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BY Steven D. Greydanus
The Informant! (2009)
“The Spectacular Spider-Man,”
Vols. 6-7 (2010)
One of the
best movies of 2009, The Informant! is now
on DVD. A deceptively lighthearted dark comedy about international corporate
crime, whistle-blowing and a lengthy, covert federal investigation, The
Informant! takes so many twists and turns that by the time the end
credits roll, it’s hard to recall that it all began with orange juice, maple
syrup, biodegradable trash bags, jumbo shrimp and chickens.
do all these things have in common? Corn. “Corn goes in one end,” Marc Whitacre
(Matt Damon) confides in an inner monologue voice-over as he walks the office
floors of Archer Daniels Midland, “and profit comes out the other.” Whitacre
was a divisional president at ADM in charge of bioresearch in the early 1990s,
and his story, not to give too much away, is an eyepopper.
all like to think we would do the right thing; in moments of crisis, we tell
ourselves that we have. The
Informant! confronts us with the
inveterate human capacity for self-justification and self-deception, and the
extent to which we are all prone to casting ourselves as the hero of our own
drama and the victim of our own tragedy.
of “The Spectacular Spider-Man”!
I thought this show was good before, but Vols. 6-7, now on DVD,
are the best yet. This is the smartest kids’ show I know of today, and one of
the best super-hero cartoon series ever. Creators Greg Weisman and Victor Cook
have always set a high standard, but with these episodes, “Spider-Man” gets
literally operatic and even Shakespearean.
One episode, with a gangland war set in an opera house during a performance of
Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” is scored to the opera (as well as other diegetic or
on-screen music). Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” becomes a
multi-episode structuring device as Peter’s classmates try out for the school
play — tryouts that add wry commentary on the main action. (This device comes
to a climax in the next disc to come, Vol. 8.)
These artful allusions aren’t just
conceits. The opera episode is Godfather-esque in
its well-crafted conflicts, motivations and characterizations. Moral
thoughtfulness continues, as when one character’s gambling problem and
another’s history with drugs prompt apt remarks about addiction and
Dialogue remains sharp. In a battle
with a fiery opponent in a pool hall, with fire raging everywhere, Spider-Man
quips to the manager, “Couldn’t spring for a sprinkler system, huh?” A “Cyrano
de Bergerac” riff has jock Flash Thompson desperately turning to Peter to coach
him in wooing a brainy beauty: “She like smartness! And, like, integrity and
stuff.” Me, too.
The Informant: Limited profane language and a number of
obscenities; brief crass remarks and language and a comment about a perverted
practice. Teens and up. “The Spectacular Spider-Man”: Much fast-paced animated action violence, menace and scary images;
romantic complications. Fine for all but very sensitive kids.