The Beatles lead a movie line-up that'll make you feel all right
Kevin Cryan has taken the TV remote off John Gore this week and looks ahead to the best movies on the box during the week starting October 3.
As part of Black History Month, the BBC is screening Edris Elba's gritty directorial début Yardie (BBC 2 09.45 Sat 03 Oct) an hard-hitting crime drama set in 1970s Kingston and 1980s Hackney.
A young man D (played with great conviction by Aml Ameen) grows up under the wing of a Kingston don and music producer (Sheldon Shepherd), who dispatches him to London (with cocaine strapped under his clothes) where he reconnects with his childhood sweetheart (Naomi Ackie). But before he can be persuaded to abandon his life of crime D encounters a man who shot his brother 10 years earlier and embarks on a quest for vengeance, a quest which brings him into conflict with vicious London gangster Rico (Stephen Graham). .
Elba's film, adapted for the screen from Jamaican Victor Headley's 1992 novel by scriptwriters Brock Norman Brock (Bronson) and Martin Stellman (Babylon, Queen and Country) is a tough but humane depiction of the Jamaican diaspora in 1980s London and boasts a terrific reggae soundtrack.
Then there is director Steve McQueen's 2013 adaptation of Solomon Northup's memoir 12 Years a Slave (Channel 4 9pm Sat 03 Oct) which essential viewing for anyone who may be under the impression that altogether too much is being made of the "slavery issue" at the moment.
McQueen - whose third feature this is - has made a most potent piece of cinema, a humane tale of suffering, survival and courage about a freeborn man Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) kidnapped and sold into slavery that is difficult to forget
The film received nine Academy Award nominations of which it won three: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Amondi Nyong'o who played Patsey, a slave who works alongside Northup at a Louisiana cotton plantation.
The film was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts recognized it with the Best Film and the Best Actor award for Chiwetel Ejiofor.
The movie was later named the 44th greatest film since 2000 in a BBC poll of 177 critics.
It's not often that I can look back on the Doris Day comedies of the late fifties or early sixties without squirming just a little. (Even the Rock Hudson/Doris Day "sex comedies", well played though they are, now appear to me to be just a tad tasteless)
That said, I have to say that if one is looking for a little light relief -and who isn't these days? - one could do worse than have a peek at a delightful Day comedy Teacher's Pet (Talking Pictures 6.10pm Sat 05 Oct) in which Clark Gable stars as a pugnacious newspaper editor (an older version of the part he played years earlier in It Happened One Night) who, instead of lecturing to Day's journalism class, decides to enrol as a pupil with all the complications and misunderstandings that inevitably ensue.
Fay and Michael Kanin's screenplay does become a little strained towards the end, but Gable and Day are interesting enough a pair to hold the viewer's interest to the end. And there is some sterling work from the now all-but-forgotten Gig Young, who was Oscar-nominated for his performance as Doris's other suitor.
Somewhat less frothy is Welsh Nyoni's I Am Not A Witch (Channel 4 Sun 4 Oct 12:15am) which exposes the clashes between tradition and progress in modern-day Zambia
After a woman accuses Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) of using evil powers to make her spill a bucket of water, the eight-year-old orphan is sent to a witch camp run by an exploitive leader (Henry BJ Phiri). Adopted by the older inmates, she finds herself on a TV chat show promoting the leader's eggs after he claims that she can solve crimes and predict rainfall. The film throws light on the superstition, ignorance and prejudice that enables a corrupt elite in many African countries to intimidate the lower classes and oppress women.
What really keeps the viewer's eyes on the screen is Mulubwa's terrific performance
In the 1950s, Budd Boetticher (1916-2001) directed a handful of understated westerns starring a mature Randolph Scott (Scott was 57) that have become widely and deservedly recognized as minor classics. The best of these can be viewed as cinematic morality plays, not that either star or director aim at anything quite so highfalutin. Budd Boetticher's pictures are the visual equivalent of the Hemingway prose style: clean, pared-down, understated and shot through the dark humour of stoicism. It is said that Buchanan Rides Alone, a western about a loner battling a corrupt town which is darkest and funniest of the Scott cycle was much admired by Sergio Leone.
Comanche Station (Film 4 Wed 7 3:10pm) the final film in the series, is often viewed as a companion piece thematically to John Ford's The Searchers
Scripted, like three previous films, Seven Men From Now, The Tall T and Ride Lonesome, by Burt Kennedy this film centres on Jefferson Cody (Scott) rescuing a Mrs Lowe (Nancy Gates) a rancher's wife who has been kidnapped by Comanches. However, his partners in the search, Ben Lane (Claude Akins) Frank (Skip Homeier) and Dobie (Richard Rust), decide the bounty should be split three ways rather than four and plan to double-cross him. What follows in a kind of cat and mouse game.
