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Like a fly on the grassy knoll

Published: 
Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Also Rans on a great Sunday for film choice include hard-hitting recent picks spanning genres ranging from Western (*Django Unchained, 6 am HBOC) through action biography (*Captain Phillips 3.15 pm HBO) and documentary-music-biography (*Marley, 11am Max), as well as a chilling documentary that would have been picked, if BC on TV could be sure it featured English subtitles (The Act of Killing, noon HBOC). There are also a strong Dickens fictionalised bio (The Invisible Woman, 1.35 pm Max) and a great New York City/action flick with worrying child sexuality undertones, featuring Natalie Portman’s first film role (Leon: The Professional, 8 pm TCM). The week’s highpoint is BC on TV’s second-favourite horror (The Exorcist, 3.15 pm Thursday HBOC).
 
Today’s best film: Parkland (Peter Landesman/2013/USA/Docudrama-Mystery-Thriller/93 mins/ PG-13 for bloody sequences of ER trauma procedures, some violent images, language and smoking), 7.15 pm today HBOC. Watch this if you liked JFK, The King’s Speech or Frost/Nixon. Perhaps closer to “inspired by true events” than actual docudrama, the least attractive of all film genres, Parkland takes the real-life assassination of President John F Kennedy as a springboard into a partially fictionalised account of real events of the day. The film takes its title from the trauma hospital to which JFK was taken. Parkland uses to advantage what is normally the great failing of the docudrama—that it is neither documentary nor drama, but something in-between, and uncomfortably unreal without being seamlessly realised as fiction. The viewer comes away from the film feeling like a fly on the grassy knoll. Surprisingly good.
 
Rest of the week: Good Day for a Hanging (Nathan Juran/1959/USA/Western/85 mins/G), 8 pm tomorrow Encore 3. Watch this if you liked High Noon, 3.10 to Yuma or The Ox-Bow Incident. Fred MacMurray is probably best remembered for his role of the long-suffering father in early black-and-white TV’s My Three Sons but he made a couple of excellent films, including a contender for Best Film Noir Ever (Double Indemnity) and this top-notch film that touches the second and third most enduring themes of the Western: what is justice, really, and who is the outlaw, really. As the sheriff doing his best to ensure a suspected criminal is not lynched, MacMurray is excellent in the most enduring Western theme of them all: the individual standing alone for what is right. Excellent.
Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul/2012/Sweden-UK-USA/ Documentary-Biography-Music/86 mins/Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some drug references) 5 pm Thursday HBOC BEST FILM OF THE WEEK. Watch this if you liked Intouchables, 42 or Standing in the Shadows of Motown. The winner of the 2013 Best Documentary Oscar, Bafta, Broadcast Film Critics Association, Cinema for Peace, Directors Guild, Durban Film Festival, and two dozen other awards deserved every bit of recognition it got—and then more. One of the best-edited documentaries BC on TV is familiar with (only Dave Chapelle’s Block Party uses editing to enhance storytelling better), and one of the few good things to have emerged out of South African apartheid, this is documentary film storytelling at its best. The music is excellent, but you could have no musical appreciation whatsoever and still love a film that could be the other bookend of The Story of Anvil. 
 
Best of the rest: Mon: Mad Max, 4.30 pm HBO; Tues: Crocodile Dundee, 6.05 pm TCM; Wed: *42, 5.45 pm HBOC; Thurs: 48 HRS, 6.05 pm TCM; Fri: Final Destination, 6 pm MaxW; Sat: The Undefeated, 6 am Enc3. 

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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