Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus

I’m not a fan of photographer Diane Arbus, but I suspect the basis of her talent was a capacity to turn all her camera subjects into freaks and not a simple interest in freaks per se. This arty and moody account of her formation as an artist, as its subtitle declares, is basically invented. Its nerviness only pays off in a few details and in Nicole Kidman’s resourcefulnessmainly a way of suggesting morbid curiosity as erotic stimulation, though the script manages to find diverse excuses for undressing her. Directed by Steven Shainberg, and written by Erin Cressida Wilson (who also wrote Shainberg’s previous feature, Secretary), this traces Arbus’s artistic roots as an oppressed 50s housewife and vicarious mother to an upstairs neighbor who looks like the beast in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, sounds and acts like Robert Downey Jr., and introduces her to countless other freaks. With Ty Burrell, Harris Yulin, and Jane Alexander. R, 122 min. (JR)

Published on 27 Oct 2006 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Catch A Fire

Based on a true story and written by Shawn Slovo (A World Apart), this Philip Noyce feature shows how a relatively apolitical young man in South Africa (Derek Luke) becomes a dedicated terrorist in the early 80s after he and his wife (Bonnie Henna) are wrongly arrested for a bombing and he’s tortured extensively. Todd McCarthy wrote in Variety, The question nags as to what pressing need there is, 25 years after the fact, for a thriller that hinges on apartheid in South Africa when there are so many new pressing and pertinent political and cultural issues. The answer is that torture may now be radicalizing Iraqi citizens. That said, the film never strays much beyond the obvious, despite a conscientious effort by Tim Robbins to humanize a white security officer. PG-13, 101 min. (JR)

Published on 27 Oct 2006 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Running With Scissors

Based on a memoir by Augusten Burroughs, this first feature by writer-director Ryan Murphy clearly aims to outdo other comedy dramas about dysfunctional families through sheer hyperbole. The young hero (Joseph Cross) boasts an alcoholic father (Alec Baldwin) and an unglued mother (Annette Bening), who deposits him in the no less dysfunctional household of her therapist (a satirically funny Brian Cox). Maybe all this really happened, but I didn’t believe a second of it as portrayed. Bening (whose Oscar nomination for American Beauty seems to have turned her toward playing monsters) tries very hard, as do Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Jill Clayburgh, and Gwyneth Paltrow. But Murphy seems either incapable of or uninterested in creating a recognizable world, so local comic effects count for everything. R, 121 min. (JR)

Published on 27 Oct 2006 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Conversations With God

God speaking through Neale Donald Walsch (Henry Czerny) seems to be a secondary and not especially memorable part of this story; the primary part is Putnam paying $1.5 million for world rights to Walsch’s first inspirational book, Conversations With God. Not a bad deal for someone who was once a jobless and homeless wretch with a broken neck, and writer Eric DelaBarre and director Stephen Simon deliver Walsch’s apotheosis without any trace of irony. But their treatment of his misfortunes has some of the ring of truth, even though the movie lingers far too long over its own epiphanies. With Ingrid Boulting. PG, 109 min. (JR)

Published on 27 Oct 2006 in Featured Texts, by admin

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