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For auld lang syne and good old films

Published: 
Sunday, January 4, 2015
The Deer Hunter

Only today’s programming was available at press time but the first Sunday of the year delivers a whopping film choice, with the first two of today’s choices and the most worthy of the Also Rans (*Dog Day Afternoon, 7.50 am HBOS) being near equal contenders for Best Film of the Weekend. Other standouts include a British prison flick that will surely be picked in the future (Starred Up, 7.10 pm MaxP), the second instalment of the Hobbit saga (The Desolation of Smaug, 9 pm FoxFam), an excellent Bruce Dern vehicle (Nebraska, 9 pm Max), a terrific little low-budget Seth Rogen flick worthy of the title “weed action” (Pineapple Express, 9 pm MaxW), Ron Howard’s most recent and very good film (Rush, 10 pm Fox1) and Cormac McCarthy’s first, deeply-flawed-but-still-Cormac McCarthy screenplay (The Counsellor, 3.35 pm FoxAc).

Today’s best films: The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino/ 1978/ War/ UK-USA/ 182 mins/ R), BEST FILM OF THE WEEKEND 1 pm Turner Classic Movies. Watch this if you liked Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket or Coming Home. One of the great American films (better by far than the AFI’s No 79 ranking) paints a complete picture of the lives of young men and women destroyed by war, and the knock-on devastation on the communities from which they come. It moves slowly but, for those with a bit of brains, the pacing is rewarded with one of the most powerful denouements in film history; a film that changes lives. Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep and a strong supporting cast are all terrific. Few films are genuinely magnificent; this one is.

Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone/ 1968/ Italy-USA / Western/ 175 mins/ PG-13 for Western violence and brief sensuality), 6.10 pm Fox Classics. Watch this if you liked The Proposition, 3.10 to Yuma or The Good, the Bad & the Ugly. The great work of Sergio Leone and the meatball on top of the spaghetti Western, for BC on TV, this is as good as the Western gets. Henry Fonda plays one of cinema’s greatest villains, with Jason Robards and the young Charles Bronson almost eclipsing him. Ennio Morricone’s haunting score—and the mystery of the harmonica—add huge atmosphere. Leone takes ridiculous chances as a filmmaker—and every risk pays off. One of the great films of our time. Miss it only if you’re dead.

Falling Down (Joel Schumacher/ 1993/ USA/ Crime-Drama-Thriller/ 113 mins/ R for violence and strong language), 12.20 pm noon MaxPrime. Watch this if you liked Natural Born Killers, Out of Time or The Warriors. The poor psychologist’s Bad Lieutenant tells the story of a respectable businessman in LA snapping under the pressure of modern life and hitting back—at Korean shop owners, at young black thugs, at everyone the polite WASP would never; the film NYC subway shooter Bernie Goetz would have made. Makes up with straightforward entertainment for most of what it loses in bigotry and remains hugely watchable throughout.

*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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