Sunday, September 26, 2010

PLUS: HBO's Movie Supremacy

Welcome to a PLUS section of the blog! Since this is called the Michigan+ blog, occasionally I'll write about non-sports items. In this case, I'm writing about HBO.

Over the summer I have been watching quite a lot of movies and miniseries. I was astonished to notice that my favorite DVDs to put in were all released by HBO.

I don't know how HBO does it (and why it seems like no network stations can follow suit), but they constantly put out grade A movies and miniseries. They are well cast, well shot, and well edited, and the stories really matter.

Two of my favorite miniseries of all time are From the Earth to the Moon (1998) and Band of Brothers (2001), both released by HBO. I have these both on DVD, and decided it was time for me to watch them again.

I have explained to people that I follow a lot of other shows and movies because actors in those movies and shows were cast in Band of Brothers. I called this the BoB Effect.  I became so invested in their storylines and their acting skills that I kept watching them in other things! But this Effect didn't start and finish with Band of Brothers. It also happened with From the Earth to the Moon. I had a few actors and actresses that I liked, and as I watched that miniseries again, I realized that many of them were in it!

I also watched two newer HBO events this summer. I watched Temple Grandin simply because the Emmys told me to - it won Emmy after Emmy after Emmy, Temple Grandin herself was in the audience looking giddy as ever, and I decided to see what the fuss was about.

What I watched was fantastic. I could barely tell that it was Claire Danes playing the lead! The story was incredible, and I was rooting for Temple to succeed from the very beginning. I could hardly believe that people treated her (a person suffering from Autism) so terribly. But at the same time, she persevered and used her brilliant mind to foster her passion for cattle and treating them well.

I would highly recommend this movie if you're looking for a feel-good movie. Be warned: she does advocate for the rights of cattle in slaughterhouses, so if you get queasy thinking about where your hamburger comes from, it may be a bad idea to watch this.

I was also recommended by a friend to watch John Adams, the miniseries that aired two years ago and features Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as John and Abigail Adams. I guess I was just assuming it would cover the time leading up to and immediately following the Revolutionary War. Boy, was I wrong! It barely covered any events of the Revolution, instead reminding us that Adams spent much of the war overseas in France and the Netherlands. And the end of the war took place at the end of the third episode - there were still four episodes to go!

I had always been a fan of John Adams - mainly because of William Daniels' portrayal as Adams in the musical 1776. And I knew that he was obnoxious and disliked. But he was really obnoxious and disliked! I can't believe he even became the President of the United States! He spent so much time obsessing over the US Government and striving to keep peace between the US and France that his quality time with his children was incredibly slim. It's amazing that one of them was elected President (John Q. Adams).

I think the thing that impressed me the most about this miniseries were the costumes. Since this followed the life of Adams from 1770 to his death in 1826 (on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence), the styles of fashion changed dramatically - not to mention they had to include French and British clothing styles, as well. And the costume designers did an incredible job - so much that I, the least fashionable person you'd know, noticed it!

This portrayal of John Adams is a depressing one, but you can't help shedding a tear when they show the last days of his life and how he continued to stay close to his friend Thomas Jefferson till the very end. When the series concluded I could honestly say "That was well done."

I haven't been disappointed by an HBO production yet. Now I can hardly wait to get my hands on The Pacific, another Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg production about World War II. My parents watched it and said it was amazing; I can't wait to witness it for myself.

So how about it, networks? Instead of doing movie events about a hurricane striking New York City or other drivel like that, how about putting money into something really worthwhile? Because if you don't, HBO is going to beat you to the punch every time.

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