Henry Barthes is a highly recommended substitute teacher, a compliment he doesn't really accept. His latest job is subbing at an inner city high school for a month, where exam grades are slipping; the pupils are unruly and the head teacher is under fire for the decline in standards there.
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Kaye's ambition is daunting: He attempts not only to reiterate the dangers of a society where abortion is illegal but also give balanced criticism to the pro-life and pro-choice sects. The latter debate comes easy: Intellectuals from every imagineable background (Noam Chomsky and Alan M. Dershowitz amongst others) give well-thought ponderings on the freedom to control one's body even in the direst of times. It's with the pro-life argument that Kaye hits a brick wall. Of the dozen or so pro-life interviewees, only jazz historian and Village Voice contributor Nat Hentoff makes an intellectually-backed argument for the pro-life agenda, standing out among the plethora of God-wills-its. Beyond that, Kaye relies on his footage to discuss his subject.
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In case you hadn't heard about Alan Smithee, oh, in the early 1980s or so.
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An entertaining but hideous romp on the circus side of crystal meth addiction, "Spun" wants to be another "Trainspotting" and/or "Requiem for a Dream." Inundated with trip-cam trickery that keeps the audience riding the ups and downs of the main character's drug buzzes, the film is nothing if not stylish, but falls short for lack of depth.
Music video guru and first-time feature director Jonas Akerlund makes liberal use of the disorienting, grainy, washed-out look of bleach-bypass photography. When Ross -- a downward-spiraling college dropout (played by Jason Schwartzman of "Rushmore" fame) on the leading edge of addiction but still clinging to his letter-jacket memories -- takes a hit of speed, the movie's tempo is fed a brief burst of shaky acceleration. A rapid montage of sensory-assault, nervous-tension images dance across the screen, sometimes in the form of cinematic hyper-awareness (e.g., fish-eye lens ultra-close-ups of chapped lips, bloodshot eyes and nervous-ticking fingers), sometimes in the form of animated, soddenly pornographic hallucinations.
The world of "Spun" is an acutely realized day-lit underground of ghetto shacks and combustible meth labs in cheap, airless hotel rooms (greatly enhanced by a hip-trippy score from the Smashing Pumpkin's Billy Corgan) in which all the characters seem acquiescently ensnared.
Continue reading: Spun Review
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.