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A great day for TV

Published: 
Sunday, December 7, 2014
BC on TV
Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, “the best thriller BC on TV has seen since The Silence of the Lambs.”

A great day for cable/DirecTV choice features half-a-dozen films in the Also Rans that, on another day, could have—or did—run first (Once Upon a Time in the West, 9 pm FxCl, *We’re the Millers, 6 pm HBO; Looper, 5.45 pm MaxP, *Django Unchained, 3 pm MaxP, Crazy, Stupid Love, 10 pm HBOP and Will Penny, 8 am Fx Cl, ). Like today’s top pick, two other great American films screening in the week could easily have been named its best and would certainly have been picked if both weren’t screening a titch too early (The Deer Hunter, 6 pm Tuesday TCM) and one hadn’t been picked fairly recently (*Cool Hand Luke, 5 pm Wednesday TCM). A sure future pick also features yet another staggering performance from the Streep (August: Osage County, 9 pm Wednesday Fox 1).

Today’s best film:

Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet/1975/USA/Crime-Drama-Thriller/125 mins/R) 11.30 am HBO. Watch this if you liked Raging Bull, In the Heat of the Night or Scent of a Woman. A contender for Sidney “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” Lumet’s best film, and certainly his most underrated, it also features Al Pacino’s most underrated role and is, in the bargain, one of the great New York City films. Based on the true story of a bumbling homosexual would-be bank robber trying to steal money for his boyfriend’s sex change, it becomes a genuine thriller as a hostage situation develops; this film is everything Swordfish wanted to be.

Today and rest of the week:

Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve/2013/USA/Crime-Thriller-Drama/153 mins/R for disturbing violent content including torture and language throughout), 10.45 am today Fox Movies and again 4.05 pm Tuesday Fox West. Watch this if you liked The Silence of the Lambs, Tell No One or No Country for Old Men. The best thriller BC on TV has seen since The Silence of the Lambs doesn’t depend on a cannibal serial murderer gimmick but on more traditional attention-grabbers (which Silence also had), like an excellent script, exceptional performances (particularly from Hugh Jackman as the distraught and motivated-to-the-point-of-fixated father, Paul Dano as the man-child prime suspect and Jake Gyllenhaal as the detective), flawless direction and edge-of-seat tension throughout. The cinematography—by the Coen Bros’ Roger Deakins—must be a contender for the Oscar, making, as it does, scary secondary characters out of a camper van taillight and the bark of a tree. Superb. 

Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese/1976/USA/Drama-Thriller/113 mins/R), 9 pm Wednesday Fox Classics. BEST FILM OF THE WEEK. Watch this if you liked The French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon or No Country for Old Men. Martin Scorsese’s best film, for many—and one of the great New York City movies—also features what is Robert De Niro’s best role for most: Travis Bickle, the yellow cab driver going slowly insane who, by sheer bizarre luck, ends up on the shiny side of the American Dream. Stunning cinematography, a great soundtrack and Harvey Keitel, Cybil Shepherd—and Jodie Foster’s amazing debut as a child prostitute—make this a great American film, though the AFI ranks it only at 47. Few things approaching middle-age stand up so well. 

Also look out for: 

Mon: VHS, 8 pm MaxP; Tues: A Lonely Place to Die, 5 pm MaxP; Wed: Crazy, Stupid Love, 8.30 pm HBOP.

*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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