Cinema: The Winners' Tales

Three ambitious films are critics' pets. But just how good are they?

BEFORE NIGHT FALLS

WHO GOT WHAT Javier Bardem, Best Actor, National Board of Review. He's also a Golden Globe nominee.

WHY THE CRITICS LOVE IT A sad-eyed gay man becomes a victim-hero as he endures the twin scourges of Castro and AIDS.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT Looking for a male weepie with art-house credentials? Julian Schnabel's sprawling biography of the Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas spans a half-century, two countries, two languages, two extremes of regimes. Batista's rapacious tyranny keeps most people poor; Castro's stern, homophobic communism keeps them miserable. Bardem, who was excellent as the crippled...

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