FILM OF THE WEEK: Precious
BBC Two, Saturday October 5, 11:10pm
The belief that the poor are somehow deserving of their status is a cancer currently rotting political discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. If it’s not David Cameron’s Conservatives labeling those on benefits as ‘scroungers’ and ‘shirkers’, it’s the Republican Party appearing daily on Fox News in the US to dub recipients of welfare as ‘takers’. Let’s get things straight: everybody wants a fulfilled life (which in the free market era means job satisfaction); nobody wants to scrape by on £53 a week, as Tory Work and Pensions secretary claimed he could do.
Of course, a work of fiction like Precious is hardly the tool with which to hammer some compassion into these cold-blooded, corporate-minded zealots. But to watch its tale of scant redemption for a young woman who hasn’t so much had the cards stacked against her as had them wrenched from her grasp at birth, and not feel an iota of sympathy for those much less fortunate than ourselves, will reveal a lot about a person’s character. Like a crucifix to a vampire, Precious could almost be used as a blood-sucking conservative detector – if someone hisses “she deserved it”, you can be sure as hell you’ve got one.
The film itself is a bleak, at times harrowing, watch, which would almost make it a deterrent to mainstream viewers were it not for the outstanding performances of each and every cast member. It was absolutely no surprise that Mo’Nique scooped the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar for best supporting actress, or that lead Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for best actress at all three ceremonies – the interplay between them in the devastating penultimate scene is worthy of a shower of awards on its own. This is not the poverty porn that some critics accused it of being, but an unfiltered vision of life lived constantly against the odds.
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
ITV3, Sunday October 6, 10pm
You are doubtless familiar with Simon & Garfunkel’s classic single ‘Mrs Robinson’, made memorable by its use in the climatic scenes of The Graduate. You may well be familiar with the spoof/homage to the film that Mike Myers enacted (with the help of a cameo from Charlton Heston, no less) in Wayne’s World 2. But it you’ve not actually seen the original, now’s the chance to watch Dustin Hoffman look up at Anne Bancroft and utter the immortal line: “Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs Robinson?”
Channel 5, Monday October 7, 10.55pm
After the slightly bloated, if highly enjoyable, revisionist slavery western that Quentin Tarantino gave us with Django Unchained, a trip back to the time when his films were much slimmer beasts may well cleanse the palate. Of course, Reservoir Dogs is a journey to the very beginning of Tarantino’s career, but it yet remains fresh and sprightly in its old age. The dialogue is sharp, the violence (and razor blades) even sharper. Be warned: you’ll never listen to Steelers Wheel’s ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ with the same ear again.
Film4, Tuesday October 8, 10:45pm
Speaking of Tarantino, in 2007 he and Robert Rodriguez combined to parody the era of grindhouse movie – a cheap, exploitative film genre of the 1970s and 80s – with a double-bill release of Planet Terror and Death Proof. Sandwiched between those two were a raft of fake trailers, one of which depicted a machete-wielding Mexican American tough guy called, yes, Machete. Rodriguez was so taken with the trailer that he made it into a feature-length film, starring Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba and Lindsey Lohan. It’s absolutely bonkers, of course, but with hilarious turns from Robert de Niro, Steven Seagal and Don Johnson, it’s definitely the most fun you’ll experience in your living room on a Tuesday night.