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JANUARY 24, 2000: 

GIRL, INTERRUPTED. It sounds bad: Wynona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, two 18-year-old misfits who find each other in a low-security mental institution during the summer of love. While her peers get drafted or go off to Radcliffe, Susanna (Ryder) struggles between the conflicting desires to go insane or become a writer. Good God, just shoot me now! In truth, however, Susanna Kaysen's dark, autobiographical tale tuns out to be a flawed movie that remains an interesting story, when one considers it is still the recent past in which women were routinely institutionalized for exhibiting any kind of interior or exterior life deemed socially unacceptable. While aesthetically different from movies like Camille Claudel and Tom and Viv, it nonetheless follows in that tradition. -- Mari Wadsworth


THE HURRICANE. Director Norman Jewison takes the intensely interesting and affecting story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a welterweight boxing number-one contender, and waters it down to a mushy paste. Too much voice over, too little attention to the actual story -- wherein Carter was twice wrongly convicted of murder -- doom this to the category of sappy tearjerker. Still, it's no doubt an important story; it's just a shame that somebody else didn't grab the project away and tell it as it should have been told. -- James DiGiovanna


MAGNOLIA. A day in the intersecting, highly coincidental lives of a dozen Los Angelinos, including a policeman who gives a post-huddle clap after praying; a game show host who's just been diagnosed with cancer; his cocaine addicted daughter; a grown-up child star manqué; a sexist self help guru; and a little boy who's mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore. Borrowing from the best of Robert Altman, director Paul Thomas Anderson puts together a piquant pastiche of peculiar personages and preternatural plot points to produce the most providential presentation since the epistles of Paul. Which is to say, it's good, if a bit long. -- James DiGiovanna


PLAY IT TO THE BONE. Since movie studios are so enamored of gushy quotes in their film advertising, I'm going to give them what they want. "Play it to the Bone is the Funniest Comedy of the Year!" "Harrelson and Banderas Are Dynamite!" With a movie this egregious real praise will be tough to find, so I'm a shoo-in for the commercials, maybe even the video box! The horrible pacing, worse dialogue, indefensible characters, and gaping lack of plot make every minute painful. They should have called it Bad to the Bone. B-b-b-b-bad. -- Jack Vaughn


SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS. David Guterson's 1995 award-winning novel is less a whodunit here than a really slow-moving courtroom drama, by Aussie director Scott Hicks (Shine). Ethan Hawke manages not to do too much damage as Ishmael Chambers, the protagonist who navigates the waters of personal sacrifice, hatred and fear when an unsolved murder in 1954 reopens the wounds not only of his forbidden first love, but also of the smoldering prejudice of a small island community north of Puget Sound, where white residents posed no resistance to the exile of their Japanese neighbors during World War II. Youki Kudoh (Heaven's Burning, Picture Bride) gives a wonderfully understated performance as Hatsue, wife of the Japanese fisherman accused of the murder. Beautiful to watch for those with a high tolerance for prolonged stares of longing. Also starring James Cromwell, Sam Shepard, Max von Sydow and Rick Yune. -- Mari Wadsworth


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