I did, in fact, get outside this weekend (though with a group such that we couldn’t go boating without someone bringing a copy of The New Yorker along to read aloud while we swam), but I also saw quite a few movies. The less said about Matrix Revolutions the better. Saved! had its moments, but ultimately fell flat. It occasionally seems to be trying to pass as a Heathers style black comedy, but it can’t manage to slip off the kid gloves in time, and soon enough descends into Hollywood schmaltz. Even earlier on, the satire isn’t really sharp enough to realize its potential—making fun of rabid homophobia is just a little too easy—you get a lot ballsier lampooning of religion on an average episode of The Simpsons. (Cf. Ned Flanders: “I’ve followed every part of the Bible! Even the parts that contradict the other parts!”)
The only really worthwhile one in the bunch, courtesy of Comcast’s “On Demand” was Shattered Glass, which I’d meant to see when it came out in theatres but never got around to. Now, the events in the movie took place in 1998, so I don’t know any of the principals, but there was still the weird sensation of seeing a film semi-recognizably about my world. (Err.. the world of a D.C.-based political magazine journalists, that is. Not the world of a brownnosing fraud.) To say nothing of the shock of seeing Hayden Christensen, who broke cinematic ground by sending a mannequin to play Anakin Skywalker on his behalf, put in a geuninely solid performance. If there’s one quibble, it’s that the film makes Glass seem so obviously oily—rather than genuinely charming—from the outset that you don’t really end up seeing how all those very sharp people could’ve been snowed for so long. (I hope it’s not hubristic, incidentally, that one of my first thoughts was: If there had been anything like the blogosphere in 1998, this guy wouldn’t have lasted two articles.) But that’s the director’s choice, not really Christensen’s goof, and probably exacerbated by the filmmakers’ need to impress upon outside-the-Beltway, apolitical viewers that The New Republic is, indeed, a big deal. The folks I know at TNR do not, thank God, walk around saying (as Christensen’s Glass does): “And now I work at The New Republic magazine, in Washington D.C.” in the awed-at-oneself tone of someone who’s just shit a solid gold krugerrand. Perhaps surprisingly, this is one of a handful of movies (All the President’s Men comes to mind) in which political journalists, Glass excepted, come off as genuinely sympathetic people with a deep commitment to getting things right. Kind of nice to see in a profession where people’s “mixed feelings” often consist of an uncertainty about whether you’re malevolent or merely retarded.