Of all the way we share family time, movies give us all kinds of things to talk about. Thanks to a full weekend of films available on broadcast and cable television, it’s easy for everyone to discover something new on the screen. Take a look.
His Girl Friday (1940)
I have always loved to write. And, because I am fascinated by journalism, I love to find movies about reporters. This film is based on the famous play, The Front Page, where two rival journalists fight tooth and nail for the scoop of the day in Chicago. On stage, the leads were men; for the film, director Howard Hawks changed the characters to a man and a woman. That gives the story an extra dimension of fun as Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell battle for the headlines and spar about the difference between the sexes. It’s all great comedy in a film that moves so quickly, with its famous over-lapping dialogue, that the performers rarely have a moment to take a breath. Yes, reporters use different methods to gather news today, but the dynamics of the profession haven’t changed a bit.
Saturday, Sept. 20, 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
My sons, Matthew and Garrett, grew up with a fascination about history, and a special interest in World War II. From an early age, they wanted to know everything they could about this chapter in world history. The movies helped and, for years, World War II was an important item on their movie menu. Of the many Hollywood films about the war, Mrs. Miniver may be unique, because we never actually see a battle. Instead the film beautifully recreates what living through World War II means to one British family. As the war begins, daily life begins to change; foods they rely on become difficult to find, family members are called into service, patterns in village life adjust. As the reality of war intensifies, the family realizes that life may return to the routine, but some things will never be the same. This lovely film, the Best Picture of 1942, reminds us that war is fought on many battlefields.
Sunday, Sept. 21, 12 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
The Descendants (2011)
People grieve in many ways. Any time we confront a loss — a friend, family member, home or job — we do what it takes to accept and resume. When we can finally close the door on the hurt, we let ourselves feel the fresh air of a new beginning. The air freely blows in this remarkable film as writer/director Alexander Payne delivers a compelling examination of grief when a family faces the impending death of its matriarch. Payne injects his story with so much humanity and natural humor that we love every minute we spend with this family. The characters become people we want to know and care for as they express their reactions to tragedy. Much as he did in About Schmidt and Sideways, Payne uses humor in delicate ways to reveal how much people can hurt. He reminds us that, when we grieve, we only experience that fresh air once we confront what really hurts.
Sunday, Sept. 21, 1 p.m., TNT
Sit back and enjoy this delightful animated tribute to the traditions of the movie Western. Featuring a fabulous voice-over performance by Johnny Depp, this high entertainment brims with creativity and joy. Now, parents, don’t let that word — animation — sway you from having a great time. This time around, animation is a means to an end; the form does not define the art nor minimize the impact; the film does not “talk down to adults” simply because it is animated. Visually, the film never permits its computer origins to limit the reality of what we see. From the dust in the streets, to smoke in the bar, to an incredible aerial sequence, the visual thrills are endless and amazingly realistic. Of course, every great Western offers a meaningful moral, and Rango certainly qualifies. From this magical collection of characters — and their familiar surroundings — we are reminded that while destiny awaits every man only those who believe in something can fully achieve what they are meant to be.
Saturday, Sept. 20, 1:30 p.m. FXX
Sharing worthwhile movies can be as easy as turning on the television or going online. And, when you watch as a family, take the time to chat about what you’re seeing. That makes it even more fun.