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An epic epic

Sunday, February 1, 2015
BC on TV
Kirk Douglas in Spartacus, Kubrick’s epic swordplay film.

The second month of 2015 starts today and the New Year resolution of cable and DirecTV to show excellent films remains as strong as it was a month ago. Today’s Also Rans include one of the best Best Picture Oscar-winners ever shot (*12 Years a Slave, 10.25 am FoxMvs), a tense Best Picture Oscar-winning thriller (The Hurt Locker, 3.10 pm FoxAct), an excellent Bruce Dern vehicle he drove to the Oscars, even if he didn’t drive away with Best Actor (Nebraska, 7 pm and 10 pm Max), a contender for the Best Graphic Novel Film Adaptation (Watchmen, 9 pm FoxAct), back-to-back screenings of the Christopher Reeve films that show up Man of Steel for what it really is: Man of Stillbirth (Superman, 2.45 pm, Superman II, 5.25 pm TCM) a top-notch Paul Giamatti mystery drama that might be aired in English (Barney’s Version, 11 am CineCanal) and a dodgy but still worth a glance thriller set in a fast food storeroom (Compliance, 11.25 amMaxP). The week offers the best (only good?) of the Wachowski Bros sci-fi trilogy (The Matrix, 7 pm tomorrow, HBOP) and an excellent Belgian-Canadian drama that may or may not have English subtitles (Monsieur Lazhar, 6.10 pm tomorrow MaxW).

Today’s best film:

Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick/ 1960/ USA/ Epic-Action-Drama/ 153 mins/ PG-13), 12.30 noon DirecTV Channel. Watch this if you liked Gladiator, Lolita or Aguirre, The Wrath of God. Any topic American-British director Stanley Kubrick tried, he usually defined. His Vietnam film was Full Metal Jacket (surpassed by only Apocalypse Now Redux). His horror was The Shining, the genre’s benchmark. His sci-fi flick was 2001: A Space Odyssey. His vision of the future was A Clockwork Orange. Spartacus, his epic swordplay film, is far better than the modern cable TV series because it replaces gore and nudity with a spectacular script and cast, including Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier and Peter Ustinov. The more patient attention you sow, the greater the satisfaction reward you reap.

Rest of the week:

The Hunt aka Jagten (original title) (Thomas Vinterberg/ 2012/ Denmark-Sweden / Drama/ 1115 mins/ R for sexual content including a graphic image, violence and language), 6.10 pm Monday Cinemax West. Watch this if you liked A Separation, After the Wedding or Locke BEST FILM OF THE WEEK. The film BC on TV named the Best DVD Release of 2014 would probably be on the Top 50 Movies of All Time list of anyone who knows anything about cinema. A straightforward Danish drama that tells anything but a straightforward story is best enjoyed without a word that would spoil the tense, deeply sympathetic and—sometimes awfully so—very human story of a man facing a great challenge with great dignity. Magnificent, though not for anyone who expects an explosion or car crash every ten minutes.

Open Water (Chris Kentis/ 2003/ USA/ Drama -Horror-Thriller/ 79 mins/ R for language and some nudity), 6 pm tomorrow Fox Cinema. Watch this if you liked Jaws, Compliance or The Grey. Made by a husband and wife team on weekends in the Bahamas, with the whole crew—namely said husband and wife director and producers, who also shot all the footage on digivideo—and the whole cast—effectively the male and female leads—flying in and then heading out to the open water from which the film takes its title. The actors playing the scuba divers forgotten by their tour boat spent 120 hours in the water. Shot using real sharks, up to 50 at a time, attracted by throwing bleeding chunks of tuna into the water, and without stunt doubles, this is a riveting account, home-movie style, of tragedy. Reviewers summed it up as Jaws meets Blair Witch but it really should have Boys Don’t Cry thrown in, for the misery. Not for everyone, perhaps, but possibly the best low-budget film ever made.

*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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