Some final thoughts about the TCM Classic Film Festival

It’s time for me to take a moment to reflect a bit on what I learned from my rather hectic but definitely fun and enlightening time at the TCM Fest.  As previously reported here and everywhere else, it turned out to be a fairly roaring success and is promised to be repeated next year in Hollywood.  Because of time constraints and because I wasn’t able to enjoy the truly titanic number of films seen by, say, a Dennis Cozzalio — currently working on a detailed and sure to be great summary of the event — I’m going to limit myself to a few random observations covering material I have not mentioned in prior TCM-centric posts. (Here, here, and here.) Naturally, it’ll still turn out to be much longer than I originally intended.

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Borgnine, Donen, Rainer

As someone with parents in their eighties and nineties, I’ve become especially interested lately in the way things work for people of a certain age. So it was with some some special interest that I listened to the words of 100 year-old thirties star Luise Rainer, 93 year-old star character actor Ernest Borgnine (“Marty,” “The Wild Bunch”), and 86 year-old directing great and one-time boy genius, Stanley Donen — best known for co-directing “Singin’ in the Rain” and other MGM musical classics with Gene Kelly but also an outstanding director in his own right of both musicals and “straight” films.

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A real reservoir dog

In the last item in the post below, I mentioned an incident on the set of “Reservoir Dogs” between Quentin Tarantino and actor Lawrence Tierney. Well, this highly entertaining post-mortem tribute to this most dangerous of actors from Tarantino, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, the late Chris Penn, the late Eddie Bunker, and Chris Gore of the currently offline Film Threat, explains a bit more about it.

  

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TCA Tour: “Lie to Me”

“Lie to Me” is a series which I would’ve watched a heck of a lot more if it hadn’t always been up against a series that I already had an existing addiction to, but every episode that I did see was enjoyable, so I’ve already got my order in for a copy of the Season 1 set, so that I can be properly prepped for Season 2. There’s also another really good reason to be ready for the show’s sophomore outing: they’ve added Shawn Ryan – a.k.a. the man behind “The Shield” – to the series’ production team.

How did such a thing come to pass? In a nutshell, Samuel Baum asked him to join, and although the two hadn’t really known each other, Ryan was swayed both by a sudden opening in his schedule and the company Baum was keeping.

“I came out and helped out a little bit on the last couple episodes as a favor to the studio,” explained Ryan. “I didn’t really know Sam, but I had a couple of my old ‘Shield’ writers who were over there, and I thought, ‘Well, that will be cool.’ I enjoyed it: I got to meet Tim and the rest of the cast, I dug the show. ‘The Unit’ was unceremoniously dumped by CBS, so I suddenly found myself with a little time, and I thought I could bring something to the show. It was something that excited me. You see the actors here: it’s an incredible cast, and I just want to get to know these characters better. And believe me, there’s enough work on a TV show for both Sam and I. So it really is a very cooperative, very friendly relationship. There was no “All About Eve” sort of situation here. There’s plenty for both of us do. In terms of what I think I might bring to it, I think I’m trying to push it a little bit more in a character direction, add a little bit of adrenaline to the show, but really sort of dig deep.”

So by “adrenaline,” are we talking more explosions, or what?

“No, no, I don’t mean that exactly,” Ryan said. ” Listen, the show is ultimately based on a group of scientists. And Mekhi (Phifer) plays a character who is not a scientist. But the fact is they are people who are diving into the middle of charge cases and accusing people of being liars. That can lead to consequences. So I don’t mean adrenaline in a ‘Shield’ sense or a ’24’ sense, but they are going to put themselves in some emotionally and physically harrowing situations at times. And I think the pace of the show will increase slightly. And we have a lot of story to tell, and I just think there’s some juice that can be added to the show in a fun way.”

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Catching Up With… “Lie To Me”

I enjoyed the pilot episode of Fox’s “Lie To Me,” but I’ve been struggling with this season’s plethora of scheduling annoyances – seriously, has there ever been a year when this many good shows were being pitted against each other? – and haven’t been able to catch it since then. I’m pleased, then, that the network has decided to provide the series with a new timeslot on Wednesdays at 8 PM, where I can actually watch it once in awhile. (I can wait on “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Gary Unmarried” ’til they get a DVD release, I can just read Mike’s recaps of “The Chopping Block,” right?)

According to Fox’s blurb on tonight’s episode…

“Lightman (Tim Roth) and Foster (Kelli Williams) investigate the disappearance of an 11-year-old girl who may have been murdered. Meanwhile, Loker (Brendan Hines) and Torres (Monica Raymund) must determine whether a famous peace activist is who she claims to be and if her bestselling memoir is true, but Loker’s attraction to the socially conscious woman may be clouding his assessment of her.”

Having already seen the episode, I can tell you a few other things as well:

* Lightman makes the girl’s parents cry before the opening credits roll.

* When handed a huge roomful of people who claim to have tips on where the girl is, he proceeds to narrow down the population to a far more manageable level with two quick statements.

* By episode’s end, we have learned a great deal more about Foster’s personal history, along with why she feels so strongly about this case.

* Loker attempts to offer up a compliment to the aforementioned peace activist. When he feels the need to explain to her how he means it, you will laugh and cringe simultaneously…and you will feel the same effect later in the episode, when he attempts to get his copy of the woman’s book signed.

* Alison LaPlaca guest stars as the woman questioning the veracity of the activist. You may remember her as one of Rachel’s bosses on “Friends” (Joanna, the one who utilized a pair of handcuffs on Chandler), but when I saw her, it just made me realize that “The John Larroquette Show,” where she served as the female foil, really needs to come out on DVD.

* Despite Loker’s initially poor abilities of flirtation, you will probably feel rather sympathetic for him by the time the end credits roll.

Yep, “Lie To Me” is as imminently watchable as I remembered it…possibly even more so, given that the producers seem to be doing a really solid job of spreading the wealth amongst the characters rather than turning it into “Tim Roth and Friends.” Be sure to tune in at 8 PM…yes, that’s 8 PM…so you can enjoy it as much as I did.

  

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Lie to Me”

Given how many iconic film roles Tim Roth has had over the years (Mr. Orange in “Reservoir Dogs,” Charles Ferry in “Everyone Says I Love You,” and Emil Blonsky in “The Incredible Hulk,” to name but three), it’s somehow weird to see him taking on the lead role in an American television series. But, hey, it’s Fox, and you can’t blame the guy for wanting to get in on a little bit of that Hugh Laurie action.

Plus, while the role of deception expert Cal Lightman in “Lie to Me” is a bit too close in feel to the character of Patrick Jane in “The Mentalist” for critics to avoid making the comparison, it’s nonetheless one that has the potential to serve Roth well…just as long as he can get past the nagging sensation that the show’s inspiration, Dr. Paul Ekman, sees right through him.

“I get really freaked out sometimes when I’m around Paul,” said Roth. “It’s like traveling with a critic from the New York Times, and wherever you go, there’s the guy going, ‘No, I don’t believe you. The performance was terrible.’ ‘I only said I’m going to go to the toilet.’ ‘Well, I don’t believe you. You betrayed the fact that you are completely piss-free at the moment.’ It’s an extraordinary feeling of of nakedness.”

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