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My God, it's full of stars!
August 1, 2011 9:58 PM   Subscribe

Turner Classic Movie's "Summer Under the Stars" website is a load of (heavy-loading) flash goodness, and features pretty great interface design, including video content.
posted by crunchland (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I'm their 80 year old audience, and what is this?
posted by joelf at 10:24 PM on August 1, 2011


Hey, TCM rocks. I once video taped (w/ VHS!) an entire months worth of TCM movies (it was Oscar month), swapping out tapes every 6 hours, pausing breaks between films, running to Best Buy for more tapes, etc.. it was epic. They sit in my garage, about 100 tapes or so, waiting for something (the dump). This was before DVD's, Netflix, VOD, and the other ways media consumption has fragmented.
posted by stbalbach at 11:03 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


God, I love TCM. I especially love it when they show the stuff you can't find anywhere else; not DVD, not Netflix, not anywhere.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:52 PM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is it just me or are some of the prints they use fairly execrable though ?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:31 AM on August 2, 2011


Definitely not just you, GallonOfAlan, but to be fair it would probably cost TCM too much money to source or fund new prints of all the movies they show...

God I wish I could get TCM UK without subscribing to 95 extra channels or *ugh* Sky.
posted by dumdidumdum at 3:59 AM on August 2, 2011


I'm their 80 year old audience --- I think that's rather unfair and inaccurate. On the other hand, I was having a conversation with my 14-year-old nephew the other day, who has grown accustomed to having video-on-demand services like Netflix at his beck and call. He has the time and access to so many movies, he's apparently set up some arbitrary filters about what he'll spend his time watching (when he's not sleeping 18 hours a day). Not only are black-and-white movies not worth his time, but pretty much any movie made before 1990 is too out of date to bother with. I thought that was kind of sad, but understandable.
posted by crunchland at 4:15 AM on August 2, 2011


Understandable in what way?
posted by blucevalo at 5:50 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only thing I really miss from cable is TCM. Whenever I housesit or petsit for someone with cable, I totally catch a little b&w.

I used to just have it on in the background while doing homework in highschool. Introduced me to some awesome movies and I loved the intros that would tell me little trivia about the actors and production.
posted by sio42 at 5:52 AM on August 2, 2011


Understandable in what way? -- Well, with all the options to choose from, I understand that he needs some way to filter out what he likes from the flood of all the stuff coming at him. It's arbitrary, but it works for him. Some day soon, I'll sit him down and show him that just because it's black-and-white doesn't mean that it's not worth watching, and try to show him some examples.
posted by crunchland at 6:01 AM on August 2, 2011


Well, with all the options to choose from, I understand that he needs some way to filter out what he likes from the flood of all the stuff coming at him.

Ah, I see. Yes, that's true.

Some day soon, I'll sit him down and show him that just because it's black-and-white doesn't mean that it's not worth watching, and try to show him some examples.

You're a terrific uncle.

The thing about TCM that's sad these days is that Robert Osborne apparently had a stroke (or some other malady) that's laid him off for the past month and through to October. His smooth avuncular manner really makes the commentary between the films work, and it's jarring to see doddering "friends" like Robert Wagner and Tippi Hedren read from the teleprompter like they're deer caught in the headlights and calmly reassure everyone that yes, Robert will be returning soon. It's also jarring to see weekend host Ben Mankiewicz on during the week. And yeah, I pretty much watch TCM nonstop unless it's a whole week of singing cowboys like they had this past month or a night of Loretta Young or the umpteenth showing of "Gigi."
posted by blucevalo at 6:31 AM on August 2, 2011


Easily the best channel on my television. It's not all old obscure black and whites, even though there is nothing wrong with them - they're appreciated by more than 80 year olds. On TCM there is no censorship, no commercials, and letterboxed format for some gorgeous films. Epic movies like Gone with the Wind and Lawrence of Arabia are shown with their entrance and exit music, with an intermission in the middle. After Sidney Lumet died I was up until 5 in the morning watching Dog Day Afternoon (showing immediately after Network). The Graduate shows a few times a year, as does Bonnie and Clyde, Annie Hall and Once Upon a Time in the West. On TCM I've caught movies I remember fondly from my peak filmgoing years, like Repo Man and Gregory's Girl. The only issue that I have with TCM is it can easily eat a day (or a month) if you allow it, especially in August, with the Summer Under the Stars, and in February, during the runup to the Academy Awards.
posted by TimTypeZed at 6:42 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


features pretty great interface design

I'd say the interface design is mixed at best. The postcards for the movies are great, and the transitions between them are nice. Unusually for a Flash site, you can use bookmarks (and that guy looks like Kenneth Branagh).

