The work of independents dazes EW writers Movies: An issue devoted to alternative cinema goes a little overboard but makes several interesting points.


November 23, 1997|By Don Aucoin | Don Aucoin,BOSTON GLOBE

Indie-mania is busting out all over Entertainment Weekly.

Arguing that a new golden age of movie making is upon us, EW devotes an entire issue to independent filmmakers. It's a nifty little history of alternative cinema that contains, among other things, a guide to the independent movies that matter, from "Metropolis" to "Return of the Secaucus Seven" to "The Piano," that could come in handy for video-store browsing.

There is breathlessness and overstatement here and there in the issue but, generally, EW finds something smart or arresting to say about all the key indie players and their movies, from John Cassavetes to John Sayles to Quentin Tarantino, while looking into the pipeline for indie gems to come.

I liked Chris Nashawaty's tribute to the ineluctably cool Gena Rowlands, and Steve Wulf's description of Harvey Keitel as "the patron sinner of independent films" ("There must be a screen at the Infernoplex booked with Harvey Keitel's films from the past three decades," Wulf writes).

I also found my head nodding in agreement with Jeff Gordinier's summation of Sayles: "Languages and places matter to Sayles because communities matter to Sayles: Time and again his movies show you the way an entire society works." Of course, Sayles' 1979 novel "Union Dues" did the same thing, and for any reader of that classic, there will always be a pang of regret that he scaled back his novel-writing to make movies.

Canonization of Clint

To anyone who remembers the critical bashing Clint Eastwood used to get back in his "Dirty Harry" days, when he was routinely vilified as a crypto-fascist, it's been amusing to see the way critics have rushed to anoint him as an auteur in the last few years.

The canonization of Clint continues in the December issue of Icon magazine, where Eastwood peers out from the cover, his visage as craggy and eternal as Mount Rushmore. Ric Gentry offers a comprehensive overview of Eastwood's life, including some real-life adventures that could have been scripted by Hollywood, such as the time Eastwood had to swim six miles to shore through shark-infested waters after an Army plane he was aboard crashed.

Eastwood's laconic take on how that hair-raising escapade permanently affected his outlook: "The world turns, but you never know. It could tilt."

Framingham story

New Republic turns its gaze toward Massachusetts in the Nov. 24 issue. Joel Millman weighs in with an intriguing look at the tensions between Brazilian immigrants and local social-service providers whose clients include welfare recipients.

In what Millman calls an "immigrant revival," Brazilian newcomers are launching businesses throughout Framingham's long-struggling downtown. But their ambitions to re-energize the town even more have collided, Millman says, with the unwillingness of social-service agencies to sell the buildings they snapped up in the past decade at bargain prices. "Framingham's experience encapsulates an issue at the heart of the immigration debate: Who, exactly, are the 'deserving' poor"? writes Millman.

Elsewhere is a piece by Warren Cohen that adds to the mountain of sadness that is the Louise Woodward case.

Cohen contends that glaring problems in the au pair program should have prompted Congress to reform it long before little Matthew Eappen died. But despite the deaths of two other children while in the care of au pairs, our federal lawmakers failed to do so because of lobbying by au pair organizations and by "parents eager to preserve a source of cheap child-care labor."

Echoing Penelope Leach, who recently made a similar argument in the New York Times, Cohen writes that there is a "basic contradiction" at the heart of the au pair program, namely, that "European teen-agers, promised a cultural exchange by the program's advertising, arrive in the U.S. with dreams of learning and adventure. Once here, many find that they are treated like maids. For their part, American parents, expecting to see Mary Poppins, discover that their new teen helpers have never changed a diaper before, and that many of the au pairs chafe at limitations on their off-hours socializing."

Conspiracy theories

Christopher Buckley, one of America's funniest writers, turns serious in the Washington Monthly for a discussion of the pernicious effects of conspiracy theories and theoreticians, from Adolf Hitler to Louis Farrakhan. In his review of a book on conspiracy-mania by Daniel Pipes, Buckley cites a Pipes statistic on "conspiracism's costs" that makes the blood run cold: 169 million victims of mass murder in the 20th century (a count that does not include warfare casualties).

Elsewhere in Washington Monthly is Stanley Karnow's memoir of working as a correspondent for Time magazine in Paris in the 1950s. Life was good, if bibulous, for Henry Luce's wage slaves: martinis every day at noon, followed by a four-course dinner in a nice restaurant, washed down with a bottle of wine. Sort of puts a new spin on that "backward ran sentences until reeled the mind" Time style, doesn't it?

Andy and antiques

Dennis Franz's Andy Sipowicz is to "NYPD Blue" what Ed Asner's Lou Grant was to the old "Mary Tyler Moore Show": not the top-billed star, but the real reason many people watch. A brief profile of Franz in the December issue of US magazine makes even clearer what a great actor Franz is, since he is "not, at all, that guy he plays," according to author Stacey D'Erasmo. You want proof? D'Erasmo discovers that Franz spends his weekends shopping for antiques. Try picturing Sipowicz doing that.

Pub Date: 11/23/97

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