Small screen, big issues
For those of us nervously watching the erosion of civil liberties and human rights, the next film in the Independent Lens series, Life Matters, is something of a wistful homage to what seems to be of little value these days. The struggle of good men and women who refuse to be cowed by fiery rhetoric or the pontifications of the loudest to define their convictions and, more importantly, to live by them.
Dr. Curtis Boyd is the subject of Life Matters, made by filmmaker and son, Kyle. What could have been a heartfelt Valentine turns out to be a revealing glimpse of a pre-Roe v. Wade world and a small-town doctor who found himself embroiled in one of the most emotionally heated issues of the past and the present.
As the favorite son of a small Texas town, Dr. Boyd could have easily embraced a life of blithe conformity. His decision to be an abortion provider -- before it was legalized -- is troubling and admirable, puzzling and, finally, inevitable. The visually compelling documentary uses vintage family photos, home movies, interviews, and contemporary footage to assemble a thoughtful portrait of the man and the curious series of events that led him to his life's work.
Abortion, legal or otherwise, will offend many viewers. But Life Matters is not pro-choice propaganda. In the end, Boyd's tender and judgment-free treatment of his patients in the most trying of circumstances brings a sobering humanity to this very difficult issue.
Life Matters airs Tuesday (Jan. 20) at 9pm on PBS.
Monk returns for a third season Friday (Jan. 16) at 9pm on USA.
What Else Is On?
Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) and Jeff Daniels (Gods and Generals) star in Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl, a slightly updated version of the 1977 film, also written by Simon. Picturesque New York street scenes and an apartment to die for are the best elements of this lukewarm remake, premiering Friday (Jan. 16) at 7pm on TNT. Encores air weekends through Feb. 1. If you want to compare notes, the original The Goodbye Girl airs Jan. 15 at 7pm on Turner Classic Movies.
In The L Word, "L" isn't for "love" but for that other provocative word (mock stage whisper), "lesbian." Girl-on-girl action is all the rage nowadays, and Showtime joins in with a new hourlong drama about a group of gay and straight Los Angeles women. The cast includes Jennifer Beals, Pam Grier, Laurel Holloman, and Eric Mabius, among others. The L Word premieres with a two-hour pilot on Sunday (Jan. 18) at 9pm on Showtime.
Going to Sundance? Me neither, but not to worry. You can pull on your Uggs and sheepskin coat and pretend like you're in Park City by watching several Sundance Channel programs. First, the cable network presents Seen at Sundance, a showcase of former fest films continuing through January. Check local listings or go to www.sundancechannel.com to see if your favorite film is scheduled.
A preview of films and filmmakers featured at this year's fest appears in It's Right Now! At the Sundance Film Festival, an hourlong special airing on Jan. 24 at 7:30pm, followed by a live presentation of the 2004 Sundance Awards ceremony.
Speaking of awards shows, here's one you won't see on television. The National Association of Latino Independent Producers holds its fifth annual conference in Santa Barbara next month. The conference includes a Gala Awards show, recognizing Latino pioneers in film and television. This year's Gala will honor a local face, Aida Barrera. You might recall that she was the force behind the bilingual children's show, Carrascolendas, produced here in Austin and written about in the Chronicle's "Lost Austin" issue ("Have You Ever Been to Carrascolendas?," austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2003-07-04/screens_feature2.html). Barrera will receive a Pioneer Achievement in Producing award. Other honorees include filmmaker Richie Perez (King of the Jungle) and actress/producer Salma Hayek.
Growing exponentially since 1999, NALIP brings together working Latino producers, directors, actors, and industry folk to discuss rapidly changing opportunities for Latinos in film and TV. For more information, go to www.nalip.org.