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A CurtainUpScreening Review
Oklahoma Crude & The Hour
A western potboiler and a BBC thriller . . .each transcends its genre to offer relevant, worth watching entertainment.
Elyse Sommer

Oklahoma Crude

Oscar and Hammerstein's sunny take on Oklahoma and a beautiful America overall has led to a more realistic take on that classic musical (
my review of the 2019 update ). The protest movement about police brutality, has brought new attention to the brutal attacks on black residents and businesses of Tulsa's Greenwood district.

The people under siege in Oklahoma Crude are white but their story points to yet another situation that has made America great for the rich and powerful. The time is 1913 and the setting an Oklahoma oil rig and its heroine is a tough woman named Lena Doyle (Faye Dunaway) who finds her hopes of changing her luck when the rig she's working gushes a million dollar fortune of crude oil.

The problem is that a group of ruthless, business men affiliated with an outfit called the Pan-Oklahoma oil trust try to persuade her to work under their auspices and settle for just a small percentage of the money. But Lena decides to fight for what's rightfully hers. The tycoons are represented by Hellman, (Jack Palance), a nasty mobster and his stop-at-nothing helpers.

But though Lena almost loses her life, she finds herself with two resourceful allies her estranged father Cleo (John Mills) and a drifter and hired gun slyly named Noble Mason (George C. Scott). Viewers are obviously going to root for Lena to not only succeed but that the relationship with Scott and her father will result in a happy ending for Lena's enterprise as well as her lonely and embittered take on life.

Sure, it's something of an old-fashioned wild west potboiler. But with these actors to create complex, three-dimensional characters, the familiarity of some of 108 minutes doesn't matter. Fay Dunaway not only looks sensational but brings Lena vivid life. George C. Scott is one of those actors who never knew to be anything less than wonderful. He manages to make Morgan not only interesting and likable but often quite funny. John Mills is so winning that he sometimes steals the show. As for Jack Palance, I can't think of an actor who does villainy better than any actor of that era. And . with Stanley Kramer directing . don't count on Marc Norman's to end as expected.

The cinematic details are riveting. Ultimately, Oklahoma Crude succeeds in being relevant, and yet a refreshing escapist entertainment. .

The Hour

Don't confuse this British series available to Acorn subscribers with the star-studded 2002 movie The Hours based on Michael Cunningham's novel and scripted by David Hare. The Hour is a six-part BBC thriller. Unlike Apple's
The Morning Show this is about an evening new broadcast. Typical of most series, it too too boasts a topnotch cast and staging.

While The Morning Show was designed to be very much in the moment, The Hour takes us back to the 1950s. That provides plenty of that era's atmosphere (the sexism, the around the clock smoking) as well historic crises to blend into the overall take on ambition, sexual entanglements behind the camera, not to mention, deadly acts requiring journalistic perseverance to unfold. It's all very smart and stylish and without the longueurs that tend to slow down this episodic format.

The scenario' revolves around Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw), a take-no-prisoners to get at the truth reporter, Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), a young woman smart enough to be a producer at a time when this was strictly male territory. Bel and Freddie are long time friends and a rightly bonded team, but that bond is changed when Hector Madden (Dominic West), is brought on as the show's chief anchor for his good looks and charm.<

Madden's charm is not lost on Bel so a triangle ensues, but what really propels The Hour into non-stop binge territory is Freddie'a compulsive investigation of a childhood friend's mysterious death, which he's convinced was murder by some mysterious powerful group. Ben Witshaw is mesmerizing as a man to whom the truth is a do or die proposition.

Abi Morgan has managed to create a script that balances the complex and interesting personal lives for her characters with the often frantic ups and downs as media professionals committed to covering the news of the day no matter what. While Garai, Wiitshaw and West are the stars, the tightly plotted script includes ample opportunity for other cast members to shine — for example, Randal Brown (Peter Capaldi), the new department head who recognizes that Madden has allowed celebrity to fuel his taste for drink and women, Oona Chaplin as Madden's wife, and foreign desk war correspondent Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor) with whom Brown shares a past

If you're looking for a show that superbly exemplifies the genre at its very best, and more. Add to this tht the look of the era is impeccably detailed, and The Hour is very much worth your screen watching time. The portrait it paints of a country still too exhausted from a long war and thus clinging to its old ways (a have and have not class system) to accept change. Sound familiar?

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