Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DirecTV: Sometimes It's Good

I don't watch as much TV anymore. As much. Notice that those two words are there. I could never be one who boasts about not watching TV. That's a choice, not an accomplishment.

In the living room, we have an ancient Tivo that requires resetting sometimes once a week, mostly every two or three weeks. We're not going to switch it out for a new model because it's a bitch to get DirecTV to do anything, and also it's useless to get a new model when we're not going to use it anyway, being so close to summer and potentially moving.

The ancient Tivo, however, is useful for things like the free preview DirecTV gave of their Choice Extra channels, which includes Boomerang (It's Hanna-Barbera heavy, but it is nice to see Popeye on there, too) and the Documentary Channel. Also free Showtime channels, and this has been going on from last Sunday. It'll cease after Saturday, but what a buffet to be a pig in! Better that than the buffets in Vegas, which I have no complaints about, being that they present actual food which is hard to find in this valley, but I don't do anymore what I used to do before, which was try to eat the entire buffet. I have that option with this free preview, except that I found that I get tired of The Flintstones and The Jetsons after about three episodes. I had set up the Tivo to record the entire week's worth of both shows, but that didn't last. Besides, it's not so much that The Jetsons lied to us about the cool futuristic stuff we were supposed to have, but I'm still waiting for the bad canned laugh track that's supposed to follow every single freaking thing I do. I had hoped that maybe Boomerang would air The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones before this free preview ends, but no luck, and I've wanted to see that again for years (I last saw it on videotape when I was 8 or 9). I guess seeing the Banana Splits again will have to do.

The Documentary Channel has been a boon for me. Yesterday, I saw a relatively short documentary called High Score, about an electronics repairman who's trying to achieve a record score on Missile Command. He owns the machine and films himself attempting the world record. It's one definition of unintrusive filmmaking, because with a guy like him, who needs graphics and overbearing music?

I'm psyched about seeing For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism, which is a history of American movie reviewing. That's on Thursday afternoon. Late Friday afternoon brings Special When Lit, about the history of pinball. And then there's F..k (that's the title), about usage of that one special word that I only use on special occasions, which means not nearly every day.

The Nicktoons channel has only been useful for late-night marathons, usually four episodes, of Rocko's Modern Life, Rugrats, and Ren and Stimpy. I was hoping for Doug, but I haven't seen Rocko's Modern Life in years, and ever since Nickelodeon moved its airings of Rugrats to 6 a.m., Meridith hasn't seen that in a long time.

Showtime is where I've been the happiest pig. They've got uncut, uncensored comedy specials. Last night, I finished Jon Lovitz Presents, which has him doing stand-up, as well as featuring other comedians he likes, pretty much unknown names that should be known more, but more on a middle ground. Not complete fame. I think they'd lose much of what makes them good if they had it.

There was also a special featuring Aries Spears, which I've watched most of, and even though Martin Lawrence: Runteldat isn't a special, since it was released in movie theaters, uncensored is still good for me.

Movies have been Showtime's greatest contribution to making sure that the Tivo has at least 2% free space again, since 31% is an anomaly. The other day, I saw that Flix was showing My Dinner with Andre. In widescreen. I don't get to my DVDs at all during the week, so I watched the end of it and set it up for when it airs next, thankfully before the free preview is over.

On Showtime 3 today, The Joneses is on. I thought this satire of suburban consumer culture was brilliant (I miss Demi Moore like that. She needs to keep this up), but another DVD I cannot add to my collection. I already have to get rid of others again so I don't move with too much, but it won't be so hard to eliminate them this time since I know exactly what I want to keep, and unlike last time, it isn't everything. Besides, The Joneses isn't one I felt like I needed in my collection. It is a once-in-a-while-bask-in-greatness kind of thing and now's the time again.

