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Some Questions about "The Essentials" and Political Correctness?


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I'm a longtime TCM watcher but only an occasional visitor to this website, so I apologize if this topic was already discussed.  And my intention is not to stir controversy (always a risk). But my wife and I can't help but notice the preponderance of "Essential" movies that showcase  women, racial and ethnic minorities (minorities in the U.S., at least), and non-U.S. cultures.  Ben and Ava now seem to be recycling movies that were only recently shown, like "Sounder," "Gandhi,"  and "Rashomon."

Does Ava choose these movies being shown under the "Essentials" banner?  If so, how long will she be co-hosting?  Is "The Essentials" severely limiting itself, considering so many films from Hollywood's "Golden Age," while deservedly essential,  were blatantly politically incorrect?  Should "essential" films be chosen on the basis of quality first, and racial/ethnic/gender identity a distant second, and isn't diversity of ideas the most important consideration?  Is TCM's emphasis on PC a reaction to the criticism that the Oscar awards received (justly or unjustly) a few years ago?  Essentially (sorry)...are we pulling back too far on the bowstring and completely missing the target? (and possibly encouraging a backlash, like that which occurred in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?)

Thanks, just asking.  For the record, I'm a liberal Democrat who voted for Hillary and supports impeachment and forced resignation of that creature in the White House.

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Just now, greenpete58 said:

I'm a longtime TCM watcher but only an occasional visitor to this website, so I apologize if this topic was already discussed.  And my intention is not to stir controversy (always a risk). But my wife and I can't help but notice the preponderance of "Essential" movies that showcase  women, racial and ethnic minorities (minorities in the U.S., at least), and non-U.S. cultures.  Ben and Ava now seem to be recycling movies that were only recently shown, like "Sounder," "Gandhi,"  and "Rashomon."

Does Ava choose these movies being shown under the "Essentials" banner?  If so, how long will she be co-hosting?  Is "The Essentials" severely limiting itself, considering so many films from Hollywood's "Golden Age," while deservedly essential,  were blatantly politically incorrect?  Should "essential" films be chosen on the basis of quality first, and racial/ethnic/gender identity a distant second, and isn't diversity of ideas the most important consideration?  Is TCM's emphasis on PC a reaction to the criticism that the Oscar awards received (justly or unjustly) a few years ago?  Essentially (sorry)...are we pulling back too far on the bowstring and completely missing the target? (and possibly encouraging a backlash, like that which occurred in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?)

Thanks, just asking.  For the record, I'm a liberal Democrat who voted for Hillary and supports impeachment and forced resignation of that creature in the White House.

First off;  Well said!   As you note these can be dangerous waters.    

I was one that felt the "Essentials" had run it course.     TCM suspends it for a while and then brings it back in what I find to be a different context.  

Like you,  while I understand this "context" I don't feel it relates to what the "Essentials" was. 

Just have Ava host another program related to the context TCM hired her to cover.   (of course what they would call such programming,,,,,  that didn't stir the pot too much,,,, hey, maybe that is why TCM just decided to call it the "essentials").

 

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There might be an article about this on the main website somewhere. As I vaguely recall, there were 20 movies - Ava chose 10, and Ben chose 10.  And the whole thing was filmed in one day, I think in maybe two sessions. There has certainly been some grousing on these message boards that maybe her ideas of what constitutes an "essential" don't jibe with those of the typical TCM viewer. If you want to call that a backlash, then yes, it's already happened. 

Regarding classic films now regarded in some quarters politically incorrect, I noticed TCM is running a piece where Donald Bogle and the new host of Silent Sunday Night whose name I havent' learned seem to be defending TCM continuing to air films with blackface numbers, though I suspect these films will only be shown from now on with the host giving a warning in the intro (or be shown in the middle of the night).

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45 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Just have Ava host another program related to the context TCM hired her to cover.   (of course what they would call such programming,,,,,  that didn't stir the pot too much,,,, hey, maybe that is why TCM just decided to call it the "essentials").

And they could call it "Separate But Equal."

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I went on the TCM cruise in October and Ben said there was going to be a different host for the next season of The Essentials. Since the programming has been around for about 15 years, for about the first 14 seasons the films were pretty mainstream and often repetitive. I see nothing wrong with Ava & Ben branching out a little. 

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2 hours ago, HelenBaby2 said:

I went on the TCM cruise in October and Ben said there was going to be a different host for the next season of The Essentials. Since the programming has been around for about 15 years, for about the first 14 seasons the films were pretty mainstream and often repetitive. I see nothing wrong with Ava & Ben branching out a little. 

