Essential?

Moderators: Sue Sue Applegate, movieman1957, moira finnie, Lzcutter

User avatar
srowley75
Posts: 731
Joined: April 22nd, 2008, 11:04 am
Location: West Virginia

Essential?

Post by srowley75 »

No doubt this is also a hotly-debated topic on the TCM Message Boards - and in years past I admit that I myself have wondered how on earth certain choices by the programming staff have made it onto a show presumably showcasing "essential" films....

But after checking out this year's selection:

http://i.cdn.turner.com/v5cache/TCM/200 ... e_2009.pdf

I have to wonder who on earth booked this lineup. In no way do I consider the 1941 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Saboteur (1942), The Mouse That Roared (1959), or The Long Hot Summer (1958) "essentials" given the definition: "Movies that define what it is to be a classic." And there were others I'd dispute as well, but those were the standouts in my mind.

Is the problem that the station has already overplayed everything "essential"? Because by now surely they could develop some new station gimmick - perhaps "Hidden Gems," "Bad Movies We Love," etc.
User avatar
bryce
Posts: 166
Joined: August 18th, 2008, 9:21 am

Post by bryce »

The problem here, and I am sure you will agree, isn't about what criteria the station goes by to determine what is or is not essential, or whether they need a new programming lineup, new staff, or some new gimmick. The problem, as is easily seen by any member of this forum or TCM's, is with us.

Virtually every facet of TCM, especially Underground and Essentials, comes under frequent attack by any given wing of its fanbase depending. Just about the only part of TCM anyone can agree on is Robert Osborne and, really, he's no more knowledgeable or respectable than any other mainstream critic, he's just incredibly endearing.

Pretension is the most dangerous emotion a station like TCM faces. If I remember correctly you are one of the handful of people on this board that have referenced Salo. Could you imagine the uproar if Turner were to broadcast that one? Perhaps they have and I didn't notice, but I'd imagine that you'd have legions of viewers screaming bloody murder. Yet that would be one of the most engaging, experimental and subversive things the station could do.

Why don't they? Because there are plenty of people on this board, the TCM board and without access to any board that would freak out, and not in the good way.

The worst thing about TCM isn't its programming; it's its community. I would think the guest presenters selected (and subsequently their 'ideas' of classic film) would easily have shown that.
User avatar
rudyfan
Posts: 300
Joined: December 14th, 2007, 3:19 pm
Location: Bagdad by the Bay

Post by rudyfan »

Well, I'm rather glad that Rose McGowan will not be back for this go round. In all seriousness, who is she?

Alec Baldwin will be entertaining, at least.

I do find the lineup of films rather uninspired. Perhaps The Essentials should eb clearly identified as a "vintage" essential or a "modern" essential. This might give them more leeway. I'd love to see more foreign films shown under this banner. As much as I love Seven Samurai, there are way too many great foreign films that could use some showcasing in prime time and not at 3am.

Just my 2 cents
jdb1

Post by jdb1 »

Yes, I have been pretty exasperated with some of the choices as well, but it's all part of the self-referential generation, isn't it? It seems that for the most part, the co-hosts' definition of "essential" or "classic" is "I liked it," and they don't talk past that. That's not enough of a reason for me, especially since most average film lover types all love the same films.

I'd really like to see someone more knowledgeable than what we've been seeing, who could make a good case to the general TCM public about why such and such film is important, that is, essential, to filmdom. Not necessarily Molly Haskell, who seems to generate a lot of negative reaction, but someone with that breadth of knowledge of films. It doesn't have to be done in a stuffy or, heaven forbid, educational way. Presentation and commentary could be kept light in spirit. There are so very many films out there -- surely someone in Hollywood has seen more than just the usual ones people think of as old movies.
User avatar
Lzcutter
Administrator
Posts: 3180
Joined: April 12th, 2007, 6:50 pm
Location: Lake Balboa and the City of Angels!
Contact:

Post by Lzcutter »

Based on the long trailer that I saw at The Birds screening last week, I think Alec Baldwin is going to be a good co-host for The Essentials.

I also think that he had quite a say in what films he wanted to showcase on the series.

The biggest problem with the series has always been, for me, that the five to seven minutes at the beginning and end of the movie is not enough time to talk about what makes the films chosen truly essential.
Lynn in Lake Balboa

"Film is history. With every foot of film lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other and to ourselves."

"For me, John Wayne has only become more impressive over time." Marty Scorsese

Avatar-Warner Bros Water Tower
User avatar
srowley75
Posts: 731
Joined: April 22nd, 2008, 11:04 am
Location: West Virginia

Post by srowley75 »

Lzcutter wrote: I also think that he had quite a say in what films he wanted to showcase on the series.
Well, it would certainly be interesting to hear why he believes his selections to be "essential."

