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December 16, 2002

TV Alert

Friedrich --

This week as usual, cable brings us more good movies and promising TV shows than a single Tivo can handle.

First, our 2Blowhards Pick of the TV Week:

The Bicycle Thief (TCM 2 am Saturday morning). In the middle and late ‘40s, some Italian film writers and directors abandoned spectacle, found their stories among real people, and created the style that has became known as Italian neo-realism. Emphasizing simplicity, directness and respect for lives as they’re actually lived, it has been one of the most influential movements in film history. Written by Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio de Sica, this simple story concerns a poor man, his son, and their quest to find a stolen bicycle, and it's one of neo-realism's three or four peaks.

And here’s just a little of what else a TV user can tune into this week:

TV shows

Intimate Portrait: Diane Lane (Lifetime, Monday at 7 pm). The “Intimate Portrait” series never fails to deliver estrogen overload -- feelings feelings feelings, relationships relationships relationships. And how do you reconcile a glamorous career with a satisfying personal life? But how often does a Diane Lane fan get a chance to see her profiled?

Human Instinct (TLC, Monday 9-11 pm, and Tuesday 9-11 pm). The Learning Channel’s four-hour look at our deeper drives. I'm eager to see whether the show will dare to refer to them as "built-in," or "in the genes."

The E! True Hollywood Story: Winona Ryder (E!, Tuesday at 8 pm). This glitzy, tabloid-style series has a surprisingly good batting average. Most of the episodes seem responsibly researched, the producers are tenacious and successful in getting key sources to talk, and, as for the brassy style... Well, do you really want to watch something sober on a topic like Winona Ryder and her shoplifting escapades?


The Five Senses (HBO, 2:15 am Tuesday morning). A child’s disappearance sets off quiet chain reactions in this meditative, Toronto-set film, the first film to be directed by Atom Egoyan’s producer. Organized thematically rather than narratively, lusciously photographed and recorded, it’s like “Short Cuts” done as an exquisite miniature.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (Cinemax, Wednesday at 3:30). The role that made Jim Carrey a star. Daring and far-out – Ace Ventura for me is as first-rate a comic creation as Groucho, Woody, and Curly.

Speed (Cinemax, Thursday at 1 pm and 10 pm). Some people bemoan the fact that Hollywood isn’t making risky, character-driven movies any more. I bemoan the fact that the big corporate product that they do make -- with these budgets, how can they be expected to make anything else? -- is so seldom as good as it should be. But this bomb’s-about-to-go-off thriller shows the industry doing itself proud. With Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper, a bus that can’t slow down, and just the right scrappy tone.

Martin Scorsese on American Movies (TCM, Friday from 8 pm till midnight). Four hours of Martin Scorsese playing show and tell. Little of what he says will come as news to hardcore film buffs, and hasn’t Scorsese been doing his grand-old-man/film-scholar number for an awfully long time already? But I’m just a peevish, know-it-all film buff; most civilians tell me they find Scorsese’s discussions of film fascinating.

Red River (TCM, 8 pm Saturday). Howard Hawks directs a confident, sprawling cattle-drive yarn that pits Method newcomer Montgomery Clift against burly old-time icon John Wayne. Rousingly good, and one of the best-known of all Westerns.

Joy Ride (HBO, 10 pm Saturday). It starts as a thriller and morphs into a horror movie. With an attractive young cast. But the real star here is the director, John Dahl, who gives the film a beautiful pulp-paperback look and keeps its tone unpretentious and tense. One of the few new movies to have an old-style, B-picture feel.

Pi (IFC, 11:45 pm Friday night, 4:30 am Saturday morning, 6 pm Saturday). Psychological character study of a young Jewish loner whose brain fixates on, and scrambles, religious studies, numerology, and the stock market. A small, no-budget black and white indie, it was the first film by Darren Aronofsky, who went on to make “Requiem for a Dream.” As subjective and obsessive as “Taxi Driver,” though where the Scorsese movie was voluptuous and operatic, “Pi” is intellectual and intense -- it’s a Jewish “Taxi Driver.”

Oops, excuse me for a sec. I've got to go set the VCR ...



posted by Michael at December 16, 2002


I had no idea you shared my admiration for Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. As long as I'm taking up space on the 'blog with this comment, I say let's also give a Blowhardy to Sean Young for being (1) exceptionally good looking and (2) a good enough sport to play the transvestite villian. Quick, can you name the Mickey Spillane "Mike Hammer" book that inspired this particular plot twist?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 16, 2002 8:25 AM

You really do have to cease and desist listing those TCM offerings, Michael. They provoke in me extreme attacks of cable-envy. Not a pretty sight. My bloody cable company doesn't carry that sterling channel, and refuses to add it to their lineup. I'm thinking of suing.


Posted by: acdouglas on December 16, 2002 11:57 AM

"TCM envy" -- a new syndrome. I love it. Alas, I have "Sundance envy" -- my cable provider doesn't provide Sundance. One of these days, one of these days... Or so I hope.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 16, 2002 5:04 PM

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