I really do like modern, current, right-now movies, you know. Even the standard comedies tickle me. "Date Night" is great fun, "Bounty Hunter" is pretty good, "Valentine's Day" is almost adequate.
But there is something to be said for catching the very best of anything. It's a pleasure to go the the Chicago Art Institute and see the best, to sit in a concert hall and hear the best. And that's why Turner Classic Movies is so important.
Other channels have abandoned the classics, but TCM sticks with them. Today, it even starts a four-day festival in Hollywood, showing them on the big screen, where they belong.
I couldn't make it there; you probably couldn't either. At the same time, however, TCM has cable showings of many of the great films. Here's the story that I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
In a throw-away culture, old movies –
even the classics – are often ignored.
“I can't imagine what it would be
like to not have old books,” said Robert Osborne, host of the
Turner Classic Movies cable channel. “So why would we not have old
This weekend, as usual, his channel
will pump out the classics – “2001,” “The Graduate,”
“Singin' in the Rain,” “Sunset Boulevard” and more. But it
will also take an extra step: It hosts a massive festival in
Hollywood, filled with old movies and old actors.
Eli Wallach, 94, is expected to be
there; so is Ernest Borgnine, 93. “He is so upbeat,” Osborne said
of Borgnine. “He loves being an actor; he's such a jolly fellow and
he loves everyone.”
He's a newcomer compared to Luise
Rainer, who is 100. If all goes as planned, she'll introduce “The
Good Earth” – in which she won her second Oscar, in 1938. “She
will outlive us all,” Osborne said.
So will the movies, if restoration
people keep up their work. The festival opens Thursday with a
restored “A Star is Born” (1954). It shows “Metropolis”
(1927), with some lost footage added. It has at least five other
restored films, including “The Big Trail” (1930), an Osborne
favorite. “It was a big, big 70-millimeter film,” he said, with
John Wayne in his first credited role.
There will also be some less-obscure
films, from “Casablanca” to “The Graduate,” from “North By
Northwest” to “Saturday Night Fever.” Tony Curtis will be there
with “Some Like It Hot” (1959), Mel Brooks with the original “The
Producers” (1968); Martin Landau will discuss “Cleopatra”
(1963) and Douglas Trumbull will discuss the special effects for
“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968).
Lately, trends have been in the
opposite direction. Cable channels duck the classics; American Movie
Classics became simply AMC, Arts & Entertainment became A&E.
Video stores focus on the new.
“Studio libraries have lost their
value,” Marc Graser wrote in Variety, the trade paper. The value of
old MGM films has dropped by about one-third, he wrote, quoting an
analyst as saying “there's not the demand from the public that
there used to be.”
For Osborne, 77, the passion has always
been there. He grew up in Colfax, Wash., a little town that now has
2,9000 people. “There was no one there like me, who was crazy about
After majoring in journalism, he tried
Hollywood. He got a few small acting roles and worked for stars.
“Lucille Ball told me, 'We have enough actors here; we don't have
anyone writing about it.”
So he became a film historian. He wrote
the official Academy Award book and has been at TCM – as host and
interviewer – since it started in 1994.
Now TCM spreads out this weekend. On
cable, it keeps showing the classics; in Hollywood, it will show them
on big screens at Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Egyptian Theatre;
other events will be at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel – where the
first Oscar ceremony was held in 1929.
Nine years later, Osborne wrote in “80
Years of the Oscar” (Abbeville Press, 2008), the ceremony was at
the Biltmore. “Luise Rainer was home in house slippers when the
Academy committee noted her absence and phoned to tell her she had
won for the second year in a row. She hastily changed into an evening
gown and hurried to the Biltmore.”
If all goes well, she'll be back in
Hollywood this weekend (72 years later), to celebrate movie classics.
– TCM Classic Film Festival, Thursday
through Sunday, old Hollywood. All-festival passes are $499;
individual films, mostly $20, are sold only at the box office.
Details at www.tcm.com/festival.
– At home: There's a film-festival
mood to this weekend's schedule. Friday has “2001: A Space Odyssey”
(1968), 8 p.m., and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)
11 p.m. … Saturday has “The Graduate” (1967), 8 p.m. … Sunday
has “Lilies in the Field” (1963), 3 p.m.; “Best Years of Our
Lives” (1945), 5 p.m., “Singin' in the Rain: (1952), 8 p.m. and
“Sunset Boulevard” (1950), 10 p.m.