Culture Vulture: your guide to the week’s entertainment (6th-12th of May 2023)

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Culture Vulture is a weekly podcast that offers an alternative and critical perspective on the latest entertainment including movies, TV shows, music, books, and more. The podcast is hosted by a diverse group of cultural enthusiasts who challenge mainstream perspectives and celebrate underrepresented voices. The podcast provides something for everyone, whether you’re a die-hard fan or just looking for a new way to engage with entertainment. Music in this episode is by Tim Bragg.

Saturday 6th of May 2023

Road to Perdition (2002 film) 10.55pm ITV1

Road to Perdition is a crime drama film directed by Sam Mendes and released in 2002. The film follows a mob enforcer named Michael Sullivan, played by Tom Hanks, who goes on a journey of revenge with his son after his family is murdered by a crime boss. The cinematography and visual style of the film are stunning, with memorable scenes shot in rain, snow, and fog, creating an atmosphere of darkness and tension. Tom Hanks delivers an exceptional performance, as does Paul Newman, who plays the crime boss. The film is slow-paced, but this works to its advantage, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the characters and their motivations. Road to Perdition is a beautifully crafted and emotional film that explores themes of loyalty, family, and revenge in a way that is both gripping and unforgettable.

La Belle Epoque (2019 film) 1am BBC2

La Belle Epoque is a French romantic comedy-drama film directed by Nicolas Bedos and released in 2019. The film follows a disillusioned cartoonist named Victor, played by Daniel Auteuil, who is given the opportunity to relive a memorable day from his past thanks to a virtual reality company. The film is witty, charming, and heartfelt, with a standout performance from Auteuil. The visuals are stunning, with scenes set in the past and present that are visually distinct and appealing. The film’s dialogue is in French with English subtitles, which may be a challenge for some viewers, but it’s worth the effort to fully enjoy this delightful and emotional film. Overall, La Belle Epoque is a beautifully crafted film that explores themes of love, regret, and the power of memory in a way that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Sunday 7th of May 2023

Carmen Jones (1954 film) 2.40pm BBC2

Carmen Jones is a 1954 musical drama film directed by Otto Preminger and based on the 1943 Broadway musical of the same name. The film follows the story of Carmen, a fiery and seductive factory worker played by Dorothy Dandridge, and her ill-fated romance with a soldier named Joe, played by Harry Belafonte. The film is a landmark in cinema history, as it was the first major Hollywood film to feature a predominantly black cast. The music and choreography are stunning, with memorable songs such as “Dat’s Love” and “Habanera”. Dandridge delivers a mesmerizing performance, earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the first for a black actress. The film’s exploration of race, gender, and sexuality was ahead of its time, making it a groundbreaking and important film in American cinema. Carmen Jones is a classic film that deserves to be remembered for its artistic achievements and its cultural significance.

Monday 8th of May 2023

Ronan Kemp: Our Silent Emergency 9pm BBC3

Roman Kemp’s BBC documentary, Our Silent Emergency, explores the personal impact of suicide and the rising rates among young men. The documentary focuses on Roman’s personal experience with the sudden and unexpected suicide of his best friend and work colleague, Joe Lyons. In an attempt to understand why young men like Joe take their own lives and why they might not turn to the people who know and love them the most, Roman travels across the UK to meet with support groups and services working tirelessly to help people who are suicidal. The statistics and frequency of suicide attempts and completions discussed in the documentary are shocking and underline the need for the word ‘emergency’ in the programme’s title. The documentary also emphasizes the importance of deeper conversations about men’s emotions and normalizing discussions about mental health. Roman’s ability to be open and share his feelings sets the tone for the whole documentary, underlining the need for more men to open up in whatever way they feel comfortable with.

Secret Societies: In The Shadows 9pm Sky History

Secret societies have long captivated people’s imaginations all over the world, throughout history. These clandestine groups meet in secluded locations, whether in private clubs, hidden crypts, or even on the internet, for unknown purposes. The fascination with secret societies is evident in this six-part series that explores the murky history of some of the most famous ones such as the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, the Illuminati, the Skull and Bones, and Le Cercle.

One possible explanation for our fascination with secret societies is their veil of mystery and intrigue. These groups are often shrouded in secrecy, which fuels our curiosity and encourages us to delve deeper into their activities, rituals, and beliefs. Additionally, the notion that a select few hold power and knowledge that is inaccessible to the general public is appealing to some.

Another reason for our continued fascination with secret societies could be the way in which they have been portrayed in popular culture. From Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code to countless movies and TV shows, secret societies are often depicted as possessing arcane knowledge, engaging in bizarre rituals, and holding immense power. This portrayal creates a sense of mystique that has continued to captivate audiences.

Finally, our fascination with secret societies may stem from a desire to belong to a group that is exclusive and has a shared purpose or belief system. For some, the idea of being part of a select few who are privy to secret knowledge and power is enticing.

Despite the prevalence of secret societies in popular culture and history, the reality is that little is known about their inner workings and activities. This fact only adds to the allure and intrigue of these organizations. It is possible that some groups, however archaic, are still operating in the shadows, perpetuating their traditions and beliefs. The secrecy surrounding these groups ensures that they remain a fascinating and enigmatic part of our cultural consciousness.

The Alleys (2021 film) 1.45am Film4

The Alleys is a film set in the residential area of Amman, Jordan, where the buildings are built so close together that the streets are little more than alleys. The film showcases a number of interrelated stories that reveal a complex web of lives woven together. Although writer-director Bassel Ghandour’s feature debut does well on the festival circuit, it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, despite some terrific performances from Maisa Abd Elhadi and Nadira Omran. The story revolves around small-time chancer Ali, who steers gullible tourists to nightclub fleshpots. Meanwhile, someone secretly films Ali and Lana’s trysts and uses the video to blackmail Aseel, who turns to local kingpin Abaas and his top henchwoman Hanadi for help. The film falls short of delivering a satisfying conclusion, with plot points left unresolved. Despite its potential, The Alleys ultimately fails to deliver.

