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TITLES TIVO TAPED - The Good Things, Tuning with the Enemy, Paula Poundstone, and more

by Natasha Theobald

You may have noticed the column has been defunct for a couple of weeks. The truth is, I haven't been watching much TV lately, perhaps getting ready for a summer away from the couch. Also, I have turned my attention to radio for a good chunk of each day, listening to Air America on my computer. Not only do I have difficulty tearing myself away from that, entertainment starts to feel a bit frivolous in light of what is going on in the world right now. I did manage to take a break, however, and have a few films and shows to share which may be of interest to you.

Bhaji on the Beach (1993) - Showtime
This film follows a group of Indian women on a day trip out of their insular community to the British shore. The group represents differing generations and ideals, and each participant seems to have brought some baggage (the emotional kind) with them. Through the course of the day, revelations are made about an unexpected pregnancy, an abusive marriage, and more. The women come to better understand the traditions that some find so necessary and the need to break with tradition, particularly for the young women trying to live outside the boundaries of expectation. While it sounds like a lot of serious business, the movie is quite funny and entertaining. One woman, too, has odd visions or fantasies which include some ridiculousness, romance, and religion. I wasn't sure I was going to like this film, but the generational conflicts and the experience of being an Indian woman influenced by British culture actually was quite fascinating.

The Good Things (2001) - Sundance
Wil Wheaton stars as a lovelorn young man working in a toll booth of his small, middle of nowhere community. The love of his life is marrying someone else, and his best friend sends missives from far and exotic locations. He yearns for something beyond the isolation and loneliness of life in the booth, but he seems unwilling to reach out or make a choice toward something more. This short is very effective in creating a mood of loneliness and ennui which resonates. The whole thing hits a little close to home, as I look out the window at the same town I have known my whole life. Perhaps there is a difference between being content and being trapped, but the line is a fine one to walk. This well-made short deserves a look. The performances are good, and the writing and visuals are worth experiencing.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) - TCM
I am woefully ashamed to admit it, but I think this was my first experience watching Steve McQueen. I now understand why he was and is cool. This film follows a well-planned heist into the life of its mastermind, a wealthy man with some time to kill and the wherewithal to steal a couple of million. Faye Dunaway stars as the insurance investigator willing to go to any length to get her man. They share some moments of fun and fancy, but it all comes down to who is more determined to win the dangerous game at which they are playing. The jazz score is truly amazing and has just been released as a soundtrack. McQueen is the essence of steely confidence and charm. Dunaway is beautiful, but a bit distant. The whole caper is a whirlwind of excitement and tension, sexual and otherwise. Seeing this film taught me that I always want to see the original before I see the remake. No matter how amazing a second look at the same story may be, the original has something special in its courage and uniqueness which cannot often be matched.

The In-Laws (2003) - HBO
Speaking of remakes.... Here we have Michael Douglas as a CIA guy trying to do the usual wedding todo for the benefit of his son, surprisingly underplayed by Ryan Reynolds. Albert Brooks is the father of the bride who somehow gets swept up into the life that Douglas leads and finds himself doing things he never would have considered before. The two fathers must keep a stealth submarine out of criminal hands while tending to all of the pre and day of the wedding minutia. The character played by Douglas is irritating, and his bravado in playing it doesn't help that. Brooks, however, cannot help but be funny, and it is his talent that brings any humor and likability to this rock polished to look like something more precious. Albert Brooks can always make me laugh, but I hope he steers clear of scripts and projects which have little going for them but him.

Paula Poundstone: Cats, Cops & Stuff... - HBO
From context, I believe this special was taped sometime during the presidency of Bush I. Isn't it funny how everything old is new again? While the political humor is minimal, it is remarkable how well it still applies in the era of another Bush. Beyond that, Poundstone talks Pop Tarts and travel, cats and cops, as the name would assert. She is at her best, though, when she is talking to the audience and making comedy out of whatever they tell her. I don't know if there is anyone better off the cuff, and one story weaves into another then returns time and again - all unscripted. I have seen this show before, but I laughed again, just as much, which is somewhat remarkable. Here's hoping Paula can excise the cops from her act and from her life to return with some fresh, funny stuff to entertain us.

Tuning with the Enemy (1999) - Ovation
This is the story of Benjamin Treuhaft, a man who decided to defy the law against Americans spending money in Cuba in order to bring donated pianos to students and teachers on the island. The film shows how he gets the pianos and the money to ship them. He then travels to Cuba with a group of fellow piano tuners to set the instruments up in their new home. The need for pianos in Cuba far outreaches what this one man is able to give, as the local weather is disastrous to the instruments. We also hear stories of students using phone wire as E-strings on violins and cutting their fingers in the process. Not only are instruments few, but the needed parts also are unavailable. One Cuban musician interviewed for the film brings it all home with one comment. By not being allowed to have the things they need to create music, America is not only punishing a dictator but silencing a culture. That is something that Treuhaft cannot allow. For more information, see Sendapiana.com. This documentary is filled with performances by Cuban musicians, which makes it a worthy listen as much as anything else.

That's it for now. I will be back soon with more titles for your viewing pleasure.

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=1114
originally posted: 05/13/04 14:47:58
last updated: 05/19/04 15:50:31
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