On Monday, May 16 (I'm usually not that exacting, but I want to get this down for my own reference too), I Tivo'd The Las Vegas Story off of Turner Classic Movies, having waited at least a year and a half to see it again. It was released in 1952 and stars Jane Russell and Vincent Price as a newlywed couple, and Victor Mature as her former lover from a few years back. This is the Las Vegas of 1952, since it was filmed in Las Vegas. I had no idea though that it would become part of my intent to reacquaint myself with all that I had ignored about Las Vegas in recent times, since there was no movement on a move. That carried over to this past Monday, which had Saint John of Las Vegas, starring Steve Buscemi, on Showtime 2. That opening shot of the gas station near the Strip, that is the Las Vegas I know. I am as comfortable on the Strip as I am on the outskirts, though at times, the outskirts tend to be more fascinating to me because if you drive those outlying areas, you can continually see the Stratosphere tower. It's a permanent reference point for driving. You use the tower to figure out how to get to wherever you're going nearby. All this also ties in to recently when I began to get an inkling that a move may happen in the coming months, and I bought from Sun, Sin and Suburbia: An Essential History of Modern Las Vegas by Geoff Schumacher, who lived in Las Vegas for at least two decades, and In the Desert of Desire: Las Vegas and The Culture of Spectacle by William L. Fox.

Las Vegas has all kinds of spectacle, there's no doubt about that, but I read the opening pages of Fox's book and his description of Primm, which is just over the start of the Nevada state line, is exactly what Primm is, and that it's 35 more miles north before you reach Las Vegas. Our first time driving to Las Vegas, after we crossed the state line, Mom thought that Las Vegas was coming up when she saw the lights of Primm up ahead in the dark. But at least this time it's an evolution of thought and feeling in learning more and more about Las Vegas, and not a jarring get-used-to-this-because-this-is-all-we-have feeling that comes from the Santa Clarita Valley.

I found a wonderful surprise on the east coast feed of Showtime this past Tuesday. Fool for Love, starring Sam Shepard and Kim Basinger. I haven't read any of Shepard's plays yet, but I haven't seen Shepard in anything since Voyager, co-starring Julie Delpy, many years ago on videotape (I was probably 16 or 17 then), and I want to see him in this, particularly since it's an adaptation of his play. His western United States settings suit me, since that's where I am and I know them so well. Not quite his Arizona or his New Mexico, but just that spread-out feeling.

Besides those, I've also hit upon Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai on Showtime Extreme, Life During Wartime (I'm immediately curious about anything directed by Todd Solondz) on Showtime's east coast feed, Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies on Flix, and The Village Barbershop on Showtime 2 (John Ratzenberger as a Reno barber who has to hire a woman after his business partner dies, or lose the business. I've seen a few minutes of it, and the setting reminds me of San Juan Capistrano, but that's not my reason for wanting to see it. Reno is my reason. I want to know everything about my future state, and this is the way to see Reno for now).

Coming up, I'm Tivoing Funny About Love starring Gene Wilder, Christine Lahti, and Mary Stuart Masterson (Flix), Gone Fishin' starring Danny Glover and Joe Pesci (Showtime 2. I've always liked Joe Pesci and this is one of the few films of his that I haven't seen), Ride the Divide on the Documentary Channel (about a race on "the longest mountain-bike route in the world"), Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (directed by John Krasinski and based on the David Foster Wallace book. Plus, Julianne Nicholson is always very nice to look at) on the Sundance Channel, Flamenco at 5:15 (about Spanish flamenco dancers instructing ballet students), also on the Documentary Channel; The Big Kahuna, again because I don't get to my DVD collection during the week, and there's no DVD player in the living room; and Little Children, since I remember so well the devastating dramatic impact when I first saw it, and just like The Joneses, it's time again.

Whenever there's a free preview of Starz! or Showtime or HBO, I always go overboard. I find so many movies I want to Tivo and I end up deleting many of them without watching them. This is that one instance where nothing I Tivo will go to waste. And I'm fortunate to have that for once.

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