Sunday, April 18, 2010

TV: Roku Like A Hurricane

Never let it be said that I can’t see the writing on the wall. Netflix starts signing deals with studios to delay the rental of new DVDs in exchange for more streaming content. My only problem with this arrangement is I already spend enough hours in the day staring at my computer screen. Sometimes I want to stare at my TV.

So we got a Roku. Hundreds of titles in my Netflix queue are now instantly available on my TV.

We’re tooling around the new setup and see that additional channels are available for a nominal fee. One of them, Moonlight Movies, bills itself as offering classic films from the 1930s through the ‘70s.

It’s actually the noir channel, including several hard-to-find and unavailable on video titles. We christened the Roku with a double-bill featuring an unintentional theme: mental derangement and characters named Vince.

First up, 1949’s The Crooked Way. Eddie Rice (John Payne) is a decorated WWII veteran with amnesia thanks to a chunk of shrapnel lodged in his brain. He heads back to Los Angeles to learn about his past only to discover he was both a crook and a bastard.

The Crooked Way is conveniently plotted; Eddie starts running into people who know him the second he steps off the train at Union Station. And the villainous Vince is played by Sonny Tufts, living up to his billing as a lousy actor. But Payne as always is terrific, disappointed in the man he can’t remember being. And cinematographer John Alton does some of his most extraordinary work, shooting one scene in stark silhouette and later offering an astonishing close-up in which Payne’s face is completely obscured, his character’s character unknown to the audience as well as himself.

Next, Fear in the Night (1947), a low-budget Cornell Woolrich adaptation made with ingenuity. DeForest “Bones” Kelley has a vivid nightmare about killing a man – and then finds hints that perhaps it wasn’t a dream. Like Kelley’s Vince, I couldn’t shake the unnerving sense that I’d experienced all this before. I soon figured out why: writer/director Maxwell Shane remade the movie nine years later, and that one I’d seen.

Also available via Roku is an MLB.TV package that puts the coverage I get from my cable company to shame. I’d have made the switch already, but I do have to work sometime. Speaking of baseball ...

Baseball: Let’s Play Two and Then Some

Yesterday’s epic Mets/Cardinals tilt was not televised in Seattle. I ended up blowing off plans to see a movie and instead sat in my favorite bar tracking the (in)action on my phone. The battery almost died before the game finally ended after twenty innings – eighteen of them scoreless – and nearly seven hours with a 2-1 Mets victory.

It was a strange way to follow a game, both old-fashioned and modern, like receiving a telegram on an iPad. Without the commentary, some nuances took a moment to register. “Wait, Felipe López is now on the mound for St. Louis? Isn’t he a shortstop? And he’s pitching to the reliever who gave up the grand slam to him on Friday night? Who the hell is Joe Mather?” The Mets couldn’t score runs off the Cardinals position players sent to the hill while their All-Star closer failed to nail down the save. But an ugly win is still a win. At the very least there’s something to put on the team’s 2010 highlight DVD.

Meaningless Milestone: Blog Out the Candles

Six years? I’ve been blogging for six years?!?