Film Festivals


Volunteer Alert

Participate Please



For Kids

Corrections or additions?

This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the March 21, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Movies: Oscar Preview

It’s an old truism that no great art is ever made by

a committee, meaning that the more people involved in the


process, the more water-downed the artistic product.

This maxim rings truer than ever this week. Despite all the overheated

ballyhoo, the movies being celebrated in the 73rd Academy Awards are

a pretty thin lot. There are really no good films — just pieces

of good films.

Ang Lees’s "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is a case in


Marketed as a kind of art house Kung Fu film with super-duper visual

effects, it has been nominated for a massive 10 awards, including

Best Picture and Best Director. But despite the fact that it currently

trumpets itself as "the greatest movie ever made" in


ads, it is really a pretty mediocre film. Of course, its visual


are what is most endearing. (Who among us has not dreamed of flying?)

Watching its heroes do battle while the tree tops tickle their toes

is, at first, pretty exciting. But as the effect continues on and

on, the magic soon fades and one begins to look for more substantial

elements of filmmaking, such as a good story, or perhaps some riveting

acting. By film’s end, one is left with the realization that if one

cuts away those ornamental flight-fight scenes, all that is left is

a limping fable, populated by one-dimensional characters, that lacks

real substance.

Even less worthy is "Gladiator," also nominated for a slew

of awards, and our first big-time blood-and-guts epic featuring


races in 40 years. (Like Charlton Heston, they just won’t go away.)

Russell Crowe stars in the story of a war hero hunk who is forced

into slavery, and ultimately becomes famous as a gladiator in the

ancient Roman arena — the Roman imperial version of football


Marred by a weak script and equally weak acting, "Gladiator"

tries to redeem itself with a plethora of sweaty biceps and bloody


Although the Best Actress Award is likely to go to Julia Roberts for

her role in "Erin Brockovich" (not the first Academy Award

to be won largely on the strength of a twinkle in the eye and a


displayed cleavage). Missed will be the stunning return of 67-year-old

Ellen Burstyn in "Requiem For A Dream," a melodrama with


of black comedy that outlines the overpowering effects of low


and addiction — to chocolate, TV game shows, and diet pills.


character descends emotionally, mentally, and physically in her


attempt to finally "be somebody." "Requiem For A


is a flawed film (its predictability and preachiness become truly

grating), but Burstyn’s performance is courageous. She performed the

same magic in her last major film role, over 20 years ago, in the

equally flawed "Resurrection." There she rose above the


and elevated the hum-drum into something wonderful. In "Requiem

For A Dream" she has reprised this craftsmanship.

On the subject of addiction, watching the Academy Awards has always

been a kind of marathon on the nerves. It always goes on too long,

with too many long speeches, too many lame jokes, too many


Some find it best to videotape the whole thing, then pick and choose

what one wants to see later on. This year the same can be said for

the movies being honored.

— Jack Florek

The Academy Awards, Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium,


live on ABC Television Network, hosted by Steve Martin. On the Web

at Sunday, March 25, 8 p.m., EST.

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Film Festivals

New Jersey Film Festival is presented by the Rutgers Film

Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, New Brunswick. Screenings are

Fridays through Sunday in Scott Hall, Room 123, College Avenue Campus

(near the corner of College Avenue and Hamilton Street). Thursday

screenings are in Loree Hall, Room 024, Douglass College Campus (near

the corner of Nichol Avenue and George Street). All programs begin

at 7 p.m.; $5 non-members. Information 732-932-8482; Website:

Orfeu, Carlos Diegues new, exhilarating revision of the

Greek myth of the musician Orpheus set to a samba and hip-hop score,

Friday to Sunday, March 23 to 25. Cinema Verite, a retrospective

survey by Peter Wintonick that examines the finest documentaries of

the 1950s and ’60s; free, Wednesday, March 28. Live Nude Girls

Unite! , by Julia Query and Vicki Funari, on a double feature with

Book Wars by Jason Rosette (2000), $8, Friday to Sunday, March

30 to April 1.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee’s latest hit film

based on an ancient epic, featuring spectacularly kinetic karate


women, Friday to Sunday, April 6 to 8.

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Opera Festival of New Jersey seeks children’s chorus


for its production of Puccini’s "Turandot." Auditions are

at Clark Music Center, Lawrenceville School, on Saturday, March 31,

from 1:30 to 4 p.m. To schedule an appointment, contact Margaret Anne

Butterfield at 609-895-2177.

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Volunteer Alert

The Fresh Air Fund seeks host families for New York City

children. Young families, single professionals, empty nesters, and

grandparents are welcome. Call Linda Leyhane at 609-466-7973.

AYUSA, Academic Year in the U.S.A., offers opportunities

to host an exchange student, receive help with a community project,

have a free speaker, or send a student to study abroad. Call regional

director, Barbara Overton, at 800-251-4938.

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Participate Please

Friends of the New Jersey State Museum travel to


Maryland on Wednesday, April 4, to view the Edouard Manet show at

the Walters Museum, tour the historic Garrett-Jacobs Mansion, and

lunch at the mansion. $72 per person; leave from Lawrence Shopping

Center. Call the Friends office at 609-394-5310.

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra League,


Chapter, will travel to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, May

2, for a behind-the-scenes tour of Fonthill, the 44-room castle built

by Henry Mercer. Also visits to the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works,

lunch at Roosevelt’s Blue Star Restaurant, and a guided tour of the

James A. Michener Art Museum. $70 inclusive. Reservation and payment

must be received by March 30. Call Cynthia Edel, 609-737-0352.

Delaware River Basin Commission has its annual


River Sojourn," Friday, June 15, through Saturday, June 23.


River Odyssey" covers 70 miles combining canoeing, camping, and

educational programs. The trip begins in Hankins, New York, and ends

on New Jersey’s Maurice River. Call 908-996-0230 or

Easter Seals New Jersey offers a seven-day


cruise on the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Sea visiting Naples,

Florence, Pisa, Valletta, Barcelona, and Monte Carlo. Prices,


airfare, begin at $2,499. The cruise begins Friday, August 3. Call

Margie Cortez at 732-257-6662 or

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Boys & Girls Club of Trenton/Mercer County needs help

in paying for instructors, supplies, and finances for their social

and athletic programs. Trenton Police Department places children who

have gotten into trouble with the law in the organization for guidance

and a second chance. Over the last two years, the enrollment has grown

from 200 to 700 children. Not one child in the program has had further

police intervention. Call 609-392-3191 or send contributions to Boys

& Girls Club of Trenton, 212 Centre Street, Trenton 08611.

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All Kinds of Minds offers a week-long "Schools


summer workshop in Princeton beginning Monday, August 13. Designed

for teachers, it covers eight neurodevelopmental areas that affect

learning, and uses comprehensive observations to understand each


learning behavior. The program is based on research by pediatrician

Mel Levine. Tuition is $1,200. Call 888-956-4637 or visit

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For Kids

Charles Way Football Camp will be hosted by Charles Way

and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, who will work with players 8

to 18 to improve skill level and sportsmanship. The program will be

at East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania. Other New York Giants

attending include Greg Comella, Howard Cross, and Mike Cherry. Call

1-800-555-0801 or visit

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