- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

Celebrating Altman

The Sundance Channel will honor iconic director Robert Altman, who passed away last month at age 81, with a series of select films beginning tomorrow afternoon.

The cable channel also will air a short montage of Mr. Altman’s work narrated by NBC News anchor and Managing Editor Brian Williams.

On the schedule:

• Tanner on Tanner (2004), 1 p.m. This 2004 Sundance Channel original series revisits the principal characters from Robert Altman and Garry Trudeau’s groundbreaking 1988 television series “Tanner ‘88.” This four-part series of half-hour episodes follows documentary filmmaker Alex Tanner (Emmy winner Cynthia Nixon of HBO’s “Sex and the City” fame) on her quest to probe the very soul of the modern politician. As Alex and her father, former candidate Jack Tanner (Michael Murphy), interview present-day political figures, the documentary approach of “Tanner on Tanner” blurs the boundary between the factual and the dramatic. Part political satire, part wry portrait of an independent filmmaker, “Tanner on Tanner” both sends up and salutes the worlds of politics and documentary filmmaking.

• The Long Goodbye (1973), 3 p.m. After “M*A*S*H” and “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” Mr. Altman took on Raymond Chandler’s classic L.A. thriller, transporting it from the dark mean streets of the 1940s to the sun-drenched freeways of the 1970s. Elliott Gould plays honor-bound private dick Philip Marlowe in a screenplay by Leigh Brackett (who also worked on another Chandler film, Howard Hawks’ “The Big Sleep”). Now widely considered a landmark film of the early ‘70s, “The Long Goodbye” is a devastating commentary on changes in American values and one of Mr. Altman’s best.

• Vincent and Theo (1990), 5 p.m. In an unusual departure from the ironic ensemble dramas for which he is best known, Mr. Altman offers this intimate look at the life of the postimpressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh (Tim Roth) and his long, supportive — yet exhausting — relationship with his art-gallery manager brother Theo (Paul Rhys). Mr. Altman and screenwriter Julian Mitchell consider the relationship between art and commerce while movingly capturing the humor, love and pain that enlivened the intense familial bond between the two brothers.

• The Player (1992), 7:30 p.m. Based on Michael Tolkin’s revealing Hollywood murder mystery, Mr. Altman’s film stars Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill, a workaholic movie exec who kills a writer he believes is threatening him. Although convinced the authorities are about to snap on the handcuffs and suffering a sweaty paranoia that begins to interfere with the intricate politicking of his work, he becomes involved with his victim’s girlfriend (Greta Scacchi), who may also be on to him. Countless celebrity cameos (Angelica Huston, Burt Reynolds, Lyle Lovett, John Cusack, Gary Busey) and a sharp awareness of the movie industry make this a fun, smart, edgy film.

New alliance

“The Apprentice” winner Bill Rancic, who first applied to be on “The Bachelor,” won’t be one for long.

The reality show star is now the happy fiancee of “E! News” anchor Giuliana DePandi, reports Zap2it.com, citing a story from People magazine.

“I thought I was dreaming,” Miss DePandi says about the Dec. 15 proposal. “It was the most amazing moment of my entire life. Not only is Bill the love of my life, but he’s also my best friend. I couldn’t believe my dream guy was asking me to marry him.”

Mr. Rancic’s winning pitch was a mix of high and low. He met her at a helipad in Chicago with “deep-dish pizza, which is her favorite, and champagne,” says the couple’s rep, Jim Dowd.

Holiday watch

Seasonal fare on tap for the holiday weekend:

• A Christmas Carol, noon today on USA. Kelsey Grammer steps into the shoes of Ebenezer Scrooge in this 2004 musical take on the Charles Dickens classic. Co-stars include “Law & Order’s” Jesse L. Martin as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Jane Krakowski as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”) as the ghost of Jacob Marley.

m The 8th annual “A Home for the Holidays With Rod Stewart,” 8 tonight on CBS. The British rocker spreads holiday cheer and also calls attention to the plight of the estimated half million American children needing foster homes. Musical guests include Grammy winner John Legend, the gospel duo Mary Mary and “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee.

• A Christmas Story, 8 p.m. Sunday on TNT. The 10th annual 24-hour marathon of Bob Clark’s 1983 film about a 9-year-old’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun begins and continues through Christmas Day. Peter Billingsley, the late Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon star.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports.

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