Choose a blog

What to Watch on Sunday: Al Pacino stars in HBO's 'Phil Spector'

NCAA Basketball Tournament (CBS) - The madness continues. For some. For more information on games and networks (all games will air on truTV, TNT, TBS and CBS), check out our NCAA Tournament channel guide, which has a link to schedules.

The Bible (8pm, History) - Jesus resurrects Lazarus. Then Caiaphas persuades Judas to betray Jesus, and Jesus is arrested.

The Amazing Race 22 (8pm, CBS) - Bates Battaglia races on! Follow along tonight as the race continues in Botswana.

Phil Spector (9pm, HBO) - Screenwriter-director David Mamet's fictionalized account of legendary music producer Phil Spector's relationship with defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden during his 2007 trial for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson. Stars Al Pacino and Helen Mirren. Check out Adrienne's review.

The Good Wife (9pm, CBS) - One of Alicia's clients is murdered and she fears the killer may also be targeting someone close to her. To help the police find the culprit, she agrees to waive attorney-client privilege. Meanwhile, Diane receives a stunning offer.

Revenge (9pm, ABC) - Amanda's foster brother assists Victoria with her new charity and his proximity allows Emily to get even with him for his past misdeeds.

The Walking Dead (9pm, AMC) - A possible truce with the Governor comes with strings attached for Rick and the group.

"Phil Spector" mixes myth and reality and sends mixed messages

"Phil Spector" (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO) is a creative experiment by David Mamet gone, not exactly wrong, but maybe gone left.

It's a 'mythological' piece, a note tells us, not a comment on the trial, not using the facts of the trial. Although it's named for the famed music producer, it's really about his lawyer.

When the story begins Lana Clarkson has already been shot at the home of Phil Spector (Al Pacino). His lawyer Bruce Cutler (Jeffrey Tambor) brings in Linda Kenney Baden (Helen Mirren) to help with the defense. Baden initially thinks the case is a dog, that Spector is guilty, and she doesn't want to take Cutler's route of tearing down Clarkson.

From there, the film basically becomes a story of the relationship between Baden and Spector, as she comes to believe he might not be guilty, that there is reasonable doubt, even as she realizes the difficulty of overcoming Spector's eccentric behavior.

We don't learn much about Spector as a person; the film is more interested in Baden's process of gaining justice for Spector. And I've got to give Mamet credit -- the film is pretty interesting despite being light on action or even tension.

Certainly Mamet as director and writer gets some of the credit, but I'm going to give most of the kudos to Mirren. It's amazing how, from role to role, she morphs. Here she's dowdy, savvy and blunt. She brilliantly masters silent moments; you can see by the look on her face when she changes her mind about Spector. The best scene in the film is when Spector walks into the courthouse with a crazy Afro wig and Baden knows she's got to revise her plan. Spector, she knows, can't help himself and I mean that legally and psychologically.

Pacino, on the other hand, was less effective for me. He seems to have Spector's mannerisms and speech patterns down, but it feels like an imitation rather than a transformation.

There has been a lot of criticism about the film's veracity. Mamet's 'This is a work of fiction. It’s not ‘based on a true story’ note at the beginning of the film shows he was expecting some flak. The problem he tries to have it both ways. The end notes of the film tell what happened at the end of the actual trial and the actual retrial. (It gives a whole lot of credit to the real Baden who happens to be a consultant on the film.) I wouldn't say the film undermines the jury system, but it does seem to suggest that Spector might have been misjudged.

Production notes include quotes from Mamet who says he wanted to explore, through Baden's character, the notions of reasonable doubt and prejudice. The film seems to end on the idea that both of those elements are arbitrary; both are bestowed or withheld based on factors like celebrity or appearance. Yet I'm not sure that's only the case for someone like Phil Spector; ordinary folk can have the same issues based on race, income and yes, appearance. As odd as Spector may be, he had money on his side. And as even the film concedes, cash can change the dynamic dramatically.

What to Watch on Saturday: Syfy's "Mothman" and "Precious" on SNL

Mothman (9pm, Syfy) - An original Syfy movie about the legendary Mothman creature, which sounds part "Mothman Prophecies" and part "I Know What You Did Last Summer." This Mothman is pretty sinister, and he leaves behind a high body count. Stars Jewel Staite ("Firefly").

You Don't Know Jack (9pm, HBO) - Al Pacino stars in this biopic about Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan doctor who advocated for the right to die for terminall ill patients and who served eight years in prison for assisting some in their efforts. Directed by Barry Levinson and starring Susan Sarandon, Brenda Vaccaro, and John Goodman. Read our review.

America's Most Wanted (10pm, Fox) - An update on a murderer on the run from Texas who was captured this year in North Carolina.

Wanda Sykes Show (11pm, Fox) - In the finale to the talkshow's first season, Wanda welcomes guests Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad"), Regina Hall ("Death at a Funeral") and Tommy Lee (Motley Crue).

Saturday Night Live (11:30pm, NBC)Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious") is tonight's host, and MGMT is the musical guest.

"You Don't Know Jack" but you should watch his movie



The title "You Don't Know Jack" (HBO, 9 tonight) already gives you a hint that this might be a different kind of biopic.

After all, this is the story of Jack Kevorkian, the face of assisted suicide in this country, which wouldn't seem a subject begging for a sassy moniker.

But it works. The first hour of "You Don't Know Jack" is a lively, funny look at a man that lots of people have heard of, even seen, yet know little about. As played by Al Pacino, he is a hoot, a character, a quirky, stubborn man who's certain he's on the right path because it just makes sense to him.

The second hour, though, gets darker.

 

Cars View All
Find a Car
Go
Jobs View All
Find a Job
Go
Homes View All
Find a Home
Go

Want to post a comment?

In order to join the conversation, you must be a member of newsobserver.com. Click here to register or to log in.
Advertisements