Over the previous weekend, yours truly had the opportunity to once again take advantage of the annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. For four days (April 28th through May 1st), your ever lovin’ reporter spend hours sitting in large darken rooms to see a whole slew of moving imagery (read: Movies) that were created in a good chunk of the 20th century from the 1920’s well into the 1980’s.
The selection the folks at TCM, part of Turner Broadcasting (and part of Time-Warner), that offers a channel featuring nothing but older films (as well as a selection of short subjects) that glorify the time when movies, perhaps one of the greatest devices ever to spread throughout the entire planet, were big in stature, important through impact, and served as a communication tool that touched upon near every human emotion. Movies can and has made folks laugh, cry, wonder, learn, love, hate, expressing fear, become confused, fall into disgust, and even provides a feeling of lust through its visual imagery and audible noise. And from those four days spent, I have seen a lot of people express most of those emotions, some more than others, through films that spoke for a vast amount of ideals and expressions for the good or otherwise.
Perhaps the most popular time period that movies had their impact on domestic society comes from the era when the movie industry (it is a business, you know) was beginning in getting its act together in the first twenty five years of the 20th century. The so-called “Golden Days of Hollywood” began in the 1920’s when photoplays (an early term for “movies”) was the primary source for visual entertainment. There were stage plays and music concerts folks could go out to see, but plays were not available in many parts of the nation, and concerts were more for the music  rather than as a visual event. (An orchestra, unless it’s a marching band, doesn’t really move around much!) However, people were flocking to their local motion picture houses to see such moving imagery for their amusement.
From that point well into the 1950’s, movies were bigger and better than ever! Their screen size was rather large in size, their sound was loud (much louder than a home radio device could ever put out), and in many cases, the visuals were presented in vibrant color tones. When the invention that had been around in various forms since the 1920’s called “television” finally became available to its public at the end of World War II, people slowly started to visit their local appliance dealer to grab one of those sets to plop in their living rooms. Within a few years, television, or “TV” for short, were all the rage! The three radio networks, CBS, NBC, ABC (formally known as “The Blue Network”) along with Dumont (makers of TV machines) were placing programming for all to see. And outside of the price of a TV set (at $250.00 and up), along with the electrical power to run the machine, television was free!
Movies and the studios behind them, had to change its focus, creating film that one couldn’t see on TV. In terms of quality and scope, movies by far were way ahead of the pact than what TV could offer. Generally speaking, movies were the leaders and TV were the followers as features were indeed better (and bigger) than ever. However, TV was more accessible and made available more often. And unlike movies that could only showcase a limited amount of communication, TV was more flexible. Whenever something occurred in the nation and/or the world, television was available to bring the news to those watching, be it good news or bad! But in terms of entertainment, movies were the winner.
Things started to change in the war of movies vs. television beginning in the 1960’s. Movies were starting to “grow up”; Not so much in size and scope, but in attitude. Movies were starting to do and say things that were once unthinkable in polite society. Cuss words were starting to be used. Moral actions not normally acceptable in the same domestic societies were being presented or suggested, from graphic violence to sex! (Many times a combination of the two!) In the 1970’s, movies took a major turn where such actions were becoming more common, either for shock value or for emotional impact. TV however, was stating to take notice, and moved toward that pattern but on a much slower and softer scale then its “big brother”. The medium of television, now in its fourth decade of public service, was beginning to lose its innocence, making its viewers to realize that one had to face the realities of the world they exist in, rather then trying to escape to fantasy lands only known to the beholder. (The viewer).
Movies and TV in terms of issues and answers, reached a neck-and neck status within the first few years of the 21st century. Around that time, movies were starting to lose impact, while television was gaining speed. By 2014, more television programs were created and made available than movies of the same nature as noted by The Writers Guild in terms of creating written scripts created for smaller screens (television and its related causes) than for those for the big screen (“Movies”).
Now, getting back to the TCM Festival this writer was starting to comment about at the start of this article. During the event, yours truly had to make many hard choices of what features I wanted to see verses movies I wanted to see but couldn’t. (The film schedules overlapped throughout the event, meaning there were as many of five films running at the same time in different theaters not necessarily close to one another!) I found myself more drawn to movies that I remembered when they were first released way back when. Although I didn’t see a lot of these titles when they were around back in the day, I do have some kind of recollection of them.
I didn’t go to a lot of movies in those early days of mine for various reasons. First, I was too young to go out on my own. I was always with the family, viewing titles that caters to a family audience, such as seeing Mary Poppins at a neighborhood theater, or viewing a theatrical rerelease of C.B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandants at the same theater, but not at the same time! Otherwise, I was with elder siblings to take on films that were just more friendly for a kid, such as The Ghost and Mister Chicken, Munsters Go Home, to a double feature consisting of Don’t Make Waves (starring Tony Curtis) and Double Trouble (starring Elvis!) all on the same bill!
