Doodad Kind of Town

Stuff I Watched this Week
July 16, 2008, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Because I nothing profound to say about any one show or film in particular , but I have a little to say about several different movies and TV shows:

“The People’s Republic of Capitalism”: I’m halfway through Ted Koppel’s Discovery Channel series which chronicles how China’s transition to a capitalist market economy has influenced all facets of its society. This is a subject in which I have increased interest since visiting China myself. The series is filmed in Chongqing (“the largest city in China that Americans have never heard of”), and Koppel pursues his subject from a number of angles. We meet an upwardly mobile family who is proud of their new Ethan Allen sofa (it was assembled in North Carolina, but built on a frame manufactured in China.) We meet a countrywoman who works two jobs to send her daughter to boarding school so that she might escape her mother’s fate (an impoverished marriage to an unemployed alcoholic). We visit a drag nightclub and karaoke lounges which are little more than brothels, but offer young woman the opportunity to make big bucks while working as “hostesses.” We meet a fashion photographer who has recently converted to Christianity, but who professes as much trust in his government as in his God. Koppel isn’t an entirely objective documentarian. You cringe as he repeatedly challenges the photographer to express doubts about the communist government; there’s no way his interview subject can answer honestly (this is still a totalitarian, “Big Brother” kind of government after all.) But it’s never less than fascinating. If they rerun this, be sure to catch it.

“Elvis Mitchell: Under the Influence” (Mondays at 8pm EST, Turner Classic Movies): Mitchell , a film critic for NPR (and formerly, the New York Times) interviews a different actor or director each week. There’s no cookie-cutter celebrity bullshit here; in just under 30 minutes, Mitchell manages to tease out a wealth of insightful, revelatory information from each guest about the films and creative forces that have shaped their careers, and the results are always surprising. The most entertaining revelation so far: Bill Murray confessing his mad, “cow-eyed” attraction to “funny girls” in general and Elaine May in particular. (May created Murray’s character in “Tootsie” while working as an uncredited script doctor. ) ” She is so attractive,” he gushes. “If I’d been around when Elaine May was coming up, I would have chained her to a typewriter and made love to her every four hours just to keep her going.”

Every installment is followed by screenings of one or two films that inspired the guest (Murray’s interview was followed by the Marx Brothers in “A Night at the Opera.”)Still to come are interviews with Laurence Fishburne and Quentin Tarantino. This is one series to Tivo if you can’t tune in.

“Get Smart”: I’m just old enough to remember the original TV series, and I’m happy that Steve Carrell didn’t try to be Don Adams and just played Maxwell Smart his own way. Even so, this was a modestly pleasant diversion at best. I remember laughing several times, but I can’t for the life of me remember what I laughed at. I did think the chemistry between Carrell and Anne Hathaway as Agent 99 was surprisingly lovely; I think I’d actually like to see them do a romantic comedy together.


2 Comments so far
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Ted Koppel was recently on Charlie Rose talking about this project. I hope more people are able to get their hands on a copy because it looks to be

Comment by elgringo

Elgringo -Thanks for stopping by.I sincerely hope that the Discovery Channel will rerun this series in the near future, because it is a great, insightful piece of journalism.

Comment by Pat

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