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Short Takes
BIRTHDAY BUNNY Before there was Harry Potter, there was Beatrix. It's been 100 years since she published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and libraries, schools and especially her publishers are celebrating. The Children's Museum of Manhattan has an interactive exhibition for the summer. Peterrabbit.com has been redesigned, and there is a whole warren of reissues. B O O K S
BAD BOY BRAWLY BROWN By Walter Mosley In his first outing in six years, Easy Rawlins is still trying to go straight by mopping floors as a janitor. But fortunately for us, the hard-boiled, hard-luck gumshoe with a heart of gold and a nose for trouble is soon back out on the street, looking for Brawly Brown, a well-meaning young man who has fallen in with a crew of violent radicals. It's a great yarn, crackling with righteous anger and ethical ambiguity, set in the roiling, sweltering Los Angeles of the mid-'60s (Philip Marlowe wouldn't last a minute here). But Mosley's heavy-handed, Hemingwayesque prose weighs everything down like a snitch in a pair of cement shoes. Mosley should lay off the literary airs and stick to action: like his hero, he's at his best when he's slumming it.

LOVELY AND AMAZING Directed By Nicole Holofcener Mom (Brenda Blethyn) is near death — liposuction gone wrong. Her once promising daughter (Catherine Keener) is working in a one-hour photo shop. Another (Emily Mortimer) is an actress with career-threatening body-image issues. An adopted child (Raven Goodwin) is overweight, black and simmering with disaffection. Would you call the Marks family depressed — or obsessed? Either is putting it mildly. But there's also something funny and truthful about their glum, strongly acted pursuit of hopeless dreams. This feels the way a lot of us are living now — on desperation's dull yet still cutting edge.

HEATHEN CHEMISTRY Oasis The Gallagher brothers were never ones to bother reinventing the wheel when they could just steal one off the Magical Mystery Tour bus. On its fifth album, Oasis still sounds like the world's best Beatles cover band — and there's nothing wrong with that. After 2000's lemon, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (an album without a single compelling song), the group returns to simple melodies (McCartney's), longing vocals (Lennon's) and songs about the women the brothers have loved and left. Little by Little, Stop Crying Your Heart Out and The Hindu Times are pop-rock mini-classics, diminished only by the fact that they sound so darned familiar.

DOOR TO DOOR TNT, July 14, 8 p.m. E.T. "Inspirational" TV movies are like door-to-door salesmen: when one says it can "change your life," it's time to chain the lock. This one, which follows Bill Porter (William H. Macy) from 1955 to 1997 as he overcomes cerebral palsy to become a champion salesman, does get a foot in the door. Macy — who became America's Lomanesque salesman in chief in Fargo — gives a wry, uncondescending performance as the determined Porter. But the script (which Macy co-wrote) is peddling a big, stale box of Forrest Gump chocolates, complete with sentiment, bathos and predictable pop-history references to Vietnam, aids and the Internet. We don't need any today, thanks.

UP FOR GRABS By David Williamson You have heard, perhaps, that Madonna is a disappointment onstage — and a pain offstage — in her much hyped London theater debut. But never mind those snarky critics: the Material Girl is surprisingly engaging in this not-bad comedy about a New York City art dealer who ramps up a bidding war over a Jackson Pollock painting to save her fortune and her marriage. If Madonna's voice, oddly, is a little underpowered, her body is in fine trim; she slithers and writhes and pounces around the stage, giving us a teaser for her next concert tour while creating a convincing portrait of a woman forced to take desperate measures to avoid financial ruin. Oh, and there's some kinky onstage sex. I told you it wasn't a disappointment.

July 15, 2002 Vol. 160 No. 3

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