Using a map to navigate between dates and stars is a little confusing. Sometimes the actors are black and white, sometimes they're not, and it seems pretty random. (For instance, The Lady from Shanghai is a black and white movie, but on Orson Welles' postcard he's in color.) You have to click on the postcard to see that they're showing multiple movies for each actor on the day they''re featured and to see articles and videos.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:44 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


God, I love TCM. I especially love it when they show the stuff you can't find anywhere else; not DVD, not Netflix, not anywhere.

This. I would pay a reasonable monthly fee for a website that lists all the movies being broadcast on TCM and elsewhere that are not recent releases, and are not available ("legitimately" or just even easily) on DVD or VOD. We randomly caught Sam Raimi's brilliant and sometimes difficult to find in region 1 Crimewave on something called Indieplex a few weeks ago, for instance, and that was only because I fell into one of those bouts of scrolling through days of TV listings looking for stuff to DVR.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:07 AM on August 2, 2011


kirkaracha: You have to click on the postcard to see that they're showing multiple movies for each actor on the day they''re featured and to see articles and videos.

Yes, but a regular TCM viewer would already be primed that they do this multiple-movies-of-one-actor deal every day every August and it wouldn't necessarily be bothersome. Still, I agree that it's not a great design concept for an uninitiated user of the site, which is the person they're presumably trying to attract. I think the design is clever (Joan Crawford bussing cars in a diner parking lot, hilarious!) but kind of busy. The minimalist approach would have been better.

TimTypeZed: It's not all old obscure black and whites, even though there is nothing wrong with them - they're appreciated by more than 80 year olds.

I don't understand, at all, this idea that if a movie is black and white it's somehow only the province of 80-year-olds or that they have to be defended as having nothing "wrong with them," as though they were embarrassing orphans. Although I concede that I'm looking at it from a lens that's used to nothing but a steady diet of TCM, I guess (as well as a steady childhood diet of "Twilight Zone" episodes), and it's obvious that black-and-white filmmaking has been relegated to the margins. To my mind, black-and-white movies are the ideal moment in film, when all of the true magic and mystery happened (the idea of a film like "Citizen Kane" or "Casablanca," just to take two completely overused examples, is inconceivable to me, though of course there was a time when Ted Turner was colorizing movies like those), and the transition to color is when things started falling apart, in a sense. Some of the films that move me the most (even in the era when black and white had been mostly supplanted by color) are still the holdouts by the directors who stubbornly clung to black and white. If that makes me an 80-year-old, so be it. I remember how thrilling it was to watch "Manhattan" for the first time and realize that the whole thing was in black and white -- same with "Stardust Memories," or "Raging Bull," or "Ed Wood." Hell, for that matter, "The Man Who Wasn't There." Watching that whole thing unspool in black and white in a movie theater was just marvelous. I wish I'd been able to see "Following" in a theater like that.
posted by blucevalo at 7:50 AM on August 2, 2011


The Man Who Wasn't There -- Did you know that the produced a color version of that, too? I think it may be on the DVD.
posted by crunchland at 8:13 AM on August 2, 2011


Robert Osborne apparently had a stroke (or some other malady) that's laid him off for the past month and through to October

He's the core of TCM. This will be the Steve Jobs / Apple moment, can TCM thrive without him, if he goes.
posted by stbalbach at 8:22 AM on August 2, 2011


I once video taped (w/ VHS!) an entire months worth of TCM movies (it was Oscar month), swapping out tapes every 6 hours, pausing breaks between films

That is so awesome -- mostly because it was the kind of thing that my aunt used to do for my cable-less grandmother, and the type of thing I do now, but instead of filling up video tapes, I fill up my TiVos hard drives.

