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« Lynch Goes Digital | Main | Eat Little, Live Longer? »

August 29, 2005

TV Alert

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Time once again to do some Tivo-setting.

* America's most self-consciously self-important moment in the artistic sun may have been the years following World War II, when some talented and ambitious artists, a few bossy and aggressive critics, and lots of media cheerleading combined to create (and put over) the style and movement known as Abstract Expressionism. What did AbEx really represent -- overblown, kiddie-Romantic nonsense? Or the glorious epitome of art-as-self-expression? The Biography Channel broadcasts an hour-long look at uber-Ab-Exer Jackson Pollock from 4 to 5 a.m. on Thursday morning.

* I just caught up with "Heaven on Earth," a thoughtful and excellent three-part PBS documentary about the history of socialism. Adapted from the book by historian Joshua Muravchik, it's both concise yet informal, and comprehensive without being exhausting. It's also frankly conservative and skeptical -- ie., sensible -- in its assessments of socialism. But it isn't pushy about its point of view, and it's remarkably even-handed in its general attitudes: Everyday people are treated as the equals of leaders and thinkers. Robert Owen, Marx and Engels, Communism and Democratic Socialism, experiments in Africa, Israel, and Asia ... great stuff. Youngsters should appreciate the information -- context and background are good! -- while oldies should enjoy seeing this semi-familiar material brought together and made sense of. I note that even The Wife -- who generally falls asleep during any documentary whose subject isn't food or a serial killer -- watched "Heaven on Earth" with interest. High praise! Here's the documentary's PBS website. You can check for broadcast times in your area here, and buy a DVD of the show here.

* The story of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge is a moving and exciting one, and the no-nonsense documentary series Modern Marvels tells it well. The History Channel rebroadcasts the episode from 7 to 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning. You can buy a DVD of the show here. Wouldn't it be lovely if the prices on A&E and PBS documentaries were half what they are? I'd buy tons of 'em.

* I blogged enthusiastically about Wes Craven's 1987 Haiti-set zombie thriller "The Serpent and the Rainbow" here. Short version: cheesy exploitation-horror, yet hypnotic and provocative anyway. The Sundance Channel broadcasts the movie from 12:30 a.m. to 2:15 a.m. on Thursday morning.



posted by Michael at August 29, 2005


I always find the story of the Brooklyn Bridge a fascinating paradigm of the messiness of real life. It has not only the intellectual and moral heroics of the construction workers and the engineers, but also the utter corruption of the Tammany machine (without which the project would never have occurred.)

A great story, without doubt...

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 30, 2005 10:51 AM

I loved Serpent And The Rainbow too. It continued the late great Paul Winfield's reign as the master of X-Treme movie deaths when (SPOILER!) he yanked off his own head and threw it at Bill Pullman. Fine stuff. Up there with the time he was eaten by radioactive cockroaches in Damnation Alley.

And speaking of Mr. Craven, Michael, have you seen Red Eye yet? Since you seem to like genre suspense flicks, Cellular and the like, I suspect you'll enjoy this one. No masterpiece, but it's hooky and it delivers.

Posted by: Brian on August 30, 2005 9:31 PM

FvB -- I wonder if the story of building major bridges is always an exciting one. Certainly the story of the building of the Golden Gate is beyond fabulous. It'd make sense if the drama level were always high, given the scale and the challenge of building such huge things. Money, personalities, machines, politics ... Whew. The stuff of great novels and movies.

Brian -- Thanks for the tip about "Red Eye." I've been looking forward to it -- great trailer. I wonder if I'll see it in a theater, though. My most recent excursion to a theater (for that Kate Hudson horror movie that's around) was discouraging. Teens, cellphones, ads ... I hate the cluttered-warehouse feeling of the new multiplexes. The image came up, and it was gorgeous, and I thought: Wow, movies really are a great medium. And then ... there was a white flash. And another. I looked closer: there was a little horizontal white flash at the bottom of the screen between every shot. Tiny but impossible to miss, this little strobing thing. And it threw me completely out of the fiction. The Wife and I headed to the box office, got our refunds, and went home and watched a DVD instead. OK-to-pretty-good image quality -- but no teens, no cellphones, and no strobing in the image. Sigh: everything's a tradeoff, I guess. Plus, we'll probably be able to buy a copy of "Red Eye" for the cost of two theater tix -- and then we can give it away to someone else. What's your own DVD/theatergoing mix like these days? Mostly DVDs? Still managing to see things in theater regularly?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 31, 2005 10:14 AM

I've got to look into the Golden Gate story, then; it's not one I'm familiar with.

Thanks for the tip.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 31, 2005 2:40 PM

Michael: Still managing to see things in theater regularly?

My New Year's Resolution was to see everything in theaters this year, or almost everything, so I go out a lot.

I've got a nice new theater near me, fifty foot screens, squishy velvet seats, stadium seating. I go to the matinee on a weekday, pay six bucks, and - since I wait until the film's been out for a while - I usually have the entire theater all to myself. Very aristocratic, I think.

Instead of watching the trailers I sneak into the theater next door to steal a glimpse of the film I'm considering seeing next. I've gotten pretty good at sizing up a movie in three minutes.

Thing is - at this rate of viewing I soon run out of films to see, and have to either watch Batman Begins for the dozenth time, or sit home staring at TCM as I wait for the next semi-quasi-decent film to come out. Hollywood could be draining my wallet like Lake Pontchartrain if only they would offer me some marginally decent product to watch.

Hear that, Hollywood?

Posted by: Brian on August 31, 2005 7:18 PM

Ken Burns' film on the Brooklyn Bridge holds up well too (order from Florentine Films in NH).

Posted by: winifer skattebol on August 31, 2005 11:02 PM

The McCullough book 'The Great Bridge' is the one if you want the meat and potatoes version of the Bklyn Bridge.

Posted by: Doug M on September 2, 2005 7:51 PM

The McCullough book 'The Great Bridge' is the one if you want the meat and potatoes version of the Bklyn Bridge.

Posted by: Doug M on September 2, 2005 7:51 PM

The McCullough book 'The Great Bridge' is the one if you want the meat and potatoes version of the Bklyn Bridge.

Posted by: Doug M on September 2, 2005 7:51 PM

sorry about the 3 posts - i am new at the whole blog thing.....

Posted by: Doug M on September 2, 2005 7:52 PM

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