"Lani Guinier's Oscar Fever," by Timothy Noah
"If you belong to a 'political minority within the academy, which might like art films,' [the Academy's voting system] strengthens your hand. Of course, not all Academy minorities are this enlightened. Judging from past balloting, there's a distinct Academy minority that believes that anybody playing a streetwalker with a heart of gold automatically deserves to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress."
"Life and Art: Billy Elliot," by June Thomas"In Billy Elliot, the eponymous 11-year-old hero escapes the macho mining culture of his hometown by taking up ballet and vying for a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Ballet School. The plot isn't as fanciful as it might sound, and as a sentimental sob story, Billy Elliot is surprisingly effective. But as history, Billy is bunk."
"Lite Traffic: OK Movie, Lousy Drug Policy Analysis," by Mark A. R. Kleiman
"Traffic is actually two movies. One is a pretty good Pulp Fictionesque thriller about drug enforcement on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. The other is a rather silly essay on drug policy and how it is made in Washington."
"The Movie Club"
David Edelstein, Roger Ebert, J. Hoberman, Sarah Kerr, and A.O. Scott are film critics at, respectively, Slate, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Village Voice, Vogue, and the New York Times. Last December, Slate asked them to compare notes on the year in film.
David Edelstein's Slate reviews of the Best Picture contenders:
Chocolat"For the first half of Chocolat, the liberal, life-affirming whimsy made my teeth ache, but the director, Lasse Hallström (last year's Cider House Rules), knows how to build a house, even a house made of something brown and runny that isn't chocolate."
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"It might be the wildest female coming-of-age picture ever made. ... My first viewing left me dazzled but slightly confused; a second deeply impressed; a third rhapsodic. I'll probably buy the film on DVD and revisit it occasionally, like a sumptuous coffee-table book; but I wish I hadn't needed to rediagram it in my head to turn it into the masterpiece it so obviously wants to be."
"Early in her career, Julia Roberts reportedly needed lots of stroking and calming down, like a skittish thoroughbred. But she now has a hard-won self-possession, and the joy of Erin Brockovich is watching her cut loose, talk dirty, stride into an office on those long legs and blast the hell out of anyone in her way."
Gladiator"I'm as much of a bloodthirsty Roman as the next male moviegoer. … But Gladiator's combination of grim sanctimony and drenching, Dolby-ized dismemberings left me appalled."
Traffic"There is a kind of Nightline earnestness to this enterprise, but that's not a bad thing: It hearkens back to a tradition of pulpy thrillers that tackle the big issues of the day. Where it differs is in its lack of answers—and in its soul."