Friday, February 16, 2007
Just for Bubba.So glad you asked, old friend. As it happens, if you have a DVD budget, we do have some recommendations that are bound to give you hours of pleasurable and sometimes educational viewing. Not all of them are cable offerings, and some you may already be aware of, but they're all on the list of good stuff you won't be able to watch on the rabbit-ear version of TV. Interested? Here we go.
He's got rabbit ears and like that.
IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS. Loyal commenters are a treasure. It's rare that there's any opportunity to thank them, apart from saying "Thank you for making me feel that this blog is worthwhile." Which seems lame and self-serving to say the least. But today I get the chance to thank Bubba Kartoffel for years of insightful additions to InstaPunk. In response to the post about Rome he wrote:
I often wonder what I am missing sitting by my 12 inch screen adjusting the tin foil to just the right place on the rabbit ears in order to fine tune the free airwaves. Something like this comes along and I wonder whether cable or satellite is in order...
Anything else I'm really missing out on, oh glimmering ones? I value your recommendations.
Rescue Me. This is a series on the F/X network we've commented on before. It's scheduled to return to the air in June. That gives you time to catch up on previous seasons via DVD.
Nero Wolfe. This one we've never called out. Rex Stout's series of detective novels featuring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are some of the best written, funniest, and most re-readable works of the genre. The television series, now cancelled, starring Maury Chakin and Timothy Hutton was as definitive -- after many failed and inaccurate attempts dating back to the 1940s-- as the Jeremy Brett series of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Done as period pieces set in 1950s New York, the individual episodes are both true to the original books and riveting in terms of costumes, cars, cuisine, and casting, which employs an ensemble approach unusual in American productions. Start with either "The Doorbell Rang" or "The Silent Speaker," although all of the episodes are first-rate.
Return to Paradise. A movie we discovered on cable. God only knows how many juvenile comedies Vince Vaughn has starred in. We were utterly unprepared for the beautiful performance he gave in this story of a debt casually incurred and torturously repaid in Indochina. It made us want to beat the hell out of him for cheapening his reputation with all those crappy boob movies. He's an extraordinary actor, and this is a performance you'll want to watch again and again.
Everything Is Illuminated. Every InstaPunk reader knows we're obsessed with the Holocaust. This is another movie we discovered on the blizzard of cable channels offered by Comcast. It begins as if it's trying to be an eastern European version of Napoleon Dynamite, and it ends by tearing your heart right out of your chest. Elijah Wood is in it, and this time he's more than a hobbit, although it will take you a long time to appreciate his character.
Swing Kids. Before we saw the previous production, we'd have said this was the most excellent movie treatment of the Holocaust ever done. The plot summary makes it seem peripheral to the worst of Nazi Germany, but the depiction of youthful Germans dancing to American Big Band music turns out to be affecting at the deepest levels imaginable. A great performance by the vastly under-appreciated Frank Whaley -- and another by Robert Sean Leonard, the actor who's become famous as House's oncologist friend, Dr. James Wilson.
King Kong. Had to throw this one in. It's all over HBO at the moment, and like many many others, we turned up our nose at the thought of seeing it in the theater. We were wrong. Despite the three and a half hour runtime, if you don't shed a tear for King Kong at the end, there's something wrong with you. It's a great old-fashioned movie type movie.
Brideshead Revisted. Going back in time now. The best minseries ever. Jeremy Irons has gone on to great stardom, but whatever happened to Anthony Andrews, who is spellbinding in the role of Sebastian? It's 13 hours of magical drama.
Our Mutual Friend. The old Masterpiece Theater version. One of Dickens's best and most modern novels. Simultaneously an apotheosis and parody of the Victorian cliche exemplified by the over-praised Jane Eyre.
Forsyte Saga, The original. In black and white. Marred only by the indifferent acting talent of Kenneth More, everything else is superb. The best soap opera ever put on film.
Waking Ned Devine. A movie you won't find by yourself unless you're channel-hopping on cable. Irish. Very Irish. And totally hilarious, charming, and addictive. One of the very few films you'll actually want to watch again and again and again.
Tunes of Glory. But InstaPunk is a Scot. To hell with the Irish. If you want to know what bagpipes truly mean to Scots, watch Alec Guinness and John Mills do their accursed Scottish thing in this movie. It will haunt you forever.
We Were Soldiers. We are all children of the Vietnam War. Was there ever a movie about it that wasn't a rewrite of Kafka's The Trial? Yes. This one will chill you, hurt you, and make you proud. Even if you are fed up with Mel Gibson.
Last of the Mohicans. Yup. More than 10 years old. Seen by everyone. But still the best movie ever. If you don't have it on DVD, you're a jerk.
What do you think, Bubba? Enough to get started with?