FILM OF THE WEEK
Sad to think there is a whole generation that has never experienced the simple joy of watching two men, one fat and one thin, doing some really silly dancing.
Stan & Ollie (2018), on Friday (19/2) on BBC1 at 20:25, shows Laurel & Hardy, superannuated and ill, on a tour of depressing halls in Britain and Ireland in 1953. It is difficult to overestimate the pleasures of Jon S. Baird’s direction and Jeff Pope’s script. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly display extraordinary verbal and physical fluency as a pair of flawed human beings yoked together by partnership, rivalry and affection, while Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda, as their wives, offer much more than support. I saw it in Gloucester’s horrible Cineworld and people were in tears, surprised by joy and sadness. You don’t get films like this on Netflix.
On Sunday (14/2) at 22:00, BBC4 has Britt-Marie Was Here (2019), based on a heartwarming book by Fredrik Backman, who wrote the charming A Man Called Ove. Directed, incidentally, by Tuva Novotny, so delightful in Dag, the hilariously gloomy Norwegian sitcom about a marriage counsellor who hates marriage. Good luck trying to find that.
On Monday (15/2) at 01:35, Film4 has A Fantastic Woman (2017), which we showed in 2018/19. A lovely film about a transgender woman whose life is shaken by the loss of her older boyfriend. Well told by the talented Chilean Sebastián Lelio, who also gave us Gloria and, in English, Disobedience.
On Tuesday (16/2) at 23:20, Film4 has Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013), an explicit film which managed to upset armchair lesbians by presenting a male perspective on lesbian activity. I’m not getting dragged into that. I’ll stick to telling you that it is three hours long.
On Saturday (13/2) at 22:00, BBC2 has Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978), with Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage as three rustbelt friends in Vietnam. Memorable for a game of Russian Roulette, which was probably not a real Vietnamese torture technique, and Stanley Myers’s transcendent Cavatina, played by John Williams on classical guitar.
On Monday (15/2) at 22:00, Channel 4 has Catching a Killer: A Diary From the Grave (2020), the gripping true story of the would-be vicar who murdered for money.
On Tuesday (16/2) at 00:55, Film4 has The Riot Club (2014). Two first-year students at Oxford join the famous Riot Club, where they dress up and behave boorishly. Remind you of anyone?
On Friday (19/2) at 23:35, BBC1 has Witness (1985). Irresistible to anyone of either sex who has a heart.
Other modern films of interest
On Saturday (13/2) at 22:55, Channel 5 has Chicago (2002), with Renée Zellwegger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere and a lot of Windy City song and dance action.
On Sunday (14/2), three family animated features. At 15:50, ITV2 has Chicken Run (2000); ; at 16:00, BBC1 has Monsters University (2013); and at 19:10, E4 has Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011). Later on, at 21:00, Paramount has The Patriot (2000), with Mel Gibson winning the War of Independence or, as he would prefer, American Revolution. It can also be seen on Wednesday 17/2 at 21:00. At 22:45, BBC2 has Edie (2017), with the determined Sheila Hancock as an 83-year-old woman who climbs a mountain. And why not? (Also on BBC4 on Thursday at 21.00.)
On Monday (15/2) at 21:00, BBC4 has Whirlybird: Live Above LA (2020), a Storyville documentary about a husband-and-wife team who hover over Los Angeles seeking out crime stories in what we used to call a chopper before that became a regrettable double-entendre (also Friday 00:35).
On Tuesday (16/2) at 23:00 there is The Last Igloo (2019), a documentary on BBC4. An indigenous man in an Inuit settlement sets out into the bleak wasteland of Greenland to see if he can live like his forebears, including building an igloo.
On Saturday (13/2) at 20:00, Talking Pictures has Eyewitness (1971), which would have been FILM OF THE WEEK if we’d both seen it and I didn’t feel bad about bigging up a 50-year-old film. I have only seen the trailer, which Talking Pictures has been showing all week, and it would seem to have everything. Local interest in the shape of Mark Lester, given top billing as “the boy from Oliver,” a villainous Lionel Jeffries, and Susan George in her pomp. Stephen gave it 4- when there were only 4 stars, recalling it as exciting with great chases but weak in places and with over-sadistic violence. Mark Lester went on to be a physiotherapist.
On Saturday (13/2) at 11:00 on Film4, there is A Shot in the Dark (1964): proto-Clouseau, Also to be seen on Friday (19/2) at 16:20. At 16:55, Paramount has Will Penny (1967), a Western with Charlton Heston. Also to be seen on Friday (19/2) at 13:50.
On Monday (15/2) at 11:55, Paramount has Attack! (1956), a Robert Aldritch WWII movie with Jack Palance. At 16:50, Film4 has The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), a Korean War film with William Holden and Grace Kelly.
On Wednesday (17/2) at 21:00, Sony Action has Bugsy (1991), an underrated gangster movie with a dream cast of Warren Beatty, Annette Bening and Harvey Keitel. At 23:20, Film4 has Beautiful Thing (1996), a sweet teenage comedy from a play by Jonathan Harvey.
On Thursday (18/2) at 22:55, ITV4 has Tremors (1990). Splat!
We’re very pleased that the Guardian has followed us in acclaiming God of the Piano. Critic Cath Clark said this “icy family drama is a virtuoso debut” and called it a “supremely satisfying film”. She gave it four stars. Here’s the full review. The film is on YourScreen until 21 February.
Cry for help
This little newsletter is entertaining to do, but it is a lot of work. If anyone knows a young person who might like to do a bit of checking, let me know. There is no money (we don’t get any either) but there are limitless amounts of reflected glory and the chance to help a worthwhile project.