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A great day for film choice

Published: 
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Malcolm McDowell in If…, a leading contender for Angry Young Director Lindsay Anderson’s magnum opus.

The film choice on cable & DirecTV is so very good today that BC on TV didn’t even wait for the week’s programming. The Also Rans include the film BC on TV called the fourth-best DVD release of 2014 (Omar, 3.55 pm Max BEST FILM OF THE WEEK), a strong mental illness drama (*Take Shelter, 3.15 pm MaxP, one of last week’s choices), a scattering of comic book-inspired action flicks ranging from the best (*Batman Begins, 3.05 pm MaxP) through the copycat (The Amazing Spider-Man, 5.35 pm MaxP) to the loyal-to-the-source material (Fantastic Four, 2.10 pm Fox Act), and thrillers ranging from the simply gripping (Killing Them Softly, 10.10 am Fox Act) through the vaguely unsettling (Dressed to Kill, 3.25 pm Fox Cl) to the disturbing (Killshot, 5.40 pm Edge) and the Guy Ritchie (Rocknrolla, 1.05 pm MaxP). Add a terrific, weepy vehicle for Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson (Terms of Endearment, 9.20 am Fox Cl), another vehicle for Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones (Hope Springs, 4.55 pm Fox Com), two green-screen action/adventure gems (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 6.25 pm Fox Mvs, Pacific Rim, 9 pm HBO—available in HD) and the Coen Bros (Inside Llewyn Davis, 9 pm Max) and that adds up to a great day for film choice!

Today’s best film:

Babel (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu / 2006/ Mexico-USA/ Drama-Thriller/ 143 mins/ R for language, violence and sexual content), 12.40 noon Fox Cinema. Watch this if you liked 21 Grams, Disconnect or 360. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s third feature film is probably another step down from the brilliance of his debut, Amores Perros (Love’s a Bitch)—but that film was so very good that he could make another dozen movies, each of them an increment below its predecessor, and still be turning out fine films—as his 2014 Best Picture Oscar-winning Birdman proved this year. Like its two predecessors, Babel follows multiple (four) storylines across three continents, for a long, gripping runtime before tying them together with what the director makes look like ease. Americans make films like Six Degrees of Separation, treating serendipity and synchronicity like special effects; this hyper-talented Mexican relies on them to serve up real life as morality tale. It is almost incidental that the huge cast is also terrific. Recommended like cold water in the desert.

If… (Lindsay Anderson/ 1968/ UK/ Adventure-Teen/ 111 mins/ Unrated but deserving at least PG-13 for adult themes), 1.30 pm Fox Classics. Watch this if you liked Taps, Deliverance or Lord of the Flies. A leading contender, along with O Lucky Man! and This Sporting Life, for Angry Young Director Lindsay Anderson’s magnum opus is as important a film for understanding the British Empire as A House for Mr Biswas is a book for understanding modern Trinidad. It gives troubling insight into the characters of the English public school types who set up the institutions that, initially, ruled, and, now, fail us. Frighteningly relevant to modern Trinidad, with the greatest debate likely to be whether the Malcolm McDowell character is a parallel to Abu Bakr. There are, though, passages—such as the motorcycle escape—that the Fast & Furious crowd just won’t get.

Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater/ 1995/ USA/ Drama-Romance/ 105 mins/ R for some strong language), 9.50 am and 12.50 noon Cinemax. Watch this if you liked Lost in Translation, Once or this movie’s sequel Before Sunset. Far, far better than any of the films it’s compared to (except its own sequel, which is almost as good), and made by the man who should have won the 2014 Best Picture Oscar for Boyhood, this hugely romantic tale of a young man and woman who meet on a European train and spend one night together in Vienna also has a great script. Excellent but just not for the Vin Diesel fans.

*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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