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There are two Tylers in Bully, Lee Hirsch’s often sharply affecting, occasionally heartrending documentary about the victims of youthful schoolhouse intimidation and junior-grade terrorizing of youngsters in communities around the United States. They didn’t participate in it, themselves; they’re only present through the regretful reminiscences and expressions of mourning uttered by their survivors. Both of them took their own lives after months and years of threats, rejection, and not-so-petty cruelties. Tyler Long was 17 when he died in Murray County, Georgia. Ty Smalley, a rural Oklahoma schoolboy, was 11. Part of Bully’s effectiveness is that it conveys their painful absences from the lives of their survivors.


Joseph Cedar, the writer-director of Footnote, the Israeli submission to the Oscar foreign-film category this year, has said that his film’s story “qualifies as a tragedy, as most father-son stories do.” This bleak prognosis of parent-child relations notwithstanding, Footnote has a decidedly tragic cast. But it remains a comedy through much of its length. A tragicomedic movie is scarcely run-of-the-mill fare in cinema, and Cedar impressively manages to keep his film’s momentum and its involuted texture evolving until, at its very last image, it suddenly stops on a note of possible bitter irony. Interpretation is semi-open here.

In Brief...

I’m not persuaded that a big screen update of The Three Stooges was something we really needed, certainly not when the originals can still be seen (and often are, thanks to regular “Stoogemania” events in the Western New York area). But we have one, and all things considered it’s probably as good as it could possibly be given the obvious affection for the comic trio that the Farrelly Brothers have and the performances of MAD TV’s Will Sasso, Sean Hayes (from Will and Grace) and Chris Diamantopoulos as Curly, Larry, and Moe. It’s not a biopic but rather an attempt to recreate the characters in a modern setting, complete with pretty much every bit of shtick they used in their shorts from the 1930s through the 1960s, and as homage it’s pretty impeccable. (There’s a brief shot of Sasso’s Curly jumping in a fountain that I wish I could replay a dozen times.) The biggest drawback is that the Farrelly’s trademark sentimentality is misplaced: Giving the Stooges a backstory in an orphanage adds nothing, other than the ability to enjoy Larry David as a nun. It won’t make many new fans, but Stoogeophiles should be happy with it.

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