Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Great Escape

I watched The Great Escape for the first time this weekend. I know! How could I have never seen it before? Well, I hadn't! So lay off!

In brief: loved it. In some ways, exactly what I expected -- a bunch of stand-up British chaps giving the escape plan the old college try for England and the Queen, with plenty of stiff upper lips and a dash of what-for. Plus a couple of high-spirited Yanks to liven things up, with their rash impulses and moonshine and baseball and motorcycle riding. Oh, Steve McQueen, you're so rambunctious! And James Garner, you're so darn rakish!

In other ways, very much not what I had expected, in re: the ending. I may be spoiling things for the two or three of you who are a little late in watching this flick, as I was, but I was assuming the POWs would actually, you know, escape. And I guess they did, for a while. But then they all got recaptured. Or shot! Like, 50 of them get shot! What the hey?! That's not supposed to happen! The dang movie's called The Great Escape, after all. Somehow I thought that meant more of them would escape for good than James Coburn and Charles Bronson.

I've never been the biggest fan of Steve McQueen, primarily because the first movie of his I ever saw was Bullitt, and I hated it. Boring! So damn boring. And he didn't make much of an impression on me in The Magnificent Seven. But I kind of dug him in The Thomas Crown Affair, I began to admire him in Peckinpah's The Getaway, and after Escape, I think I can now fully appreciate the Tao of Steve. Dude's just cool. And what more can be said about the awesomeness of James Garner that Dorian hasn't already said?

Now, as for the way in which I saw this movie: it was on TCM's The Essentials. You already know how much I love Turner Classic Movies. Best run channel on TV, bar none. Maybe not the one I watch the most or anything, but you can't take this away from them: the channel is run flawlessly. They present great movies, ad-free, completely uncut, 24 hours a day. And that's all they do. There's no call-in shows or "reality" programming or "I Love the '30s" or any other crap like that diluting the brand. It's just great movies, and short docs about great movies. Genius.

And The Essentials is the best of the best. It showcases the true legends, the films essential to rounding out a true movie fan's education. For example, The Great Escape. Or, next Saturday, All About Eve, which I also have never seen. (I know! I'm TiVoing it! Lay off!) And I enjoy watching the hosts discuss the films before they air. TCM mainstay Robert Osborne's vast knowledge is always impressive, and his enthusiasm catching. And co-host Carrie Fisher is a wonderful foil to Osborne's giddiness; she's funny and sharp and snarky and strongly opinionated, with decades in show biz, not to mention a royal Hollywood pedigree, to back it up.

But who should I see in Fisher's place when I started watching Escape this weekend? Rose McGowan. Rose frickin' McGowan.


Look, I enjoy ogling her as much as the next guy (and by "next guy," I guess I mean Robert Osborne, because I don't know how else she got the job). Here, look:

Take a picture, it lasts longer.

Ahh. Very pleasant. But there's no reason in the world she should be co-hosting a program on classic films. I don't doubt she's seen a lot of classic films; I don't doubt she appreciates them. I don't doubt it would be fun to talk to her at a party about, say, Rio Bravo. (I don't doubt that at all.) But she is not host material, especially not on a show which should be trading on prestige. She doesn't have the wit, experience, presence, or, frankly, vocabulary of Carrie Fisher. She looks like a little girl trying to impress her grandpa with her grown-up talk, but all that comes out of her mouth is a mush of "likes" and "ums" and "you knows".

I'm not pleased, to sum up. Bring back Carrie!

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