Thursday, 17 June 2010

TV Meme, Day 17: My Favourite Mini-Series TV Movie

I don’t know why this question didn’t appeal to me, I don’t feel like writing on any of the few miniseries I’ve seen (really Angels in America does little for me outside of Emma Thompson). The thing is I’m writing about two shows, for entirely different reasons…well almost. The thing that always strikes me about films on television is how ignored they are. See, if it weren’t for my rebelliousness then they wouldn’t have been featured on this meme. I’m focusing on two films, one I consider to be the best Iraq film even though it occurs a decade before any ostensible moves for war was made. It is also one of my favourite movies. The second – though faulty at times – is what I consider to be the greatest adaptation of a classic play. Here they are, in reverse order.
A Raisin in the Sun (2008)
I was interested in this before any signs of a film were imminent. You know how angry I get about my lack of exposure to Broadway…and the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun with Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald and Sanaa Lathan. So when ABC (sometimes wise, sometimes not) decided to bring it to the television. I was elated…I watched it the night and I was doubly impressed by everyone but Sean Combes (what’s his alias now Poofy, Puffy, Diddy, Daddy, PD…) who I was just glad did not obliterate all the goodness of the rest of the cast. In fact were it not for Combes this incarnation would be twice as good as the excellent film adaptation with Mr. Poitier….I don’t know why someone like Don Cheadle could not have gotten the role (but who am I kidding, Combes is a big name)…but in all other aspects the film towers above past incarnations. Reel Whore paid some attention to Sanaa a few weeks back, and I wondered why this woman isn’t getting better roles. I’d like to believe it’s more than the stock answer that she’s black…is it really that simple? Sanaaa is too old for the role of the irrepressible hell raiser Beneatha, but you’d never know watching her here. It’s more than Beneatha being irresponsible at times and Sanaa knows that.
Watching her play against Rashad as her mother is lovely. Always known for her quietness Phylicia puts it to good use here turning Lena into a lovely creation that’s still flawed enough to be believed. She really is all you could hope for in the character of sedate Lena Younger. But, in a film boasting a trio of excellent female performances it is four time Tony Award winner and double Emmy nominee Audra McDonald who gives the the film’s best performance. She is more Lena’s daughter than daughter-in-law and the rapport between her and everyone around her is exceptional. A pivotal scene (not from the play) where Ruth attempts to have an abortion is played out excellently as Audra utters not a single work but still manages to exude all we could hope for. Really, A Raisin in the Sun is something lovely to watch…with a cast of principally black actors it is credit to the play and to the talent (even Combes).
Live From Baghdad (2002)
Helena Bonham Carter is an actress who constantly amazes with her eclectic talent. Live From Baghdad would rank as one of my seven favourite HBC performances, even though she is not the lead (only a strong supporter). Michael Keaton (at his best) plays Bon Wiener a journalist who gets sent to cover the rising conflict between US and Iraq in the very early nineties. Bonham Carter’s Ingrid Fromaneck is one of his journalist allies. What makes Live From Baghdad so excellent is the fact that it defies labels. It’s natural is more humorous than many “comedies”, it’s honesty is more intense and dramatic than many “dramas” and though it never reaches a war it touches more on the issues of war more than many “war films”. In short – it is what I consider to be one of the strongest contemporary films and one of the best films of the decade (TV or otherwise).
Backed my an excellent supporting cast Live From Baghdad points now fingers, and it tries to wrongfully implicate no one - in that way it is like journalism, it doesn't take sides. But it's humanistic too. Each of these journalists have their issues and David Suchet gives a subtle performance as an Iraqui minister managing to hold his own against Bonham Carter and Keaton. Truly, HBO would have done well to release this on the big screen...
There you go, have you seen either of the two or do you not go in for films on TV?
This is all for the MEME.


Univarn said...

One of the best, and most emotional, made for tv movies I ever saw was Door to Door with a killer performance from William H. Macy and great supporting work from Helen Mirren and Kyra Sedgwick. Check it out if you haven't already.

Live from Baghdad and Raisin in the Sun, solid choices though.

Alex in Movieland said...

Angels in America did a lot for me, so did Cranford, from what I can remember.

Finney's and Redgrave's The Gathering Storm also brings fabulous performances and it's a good film.

and many more i guess.