- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The Art of the Stamp — the postage stamp, that is — at the National Postal Museum shows some 100 original artworks made to create stamps. Celebrating the museum’s 10th anniversary, the exhibit surveys how the postage stamp developed, beginning with hand-engraved pictures of America’s historical events to today’s pop- and op-derived designs by artists like Robert Indiana. Images include Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Louis Armstrong, Ulysses Grant, George Washington, Dracula, several “Love” themes, trains, planes and many more. At the Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE in the Old City Post Office Building. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Free. 202/357-2700.

Joanna Shaw-Eagle

Suddenly, the summer movie chalice runneth over. Two admirable new American movies, Kevin Costner’s Open Range and Alan Rudolph’s The Secret Lives of Dentists, opened last weekend. A third, Dana Brown’s Step into Liquid opens exclusively at the Landmark Bethesda Row this weekend. Thematically and stylistically distinctive, they offer moviegoers a classic new Western in the case of “Open Range,” an exceptional impression of domestic intimacy and estrangement in “Secret Lives” and the most beautiful surfing feature ever made in “Step into Liquid.” Not that any evidence to the contrary will discourage people who like to dismiss any given movie season as the most worthless in living memory.

“Open Range” revives Mr. Costner’s career as both director and leading man while paired in a set of endearing stories: one as the sidekick of Robert Duvall, a free-grazing cattleman of 1882 who runs afoul of a tyrannical Montana rancher; and the other as an unlikely suitor to Annette Bening, a spinster nurse who rallies to the cause of the outsiders, threatened with intimidation and murder. These roles are likely to become adornments to all three careers. The late Michael Jeter also has a wonderful valedictory role.

As the protagonist of “Secret Lives,” an introspective dentist named David Hurst, Campbell Scott must weather real and imaginary conflicts: he suspects, correctly, that his wife and professional partner Hope Davis is involved in a love affair; he is also tormented by a sarcastic alter-ego, played by Denis Leary, who would prefer to force Hurst into rash and irreparable behavior. Ultimately, the imaginary wrangling serves as a safety valve for a vexed but sane family man.

Dana Brown, the son of Bruce Brown, who made surfing documentaries a mass market attraction with “The Endless Summer” in 1966, updates the lore, technology and international popularity of the sport in the course of “Liquid,” pictorially stunning from the outset and emotionally gratifying in several disarming ways. Human interest vignettes keep accumulating along with the surfing spectacle; some of these are humorous, others informative and still others extraordinarily touching and inspirational. Mr. Brown puts some genuine gusto, novelty and generosity into the cliche “feel-good movie.” His chronicle ascends to the feel-sublime elevation.

Gary Arnold

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