Ryan Gosling aims high with Neil Armstrong drama
JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club, with his latest pick of the movies coming to TV (from Saturday, April 17).
The lifting of lockdown has allowed me to talk to Ryan, the new manager of the Coventry and North Warwickshire Sports Club, about the prospects of resuming StokeScreen activities from September. If people behave sensibly between now and then....well, there is a possibility of us resuming our programme. We shall have a one-way system in place, regulated air exchange and a socially distanced seating plan. With luck we shall all be vaccinated and therefore completely indestructible with nothing to fear!!!
In the meantime, here are a few things to look out for on TV this week. I shall start with a trio of movies that I have not seen but interest me enough to make the effort to catch up.
First Man 2018 (Channel4 23.15 Sat 17 April) is the account of Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, as a psychological drama. Ryan Gosling plays Armstrong, Claire Foy his, unsurprisingly, anxious wife and the proceedings are directed by the flamboyant director of La La Land, Damien Chazelle, here in a more subdued mood. The film (pictured above) did flit through the multiplexes ahead of awards season last year and gathered positive reviews from national critics.
Claire Foy also appears in The Girl in the Spider’s Web 2018 (Film4 21.00 Fri 23 April) as the super hacker, Lisbeth Salander, heroine of Stieg Larson’s previous Girl trilogy tales (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc). Foy is a million miles from HRH in The Crown as it is possible to get – as far as we know...!
Charlie Says 2018 (Film4 23.15 Sat 17 April) is the latest film by Mary Harron, who brought the disturbing American Psycho to the screen in 2000. Revisiting the singular world of life with a psychopath, Charlie Says is an account of the notorious activities of Charles Manson but viewed through the eyes of one of the three women who shared his life, Leslie van Houten (Hannah Murray, Game of Thrones). Manson is played by another Brit, the surprisingly cast Matt (Dr Who) Smith. I can’t wait to see this!
Terence Malick is another Hollywood maverick who made his name in the 1970s with Badlands and Days of Heaven. Tree of Life 2010 (Sony Movies 15.20 Sun 18 April) is a fairly baffling but visually stunning spiritual rumination on Life, the Universe and Everything which is the purest cinema. If you have a big screen, relax into this film like a warm bath and let it envelope you.
Documentary of the week is also very visual, but of a more down-to-earth nature. Leaning into the Wind 2017 (Film4 21.00 Tue 20 April) examines the work and practises of environmental sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy was in residence when the Mead Gallery at Warwick Arts Centre opened in 1985 and he created a number of his transitory works around the Warwick University campus - animals woven from reeds and holes in water, for example. I was spellbound by what he produced and how well he worked with young people. This film gives you some sense of how special he is.
Stephen Frears is one of our most eminent directors, having made Dangerous Liaisons and The Queen but, to my mind, he is at his best when he gets angry. Dirty Pretty Things, which we screened last year, showed his wrath at the exploitation of refugees and immigrants in London’s nocturnal economy. Ten years later, he made Philomena 2013 (BBC1 23.35 Fri 23 April), with Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. This is the story of an Irish woman whose son was born out of wedlock and taken in by the Catholic Church. She never saw him again. Coogan plays Martin Sixsmith, the BBC journalist who investigates the story and pursues the clues to discover the long lost son. This is probably Coogan's finest performance to date and seethes with righteous anger. Dame Judi ain’t bad, either!
Emerging from the archives is An Unsuitable Job for a Woman 1981 (Film4 01.50 Fri 23 April), an adaptation of a novel by P D James directed by ex-Time Out critic, Chris Petit. It stars Coventry’s very own Billie Whitelaw as Elizabeth Leaming who invites private investigator Cordelia Grey (Pippa Guard) to investigate the ‘suicide’ of her son. Dark, austere and very English, this stands as a minor landmark in British cinema.
Five years earlier, Nic Roeg (Don’t Look Now, Walkabout) directed The Man Who Fell to Earth 1976 (Talking Pictures TV 22.50 Sat 17 April) with David Bowie as the eponymous alien, fleeing the death of his own planet to seek a new home for his family, bringing with him knowledge and skills unknown to us Earthlings. The tale of decay and corruption that ensues is desperately sad. The film is a bit of a mixed bag but still resonant and worth watching in these less than tolerant times.
Babe 1995 (ITV 13.50 Sun 18 April) with James Cromwell and a very smart sheep herding pig, is delightful and has, I suspect, prompted a couple of generations to become vegetarians.
Ema 2019 (Channel4 01.35 Sat 24 April) is the account of a disastrous adoption. It's by Chilean director Pablo Larain (Jackie) who makes measured, intelligent films and is well served here by Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tú Mama Tambien) and Mariana Girolamo. Also reappearing is Happy as Lazzaro 2017 (Film4 00.55 Tue 20 April), an Italian fable of the village innocent, and a ruthless and exploitative Baroness.
Also showing this week:
I, Tonya 2017 (BBC2 22.00 Sun 18 April) Ice skating shenanigans and class conflict in America with Margot Robbie and an unforgettably coruscating Alison Janney as daughter and mother.
Sexy Beast 2000 (Channel4 00.10 Mon 19 April) unease on the Costa del Crime for safecracker Ray Winstone when a terrifying Ben Kingsley calls on him for ‘one last job’.
RERER Wah Wah Wah. The Good the Bad and the Ugly 1966 (Paramount 21.00 Mon 19 April) is Sergio Leone’s most successful spaghetti Western with an iconic score by Ennio Morricone. Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef and Eli Wallach play the three antiheroes of the title but I have never worked out which is which. None is particularly good, and they are all pretty ugly!
Her 2013 (Film4 01.25 Sun 18 April), is one marked out for a future StokeScreen programme - a smart romcom with a difference: unlucky in love IT programmer, Joaquin Phoenix, falls in love with his operating system, which sounds remarkably like Scarlett Johansson. This asks serious questions in a lighthearted way.
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 Facebook: StokeScreen at CNWSC and www.StokeScreen.uk