Thursday, January 10, 2008

Jane Austen's got the cure for your TV blues

I have to confess it's been years since I've tuned in regularly for PBS' Masterpiece Theater, but given the ongoing writers' strike and the show's revamped formula, I think I'll definitely be returning starting this Sunday.

What's new? Well, first of all, the programs will be hosted by "X-Files" and Masterpiece Theater ("Bleak House") alum Gillian Anderson, which I have to say is at least a slight improvement from previous host Russell Baker (and a definite improvement from the past few years, which, if I'm not mistaken, had no host at all.)

Secondly, for the first series of shows beginning Sunday, it will be all about Jane Austen, which is just fine by me. It's a bit hard to tell, but I believe the order goes like this: Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion (still my favorite Austen work), Pride and Prejudice and finally Sense and Sensibility. These aren't the Hollywood versions, but instead four new adaptations and two previously aired works (the only one I've seen is Pride and Prejudice, and though I know the ladies are rather devoted to Mr. Firth's Mr. Darcy, I just prefer Joe Wright's movie version instead.)

Check your local listings, of course, but in Georgia at least it airs at 9 p.m. Sundays (finally, a workout for my DVR, since I'll be watching "The Wire" whilst taping both that and Masterpiece.) Tune in for a definite alternative to the reality TV onslaught that's already started and will soon turn into a deluge.

Download Fox Searchlight scripts

I usually spend my brief lunch half-hour-or-so reading Chris Cillizza's fantastic The Fix political blog, but today I just might have another option.

Fox Searchlight has put the scripts for six (which may be all) of its 2007 releases up for download here, and it shows just how strong a year the studio had. Available for your perusal are the scripts for three movies that made my top 10 ("The Savages," "Once" and "Waitress"), two that just missed the cut ("Juno" and Mira Nair's charming "The Namesake"), and one I'd have to unfortunately call a failure, Wes Anderson's "Darjeeling Limited."

Speaking of "Juno," a quick visit to Variety, which somehow tracks daily box-office numbers, shows that Jason Reitman's little flick was actually at No. 1 for Tuesday, taking in $1,445,349 to National Treasure's $1,314,178. It has netted more than $54 million so far, and should approach the magical $100M with a few more weeks of wide release. Congrats! I think I'll be devouring Diablo Cody's script along with my soup this midday.

And kudos to Amy Ryan too

It was great to see Amy Ryan return on "The Wire" Sunday, even if it looks like her man McNulty may implode any day now.

If you haven't seen her performance in "Gone Baby Gone," do so as soon as you can. You can believe all the hype: If there is indeed an Oscars ceremony this year, there's no way in the world she shouldn't be taking home a Best Supporting Actress Oscar (unless it's main instead of supporting - I have trouble telling how they judge these things.)

And now she's joining the cast of Paul Greengrass' Iraq war thriller, which begins shooting today in Spain and is inspired by Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone".

Greengrass and Brian Helgeland turned that nonfiction work into a fictional thriller set in the "Green Zone," a walled and fortified area where U.S. troops stay during the Iraq occupation. Matt Damon plays an officer who teams with a senior CIA officer to search for evidence of weapons of mass destruction, Ryan will play a New York Times foreign correspondent sent to Iraq to investigate the U.S. government's WMD claims, and Greg Kinnear plays another CIA officer.

It seems like stars of "The Wire" are popping up everywhere on the big screen, which I don't see how I'll ever consider to be anything but a great development.

"Sweet Land" in Macon this Sunday

Given the mostly pathetic wide-release lineup this week (with Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Orphanage" a clear exception - go see that one if you like stylish and smart horror), the Macon Film Guild has a definitely welcome other option on the slate this weekend.

Director Ali Selim's "Sweet Land," based on a Will Weaver short story, tells the tale of a German mail-order bride who travels to Minnesota to marry a Norwegian man during World War I. Her nationality, naturally, is an issue for the assembled locals, but I'm sure everyone eventually learns to get along. Sounds a little sappy for my tastes, but both of my parents soundly endorse this one, and that's good enough for me.

