This week the Golden Globes celebrated two cynical comedies, the musical Chicago, the head-trip Adaptation, and the bleak and troubling drama The Hours, while the inspiring Holocaust drama The Pianist was passed by, as was The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. This glamorous, long-running, headline-grabbing program often indicates which way Oscar voters will turn.

Meanwhile, the Promontory Film Critics Circle (a group of eighteen religious press critics of which I am a part) quietly posted the nominations for the films that most impressed them with meaningful stories and technical excellence. Nominees for Best Narrative Film included 25th Hour, Signs, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Minority Report, The Pianist, and Punch-drunk Love. In the group's most specialized category, Most Significant Exploration of Spiritual Issues, the group named Changing Lanes, Signs, 13 Conversations about One Thing, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Songs from the Second Floor, and the documentary Hell House. If you're looking for alternative to the flashy but often empty entertainment celebrated by the mainstream press, you might do well to start with that list, or others nominated here.

Lawrence delivers comedy with extreme prejudice

Director Dennis Dugan's National Security gives comedian Martin Lawrence another chance for loud-mouthed comedy at the expense of white folks and cops. Police academy reject Earl Montgomery (Lawrence) and Officer Hank Rafferty (Steve Zahn) first meet in a misunderstanding that leads to a minor struggle. On videotape, however, the incident looks like a cop beating a black man. Montgomery takes advantage of this in court and commits perjury, landing Hank in prison. Later, the two run into each other again ...

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