By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
As to the language, and the sex, while I wouldn’t want to defend the show‘s introduction of the phrase “hum job” into the broadcast-television environment, Action on balance isn’t much more vulgar than the competition -- rather less, in a way, for being rather less coy; and the bleeps are actually less noticeable than the customary ear-tweaking sound-alikes that reign elsewhere (e.g., freakin‘) or such sad euphemisms as “playing hide the blini” (as heard recently on Law and Order). As to the blini-hiding itself, there is, I suppose, a lot of it here (discussed, never shown), but it’s cool and matter-of-fact even when played for laughs, where in most quarters of Sitcom Nation the natives are either hot to trot, frantic to score, or grumbling loudly about how long it‘s been since they hid a blini or had theirs hid. And you know, it really helps not to have a studio audience, or “studio audience,” going whoooooo! at every suggestive suggestion. This is adult entertainment in the grown-up sense of the word.
Also concerned with power and pigs is TNT’s Animal Farm, a new live-action version of George Orwell‘s allegorical history of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, in which downtrodden barnyard beasts chase off drunken Farmer Jones and make a stab at cooperative self-determination. Something ensues, and it isn’t hilarity. It‘s not a bad film -- though it’s not really a good one, either. Pete Postlethwaite is the farmer, with the animals (real, puppet and computer-animated) voiced by a smorgasbord of British film and American TV stars, including Ian Holm, Julia Ormond, Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Kelsey Grammer, Peter Ustinov, Paul Scofield and Patrick Stewart as that Stalin of Swine, Napoleon. (Insert “ham actors” joke here.) Executive producer Robert Halmi Sr., via his Hallmark Entertainment, is dug in solid as TV‘s Lit King, having previously packaged as movies or miniseries The Odyssey, Gulliver’s Travels, Moby Dick and Crime and Punishment, among other books you had to read in high school, with A Christmas Carol upcoming, as well as a 12-hour romp through the Bible (abridged, I‘m thinking).
Having lived under Soviet rule, Hungarian Halmi may have had deep personal reasons for wanting to film this book, but one feels also that it may have just been next on the reading list. His films are technically well-made, usually well-rated, often Emmy-nominated -- and every one by definition is . . . a classic! They also play the usual Hollywood havoc with the text, cutting scenes and characters, pacing to account for ad breaks, ripping out a wall here, putting in a window there; they tend to make the subtle simple, which is not a good thing, and sometimes even substitute new themes more “relevant” or simply easier to grasp than the author’s. Halmi‘s Alice in Wonderland somehow became a story about overcoming the fear of singing in public. What’s that about?
For Animal Farm, the filmmakers have provided the happy ending Orwell somehow neglected to write, perhaps to ensure that any little kids watching -- it is a talking-animals movie, after all -- won‘t be too upset by the violence and the lies and the continuing exploitation of the working classes, will know that the doggy will be okay, the donkey will be fine. Bad piggy go away. Boxer did go to the g-l-u-e f-a-c-t-o-r-y, but there are some nice blond people coming in a nice car to fix things up. (Perhaps they’re a metaphor for capital investment in the post-Soviet East. Or not.) In another, stranger interpolation, the politburo pigs drag a television set into the barn to keep the worker animals occupied, hypnotized, pacified -- TV, the opiate of the masses. Present movie excepted, I would have to suppose they meant.
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