Weekly Video Picks

Shattered Glass (2003)

Quietly riveting, crisply in telligent, ethically uncompromising, Shattered Glass tells the fact-based story of the spectacularly fraudulent journalistic career of Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a hotshot writer for the New Republic (“the in-flight magazine on Air Force One”) during the 1990s. With unsettling plausibility, first-time director Billy Ray depicts Glass' uncanny ability to ingratiate himself to his co-workers while ingeniously covering his tracks.

He mounts a deception on such a scale — inventing stories out of whole cloth — that his peers and superiors can scarcely comprehend it even when he's practically caught red-handed.

Christensen brings a nerdy charisma and inscrutable calculation to the role of Glass, betraying no trace of the comparative woodenness of his Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones. But the film belongs to Peter Sarsgaard, who brilliantly portrays the magazine's beleaguered new editor, distracted by office politics and reluctant to confront the popular, respected Glass.

Why did Glass do what he did?

The film offers no explanation — a choice some have found unsatisfying. I disagree. Glass' pattern of deceit is queasily persuasive; adding Catch Me If You Can psychologizing about his childhood or whatever would only diminish the film's truthfulness, not enhance it. In the end, why Glass lied doesn't really matter — only that he did.

Content advisory: Some obscene and profane language; a few crude references; a depiction of drug abuse.

The Sound of Music (1965)

Other than The Wizard of Oz, no Hollywood musical is as familiar, reassuring and beloved of all ages as The Sound of Music.

The loosely fact-based story has its earliest origins in the memoirs of Baroness Maria von Trapp and was turned into a stage musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein in their final collaboration (and their only joint effort to rival their first collaboration, Oklahoma!).

In bringing the musical to the screen, director Robert Wise made spectacular use of magnificent mountain landscapes and shooting locations in Germany and Austria.

He also found in Julie Andrews the quintessential Maria. She's radiantly joyful, earnest and energetic, clear of diction and powerful in song.

Her performance anchors the film. Had she betrayed any flicker of condescension or insincerity, the whole thing would have collapsed into treacle and camp. But cynics will search her face in vain: Her sincerity is absolute; she sells the role and the film.

While the story depicts a religious postulant leaving the convent for marriage and family, both domestic and religious life are honored; God's will and one's own vocation, not one state versus another, is clearly the point. (Still, the musical does de-emphasize the role of religion in the original story.

For example, the family's real musical mentor, after Maria, was a boarder who was a Catholic priest!)

Content advisory: Nothing objectionable.