Randolph Scott is perfect as the taciturn, leathery-faced hero and the well-cast Claude Akins makes a suitably colourful and not-dislikeable villain.
American Hustle (More 4 9pm Wed Oct 7) directed by David O. Russell written by Eric Warren Singer and Russell is a fictionalised account of 1970's FBI Abscam operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s which exposed politics in New Jersey. It stars Christian Bale (almost unrecognisable under a comb-over that raises a few laughs by itself) and Amy Adams as two con artists who are forced by an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to set up an elaborate sting operation on corrupt politicians, including the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner).
It's big, brash and at times not all that easy to follow, but for all that it has some great things going for it.
The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards but in the end came away with none.
Set in the picturesque city of the title, In Bruges (Film 4 11pm Wed 7 Oct) is foul-mouthed Martin McDonagh-directed comedy which focuses on two London hit me Ray, played by Colin Farrell, and Ken, played by Brendan Gleeson who are sent to Belgium to await further orders after Ray has botched his first hit. And therein lies the humour; Ray has no interest in being in the medieval city, and Ken wants to sight all the sights.
This is a truly superb Pinteresque* - the Pinter of The Dumb Waiter - black comedy played for all its worth by Farrell (who up until then knew he had such reserves?) and Gleeson. Footnote
In Harold Pinter's 1957 one-act play The Dumb Waiter, two hit-men, Ben and Gus, are sent by their boss to hide out in a basement in Birmingham. They bounce off the walls for a while, growing irritable with each other,
In In Bruges when the order that is being waited comes through it is that Mr. Cranham has to kill Mr. Blakely. The “in joke” is Cranham and Blakely are the pseudonyms that Ken and Ray use when they check into the hotel and the surnames of the two actors who played Ben and Gus, in the 1987 TV production of the Pinter play, Colin Blakely, Kenneth Cranham. )
As classic film comedies go, it's hard to beat Howard Hawks's His Girl Friday (Talking Pictures Fri 9 12.10pm) a wonderful reworking the Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur play The Front Page. The script was written by Charles Lederer and Ben Hecht. The major change that Hawks makes is that in the film is that role of Hildy Johnson is given to a woman, in this case Rosilind Russell with all acerbic edginess she had at her command.
The plot is simple. A newspaper editor, played by Cary Grant at his most devilishly charming, uses every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter who happens to be his ex-wife (Russell) from remarrying. What follows is as fast and funny as you could hope. The interplay between the two leads is matchless and the great verbal athleticism with which the dialogue is delivered a wonder.
In his book Sleeping With Strangers, which explores the evolution of sex in movies in mainstream cinema, the critic David Thomson claims His Girl Friday may be the best movie ever made. I'd not go quite that far, but I do agree with the late Clive James who said: "The comedies, after all, were mostly pretty good, and one of them, “His Girl Friday,” was great.
The historical significance of Richard Lester A Hard Day's Night, (BBC4 Fri 9 7.30pm) is that it captures the Beatles at a pivotal point in their development - a point of at which they were achieving worldwide fame – the point at which the group presented a mature face to the world and point at which it began to fall apart.
It's not altogether irrelevant to say that when the film hit the screen in 1964 Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele were on the big screen in two confections that were hardly memorable, Wonderful Life and It's All Happening. Elvis's screen appearance of that year in the George Sidney directed Viva Las Vegas was pleasing enough but it was to prove to be a minor halt along the road to his becoming what was the ultimate Elvis Presley tribute act.
Lester has said that A Hard Day’s Night essentially wrote itself and taken directly from the short time he and scriptwriter Alun Owen spent hanging out with the boys, This means that he put on screen a close approximation of John, Paul, George and Ringo he met in real life. The whole thing was served up as a headily brewed mixture with the odd nod the The Goons, with whom Lester had a long association, to mock cinema verité, François Truffaut and Jacques Tati, and Buster Keaton, with a dash of the Marx Brothers thrown in to spice things up.
It was heady stuff at the time , and it still is. Footnote:
John Lennon (b:9 October 1940 ) who would have been 80 this week was a mere five years younger than Elvis Presley. Think about that when you hear people talk about the youth revolution of the 1960s.