It's a new month, and nevermind that we missed doing the Shelf's annual Halloween Madness, but as we mentioned a while back, we've unburdened ourselves of self-imposed strictures and and deadlines. October was a very busy teaching month - with finals and new classes and more, so while we enjoyed Halloween with classic films and cartoons and family traditions as usual, we didn't get to share much with you- but we hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween season.
I was reading our friend Laura's monthly review of the schedule of Turner Classic Movies, as you should as well, and making mental notes of what to make sure to DVR, when I remembered something important: TCM begins it's massive new documentary series, Moguls and Movie Stars this month! It is truly something not to be missed. I received an advance copy and have watched the series- and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood is a seven part series that examines the rise and fall of the studio system in Hollywood. The series is narrated by Christopher Plummer and included interviews with many Hollywood Historians as well as actors, producers and more- but what stood out for me was how they interviewed the descendants of some of the Studio pioneers for the series, which added a unique perspective and voice to the overall projects. Lots of never-before seen footage and rarely seen photographs are also featured. The series charts the very beginnings of the film industry in American and charts the beginning, the peak and the ebb of the studio system in particular.
I teach a Media in American Culture Class, and incorporated some of the information (I was not allowed to screen it for them obviously, but did ask them to watch when it premeired) I had learned from the series into my section on Film in America. It never ceases to interest me to see how little people have examined our culture and media beyond their own lifetimes. A 20-something college student often knows very little of song and film, beyond the 1980s. However, I was pleasantly surprised by my last group of students, some of whom were already classic film fans, and most of whom were very interested by the history of Hollywood. Our normal one hour interactive lecture turned into an hour and a half discussion, with many questions asked of me of how the studio system worked. One student in particular was of the opinion that perhaps we ought to go back to that way of making films. While there are pros and cons to the old studio system, no one seemed to argue that there was something missing from films today, and that is a very unique thing to hear from a group of 20-something college students. I am eager to hear what those who actually watch the series on TCM will have to say.
I highly recommend setting your DVRs, TiVos or what have you, to record the new series. It is well worth your time,- it's instructive, entertaining and important- an ambitious project that only TCM could truly pull off, and it succeeds at the highest level. Moguls and Movie Stars airs every Monday from November 1st through December 13th, with repeated airings on Wednesdays and other days as well(meaning you can still catch the first episode tomorrow night). Be careful when scheduling your DVR- some listings on the schedule have the series listed by episode title rather than series title first. So here the individual episode titles and times to look for (all times are Eastern Standard Time- check your local listings) :
Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood
Episode 1- Peepshow Pioneers: Nov. 1st at 8pm (and repeated viewings, for example, Nov. 3rd at 10 pm, Nov. 6th at 12pm - check the TCM full schedule for other repeating airings during the weeks ahead)
Episode 2- The Birth of Hollywood: Nov. 8 at 8pm
Episode 3- The Dream Merchants: Nov.15 at 8pm
Episode 4- Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? : Nov. 22 at 8pm
Episode 5- Warriors and Peacemakers: Nov.29 at 8pm
Episode 6- The Attack of the Small Screens: Dec.6 at 8pm
Episode 7- Fade In, Fade Out: Dec. 13 at 8pm
What is exceptional about this series, is that each week, TCM will also be airing some of the films mentioned and examined in the series- some of them rarely seen on Television or not available on DVD. For example, some of the silents and early pictures examined in the first episode will be shown this week on TCM- some of them in whole blocks of programming. D.W. Griffith at Biograph, for example, features many of his short films made while at the pioneering film studio. The rarely seen Ramona, with Mary Pickford will also be shown, as well as many of the early films of Thomas Edison and George Melies. Ramona is significant because the 1910 film is one the earliest surviving Biograph films intact with original title cards, and is one of the earliest films of it's kind with story structure and a narrative, a style that was still in it's infancy during that time, when most films were documentary in style. Griffith really helped to bring a strong visual storytelling style to film and is one of the earliest film pioneers to change films into a storytelling medium. Moguls and Movie Stars is highly recommended and definitely one series to clear a slot for on your television recording device of choice.
Item #2- Criterion Collection Sale!
Time to publish this news far and wide! Barnes and Noble is having their 50% Criterion Collection Sale! If you find yourself drooling over those fantastic Criterion Collection sets, but then quickly wiping that grin off your face when you see the price, your time has come! Check out the sale page on the Barnes and Noble site for more details. Not only that, shipping is free if you order $25 or more online. I don't work for B&N, but darn it, I know a good sale when I see one. Check it out now.
If only those who dream about Hollywood knew how difficult it all is.