Video: Is it or isn't it? (Really bad, that is)

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The Independent Culture
In & Out (12). As if Tom Hanks's weepy Oscar speech for Philadelphia wasn't bad enough, this stubbornly nonsensical film, written by Paul Rudnick and directed by Frank Oz, puts a what-if twist on it. A character played by Matt Dillon wins an Oscar, and in namechecking his teacher, inadvertently outs the man. Even though the movie opens amusingly enough (the Oscar ceremony shows Steven Seagal being nominated, for something called Snowball in Hell), it degenerates into a mess of unfunny stereotypes, creating a stupidly coy fantasy world in which sexuality is directly connected to appreciation of Barbra Streisand and Gloria Gaynor. The normally wonderful Joan Cusack is stuck with an unflattering role as Kline's needy fiancee (though, admittedly, she turns "Fuck Barbra Streisand!" into one of the year's funniest lines). This is the kind of film that thinks the sight of two men kissing is by definition, funny. It may have made homosexuality that much easier for Middle America to handle, but at what cost?

The Sweet Hereafter (15). Atom Egoyan's thoughtful, haunting adaptation of Russell Banks's novel is more conventional than his previous films, but no less elliptically constructed. Flashing back and forth with ease, the director explores the aftermath of a school-bus accident in a small Canadian town. The film lacks the cerebral punch of Egoyan's best work (Exotica, Calendar), but it has emotional impact.

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