On this Memorial Day weekend, broadcast and cable television make it easy to take fresh looks at films you may warmly remember as well as some you may never have seen. Check out these offerings.
Ordinary People (1980)
As an actor, Robert Redford brings a striking authenticity to every role he plays, from his classic work as The Sundance Kid to last year’s man adrift at sea in All Is Lost. Looking back, his smooth transition to behind the camera remains a Hollywood milestone. As a director, as he displays as an actor, Redford conveys truth as he refuses to let artificial situations get in the way of the real emotion he wants to convey. In his directorial debut — this Oscar-winning movie version of the Judith Guest novel — Redford guides Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland and Timothy Hutton to reveal the pain people hide when they can’t confront what really hurts. While a quiet family drama may not be unique in 2014, Redford’s film caused a stir 34 years ago because it dared to explore what other movies simply suggest. And Redford won the Academy Award for Best Director over such competitors as Martin Scorcese (Raging Bull) and Roman Polanski (Tess).
Saturday, May 24, 4 p.m., Sundance
Working Girl (1988)
Harrison Ford doesn’t always look comfortable when he plays comedy. While he easily fits into any other type of movie character, the pressure to tickle the funny bone can disappoint despite such efforts as Sabrina and Morning Glory. So his delightful performance in this Mike Nichols gem is something to savor given how seldom he hits his comic stride on film. Ford is subtle, engaging and appealing as an investment banker who becomes enamored by a young woman who appears to be just what he hopes to meet. But nothing is as it appears in this subtle farce set in the financial world of Wall Street in that long-gone decade of indulgence called the 1980s. With Melanie Griffith as the young woman he wants to pursue, and the hysterical Sigourney Weaver as the aggressive contender he hopes to avoid, Ford seems to thoroughly enjoy every moment on screen. And so do we.
Monday, May 26, 11:30 a.m., Reelz
The Producers (2005)
While this film version of the Broadway musical hit fails to generate the excitement of the stage original, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick offer enough laughs and musical highs to keep us entertained. Director Susan Stroman works hard to recreate the rhythm of the Broadway version — itself an adaptation of Mel Brooks’ film from 1968 — but fails to fully adjust to the change in media especially in how guides several performers to deliver exaggerated performances as if they are playing to the balcony. While Uma Thurman makes a valiant attempt to bring “Ulla” to movie life, she is not a musical performer, an impression she reinforced on Smash a few years ago on television. And even though Lane and Broderick are at home with the material, they appear restrained by Stroman’s conventional approach. Still there are some magic moments in a film that could have been much better.
Monday, May 26, 11:50 a.m., Flix
Mister Roberts (1955)
While several military-focused films air this weekend, this thoughtful comedy — based on the Broadway play — offers humorous insight into the day-to-day routine of military staff during World War II. While other films may celebrate major moments in the conflict, Mister Roberts pays tribute to the average people who serve our country through its comic situations and exaggerated characters. Henry Fonda, recreating his Broadway role, plays an every man who represents the best that military staff brings to their work, while James Cagney scores as a leader who people love to hate. Jack Lemmon walks away with the film as a young ensign who always has a solution in mind when he starts to create havoc. This is a fun way to celebrate the meaning of this national holiday. And, yes, Lemmon won his first Oscar for this performances.
Sunday, May 25, 12 noon, Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Sharing worthwhile movies can be as easy as turning on the television or going online. And, when you watch together, take the time to chat about what you’re seeing. That makes it even more fun.