Tag Archives: James Stewart

Best films on TV: 22-28 April

The best films each day on free-to-air TV as chosen by site editor and self-confessed John Hughes obsessive, James Diamond.

LA ConfidentialMonday 22nd April – Revolutionary Road (BBC4, 9pm)

Sam Mendes may have hit the commercial and critical jackpot with last year’s Skyfall, but some of his finest work is in portraying the minutiae of family life, and the struggles to save a relationship rather than the world. American Beauty is a modern classic, and Away We Go is an underrated gem of a movie. That’s why I’m recommending Revolutionary Road without having seen it myself. Mendes directing Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as an American couple in the 1950s is all I need to hear.

Tuesday 23rd April – LA Confidential (ITV4, 10pm)

More fantastic period drama from an Oscar-winning writer/director, this time it’s Curtis Hanson (who won the Oscar for this co-written screenplay) and the elegantly brutal L.A Confidential. A noir thriller set in Los Angeles in the decade after the Second World War, it confirmed the status of Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey as Hollywood heavyweights, and proved Kim Bassinger also had something left to give. That’s before even mentioning brilliant performances from Guy Pierce, James Cromwell, and Danny DeVito. Film-making at its best.

Wednesday 24th April – The Naked Gun (Film4, 9pm)

From one end of the movie cop spectrum to the other. While some may argue that Airplane is one of the funniest movies ever, I have always preferred this Zucker/Abrahams franchise, with the brilliant Leslie Neilsen as Frank Drebin. Let’s just hope that recent rumours of a reboot turn out to be false.

Thursday 25th April – Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Film4, 10.45pm)

You may have noticed that if I see a John Hughes movie showing during the week, it invariably gets a spot on my list. This week is no exception, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles is one of his best. The story of Steve Martin and John Candy as a mismatched pair of strangers struggling to get home for Thanksgiving. It doesn’t do anything clever or original with an admittedly derivative premise, but is carried to brilliance by great central performances, and a heavy dollop of John Hughes heart.

Friday 26th April – Rear Window (Film4, 4.45pm)

Despite Vertigo’s place at the top of the most recent Sight and Sound poll, Rear Window is the film I most often hear people pick when talking about their favourite Hitchcock pictures. It certainly has a less creepy performance from James Stewart, backed by a brilliantly simple plot that allows the Master of Suspense to work his magic to perfection. For those of you after a late-night choice, why not catch Withnail & I on Film4 at 12.20am. Though you’d be wise not to start the drinking game at that hour of the day.

Saturday 27th April – Notorious (BBC2, 2.05pm)

Recommending two Hitchcock films on consecutive days is possibly the height of film blogging laziness. I just can’t help it though, especially when you can spend Saturday afternoon watching the great Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in another of Hitch’s perfect films. The fact that it’s on BBC2 means you don’t even have to worry about adverts. Bliss.

Sunday 28th April – Hot Fuzz (ITV2, 9pm)

One of the reasons that we at Failed Critics are so excited about The World’s End this summer is because whenever Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost produce something, its guaranteed to be another slice of fried gold. This 2007 follow-up to Shaun of the Dead is an ambitious buddy cop action film set in Gloucestershire, with touches of Point Break and The Wicker Man thrown in for good measure. The brilliant support cast includes classic British thespians like Edward Woodward and Timothy Dalton, as well as a number of the new guard including Paddy Considine and Olivia Coleman.

It’s a Wonderful Film!

its-a-wonderful-lifeWe’ve reached the end of our 12 Days of Christmas Films, and I cannot think of a better film to round off our festive series. It’s a special kind of film that makes you well up just reading the plot summary on Wikipedia. Or so someone told me. No, you’re trying to stop tears saturating your keyboard!

Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (a worthy prefix in the style of ‘William Shakespeare’s Hamlet’, or ‘Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol’) is simply the greatest Christmas film of all time. It might not feature Santa Claus, someone falling off of a roof putting up decorations, or even take place predominantly over the Christmas period – but its simple message is one that everyone needs reminding of at this particular time of the year.

James Stewart (in his favourite role) plays George Bailey; simply the most selfless and implausibly kind person who ever lived. Seriously, he makes Mother Theresa look like Tony Soprano. At the start of the film an angel (Second Class) by the name of Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers) is tasked with saving George as he contemplates taking his own life. Clarence’s line-managers (it helps me to put religion into context by imagining the afterlife as some higher form of bureaucracy) review the life of George Bailey, and the next 50 minutes or so are some of the most depressing and asphyxiating cinema ever committed to film.

George saves his brother’s life and, in doing so, loses his hearing in one ear; George stays at home to run the family business; George gives his college money to his brother; George sacrifices his honeymoon fund to save the townspeople. It’s one crushing disappointment after another, and George remains stoic above it all. He’s not even one of those people who uses their goodwill as a stick to beat the rest of us feckless bastards with.

It all finally gets too much for George though, leading to him meeting Clarence on the bridge where he is about to kill himself. Clarence proceeds to show George how Bedford Falls would look if he had never existed. It’s here where we learn (or are at least reminded of a) vital truth about our humanity. In recent years the trend has been to embrace science, with all its logic and reason rightfully highlighting how insignificant we are in the broad history of the universe. Compared to the alternative, that is a very good thing. But this film’s central message that “no man is a failure who has friends” is one even rabid atheists can use to embrace their humanity at Christmas.

This is a short piece for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m writing this on Christmas Eve before I go to the cinema with my family to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen. And I’m not even dressed yet. More importantly though, every extra word I write about this masterpiece is wasted computer ink compared to actually watching it for yourselves. So turn off your computer/phone/second-screen device, track down a copy of It’s a Wonderful Life, and hold your friends and family close.

Merry Christmas!

Read the 12 Days of Christmas Films so far, or catch White Christmas most days on Sky Movies Classics.

Failed Critics Review: Failed Listeners

What would you rather hear us review? Step Up 4: Miami Heat? Or a selection of films chosen by our beloved band of listeners? Well, I hope it’s the latter as this week’s Failed Critics Review is a FAILED LISTENERS SPECIAL!

Sadly Gerry’s own short-sightedness means he’s missing this week, but in his absence Steve, James, and Owen review films chosen by our listeners – including this week’s main review; Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

Coming up later this week we have a Failed Listeners Triple Bill podcast as well – but for now, relax and listen to our leanest, meanest podcast to-date at an athletic 45 minutes long.