Potatoes of the World, Unite!

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The good news is that the economic Chernobyl of Russia, which exports nothing but dirt-cheap oil and old CCCP hockey jerseys, should have absolutely no impact on the average American wallet. The bad news, of course, is that it's taking your retirement fund to the cleaners -- and it's coming back shrunk. Blame it on the traders, those skittish little folk who, after months of buying like mad (and making you rich) for absolutely no reason, are gazing up gapemouthed at CNBC's clips of W.C. Yeltsin and seeing . . .

Reds (1981). Warren Beatty's epic is very much a recollection of Gone With the Wind, and it shares the Selznick classic's main failing: It takes too long getting to the war. Diane Keaton, we are told, is radiant enough to ensnare Beatty's Jack Reed and Nicholson's Eugene O'Neill -- but it's a captivation the viewer somehow doesn't share. And aren't "The Witnesses" just an endless parade of wizened faces fleshing out a story we'd rather watch ourselves?

And (n)yet . . . there's something about Russia. It gives grandeur to tragedy and rivets eyes that would otherwise wander. Maybe it's the Russian soul, that famously long-suffering bit of global ether that gave Dostoevsky and Tolstoy their golden touches. Maybe it's the sweeping snowscapes, or the songs, and that there's just no throng like a Russian throng, fur hats and all. Or maybe it's all those nukes. Whatever it is, it pulls Reds back from the brink and into the pantheon of really long, turgid movies worth watching.

Russia is at the brink again, and flapping its arms like a spooked tightrope walker. But there's one comfort: Today, Russia's Communists are more like Italy's -- loud but ineffectual, and a lot more eager to oppose than they are to lead. That big red button should stay dusty for a while yet.