- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

‘Dirty old man’

“A story of quasi-incestuous, international young love set in Paris at the time of the 1968 student riots, [‘The Dreamers’] tries hard to convince us that it is revolutionary, just as it tries to keep us awake with the all-nude sex scenes that earned the film an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). …

“[W]hat ‘The Dreamers’ hides in its heart is the way its existence depends on the restrictions flouted by its characters. Without the anti-stigma of the NC-17 rating, ‘The Dreamers’ couldn’t exist at all. [Bernardo] Bertolucci sees the picture as a lesson for today’s kids about the free culture, free thinking, and free love that flourished for a shining moment in the dreamworld of ‘68. …

“These are the kinds of French postcards that come with a mandatory lecture about the good old days from the dirty old man who’s selling them. …

“The way Bertolucci’s half-dressed characters insert themselves into these films as the soundtrack plays Steve Miller or the Grateful Dead reveals the film for what it is, Bertolucci’s ‘Forrest Gump,’ a fantasy about history Bertolucci is telling his grandkids. The film is a kind of toothless propaganda. ‘Make love, not war,’ it mumbles.”

A.S. Hamrah, writing on “The Naked and the Nude,” Friday in Reason Online at www.reason.com

Obnoxious hero

“On his popular HBO comedy ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ … [Larry] David does what he wants and says what he’s thinking at all costs. While critics have described David’s character as obnoxious, selfish, rude, nasty, pathetic and worse, considering the unbearable burden of politesse the rest of us struggle under, David is a true American hero, one whose confrontational behavior is merely a natural response to the absurd and moronic requirements of modern life. …

“David has transformed slowly but surely from an Everyman into an unrepentant jerk. Instead of sympathizing with David … he’s increasingly presented to us as freakishly uncaring. Just as the characters of ‘Seinfeld’ crossed the line from aimless and mildly self-serving to downright demonic right around the time George inadvertently poisoned his fiancee and it was played for laughs, David’s actions can sometimes slip into the realm of caricature.”

Heather Havrilesky, writing on “Everyman — or annoying man?” Saturday in Salon at www.salon.com

Family ‘Fear’

“Seven-year-old Caleb Walker … is not so sure what drove him to eat ants on the playground. Maybe he was trying to satisfy a dare; maybe he wanted to impress a girl.

“Or maybe — just maybe — he was imitating one of the gross-out moments on his favorite TV show, ‘Fear Factor.’ …

“Ted Koppel may have declared it ‘the end of civilization,’ but NBC has another term for its four-season-old ‘Fear’: Family Show. According to recently released ratings, ‘Fear’ is the third-most-popular on broadcast TV among kids 2 to 11 and tweens 9 to 14 this season, behind No. 1 ‘American Idol’ and No. 2 ‘Survivor’ (which, like ‘Fear,’ features vile eats and scantily clad contestants). Given that ‘Fear’ and ‘Survivor,’ like ‘Idol,’ win their 8 p.m. slots among viewers 18 to 49, it’s no wonder NBC and CBS consider them family fare.”

Lynette Rice, writing on “Family Hour?” in Friday’s issue of Entertainment Weekly

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