Musicals to make the week go with a swing
JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club, with his latest pick of the films coming to TV (from Saturday, March 20).
This week offers you a whole host of musicals, which will please many of you but leaves me wary and sceptical at best. I think that I was probably traumatised by Julie Andrews as a child. Did she not realise how bad sugar is for children’s teeth, even if it does help the medicine go down?!!
Meet Me in St Louis 1944 (BBC2 13.15 Sat 20 March) sees Judy Garland (pictured above) coming of age at the dawn of a new century, featuring the Trolley Song.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 1954 (C5 15.25 Sat 20 March): a plan for populating Oregon in 1850 with Howard Keel, Russ Tamblyn and Julie Newmar (later Catwoman in the 1960s' TV Batman).
Kiss Me Kate 1953 (BBC2 14.15 Sun 21 March) in which Cole Porter brushes up his Shakespeare in a musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew which also includes Too Darn Hot – followed by non musical The Taming of the Shrew 1967 (Sony Classics 8.25 Tue 23 March) with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Thoroughly Modern Millie 1967 (Sony Classics 18.10 Sun 21 March) finds Julie Andrews as a flapper in the roaring twenties in a nostalgic revue with music and lyrics by Sammy Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen.
Sweet Charity 1968 (Sony Classics 16.20 Mon 22 March) finds Shirley MacLaine as a singer dreaming of a better life and brighter lights while belting out Big Spender and If My Friends Could See Me Now, while Sammy Davis Jr rattles through The Rhythm of Life. This was the first feature by choreographer and director, Bob Fosse, who went on to make Cabaret and All That Jazz which find more favour with me.
If that does not appeal, there is always La La Land 2016 (BBC1 23.35 Fri 26 March) pairing Ryan Gosling with Emma Stone in a tale of romance and creative dreams, a better life and brighter lights in the City of Angels.
I think I may find a little more enthusiasm for Baz Luhrmann’s primary coloured, camp soufflé, Moulin Rouge 2001 (Sony 18.30 Sun 21 March) with Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman remodelling popular tunes of our time, including a rather arresting version of The Police’s Roxanne. Stars of stage and screen must have been queuing round the block to have a cameo in this.
It has been a long and demoralising lockdown winter. What does not kill you makes you stronger. Land of Mine 2015 (BBC4 21.00 Sat 20.00) is one of those films that received minimal release but which rocked me back on my heels and remains vivid in my porous memory. It is a Danish story of a group of German PoWs charged with clearing a beach of the mines their comrades had buried earlier in the war. It is a harsh punishment with uncertain outcomes. It resolves itself with forgiveness and compassion. You will be hard pressed to find a better film on TV this week.
Set 30 years later, The Commune 2016 (BBC2 01.15 Sun 21 March) is Thomas Vinterberg’s (Festen) semi-autobiographical account of life in a Danish commune in the liberated 1970s. Pumped up with hopes and hormones, you know that it can only end in tears!
My other choice from the Continental Collection is Dogman 2018 (Channel4 01.00 Mon 22 March) in which Matteo Garrone, who made the terrifying present day Mafia movie, Gomorrah, works on a smaller scale with a nervous dog groomer who deals a little cocaine on the side and tries to manage his psychopathic neighbour in one of the less attractive suburbs of Naples.
Wrested from the grasp of Netflix, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind 2019 (BBC2 22.00 Sun 21 March) is now available for all to see. It is the first feature by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who also stars in it. This is an uplifting story of a boy in Malawi whose ingenuity and invention allows him to save his farm and his community from famine. I think this may need a box of tissues warning. I look forward to seeing it very much.
From across the pond comes Love and Mercy 2014 (BBC2 23.20 Sat 20 March), which has not been on our screens since last summer. This is the Brian Wilson biopic, a tortured genius who, in later life, was controlled by his somewhat dodgy psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti). The narrative nips back and forth between the sun and surf of the 1960s and the psychotic 1980s. John Cusack plays the older Brian, Paul Dano his youthful, more slender self. I’m not sure how accurate all this is but it is a fascinating yarn to spin around some sublime music.
Detroit 2017 (BBC2 23.20 Fri 26 March) debuted on BBC4 in the autumn but re-emerges this week; about heavy-handed policing, rioting and reaction, it remains as painfully relevant as ever. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) it brought British actors John Boyega and Will Poulter to the fore in the USA.
Heist 2001 (Sony Movies 21.00 Sat 20 March, 01.35 Sat 27 March) is a characteristically contradictory film by David Mamet. Full of tension and smart dialogue, it manages to avoid some of his more stilted performances, probably because Rebecca Pigeon (Mrs Mamet) is surrounded by heavyweights such as Gene Hackman, Danny de Vito and Delroy Lindo.
The British contingent this week is headed up by To Kill a King 2003 (Film4 23.45 Sun 21 March), a fictionalised account of the trial and execution of Charles 1 (I don’t think that counts as a spoiler). Tim Roth plays a suitably irascible Oliver Cromwell, Dougray Scott, a more conciliatory Thomas Fairfax, but the show is stolen by Rupert Everett as the unrepentant Charles.
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands 2002 (Film4 23.45 Sun 21 March) is as close to a romantic comedy as Shane Meadows (This is England) is likely to get. Robert Carlyle goes to great lengths to win the heart of Shirley Henderson, helped and hindered in equal measure by his mates. It was Meadows’ first venture with a starry cast although he seems happier working with a bunch of his less celebrated chums. Still, it is worth 104 minutes of your time.
The More You Ignore Me 2018 (ITV3 22.00 Sun 21 March) is Jo Brand’s adaptation of her own novel which draws on Jo’s gift for comedy and her previous experience as a psychiatric nurse. It explores the life and exploits of a young mum (Sheridan Smith) struggling with mental health issues, swinging between extremes. Ella Hunt is very impressive as her long-suffering daughter. The movie is as unpredictable as its subject. The comedy comes in unlikely places and has the ring of truth about it. This was one of the last films I programmed before the closure of the screen at Warwick Arts Centre and I was determined to include it as it covers a difficult topic with humour and humanity.
Steaming 1985 (TPTV 22.15 Sun 21 March) was the last feature by Joseph Losey (Accident, The Go Between), an adaptation of Nell Dunn’s stage play about a group of women who fight to save their local Turkish bath. Vanessa Redgrave and Sarah Miles lead the campaign, overseen by Diana Dors in overalls.
Finally, for those of you who miss Thursday nights at the Covntry & North Warwickshire Sports Club, two of the StokeScreen favourites from the time before curfew: Tom Hardy giving a riveting performance as Locke 2014 (Channel4 01.35 Thu 25 March) and Sally Hawkins engages with The Creature from the Black Lagoon in a secret research establishment in Guillermo del Toro’s magical realist The Shape of Water 2017 (Film4 21.00 Fri 26 March).
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
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