Bloody Sunday

dir. Paul GreengrassBloody Sunday is a faux documentary account of January 30, 1972, when British troops fired on Northern Irish civilians, killing 13 people and wounding 14 others.

We, the Irish civilians, are slender, boyish, pale, stoop-shouldered. They, the Brits, are gigantic, hulking, their hamlike faces darkened for battle, their tiny pig eyes squinting with spite. We admire Martin Luther King Jr. and can (amazingly) sing "We Shall Overcome" more or less in tune. They worship discipline and bark out heartless orders, all (amazingly) in the most despised accent in the world, the Oxbridge whine. Our dead have family and friends who weep for them; theirs are statistics. We are frightened and confused; they know what they are doing at every moment. We act from principle, with no thought of personal or political advancement; they are craven careerists.

Propaganda, a valid art form, can be wicked fun, but this film's determined drabness is no fun at all. With its gag-making handheld camera and its austerely nonacting Irish actors, Bloody Sunday tries to suggest that it's a serious moral inquiry. How can we tell it's not? Because one side is all good and the other is Eeee-vil (George W. Bush please take note). BARLEY BLAIR

The Grey Zone

dir. Tim Blake NelsonBased on actual events at the Auschwitz concentration camp, the story follows a "Special Squad" of Sonderkommandos--Jews who facilitated the killing of other Jews by preparing the gas chambers and disposing of the bodies. In exchange for services, members get better rooms, food, and a few months longer to live. This plight constitutes the moral "grey zone"; the men claim they are not murderers because they don't actually do the killing--they are simply doing all they can to fend for themselves. However, when a waif of a girl survives being gassed, the men see her as the embodiment of redemption from guilt and risk everything--including an organized revolt against the Nazis--to try and save her.

Like his Eye of God, Tim Blake Nelson's latest movie is not easy to watch; every scene is desperately hopeless and steeped in death. But it is a beautifully executed piece that begs uncomfortable questions about how an extreme environment can induce--or perhaps simply reveal--inhumanity, specifically within the persecuted group. Normally stupid-funny David Arquette does a (surprisingly) excellent job easing into drama here; Mira Sorvino and Allan Corduner are also highlights. The use of stark and deliberate cinematography allows the plot and characters to unfold slowly, adding to the overall horror of the situation being depicted. The night I watched this movie, I couldn't sleep. ALLEGRA WIBORG

Paid in Full

dir. Charles Stone IIIAin't nothin' folks relate to like a story about cash money. Based on a true story, Paid in Full paints a vivid and sincere portrait of the lives and times of a group of teenage Harlem drug lords in the early '80s. Ace (Wood Harris) is 16 and works at a dry cleaner's after school and covets the large livin' of his sister's boyfriend, Calvin, who wears Flavor Flav glasses and serves as the local drug connection. When Calvin gets locked up, Ace cautiously moves in on Calvin's scene. Through a Colombian client, he accidentally corners Harlem's coke market, and from there, it's on. Every single actor in this movie gives a phenomenal performance (especially Chi McBride in a minor but outstanding spot as the head dry cleaner), and the Diff'rent Strokes aesthetic is irresistible, but the most curious aspect is that it quietly turns its protagonist into its villain. Ace is shy and honest in the beginning and his reluctance toward crime shows, but money talks, and as he gradually submerges himself in Calvin's dope and Glocks and hos, it breaks your heart a little. Ergo, Paid in Full preaches against drug culture by using humanity in place of sensationalism or fear, and unlike Blow or Traffic, it works. MEG VAN HUYGEN


dir. Godfrey ReggioThe long-awaited third chapter of his "life" trilogy (Koyaanisqatsi--life out of balance, Powaqqatsi--life in transition), Godfrey Reggio's Naqoyqatsi examines life in war, or more generally, life as a constant battle between the warring impulses of consumption and conservation, technology and humanity, civilization and earth. Like the other films in the series, Naqoyqatsi (the titles are taken from the language of the Hopi Indians) is a barrage of tangentially related images, set to an alternately numbing and rousing score by Philip Glass, featuring Yo Yo Ma. Also like the other films, this one requires a unique kind of attention: The viewer submits to a kind of trance in which meaning is not so much revealed or even suggested as offered up to the unconscious. Where is Reggio going with these pictures of ruined coliseums, roiling seas, car commercials? Toward a 21st-century gestalt that accretes a monumental despair as it moves pointedly, disassociatively onward. Unlike the other films, Naqoyqatsi is awash with digital manipulation; every image is either generated, or inflected with the very technology it seeks to meditate on--adding a layer of complexity to its hypnotic montage that will keep your third eye blinking well after the credits roll. SEAN NELSON

Jazz Classics, Strange Fruit

dir. Various

Fri-Sun Oct 25-27 at the Little Theatre.As everyone knows, the anti-lynching song "Strange Fruit" was made famous by Billie Holiday. What many might not know is that it was written by a Jewish schoolteacher, Lewis Allen, who adopted the Rosenberg kids after their parents were executed by the American government. Though the documentary overrates the social significance of the song, it does succeed in honestly examining the once productive relationship between the Jewish intelligentsia and black American artists. After Hours (1961) is a short that attempts (and miserably fails) to dramatize a jazz jam session. The presenter of After Hours, like the presenter of The Sound of Jazz (1957), suffers from being unbearably white. The presenter in After Hours wants to be a hepcat but sounds like a fuddy-duddy; the presenter for The Sound of Jazz does not want to be a hepcat and sounds like a fuddy-duddy. In fact, The Sound of Jazz presenter has no idea who his "esteemed guests" are, and scrutinizes a list on a clipboard when introducing Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Thelonius Monk. Yikes! The only reason why both shorts (After Hours and The Sound of Jazz) are great is the presence of the jazz singers and players, who manage to transcend the stupidity of their presenters and shine like the marvelous, eternal beings they are. CHARLES MUDEDE