I'm curious why TCM is replacing Ava after only one season.      Something smells odds here.

 

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22 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I'm curious why TCM is replacing Ava after only one season.      Something smells odds here.

 

She is a busy filmmaker and it's likely she never intended to be a recurring host.

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14 hours ago, HelenBaby2 said:

I went on the TCM cruise in October and Ben said there was going to be a different host for the next season of The Essentials. Since the programming has been around for about 15 years, for about the first 14 seasons the films were pretty mainstream and often repetitive. I see nothing wrong with Ava & Ben branching out a little. 

I think it's a good idea that "The Essentials" branch out a little, and I've got nothing against Ava Duvernay (though I know little about her).  And allowing knowledgeable film critics, historians, directors, actors, and fans to choose and air films that they might think are "essential" is a worthy idea, and Saturday at 8 PM EST is an ideal time to show these films.   My issue is using race, gender, and ethnicity as criteria.  Like someone else said, this should be a separate show.  It's an unfortunate reality that so many so-called "classic" films are dominated by white males, and some are even offensive in their portrayals of women and minorities.  But choosing films based on identity just exacerbates an ongoing problem in the U.S. (in my opinion).  And it severely restricts the pool of movies.  If TCM is going to have a program called "The Essentials," the main criterion should be the film's quality and/or significance, not the racial or gender makeup of the actors or directors, or the film's setting or theme.  If TCM wants to "branch out," maybe start showing more '60s and '70s films, or alternate Essential co-hosts more regularly.  I'm even open to re-broadcasting some of those great discussions between Robert Osborne and Alec Baldwin, who I thought had great chemistry.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Resurrecting this, because I received a book yesterday that relates to modern realities, classics, and how films are reckoned as essential.

This is the book i received:

51mDzDT8jIL._SX395_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

It was a new edition (after a long wait) of this earlier title (up through 2002)... there was an earlier edition too.

511ENXCPVPL._SX375_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Anyway, to get down to it, after a little time looking at the new book, I took my old edition down from the shelf and started writing down the films that were added and the films that were removed. Now, I haven't quite located all of the new additions yet, but to boil it down simply, most of the new additions reminded me of the types of films that would be like the more controversial choices on The Essentials this year (only a few of the silents, never in the book before, plus Design for Living, Alien, Blade Runner, Christopher Strong,  Halloween, In the Mood for Love, The Nutty Professor (1963),   The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,  A New Leaf, Mikey and Nicky, Detour,  Point Break,   Showgirls (!), and She Done Him Wrong, of all the pre-2002 titles added for this new edition felt mainstream; post-2002 is a different matter naturally) Many were obscure titles or influenced by Criterion editions or to put it bluntly felt like they were thrown in to fill a certain quota that is meant to be inclusive yet also feels a bit condescending to the very people its meant to celebrate (at least to me)

Then on the other hand, you had (at least) 145 films removed since the last edition. Some seemed inevitable. Pretty Baby (1978) just seems perverted today. Recent controversies about actors and filmmakers claimed Manhattan, Love and Death, and The Usual Suspects. Driving miss Daisy, a film I really like, I kind of knew would be gone because of the controversies of people saying it was too cozy. Other titles like California Suite, The Buddy Holly Story, 10,  and Biloxi Blues also felt like once popular titles barely mentioned today. 

But then there were a ton of mainstream films pulled shockingly from the pool: Amadeus, The Fisher King, Dead Man Walking, The English Patient, Kramer vs Kramer, Rain Man, Suddenly Last Summer, The Big Chill, Body Heat, Aladdin, Catch-22, About Schmidt, Lili, The More the Merrier, Monsters Inc, Gandhi, The hours, Chicago, The Country Girl, Bad Day at Black Rock, Ruthless People, Camelot, Chariots of Fire, Amelie, Absence of Malice, Paint your Wagon, A Night to Remember, On the Beach, The World of Henry Orient, Starman, Shrek, The Trip to Bountiful, Shakespere in love, The Whales of August, Mr and Mrs Bridge, The Ramains of the Day, Romeo and Juliet (1968), Tender Mercies, Places in the Heart, Pelle the Conqueror, Apollo 13, and The War of the Roses got bumped. And to just rub in a point, Showgirls made it in instead. And titles not mentioned very much today that were in there before, like lovely and Amazing and Daniel, remain in the mix still. What gives?

