Chris Columbus’s Rent (Columbia, 11.11) is already being dismissed as damaged goods. In a recent Oscar prediction chart David Poland asks, “How can something less than a decade old feel so passe already?” (Uhhm, because it deals with one or two characters dying from AIDS and because medical breakthroughs since the mid ’90s have made AIDS a survivable affliction?) Plus in a recent Entertainment Weekly Oscar forecast piece, Dave Karger warned than Rent might not get awards traction if it winds up feeling like a “dated” stage show. Now, maybe Rent works and maybe it doesn’t, but the early dissing isn’t just about AIDS cocktails. It’s partly due to many journalists despising Chris Columbus, Rent‘s director, because he always sentimentalizes and sugar-coats his films. (In weighing a possible Best Director nomination for Columbus, Poland wrote there are “525,600 reasons it ain’t happenin.'”) It’s also about Rent‘s Broadway stage show having been chided by Matt Stone and Trey Parker in ’04’s Team America: World Police, when they included a scene of a Broadway show with several young marionette performers in a chorus line style singing, “Everybody has AIDS! Everybody has AIDS!” So Rent is dead, is that it? No, that’s not it, but you could easily get that impression.