Archive for Saturday, March 10, 2007

Latifah stars as HIV survivor

March 10, 2007


Star Queen Latifah and producer Jamie Foxx lend their considerable celebrity to "Life Support" (7 p.m. today, HBO), a film shot through with stark statistics about HIV infection in the black community. Black women are 20 times more likely than white women to be diagnosed with the virus.

But Latifah does more than star in this film; she's memorable as Ana, an HIV-infected former addict turned AIDS activist. Directed and co-written by Nelson George, and based on the true story of George's sister, "Life" does a smart job of revealing Ana's strengths and weaknesses, her ongoing redemption and her lingering flaws.

Ana's role as a condom-dispensing crusader does not sit well with those who knew her as an irresponsible crack-abuser. Anna Deavere Smith ("The West Wing") plays her mother, Lucille, who had to take custody of Ana's daughter, Kelly (Rachel Nicks), when Ana was a helpless addict. An accomplished high school basketball star, Kelly is embarrassed by her crusader mother. And Lucille is simply tired of Ana and incapable of forgiving her for her years of drug-fueled irresponsibility.

The film is smart enough not to cast Ana as the victim and includes many scenes in which her selfish and manipulative nature is evident.

A powerful movie about mothers and daughters with a definite point of view, "Life Support" transcends its "message-movie" status with strong performances.

¢ After a lifetime of television, there is a lot of useless stuff crammed in my head. Some things, like old cigarette jingles, serve no useful purpose, but other memory eruptions prove telling. The other day, while reviewing "Battlestar Galactica" (9 p.m. Sunday, Sci Fi), I found myself humming the theme to the old cartoon series "Roger Ramjet" (sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle:" "Roger Ramjet and his Eagles/Fighting for our freedom/Fly through and in and outer space/Not to join 'em but to beat 'em.")

I remain bemused by the notion of cartoon writers beguiling sugar-saturated children with the heady notion of flying through "inner space." But that's where "Battlestar Galactica" comes in. The show is, as they say, or used to say, a trip.

Last week, the popular character Kara (Katee Sackhoff) destroyed herself and her ship after being haunted by the recurring image of a mandala. The mystical symbol appeared everywhere and had been something Kara had drawn as a child. Was she literally drawn to her destiny? Bamboozled into suicide by nefarious agents? Or merely following a path of self-destruction blazed by her abusive mother?

And you thought this was just an outer-space soap opera.

Today's highlights

¢ Scheduled on "48 Hours Mystery" (9 p.m., CBS): A serial killer targets former classmates and cheerleaders.

¢ Comedians of Middle Eastern descent offer standup commentary on current events on "Axis of Evil Comedy Tour" (10 p.m., Comedy Central).

Sunday's highlights

¢ Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): Kentucky widows blame mine operators for their husbands' deaths; the unsolved case of the anthrax mailings.

¢ "Wild Kingdom" (6 p.m., Animal Planet) enters a new season.


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