Free to air
IT took Hollywood 18 years to come up with its widescreen version of the much-loved TV sitcom, and to adapt one of Homer Simpson’s lines, The Simpsons Movie (Saturday, 7pm, Ten) is the funniest animated feature in Hollywood history — provided we ignore all the others. I found it very funny for some of the time and a good deal funnier than I expected. The director, David Silverman, aided by 11 writers, delivers a barrage of non-stop gags, beginning with the opening trademark. When Springfield is polluted by the droppings of Homer’s pet pig, President Schwarzenegger (voiced by Harry Shearer) encloses the town in a huge glass dome to stop the pollution spreading. After much civil disorder and chaos, a nuclear bomb is dispatched to wipe out the rebellious townsfolk. Yes, it’s a comedy: pop religion, cable TV, junk food and soft-core environmentalism all come in for some affectionate drubbing. And watch out for funny signs: Thou shalt turn off thy cellphone’’ (outside a church). D’oh.
When Come Back, Little Sheba (Saturday, 10.10pm, ABC2) was released in 1952 it was like nothing Hollywood audiences had seen before — a relentlessly realistic study of marital misery, based on a play by William Inge. But Paramount, confident that the film was something special, released it around Christmas to qualify for the Academy Awards, and no one was surprised when Shirley Booth, playing the frumpy wife Lola, won the best actress Oscar — beating Joan Crawford, Julie Harris, Bette Davis and Susan Hayward. Booth’s brilliant performance is matched by fine work from Burt Lancaster as Lola’s boozing husband. Directed by Daniel Mann, the film is a neglected masterpiece — an unforgettably poignant study of lives of quiet desperation.
Lancaster followed it with another classic, Sweet Smell of Success (Friday, 2pm, 7Two), set in a world of urban sleaze and showbiz corruption, and directed by an Englishman, Alexander Mackendrick, best known for his quirky Ealing comedies. Shot in glistening black and white, it offers a stark portrait of Manhattan’s neon-lit night life, with Tony Curtis as a venal PR agent and Lancaster in one of his best roles as a compromised newspaper columnist, J. J. Hunsecker. Blackmail, vicious cops, dirty tricks, sexual obsession — the film has it all, along with a breezy jazz score by Elmer Bernstein.
Downfall (Sunday, 11.10pm, SBS One) is Oliver Hirschbiegel’s account of Hitler’s last days in his Berlin bunker, surrounded by his doomed henchmen and the pathetic Eva Braun (Juliane Kohler). Bruno Ganz’s Fuhrer is a ranting megalomaniac, contemptuous of his fellowcountrymen and devoid of feeling even for his last, loyal supporters. This is documentarydrama of the highest order — ghastly and compelling.
(M) ★★★★ Saturday, 10.10pm, ABC2
(M) ★★★★★ Friday, 2pm, 7Two
(M) ★★★★✩ Sunday, 11.10pm, SBS One