Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Films of the Year ....

Yes its that time again when we look back at what we enjoyed the most this year, at the cinema, on dvd and movies seen for the first time.

Any best list of the year has to include Wes Anderson's THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, perhaps the film I enjoyed the most and want to return to, as I do to Sorrentino's THE GREAT BEAUTY (right), BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR and UNDER THE SKIN.  (Reviews at 2000s label).

I have yet to see BOYHOOD - which should top a lot of lists (and will have to factor in my next year's list), or BIRDMAN, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, MR TURNER, SELMA, FOXCATCHER, NIGHTCRAWLER or INTERSTELLAR, so they may factor higher later. We also highly rated THE IMITATION GAME (and despite a better than average year, I am still expecting Cumberbatch to win the Best Actor Oscar, and Rosamund Pike for GONE GIRL which we enjoyed too. Award season should be quite interesting this year with so many deserving choices ...
We also highly liked PRIDE and PADDINGTON, and those earlier hits of the year: INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, and were amused by SAVING MR BANKS, then there was 12 YEARS A SLAVE and the gripping CALVARY and Scorsese's razzle-dazzle WOLF OF WALL STREET. I am afraid THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY did not quite thrill enough. Reviews to follow on some of these ...

My television event was the HBO THE NORMAL HEART, and best documentary, that new HOCKNEY, plus some terrific series like TRUE DETECTIVE.

My discoveries of the year were Pedro's THE SKIN I LIVE IN, Bolognini's 1960 FROM A ROMAN BALCONY and Tati's 1967 PLAYTIME, plus now Bourguignon's 1962 SUNDAYS AND CYBELE (see review below), plus Marcello with Monica Vitti in THE PIZZA TRIANGLE, and with Romy in FANTASMA D'AMORE, as per reviews. Those early Frank Borzage silent films like STREET ANGEL and SEVENTH HEAVEN with Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor were delightful pleasures. The Saudi Arabian film WADJDA was a marvellous discovery as well. 

And my year's worst? A toss-up between BAD NEIGHBORS and STRANGER BY THE LAKE

We enjoyed some stunning performances too: Derek Jacobi as Francis Bacon, Michael Douglas as Liberace, Helena Bonham-Carter's approximation of Elizabeth Taylor ... On the Trash front it was amusing to re-visit Alan Bates as Diaghilev in NIJINSKY and Nureyev as VALENTINO and even Roger Daltry as Liszt in Ken Russell's abomination LISZTOMANIA ..(see Trash label!).

Films to look out for, as per the "Sight & Sound" Top 20, include LEVIATHAN and IDA.
We are looking forward to LOVE IS STRANGE (the Molina-Lithgow one), and Todd Haynes' CAROL (filmed over a year ago) from Highsmith's early lesbian novel and should be another Cate Blanchett event. 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Sundays and Cybele, 1962

A discovery from a favourite year of mine, 1962, which has so many great movies - see label. I had read great reviews on Serge Bourguignon's film LES DIMANCHES DE VILLE D'AVRAY (or SUNDAYS AND CYBELE) but never saw it till now. Having recently seen its child star Patricia Gozzi in RAPTURE, a 1965 drama by John Guillermin, I was interested to see her in this earlier acclaimed movie (it won the Best Foreign Film of 1962 Oscar).

Pierre is an Indo-China war veteran, psychologically scarred after killing a child. Cybele is a 12 year old girl abandoned by an uncaring father at a small orphanage. After a chance meeting causes Pierre to be mistaken for Cybele's father, they begin a series of Sunday outings together in which they discover a trusting innocent happiness - though their make-believe world is threatened when a neighbour spots them together and word spreads among Pierre's acquaintances about his illicit relationship. With incredible central performances from Kruger and Gozzi as the two damaged people finding solace and childlike love in each other's companionship, this is a beautiful, heartbreaking tale of the redemptive possibilities of love that will live in you long after you have seen it.

For once, the blurb gets it right. This is a leisurely paced absorbing tale. Hardy Kruger is of course sterling as ever, as he was in a favourite Losey: BLIND DATE in 1959, plus THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY or in Hawks' HATARI! or Aldrich's THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX and he pops up in various other films like Montgomery Clift's last THE DEFECTOR, and Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON. In his 80s now, and acting until recently, he is a key European player. 

