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Old 07-10-2004, 12:12 AM   #1
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A Thief of Time Steals the Show On PBS “American Mystery!”

A Thief of Time Steals the Show On PBS “American Mystery!”



Michelle Gray, Contributing Writer 7/9/2004

A Thief of Time due to air on PBS on July 11th, is possibly the best film adaptation from Hillerman’s works yet. Characters are as complete and finely woven in the latest PBS installment on “American Mystery!” as Hillerman wrote them.

“A Thief of Time”, raved about in the “New York Times,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “USA Today” (to name a few), was a good candidate for film. It includes multi-faceted characters, suspense, tradition, and time-honored struggles such as old versus the new, loyalty versus indulgence.

Joe Leaphorn is called back to duty, torn away from a much-needed vacation with his terminally ill wife. He does care for her, but she suspects that he is using her illness to hide from his own shortcomings and from her. She loves him all the same. He lives in a constant awareness that it’s time for him to retire, and his eager partner Jim Chee, doesn’t make retiring any easier. Neither does the beguiling Maxie Davis. She is unsubtle about her interest in him, and is frustrated by his coolness.

Actually, most of the women in Navaho country are unhappy to some degree in “A Thief of Time.” This lends the film an interesting texture. On occasion, we are reminded that while these Indian detectives work around the clock to solve two murders and find a missing anthropologist/suspect, they have spouses or partners with needs, and who are tired of waiting for them. The characters struggle with their complicated relationships with each other; this becomes as important as the mystery at hand, and keeps things interesting.

Janet Pete (Alex Rice, Dreamkeeper) is an ambitious, high achieving woman who is attracted to Jim Chee (Adam Beach; Smoke Signals, Windtalkers). She nags him to complete his application for a transfer to Washington. She wants more from him, and wishes he would fulfill what she thinks is his potential.

This made-for-t.v. movie quietly does something unusual. It portrays the awkward, conflicted, and real relationships that Native Americans (being human) have. It’s refreshing to see couples in a story about Indian people, speak to each other with more than two syllables.

In fact, in all three Hillerman stories featured on PBS, Indian are depicted as moving through life as human beings rather than one-dimensional, caricaturized fictions. Tribal beliefs aren’t abandoned; just put back into context. When Jim Chee emerges out of his sweat lodge, it doesn’t seem at all odd that his cell phone is ringing. More reality! Nice!

There are some unsavory characters-Indian and white. Loud, blustering Slick Nakai (Graham Greene, “Dances With Wolves,” “Pow Wow Highway”) is a man of questionable character. Even though we’re pretty sure he hasn’t killed anybody, we’re certain he’s up to no good. Harrison Houk is a tragic and conflicted man.

Perhaps the weakest and most thinly portrayed role is that of Captain Largo, played by veteran actor Gary Farmer (Pow Wow Highway, Smoke Signals). A police chief is necessary in most modern mysteries, so Farmer satisfies the need. A rather small part, and not one of Farmer’s better performances; the quality of the film is not compromised.

The Hillerman stories continue to be good fodder for mystery theater for PBS. His poetic and descriptive narratives translate well into screenplays, and the well-developed returning characters are likeable. They change and grow just a little with each progressive story. Everpresent and constant is the landscape. As in all of Hillerman’s works, the environment is as much a character as are the people. “A Thief of Time” is worth a watch.
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Old 07-10-2004, 01:20 PM   #2
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Thumbs up

Dang I love these movies!
Probably because I've tried to read Hillerman's books and for some reason just can't get through them. I love suspense, too. I read Patterson, Mancini, etc. Don't know why by Hillerman's style puts me to sleep.

