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Let­ter­box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey

I’M a bit over jour­nal­ists con­tin­u­ing to prat­tle on about the strength of tele­vi­sion drama, the drama se­ries as the new novel, a golden age of TV — an­other? — and the rest. Yes, we get it. TV drama is rather strong at the mo­ment. Sure, Home­land is good. As is Sher­lock. But they’re merely part of a con­tin­uum. TV should evolve.

US cable net­work HBO has been in­stru­men­tal in that evo­lu­tion. Its list of sem­i­nal dra­mas is in­tim­i­dat­ing, a list led by The So­pra­nos. This week’s re­leases from the net­work only add to its rep­u­ta­tion, with two tele­movies — You Don’t Know Jack and Tem­ple Grandin — and two se­ries, Mil­dred Pierce (MA15+, HBO, 342min, $34.95) and Game of Thrones (R, HBO, 540min, $59.95).

Mil­dred Pierce is a lush, if lan­guorous, adap­ta­tion of the De­pres­sion-era novel by James M. Cain that pro­vided Joan Craw­ford with her quin­tes­sen­tial per­for­mance — and only Academy Award — in the 1945 film.

Kate Winslet has picked up her own swag of awards for her por­trayal of a mother who be­comes a bak­ing im­pre­sario. And di­rec­tor Todd Haynes de­liv­ers his most con­ven­tional work af­ter rip­per films in­clud­ing Safe and Far from Heaven.

HBO’S big-ticket item is the Game of Thrones se­ries. Was it un­rea­son­able to ex­pect we might have had our fill of fan­tasy epics af­ter the Lord of the Rings and Harry Pot­ter films wrapped? Ap­par­ently so.

Game of Thrones is an adap­ta­tion of Ge­orge R. Martin’s book se­ries, A Song of Fire and Ice, which weaves fan­tasy with me­dieval schem­ing so that you feel as though you’ve stum­bled into a blend of Shake­speare and Tolkien with­out the jolly pub scenes. It’s all about king­doms be­ing pro­tected, houses seek­ing do­min­ion and fam­i­lies schem­ing. It would all be quite ridicu­lous if the pro­duc­tion weren’t so rich and ex­ten­sive (no Spar­ta­cus: Blood and Sand stagi­ness here), the di­a­logue weren’t so strong and per­for­mances so cred­i­ble. Peter Din­klage is par­tic­u­larly good. You can see why geeks sali­vate over this: it has swords, mini-dragons and oc­ca­sional nu­dity. That sells it short. As one who tends to shun fan­tasy, I con­cede Game of Thrones is grand, in­volv­ing TV.

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