Patricia Gozzi on the other hand only appeared in 7 seven films before retiring from the screen and is perhaps the finest child actress I have ever seen. I caught her 1965 RAPTURE recently, a long-unseen drama, but I did not care for her rather annoying character in that, but she is utterly captivating and fascinating here. It was a big hit for Serge Bourguignon and a key 1962 film, but he soon was doing lesser films like the long-unseen THE REWARD in 1965. I liked his 1967 Bardot film, TWO WEEKS IN SEPTEMBER, which seems to have been his last credit - seee BB label. Nicole Courcel also scores as Pierre's girlfriend. There is no hint of inappropriate sexuality here, but the locals misunderstand their innocent relationship. 
The ending when it comes is inevitable, but we remember a fascinating oddity of a film, which still looks fresh now over 50 years later; the lyrical black and white photography and images conjured up by Heni Decae fascinate too. One of my discoveries of the year then. 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Night music ....

Finally, the 1977 film of Stephen Sondheim's musical A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, and what a laughably awful film it is.- however, I saw three great stage productions of it.  The hit show of course was based on Ingmar Bergman's 1955 classic SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, which is a delightful movie. The broadway show featured a favourite of ours, Glynis Johns (now in her 90s) for whom Sondheim wrote "Send In The Clowns" to suit her voice (I had the original cast album and have just re-ordered it on cd). 
I saw the London production in 1975 with Jean Simmons as Desiree and Hermione Gingold reprising her broadway role as her mother, with her great number "Liaisons". Then I saw a late 80s production with Dorothy Tutin, Peter McEnery, Susan Hampshire and Lila Kedrova as Madame Armfeldt - all people I like and it was a satisfactory version of the original. Then of course came the great National Theatre production in the 90s, with Judi Dench and Sian Phillips and Patrica Hodge. A friend had a friend working there and managed to get preview tickets - the great man, Sondheim, was sitting just one seat away from us, scribbling furiously throughout. 
There was also the 1977 film directed by theatre director Harold Prince, and no wonder it was little seen at the time and sank into well-deserved obscurity, as they absolutely ruined it, the film is a clunking piece, set (maybe for financial reasons) in Austria - not Sweden - so the references to long summer nights have no meaning. Two of the best numbers are gone: the lusty maid's song that she is going to marry "The Miller's Son" and Madame Armfeldt's lament "Liaisons", at least the film has Hermione Gingold in the role, but without her main number, precious little to do - though I did like her barbed comment to her daughter Desiree.

Elizabeth Taylor plays Desiree and by 1977 her bruised vulnerability should be ideal for the role of the actress tired of "the glamorous life" and wanting to settle down, but Taylor's looks and weight vary from scene to scene and the minnie mouse singing voice she is dubbed with, are all at sea here. 
Diana Rigg comes off best as Charlottle, while Lesley-Anne Down plays the vapid  virgin young bride vapidly. Len Cariou as Fredrik (he played it on Broadway) and Laurence Guittard as Count Carl-Magnus are equally unimpressive and almost interchangeable here - Guittard played Fredrik in the Old Vic Judi Dench production. 
Fredrik Egerman goes to see his old flame, touring actress Desiree Armfeldt, whose daughter stays with her mother, retired wealthy courtesan Madame Armfeldt. Complications arrive when her other love Count Carl-Magnus arrives. His wife, Charlotte, is trying to make their marriage work despite his indifference to her. Meanwhile Fredrik's young wife Anne is still a virgin and his son from a previous marriage is falling in love her. The mismatched lovers arrive for that "weekend in the country" at Madame Armfeldt's estate, which has been arranged by Desiree, trying to sort out these complications. The old courtesan surveys the tangled relationships and sings that song "Liaisons" about what affairs of the heart were like in her day, while Desiree muses "Send in the clowns" as the long summer night smiles ...

It all works on stage, but this version is a poor substitute. Taylor - so perfect in the 50s and 60s is past her best here and the film is clumsily directed. Prince's other film, the very gay 1970 black comedy SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE (also scripted by Hugh Wheeler) is a cult favourite which we liked at the time (well, there were not many gay black comedies then) with favourites Angela Lansbury and Michael York - see review at Lansbury/York/Gay Interest labels. 

