I’m amazed — I’ve seen two contemporary movies in a row that have been pretty darn good. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE shares with the often aforementioned CAPOTE several qualities that make them outstanding. First of all they’re movies for adults in which the CONTENT is more important than the PACKAGING. They both feature great scripts and fantastic leading performances that are more about acting than starring, by talented men (in Squid’s case Jeff Daniels) who are not afraid to appear unsympathetic. There are no car chases, no computer generated special effects, and, although there is quite frank handling of S-E-X, there are no gratuitous flashes of teen tit. They both have that ambiguity thing, where those glorious grays of life are presented in full living color. They don’t restrict themselves to artificial constructs like "comedy" or "tragedy" but display the whole mixed range of the human condition including laughter, tears, snot, twisted grimaces, and cum. There’s also unusual subtlety, where not every significant detail is explained and highlighted, nor is the viewer’s emotional response over determined by either artificial plot twists or swelling music (although the sound track is fantastic). Anyone who thought MILLION DOLLAR BABY was anything but claptrap melodrama should be forced to see these two movies a few million times. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE is more centered on that staple of American "serious" culture, the family romance, but manages to avoid sentimentality, psychological fatuity, portentousness, and all the other potholes of that over traveled highway. Being the son of a University instructor I appreciated only too well the film’s acute understanding that the habits of a teacher — the tendency to lecture rather than listen and the substitution of pithy comments and judgements for conversation — do not always what make for good fatherhood. Having served my time in a creative writing program at about the time the film was set, I can also tell you that the sexual politics of that overheated hothouse, with everyone seeking the approval of one guru, and the desperately attempting to curry favor from some pretty dissolute characters by any means including (especially) erotic (ANNA PAQUIN! playing the principle female hustler) were bang on. As a merchant to many academics I can testify that the keen satirical presentation of a class considering themselves mentally superior to everyone else while in fact being totally clueless was valid as well. Will either of these fine movies or even their grosses combined make as much money as, say, THE DUKES OF HAZARD? UBU fears he knows the answer and, knowing it, fears for the republic as well!