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How I survived the TV strike (Part II)

Here are five more DVDs (continuing my list from yesterday) that I loved loved loved this winter, when the pleasant caress of new TV shows had been denied me:

VI.   Eastern Promises — I have seen this movie 3 times now since it came out last year, and I enjoy it more every time.  (And I liked it quite a lot the FIRST time I saw it!)  Viggo Mortensen gives an amazing you-just-can’t-look-away performance as the deadly Russian Nikolai, whose path crosses with a midwife named Anna (Naomi Watts).  And let’s not forget the amazing Armin Mueller-Stahl, who is as amazing as he always is.  (I must admit, though, that I’m such a geek that whenever he’s on screen, in this or any other movie, I always hear him in the back of my head saying: “not even zey…can stop ze future.”  X-Philes know what I’m talking about…)

VII.  House of Games: The Criterion Collection – A terrific new DVD of the first film that David Mamet directed (from his own script).  I’m a big Mamet fan.  There are some flaws in the story, sure…and I’ve never been, as a viewer, quite fooled by the central con of this flick.  But the simple joys of watching the great performers (Joe Mantegna, Rickey Jay, the late great J.T. Walsh, among others) mouth Mamet’s rat-tat-tat tough-guy dialogue is more than enough for me.

VIII.  Volver – Pretty surprising for a sci-fi nut like myself, but I found myself completely swept up by Pedro Almodovar’s story about the intersecting lives of various women in Madrid.  Penelope Cruz is spectacular.

IX.  The Best of the Dick Cavett Show: Stand-Up Comedians – This DVD set contains several notable episodes from the great Dick Cavett’s 1970’s talk-show, in which he engages guests in fascinating hour or hour-and-a-half long (really!!) conversations about their lives and work.  This set focuses on his interviews with stand-up comedians such as Woody Allen, Groucho Marx, Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, and many others.  I love the Daily Show and all of today’s late-night talk shows, but after watching these incredibly in-depth interviews its hard to take any of today’s five-minutes-then-you’re out “interviews” seriously.  This is the way it should be done.  If you have any interest whatsoever in stand up comedy, you need to track down these DVDs.

X.  The Wire – My sister got me the 1st season set for my birthday earlier in the year – and my wife and I promptly devoured the entire 5 seasons of the show.  Truly one of the greatest TV shows ever made.  I’ll discuss this in greater depth at a later date, but for now, let me just say that I have never seen a more compelling examination of the state of the American city (in the show’s case, Baltimore).  The enormous ensemble of actors, slowly developed over the run of the show, will never be equaled.  For years I’d heard people sing the praises of the show.  Now count me in amongst the choir.  Genius.

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