Freeview films 18/12/21 to 24/12/21

World Cinema

There doesn’t seem to be any. This is a local Christmas for local people.

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (18/12)        14:00    BBC2           Great Expectations (1946). David Lean’s unsurpassed black-and-white version of Dickens’s most perfectly realised novel, a tale of cruelty and obsession as strange as any fairy story. With Bernard Miles, Valerie Hobson, Jean Simmons, Alec Guinness and, of course, John Mills as Pip. He was apparently 38 when he played the part of a the young man between the ages of 19 and 25.

Monday (20/12)         13:45    BBC2           Carousel (1956). The darkest and most socially-conscious musical in the Rodgers & Hammerstein canon. For some reason, it’s impossible to find a trailer. Some people say there never was one, which seems odd. But here’s a taster. Starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones. Includes ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, ‘The Carousel Waltz’ and ‘June is Bustin’ Out All Over’, a veritable curse for anyone lumbered with that Christian name.

                                       15:50    BBC2            South Pacific (1958). Another Rodgers & Hammerstein winner, with great songs and an appealing setting and plot. With Mitzi Gaynor as a US Navy nurse falling for a French plantation owner (Rossano Brazzi), father of two mixed-race children whom she has to learn to love. Again, no trailer.

Tuesday (21/12)          13:50   BBC2            Doctor Zhivago (1965). David Lean’s sweeping account of Boris Pasternak’s smuggled-out epic about the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, with Julie Christie, Tom Courteney, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson, Rod Steiger and Omar Sharif in the title role. Beautiful and thrilling. Maurice Jarre’s score was criticised, but ‘Lara’s Theme’ will live for ever. Not loved by critics at the time, it has grown in stature ever since.

Wednesday (22/12)   14:00   Sky Arts       American Graffiti (1973). A highly influential, lighthearted study of a group of high-school graduates on their last day of freedom before adulthood. Set against the background of the American glory days of diners, drag racing and dames, a young Ron Howard heads a wonderful ensemble cast including Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford. George Lucas directs a touchstone of 1970s American cinema.

Thursday (23/12)        16:10   ITV2             The Addams Family (1991). The first film made from Charles Addams’s New Yorker cartoons and the subsequent TV series. Starring Angelica Huston as Morticia, the role she was made for, along with Raul Julia as Gomez and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester. Thing is uncredited.

Other modern films of interest

Saturday (18/12)       11:00   Film4               Snoopy and Charlie Brown: the Peanuts Movie (2015). Gentle animated version of the thoughtful Charles M. Schultz comic strip, the first made after his death in 2000.

                                     13:30   Dave                Spider-Man (2002)  (also Friday 9:20). With Toby Maguire in the suit and Kirsten Dunst as his love-object, Mary Jane, when both they and the idea were young and fresh. With Willem Dafoe as Spidey’s antagonist, The Green Goblin. Directed by Sam Raimi.

                                     18:00   Sky Arts           American Utopia (2020). Spike Lee’s thrilling documentary about David Byrne’s Broadway show. Andy Partridge, the Swindon legend, once told me Byrne had sent him a postcard carrying the message ‘I like cleaning’. I wish he’d come round to my house.

Sunday (19/12)          18:45   Film4               Spider-Man: into the Spider-Verse (2018). Entertaining animated contribution to the Spider-Man industry, this time with six different Arachnid superheroes of different shapes and sizes.

                                      22:00   Channel 4      Catch Me If You Can (2002). Leo DiCaprio as a 21-year-old master criminal and Tom Hanks as the agent who has to track him down. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Tuesday (21/12)         01:30   Film4              Happy-Go-Lucky (2007). Wonderful Mike Leigh comedy, starring Sally Hawkins as a North London schoolteacher whose incurable optimism proves challenging to everyone around her. With an astonishing performance by Eddie Marsan as a bitter, frustrated and fascist driving instructor.

                                      13:45   ITV                  Shrek (2001). The first and best of the franchise. Irresistibly witty animation for all the family, with the voice talent of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz.

                                      14:45   BBC1              Saving Mr Banks (2013). The story of how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) persuaded an extremely reluctant P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to let him make the movie of Mary Poppins. I suspect Tom is a lot more charming than the actual Walt.

                                       23:40   ITV                 Shaun of the Dead (2004). Edgar Wright’s comedy, with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Described as the first of the rom-zom-com genre by one fan on IMDB.                          

