Daily Archives: December 16, 1996

Ghosts Of Mississippi

A bracing corrective to the provigilante stances and crude caricatures of Mississippi Burning and A Time to Kill, this conscientious and moving 1996 docudrama about the struggle three decades later to convict the assassin of NAACP activist Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, may err at times by overidealizing its principal heroes (Alec Baldwin and Whoopi Goldberg). But as directed by Rob Reiner from a script by Lewis Colick, it offers the most decent and convincing portrait of the contemporary south I’ve seen in ages (apart from Sling Blade). A first-rate secondary cast ranging from James Woods as the assassin to Bill Cobbs as Evers’s disc jockey brotherand also including Craig T. Nelson and William H. Macy as well as some Jackson localscontributes to the ring of truth, and the story held me throughout. (JR) Read more

The Crucible

Arthur Miller adapts his own early 50s play about witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, and he, director Nicholas Hytner, and a superb cast headed by Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, Paul Scofield, Joan Allen, and Bruce Davison do a fine job of making it work (1996). Praised as well as attacked (in its own time as well as ours) as an allegory about the cold-war witch hunts, the work can’t be reduced to that dimension alone; it has plenty to say about sexual repression and puritanical hysteriatwo constants in American history over the past three centuriesand how these intersect with personal as well as public politics. Though Hytner remains essentially a stage director, he makes fine use of Massachusetts locations and period interiors; some of the visual details recall Dreyer’s Day of Wrath, a film that likely had an influence on Miller’s play. Then as now, Miller’s liberal vision is limited by certain historical and psychological simplifications, but never to the point of losing the disturbing ambiguities that give this work much of its primal power; The Crucible continues to be performed almost constantly across the globe, and this intelligent mounting shows why. PG-13, 123 min. (JR) Read more

Some Mother’s Son

Helen Mirren and Fionnula Flanagan play two of the 21 mothers of IRA prisoners who went on a hunger strike against Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1981. Effective and well acted, this 1996 British feature was directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), who collaborated on the script with Jim Sheridan (In America). Most of the characters are fictional, but the film is nevertheless stirring as agitprop. With Aidan Gillen, David O’Hara, John Lynch, Tom Hollander, and Tim Woodward. R, 112 min. (JR) Read more