Besides, seeing the movies gives me the opportunity to enjoy the talents of Native actors/actresses. I love Sheila and Alex; love Adam, Wes and Graham...
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Old 07-11-2004, 04:38 PM   #3
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has this movie aired on pbs already?? i could've sworn i saw it last year!! anyway, it was really really good!!! i've seen a few others on pbs too...........are they hillerman as well????

haven't read hillerman's books, but the movies sure do turn out right.....
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Old 07-12-2004, 03:57 AM   #4
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I thought this one was ok, but a little to chaotic for me. I mean as soon as Joe or chee got somewhere they were already on their way somewhere else...atleast show them stopping for gas or something.
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Old 07-12-2004, 01:39 PM   #5
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yeah, it was kinda "b-rated" in some ways, overall i thought it was alright.......turns out i'd never seen this one....another in the hillerman series i saw was a little better

i can't believe joe shut his wife out like that ...her being sick and all......i don't know, seems like he could have dealt with that better....

yo, did ya'll see adam beach's gut???......oh lord!!!!!
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Old 07-12-2004, 02:32 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geronimo

yo, did ya'll see adam beach's gut???......oh lord!!!!!

lol...i said that to my mom last night. she jus laffed at me.
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Old 07-12-2004, 02:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geronimo
yo, did ya'll see adam beach's gut???......oh lord!!!!!
Come on - he had to gain some gut to make it realistic! :D

I haven't seen a skinny Ndn guy over 35!

Oh and Adam - switch to anything but tighty whities!
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Old 07-12-2004, 09:16 PM   #8
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Talking

tighty whities!!! lol

:rofl2: :rofl2:

i was thinking the same thing myself!!!
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Old 07-14-2004, 09:54 AM   #9
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It was pretty good all around. I liked graham greenes character,he did a good job of getting on my nerves. I think the whole romance aspect of it was a little lost,and sometimes i couldnt figure out exactly what they were doing..but over-all,thumbs up.

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Old 07-14-2004, 10:01 AM   #10
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I liked it.
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Old 07-14-2004, 10:36 AM   #11
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Did get to see it Sunday or Monday or whatever...aren't they replaying it tonight?
My mom is wanting us to record it tonight. *L* So I'll get to see it, I did think it was the same movie from the last one...I didn't realize they were a series of books. That's pretty kewl. I did like the first two! :)
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Old 07-15-2004, 12:33 PM   #12
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I didn't see it Sunday because of the death of my cat but I saw it last night.
I agree that the pace was chaotic and jumped all over from one scene to another. The other episodes flowed better.
It was sorta like a soap opera--again, unlike the others--with all the kissing and going off to the bedroom. I know they were trying to show Leaphorn's way of dealing with the stress of his wife but I don't think the bedroom scene was necessary to do it--not that I'm a prude it just didn't play well.
I don't know if Adam needed to be pudgy for some other role but he was definitely turning into the Pillsbury dough boy: his face and torso. Take care of yourself Beach!
Since I don't read Hillerman I don't know how true to the books these shows are, but I thought that Chee's whole character went down the toilet in this episode. What a weenie.
Are there really "Slick Nakai's" out on the rez? That was weird.
I'm still glad I saw it but I don't think it was as good as the others.
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Old 11-27-2007, 08:56 PM   #13
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Ok, so I'm 3 and a half years late responding to this thread. Excuse being that I just found it. Got all 3 PBS movies from American Mysteries and have watched them several times. Also have all of Hillerman's books. While all the movies are different from the plots in the books, it's to be expected. I personally found the shows very entertaining once I stopped picking out the changes to the novels and think the casting of Leaphorn and Chee is right on the money. Guess there won't be any more of these movies with these two actors and supporting cast as it's been over 3 years since the last one and seems like Beach and Studi have gone on to bigger things. And kind of doubt Hillerman will write much anymore since his last book in the series, Skelton Man, was not up to par, looked as if it had been ghost-written and had several obvious mistakes in the final editing. So saying, I still love the series, both novels and movies..........Geez, this is my 13th post, so I need to find my other threads and post another one before I walk under a ladder to avoid a black cat crossing my path, ...

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Old 11-27-2007, 09:43 PM   #14
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I'm saved from the number 13 by correcting myself. The Shape Shifters is the last book in the Hillerman series........
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