DAVID BIANCULLI

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MIKE HUGHES

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New TCM History of Old Movies: It's Good, and the Movies Afterward are Even Better
November 1, 2010  | By David Bianculli
 
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Turner Classic Movies, one of the only cable networks that has remained totally true to its original vision, begins a seven-part documentary series tonight that examines the history of the movies, and the business behind it. It's a good, solid examination -- and what's even better are the movies that follow each week's installment...

The series is called Moguls & Movie Stars, A History of Hollywood, and runs Mondays. The opener, Peepshow Pioneers, premieres tonight (Nov. 1) at 8 p.m. ET, and covers the beginnings of cinema, from its earliest days in the late 19th century.

Watching these inventors and artists, here and abroad, try and figure out a series of tough puzzles -- how to film things, what things to film, and how to attract audiences -- is like watching the invention and development of the original YouTube. I teach this stuff, and writer-producer Jon Wilkman has focused on the right aspects. Christopher Plummer narrates, and anyone watching this seven-part, seven-hour series will have a good sense of the medium's technological, social, economic and artistic shifts.

But for me, the biggest treat is how TCM uses the rest of its schedule -- prime time the night of each documentary premiere, and late night the rest of the week -- to complement each installment. For film fans, these are rarely televised collections and individual films that ought to be snatched up, treasured, and viewed often.

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My favorite "extra treats" on Monday's schedule, for example, are a two-hour compilation of The Films of Thomas Edison (9 p.m. ET), which includes the Edison studio's groundbreaking A Great Train Robbery, but lots of shorter films as well; and, after midnight, more yummy overviews: D.W. Griffith with Biograph (12:05 a.m. ET) and, the best of the bunch, The Films of Georges Melies (2:10 a.m. ET), whose 1902 A Trip to the Moon is shown at the top of this column.

Later, there's even a collection of Silent Shakespeare shorts (4 a.m. ET), but watching Shakespeare without words is kind of like reading Beatles lyrics without listening to the music. You're definitely missing something in the translation.

And the evening ends, or the next morning begins, with a 5:30 a.m. ET showing of D.W. Griffith's 1910 short film Ramona, starring Mary Pickford.

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And watch, all month, for other treats. This coming Sunday, for example, TCM presents the newly restored version of Fritz Lang's 1927 Metropolis (8 p.m. ET, Nov. 7), with about 30 minutes of formerly lost footage, and followed at 11 p.m. ET by a documentary on the discovery and restoration of the missing chunks.

Also that night: Other Lang works, including, at 2:30 a.m. ET, the classic, creepy 1931 M, starring Peter Lorre as a murderous pedophile.

 

1 Comment

 

Toni Duval said:

I have loved TMC even before cable and agree that they have stayed true to the discussion of the art and craft of making movies. I encourage everyone to TiVo or record and watch their documentary series with someone younger than you and pass on the knowledge.

Comment posted on November 1, 2010 6:57 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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