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What’s so great about Norma Jean?

Sunday, August 25, 2013
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, as Marilyn Monroe (neé Norma Jean Baker) explains in this musical number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

One of BC on TV’s favourite recent American independent films would have been picked today, had it not been recently (*Winter’s Bone, 7.10 pm Max), as might have the Godfather’s poor but still hugely impressive cousin (*Goodfellas, 10.05 pm TCM BEST FILM OF THE WEEK) or the very faithful Spielberg adaptation of Herge (*The Adventures of Tintin,8.45 pm HBOF). Today’s also-rans also include an Adam Sandler flick that is as close to good as Adam gets (50 First Dates, 9.15 am HBO) and a computer graphics Disney thing that is a lot less bad than it ought to be (John Carter, 4.30 pm HBOF). The week offers one of last week’s picks (*Shame, 7.10 pm Thursday Max) and John Singleton’s top-notch debut that might well have got the nod, had it screened an hour earlier (Boyz N the Hood, 10.05 pm Tuesday TCM).  


Today’s best film: 
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks/ 1953/ USA / Comedy-Drama-Musical/ 91 mins/ Not rated), 1 pm Turner Classic Movies. Watch this if you liked The Seven Year Itch, Some Like It Hot or My Week with Marilyn. Probably Marilyn Monroe’s most recognised movie title, Gentlemen goes a long way towards making up for not having the sparkling script of The Seven Year Itch with song and dance numbers that stand up to anything today for lyrics and choreography—though lacking the huge burst of energy derived from modern production values. For anyone who wondered what all the fuss about Norma Jean was about: given how primitive the technology was, what you see is her charisma; and Jane Russell is no slouch, either. 


Today and rest of the week:
Insidious (James Wan/ 2010/ USA-Canada / Horror-Thriller/ 103 mins/ Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language) 6.10 pm today and again 9 pm Wednesday and 6.10 pm Friday HBO. Watch this if you liked Paranormal Activity, Sinister or Mama. Even with their spectacular computer-generated special effects, few modern horrors are genuinely good. This one is. Horror that seriously disturbs the viewer doesn’t come from eyeballs flying across the screen occasionally as much as from nerves being worried away constantly. Insidious is one of a handful of recent films that uses modern technologies to visually enhance a fairly good script. Because there are undeniable kinks in the script, though, it is not as finished a product as, say, The Exorcist or The Omen. Still, Insidious is a spooky, unsettling movie that will make even the most jaded horror flick junkie jump several times. 


My Zinc Bed (Anthony Page/ 2008/ UK-USA/ Drama/ 73 mins/ Unrated but at least PG-13), 8.30 pm Thursday Max West. Watch this if you liked The Upside of Anger, The Secret Life of Dentists or Closer. Dialogue-heavy (but from a good script), relationship-based, three-hander drama about an alcoholic romantically involved with his boss’s cocaine-addict wife; excellent performances from Paddy Considine, Uma Thurman and Jonathan Pryce. It’s precisely to draw attention to little gems like this that might otherwise be overlooked that BC on TV exists. 
Best of the rest: Mon: Midnight in Paris, 8.50 pm Max; Tues: Stagecoach, 9.35 pm Enc3; Wed: Bad Day at Black Rock, 3 pm TCM; Thurs: Waterworld, 5.40 pm TCM;  Fri: Eyes Wide Shut, 10.05 pm TCM; Sat: Temple Grandin. 6.55 am Max. 


*Starred films have been chosen in the last three months. Scheduled Internet times often vary on the day, particularly around month-end. 


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