As someone who pays through the nose for cable TV, yet does not receive any of the “premium” movie channels such as HBO, Epix is one of the few channels that offers uncut HD movies. Sundance and IFC used to, before becoming trash-hounds, so it’s down to little more than Epix and TCM.
Which is not the worst thing, since both offer good programming on occasion. I caught some of the Epix-exclusive biography Altman the other night. I think Robert Altman was very much a hit-or-miss director, making such essentials as M*A*S*H and The Player [prior post], but also the forgettable, horribly overrated Gosford Park. I’ve not seen most of his work, but his filmography — including TV shows and shorts going back to the early ’50s — is impressive to say the least.
Certainly this documentary reminds us that he was a prolific director heavily involved with movie production over the span of six decades, and as such a leading and prominent figure in Hollywood. From what I saw, I recommend Altman for those interested in film production, Robert Altman’s movies or the man himself.
In other Epix-related news, the network Sunday night aired last year’s Nebraska in color. Didn’t we learn a lesson with the Ted Turner colorization efforts? I caught some of it, and must say: what a disaster. It’s remarkable how much you lose by adding color.
A check reveals this interesting tidbit from Variety:
[The director Alexander] Payne had previously said that a color version had been made for specific television outlets in countries such as Moldova and Sierra Leone in which television deals had “only color” stipulations, though he had hoped that no one would ever see it.
That’s a good one. Moldova and Sierra Leone. God forbid we offend the audience’s expectations in Moldova or Sierra Leone.
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On an absolute scale, Nebraska still works in color, especially with the muted palette employed by Payne. But having seen it in its original contrasty black & white, I have to ask, why? Epix claims on their Facebook page that airing of the color version was a one-time event. Let’s hope so.
Something unexpected came out of all this: seeing a bit of the movie (even in color) reminded me of its staying power, and made me realize that I have a fondness for it that did not come to me upon my initial viewing. I then stated:
… it was reaching for the kind a philosophical depth that came easily to the Lynch feature [The Straight Story]. I have to believe filming in black & white was also part of this strategy, and these attempts seem a bit forced. The film mostly fails to achieve that extra dimension it desires.
I think I was a little too harsh. Nebraska is an understated, charming little movie with memorable performances and a storyline just punchy enough to fit its players and theme. As such, I am upgrading my 6/10 rating to 7/10. Which is to say, just outside of the Top Ten of 2013, and about on par with Dallas Buyers Club. Just make sure you watch it in black & white.