Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman

One of America's great directors has passed away. Just a few films from his remarkable career:







I also really enjoyed his last film, the gently elegaic A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION.

They can't all be gems -- the same man brought us POPEYE and PRET-A-PORTER, after all -- but Altman, presented with an Honorary Academy Award just this past year, long deserved a real Oscar. Maybe even more than one.

At least we have his body of work and legacy. THE PLAYER is pretty much the definitive cinematic depiction of modern Hollywood. Without it, would there be an ENTOURAGE? Without MCCABE & MRS. MILLER, we wouldn't have DEADWOOD; without MASH, we wouldn't have... well, MASH.

And every ensemble, multi-threaded narrative -- especially with characters talking over each other as real people do -- tends to be labeled "Altmanesque." You gotta be pretty special to get turned into an adjective.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Keeping the LIGHTS On

More welcome pickup news: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS got their full-season order.

If you're not watching this show, please start. Doesn't matter if you're not into football. This show is about football in the way that ROCKY is about boxing, or BULL DURHAM is about baseball: as catalyst and metaphor as much as the actual sport.

The storytelling is so deft that something as theoretically low-key as a high school football game -- hell, a single play in a high school football game -- carries emotional stakes as big as saving the world.

Filmed almost documentary-style, LIGHTS foregrounds details that give depth and authenticity to the stories it tells. Characters talk over each other. Fancy meals are eaten at Applebee's. The camera rests briefly on a Bible then moves to its owner, a player studying his playbook-- his second Bible. The coach goes to visit his quarterback, and over their conversation we see the boy's grandmother hurrying to put some cake on a plate for their guest. That is 100% South, folks.

All that and murderball, with real quad rugby players.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is something special. Watch it and let NBC know they made a good call, y'hear?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Raining MEN

DEXTER is one of my favorite shows right now. HEROES, another fave, features humor and heroics but also had a teenager waking up to her flayed-open, autopsied chest. I've seen every episode of both CSI (Classic) and COLD CASE, with its period soundtracks to all manner of grisly deaths.

I like dark.

Nonetheless, my soft nougaty center is charmed by MEN IN TREES, so I was glad to hear that the show just got its back 9 order and a shift to the golden 10pm Thursday spot behind GREY'S ANATOMY.

MEN IN TREES is like a chick lit version of NORTHERN EXPOSURE. The writing is clever (the creator is a SEX AND THE CITY alum), the characters fun, the stories sweet and relatable.

Here's hoping it does well behind the GREY'S powerhouse, because although I loves me some shadowy stuff, we need more hourlong dramas in which no one dies.