I have more movies in my Netflix Instant queue than I could ever watch, and usually more hours of recorded TV than I could ever watch as well, yet monthly, either the boyfriend or I (or sometimes both) will sit down and scan through TCM for the month and record things that sound interesting. We probably end up watching 10% of them, but when we don't have cable, it's truly the thing that I can't replace. (Even though, as I mentioned, we do subscribe to Netflix.)

TCM wasn't part of my earliest cable packages, but about 15+ years ago, when I got a DirectTV (with early DVR) for the first time, it was included, and I clearly remember the first thing I recorded was Detour -- a B-movie (at best) and something I'd probably never actually rent/queue up, but a movie I'd read about during (or more likely after) a fillm noir class I'd taken. My boyfriend at the time and I sat down to watch it after it had recorded for about 15 minutes (fancy! new! technology!) and were hooked. That's the type of experience I go to TCM for.

And any website that pops up an illustrated version of the divorce dude ranch from The Women is okay by me. And by "okay" I mean full of absolute win. I'd not done the aforementioned scan through the DVR recently, and tomorrow's star is Bette Davis. Hope there's room on the Tivo.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:50 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I have no problem with black and white. I enjoyed all the films you've mentioned (I think of Stardust Memories as my favourite Woody Allen movie, although it's been forever since I last saw it and my memory of its appeal may not be that accurate). I was responding to the early comment in this thread that seemed to want to place the TCM audience in the retirement home. I know there are great old black and whites (last night it was The Wild One followed by A Streetcar Named Desire that I stopped to watch for a bit while flipping around). Sentence composition failure on my part: I should have written that they are "appreciated by many more people than 80 year olds", rather than "appreciated by more than 80 year olds", which can sound like I'm agreeing with the original statement.
posted by TimTypeZed at 9:28 AM on August 2, 2011


my 14-year-old nephew... pretty much any movie made before 1990 is too out of date to bother with

Tell him that there was once a time when pornos weren't filmed in a basement with a video camera.
posted by localroger at 2:25 PM on August 2, 2011


I kinda worry about kids his age. He has more access to more porn of every flavor imaginable. When I was 14, I had to make do with National Geographics and the underwear section of the Sear's catalog, along with a vivid imagination.
posted by crunchland at 6:25 PM on August 2, 2011


My wife was one of those that would never watch old movies. Suddenly, in the last couple of years, she won’t stop watching them. We almost never watch a contemporary movie anymore. Not because we don’t like them, but we just have too much TCM on the DVR to watch. TCM is probably the only reason we still pay so freakin much for satellite.
posted by bongo_x at 9:03 AM on August 3, 2011


I kinda worry about kids his age. He has more access to more porn of every flavor imaginable. When I was 14, I had to make do with National Geographics and the underwear section of the Sear's catalog, along with a vivid imagination.

This is a bit of a derail, but I was only half joking. They call it the golden age of porn for a reason. Even the crappiest porn movies of the late 70's / early 80's were made on 35mm film with production values (or at least attempts at them) that are almost hilariously unthinkable now. The effort it took to make a movie at all on 35mm film meant you were at least a bit serious and would probably have lighting people, sound people, location shooting, props, non-sex establishing scenes to move the plot along, and maybe even a writer.

One of my fonder adolescent memories is of seeing the porno flick Sexworld, which was in the grand tradition of the genre a blatant ripoff of the idea of the hit movie Westworld, where high-tech human form robots create a fully interactive fantasy environment (which, in the mainstream flick, goes horribly wrong).

If you censored out all the hardcore bits of Sexworld though it would actually still be a pretty decent low-budget sexploitation flick, with some really well done character development on the part of a couple of characters. Put this up against today's fare of the basement one-camera bang video and the latter is almost embarrassingly flat. Nobody in porn remembers how to do a plot with actual characters any more, even badly acted characters. It's just a plumbing show.

One thing I'd recommend to anyone who is remotely curious is to watch Westworld first, a well regarded movie for its day and still interesting in ways (one can easily see that it influenced me a bit) and even probably on-topic in that it's TCM fare, and then watch its porn copycat Sexworld to see what was taken, what was left, and what was put in to make a better movie for the porn audience. Even though porn is still ripping off mainstream movies for ideas, there hasn't been such a good reason to do a comparison like that for a long time.
posted by localroger at 6:17 PM on August 3, 2011


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