• U.S.

Critics’ Choice: Jul. 31, 1989

4 minute read


OIL NOTES by Rick Bass (Houghton Mifflin/Seymour Lawrence; $16.95). There is no better conversation than good shop talk; here a petroleum geologist (“I know how to find oil”) tells many of the tricks of his trade and proves, in the process, that he also knows how to write.

POLAR STAR by Martin Cruz Smith (Random House; $19.95). In a sequel to his best-selling detective novel Gorky Park, Smith sets Moscow investigator Arkady Renko off on another bizarre case. The setting this time is a fishing boat on the Bering Sea; one dead body leads to others along an arc of increasing menace and violence.

FROM BEIRUT TO JERUSALEM by Thomas L. Friedman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $22.95). Friedman won two Pulitzer Prizes during the 1980s while covering the Middle East for the New York Times. Now based in Washington, he looks back on the harsh realities of a region drenched in myths and bloodshed.


SHOWING OFF. What ever happened to the witty little revue? It’s thriving off- Broadway in this four-person jape at assorted cultural pretenses, including odious sing-alongs, the subject of the sing-along finale.

BEN-HUR. Sci-fi writer Thomas Disch (The Brave Little Toaster) vigorously adapts an epic of early Christian days, at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory.


EDWARD HOPPER, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City. A major realist painter, Hopper (1882-1967) is also an enduringly popular chronicler of New England lighthouses, late-night cafes and other vignettes of the American scene. The Whitney’s collection of his work is unmatched, as this sampling confirms. Through Nov. 5.

ON THE ART OF FIXING A SHADOW: 150 YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHY, National Gallery, Washington. The history of photography as art, assembled from public and private collections around the world. More than 400 original pictures representing 200 photographers. Among them: Louis Daguerre, Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. Through July 30.

AGAINST NATURE: JAPANESE ART IN THE EIGHTIES, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Architect Arata Isozaki and fashion designer Issey Miyake are famous abroad, but contemporary visual art from Japan is still little known in the West. The first major U.S. museum show from Japan in more than 20 years brings Americans a survey of new work from the cultural center of East Asia. Through Aug. 6.


ERROLL GARNER: DANCING ON THE CEILING (Emarcy). This second volume of previously unreleased material shows off Garner’s angular, driving, two-fisted piano at its best. His dazzling improvisations breathe new life into well-worn standards like It Had to Be You and show why, twelve years after his death, this legendary jazzman remains in a class of his own.

TIN MACHINE: TIN MACHINE (EMI). It’s David Bowie, lying low with a new band that he helped create and whose rough edges he hones to a good cutting edge. Lots of fever-blister guitar work and apocalyptic Bowie lyrics. Crack City ought to be a sci-fi hallucination, but Bowie knows better: he makes it into an everyday nightmare.


YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW (NBC, debuting Aug. 2, 10 p.m. EDT). Topical issues will be examined from a tripartite perspective — past, present and future — in NBC’s umpteenth try at a prime-time magazine show. Maria Shriver and Mary Alice Williams are among the on-camera crew.

PRIME TIME LIVE (ABC, beginning Aug. 3, 10 p.m. EDT). And there’s more, news junkies. In this ambitious new ABC offering, Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson each week will face a studio audience and the formidable task of putting a fresh spin on the news.

DARK CIRCLE (PBS, Aug. 8, 10 p.m. on most stations). This documentary on nuclear power was set to air on PBS in 1986 but was scuttled because of its antinuclear bias. Now it turns up on P.O.V., the special summer series.


WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. . . it was loathe at first sight. But he (Billy Crystal) learned to accept her (Meg Ryan) with almost no romantic strings attached. The “almost” makes for a witty sexual tension in Rob Reiner’s comic valentine to love, friendship and Woody Allen.

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE. This biopic stamps demon rocker Jerry Lee Lewis as a feral innocent in a time warp, instead of a sexual threat for Middle America. Dennis Quaid inhabits Jerry Lee with a nicely calculating recklessness, and Winona Ryder is hypnotically enigmatic as the singer’s nymphet bride.

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