Paradise Lost filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky were in court today to witness the stunning conclusion to a trial they’ve been following for nearly two decades, as Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley – the so-called West Memphis Three, wrongfully accused of mutilating and murdering three prepubescent boys – were set free after 18 years in prison.
The award-winning documentary series Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000) spawned a worldwide movement to liberate the three, who were maligned by a conservative Arkansas community largely on the strength of rumors about their ties to “black magic” and paganism.
How far Harry Potter has come, from a strictly-for-kids screen debut in The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), which captured none of the subtlety or rich characterizations of J.K. Rowling’s addictive prose, to David Yates’ The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, a graceful swan song that witnesses the final ascent to manhood of the Boy Who Lived.
Rather than draw out their long goodbyes in a single sitting, as Peter Jackson’s Hobbits did in his too-long Lord of the Rings finale, Team Harry’s swan song will unfold in two parts, a decision dismissed in some quarters as purely a marketing strategy.
Yet even at two-and-a-half hours, the first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling’s conclusion to the saga of an orphaned wizard destined to battle a Hitler-like menace, sacrifices some particulars of the author’s story but emerges as the most faithful adaptation in the series. Readers expecting everything plus the kitchen sink – or, in this case, seven magical Horcruxes – should not be disappointed.
Despite no previous acting experience, Katie Jarvis is the heart and troubled soul of Fish Tank, the gripping coming-of-age drama from Andrea Arnold and the most exciting new release in a week also highlighted by the arrival of Storm, Hans-Christian Schmid's thriller about crimes against humanity committed during the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, and the on-screen return of Mel Gibson in Edge of Darkness.
The weekend forecast calls for cloudy skies and scattered showers, but you can always take refuge at the city's indie theaters, where Peter Jackson's Lovely Bones makes its long-awaited debut and former Saturday Night Live star Chris Rock investigates the lifestyles of the rich and follically fashionable.
The final days of December are not just an excuse to eat, drink and be merry, but also to organize our most beloved cultural offerings into a series of lists. Who am I to buck the trend? With 2009 winding to a close, the time is right to reflect on the past decade and the movies that made it great. Among those honored: Michel Gondry, the French-born auteur whose Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Science of Sleep proved two of the most poignant romances in recent memory, and Jake Gyllenhaal, the quietly effective star of Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac.