Chicago leads the charge of razzle-dazzle musicals coming up on the box
John Gore picks out the best of the upcoming week's TV movies, which includes Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta Jones and Richard Gere (pictured above) belting out the tunes in Chicago.
THE restrictions on social gatherings being increased has dashed hopes of a September reopening for Stokescreen, John reports.
"Still no show. "It’s not even as though we can do the show right here, boys and girls! West Side Story in groups of no more than six. It does not bear thinking about. So back to the one eyed monster in the corner of the room until we can reopen safely – needless to say we’ll keep you posted. "
Let’s begin with I, Tonya (BBC2 21.30 Sat 19 Sep) because, it is so much more than it appears on paper. You will read of it being an account of the scandal of Tonya Harding and rival figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan at the 1992 Winter Olympics. What is not immediately apparent is the level of class prejudice aimed at this blue collar athlete in this elitist sport. Margot Robbie delivers her finest performance to date as no nonsense, fiercely competitive Tonya but is overshadowed by the Oscar winning performance of Alison Janney as her sharp tongued and under appreciative mother. This is a true original.
There are a couple of other American biopics of dubious folk heroes. Bugsy (Sony Movie Classics 21.00 Tue 22 Sep) finds Warren Beatty as legendary gangster, Bugsy Siegal, founding father of the cultural capital of Las Vegas in the 1930s. He is very ably supported by the ever wonderful Annette Bening. The movie paints a vivid portrait of California (and Nevada) in the days before the Second World War; the end of an era.
Get Low (Sony Movies 18.55 Wed 23 Sep) is a quirky number which did not get much theatrical exposure at the time of release. Also set in the 1930s, this finds misanthropic hermit, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) planning his own funeral so that he can hear what people say about him after he has ‘gone’. Local funeral director, Bill Murray, is willing to collude in the sham, for a price. What results surprises everyone. I think this should put a smile on your face.
One of the other lighter hearted picks of the week is The Midwife, Sage femme (BBC2 00.45 Sat 26 Sep) in which the middle aged, undervalued midwife of the title (Cathérine Frot) has her ordered world turned upside down by the unexpected appearance of her dead father’s mistress, a wonderfully exuberant turn by Cathérine Deneuve, her polar opposite. Ms Deneuve clearly relishes such a mischievous role for a 75 year old.
There is a whole pocketful of gritty Brits this week. Journeyman (Film4 23.40 Sun 20 Sep) is the tale of a fair to middling boxer who has had one too many failed fights and then has to work his way back to health, hope and family. Paddy Considine gives a profound and compelling performance as well as directing his first feature, with a pre Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker as his wife, struggling to make ends meet and keep some semblance of a marriage intact.
Sweet Sixteen (Film4 01.30 Mon 21 Sep) by local lad made good, Ken Loach, introduced Martin Compston (Line of Duty) to our screens. This is the moving story of a teenager who is determined to acquire enough money to give him and his mother a better life, once she is released from prison. Compston identifies this film as the one that changed his life at a time when he could easily have turned into a life on the wrong side of the law. Having discovered the joy of acting, young Martin committed himself to the craft and has done rather well for himself.
Funny Cow (Film4 23.15 Thu 24 Sep) is the story of a female stand up in the hostile environment of the Northern clubs of the 1970s. Drawing on her own life experience, Funny Cow brings a harder edge to the humour. Maxine Peake commands the film as the title character, reminding of us what life was like before the radical reformation of comedy in the 1980s. There is a rather wonderful scene of a talent audition in which Peake is surrounded by a galaxy of comedy stars; John Bishop, Richard Hawley, Kevin Eldon, Vic Reeves et al. playing woeful hopefuls.
Daphne (Film4 01.25 Thu 24 Sep) finds Emily Beacham as a 30 something stuck in a rut and looking for change. It belongs to an interesting canon of British independent films about Young Women Behaving Badly, which has resulted in some of the more interesting and challenging films of the last decade (Adult Life Skills, Prevenge etc most of which also feature Kenilworth’s own Alice Lowe, curiously).Daphne is infuriating but thoroughly plausible and beautifully realised by Beacham.
Jimi: All is by my Side (BBC2 23.25 Sat 19 Sep) is an illuminating exploration of the life of Jimi Hendrix when he first arrived in London. It contains little of his music but focuses on the sensitive soul of phenomenal talent away from home and adrift in a strange city surrounded by adulating fans. I was particularly taken with the performance of Imogen Poots as his ‘agent’ but André Benjamin (of hip hop artists OutKast) acquits himself well as the sensitive young man so different from his stage persona and reputation.
Musicals of the week: Chicago (5Star 21.00 Sat 19 Sep) finds Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta Jones and Richard Gere belting out the tunes and hoofing like they were born to it in Kander and Ebb’s huge hit musical.
Dreamgirls (5Star 21.00 Sat 19 Sep), directed by Bill Condon (who wrote the screenplay for Chicago) is, loosely, the Supremes' biopic with many of the biggest stars of African American cinema; Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover. It garnered a couple Oscars along the way while reviving the spirit of the age of Civil Rights campaigning and segregation.
Documentaries of the week: Leaning into the Wind (Film4 01.50 Wed 23 Sep) is a film about environmental sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy. While not as strong as the previous film, Rivers and Tides, it shows him working with all manner of natural materials to achieve amazing creations as well as hitting a few rather substantial problems. He is a very affable chap and is well worth an hour and a half of your time. Also, back to the beginning, there is a rare showing of Listen to Britain (Talking Pictures TV 18.30 Tue 22 Sep), directed by Humphrey Jennings, of whom we spoke last time (if you were paying attention). This is life in wartime Britain as it starts to readjust to the prospect of peace and has the audacity to do this through the medium of sound, which, if you knew how crude the recording technology was, was close to madness.
And another thing... The Dead Zone (Horror 21.00 Mon 21 Sep) David Cronenberg’s film based on a Stephen King novel about a populist quasi totalitarian president and a man whose near death experience renders him clairvoyant powers. It sounds very like horror but is more of the supernatural variety and less gory that Cronenberg or King would imply.
Night Moves (Channel4 02.15 Thu 24 Sep) follows a group of eco activists, including Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) that plans to destroy a hydroelectric dam. Ned Kelly (Sony Movies 23.25 Sat 19 Sep) is a sympathetic depiction of a more conventional criminal in this account of Australia’s most famous and mythologised villain. Heath Ledger heads a cast of the biggest names of Oz’s cinematic stars; Geoffrey Rush, Joel Egerton, Naomi Watts and a random Brit, Orlando Bloom.
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Talking Pictures TV 08.40 Fri 25 Sep) is a film I have not seen but a title that has haunted me ever since I heard Pete Atkin sing about it in 1972. It is a dark thriller with the inimitable Barbara Stanwyk and Van Hefflin. This is classic film noir where a reunion of old school friends gradually leads to the revealing of dark secrets. Whatever happens, ya know there’s a dame at the bottom of it!
Major Dundee (Sony Movie Action 13.00 Thu 24 Sep) is regarded as Sam Peckinpah’s first classic movie. Charlton Heston and Richard Harris lead the cavalry unit which decides to take action to curb the attacks on settlers by intervening down Mexico way. A story as old as the Rio Grande, it would seem.
Finally, here is a shameless plug for the two pieces that I have contributed to the Kenilworth Arts Festival. If you go to www.kenilworthartsfestival.co.uk you will find a celebration of the life of Earl Cameron and his 2015 In Conversation at the BFI Southbank when he was a sprightly 97-year-old. https://www.kenilworthartsfestival.co.uk/event/the-life-and-films-of-earl-cameron/ and an illustrated interview, via the wonders of Zoom, with Coventry based writer and director Debbie Isitt https://www.kenilworthartsfestival.co.uk/event/debbie-isitt-on-films-and-film-making/.
As ever, it is always good to hear back from you, so please put your thoughts down and send them to us at Stokescreenfilmclub@aol.com Fb StokeScreen at CNWSC and www.StokeScreen.uk