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Posts tagged ‘True Crime’

“People Vs. O.J. Simpson” TV Movie Series Very Well Done

OJ Cast 1I wasn’t going to watch it and then, I did, and after a few false starts, I was gripped. So kudos to all involved with the new TV Movie series “The People Vs.O.J. Simpson”. Based on the book by Jeffrey Toobin, it’s very well done. And smart, too. I was gripped. Even though, we all know how it turned out.

No spoilers are necessary, as this was the first court case that was turned into a TV series already when Judge Ito allowed cameras into the courtroom. It crackles. It’s sharp and it’s right on the money Writtten by .Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewki and directed/co-produced by Ryan Murphy “The People…” sizzles and burns up the small screen in just the right way. I was surprised. And delighted. Smart TV is always welcome.

And the casting is phenomenal. Cuba Gooding, Jr. FINALLY lives up to his Oscar potential (He won Supporting Actor EONS ago, it seems, for “Jerry Maguire” opposite Tom Cruise and a very young Renee Zellweger.)Yes, Cuba Gooding IS O.J. in this, although he is a man of much smaller stature. He has the bravado and the charm and the impatience of a super-star-football-hero-jock, which is what he was.

And Sarah Paulson, always a personal favorite, gets the role of HER career as the prosecuting attorney Marcia Clark. She is depicted here as a harrowed, over-worked single mom, and a feminist, who is appalled by the case she’s just been handed. It seems to her like it should be open and shut, except it isn’t at all.Sarah Paulson 2

Strangely, “The People…” doesn’t take sides and depicts the LAPD as the bumbling bunch of key stone cops that they probably were, in this instance.

Sarah Paulson really delivers here and puts her in the realm of leading lady roles where she’s always belonged. And David Schwimmer, of all people, is just grand as the compassionate heart of the O.J. side of things as Robert Kardashian. Yes, the father of all those Kardashians who now reign supreme as the Queens of Reality TV. And yes, Kris Kardashian Jenner is depicted, too. Although she only has a very small part to play in Episode One. She was a very close friend of the murdered Nicole Brown Simpson.David Schwimmer 1

He was a lawyer and one of O.J.s best friends who is just bewildered by the unbelievable events he sees unfolding around him. O.J. hides out at Kardassian’s house and we see him even attempting suicide in “Kimmy’s” bedroom, as the stricken Schwimmer, pulls him out of it.Before he disappears from the Kardashians hideaway starting his infamous White Brono chase.

In sharp contrast, there is ANOTHER lawyer, Robert Shapiro, who is played again at the top of his A-Game by John Travolta! Another shock. And a shockingly good performance. One of the best of Travolta’s career, and he is the super slick lawyer, a legal shark, if ever there was one, who knows that his client is guilty, probably,  and goes for it, takes the case, anyway.Schwimmer & Travolta 1

People forget now, but it was on TV EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR MONTHS! I watched the entire proceedings unfold with the rest of America. I was living alone in the Bronx after my mother’s death. I wondered what she would’ve thought of all of it. I was as gripped then. As I am gripped now by this exciting, insightful news series that is going to be on at 10pm on the FX channel on Tuesday nights for nine more weeks. And even though I thought I knew everything about it, “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson” is constantly revealing new and startling aspects and yes, it WAS the birth of reality TV. Kardashians and all.

 

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German”Crime Stories”(Verbrechen) Grisly but Good

VervbrechenCrime Stories 1“Verbrechen” is German for “Crime Stories”. Famous lawyer turned author Ferdinand von Shirach has penned the short stories of the real life crime cases he was prosecuted to great acclaim in Germany and now they exist as a hit TV series. And a six-episode DVD set of three discs by MHz.

You have to be in a really blood-thirsty mood to enjoy these six grisly, but good episodes, which vary wildly in quality.

Josef Bierbichler plays Friedrich Lionhardt with a stoicism that makes his French counterpart Inspector Maigret seem absolutely flamboyant in comparison. Bierbichler is a focused mountain of a man best known in the US for his role as the sadistic Steward in Michael Hanneke’s frightening thriller “The White Ribbon.” With a voice like thunder, when roused, his intelligent, omniscient eyes see through all comers.

I was really gripped by Episode 1, wherein a mild-mannered husband Friedrich (everybody seems to be named Friedrich in this series)Fahner finally turns on his vicious wife Ingrid played with memorable relish by Annette Paulman, and murders her with his gardening tools. Based on, as I noted, a true story, you totally root for Friedrich to get off.

This is a neat reversal of the battered wife story, and in this case,it’s the long-suffering husband who is constantly brow-beaten, insulted and humiliated by his overbearing, vulgar wife. They are first shown as a deliriously in love young couple. As newlyweds, there seems nary a cloud on the horizon, and Ingrid is charming and sexy as a young girl.

But over the years, she has turned into a harridan he hardly recognizes, and can barely stand. Now 60, Friedrich maintains he has married her. He’s her husband and feels he cannot violate his marriage vows to her. So he kills her. German logic.

And Friedrich Leonhardt( Von Shirach’s alter ego) enters the scene as Friedrich Fahner’s defense lawyer determined to get him off. For as he states over and over, “a lawyer does not always want to know what really happened.” It is his job to get his clients freed and he pursues this goal with a single-minded intensity that powers each 44 minutes episode. It’s not a whodunit at all, but the suspense is always “Will Leonhardt prevail and get his client off?” which is an interesting twist in this overworked genre. A character describes Leonhardt as “the brakes on the carts on justice.”

Leonhardt doesn’t feel he has to like or even understand his clients, which are as varied as Germany is today.

Ripped from the headlines, “Crime Stories” when it works is riveting. I also particularly liked Episode 3 where Phillip Von Nordicke, a young student played with a burning intensity by Vladimir Burlakov, kills, blinds, and dismembers sheep. Stabbing each “victim” 18 times in a signature way that the local Polizei immediately know it’s him. But can you imprison someone for simply killing sheep argues Leonhardt. Then a young girl goes missing and of course, the young Phillip is the lost likely suspect. So in jail he stays, until Leonhardt enters the scene.

Some episodes don’t work at all and are merely confusing like Episode 2 “Tanaka’s Bowl.” But when it works, it really really works and loving crime stories and murder mysteries and film noir as you know I do, these German ones are a dark treat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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