A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Monday, October 10, 2005


I have to report for jury duty tomorrow, which will dictate how much time I have to post this week. I'm immersed, too, in the Honey Mustard proofing, my next "Can You Picture That?", and an interview about Audrey Hepburn for Crisis/Boring Change. So, just in case, here is a quickie DVD review (absent of the usual massive amount of links, you'll have to look stuff up yourself):

I love documentaries about movies. The good ones, such as the films Martin Scorsese has put together, end up giving me a huge list of movies I can't wait to see.

The latest entry in this field is Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, a documentary about Jerry Harvey, programmer of the legendary Los Angeles cable channel from the '80s. I remember hearing about it at the time. I think I had some friends who subscribed, but I didn't quite get what it was. I always had a weird impression that they only showed movies that started with the letter Z, because I think my only real memory of it is once seeing a listing for the film Zardoz being shown on it.

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession is a rare double treat. On one hand, it's Harvey's story. He was a troubled man who died in a tragic fashion, who could function better arranging works of fiction than he did arranging his own life. In some areas, the narrative gets muddled because the film does tend to meander, but it always finds its way back.

On the other hand, it's a celebration of his passion for cinema. The bulk of the film is a collection of clips for movies that Z Channel showed. Its line-up was an eclectic mix of mainstream films, classics, and foreign and independent features. Harvey was friends with Altman, Cimino, and Peckinpah, and he often went out and found new filmmakers and dusted off efforts that otherwise had disappeared with little notice. Even more important, he practically invented the idea of a director's cut, airing restored versions of such troubled epics as The Wild Bunch, The Leopard, Heaven's Gate, and 1900. Most famously, he aired the butchered studio version of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America back-to-back with the full-length original, showing people exactly what could be done to a work of art when outside forces hack it to pieces. (This is an issue I have been pondering a lot lately.)

From the parade of performers and filmmakers who consented to talk about Harvey--both people whose films he featured and directors like Alexander Payne and Quentin Tarantino who grew up being educated by Z Channel--director Xan Cassavetes (daughter of John and Gena Rowlands) gives us a real sense of what an unparalleled resource this channel was, and how sad that market forces and the death of its champion brought an end to it all.

This film is a must for film freaks. And does anyone know if any publisher has ever collected their program guides in book form? I'd love to check out the reviews (there is a reproduction of one of the monthly magazines that comes with the DVD).

Current Soundtrack: The Cure, Three Imaginary Boys; The Warlocks, Surgery

Current Mood: rushed

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich

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