Judd in Jeopardy

Judd in Jeopardy

Judd in Jeopardy

Highlights from the week in criticism.
Sept. 29 1999 3:30 AM

Judd in Jeopardy

Movies

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Jakob the Liar (Sony Pictures Entertainment). As expected, no one has much positive to say about Robin Williams' Holocaust drama, but the bad reviews are surprisingly mild. Yes, it's "awkwardly executed and tedious," but Williams "does some of his best and most honest work here"(Jack Mathews, the New York Daily News) as a man who brings hope to his Jewish ghetto by pretending to have good news from a hidden radio. Many critics note that Williams' performance is remarkably restrained and, if nothing else, acknowledge his good intentions: "This is the kind of bogus production only completely sincere but misguided individuals can come up with" (Kenneth Turan, the Los Angeles Times). (Click here to see clips from the film.)

DoubleJeopardy (Paramount Pictures). Plot holes abound in this Fugitive knockoff about a woman (Ashley Judd) framed by her husband for his (faked) murder. Once she gets out of prison, she can theoretically murder him with impunity, because the Constitution protects her from being tried twice for the same crime. Critics are harsh on the film's premise and execution, but a few find bright spots in Judd's beauty and Tommy Lee Jones' gritty turn as her parole officer. The stars make this "medium-grade pulp" (Joe Morgenstern, the Wall Street Journal) worth watching. (Visit the Ashley Judd Shrine.)

Mumford (Buena Vista Pictures). This "slight, amusing doodle" (Turan, the Los Angeles Times) directed by Lawrence Kasdan is a "Frank Capra-style social fable for the '90s" (Stephen Holden, the New York Times). The story follows a young psychologist of questionable credentials who moves into a small town and begins helping out the local residents. Some reviewers call it quietly affecting, others could barely keep their eyes open. Many are dismayed at Kasdan's inability to match his acclaimed early efforts such as Body Heat, The Big Chill, and The Accidental Tourist. (Visit the official site to see stills and clips from the film.)

Books

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Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII, by John Cornwell (Viking). Tempers flare over the validity of British journalist Cornwell's claim that Pope Pius XII failed to speak out against Nazi genocide because he was an anti-Semite. Some critics find the entire book flawed: "a classic example of what happens when an ill-equipped journalist assumes the airs of sober scholarship. ... Errors of fact and ignorance of context appear on almost every page. ... This is bogus scholarship, filled with nonexistent secrets, aimed to shock" (Kenneth L. Woodward, Newsweek). Others take his claims to heart: "By combining the painstaking research of other scholars with his own new documentation," Cornwell "makes a case ... that is very hard to refute" (V.R. Berghahn, the New York Times Book Review). And Richard Cohen writes in the Washington Post that "nothing I've read suggests he's concocted anything." (Click here to read a point-by-point refutation of this book by Catholic historian Peter Gumpel.)

AnAffair of State : The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton, by Richard A. Posner (Harvard University Press). Posner, the chief judge of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, is generally hailed for his clearheaded analysis of the legal aspects of the Lewinsky scandal. It is "by far the most legally sophisticated account of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal" and "brings scholarly rigor to a saga so far dominated by journalistic accounts" (Publishers Weekly). In the New York Times Book Review, Andrew Sullivan calls Posner's pragmatism the perfect antidote to the hysteria that surrounded the scandal. But the Weekly Standard's David Tell fumes, calling the book "appalling. ... Posner feels free to offer conclusions of fact that the public record either cannot sustain or actually refutes." (Click here to read the first chapter.)

Death

GeorgeC. Scott (1927-1999). The actor died Sept. 22 after a long career packed full of awards, many of which he refused to accept. Most notably, in 1971 he turned down the Best Actor Oscar for his title role in Patton, calling the Academy Awards "a two-hour meat parade." His roles in movies such as The Hustler and Dr. Strangelove and on the stage, including a performance as Richard III, earned him recognition as "an actor of extraordinary range and daring" with an "almost volcanic intensity" (Mel Gussow, the New York Times). (This site includes a filmography, stills, and an interview with Scott.)

Eliza Truitt, a former editor at Slate, now works as a wedding photographer in Seattle.