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Jonathan Demme

Philadelphia (1993)

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Demme

CAST:

Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas, Jason Robards, Joanne Woodward, Mary Steenburgen, Bradley Whitford, Charles Napier, Daniel von Bargen

REVIEW:

AIDS (Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome) emerged as a major crisis in the early 80s but was largely ignored into the beginning of the 90s in the United States even though the US had more cases than any other nation. Educational programs were well underway in Europe, but US politicians gave it low priority, and President Ronald Reagan did not mention it in a speech until 1987. By that time there were 51,000 cases in 113 countries. Reagan’s administration resisted congressional efforts and the crusading of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to increase funds for AIDS research and prevention. To many Americans, AIDS was a ‘gay disease’ and was not considered a subject for polite conversation due to its (exaggerated) association with homosexuality. Media treatment focused on the relatively few heterosexuals who had contracted the disease through blood transfusions. This partially changed in 1985, when archetypal Hollywood leading man Rock Hudson announced that he was gay and dying of AIDS. Hudson died in October of that year, leaving $250,000 to an AIDS research foundation, and while the revelation that a popular celebrity was infected prompted more coverage of the shamefully ignored plight of thousands of infected homosexuals, many Americans continued to inaccurately view AIDS as a disease which only pertained to homosexuals, who were largely viewed with indifference or even considered to deserve it. Despite its status as the worst epidemic of modern times, it was the subject of extraordinary ignorance and fear, with infected individuals ostracized and even attacked by others who believed incorrectly that you could contract it through casual contact. The epidemic peaked in 1993, the same year of a second step forward in AIDS awareness, director Jonathan Demme’s (The Silence of the Lambs) flawed but courageous and socially important drama Philadelphia. Continue reading

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Demme

CAST:

Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald, Diane Baker, Brooke Smith, Chris Isaak, Charles Napier, Daniel von Bargen

REVIEW:

Few cinematic villains are a source of as much morbid fascination as Hannibal Lecter. Like the heroine Clarice Starling, we are frightened and disturbed by him, and yet we are too intrigued to turn our eyes away. Dr. Lecter is undoubtebly the character best-remembered from the psychological thriller The Silence of the Lambs, and the acclaim showered on Anthony Hopkins for his Oscar-winning performance sometimes threatens to overshadow Jodie Foster’s also Oscar-winning lead role as FBI trainee Clarice Starling, a fine performance and a well-developed character in her own right. Clarice and Hannibal are two of the strongest characters ever written and acted in a horror movie, and they are given a script that does them justice, a dark, intelligent thriller that relies much less on blood and guts than on well-honed characterizations, a few scenes of indelible purely verbal interactions, and a vivid sense of atmosphere. All of these elements combined to make The Silence of the Lambs a classic of the thriller genre and earned it five Academy Awards in 1991. Continue reading

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