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    Sunday, August 29, 2004

    Cable Catch-Up: Buffalo Soldiers (2003)

    You’d think cable networks would be eager to seize on new titles to fill the hours. But Starz and its sister stations continue to roll out lesser-known movies outside of prime time. MASKED AND ANONYMOUS, the Bob Dylan political allegory that died on the festival circuit only to rally a staunch band of supporters like Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek, made its TV debut at 10:30 on a weekday morning. Everything about the preview for THE RETURNER, a 2002 Japanese kung-fu/time-travel epic, looked lame – except for the hovering 747 that transformed into a giant robot, which landed it on my ‘wanna-see-it-but-won’t-leave-the-house’ list. Little did I know it would surface on the Action Channel at 4:30 in the afternoon. I still haven’t caught up with either movie.

    Then there’s this adaptation of Robert O’Connor’s novel, which I happened to notice in the On Demand listings. It was barely released to begin with; in the wake of 9/11, Miramax’s thinking was that few people wanted to see a black comedy about bored U.S. soldiers on a West German military base in 1989. It reached theaters after numerous delays only to sink without a trace. Now even its TV appearance has been muted.

    This is where I’m supposed to say the movie is a lost gem, but I can’t. It has an intriguing premise but an erratic tone that more often than not shades into unpleasantness. It’s like watching an episode of SGT. BILKO where, thanks to the Sarge’s shenanigans, half the squad ends up dead.

    I stayed with it, though, because of several fine performances. Joaquin Phoenix almost makes the movie work, Anna Paquin is better here than she is playing a similar character in 25th HOUR, and Elizabeth McGovern has her best role in years. Best of all is Ed Harris. It’s shockingly funny to see this powerful, masculine actor playing the befuddled base commander who can’t see that his wife is cheating on him.

    Miscellaneous: Links

    I’m going link-happy today. What the hell.

    First up is Ed Gorman’s blog, which is an essential stop. I may permanently bookmark yesterday’s post on a life spent reading and writing. Powerful, inspirational stuff.

    Ed also steered me toward this list of cross-genre noir books, which came to him courtesy of BOX NINE author Jack O’Connell. Who mentions that the Theodore Roszak book on the list, FLICKER, is tough to come by. I keep my copy locked in a safe-deposit box in a Cayman Islands bank. It’s a magnificent, bruising thriller about film history, filled with images that haunt me to this day. It may be time to read it again. Better get my passport in order.

    GreenCine Daily offers its usual excellent round-up of the English papers. Worth reading are this article by DM Thomas on THE WHITE HOTEL’s ongoing slog through development hell, and a profile of Tim Robbins. Mainly for its opening paragraph, which says far too much about life in 21st-century America. Where the airport customs official who warns a reporter about Robbins’ politics also keeps abreast of the actor’s current projects.

    There’s a veritable bonanza in the New York Times’ Sunday Arts section, for once. Here’s a look at the developing niche for porn films made by and for women, and a piece on a fundamentalist Christian ‘hell house’ turned performance art piece in Hollywood. Plus, Marcelle Clements on the cinema of Simenon.


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