Music and Murder

Picked up two movies from a discount bin a couple of weekends ago. Totally different types of films too.

Mad Hot Ballroom is a charming if light documentary about a program that incorporates ballroom dancing into elementary schools. It’s a neat idea in and of itself. The filmmakers follow three different schools as they prepare for a final citywide competition. A lot of the reviews were critical about the focus on the competition in lieu of focus on the children. I can see the point. This is not a hard-hitting documentary and I have to wonder if the filmmakers made a conscious choice to go this way. It probably was more marketable if only because it had a recognizable/Hollywoodesque plot. It is still worth seeing, however.

On the other end of the spectrum was Capote. The focus of the film is on Truman Capote’s research into the Clutter murders (two ex-cons broke into a Kansas farm house in the erroneous belief there was money and brutally murdered an entire family) that eventually became his “non-fiction novel,” In Cold Blood. Capote is masterfully portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, which seems like weird casting. Hoffman is a stocky 5’9′; Capote was 5’3.” But he nails it. Catherine Keener plays Harper Lee and in a throwaway role, Chris Cooper is the local state police chief.

It’s a thought-provoking and somewhat disturbing movie. Capote feels drawn to one of the killers (Clifton Collins Jr.) whose life has marked parallels to his own. Nonetheless as he pours literally years into writing the book, he comes to realize that for a successful ending, he needs the killers to die.

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