JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club, with his latest pick of the best films coming to a box near you (from 5 July).
Welcome to my thirteenth preview of films on TV. What was it about bakers? One for luck? Incompetence? Anyway, the term stuck, detracting attention from the bad luck that the number implies. No such bad luck here. There is a good range of things to watch this week.
Let’s start with a clutch of films that get talked about a lot. It would help if you had seen them so that you can join in the conversation in an informed fashion. They are: The Truman Show (Sony Movies, 14.30, Sun, 5 July) which foresaw or precipitated the development of reality TV; Erin Brokovich (5Star, 22.25, Sun, 5 July) an eco-campaigning real life story with Julia Roberts in Oscar-winning form; Thelma and Louise (Channel 5, 23.05, Mon, 6 July), a feminist anthem of the 1990s with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis (pictured above) and a very young and cheeky Brad Pitt.
I would add to this A Most Violent Year (Sony Movies, 21.00, Wed, 8 July), which is a lot less violent than the title suggests. Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) lead the cast including David Oyelowu (Selma). It is a tale of an aspiring businessman in 1981 New York, struggling against corruption, hijacking and other intimidation without being sucked into the moral quagmire.
Isaac is also to the fore in Ex Machina (Film 4, 23.15, Tue, 7 July) which is thoughtful sci-fi written and directed by Alex Garland. This is cinema of ideas which explores the potential of artificial intelligence in the context of a plausible silicon valley. Garland has recently explored some of these themes further on TV in DEVS. I think this may be one of the most important movies of the decade.
There is another must see movie this week: Boyhood (Channel 4, 01.25, Sun, 5 July) is a masterpiece by Richard Linklater, shot over 12 years, about a boy growing up. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play the parents but the onus falls on Ellar Coltrane and the film maker to sustain continuity in what must be the longest production in history (not made by Orson Welles). Linklater is one of the most perceptive of independent directors whom you may know for his Before trilogy, also with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which gets right inside married life with wit and humanity.
Custody (Film 4, 23.20, Mon, 6 July) comes at family affairs from a different perspective with a battle for custody between divorcing parents that becomes increasingly desperate and frightening. It swept the board at the César awards (French Oscars) last year as well as picking up umpteen prizes from the major international festivals.
The other European title I would recommend, one which I have been trying to get for StokeScreen, is Marshland (La Isla Mínima) (Film 4, 01.45, Sun, 5 July). This is Euro Noir from Spain but with the clearest dialogue of any Spanish film I have heard. I am not sure that this is dialogue you would use on the Costa del Sol, as it all gets a bit messy towards the end, but it will show you a very different view of Spain. It delivers the suspense and shocks very proficiently.
Another independent movie that I recall being very impressed by is The Selfish Giant (Film 4, 01.10, Tue, 7 July), Clio Barnard’s tale of childhood friendship of a young tyke with a Traveller boy. It has the feel of Kes or as the title suggests, something more mythic.
Anita and Me (BBC 2, 00.20, Sat, 11 July) is Meera Syall’s own adaptation of her loosely autobiographical novel about her early life in Wolverhampton. While it does not have quite the freshness of the novel, it is graced with a host of fine character actors including Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kathy Burke, Omid Djalili and Mark Williams.
It is also worth having a look at She, a Chinese (Film 4, 01.55, Fri, 10 July). It follows a bored teenager who escapes her village in China and finds her way to England, where her experiences are far more varied. The interest lies in how she copes with what she encounters, and Britain as viewed from a Chinese perspective.
Classics of the week: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Talking Pictures TV, 21.00, Sat, 4 July), first and still one of the best adaptations of John le Carré with Richard Burton as the agent trying to spring a young woman from East Berlin shortly after the Wall went up.
The Big Chill (Sony Movie Classics, 00.55, Sat, 11 July) was the ensemble movie of the Boomer generation reflecting on the sixties, 10 years after. It was the springboard for the careers of Kevin Kline, Glenn Close and William Hurt which tried to fit hazy, youthful idealism into a more pragmatic 1980 context. I wonder how irritating or naive it looks now. Also, if you ever get a chance to see John Sayles’ first feature, The Return of the Secaucus Seven, see it as it was the previous model for the Big Chill.
The BBC continues its celebration of Alan Bennett with The History Boys (BBC 4, 22.40, Thu, 9 July). Directed by Nicholas Hytner as is Talking Heads, The Madness of King George and The Lady in the Van, this proved to be a springboard for a host of young(er) British actors including James Corden, Stephen Campbell Moore, Russell Tovey and Dominic Cooper.
Sony Movie Channel is touting the arrival of Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire (Sony Movie Classics, 21.00, Fri, 10 July) and for eccentricity from an unlikely source, Film4 offers David Lynch’s Straight Story (Film 4, 11.00, Fri, 10 July) with Richard Farnsworth as the engagingly awkward cuss of the title.
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