December 21, 2014

What to watch: Some classics this weekend

What’s on your family’s movie menu this weekend?

A man who dares to challenge social convention, an acting team at their best and a little girl in search of a crown highlight the nourishing movies on television.

Harvey Milk was a pioneer in human rights who was tragically murdered at the peak of his potential as a voice of reason and hope. Sean Penn brings this man to life in a rich performance that will surprise as well as touch; inform while it entertains. The film Milk takes us into the life and heart of an unlikely hero who conquers professional and personal challenges to become a positive symbol for the freedom that every Gay American deserves to experience. Today, as people continue to search for the words to express their hopes, Milk celebrates a man who dared to lead this parade. Without becoming an on-screen lecture, the film reminds us that we are each responsible to give everyone a chance to speak. Milk broadcasts at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 1, on USA.

For some 25 years, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn delighted audiences in a series of popular comedies and dramas. From Woman of the Year in 1942 through Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1967, the pair defined how men and women can balance priorities to give each other the chance to breathe. In one of their best comedies, Pat and Mike, Hepburn plays a college athletics instructor and Tracy a sports promoter who spar on and off the golf course. The specifics of the plot are incidental; the magic in this partnership is in the rhythm they establish and the relationship they sustain. What’s fascinating about this pair is how he demonstrates respect, and she articulates defiance, that defy the norms of the day. Look for this fun film on Saturday at 6 p.m. on Turner Classic Movies.

For any child who dreams of pageant glory, Little Miss Sunshine uses this competitive culture to frame a touching story about a family adjusting to new realities. With Greg Kinnear as a father who lives in denial, Toni Collette as a mother who finds day-to-day life challenging and Abigail Breslin as the young girl with a dream, the film winds its way through the adjustments families make to accommodate and care for each other. While Alan Arkin won an Oscar for his humorous portrayal of the grandfather, he is only one member of a sterling ensemble cast bringing this special story to life. Look for this comedy on Friday, May 31, at 5:45 p.m. on IFC.

No matter how many times you have seen Star Wars: A New Hope, the film remains as fresh as when it premiered in 1977. Special effects may have become more extensive since then, and space stories have appeared many times, so there’s nothing like revisiting the original to remember what all the excitement was about. We had never seen anything like this blend of character, situation and moral in a piece that says as much about today’s world as the fictional world it creates. As you savor this film again, enjoy the simplicity of its approach. Sometimes, at the movies, less is more. Look for Star Wars on Friday at 8 p.m. on Spike.

After a full week, if you need a sudsy drama to escape, the weekend’s guilty pleasure is the Julia Roberts drama Sleeping With the Enemy, airing Saturday at 12 noon on Lifetime. This indulgent melodrama from 1991 stars Roberts as a young woman who fakes her death to get away from her husband. But is she that inventive? Or does he know her well enough to guess her every move? While the plot is predictable, and the acting is over the top, the film never fails to entertain.

 

Serving nutritious movies can be as easy as turning on the television. And be sure, as you watch together, to share what you observe, question and consider. Watching movies together can prompt valuable family discussions.