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TV makes a comeback

Sunday, March 23, 2014
Ellen Page in the disturbing but rewarding film Hard Candy.

The year’s best week for the range of quality film choice features half-a-dozen films today alone that were in contention for best film of the week, including two Westerns, one new, one old (*Django Unchained, 2.25 pm HBO, Once Upon a Time in the West, 1 pm TCM), an American animal documentary that is very powerful without being even slightly sentimental (Chimpanzee, 8.45 am HBOF), a simultaneously blood-boiling/heartbreaking Palestinian documentary (5 Broken Cameras, 4.10 pm Max), today’s choice itself and the only Frank Sinatra movie that could be mentioned in their company (Von Ryan’s Express, 4.10 pm TCM). It’s a particularly good week for Westerns, with two chances in the week to watch one of the best, even if it didn’t make the cut (The Culpepper Cattle Company, 8 pm tomorrow and again 9.45 pm Thursday, Enc3), a great Scorsese/De Niro remake of a Gregory Peck/Robert Mitchum classic film noir (Cape Fear, 10 pm Tuesday TCM) and one of Spike Lee’s most perfectly realised films (25th Hour, 8.15 pm Thursday MaxW). Take a bow, Flow, DirecTV.

Today’s best film: Hard Candy (David Slade/2005/USA/Drama-Thriller/103 mins/Rated R for disturbing violent and aberrant sexual content involving a teen and for language) 2.15 pm Max West. Watch this if you liked Little Children, The Paperboy or The Lives of Others. One of the (relatively) minor awards Hard Candy won was the Phoenix Film Critics Society “Overlooked Film of the Year.” It sums up the film’s unfortunate history—but what else can you expect with a film centred on paedophilia and under-age sex? There are a couple of bumps in story, direction and pacing but, otherwise the film is first rate—and in any case, it is one you watch for the performances, particularly from the young actress, which are so overwhelming that the film really needs nothing more; that it packs in quite a handful of twists is icing on the cake. Long after you forget the plot details, though, Ellen Page’s lead role will haunt you. Almost as rewarding as it is disturbing.
 Rest of the week: Scarface (Brian De Palma/1978 Drama-Thriller-Unintentional Comedy/USA/170 mins/R) 10 pm Wednesday Turner Classic Movies. Watch this if liked Goodfellas, Carlito’s Way or The Godfather. For Al Pacino’s Cuban “acceng” alone, Scarface is worthwhile. Treated as an excessively violent cartoon about the cocaine trade in Florida, it’s terrific and offers some of the most quotable dialogue of all time. “Look at you now!” “Fly, pelly-cong, fly!” Sadly, young people—and the director 30 years ago, and still—treat it seriously. As pure escapism, it’s hard to top, though. Say hello to his little freng. 

The Ox-Bow Incident (William A Wellman/1943/USA/Western-Crime-Drama/75 mins/Unrated but unsuitable for younger children) 8 pm Friday Turner Classic Movies BEST FILM OF THE WEEK. Watch this if you liked High Noon, Bad Day at Black Rock or Hombre. Though there are limitations modern audiences spoilt by computer-generated special effects might find difficult to overlook, such as the most important scene—the lynching—clearly being shot in a studio, this is one of the great American Westerns. Its many strengths include a great script (based on a true story), superb direction and a magnificent performance from Henry Fonda (and an almost-as-good supporting cast featuring Anthony Quinn). Not so much for the crowd that requires their Westerns to be riddled with bullets as for those who like to leave a film riddled with doubt. 



Best of the rest: Mon: Marvel’s The Avengers, 9 pm HBO; Tues: Trouble with the Curve, 6 pm HBO; Wed: Out of Africa, 2.50 pm TCM; Thurs: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 9 pm HBOC; Fri: Major Dundee, 9.20 pm Enc3; Sat: Angel Dog, 6.4 5am HBOF.  *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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