A feast of Sondheim for 2015: INTO THE WOODS is just about to open, I saw the trailer and I am hearing good things about Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen,  and of course Meryl; I am also going to see the current production of ASSASSINS in Feburary when a friend who wants to see it is coming over from Ireland, and I have just got  a pair of tickets (very expensive, but it is a big show) for the highly praised new production of GYPSY coming into London from its initial run at Chichester in April, where Imelda Staunton got rave reviews for her Mamma Rose - I saw her in GUYS AND DOLLS at the National over a decade ago, so I know how great she will be.  So Sondheim continues to be in favour in his eighties, shame about the film of his NIGHT MUSIC
Other Sondheims we loved are the 1962 film of GYPSY, FOLLIES (Eartha Kitt played Carlotta when I saw it, which also had Diana Rigg and Julia McKenzie), the 1985 FOLLIES CONCERT with Lee Remick, Elaine Stritch, Barbara Cook and more; the score for PACIFIC OVERTURES, and of course SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM which I saw twice,
 and I got taken backstage too to meet Julia McKenzie and Millient Martin in their dressing-gowns, by Pamela, a friend whose mother was Julia McKenzie's agent at the time. Then of course there's COMPANY, SWEENEY TODD in its many incarnations, and the short-lived but cult item ANYONE CAN WHISTLE, the 1964 cast  album with Remick and Lansbury is a must, etc. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Its a wonderful .....

ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE, Frank Capra's 1946 life-affirming classic, certainly has a life of its own .... this hardy perennial goes on and on and is now so well known it is regularly spoofed. Last week we had that charity special TEXT SANTA on English television, which included a DOWNTON ABBEY special episode where angel Joanna Lumley shows the earl, Hugh Bonneville, what the estate would be like if he had not existed, as we see his wife Cora now married to George Clooney - who spent an afternoon with the Downton regulars for a highly publicised special. 
Then yesterday a new Michael Buble show had him back in Bedford Falls in black and white with inserts of the Capra film .... its just a guaranteed feel good factor! Barbra Streisand (still plugging her new duets album) and Miss Piggy also graced Buble's latest show with their presence. On another Buble show repeat they even brought back Bing Crosby to sing that song with Michael - chutzpah or what!  Joanna also appeared with Bette Midler on her new tv show as well. On that note, Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas treats: The Thief of Bagdad, 1924

Back to the silent world for THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, in a sparking new Blu-ray edition, highlighting those fantastic sets and the tinted colours - blue for night exteriors, yellow for dawn, green for under the sea etc. Its another silent classic that dazzles, like Griffiths' ORPHANS OF THE STORM, or those early Frank Borzage's with Charles Farrell (THE RIVER) etc, as per Silents label. I really must put on that 1925 BEN HUR one of these days ....

I first saw this THIEF OF BAGDAD decades ago during a christmas holiday at my parents home in Ireland, there was not much on Irish television in those days, so we fell on this and were enchanted with it. Marvellous to have it now, in a perfect edition. Let me quote from the blu-ray essay by Laura Boyes of the North Carolina Museum of Art:
An enchanted Arabian Nights fantasy unfolds in a dazzling Art Deco kingdom as a lowly thief quests for the love of a dainty princess. Flying carpets, winged horses, fearsome beasts and an invisibility cloak are a few of the state of  the art special effects, the main one being Fairbanks' boisterous athleticism and joyful smile. 
Douglas Fairbanks is know today primarily for the swashbuckling silent classics in which he impersonated the likes of Zorro, Robin Hood and D'Artignan ... 
Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were the undisputed King and Queen of Hollywood in the 1920s .... as two of the founding members of United Artists they exercised complete control over both the business and creative ends of their careers.
His movements here are influenced by the mordernistic dance techniques of the Ballets Rousses whose Orientalist decor is echoed in the sets and costumes. Fairbanks is forty-one in this film, incredibly fit, vibrant and beautiful.
Ah yes, the sets, by William Cameron Menzies are still stunning now, costume designer was (gay) future director Mitchell Leisen, the Blu-ray music score incorporated themes by Rimsky-Korsakoff (conducted by Carl Davis), and Anna May Wong is delightfully art deco as the princess's treacherous hand-maiden, in league with the Mongol prince who has his own designs on Bagdad.  It was also of course director Raoul Walsh's first major success - he of course (wearing that eye patch) had many future successes, particuarly in the 1940s with Bogart, Cagney, Flynn et al, in that long career that stretched from 1912 to 1964. 

