Way back in 1980, when the Oscar-winning theme song of the movie Fame declared "I'm gonna live forever," it was easy to believe the lyric was an example of artistic license. Now, it's not so clear. With almost Biblical tenacity, the film begat a television series which begat a stage musical which begat a reality show. When that last iteration was cancelled after a single season in 2003, it was possible to imagine that the longest 15 minutes in show business history had finally ticked to a close.
One recent Friday evening, in a darkened, wood-paneled Baltimore concert hall, audience members rose up in their seats, yelling, clapping, and singing--in the middle of a classical music performance. To be fair, this wasn't exactly "classical music." It sounded like Rachmaninoff and sometimes Bach, but the pianist, Gabriela Montero, wasn't playing from a book or memory; she was creating music on the spot. Improvisation has historically been considered heresy by the classical music establishment.
About midway through Hotel Rwanda there's a powerful, if somewhat heavy-handed, scene in which a good-hearted U.N. colonel (Nick Nolte) makes clear to hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) why the West won't intervene to stop the ongoing Rwandan genocide. "We think you're dirt, Paul," he explains sadly. "You're black. You're not even a nigger. You're an African." One assumes that no one from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was ever quite so blunt with Hotel Rwanda director/producer/cowriter Terry George.
To describe Roman Polanski's film The Pianist in less than superlatives might get one branded obtuse or hard-hearted. "A powerfully meticulous epic," extolled Richard Corliss in Time. "A remarkable story, handled with an expert lack of sentimentality," the New Statesman's Philip Kerr agreed.