The Glut of Meaningless Superlatives

The Glut of Meaningless Superlatives
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Saw Capote yesterday. It is a masterpiece. I can't remember when I last saw a movie with this kind of integrity. Hoffman's performance is so good it's scary. But here's the thing. Everything else in the movie is just as good. The script. The rest of the cast. The lovely sound track, the cinematography, editing, the ethnographic details of '50s America—a seamless unity, a "work of art," as we used to say, back in the days when we believed in such things.

But leafing through the entertainment section of my local newspaper, browsing the ads the way one does, it's impossible to distinguish Capote from half a dozen other movies out there, some of which I've also seen, so I know the difference—but the poor exhausted English language can't tell the difference. Eveything's "astounding" and "stunning" and "luminous" and "must-see" and somebody might as well just paste Ebert's and Roeper's thumbs to the ceiling so they don't have to keep lifting them.

A History of Violence was a terrific flick. Good Night, and Good Luck was beautifully crafted and nobly motivated. And one could go on with other movies, according to various tastes. But what is there to say when something comes along that's just in another league? Maybe the critics guild could decide on a little symbol to put next to words like "astounding." The legend for the symbol would read "No, really..."

They wouldn't have to use it that often. That would be the point.

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