Odds and Ends

April 22, 2010

I’ve seen the first two episodes of Treme and can’t wait for the next installment!

This HBO acquisition is a good thing.  I caught up on the HBO original film Temple Grandin and thought Claire Danes did a terrific job playing the autistic woman who has become a leading expert in livestock handling and a well-regarded scholar.  I’ve known about Grandin and her work for years.  The film is a nice tribute to her.  Looking forward to Al Pacino’s turn as Jack Kevorkian, the advocate of physician-assisted suicide this weekend.  The film is directed by Barry Levinson.  Hey, I’m even recording a bunch of episodes of Pacific this weekend to catch up on that (after I finish the semester’s grading!).

So much for the good news.  Is it just me, or is Glee a little off so far this season?  Maybe it will hit stride again soon…


FULL FRAME/30 FOR 30

April 12, 2010

Full Frame is a great documentary festival in Durham each spring – if you haven’t been and like docs, make it a point to go next year.  But, even if you weren’t there, you can catch one of the films I saw at the festival last week.

No Crossover:  The Trial of Allen Iverson airs tomorrow and Thursday on ESPN in the “30 for 30” series about sports and sports figures.  Actually, though, this film is about much more than a great basketball player.  This is a story about sports, race, families, culture, and a divided community.

Filmmaker Steve James grew up in the same region of Virginia as Iverson (although earlier), and his film weaves a complicated story imbued with personal perspective that is crafted into a seamless whole.

I don’t know much about sports, but I know a thing or two about films and recommend this one.  (For telecast times, check http://30for30.espn.com/schedule.html.)


HBO — I did it!

April 11, 2010

Okay, I broke over.  I ordered HBO today so I can see the premiere of Treme.   If you’ve been listening to me for awhile (or even reading some of my scholarly work), then you know I’m obsessed with The Wire.  Can you name a better television season episode-for-episode?  With the same creative force behind Treme as The Wire, I just have to check it out as it airs instead of waiting for the DVDs.  And, HBO does have a lot of docs I want to catch (at least that’s part of my rationalization for spending $10 extra a month on the service…).


That reminds me…

April 11, 2010

Friday Night Lights will return to the NBC line-up on Friday, May 7th.  I really can’t wait for that!


GLEE

April 11, 2010

Don’t forget that Glee returns to FOX at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13.  I can’t wait!


BASSIDJI

April 4, 2010

Bassidjis are members of a militia group that is intensely loyal to the Islamic Republic of Iran and eager to help suppress uprisings against the state.  Director Mehran Tamadon has recorded interviews with members of the group that reveal their ideology – and that is a useful project – but the resulting film feels like a series of polemical speeches edited together instead of a cohesive story with characters we come to know and understand within their cultural context.  Of the documentaries in competition at RiverRun – all of which are worth seeing – I find this one the least satisfying as a film.

Screenings April 16, 17, and 18 at RiverRun.  See the website (http://www.riverrunfilm.com) for details.


COOKING HISTORY

April 4, 2010

This film surprised me.  And, I’m not talking about several graphic scenes of animals being butchered (consider yourself warned).  Cooking History brings a set of perspectives from military cooks to what is essentially an examination of the culture of war, and its innovative structure relies on recipes provided by those being interviewed in a device that turns out to be very effective.

Some of the revelations from stories told in this film are jaw-dropping, yet some of the sequences are quite whimsical.  The wide-range of emotional tones in the film – those revealed in the stories and those suggested by the staging of interviews and events – mesh into a singular narrative that can be read on several levels.  The film is also well-crafted.  The production values are exceptionally high, and archival materials are carefully chosen and well-integrated into the film.

I suspect I will remember this film for a very long time as a documentary that is a little offbeat and, at times, profound.  It has me thinking…

Screenings April 18, 23, and 24 at RiverRun.  See the website (http://www.riverrunfilm.com) for details.