Penis Dentatus

Dreamcatcher is for the boys

And then there's Roman Polanski, who has not been a good boy or a pleasant one, but whose picture, The Pianist, has gotten him seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and thus has also gotten many Hollywood knickers in a royal twist about whether the Academy should reward a man accused of the statutory rape in 1977 of an adolescent girl. The girl herself, Samantha Geimer, now an apparently serene suburban mom in her late 30s, has decreed on more than one talk show that the movie should be considered on its merits. In his Los Angeles Timescolumn a couple of weeks ago, Patrick Goldstein agreed with her. "Artists are often unhappy, dissolute, disreputable people," Goldstein wrote, citing Charlie Chaplin's predilection for very young women. "The truth is that we always forgive them their transgressions because, in the end, the inspiration we find in their art outweighs our disapproval of their brutish behavior."

Well, there's brutish and there's brutish. Chaplin married his young women, and none of them was 13 years old, which is too young for consensual anything, let alone sex. There are some degrees of evil I wouldn't forgive under any circumstances: no matter how many tour de force shots there are in Triumph of the Will, the only prize I'd ever give Leni Riefenstahl is Liar of the Century. As it happens, I wouldn't deny Polanski his Academy Award on moral grounds—he has suffered enough and been forgiven, though an apology would have been nice. I'm just not sure The Pianist deserves the award on artistic grounds. It is a moving, noble film, made straight from the heart, and it compares favorably with most of this year's other nominees. Aesthetically speaking, it is an entirely straightforward movie that doesn't begin to measure up to the formal sophistication of Polanski's best work in Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown. Which leads me to suspect that, should the movie win, it would be because, in our American way, we'd be giving Polanski an award not for his art, but for being a more decent human being than we thought he was.

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Dreamcatcher was directed by Lawrence Kasdan; written by William Goldman and Kasdan, based on the book by Stephen King; produced by Kasdan and Charles Okun; and stars Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant and Damian Lewis. Now playing countywide.

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