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Weepy n Creepy Film and TV


Stateside with Rosalea

Weepy n Creepy Film and TV

By Rosalea Barker

Some reviews

As the King of Siam might say in song: "It's a puzzlement." Why is so much film and television product originating in the US so childish, as if created by using one of two cookie cutters, Weepy or Creepy? For the past couple of weeks I've turned to the output from some other countries for respite.

Over the past two Sunday evenings, Exxon-Mobil Masterpiece Theatre on the public broadcasting channel showed 'White Teeth' - an adaptation of Zadie Smith's novel, set in a multi-cultural, multi-faceted, multi-mixed-up end-of-century England. End-of-twentieth-century, that is.

Here is what North Carolina journalist, Cynthia Greenlee-Donnell, said in her review at www.africana.com: "Zadie Smith blended tragedy, comedy and cultural commentary into one book — and avoided making it an unreadable tome. PBS' 'White Teeth' does justice to her riot of story lines, snappy dialogue and keen eye for all the odd, little things that make humankind a most fascinating species." The review is worth reading in its entirety so I'll put the full link at the end of this column.

Perhaps you've already seen 'White Teeth' Down Under, and perhaps it seems not in the least bit remarkable, but here the very fact that so many things are treated lightheartedly - including both Muslim and Christian religion at its most serious - is something to be savoured. This Sunday just gone, for example, Part 2 of 'White Teeth' was showing against the slick, predictable CBS biodrama about Adolf Hitler - a programme that two CBS affiliates in Texas reportedly refused to show, saying it could incite hate crimes.

I wish I'd bet a million Euros on my guess for the number Dan Mahowny gives at the end of this movie - I'd be rich! The film's based on the true story of an assistant bank manager in Toronto, Canada, who stole money to feed his gambling habit, and in the process even beat the house at one casino... for a short time.

This Canadian-UK co-production stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, with Minnie Driver playing his girlfriend. John Hurt is a casino manager in Atlantic City, jealous of another casino in Las Vegas which seems to be luring Mahowny away. Much of the movie is concerned with developing Mahowny's internal life, so it's slow-moving, but you can close your eyes in those parts and just listen to the music.

There doesn't seem to be a soundtrack album, which is a pity, because the Insects' score is just tremendous. It's a kind of prickly, moody jazz that isn't complicated to listen to, but isn't easy-listening either. The composer, Richard Grassby-Lewis, says on his website that 2ndsight might be releasing a soundtrack album in the not too distant future. Unfortunately I couldn't tell how up-to-date that comment was.

'Owning Mahowny' was released in 2002 but opened only last week in San Francisco. I got to see a preview because someone had given me a free ticket, and so it was that I got a glimpse of a whole new (to me) subculture formed of people who've met each other while being lined up for an hour or two outside cinemas where free previews are being held.

As we waited in the cold San Francisco evening they exchanged opinions on which of the old Matrix DVDs were the best, and expressed amazement that the previous night's free 'Matrix Reloaded' preview had some empty seats. (Just one block down the street, at a different cinema, the line was already forming at 7pm for entrance into the 10pm Wednesday first-night showing of what turned out to be a block-buster opening weekend for that movie, which was largely filmed on Alameda Island, just off the Oakland waterfront.)

Inside, the cinema showing 'OM' quickly began to smell like the food court at a shopping mall, with coffee thermoses and all manner of home-cooked food being brought out and passed around - offered even to complete strangers. It was a totally eclectic collection of all the ages, styles and ethnicities you see here in the Bay Area, which is why the distributors have free showings, I suppose.

Here's the 'Owning Mahowny' composer's website: http://www.2ndsight.co.uk/rglbio.html

And here's the 'White Teeth' review: http://www.africana.com/reviews/moviestv/mtv20030513teeth.asp

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