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November 03, 2002

TV Alert

Friedrich --

More tips for those who want to use their TV as a cultural resource, and not a narcotic.

I’m fond of three or four of the current true-crime series: Good stories! With beginnings and endings! And juicy characters! The quirkiest of the bunch is A&E’s atmospheric City Confidential, which views a crime story as a chance to explore an environment. A murder in Memphis? Why not pick up a lot of Memphis lore along the way? Why not meet some oddball local characters? Why not peak inside a social circle? Often an episode gets so engrossed by its setting and characters that it won’t get around to the specific case that is its ostensible subject for 15 or 20 minutes. Yet the shows are usually quite satisfying -- they're like short versions of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." The voice of Paul Winfield, who supplies the narration, is a big plus -- seldom have you heard anyone relish his instrument's effects quite so shamelessly.
City Confidential (A&E, showing this week Sunday at 9 pm; Monday at 1 am; Wednesday at 10 pm; Thursday at 2 am; Saturday at 6 pm).

Just because I'm a women's-tennis buff...
The WTA Sanex L.A. Championship (ESPN coverage begins Wednesday at 3:30). Women’s tennis has been more fun to follow than men’s for some years now; the men are bazookas blasting away at each other, while the women still have to rely on strategy. And, hey: Women! Ie., drama, family intrigue, conflicted feelings, wild mood swings, diva tears and diva delight. Given how monotonous the finals have become -- all Serena and Venus, all the time -- you’re likely to find more unpredictability to enjoy in the early rounds.

Movie tips for people who love watching beautiful, talented actresses and who don’t mind sitting through lousy movies to get a glimpse of their goddesses:
Sweet November (Cinemax, Saturday at 6 pm). Godawful sentimental chickflick about a tragic kook (Charlize Theron) who decides to loosen up a hard-driving prig (Keanu Reeves) -- but Theron is terrific, as well as beyond-belief pretty.
Thief of Hearts (IFC, Wednesday at 10 pm; Thursday at 6 pm). Remember the glossy, overdynamic Simpson/Bruckheimer hits of the ‘80s -- “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Top Gun,” etc? Well, they made some duds too, and this was one of them. But Barbara Williams, playing a conventional woman lured into a romance with a thief, brings to her character a slow-motion sensuality, and dark undercurrents of fear, distress and need, that are very erotic.
Killing Zoe (IFC, Friday at 8 pm and 11:15 pm; Friday at 4:15 am). Crappy heist-gone-bad edginess from a Tarantino sidekick, but an all-too-rare opportunity to feast your eyes on one of the most elegant, jewel-like actresses around these days, Julie Delpy.

This month’s theme on TCM is Westerns. Morality plays in mythic settings -- that’s what Westerns deliver, and it’s what the form is all about. The hunger for this kind of entertainment never seems to go away; in today's movie world, that hunger is served by sci-fi and action-adventure pictures. Instead of the desert, outer space (or a post-“Blade Runner” metropolis); instead of horses and six-shooters, high tech. But the stateliness of the Western, the beauty of the natural landscapes, the rituals of honor and the law -- all this has a deep appeal, especially (it should be said) for men.
Red River (begins midnight between Monday and Tuesday). Howard Hawks directs a handsome, sprawling cattle-drive yarn that pits Method newcomer Montgomery Clift against the burly old-timer John Wayne. One of the best-known of all Westerns.
Big Guns Talk (Tuesday at 8 pm). A two-hour documentary about the history of the Western movie.
The Naked Spur (Tuesday at 10 pm); followed by The Man From Laramie (begins midnight between Tuesday and Wednesday). Two first-class films by the amazing Anthony Mann, who brought the brooding introversion of ‘50s psychodrama into the form, yet kept the pace crackling.
Lonely Are the Brave (Thursday at 9:30 am). Kirk Douglas in an affecting modern last-cowboy tale. Taken from an Edward ("The Monkey-Wrench Gang") Abbey novel.
Ride the High Country (Saturday at 8 pm). Sam Peckinpah’s autumnal end-of-the-trail story features Randolph Scott and Joel Macrae. This is early Peckinpah, made before he became the maverick wildman he's best-known as, and the film is suprisingly direct and sweet-natured.



posted by Michael at November 3, 2002


RE, City Confidential: I second your remarks -- on the series, and on Winfield who is simply just superb. I'm a longtime watcher of that series, and try not to miss an episode.


Posted by: acdouglas on November 3, 2002 7:29 PM

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