(photo credit: courtesy)
Back in the late Eighties, when Channel Two had just started in Israel and it was clear that soon there would be cable networks here, I thought that once there was good cable, there would be peace. Well, everyone can laugh at me now, but at least cable and the increased sophistication of the Israeli channels has made the country a better place for old-movie buffs and insomniacs. No one gets a Nobel Prize for that, but at least it's something.
Ingmar Bergman died earlier this week and you can see one of his early masterpieces on YES 3 at 18:34 today, The Seventh Seal. You probably know by now that it stars Max von Sydow as a medieval knight who challenges Death to a chess game and manages to save the lives of a young family meant to resemble Christ's. It's been imitated and parodied endlessly (notably by Woody Allen in Love and Death), but it's a powerful film and one that holds up much better than you'd expect.
Throughout the week, there are a number of classics on, plus some lesser known films that were unfairly overlooked when they played (or didn't even open) in theaters. In the latter category is Alan Rudolph's The Secret Lives of Dentists starring Campbell Scott (the most underrated actor working today), Hope Davis and Denis Leary. Davis and Scott play two dentists who are married to each other and who find their marriage stressed to its limit by an infidelity. Leary is a roughneck jazz musician who becomes a kind of alter ego to the mild-mannered Scott. It may not sound like much, but it's a very original film. Why the people at HOT Drama chose to put it on at 00:58 a.m. on Sunday morning is something you'll have to ask them. Also on HOT Drama, Saturday night at 9:30 p.m., is Stephen Frears' Dirty, Pretty Things, about a Nigerian doctor living in London and working as a taxi driver who is coerced into performing surgery for an organ donation ring. It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has gone on to appear in Inside Man and The Children of Men, as well as Audrey Tautou as his Turkish roommate.
YES Stars 2 is rerunning the early episodes of The Sopranos weekday nights at 23:10 and that's certainly well worth watching again, from the beginning. But not everyone remembers that, with a strange, Hollywood synchronicity, Robert De Niro starred as a mobster who seeks the advice of shrink Billy Crystal in Analyze This in 1999, just when The Sopranos was new. The film carried the tagline: "New York's most powerful gangster is about to get in touch with his feelings. YOU try telling him his 50 minutes are up," and you can see it on Friday night on Channel One at 10 p.m.
There is no way anyone can see too much of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. TCM is showing Adam's Rib, the movie in which they play two sparring lawyers at 3 p.m. on Monday, and their first movie together, Woman of the Year, at 8 p.m. on the same day. In this one, Hepburn plays an acclaimed and self-centered political columnist and Tracy is a regular-guy sportswriter. It's much darker than most romantic comedies and Hepburn plays one of her least sympathetic characters (and possibly the closest to her real personality). The sophistication of these two movies' writing, acting and direction is so far ahead of anything on screen today that it will take your breath away. At 1:45 p.m. on TCM Monday, there's a documentary about Hepburn, All About Me. On Saturday at 4:35 p.m. you can see Hepburn and Tracy again on TCM in Pat and Mike, in which she plays a star athlete and he her coach. It's slightly more conventional but still terrific.
OK, these are the good movies, but what if your mind is numbed by the heat and you're in the mood for that old standby, a good bad movie? At Saturday on Yes 4 at 11:30 a.m., you can see the grandfather of disaster movies, Earthquake. Charlton Heston plays a city engineer and Ava Gardner, close to the end of her career, is his vile wife (and Lorne Greene, just seven years older than Gardner, was her father). As the San Andreas fault starts to rock and roll, these characters, plus sweaty cop George Kennedy, a young Victoria Principal and Seventies relic Marjoe Gortner all work out their soap-opera conflicts.