MOVIES . . . GRIDLOCK'D: An ambitious first film as writer-director by actor Vondie Curtis Hall, starring Tupac Shakur. Shakur plays Spoon, a musician who resolves to say aloha to heroin after his singer girlfriend Cookie (radiant Thandie Newton) nearly dies from a drug overdose. The plot has Spoon and his nutsy pal Stretch (Tim Roth) fleeing a Detroit drug lord (Curtis Hall) who's peeved that the lads stole his stash. But the real story is of the runaround Spoon and Stretch get from social-service employees, who can't be bothered to help addicts get into rehab programs. This is an action comedy about two guys waiting in line for nothing to happen: Samuel Beckett rewritten for Simpson-Bruckheimer. Part of the joke here is that Spoon and Stretch, who are less performance artists than petty criminals, suffer from welfare-state dependency. And, in Michigan, this is the wrong state to depend on. Public servants are ignorant or lazy or just plain crazy."The film's villains are from Central Casting, the cops from Keystone," says TIME's Richard Corliss. " But that's not what matters. Taking a page from the Martin Scorsese handbook, Curtis Hall smartly heightens moments with epic visual declarations (slo-mo, negative images, gigantic closeups). The speeches are arias, the shots operatic, complex. Shakur also serves as his own elegist. 'All the things we talked about' he says of Cookie when he thinks she might be dead, 'things she wanted to do -- then she ups and dies. I don't wanna go out like that.' With Shakurĺs death, Hollywood lost part of its own dream to become a robust rainbow cinema. GRIDLOCK'd gives a taste of what the movies are going to miss."
BOOKS . . . PERSONAL HISTORY: In her disarmingly candid and immensely readable autobiography (Knopf; 642 pages; $29.95), Katharine Graham not only chronicles her personal transformation from wife to the "iron lady" who built the Washington Post into one of the nation's great papers; she also provides an invaluable inside glimpse of some of the most critical turning points in American journalism, says TIME's Richard Zoglin. Graham is especially revealing about the insecurities that plagued her when she took over the Post after husband Phil's suicide: "I still had little idea of how to relate to people in a business environment" she says, "and no idea how closely I was being watched by everyone." Graham made many smart moves. She saw that the Post needed to be improved editorially and hired the right man, Ben Bradlee, to do it. (The meeting in which she put out the first feelers to him was the first time she had ever taken a man to lunch.) She gave the crucial go-ahead to publish the Pentagon Papers, after a federal judge had halted publication of them in the New York Times. And, of course, she stood tall during the paperĺs groundbreaking Watergate coverage, backing her reporters in the face of enormous pressure from the Nixon Administration, which included politically motivated challenges to the Post's TV licenses. Though often credited with courage in this confrontation, she writes, 'the truth is that I never felt there was much choice ... Once I found myself in the deepest water in the middle of the current, there was no going back.'