I should probably apologize for starting the thread since truth to tell I couldn't care less what one person or another defines as "essential" or "classic" - and while I don't visit the TCM Message Boards very frequently, I imagine those who do and yet also belong to this board have borne witness to well more than their share of these types of inane discussions.

But when I saw the schedule, my knee-jerk reaction was something along the lines of "Good Lord, whose idea of 'essential viewing' is this," since many of the films I'd seen or revisited fairly recently and just found, well, boring. I even wondered if TCM might've just exhausted their "cream of the crop" and instead this year just opted for a sort of "hidden gems" angle (yet I really don't see that happening, either).

I mean, I don't intend to give the impression that I'm some sort of film snob - I watch and enjoy all types of films. But while I realize there are multiple definitions of terms such as "essential" and "classic" (which is why I put both in quotes), I personally don't see how you could rate at least half of the films on this year's schedule as "essential" no matter what explanation or definition you assign to that term. There's just nothing that special about them.

And I guess my (baseless) concern was that anyone might visit these films thinking they represented the best in "classic film" and be somehow disappointed and possibly discouraged from exploring other older films - since, as I understand it, the intent of the series is to acquaint novices with what's important out there.

In light of that, personally, I consider Plan 9 From Outer Space "essential." Also 8 1/2, Mondo Cane, The Wizard of Oz, Yojimbo, Halloween, Mommie Dearest, They Live by Night, the Flash Gordon serials, The Virgin Spring, Night of the Living Dead, Sherlock Jr., The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Un Chien Andalou and, yes, Salo - but all for different reasons - yet all would likely keep anyone's attention longer than any of the other four previously mentioned, or Tom Jones or The Guns of Navarone.
jdb1

Post by jdb1 »

I think Lynn has a point: you need much more time to discuss what might make any film "essential," and in the brief time allotted to RO and his co-hosts, you don't really get much more than "I like this one" because they don't have enough time to say why.

Also -- I do understand that TCM's point with this series is to point out to novice film lovers what films they should know about in order to have a point of reference for their explorations of classic film. From that point of view, we can all argue as to what Classic Films 101 should be, but they have to start somewhere, don't they? Viewing just about any one of the movies shown on "Essentials" is a step in the right direction, IMO.

When all is said and done, I guess I'd rather hear RO and Alec Baldwin talk about movies than hear some pompous film studies professor (not any of you, of course) drone on -- Remember Paul Benedict as the NYU Intro to Film Studies professor in The Freshman? Now that was classic.
User avatar
ChiO
Posts: 3925
Joined: January 2nd, 2008, 1:26 pm
Location: Chicago

Post by ChiO »

srowley said:
But when I saw the schedule, my knee-jerk reaction was something along the lines of "Good Lord, whose idea of 'essential viewing' is this,"
Come on! Don't you consider THE MOUSE THAT ROARED to be the essential film in the category of "Political Satire directed by Jack Arnold that stars Peter Sellers in three roles"? I do.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles
MikeBSG
Posts: 1777
Joined: April 25th, 2007, 5:43 pm

Re: Essential?

Post by MikeBSG »

"the Mouse That Roared" is a good movie. An essential, no, but a good movie.

The 1941 "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," however, simply stinks. I know there are people out there who dislike the 1945 "Picture of Dorian Gray" and consider it airless and constipated, but the 1941 "Jekyll" makes "Dorian Gray" the equal of "Bride of Frankenstein" "Cat People" and "The Body snatcher."
klondike

Re:

Post by klondike »

ChiO wrote:srowley said:
But when I saw the schedule, my knee-jerk reaction was something along the lines of "Good Lord, whose idea of 'essential viewing' is this,"
Come on! Don't you consider THE MOUSE THAT ROARED to be the essential film in the category of "Political Satire directed by Jack Arnold that stars Peter Sellers in three roles"? I do.
My only problem with TMTR earning so debatable a distinction is that it serves as a somewhat abrasive reminder for me about how thoroughly overlooked, disregarded & underappreciated is the fim The Magic Christian (and yes, I'll admit that the name sure don't help).
Ollie
Posts: 913
Joined: January 18th, 2008, 3:56 pm

Re: Essential?

Post by Ollie »

I no longer consider the guests' versions of Essentials as mine. I just hope they can add something to a film's discussion points, such as insider info (which younger hosts can't do) or perhaps a discussion of how the film's impact has changed over their many viewings of the film (and I'd certainly hope even a young host has seen their choices more than twice over a several-year period).

