Citizenfour, The Imitation Game and Josh Levin’s 15 Minutes of Fame

CITIZENFOUR – 4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
THE IMITATION GAME – 3 1/2 stars

I jumped in the car yesterday to go see Citizenfour at the West End Cinema, turned on NPR and heard a national interview with Josh Levin, owner of the West End Cinema. It was an interview on The Interview. Josh will be one of the just 2 or 3 theaters in the DC area to show the controversial film. He told me that he’s sold out all the weekend showings!  And that he’s done like 25 interviews in the last 24 hours, with all the major networks.  It’s funny because he shows so many great films and doesn’t get any publicity, and here he shows this film that’s not supposed to be all that great and he’s a national hero. But he deserves it.

I had seen The Imitation Game earlier in the day and that was all about breaking codes. So seeing Citizenfour and Edward Snowden seemed like a natural follow-up.  It takes a while to get going, giving you the background of Snowden’s story, the NSA’s false statements and history since 9/11. But when Snowden himself enters, Laura Poyntras’s story takes off. Who knew that 3 people in a hotel room could be such high drama? Snowden is good theater. He’s captivating in the risks he talks about and in one scene when he’s simply fixing his hair.

The film will get nominated for best documentary and rightfully so.  It’s hard to take your eyes off Snowden, and the story builds as it leaks out to the press. The final scene is precious and I won’t spoil it.

I was wondering who directed The Imitation Game – Morten Tyldum from Norway. It’s a well-done film, just not captivating like Snowden is.  Actor-of-the-hour Benedict Cumberbatch does what he can with the role of the heroic, tortured Alan Turing, but the film just never soars. Keira Knightly specializes in roles from the past, of course, and she tries here to add a little luster. But Tyldum probably tries a little too hard – he’s got before and after subplots going on – to make the foregone conclusion exciting.

Meanwhile, maybe a few of the people who visit the West End Cinema this weekend will check out one of the better films that he’s showing like Force Maejure or yes, Citizenfour.

About Ronn Levine

Ronn blogged before the term existed - as the arts editor and pro basketball writer (The Court Jester) for the Rutgers Daily Targum. I reviewed the original Dreamgirls and interviewed the lead, Sheryl Lee Ralph, who was from Rutgers. From there I went to The Washington Post covering duckpin bowling, preseason football, tennis and a baseball oldtimers game with Joe Dimaggio. Next I collected a couple Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins, wrote for radio, wrote cover stories for the Post's Weekend section (started ushering after my story on it), covered diversity in the newspaper world and then started going to film festivals and conducting interviews - Sarah Polley, Julie Delpy and Kristin Scott-Thomas among others. Now I blog daily for the Software & Information Industry Association and run The ArtHouse Meetiup.

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