It's showing this Sunday at 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Douglass Theatre in downtown Macon, and if you turn out for the 2 p.m. show I'll definitely see you there. Peace out.


Mercurie said...

The last time I watched Masterpiece Theatre was when they aired Bleak House last year. I'll definitely have to tune in for the Jane Austen adaptations. Is it just me, or has she been unusually popular for a long dead author of late?

Reel Fanatic said...

There have indeed been a slew of Jane Austen adaptations on the big screen in recent years, Mercurie, plus of course the biopic with Anne Hathaway which I managed to miss ... I, however, am just a sucker for just about everything Austen, so I'll probably DVR them all except Pride and Prejudice

Carrie Lofty said...

Hope you get to see Sweet Land. I've been touting it for a year and a half, since seeing it at the Wisconsin film festival in April 06. It's just...sweet. Wonderful stuff.

The adaptation of Persuasion is new, but the others are repeats from the BBC. S&S is the Thompson/Grant/Rickman/Winslet version Ang Lee did in '97. Still a solid way to spend the next few Sunday nights.

Reel Fanatic said...

Ah ... thanks for the clarification, Carrie ... I've seen the Ang Lee S&S, of course, but I haven't seen any of the BBC adaptations, so they're all new to me ... And there's no way I'm going to miss Sweet Land either

Divinity said...

Laurence Olivier's Darcy opposite Greer Garson's Elizabeth is still my sentimental favourite P&P adaptation. He may not have been as young as the novel calls for but no one does icy demeanour like Larry.

Aracir said...

I've seen the BBC adaptations of Mansfield, Persuasion and Northanger last year... on youtube lol

i liked Persuasion.

renee said...

Oh, I loved Sweet Land. Such a beautiful film - I'm so glad you'll be able to see it on a big screen. Really fantastic acting. I have to admit that there was a lot that reminded me of my grandparents (rural Minnesota residents when I was growing up), so it made me somewhat nostalgic, but I think it's so well done that you don't have to come from that place to connect with it.

I'm with you on Amy Ryan btw - if she doesn't win the supporting actress Oscar this year, there's something wrong. And it was so awesome to see EVERYONE on The Wire this week. Though I'm sad to see McNulty hitting the Jamie's so hard already.

Reel Fanatic said...

I have a feeling he's gonna be OK, Renee, but it also makes sense to have him falling apart, I guess, since it sort of takes things back to season one ... And I really like the newsroom story so far, especially with the great Clark Johnson as the metro editor

Marina said...

I actually didn't realize that MT was still on. Wow. I'm definitely going to have to check it out for both Austen and Anderson.

kat said...

I love MT. And Jane Austen. And Gillian Anderson. So I suppose it's my lucky spring of programming!

I had somehow missed "The Forsyte Saga" a few years ago on MT and caught up with it last summer. If you're never seen this and you're a fan of Damian Lewis, it was really fantastic.

I just started renting "The Wire". So far, so good. What season is the best?

Reel Fanatic said...

There's a lot of debate about which season of "The Wire" is the best, Kat ... To me it's a toss-up between seasons 3 and 4 ... Season 3 takes the Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell story to fascinating place, and season 4 is just often gut-wrenching to watch as it takes on the Baltimore public schools ... Season 2 is the weak link, but it's still better than just about everything else on TV

Carrie Lofty said...

I got it wrong, actually. Emma and P&P are from the mid-90s (Kate Beckinsale as Emma, then Firth & Ehle in P&P). The others are all new from 2007, including Billie Piper in Mansfield Park, and S&S is the new 2008 version adapted by Andrew Davies. Here's the complete schedule.

And I agree with Kat: anyone who enjoys Damian Lewis's performances--such as in "Band of Brothers" or "Life," among others--should see The Forsythe Saga. Ooooh, he's a baddie!

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for the update, Carrie .. I love Billie Piper in "Doctor Who," so I'll definitely be tuning in for that

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