Three New Movies: We Steal Secrets, Hannah Arendt, and Fill the Void

Hollywood hasn’t been igniting many intellectual sparks lately, but imports and indies are stepping in to fill the void, if I can borrow the title of a current movie. They vary in quality but share an urge to get audiences thinking and discussing. At a time when serious journalism is in crisis, some observers see documentary film as the best hope for putting crucial information and unpopular points of view before the public eye.

The Good, the Bad, and the Oscars

The outcome of the recent Academy Awards sweepstakes was a very mixed bag. Argo, the winner of the best-picture prize, is a nice little movie with a timely theme, a feel-good ending, and reminiscences of the 1997 comedy-drama Wag the Dog. Yet while it’s ably directed by Ben Affleck and engagingly acted by a talented cast, it doesn’t have the artistic or emotional heft that distinguishes the best best-picture winners.

Lincoln: A Review

Lincoln comes from the cameras of Steven Spielberg, probably the most influential storyteller in modern cinema, and certainly one of the most vexing. But when the subjects aren’t pure make-believe, his movies tend to run aground on real-world complexities that flighty imagination can’t handle on its own.

Dark Days with the Dark Knight

We are the beneficiaries of the most advanced audiovisual systems ever known, capable of moving our emotions, challenging our ideas, and opening our imaginations. Is it right that the most technologically sophisticated and financially expensive products of this system are entertainments like the Batman movies, designed to deliver their gratifications not to the mind but to the gut?


When people working for a good cause turn in directions that aren’t good—or might even be bad—do their virtuous intentions outweigh the unintended side effects of their activities? How far can the ethical standards of activists and philanthropists be trusted when people worship capitalism as blindly as many Americans do today?

Personas, Personalities, and Hybrids on the Screen

A look at some adventurous films that acknowledge the gap between art and actuality, and try to bridge it by allowing real people with authentic emotions and experiences into their stories. A review of TINY FURNITURE, IFC Films, 2010; PUTTY HILL, Cinema Guild, 2010; and ON THE BOWERY, Milestone Film and Video, 1957.