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Movie Spotlight

September 13, 1998|Kevin Thomas

Awakenings (KCOP Sunday at 6 p.m.) was inspired by neurologist Oliver Sacks' account of his 1969 experiment with the drug L-DOPA for post-encephalitic patients, all of them in vegetable-like trances for decades. The situation is sometimes so powerful that it almost sustains the soft-edged 1990 film. Essentially a grade-A tear-jerker, it stars Robert De Niro, whose character has been virtually voiceless and immobile for 30 years.

The premise of the 1994 Angels in the Outfield (KABC Sunday at 7 p.m.) is that children--because they are children--tell the truth. Unlike their elders, kids walk among us as the pure-in-heart. When they tell you they see angels, you better believe it. Motherless angel-gazer Roger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a ward of the state. His father grubby-looking father (Dermot Mulroney) promises that "We'll be a family again when the Angels win the pennant"--they're in last place. He feels left off the hook as he zooms off on his motorcycle. The sap in this movie rises almost as high as the Angels.

GoodFellas (KCBS Sunday at 8 p.m.) is perhaps the ultimate Martin Scorsese movie: His bravura 1990 look at the lower levels of the New York Mafia, seen through the eyes of Irish/Italian "wise guy" turned informant Henry Hill (Ray Liotta). Scorsese carries us from the '50s through the '80s, with a virtuosic use of camera style and background music. The cast, particularly Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci as two marvelously paranoid hoods, are sensational; the film scaldingly evokes decaying modern morality, while shocking us with its comic chutzpah and violence.

Dark Victory (KCET Saturday at 9 p.m.) is that sterling 1939 soaper about a giddy young butterfly socialite (Bette Davis), ennobled by impending blindness and death. One of Edmund Goulding's smoothest directorial jobs--despite a slightly wacko cast: George Brent as a brain surgeon, Ronald Reagan as a frivolous wastrel and Humphrey Bogart (sporting a brogue) as an Irish stableman. But, in the lead, as the butterfly and sinner redeemed, Bette Davis burns; it's the most impassioned of her "good-bad girl" roles and one of her major roles.

Written by Ron Koslow and directed by Daniel Petrie, Lifeguard (TMC Saturday at 6:50 a.m.) an outstanding, thoughtful 1976 film starring Sam Elliott in the title role and dealing with all the conventional pressures brought to bear upon Elliott to grow up, get a regular job and settle down. Elliott, however, proves tough-minded and honest enough with himself to question what maturity really is.

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