90 years old and it still delights now and is a Christmas treat for the ages and all ages. It is as visually stunning as say Von Sternberg's SCARLET EMPRESS in 1934.  

After Christmas: Films of the Year, a Jane Fonda mini-festival (I have 4 of hers lined up), more Romy Schneider and Catherine Deneuve, and all those Sondheim LITTLE NIGHT MUSICs (3 stage productions and the 1977 film) ... plus more Arabian Fantasy with Minnelli's KISMET, part of a trio of his including BELLS ARE RINGING. We might start on those HAMLETs and MACBETHs too ... and that 1962 Best Foreign Film of the year: SUNDAYS AND CYBELE.

Monday, 22 December 2014

RIP, continued ....

A last batch of the year? 2 popular actresses, a singer, 2 musicians, a photographer, and 2 Sixties Scandal-makers - and 1 more: actor and comedy writer, and a cinema legend ! 

Billie Whitelaw (1932-2014). Acclaimed British actress Billie Whitelaw, famous for her roles on stage and screen, has died at the age of 82. The Coventry-born star, who was made a CBE in 1991, worked in close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, who described her as a perfect actress. As I said on IMDB: 
I am really sad to hear of the death of actress Billie Whitelaw. Billie seemed to have been rather neglected in recent years, or maybe she was just retired. She will probably be best known now for her role as the demonic nanny in THE OMEN in 1976 (pushing Lee Remick out the window and sinking her teeth into Gregory Peck's leg...), but she was one of England's premier actresses, starting out in comedy films like MAKE MINE MINK in 1960, thrillers like 1960's HELL IS A CITY and PAYROLL in 1961 and Hammer films like THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS. Among her odder films was Boorman's LEO THE LAST opposite Marcello Mastroianni in 1970. 
I saw her on the stage several times and literally bumped into her exiting from Sloane Square Station in Chelsea, when she was appearing at the nearby Royal Court Theatre in 1973. She specialised in Samuel Beckett plays, most famously in NOT I, which I saw at the time, where all we see of her is her mouth reciting the 15 minute play, on a black stage, it was a totally fantastic unforgettable production. I had been meaning to write on it.
She is one English actress (like Kathleen Byron) who deserved more recognition. She and Maggie Smith alternated the role of Desdemona in Olivier's acclaimed OTHELLO at the Old Vic in the mid-60s, though it was Smith who appeared in the film version. Billie was also effective in Albert Finney's 1967 CHARLEY BUBBLES and GUMSHOE. She was also a very attractive woman who had a great career on film, stage and television. 
She would actually have been a marvellous McGonagall in the HARRY POTTER films (I can just picture her in that pointed hat), better even than Dame Maggie, but it seems her career wound down in the last decade or so as those other dames went from strength to strength . RIP indeed.
The obituary in today's "Daily Telegaph" calls her "one of the most intelligent and versatile actresses of her generation. She came to prominence in the post-war fashion for social realism, though she made her name in the surrealistic drama of Samuel Beckett, for whom she was the “perfect actress”. 
Yet the bulk of Billie Whitelaw’s time in later years was spent with family and in charitable endeavours. In spare moments she would tend her garden in Suffolk, often digging with her bare hands. “I’m not really interested in acting any more”, she confessed. “I always thought it was a bit of a flibbertigibbety occupation.”

Virna Lisi (1936-1978), aged 78. Glamorous Italian actress who maintained her looks and kept working, she appeared in some American films in the 1960s: HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE with Jack Lemmon was popular, and lesser films with Sinatra, Curtis and the like. Like Loren, she returned to Italy and continued her career, winning great acclaim for her Catherine de Medici in QUEEN MARGOT in 1994. I also liked her as one of the 4 stars of LE BAMBOLE in 1964. Perhaps in the hierarchy of Italian actresses she followed on from Magnani, Valli, Mangano, Lollobrigida, Loren, Vitti and Cardinale .... 
Joe Cocker (1944-2014), aged 70. Another legendary hardman of rock departs too soon, we loved his rock and roll circus MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN with Leon Russell, which toured in the early 70s,and made a fun movie. He also performed at Woodstock in '69. Joe was a gas-fitter from Sheffield, his gritty vocals of course like on his version of The Beatles "With a Little Help From My Friends" and that "You Are So Beautiful" will endure. He was still touring this year and performed in London in June. Like those other guys Jack Bruce and Ian McLagan who died recently (see above and RIP label) they crammed a lot into their three score years and ten! He was also, like Jack Bruce and Stevie Winwood, one of the great rock voices.

