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It’s A Beautiful Life, Channel 4, Christmas Eve, 2:35 p.m.
There’s no better Christmas movie than the 1946 fantasy of Frank Capra, albeit a box-office disaster at the time, and it belongs to the prestigious club of English-language films — see The Wizard Of Oz, ET, Star Wars, The Magnificent Seven, etc. — that everybody should see at least once in their lifetime. From James Stewart’s flawless performance as George Bailey, who is stopped by a guardian angel from killing himself on Christmas Eve, to the underlying themes of kindness, charity and salvation, it’s a wonderful piece of work sure to bring a tear to your eye. It’s crazy to think that at the 1947 Academy Awards, the film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor and won none of those awards, losing out in each case to The Best Years of Our Lives. Nevertheless, his prestige is perhaps a greater legacy today.
Tangerine, Christmas Day, 1:35 a.m. Movie 4,
You hope no kid is already unwrapping their stocking early on Christmas Day, but if they are, it’s fair to say this is not the kind of orange they’d be likely to find in their stocking. But this piece of bravura cinematography is well worth a look for any adult in the mood for an alternate early morning Christmas treat. Shot using three iPhone 5s smartphones by director Sean Baker, it follows a day in the life of transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella (transgender actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez). It’s Christmas Eve, Sin-Dee Rella has just gotten out of jail and joined her friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) in her beloved Hollywood doughnut shop when she learns that Chester is cheating on her, her drug dealer boyfriend (also her pimp). Chaos is erupting and she’s setting out for vengeance. Funny, dramatic, breathtakingly kinetic and defiantly vulgar – a movie gem.
La La Land, BBC Two, Christmas Day, 10:10 p.m.
Ryan Gosling is Sebastian, a jazz-loving Los Angeles pianist who, when he meets Mia (Emma Stone), a struggling actress making the rounds of auditions, ekes out a soulless life playing cheesy standards in a piano bar. “With this 2016 romance, Director Damien Chazelle hit it out of the park, grafting a very new “boy-meets-girl” story onto an outdated film template, namely the Hollywood Golden Age song-and-dance musical. Gosling’s dancing was also somewhat outmoded by some reviewers, but the chemistry between the two leads is undeniable. And in musicals, as in studies on vaccinations, chemistry is everything.
Grand Budapest Hotel, Channel 4, Christmas Day, 11:15 p.m.
Wes Anderson’s 2014 Oscar-nominated film, thanks to a snowy car chase featuring stars Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori, is always a treat, and even has a touch of Christmas about it. They act, respectively, Monsieur Gustave (Fiennes) and Zero (Revolori), the slick concierge and naive young lobbyist of a fictional European country-style hotel. In the present and the 1930s, the story jumps back and forth. F. Murray Abraham plays Zero, a much older man who tells a writer about his adventures with Monsieur Gustave (played by Jude Law). Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan and Léa Seydoux are part of the glittering supporting cast of daily Anderson helpers.
Dunkirk, BBC One, Boxing Day, 9:05 p.m.
There is no better time to watch an early version of the same story, as the British government prepares to turn its unseemly and disgraceful departure from the European Union into anything resembling a victory. The war film by Christopher Nolan uses minimal dialogue and an ensemble cast to tell the story of the Dunkirk evacuation from various perspectives – Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy and a certain Harry Styles all star. It’s best suited for the big screen, like all of Nolan’s movies, but it’s a great display anywhere, and his eight Oscar nominations were well earned.
Wonder Woman, Dec. 29, 7:30 p.m. on STV.
With last week’s “in theaters” sequel to Wonder Woman 1984 (in other words, it can now be streamed on a site near you), it’s a good time to check out the first installment of the new franchise, originally released in 2017 and starring Gal Gard.