Kyle confesses to his fiance, she doesn’t want to hear it. She has only one goal in life, and she’s not about to let a few murders deter her. I waited 27 years, focused and prepared to walk down that aisle. I will not be derailed! she shrieks.

Berg claims to be aiming for comedy, but it’s only mean-spiritedness he inspires with his bursts of over-the-top violence. His film is symptomatic of the worst in ’90s cinema, in which nastiness is coupled with excess and played for laughs. He joins a league of self-indulgent, hyped-up young punks who fancy themselves filmmakers, take perverse pleasure in shocking for the sake of shocking, and ultimately have nothing to say. Hopefully, the genre will run its course, dying the kind of quiet, unheralded death its creators are incapable of depicting.

Very Bad Things is the kind of maddening film that makes me shake my head and seriously question why I’m in this business. At some movies, the only sensible response is to walk out — precisely what the man next to me, and at least a dozen other audience members, did. Regretfully, I stayed to the bitter end. Peter Berg’s attempt at savage comedy succeeds only at being savage. Cinema - Very Bad Things DC75B72C-1372-FCBB-836B111527AE5ABF 2007-09-06 14:14:35.0 1 1 0 1998-11-26 00:00:00.0 28 0
Mary Dickson

Ah, the intrigue of royalty: We can’t get enough of it, and there’s plenty to be had in Elizabeth, Shekhar Kapur’s darkly sumptuous historical drama. The film follows the turbulent early years of Queen Elizabeth I, as the newly crowned monarch maneuvers to secure her throne amid endless conspiracies and assassination attempts. The machinations of modern politics pale next to the treachery of the 16th century English court.

The 25-year-old Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1558 during dark days for England. Conspiracy and terror reigned in a country racked by financial and religious instability following the rule of Mary Tudor. Tudor was a zealous Catholic who tried to return England to Catholicism, an unpopular agenda in a country that officially broke with the church under Henry VIII and remained clearly anti-Catholic under two kings.

Fearful of Protestant gains, Mary stepped up their persecution. Her public executions of nearly 300 Protestants, earned her the name Bloody Mary and led to more political and civil unrest in England.

Unable to produce an heir, the ailing Mary was determined not to let her half-sister Princess Elizabeth, whom she considered both the illegitimate child of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII and a heretic, succeed her. Following an uprising against her, Mary accused Elizabeth of treason and imprisoned her in the Tower of London.

This is the point at which Indian director Shekhar Kapur’s sometimes choppy film begins: On her deathbed, consumed by cancer, Mary (an imposing Kathy Burke) summons Elizabeth, begging her to uphold Catholicism in England. Elizabeth makes no promise. Before she can sign a death warrant, Mary is dead and Elizabeth is Queen of England.

Magnificently portrayed by Australian actress Cate Blanchett (Oscar and Lucinda), Elizabeth is a spirited, independent woman with well-honed instincts. Blanchett, with a translucent beauty the real Elizabeth likely did not share, creates a perfect mix of vulnerability and determination, exuding a strength of admirable ferocity.

She shows the young queen’s transformation from uncertain ruler (a scene in which she nervously rehearses an address is particularly charming) to formidable force. It’s a portrayal that should propel the deserving Blanchett to stardom. Though the rest of the cast, which includes Oscar-winning Geoffrey Rush, Sir John Gielgud, Joseph Fiennes and Fanny Ardant, is flawless, they are secondary to Blanchett,ho commands the screen as Elizabeth ruled her subjects: with intelligence and self-assurance.

This is Kapur’s first English language film. His style is extremely visual and the look of the film, from the elaborate costumes to the imposing interiors, is extraordinary. Despite its rich material, luscious texture and solid performances, however, the film’s script prevents it from holding as much passion as I expected. As well-crafted as it was, I was never particularly moved. It does, however, refreshingly depict a slice of history shaded by contemporary themes, with a particularly feminist twist.

Elizabeth is both inspiring and sympathetic, her story representing the choices women often have to make between career and personal life. The young Elizabeth had to choose between her passions and her duty as monarch, forsaking marriage and children to establish unity and stability in England. Even her neckline, starting low and gradually closing up, reflects her choice.

To reign supreme, as she is told, she must be made of stone. Her ladies-in-waiting dress her in white gowns, cut off her long red hair and paint her face and hands white in the film’s final and most powerful scene. She has opted to become an icon for her people, reinventing herself as the Virgin Queen. Observe, she addresses her court, dressed in resplendent white bridal garb. I am married to England. But it is not a decision without some remorse, as her ruefully delivered line I have become a virgin, expresses.

This is a story of a woman who sacrifices herself to assume the mantle of power, and by doing so denies her heart. The incredibly handsome Joseph Fiennes (Ralph’s younger brother) portrays Lord Robert Dudley, the man she loved since age 16 and whose name she whispered on her deathbed.

She makes no secret of her feelings and is repeatedly cautioned to put aside personal pleasure. Her majesty’s body and person are no longer her own property; they belong to the state, her chief adviser (Richard Attenborough) tells her. And the state is divided, bankrupt, without an army and under threat from foreign enemies.

Mary of Guise (Fanny Ardant), the French wife of the King of Scotland, has amassed troops on the Scottish border and is ready to strike. A papal conspiracy has been organized from Rome, with the promise of heaven to any man who assassinates the Queen.

Enemies lurk within the court as well, most notably the ambitious Duke of Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston), who covets the throne relentlessly. Only by marrying and producing an heir, Elizabeth’s adviser tells her, can she secure her realm. Her choices are her dead sister’s husband, the loutish brother of the King of France, or the King of Spain. Not only is Elizabeth in love with Dudley (the film insinuates she was no virgin), but she has no interest in making England part of France or Spain.

When she later forsakes Dudley, she resolves never to marry. I am no man’s Elizabeth, she announces defiantly. To survive, she must become a force unto her own. I may be a woman, she says. But if I want, I have the heart of a man.

Geoffrey Rush in a quietly commanding, though too brief, performance plays Francis Walsingham, the shadowy Master of Spies, who becomes the Queen’s indispensable adviser and stops at nothing to protect her. On his advice, Elizabeth stages an exacting counter-coup that finally secures her throne and firmly establishes her as the legendary Virgin Queen.

Unafraid and indomitable, she would reign for 44 years and make England the richest and most powerful nation in the world. It’s a fascinating story, richly portrayed, but as good as this film is, I was left wanting more. Elizabeth chose public life over private, leaving her country no heir — other than unity and strength. Cinema - Elizabeth DC75B7F7-1372-FCBB-83068DF02F2EEA3C 2007-09-06 14:14:36.0 1 1 0 1998-12-03 00:00:00.0 21 0
Mary Dickson

The majority of men — and women and children — lead lives of quiet desperation, to paraphrase Thoreau. That desperation is precisely what filmmaker Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse) so subversively portrays in a film that has both an ironic sense of humor and a very gloomy take on the alienation of contemporary society.

If you’re feeling lonely, despondent or depressed (Who doesn’t at times?), you might want to avoid his darkly comic film about an assorted collection of neurotics trying to make a pitiful last-ditch connection with other human beings. Then again, maybe these angst-ridden dysfunctionals will make you feel pretty damned good about yourself.

Without Solondz’s sly humor, the otherwise bleak scenarios of their interlocking lives would be unpalatable — like Ingmar Bergman on downers. Solondz uses happy tunes and sun-dappled suburban neighborhoods as transitions between about a dozen stories. What goes on inside the houses, apartments and offices of those landscapes, however, is anything but sunn

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