Cinema: The Creator

Not Just Memory Lane

Liberty Heights is the fourth in Barry Levinson's "trilogy" about his hometown of Baltimore, Md. After Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987) and Avalon (1990), he felt he had finished with tales about growing up in the city's Jewish neighborhood in the 1950s. But then an ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY review of his 1998 movie, Sphere, referred to Dustin Hoffman as a "noodgey and menschlike" Jewish psychologist. The racial stereotyping annoyed Levinson ("Nobody would say Mel Gibson was playing a Catholic industrialist in Ransom"), but it also got him thinking about his youth again. Rather than fume, he sat down and wrote for three...

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