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« Pic of the Day--Ambiguities of Reproduction | Main | Femme (Lit) Erotica »

January 13, 2003

TV Alert

Friedrich --

The bad news is that itís a slow week on TV. The good news is that the womenís tennis season is starting. Which brings us to ...

The 2Blowhards Pick of the TV Week
The Australian Open: ESPN at many times, every day from now through Saturday, Jan. 25. Tennis is one of the least telegenic of sports, which as far as Iím concerned is a good reason to love it. Producers have tried for years to find ways to soup the game up visually, and besides chopping it up with some annoying editing, there hasnít been much they can do. Players just keep on hitting the damn ball back and forth, and back and forth. All of which means that tennis is, despite everything, still one of the few major sports where media values havenít completely prevailed. A tournament-viewing tip from a longtime tennis fan: donít fixate on the final rounds. Check in on the early rounds, too: players are often looser and funnier, and matches are often more unpredictable. The special joy of womenís tennis consists in two things: the emotionality of the players, and their (relative) lack of overwhelming firepower. Because of the emotionality, the womenís game almost always features more drama (if rather less athleticism) than the menís. Is Martina feuding with her Mom? Howís Kimís romance going? All these elements play a role -- which makes for far more interesting viewing than the guys, who (yawn) tend to have either ďonĒ or ďoffĒ days. The other plus may be something for connoisseurs. Because most of the women donít command the kind of brute strength that nearly all the men do these days, there tends to be more tennis on display. They donít just bash each other around and perform heroic stunts. Strategy, character, thought and smarts play a much larger role. Those who watch tennis because they love the game for itself tend to find much more of it on display in womenís than in menís tennis.


January on TCM is Doris Day month, which means I donít have much to recommend, not being familiar with all that much of her (ahem) oeuvre. Of the rest of their movies, here are a few I can recommend:

* On Saturday, 1-18, TCM is running five Hitchcock movies in a row. Iíve found that people who didnít grow up on Hitchcock and who come to him late are sometimes puzzled by his reputation. The films arenít all that terrifying, and sometimes arenít even all that suspenseful. Whatís the point? Well, many. The one that I favor is the one argued by Brian De Palma: that Hitchcock was simply the greatest master of visual storytelling ever. Watching his films (and doing everything that goes along with that: talking about them, reading about them, watching them again, etc etc) is a basic education in what the visual grammar of the narrative-film medium is. Of the five films TCM is showing, the one not to miss is Notorious, a romantic spy thriller written by Ben Hecht thatís one of the best studio entertainments ever made; Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman lend a lot of star power to the very sexy mix. Marnie is a fascinatingly erotic botch, and like Blackmail is probably best savored by those who are already cultists. Spellbound has its fascinations, and while Dial M for Murder can certainly be criticized for its snoozy parlor-game quality, some of the sequences are beautifully designed, and Grace Kelly was never more beautiful -- or more erotically presented.
8 pm Spellbound
10 pm Notorious
midnight Marnie
2:30 a.m. Dial M for Murder
4:30 a.m. Blackmail

*Sunday (1-18) at 8 am: Alice Adams. An early-ish Katharine Hepburn gem, directed by George Stevens from a novel by Booth Tarkington, about a small-town girl who wants to rise in the world. Painful, comic and tender, and one of the few good looks Hollywood has given of smalltown, mid-American life.
*Sunday (1-18) at 1:30 pm: Charade. This Paris-set comedy-romance-thriller is ersatz Hitchcock. But, as directed by Stanley Donen from a script by Peter Stone, and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, it has its own memorable wit and sparkle.


* Despite our cynicism about showbusiness and the all-pervasiveness of publicity, it still sometimes happens that the public embraces an unexpected movie simply because they love it. Such was the case in 1987 with ďDirty Dancing,Ē and such was also the case in 1995 with ďClueless.Ē The stories behind these surprise hits often make for especially sweet and interesting showbiz tales, because no one involved saw it coming. The E! True Hollywood Story runs good episodes this week on both movies:
Tuesday at 5 pm: The E! True Clueless
Wednesday at 8 pm: The E! True Dirty Dancing

Tuesday at 4:30: Inside the Actors Studio with Michael Caine. Absurdly solemn and worshipful though James Lipton, the host of this interviews-with-actors series, can be, this is still one of the rare chances fans have to witness long talks with performers. Many of them turn out to be idiots, or nervous, or insufferably pretentious, or simply inarticulate. But a few are good-to-terrif: entertaining performers as interviewees, or simply smart and tough. Michael Caine is one of the seriesí better subjects.



posted by Michael at January 13, 2003


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