Tired of all that saccherine?

(Canscene) — Now that a new year is upon us, it’s time to forget all those feel gooders that have been thrust down our teletubes at us.

May those of us looking for good, sensitive DVDs for our home entertainment remember these:  Stanley Kubrick’s ’ Paths of Glory, George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck, Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond and Peter Raymont’s Shake Hands With the Devil.  Great movies that define some of humankind’s moral dilemmas and persons of courage who faced up to them.

Paths of Glory, banned in France, is based on a true World War I story of how four blameless French soldiers were executed as scapegoats for their commanding officers. Kirk Douglas was never better than in this film as the French officer who tries to stop the slaughter.

Clooney directed Good Night and Good Luck as a semi-documentary brilliantly  showing how in 1954, CBS producer Fred Friendly, news anchor Edward R. Murrow and Lawyer Joseph Welch put an end to Senator Joe McCarthy’s contrived attempts to prove the US Military was riddled with Soviet spies. Clooney plays CBS producer Fred Friendly and as director, coaxes an  uncannikly redolent performance from David Strathairn as Ed Murrow. The whole is blended seamlessly with actual footage of McCarthy and Welch to achieve an unforgettable impact.

Blood Diamond explores the depths of the illegal diamond market in Sierra Leone, adult slavery and the enlistment of child soldiers in rebel armies. Edward Zwick’s direction of Leonardo di Caprio, Djimon Hounslou and Jennifer Connelly in this tale of conspiracy to secure an enormous raw stone  adds punch to a film that is narrated like a runaway train through brilliantly edited sequences of war-torn
Sierra Leone. The growing chemistry between mercenary Caprio and reporter Connelly is something to behold. This is an actress who has been with us since childhood and gets by with sheer acting skill without the benefit of traditional “star” looks. On another level  is the growing respect between Di Caprio and Hounsloo depicted convincingly.

Canadian Peter Raymont’s documentary Shake Hands with the Devil brings us right into the mental and spiritual dilemma of General Romeo Dallaire whose climb back from the brink of suicide is a testament to the essential goodness of this man. As head of the UN peacekeeping mission  he  is forced  by sheer weight of numbers,to stand by helplessly watching the genocide of hundreds of thousands ot Rwandan Tutsis by Hutus in a country that’s a virtual natural paradise.  One grisly long shot shows Hutus mercilessly hacking away at Tutsis
but in the main, Shake Hands With The Devil focuses on the remarkable Dallaire, now a Canadian senator. Be sure to see the documentary rather than the feature movie of the same name.

Raymont went on to film Promise to the Dead, the moving documentary on novelist/playwright Ariel Dorfman, survivor of General Pinochet’s bloody 1973 coup in  Chile.

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