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As the millennium turns, movies are delving deep -- not only into our pockets, for once, but into our minds as well. Sure, there are always the exceptions that prove the rule ("Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo," for example). Overwhelmingly, though, recent movies seem to make it their mission to probe our psyches and confront our fears.

Take "Boys Don't Cry." Though the plot could be boiled down to trite terms (boy meets girl; girl finds out that boy is girl) the movie is anything but a joke: It stars actress Hilary Swank as a teen-ager named Teena Brandon who calls herself Brandon Teena and tries to adopt the life of a boy -- which, in many ways, she feels she is. It's a true story and a poignant film exploring adolescent confusion. Non-traditional gender roles also step into the spotlight, albeit it in a much more violent, sociopathic way, in "The Talented Mr. Ripley." Offbeat, psychological novels have also made it to film, just in time for 2000. "The Cider House Rules," based on John Irving's story of an abortion doctor in a New England town and his independent-minded protege, explores the motivations of saints and sinners and does honor to the quirks of the novel. There's also the period piece "Mansfield Park," loosely based on Jane Austen's novel of mores and manners of the early 1800s. Though the movie boasts filmy, empire-waisted gowns, pithy little putdowns and even a soupcon of sex, the filmmakers changed Austen's work in an effort to confront latter-day concerns -- the slave trade, for instance, and class injustice. It's not exactly your garden-variety Regency romance.

Even kids' movies aren't free from the introspective mood. "Fantasia/2000," on the big new Imax screen, casts back to the Old Testament, with an oddly affecting Noah's Ark tableau and an ambitious sequence set to "The Rite of Spring" envisioning death, destruction and rebirth. The dark cartoon "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," borrowed from the 1940 "Fantasia," is more scary and relevant now than it ever was. Meanwhile, the sci-fi set tastes of nostalgia in "Galaxy Quest," starring Sigourney Weaver and Tim Allen. The movie recalls, in its simplicity, the more primitive days of "Star Trek." And it reminds us, in its lighthearted way, of a hope we all husband at this hairpin-turn moment -- that we're not alone in the universe.

-- Mary Kunz

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