JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club, with his pick of the movies coming on TV (from 25 July).
At first glance, I was underwhelmed by the schedule for this week but upon reflection, I think it could be rather good.
The headline film is The Post (Channel 4, 21.15, Sat, 25 July), Steven Spielberg’s account of the Washington Post’s investigation into the Pentagon Papers about shortcomings and failings in US government policy in Vietnam in 1971. It is a glossy number, fronted by Tom Hanks (pictured above) and ‘dame’ Meryl Streep which follows the All the President’s Men model. It is a grubby scandal and a good yarn which probably looks quite modest by current standards. This is, I think, its first screening on terrestrial TV. It merited a couple of Oscar nominations but in customary Spielberg fashion, went away empty-handed.
More successful was Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain (5 Select, 21.00, Sun, 26 July) an American Civil War story of a Confederate soldier (Jude Law) returning to his sweetheart (Nicole Kidman) in Cold Mountain, North Carolina. The Oscar was awarded to Rene (Bridget Jones) Zellweger for her supporting role as the backwoods farmer who nurses the soldier back to health. Minghella brought a foreigner’s eye to American stories and created something from a distinctly different perspective.
Two nominations but no award for Inside Llewyn Davis (Channel 4, 02.40, Wed, 29 July) in which the Coen Brothers, up to mischief as ever, follow an aspiring folk singer (and his cat) around the bars of New York for a week in 1961. The parallels and resonances with Dylan are very clear and it has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, A Most Violent Year) plays Davis, at one point deliriously upstaged by Adam Driver’s ‘novelty’ folk singer. It’s hip, man.
Nominated for three Oscars without success was Cold War, (Channel 4, 21.00, Wed, 29 July), which played at StokeScreen in May last year. The tale is of a singer and her musician lover, in the 50s & 60s, looking to escape the austerity of Cold War Poland in favour of the freedom and vigour of Paris. It has a New Wave feel about it and a melancholy that matches the music. Pawel Pawilikovsy had ‘joked’ that his previous film, Ida (Film 4, 22.45, Tue, 28 July) about a Polish nun unearthing dark secrets from the wartime, was designed expressly to win an Oscar. It won Best Foreign Film in 2015.
Two years later, that award was given to The Salesman (BBC2, 00.10, Mon, 27 July) Asghar Farhadi’s study of an actor, rehearsing Death of a Salesman, and his wife, confronted by alarming events when they move from their crumbling Tehran flat to a seemingly more pleasant apartment. Farhadi makes great dramas that explore relationships and present a very different view of Iranian life. It is not easy viewing but it is rewarding.
A similarly serious subject is explored in Babel (Sony Movies, 21.00, Fri, 31 July). Alejandro Inarritú’s ambitious film finds connections between four stories from different corners of the world and weaves them together into his vision of the human condition. I have not seen this in a while but I recall the impression it made on me. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett (Mrs America) lead a stellar international cast.
My last Oscar winner of the week, I promise, is the wonderful Julianne Moore, who earned her statuette for Still Alice (Channel 4, 00.30, Mon, 27 July), playing a linguistics professor, stricken with early onset dementia. She creates a compassionate portrait of the wasting of a great mind which is touching and not without a sense of humour.
Following on from an Oscar winner of a week or so ago, Jackie, Parkland (Film 4, 23.40, Mon, 27 July) follows the story of the assassination of JFK from the point of view of the emergency services and first responders to the Parkland Hospital, how they reacted and how it affected them.
Panning the Klondike gravel of the wee small hours I found....Charlie Chaplin!! Shoulder Arms (Talking Pictures TV, 03.10, Mon, 27 July) finds Charlie in the First World War being sent on a perilous mission behind enemy lines. It helps to be reminded, every so often, what was so exceptional about this artist and how he became recognised and loved around the world. Do not adjust your set, it really is silent.
Chevalier (Film 4, 01.45, Mon, 27 July) follows six male friends on a fishing trip in the Aegean. It all gets absurdly competitive (who would have thought?!!) and writer/director, Athina Rachel Tsangari takes great delight in watching surging testosterone levels turn civilised professionals into savages. Wickedly funny.
Elsewhere, Cat Ballou (Sony Movie Channel, 21.00, Wed, 29 July) finds Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole as minstrels commenting on the action in this comedy western and Jane Fonda filling a pair of jeans in a way that I never thought possible, aged 13!
The Admirable Crichton (Sony Movie Classics, 11.15, Thu, 30 July) has Kenneth More serving as the Jeeves to a crew of toffs marooned on a desert island. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, it is the first of a clutch of beloved British comedies that he made that include Alfie, Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine.
And then, there is The Rainmaker (Talking Pictures TV, 16.50, Wed, 29 July). Taken from a script by Tennessee Williams, it has Burt Lancaster as a con man who promises to bring rain to the drought-stricken land of depression America while trying to win the heart of Kathryn Hepburn. Never seen it, but it sounds fun.
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