Thursday, March 11, 2010

Luxuriating in Turner Classic Movies

As I’ve mentioned before, upon landing in the great US of A we Canucks sometimes feel like refugees from, well, Canuckistan. We flock to American stores to buy goods with variety and prices undreamed of north of the border. And then there’s the media. I’m spending all this month south of the Great White North. Among other things I’ve been indulging in Turner Classic Movies (TCM).....TCM was created by Ted Turner, a movie freak, in 1994 as part of his broadcasting system. The beauty of the network is many-fold. It’s entirely commercial-free, except for its own sparse – and really not irritable – promos. Movies come uncut and mostly uncolourized. They’re presented in the original formats. TCM even has an advertorial explaining why Letterbox format is superior to Pan and Scan (is it ever!).....In 2008 the network won a Peabody for broadcasting excellence. It’s easy to see why. Watching TCM is luxuriating in classic film. Its round-the-clock programming from the vaults of MGM, United Artists, RKO and Warner, as well as under license to studios like 20th Century Fox and Universal, is plentiful and sumptuous.....But what’s wonderful about TCM is that it presents film (it chooses the word “movies” because let’s face it “movies” is what generations have always called them) in a loving and highly respectful context that does them justice - for example, in sepia-toned introductions showing movie crowds gathering in a big city environment before the silver screen.....Prior to the Oscars TCM ran its 31 Days of Oscar, devoted to Academy Award-winning and nominated films over the decades. It also showcases the movies of directors and stars based on their birthday months. On Tuesday this month TCM is showing 26 films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, on Wednesdays the films of Ginger Rogers.....Saturday night at 8 pm it’s The Essentials, iconic films of their times (the last two Saturdays had A Streetcar Named Desire and Saturday Night Fever) co-hosted by film historian Robert Osborne (who’s been with the network from the start) and guest Alec Baldwin....The channel is constantly exploring themes. Tomorrow night it has an armload of “mutant” horror pictures such as Them! and It Came from Beneath the Sea. Or the films of Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, The Ruling Class, Lord Jim – wow!) on March 20.....You can get lost in TCM, the kind of network for which going to bed seems like a crime.....

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