With no more Nickelodeon for the time being, Chittenden County seems destined to become a wasteland devoid of foreign and offbeat fare. And should the week ahead continue this winter's pattern of alternating between bitter cold and snow, I probably won't have the energy to rent videos or even read a book. Call this The Diary of a Recalcitrant Cineaste With Cabin Fever.
I refuse to watch the inevitable March reruns of smart shows -- such as "The West Wing" -- that follow the February frenzy to boost ratings. OK, there are fresh episodes of "24" and "Six Feet Under," but that only takes care of Tuesday and Sunday. What's a critic of popular culture to do? Search out the few halfway decent "movies" scheduled on television, that's what:
Reading alphabetically through TV Guide, I spot A Better Way to Die listed for HBO. Never heard of it. But the stars are promising. Andre Braugher and Joe Pantoliano in a tale of mistaken identity that pits a cop against both the FBI and the Chicago underworld. Uh-oh. Doesn't start until 2:05 Friday morning. Way past my bedtime.
Next up, The Big Picture, with Martin Short and Kevin Bacon, also on Friday. I remember really liking this satire of Hollywood when it came out in 1989. Might be worth another shot. Damn! Cinemax, which I don't get. And even if I did, it's at 6:15 a.m. -- way before I wake up.
Skipping down to the Es, Enemy at the Gates is a 2001 release that I missed. The cast is intriguing: Jude Law, Ed Harris and Bob Hoskins. Wouldn't you know? Eleven p.m. works for me, but not on Showtime, another premium cable channel that doesn't come into my home. Just as well. The plot centers on the Battle of Stalingrad, and I'm not in the mood for war stories these days.
Aha! Hannah and Her Sisters is one of Woody Allen's masterpieces -- from his Mia Farrow period, no less. Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest won Oscars for their supporting roles. Bingo! This 1986 saga of family and betrayal is on TMC at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 5. So I won't catch all the nightly news programs for a change. Too depressing anyhow.
Am I perhaps blessed with two goodies in a row? The Luzhin Defense runs on Thursday at 10 a.m., which is doable. And I subscribe to HBO. Apparently, John Turturro appears as a chess champion; Emily Watson portrays his high-society love interest. Could be a winner.
Only one problem: No Man's Land is on TMC at 11:15 a.m. I wouldn't mind seeing the brilliant international co-production again. This is a war story I can handle, because it addresses the futility of armed conflict. Hmmm, I've suddenly gone from a scarcity of entertainment options to a logjam. But the selections fall during the otherwise busy daylight hours. What about those long, dreary evenings?
Pollock brings no solution. Although anything with Ed Harris is worthwhile, and I never saw this 2000 biopic about the seminal abstract artist, the HBO broadcast is on Thursday at 4:15 a.m. Who are all these insomniacs the cable stations are perpetually trying to please?
My outlook brightens when I discover TMC has reserved a 9 p.m. slot on Friday for The Score, an underrated example of the heist double-cross genre. Yes, Marlon Brando is a little too Apocalypse Now as a master thief. But Edward Norton and Robert DeNiro, playing his partners in a safe-cracking scheme, are terrific. While it would be a second time around for me, the Montreal setting is just so je ne sais quoi.
Whoa! What's this on Friday? TMC has programmed Women in Love, a British art-house classic based on D.H. Lawrence's novel about the illusions of romance. Glenda Jackson nabbed a 1970 Academy Award for her performance in this gothic sexual escapade directed by Ken Russell. Bummer... it begins at 2:45 a.m.
Though I'm committed to dreamland then, the seriously sleepless might be in for some prurient viewing during the film's nude wrestling scene with Alan Bates and Oliver Reed. The female characters must be the ones wrestling with their libidos, however. At least I assume that's why critic Rex Reed -- no relation to Oliver -- suggested: "They should take all the pretentious dialogue off the soundtrack and call it Women in Heat."
Hey, the cinematic choices may be limited, but heat of any kind is a good thing when it's below zero outside.