Ian McLagan (1945-2014), aged 69. His distinctive and evocative playing on the Hammond B3 organ and Wurlitzer piano – much influenced, as he admitted, by the R&B veteran Booker T Jones – became part of the fabric of rock’n’roll through his work with two classic British bands, the Small Faces and the Faces. We loved The Small Faces with their 'mod' look and distinctive sound n the 1960s, they were as good as The Yardbirds or The Kinks or The Who. McLagan also played on those early seminal Rod Stewart albums like EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY, and he played on several Rollings Stones hits, like that marvelous "Miss You". He later toured with Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, after he moved to Austin, Texas. The Small Faces were one of those groups endlesssly ripped off by their record company, but McLagan flourished as a great rock player, like the equally marvellous Jack Bruce of Cream, who also departed this year (RIP label). 

Bobby Keyes (1943-2014), aged 70. Like Ian McLagan, above, Keys is another rock & roll legend, who also worked a lot with the Rolling Stones, and even began with Buddy Holly and Bobby Vee. Keyes was an American saxophone player who performed with other musicians as a member of several horn sections of the 1970s. He appears on albums by The Rolling Stones, The Who, Harry Nilsson, Delaney & Bonnie, George Harrison, Eric Clapton's first solo album which I like a lot, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and other prominent musicians, plus working with Elvis and John Lennon.. Keyes played on hundreds of recordings and was a touring musician from 1956 until his death. He also appears in the film of MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN – those crazy 1970s rock & roll years! – and played on the Stones “Brown Sugar” among others. A legendary wild man of rock! 

Phil Stern (1919-2014), aged 95!  Phil Stern, a renowned photographer for LIFE, LOOK and other magazines who honed his skills as a World War II combat photographer but was best known for capturing Hollywood icons and jazz legends in unguarded moments, died Saturday in Los Angeles.
Among Stern's memorable Hollywood images during the heyday of his six-decade career:  Marlon Brando on the set of THE WILD ONE, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr, Judy Garland during A STAR IS BORN, John Wayne, James Dean wearing that polo-neck pullover - right,
For several decades, Stern also shot album covers for the Verve, Pablo and Reprise record labels; he and his camera were fixtures at recording sessions with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz greats. He was another legendary photographer like Bob Willoughby, Eve Arnold, Bert Stern or George Barris. 

Mandy Rice-Davies (1944-1970), aged 70.   Respectful notices for Mandy, one of the '60s good-time girls. She was, like Christine Keeler, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair which rocked the British government. The former model was central to the furore which erupted after John Profumo, then Minister for War, lied in the Commons about his affair with her friend Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with a suspected Russian spy.
The scandal contributed to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in October 1963 and the toppling of his Conservative government the following year. Mandy caused a sensation at court when being told that Lord Astor of Cliveden had denied sleeping with her, she retorted "Well, he would, wouldn't he?". Unlike Keeler, Mandy married well, several times, as she descended from notoriety to affluent respectability, even going on holiday with Mr and Mrs Thatcher and later working with Andrew Lloyd Webber on his musical about Stephen Ward, another victim of the Profumo scandal. 