I wish the guests would always present a well-reasoned argument for their choices AND recognize that some may not agree. Address those issues. State the case.

But the Rose McGowan Camps argued one valid point: the Essentials are not targeting a film fan like me. I just wish they'd formulate a reasoned argument that might convince someone else, and that frequently was never done in 2008.
User avatar
srowley75
Posts: 731
Joined: April 22nd, 2008, 11:04 am
Location: West Virginia

Re: Essential?

Post by srowley75 »

Ollie wrote:I just hope they can add something to a film's discussion points, such as insider info (which younger hosts can't do) or perhaps a discussion of how the film's impact has changed over their many viewings of the film (and I'd certainly hope even a young host has seen their choices more than twice over a several-year period).
I wish the guests would always present a well-reasoned argument for their choices AND recognize that some may not agree. Address those issues. State the case.
[...] I just wish they'd formulate a reasoned argument that might convince someone else, and that frequently was never done in 2008.
So judging from what you (and others) have said, it sounds as though the series fails to make any of the films featured relevant to today's viewer. The only aspect that makes these films "essential" is that someone scheduled them in a weekly series entitled "The Essentials." (That is, aside from bringing in a hip, trendy host to make random comments on the movie.) Unless the movie is so famous it cannot be denied its status (e.g., Casablanca as an essential - well, duh), it's left to the viewer to make the movie relevant. It would seem as though any one of TCM's special month-long series are more likely to explain a film's significance to cultural history rather than "The Essentials." (e.g., the film series on portrayals of Asians/Gays/Blacks/Latinos in the movies)

If the station wishes to continue producing a program along these lines, it may be in their best interest to form some sort of tie-in to the book 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die. It's one of the more popular movie books, or so it would seem from the conversations I've had. In the minds of many, a film would qualify as "essential" viewing simply by virtue of being in the book (a viewer might be compelled to check the movie out simply to discover what's supposed to be so great about it).

But again, not that I really care. :lol: My viewing as of late has included Something Weird (the Herschell Gordon Lewis film that gave Something Weird Video its name) and several more notable Radley Metzger films. And in my mind, those were essential. At least my head didn't keep drooping throughout the viewing experience.
Ollie
Posts: 913
Joined: January 18th, 2008, 3:56 pm

Re: Essential?

Post by Ollie »

I agree with your comments. I think they (EDIT: that is, The Essentials' "essential value") are not relevant to me, however, but I can't hope to anticipate the valuation by today's viewers.

I sort of like the idea of bringing in someone who feels they can deliver a new layer of Essential Films or new reasons to view the old standards as Essentials anyway. That's why I haven't tried to judge one Presenter over another, although I was disappointed in Rose's lack of volunteered personal reasons for her first several Essential films, and I stopped watching her comments.

I'm sure she had some reasons and hopefully developed a better set of arguments as the time progressed.

I think TCM's fan base grows over time, not because of any single blockbuster or showing. I think as film-fans get more exposed to more film, TCM becomes more and more a home-base.

But for newbies to movies? I expect them to always been intrigued by the shiniest and newest of baubles. So does every advertising venture in the world, on just about every product, too. But there's a lot to say about long-term goals.
Last edited by Ollie on March 26th, 2009, 6:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
jdb1

Re: Essential?

Post by jdb1 »

My sinking feeling is that much of this celebrity commentator usage is dictated not so much by a desire to educate a newer generation to the joys of Classic Hollywood, as it is by the latest style of TV presentation, which is to narrate everything we are seeing unfold before us, even when it doesn't need narration. These so-called "reality" shows drive me crazy with their never-ending explanation of what we are seeing, and then what we are going to see after the commercials, which is then re-narrated to us as it happens, and then again two minutes later in summation.

I just don't get it. If I'm watching the tube, and hear some underdressed, semi-literate Angelina wannabe pretending she belongs in New York City in some completlely implausible true life show saying "Awesome!" fifty or sixty times a minute, why do I also need her talking head interspersed into the frame simultaneously repeating: "Then I said that was so awesome."

We have these celebrities on TCM "explaining" the movies, because that's what younger viewers have come to expect: someone to do all their thinking for them, no questions asked. I honestly don't think that the "coveted audience" group sponsors love so much wants to hear any deep opinions or debate. They just want to be spoon-fed what someone in an expensive outfit tells them they should think. If they have to move their brains out of "passive reception" mode into "make a considered judgment" mode, they might change the channel.
Ollie
Posts: 913
Joined: January 18th, 2008, 3:56 pm

Re: Essential?

Post by Ollie »

Robin Hood didn't split so many bullseye arrows as well as you just did. Congrats.
Post Reply