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Channel 4, The Form of Water, 9:30 p.m.
Mexican horror maestro Guillermo del Torro spins this incredible feat of creativity and image-making that wowed at the 2018 Oscars with 13 nominations and four awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, with influences as varied as Mike Leigh’s film Happy-Go-Lucky and the classic 1950s monster movie The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
Del Torro saw and was impressed by British actress Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky, and he wrote the character of his heroine with her in mind – Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner in a hidden government laboratory where a mysterious amphibious creature was taken after being trapped in a river in South America. And this is where The Beast From The Black Lagoon comes in, del Torro’s childhood obsession, and a movie he once wanted to remake.
The year is 1962, the city is Baltimore, and while we’re theoretically in the middle of the Cold War, as seen through Guillermo del Torro’s eyes, this is America in the early 1960s – in other words, fantastic, stylized, somewhat gothic and otherworldly. Elisa is drawn to the creature (played by contortionist Doug Jones, who works with del Torro on a regular basis) and develops a kind of bond, engaging with sign language and filming him with Benny Goodman. One thing leads to another and the blossoming of an unexpected love affair. Elisa is making a proposal to return the amphibian to the wild. She enlists the aid of her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) and another scientist at the sinister research center, Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg). Not all goes according to plan, and at the end there is a wonderful plot twist that will have you scrambling for the tissues, as befits del Torro.
BBC Two, The Godfather, 10:10 p.m.
An powerful Mafia clan is ruled over by Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), but his youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), claims to want nothing to do with the illegal activities of his father. But when the father is hospitalized, all three boys step in to keep the family business running after an assassination attempt by a gangster who did not approve of Vito’s refusal to get involved in the drug trade, and Michael proves to be the most ruthless. The 1972 gangster film by Francis Ford Coppola is a masterpiece. While the Oscar was won by Brando’s iconic depiction of the patriarch and left a million bad impressions, Pacino as Michael is arguably even better, and the supporting cast, including James Caan, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton, is filled with talent.
BBC Four, The Lady In The Van, 9 p.m.
Playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) moves into a Camden house and a dour woman named Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith) settles on the same street in her rickety car shortly afterwards. In his driveway, Alan foolishly offers to let her live temporarily. Months transform into years, and as he becomes the guardian of Miss Shepherd, the playwright despairs and receives frequent visits from Miss Briscoee, a meddling social worker (Cecilia Noble). The Lady in the Van is an amusing movie adaptation of the award-winning 1999 stage play by Bennett, described as “a mostly true story.” Smith reprises her theatrical role as the eponymous tramp, unleashing a series of biting quips that in Downton Abbey would certainly make her imperious widow cackle.
Morgan’s Creek’s The Miracle, Movie 4, 12:35 p.m.
The hit series by writer-director Preston Sturgess – he made The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels and The Palm Beach Tale in fast succession – resulted in the censors’ classic war criticism of 1943. Trudy Kockenlocker, a small-town girl who attends a farewell party for a group of soldiers going off to war, plays Betty Hutton. She wakes up the next morning to learn that, though drunk, she married one of them – but not only is he gone, she can’t find him because she can’t remember his name. Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken), a local boy who has been in love with Trudy for years and isn’t cleared for service for medical reasons, steps in when she later learns she’s pregnant.
The Speech of the King, BBC Two, 9 p.m.
Bertie plays Colin Firth, the younger son v