Shostakovich Joins the Mickey Mouse Club

Shostakovich Joins the Mickey Mouse Club

Shostakovich Joins the Mickey Mouse Club

Highlights from the week in criticism.
Jan. 5 2000 3:30 AM

Shostakovich Joins the Mickey Mouse Club

Movies

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Fantasia/2000 (Buena Vista Pictures). Sixty years after the release of Walt Disney's film of cartoons set to classical music, this updated IMAX version introduces new sequences as well as a remastered version of the original's famous "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment. The critics are nearly unanimous: The sequel falls short but is "splendid entertainment" nonetheless (Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times). The presence of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" only underlines how much better the original was. The highlight of the new material is a rendering of Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" to Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2. A few sniff at the new production: "The difference between Fantasia and Fantasia/2000 is the difference between a dialogue with Jack Paar and a brisk 'interview' with David Letterman, between reading a book and answering questions posed by a CD-ROM" (Joseph Horowitz, the New York Times). (Click here to visit the official site.)

Hurricane (Universal Pictures). Denzel Washington delivers a knockout performance as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a boxer who spent 20 years in jail for a crime he did not commit. But the rest of the film pales in comparison: It's "fairly standard middle-of-the-road fare, simplistic, conventional, and, when the camera is not focused on Washington, lacking in things to hold our attention" (Kenneth Turan, the Los Angeles Times). On balance, the film works: It may be "as blatantly manipulative as a pep rally," but "Mr. Washington leans into an otherwise schlocky movie and slams it out of the ballpark" (Stephen Holden, the New York Times). (Click here to find out more about Carter's story.)

Galaxy Quest (DreamWorks Distribution). This gentle Star Trek spoof strikes a chord; it's "a fast, loose, and very funny parody that pulls off the not-so-simple feat of tweaking Trekkies and honoring them" (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly). The film's premise: A group of middle-aged actors from a long-canceled space show get "spacejacked by naive aliens in need of protection" who mistook the program for a historical document (Jay Carr, the Boston Globe). The result is campy, goofy, and "funny without being flip" (Rita Kempley, the Washington Post). (Click here to read an interview with Sigourney Weaver about her character in the movie.)

Books

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Tha Doggfather: The Times, Trials, and Hardcore Truths of Snoop Dogg, by Snoop Dogg, with Davin Seay (William Morrow). Good reviews, for the most part, for the autobiography of one of hip-hop's most successful artists: "An amusing, contemplative memoir" that paints "a surprisingly humanistic portrait" of the crack dealer turned platinum-selling musician (Kirkus Reviews). The tales of his misspent youth and rise to fame are "eloquently told" (Michael Harris, the Los Angeles Times). One reviewer splits from the pack and delivers a withering pan: "[T]he ability to sell a lot of records has almost nothing to do with insight or maturity. … [I]ts author is seemingly incapable of self-examination. … [H]e retreats behind religious platitudes, empty sloganeering and half-truths." His coup de grâce: "Artists asserted that rap was the voice of urban youth and that it should not be silenced. Tha Doggfather offers 250 pages of evidence to the contrary" (Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Washington Post Book World). (This site includes news, audio clips, and a discography for Snoop Dogg.)

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, by Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, and Jean-Louis Margolin; translated by Jonathan Murphy and Mark Kramer (Harvard University Press). Critics stand in awe of this thousand-page enumeration and exploration of the crimes committed by Communist regimes around the globe: "an extraordinary and almost unspeakably chilling book … enormously impressive and utterly convincing" (Michael Scammell, the New Republic). Published in France two years ago, it immediately created a stir, drawing criticism from the left and becoming an unexpected best seller. The book is not easy to read: "To the extent that the book has a literary style, it is that of the recording angel. … It is a criminal indictment, and it rightly reads like one" (Alan Ryan, the New York Times Book Review). No one questions that communism was immensely destructive (the book estimates that between 85 million and 100 million people were killed by Communist regimes). What causes more of a stir is the book's assertion that "given the nature and the magnitude of the crimes committed in its name, communism was fully the equal of Nazism as one of the supreme evils of our century" and the question it raises of whether "the history of the twentieth century hasn't given us objective and final proof … that human nature itself is fallen and twisted at its core" (Scammell). (Click here to read about the book's reception when it was published in France.)

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