Friday (24/12)             02:05    Film4             Bait (2019). Conflict between incomers and fisherfolk in a Cornish village, filmed on short lengths of celluloid using clockwork cameras, which was then seriously distressed in the processing. Remarkable, if a little obvious.

                                      23:00    BBC2              Amazing Grace (2018). Film of an Aretha Franklin performance in a gospel church in LA, shot by Sydney Pollack in 1972 and then left on the shelf because he had apparently failed to synchronise sound and pictures properly. Cleverly reassembled by Alan Elliott. An impressive show, but you do have to like gospel.


Saturday (18/12)        17:55   Channel 5              Scrooge (1951). Alastair Sim in the title role in this classic version of Dickens’s imperishable Christmas fable. Scrooge is mean a

                                    22:00   BBC2                     Desperately Seeking Susan (1985). Rosanna Arquette is a bored housewife, Madonna is the wild child who leads her astray. Ramblng and amateurish comedy that nonetheless captured something of the era’s chaotic energy.

Sunday (19/12)           21:15    Sky Arts                 Wild at Heart (1990). An American love story like no other. A wonderfully dreamy, quirky, Lynchian journey through love and lust with the trademark surreal feel of one of the great directors. A Palme d’Or winner from David Lynch, who directs Nicholas Cage, Willem Dafoe and real life mother and daughter pairing Diane Ladd and Laura Dern to career highlight performances.

Monday (20/12)         02:10    Film4                     Career Girls (1997). Mike Leigh comedy about two former college friends (Katrin Cartlidge and Lynda Steadman) who shared a flat and now meet and rediscover their friendship. Cartlidge died in 2002, aged only 41.                                                                         

Tuesday (21/12)         23:00    Sky Arts                 Cape Fear (1991). Scorsese thriller about a rapist, escaped from prison, who terrorises a family. With Robert de Niro, Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange. Project Fear, more like.

Wednesday (22/12)   13:55    BBC2                      Kiss Me Kate (1953). Version of the Cole Porter, derived from The Taming of the Shrew, with Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and Ann Miller. The only musical shot in 3D, apparently.

                                     22:45    ITV                          Die Hard (1988)  (also Cineworlds 21/12). Bruce Willis, in his vest, saves a lot of people held hostage in a tower block by a charismatic villain, played by Alan Rickman. Thanks to its Christmas setting, this silly but exciting movie seems to have become a seasonal staple.

                                      23:00    Sky Arts                 The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). One of Martin Scorsese’s most interesting films, adapted by Paul Schrader from Nicos Kazantzakis’s novel about a very human Jesus (Willem Dafoe) struggling with the destiny landed upon him by his Father. Controversial with Christians, but it does raise an interesting point: if God wanted to create a model for humanity, why did he have to make him so lonely?

Friday (24/12)             13:35    BBC2                      To Catch a Thief (1955). Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in a colourful Hitchcock confection set in the South of France. Grant had quit acting before this film, believing that the rise of naturalistic actors like Marlon Brando had made his polished Hollywood star turns irrelevant. It was a hit and he changed his mind.

                                     14:00    Channel 4             It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)  (also Cineworlds 20/12). I’d never really watched this until a few years ago when I saw it at The Roses, and it is strange, intriguing and powerful. Best on a big screen, so brace yourselves and pop into Cineworld.

                                      15:20    BBC2                    North By Northwest (1959). Brilliant Hitchcock paranoid thriller about a slick PR man caught up in espionage. With Cary Grant, Eve Marie-Saint and James Mason. The US Government allowed MGM to use Mount Rushmore on the basis that no violence would take place there. MGM lied. Bernard Herrmann’s most insidious score.

                                                                               18:00    Channel 4             Home Alone  (1990)  (also 4seven Friday 21:00). Macaulay Culkin plays a kid who is left at home by mistake at Christmas and then has to fend off some burglars. The stuff of nightmares, on all sorts of levels. Culkin, who started acting at four, has had a troubled life. Mrs Worthington, pay attention.

                                      21:05   Talking Pictures    Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1986). Bracingly grim northern sex comedy, from the stage plays by Andrea Dunbar, who was brought up on a sink estate and was discovered when she created a play about it for her CSE drama exam. She wrote about what she knew, lived large and died at the age of 29. Delightfully foul-mouthed and crude.

Thank you to Martin Harris for his contributions this week. I hope he’ll do more.

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