On this Valentine’s Day weekend, broadcast and cable television offers some memorable visits with a few of our favorite movie couples. Take a look.
Yes, it won all the Oscars and made a lot of money. But, years later, Titanic still seems an unlikely victor over the critically acclaimed L.A. Confidential in the race for Best Picture. James Cameron’s production is so overdone – with a final hour that feels as if it goes on for days – that some performances get lost. No matter the excess in how the film is made, the chemistry between Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio radiates through the screen. They are so right for each other, and so convincing in their characters, that we ignore a lot the stuff that Cameron adds to his movie. What we recall, almost 20 years later, is the sense of doom that first defines their love and later the fate for thousands of people. They make revisiting Titanic worth the time. Almost.
Saturday, February 14, 9 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., AMC
When Helen Hunt was primarily known as a television actress – and the star of the hit Mad About You – she ventured to the big screen in this extravaganza about people who chase tornadoes. Noted at the time of its release for its dramatic use of a flying cow – and an homage to The Wizard of Oz – what makes the film so watchable after all these years is the fresh approach Hunt brings to her on-again, off-again romance with Bill Paxton as her ex-husband. They are delightful as they argue, memorable as they collaborate, and touching as they try to rekindle the remains of a love affair gone bad. Philip Seymour Hoffman also appears, in one of his pre-stardom supporting roles, and the lovely Lois Smith shines as an eccentric woman with a positive outlook and a stocked kitchen.
Saturday, February 14, 3 p.m., A&E
Irma La Douce (1963)
More than 50 years ago – after starring in the Oscar-winning The Apartment for Billy Wilder – Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine reteamed with the famed director in this movie version of a hit Broadway show. While the stage version was a musical, Wilder plays the film for touching laughter in a simple story of a “lady of the evening” on the streets of Paris who becomes the focus of a shy policeman’s affection. While Lemmon is irresistible as a man so in love he will do anything to protect his lady from her chosen profession, MacLaine shines in the showier role as a “hooker with a heart of gold” who radiates sincerity with every expression. These veteran performers remind us that precise comic timing is an art that few master.
Saturday, February 14, 4:30 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
The American President (1995)
Annette Bening can be magical on screen when she plays a powerful woman with a sensitive core. She shines as an ambitious lobbyist who falls in love with the President of the United States in this romatic comedy from writer Aaron Sorkin before he explored the White House on television with The West Wing. Michael Douglas delivers one of his least mannered performances as a liberal President struggling with conservative opponents while, as a single father, dealing with the challenges of raising a young daughter. But Bening makes the film sing as she convinces us that, yes, she can move mountains with her politics and touch the heart of the most powerful man in the world.
Saturday, February 14, 8:30 p.m., Sunday, February 15, 3:30 p.m., POP
Adam’s Rib (1950)
Perhaps the greatest love affair in Hollywood folklore is the romance – on and off screen – between Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. From 1942 – when they first starred in Woman of the Year – to 1967 – when they made their final bows in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – they filled movie screens with layers of love and affection and each other’s lives with complexity and companionship. This comedy gem from writers Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, and directed by George Cukor, reminds us why we crave their partnership. Tracy is an irascible attorney who prosecutes a helpless woman (the wonderful Judy Holliday) who is charged with shooting her husband. But he has a long way to go to secure his verdict because the woman’s attorney is, you guessed it, Hepburn, in a great role filled with bite and conviction. This one continues to delight.
Saturday, February 14, 12:30 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Sharing 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.