Recommended films on TV

FILM OF THE WEEK

I, Tonya (2017) is set in the world of ice dancing, but it’s mainly a pitch-black comedy about class in America and how it drives sporting ambition.

Tonya Harding is a real person. She was an Olympic-level figure-skater when her rival Nancy Kerrigan was attacked in an ice rink during the 1994 US Championships. Tonya’s ex-husband and a friend were found guilty of the deed, and tried to implicate her. She denied any involvement. These few facts underpin the narrative of I, Tonya. Everything else is loosely based upon the extremely unreliable testimony of participants and witnesses.

Tonya’s rise to the top came despite the handicaps created both by her hard background – for which the horrible term “white trash” is usually employed – and her abrasive personality. She is brilliantly played here by Margot Robbie, who did a lot of her own skating. Meanwhile, the wonderful Allison Janney plays Tonya’s equally scary mother, LaVona Golden. Whether you take all this as a glitzy period tragicomedy or a crude attack on struggling working-class folk is up to you. We found it extremely entertaining. I, Tonya is on BBC2 on Saturday (19/9) at 21:30 and then on iPlayer. Tonya Harding is now a star of reality TV.

World Cinema

Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) is the critically-acclaimed romance noted for its depiction of lesbian sex, unhappy production history, and extreme length. It runs to 179 minutes. That’s on Monday (21/9) on Channel 4 at 01:05.

On Tuesday (22/9) Sony Action has something from the other end of the spectrum. Operation Valkyrie (2004) is a German account of the 1944 von Stauffenberg assassination plot against Hitler. That’s at 09:35. At 21:00 the same day, Film4 has Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017), an enjoyable space opera from the talented Luc Besson.

Channel 4’s short season of Indian films continues on Wednesday (23/9) at 01:30 with The Lift Boy (2019), a coming-of-age comedy set in Mumbai. A British premiere. Then at 06:00, Sony Action has I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (1969), another spaghetti Western following last week’s Santana Kills Them All. Santana and Sartana are one and the same, except they’re not. It’s complicated.

Stephen’s picks

Apart from I, Tonya, Stephen Ilott has picked Ingrid Goes West (2017) on 5 Star on Saturday (19/9) at 23:15. A disturbed young woman heads to Los Angeles to stalk her idol, a social media influencer. A black comedy for our times. On Sunday (20/9) at 15:00, and then on iPlayer, BBC2 has Doctor Zhivago (1965), with Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. Beautiful film, beautiful people. On Monday (21/9) Stephen has picked The L-Shaped Room (1963) on Talking Pictures, a kitchen-sink classic with Leslie Caron and Tony Blair’s father-in-law. That’s at 23:00. Finally, on Tuesday (22/9) and Wednesday (23/9), he has picked the two parts of Appropriate Adult, the Fred West drama, on ITV at 21:00. A TV play rather than a film, but we’re letting him have it for local interest and because Dominic West (no relation) is astonishing in the lead role.

Modern English-language films

On Saturday (19/9) at 17:00, ITV2 has Shrek 2. Less well-worn is Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017), a rather good little biopic with Margot Robbie (again) as the mother of the increasingly disillusioned boy. That’s on Film 4 at 18:50 the same night and again on Friday (25/9) at 18:55.

Sweet Sixteen (2002) is a well-liked Ken Loach feature about a teenager who wants to help his mother after she comes out of prison. In Scots and English, it won Best Screenplay at Cannes. That’s on Film4 on Monday (21/9) at 01:30.

On Wednesday (23/9) at 08:00, Sony Action is showing the moving United (2011), about the “Busby Babes” aircraft crash of 1958. At 23:05, 5 Star brings us Tarentino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Then, at 23:10, Sony Movies has Layer Cake (2004), a Brit crime drama with Daniel Craig. Nothing at all to do with Bake-Off.

A Beautiful Mind (2001), Ron Howard’s film about the mathematician John Nash’s mental breakdown, is back on Film4 on Thursday (24/9) at 18:20. At 21:00, the excellent Sky Arts arrives on Freeview at last with Spielberg (2017), a documentary about the crowd-pleasing director. Funny Cow (2017), with the versatile Maxine Peake as a battling stand-up comedian, is on Film4 at 23:15. Finally for Thursday, BBC4 has The Cult That Stole Children, a documentary investigating a nasty Australian “new religious movement”. That’s at 23:35, in the Storyville strand.

Oldies

On Saturday (19/9) at 17:10, Sony Action has a James Stewart Western, Broken Arrow (1950). At 18:00, Talking Pictures has North West Frontier (1959), set in British India, with the unusual pairing of Kenneth More and Lauren Bacall. Back to the Future Part II (1989), which you’ve already seen, is on ITV2 at 18:45.

On Sunday (20/9) at 00:00, 5 Select brings us the sweet-natured On Golden Pond (1981). At 09:25, Sony Action has King Rat (1965), a WWII POW drama set in Malaya. Repeated on Friday (25/9) at 16.35. At 12:10, Sony Action has another WWII classic, Ice Cold in Alex (1958). Then come two Westerns on Paramount: Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter (1950) at 14:15, and repeated on Friday (25/9) at 14:05; and at 16.10, John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (1946) with Henry Fonda (also to be seen, 35 years later, in On Golden Pond).

On Monday (21/9) at 15:50, Talking Pictures brings us The Magic Box (1951), a film about film, being a biopic of cinema pioneer William Friese-Greene.

Finally for this week, on Thursday (24/9) at 13:40, Film4 has Stalag 17 (1953), a prison-camp drama written and directed by the comic genius Billy Wilder.

John Morrish and Stephen Ilott