Jeremy Thorpe (1929 – 2014), aged 85,  was a British politician who served as leader of the Liberal Party from 1967 to 1976 and as Member of Parliament from 1959 to 1979. Few political careers ended in such scandal .... 
His political career collapsed when an acquaintance, Norman Scott, claimed to have had an affair with him in the early 1960s, when homosexual acts were illegal in Britain  - Thorpe though had been leading a double life for a long time. In 1976, the scandal forced him to resign as Liberal leader. He denied any affair with Scott, whom he was charged with conspiring to murder. He was acquitted in 1979, shortly after losing his parliamentary seat in the general election. It was a farcical situation with attempts to have Scott silenced or killed, resulting in the shooting of Scott's dog Rinka but the gun jammed before the hitman could silence Scott. Thorpe survived the scandal and had two successful marriages, both his wives pre-deceasing him. 
Jeremy Lloyd (1930-2014), aged 84. Popular comedy actor and later scriptwriter of classic BBC comedy series like ARE YOU BEING SERVED? and 'ALLO 'ALLO which poked fun at the French resistance during WWII. ARE YOU BEING SERVED? is a particular favourite and just as funny now: Mrs Slocombe's pussy, Mr Humpries and "I'm Free" Captain Peacock, Miss Brahms and all those funny characters, which he co-wrote with David Croft; it ran from 1972-1985 Audiences also enjoyed the antics of Herr Flick, Helga, Gruber and the others in 'ALLO 'ALLO: "I shall say zis only once"!, As an actor he specialised is upper crust toffs, popping up in A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, HELP!, as the pop mogul exploiting silly Yvonne (Lynn Redgrave) in SMASHING TIME, he was also a regular on ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH IN. He caught that late 60s/early 70s vibe perfectly - he was even married to Joanna Lumley (right: Lumley & Croft) for a while, and they remained friends. We would like to see his 1971 sitcom ITS AWFULLY BAD FOR YOUR EYES, DARLING (below) which featured Lumley, Jane Carr and Croft, but it has not been seen for decades, perhaps a comic version of TAKE THREE GIRLS or THE PLEASURE GIRLS ? Bottom: ARE YOU BEING SERVED?
And finally, at the end of the year, 1930s star Luise Rainer (1910-2014), a few weeks short of her 105th birthday! She famously won the Best Actress Oscar two years in a row, in 1936 for THE GREAT ZIEGFELD and in 1937 THE GOOD EARTH. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas TV treats: Tom, the Royles, Mapp & Lucia

Here at the Projector we love Tom Courtenay as Billy and Helen Fraser as Barbara his nicer than nice, too perfect but bossy girlfriend (Billy of course has 2 other girlfriends, the cafe waitress and free-wheeling Liz (Julie Christie's breakout role)).... thats the 1963 classic BILLY LIAR, see Tom label. It was delightful therefore to see them re-united a few years ago in a Christmas edition of the hit British comedy THE ROYLE FAMILY, about that family who just sit around watching telly all the time. In this festive edition Tom and Helen play the very square parents of daughter Denise's dopey husband Dave, as they all gather to celebrate the season with dinner at Denise and Dave's,with predictably hilarious results - 
they forgot to defrost the turkey for a start! and lazy Denise's first course is 'cuppasoup' with a twist - its in a bowl instead of a cup! This hilarious series is of course written by Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash, who are both perfect as Denise and Dave, while Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston do sterling work as workshy Jim Royle and his put-upon wife, Barbara. Tom and Helen though are priceless in this christmas edition, with his motoring gloves and their Ford Mondeo! 
We have a couple to watch in the New Year with Tom playing gay: in THE DRESSER and a tv film from a Noel Coward tale: ME AND THE GIRLS from 1985.
A new perfect treat should be the new 3-part MAPP AND LUCIA, though (as per label) we like a lot the 1983 series which is perfectly cast with Prunella Scales as Mapp, Geraldine McEwan as Lucia and Nigel Hawthorne as her screamer friend and later husband, Georgie, with his wig (right) and his devoted servant Foljambe; that 10 part series was scripted by Gerald Savory and directed by Donald McWhinnie. 

Steve Pemberton (of BENIDORM) has scripted the new series and plays Georgie - even shaving his head so he can wear that fussy wig! Mark Gatiss is Major Benjy, and the two terrors are Anna Chancellor as Lucia and Miranda Richardson gnashing her false teeth as Mapp - and cult favourite Frances Barber plays the Italian contessa who visits and whom Lucia and Georgie have to avoid as they do not speak Italian though they pretend they do. Lets hope the other characters in their thrall are well cast too: Diva Plaistow, Quaint Irene, Mr & Mrs Wyse with their rolls royce, and the Padre and wife. It is of course set in Rye in Sussex which plays the part of that ideal village, Tilling. E F Benson fans should be in for a treat. 
Well not quite the treat I had imagined - it might have worked better if Gatiss had played prissy Georgie, and the rather beefy Pemberton played Major Benjy. No denying Pemberton's dedication to the role though, and scriptwriting as well.
Also fun for the holidays should be a new David Walliams THE BOY IN A DRESS and a new Victoria Wood comedy musical THAT DAY WE SANG, featuring Michael Ball and the stupendous Imelda Stuanton, whom I will be seeing on stage in April in the latest revival of GYPSY - yes she is Momma Rose, and she should be as wonderful as she was in GUYS AND DOLLS a decade or so ago.