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Outstanding Bening in a deliciously ironic tale

JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club, with his latest pick of the films coming to TV (from Sat, May 29).

News of the week is that the Sony Movies channel has been rebranded the Great Movie Channel. Nothing else appears to have changed in the content or aspiration of the films they show; still nuggets in the silt but now, they have greatness thrust upon them. It is a lot to live up to. I suspect that they are commandeering the epithet of greatness as the other studios consolidate their streaming services.

In other news, Amazon is buying MGM studios and back catalogues to bulk up their on-line content (chiefly, the Bond franchise) to compete with Netflix and Disney+. It is getting cut-throat out there.

Cinemas have reopened. I would love to have feedback from the brave souls among you who have already ventured back. Please let us know how you found it. What did you see? Was it worth the wait? StokeScreen plans to resume at the end of September (tentatively the 23rd ). More news will follow once things are confirmed.

We have a selection of titles featuring strong female leads. I start with a couple featuring Annette Bening, pictured above, centre, in 20th Century Women 2016 (BBC2 23.40 Sat 29 May) which is on the list for screening to the film club. It has a deliciously ironic tone. Set in 1979 in California, it is a tale of bringing up a boy child in a passionately feminist environment. Bening plays mother, Dorothea Fields with two young women living under the same roof, Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning. Anyone who lived through the era will recognise the issues under discussion, the explorations of new ways of living and the contradictions that arose. Bening captures the complexities of her character and of the times beautifully and delivers an outstanding comedic performance.

She appears later in the week in a very different, but equally nuanced role as actress Gloria Grahame in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool 2017 (BBC2 13.30 Mon 31 May). The star of The Bad and the Beautiful, The Big Heat and Oklahoma finds herself back in Liverpool in 1981, with a family who had cared for her years before. A relationship develops between the ageing screen queen and a young aspiring actor, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott). She is clearly not well but this touching tale of finding love in the twilight years brims with sparkle and warmth.

Annette Bening is a good reason to watch any movie. Her performances, certainly in the last 20 years, are subtly shaded and very human. It is definitely worth adding American Beauty and The Kids are Alright to your viewing list, if you have not yet seen them.

On the related subject of reimagining Hollywood stars in England and off screen we have My Week with Marilyn 2011 (BBC4 21.00 Thu 3 June). A very youthful Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) is Colin Clark, production assistant on the making of The Prince and the Show Girl, charged with looking after Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during the troubled shoot with an irascible Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). As in Liverpool, this is a young and starstruck lad peering beneath the mask of glamour and celebrity to uncover a flawed individual. The film is part of the Screen Idols evening on BBC4.

When it comes down to strong and determined women, you would have to go a long way to find the equal of Frances McDormand’s Mildred, seeking justice for her murdered daughter in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 2017 (Channel4 21.30 Sat 29 May). A StokeScreen favourite, it reappears regularly, as does The Shape of Water 2017 (Film4 21.00 Thu 3 June) where Sally Hawkins meets the Creature from the Black Lagoon in a magical-realist Cold War fantasy.

From the 1950s, a genuine classic sci-fi horror puts in an appearance: The Thing from Another World 1957 (GMC (Great Movie Classics - that’s Sony Classics to you!) 19.15 Wed 2 June) tells of hostile visitors from another planet (as the name suggests). It credits Christian Nyby as director but it has the fingerprints of Howard Hawks all over it: a tight unit of skilled people presented in pools of light amid the darkness, smart banter and some irreverence etc.

Alternatively, if you follow the path of the magical and mysterious, there is Peter Weir’s early Aussie classic, Picnic at Hanging Rock 1975 (Film4 23.25 Thu 3 June) about the unexplained disappearance of a party of schoolgirls in the outback in Australia in 1900. It is not horrific, but haunting and uneasy. It also boasts a memorable soundtrack by Georg Zamfir and his pan pipes.

This brings us on to this week’s music doc. How do you follow a celebration of Bob Dylan? How better than with Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band 2019 (BBC4 21.00 Fri 4 June), Robertson’s account of one of the great American bands who helped shape Americana folk in the 1970s.

It is half term week, so you may want something to stick kids in front of while the hail lashes the window panes. Try Missing Link 2019 (BBC1 15.50 Sat 29 June). It is made by Laika Studios, the folk who made Kubo and the Two Strings and Box trolls. It sounds similar to Aardman’s Pirates: an Adventure with Scientists, featuring an expedition from Victorian London to the Himalayas in search of a Yeti or such. Voice cast includes Stephen Fry and Hugh Jackman. This will be on my list to watch.

The late night Indian indulgences are both unknown to me. Eeb Allay Ooo 2019 (Channel4 01.45 Wed 2 June) is a comedy drama of a young man, newly arrived in Delhi, contracted to drive monkeys out of the city centre.

Market 2019 (Channel4 02.20 Fri 4 June) follows the lives, and the mutual help that market traders offer one another.

In passing:

 Steve McQueen’s Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave 2013 (Film4 21.00 Wed 3 June) grasps the nettle of America’s past in graphic depictions of life on plantations, and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor.

From an earlier era, in South Africa, Cry, the Beloved Country 1951 (Talking Pictures TV 01.25 Wed 2 June) follows a black minister who goes to the city in search of his lost son where he witnesses the poverty and deprivation in a country sliding towards apartheid.

Serious Charge 1959 (Talking Pictures TV 16.00 Wed 2 June) sounds like the sort of curiosity you would expect Talking Pictures to unearth. Anthony Quayle is an ex-army chaplain running a youth group in a new town who is accused of sexual assault. Lots of contemporary issues at work here but you also get Cliff Richard singing Livin’ Doll for good measure!

 Well-worn favourites but probably worth revisiting on a wet afternoon:

Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn as more mature Robin and Marian 1976 (Film4 15.40 Fri 4 June);

A Fish Called Wanda 1988 (BBC 1 23.45 Fri 4 June) has John Cleese talking dirty in Russian and Michael Palin with chips up his nose;

Four Weddings and a Funeral 1994 (Film4 23.05 Tue 1 June) has Hugh Grant making an unlikely sex symbol of himself, ushering in a more optimistic time for this country.

The search for Great Movies continues but one has to cast the net wider than one channel.

It is always good to hear back from you, so please put your thoughts down and send them to us at Facebook: StokeScreen at CNWSC and

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