So, here we are in those in-between days – and I’ve included New Year in this section, just for good measure. And, having been bombarded with family fodder for the past few days, it’s time for the grown-ups to take over.
Thursday, 27 December
Fans of musicals can indulge themselves on Thursday, with the big screen version of Broadway hit Fiddler On The Roof (Channel 5, 12.50 pm). Topol became an overnight star in his role of Tevye, the milkman trying to find husbands for his three daughters. It’s full of memorable songs – and watch out for a certain Paul Michael Glaser in a supporting role, some years before he became better known as Starsky.
ITV3 is showing Hitchcock’s classic The Birds (11 pm) – stealing BBC2’s thunder for an evening – for some late night suspense. And, tucked away on the Channel Four schedule at 3.50 am is Billy Wilder’s biting Sunset Boulevard, exposing all Hollywood’s frailties. Gloria Swanson and William Holden both give terrific performances, so set your recorder if you’ve not seen it – or if you have, as it’s worth multiple viewings.
Friday, 28 December
On Friday, BBC2’s Hitchcock season gets into its stride with a triple bill starting at 11.05 am with The Lady Vanishes, followed by the original version of The 39 Steps at 12.40 pm and finally Notorious at 2.20 pm. But will you be able to spot Hitch’s cameo in each one?
Saturday, 29 December
Set your alarm clock and get breakfast out of the way nice ‘n’ early so you can give The Nun’s Story your undivided attention (ITV3, 8.15 am). Director Fred Zinnemann was at the height of his powers and the film’s star, Audrey Hepburn, has never been better in this powerful story of a strong willed girl who finds that faith alone is not enough to be a nun. There’s superb performances, too, from Peter Finch, Edith Evans and Peggy Ashcroft. Don’t miss it – and, in particular, don’t miss the final scenes.
For a modern approach to a classic novel, check out Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights on Channel Four at 11.10pm. With hand-held camerawork, a black Heathcliff and unknown actors, this is a million miles away from the Laurence Olivier version, so if you like your films to challenge, this is for you. And, if you can’t bear the thought of animal cruelty, it certainly isn’t.
Earlier, get the giggles at some great seasonal silliness in Carry on Screaming (ITV1, 2.10 pm), the gang’s take on Hammer horror films. All the regulars are there, plus Harry H Corbett and Fenella Fielding, who has a terrible smoking habit! And, over on Film Four, western lovers can watch Alan Ladd take on villain Jack Palance in Shane (2.40 pm), one of the genre’s classics.
Sunday, 30 December
BBC2 caters for sci-fi fans on Sunday evening. A double bill starts with the low-budget Moon (10 pm) with Sam Rockwell nearing the end of his contract overseeing a mining operation on the Moon. Right from the start, there’s a sense of unease, reinforced by the cool voice of Kevin Spacey as the computer. Then it’s one for the connoisseurs – the definitive version of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (11.30 pm). If you’ve seen the director’s cut or the original release in cinemas, you’ll notice some differences – no voiceover and a slightly different ending – but it’s still a great blend of film noir and sci-fi. And, for die-hard fans, there’s a documentary on the making of the film afterwards.
Elsewhere, Kevin Costner takes a leaf out of Clint Eastwood’s style book in the western Open Range (12.25 am), while earlier in the day we’re taken back into the world of Tim Burton, this time in the fantasy Edward Scissorhands (2.55 pm), with Burton regular Johnny Depp as the lonely, misfit hero.
New Year’s Eve
Highlight of the day by a long way is the delightful Julie and Julia (BBC2, 9.15 pm) with Meryl Streep as American cookery writer, Julia Child, and Amy Adams as the blogger who, years after its publication, attempts to replicate all the recipes from Child’s ground-breaking work, Mastering The Art Of French Cookery. Amusing, entertaining and touching, this is a well-acted film with a refreshing take on middle aged romance – as well as lots of wonderful-looking food!
Grown-ups still rule on Film Four at 11.10 pm with British thriller, Sexy Beast. Ray Winstone does his best not to be tempted out of retirement for the proverbial one last job by one of the nastiest pieces of work you will ever see on screen, brilliantly played by Ben Kingsley.
New Year’s Day
2013 gets under way with Roman Polanski’s version of Oliver Twist (Channel Four, 10.30 am). While it’s not quite up to David Lean’s standard, it’s well-crafted and Ben Kingsley is a good choice for Fagin. And watch out, too, for EastEnders’ Jamie Foreman as Bill Sykes.
Kevin Costner directed and starred in Dances With Wolves, which takes up most of BBC2’s afternoon (12.45 pm). This multi-Oscar winner shows Native Americans in a sympathetic light and, at a smidge over three hours, it was thought to be too long to appeal to the average movie goer. It’s terrific – the buffalo hunt needs a large screen TV for best effect – but, believe it or not, the original cut of three and a half hours is a better, more complete film.
Animation fans of all ages have a real treat in store on BBC1 at 6.30 pm, with Up. It follows the journey of an old man (voiced by Ed Asner) whose condemned house is lifted into the sky by a bunch of party balloons. What looks initially like a children’s film is equally one for the grown-ups as well – so everybody wins!
So, that’s my pick of the movies on TV over the holiday. But they are very much my choices, so you may well have other ideas. It’s not a vintage year, admittedly, but there are some good films, even if some of them are on at unexpected times. And, if there’s absolutely nothing that whets your appetite, the fourth and final part of my Christmas preview suggests some alternatives on DVD.