In the 1970’s was yours truly got a bit older, I stated to go to movies less and less with my siblings and stated to attend flicks with my group of pals! The gang I hung around with in junior high school (expressed in more details in Vol. 21. No. 15) were big movie fans, both with the older ones we would see on TV, as well as the newer titles found in the theaters. For the times that we were allowed to go out on our own, mostly on Friday and Saturday nights (they were not “school nights”) and when we had money for admission and the snacks that went along with them, we would head over to a few of the neighborhood movies houses to see a newer (yet second run) flick that was far different than what we could see on a TV program. In these movies, the characters could and did say words you couldn’t say on TV, and there were more violence and sex depicted. When guns were fired at people, they actually bled! If they wanted to take on substances such as an excessive amount of booze or even questionable drugs, they could and did! In was indeed a true experience to see this innocence lost beyond control. And it was in the presence of a gang that thought about these movies as equal to how we experienced ‘em!
Over time and tide, I continued to go to movies on an semi regular basis. Now with my pals long gone, I stated to change my style. I would eventually take a “girlfriend” along, or one that was applying for the title! Sometimes I went alone. By this time, movies were now more violent and cussier than ever! TV was starting to catch up. At that same time, more older movies could now be seen on TV. Thanks to cable television, more movies were found on TV schedules. Many of these channels, such as WTBS, USA Network, WOR, WGN and perhaps the local over the air channels aired movies, but those tended to be cut and/or edited for either moral standards, or to be shortened in running time in order for the station to cram in more commercials! If one wanted to view their films uncut and uncensored, there were such channels such as Home Box Office (“HBO”) Showtime, The Movie Channel, and others that programed recent releases (a year old and up) that presented these films as originally created. However, one had to pay an additional monthly fee to see them, on top of the monthly cable bill. And there was home video were one can see a flick captured on commercial videotapes one could rent overnight from a local video rental store. You could even buy the tape with the feature recorded on it, but unless one wanted to spend some $50.00 and up for the privilege, that notion was limited to the space one could store those tapes, and the budget to acquire them!
But while I was at the TCM fest, I saw a lot of the movies from the 1970’s and 80’s I never looked at back in the day. I even viewed a few films I did see way back when, but through a totally different perspective. I will admit that beginning around 1985 or so, I stated to review films for the TV show I hosted and produced called Accessibly Live. I began to view these films in another way, mostly for journalistic purposes than for pure entertainment value. Granted, those movies were just as entertaining as they were only “OK”, or even just “bad”! One of the movies screened at the TCM Fest, Children Of A Lessor God, is a prime example. Back in ‘86, I thought the film was too melodramatic for my taste. Today some thirty years after the fact, I found the film rather touching and not as heavy handed as I remembered it. Then again, movies from the 80s are totally different from films from the early middle ‘10s, even for a title that is of the same type of genre. From what I recall, its studio, Paramount Pictures, was pushing this film as its “gimmie-an-Oscar” title, a film that would cater toward the tastes and opinions (at the time anyway) to those Academy voting members. Even though I was living in an area where there was little influence to any movie voting campaigns (publications such as The Hollywood Reporter or Daily Variety  didn’t circulate much in my region, so I never saw those “for your consideration” ads found in those trades), I somewhat knew that these kind of movies were indeed bucking to be considered to grab an award or three!
Now as I live and experience the post modern world I dwell in, I can find that movies, as well as TV, can be seen nearly everywhere, from their big screens found in a theater, to tiny screens found on electronic devices stuffed in a pocket or pocketbook. TV programs are no longer scheduled based upon a channel’s scheduling time. One can see one show or all of them back to back whenever the viewer feels like it. After living in a world were such visual mediums were once made available and controlled by a handful of those in power, now we the viewers that not only consume this media, they could provide it too!
But movies being movies and TV just what it is, we will only see more content whenever we want and whenever we can. We can even create that same content that is just limited to the imagination (and financial budget) of the creator. A lot of that content will be great, good, tolerable, or totally indifferent. The only element the viewer has to deal with is the time and effort just to take it all!
So the question remains. Who is winning this war, TV or movies? The answer is–both are winning! And this is a battle of sorts that only time and tide will decide. In the mean time, take advantage of more cutting edge TV to binge upon, or to see another super hero comic book type action/adventure feature that is loaded with the said action and thrills provided by a lot of special effects. That’s the real show biz!
No new reviews for this week, but stay tuned to future editions of Accessibly Live Off-Line for details on theatre shows opening next weekend!
See you then!
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