Tuesday 9th of May 2021

Military Masterminds (one of four) 8.30pm PBS America

Dominance: From Julius Caesar to Napoleon Bonaparte, ancient generals took advantage of a military tactic still used in modern warfare, employing overwhelming power to paralyse the enemy. A tactic known as Rapid Dominance. This episode explores the lives and feats of four men who used it to achieve victory: Moshe Dayan, Erwin Rommel, Colin Powell and Isoroku Yamomoto

Salinger 9pm Sky Arts

J.D. Salinger was an American writer, best known for his novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” which was published in 1951. Born on January 1, 1919, in New York City, Salinger grew up in a wealthy family and attended prep school before attending New York University and later Columbia University.

During World War II, Salinger served in the U.S. Army and saw combat in Europe, an experience that had a profound impact on his writing. After the war, Salinger began publishing short stories in magazines such as The New Yorker, which would later be collected in his book “Nine Stories.”

However, it was “The Catcher in the Rye” that made Salinger a literary sensation. The novel tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a teenage boy who has been expelled from his prep school and is wandering around New York City. The book is known for its frank portrayal of teenage angst, disillusionment with society, and Holden’s struggle to find meaning and connection in a world he finds phony and superficial.

“The Catcher in the Rye” has been both highly acclaimed and highly controversial since its publication. It has been praised for its realistic portrayal of adolescence and its lasting influence on popular culture. At the same time, the book has been criticized for its language, its portrayal of sexuality and mental illness, and its supposed encouragement of rebellious behavior among young people.

Salinger himself was famously reclusive, avoiding publicity and refusing to give interviews or make public appearances after the publication of “The Catcher in the Rye.” He continued to write and publish stories, but he became increasingly withdrawn from public life, spending much of his time in rural New Hampshire. Salinger died on January 27, 2010, at the age of 91.

This documentary is an in-depth look at Salinger’s life and an assessment of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’.

Turkey: Empire of Erdogan (one of two) 9pm BBC2

The inside story of Erdogan’s astonishing rise to power. With first-hand testimony from former president Abdullah Gul, former prime ministers, deputy PMs, party chiefs, opposition figures, analysts and journalists, this two-part series is a gripping and detailed account of the many battles Erdogan has had to fight along the way.

Wednesday 10th of May 2021

Military Masterminds (two of four) 8.30pm PBS America

Combat Power: Combined arms operations use the force of different military corps to increase the combat power deployed against an enemy. Combining these forces needs incredible planning, decisiveness and authority. This episode explores the lives and feats of four military leaders who used the tactic to achieve victory: Bernard Montgomery, William Westmoreland, Georgy Zhukov and Norman Schwarzkopf.

Red Joan (2018 film) 11.15pm BBC2

“Red Joan” is a captivating film that tells the story of a retired scientist named Joan Stanley, who is suddenly arrested and accused of being a spy for the Soviet Union during World War II. The film, directed by Trevor Nunn, is based on a true story and stars Judi Dench in the lead role.

The film follows the life of Joan, a young physics student who falls in love with a communist sympathizer and begins working on a top-secret project to develop the atomic bomb. As she rises through the ranks of the research team, Joan becomes increasingly disillusioned with the government’s intentions and begins passing classified information to the Soviet Union.

The film skillfully weaves together past and present as Joan’s story unfolds in a series of flashbacks, while in the present, her son grapples with the revelation of his mother’s past. Dench gives a commanding performance as the older Joan, while Sophie Cookson portrays the younger version of the character with nuance and depth.

Overall, “Red Joan” is a well-crafted and thought-provoking film that explores complex themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the blurred lines between patriotism and treason.

Thursday 11th of May 2023

Military Masterminds (three of four) 8.30pm PBS America

Deception: Disinformation, decoys, and traps. Strategy and tactics can be creative. But behind every deception and masquerade are the Military Masterminds creating, planning and executing each strategy to defeat an enemy. This episode explores how leaders Winston Churchill, Nikita Khrushchev, George Patton and Muhammad Anwar Sadat, used the tactic to achieve victory.

Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool (2019 film) 11.15pm BBC4

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is a touching and sensitive film based on the real-life memoir of Peter Turner. The movie covers the years 1979-1981, beginning with Turner meeting Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening), a former big star in the 1940s and 50s who is now in England starring on stage in The Glass Menagerie. Despite the significant age difference, Turner, a young bisexual actor, falls in love with her, and the affair is passionate and tender.

Bening and Jamie Bell give outstanding performances, and there are some fine supporting roles, including Julie Walters as Peters’s mum and Vanessa Redgrave as Glorias. The movie’s set production is evocative of the time and place, and there is a lot of great music in the film, including a specially composed piece by Elvis Costello.

The story is sad, but it also speaks to a loyal and lasting love. Even when the affair has ended, Peter still cares about Gloria, and it is to him and his family in Liverpool that she turns to for care as her health deteriorates. Overall, the film is a beautiful and poignant portrayal of an unconventional love story that transcends age and time. “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” is a moving and beautifully acted film that is well worth watching.

Friday 12th of May 2023

Military Masterminds (four of four) 8.30pm PBS America

Guerrilla Warfare: To surprise the enemy, attacking and disappearing without a trace. To harass, sabotage, ambush. Throughout the 20th Century the majority of guerrilla warfare centred around the confrontation between right and left ideologies. This episode looks at how Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, Josip Broz Tito and Võ Nguyên Giáp used Guerrilla Warfare to overcome a militarily superior enemy. Part 4 of 4.


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