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I'm not surprised Ava DuVernay will not be coming back after this season, not due to any "backlash" or controversy, but because that's fairly normal for most hosts of The Essentials.  After Robert O.'s passing, Alec Baldwin only hosted for one season with guests like David Letterman and Tina Fey.  Didn't Molly Haskel, Carrie Fisher, and Rose McGowen only co-host for a single season?  As for the films being repeated, that's also normal.  They only choose so many films per season and then the intros and movies are just repeated for a few months.

As someone who had absolutely NO interest in The Essentials prior to DuVernay's hiring, I actually like the choices she's made.  I haven't watched any of her picks (I rarely watch anything on TV these days as my personal DVD collection keeps building), but I have seen several of them before and see nothing wrong with shaking things up a little from the same, stale "classics" that have been heralded since day one.  As for her choosing films that are focused on non-white male filmmakers/characters, I just don't see the issue.  After all, films of the golden age were directed primarily by white men implicitly because they were white men.  To act as though race and gender never entered into it prior to contemporary "woke" times is to blind yourself to reality.  I don't think it was ever DuVernay's intention to say that her picks are better than the more traditional picks in the past, or that older films are bad because they aren't PC.  She simply made choices based on what seemed essential to HER and to open people's eyes to films beyond those in the canon.  You might not like them, but on the other hand, you might.  I dare say most people probably don't like every film that's currently in the canon.  Nothing wrong with a little variety.

Perhaps in hindsight, it would have been better to have her host a different program, maybe something like the various studies of race/ethnicity that Robert O. used to host back in the day that took a month-long look at depictions of blacks, Hispanics, Jews, and Asians throughout film history, or even the Trailblazing Women series.  But if future hosts make choices less typical than the 300th airing of Ninotchka, Now Voyager, and Bullitt, I think that's a step in the right direction for a single time slot per week.

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On 12/17/2019 at 5:54 AM, greenpete58 said:

I think it's a good idea that "The Essentials" branch out a little, and I've got nothing against Ava Duvernay (though I know little about her).  And allowing knowledgeable film critics, historians, directors, actors, and fans to choose and air films that they might think are "essential" is a worthy idea, and Saturday at 8 PM EST is an ideal time to show these films.   My issue is using race, gender, and ethnicity as criteria.  Like someone else said, this should be a separate show.  It's an unfortunate reality that so many so-called "classic" films are dominated by white males, and some are even offensive in their portrayals of women and minorities.  But choosing films based on identity just exacerbates an ongoing problem in the U.S. (in my opinion).  And it severely restricts the pool of movies.  If TCM is going to have a program called "The Essentials," the main criterion should be the film's quality and/or significance, not the racial or gender makeup of the actors or directors, or the film's setting or theme.  If TCM wants to "branch out," maybe start showing more '60s and '70s films, or alternate Essential co-hosts more regularly.  I'm even open to re-broadcasting some of those great discussions between Robert Osborne and Alec Baldwin, who I thought had great chemistry.

You mischaracterize the make up of the schedule of movies Ava DuVernay chose, make false inferences about about the criteria for selecting her movies, and draw unsupported conclusions from them.

The Essentials for Ava DuVernay consist mainly of standard TCM movies from early and late in the studio era, including Cabin in the Sky (1943), Rashomon (1950), Pather Panchali (1955), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Sounder (1972), and Dog Day Afternoon (1975).  The movies that are not in high rotation or, I believe are new to TCM can be seen as expanding the pool of movies, not restricting them as you claim.    If there is a discernible bias in her selection of movies, I would say it is to be expected, as guest hosts are invited to bring in their ideas about what is essential.  Ava DuVernay has brought in a new and fresh perspective on what is essential.  All of the movies she has chosen I do not think are all that essential, but you know what?,  I thought that about a lot of the movies chosen in all the previous years when they only featured movies from the heart of the studio era, too.    If Ava DuVernay has used criteria such as social inequity, ethnicity, activism, and the like to choose her movies, that does not mean she has sacrificed quality.  She is a great filmmaker,  with a thorough understanding of her craft.  She would hardly choose movies that would fail to meet her standards, and the list of movies for this season is evidence of that.  For you to say otherwise is an uncalled-for slight on her professionalism. 

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8 hours ago, slaytonf said:

You mischaracterize the make up of the schedule of movies Ava DuVernay chose, make false inferences about about the criteria for selecting her movies, and draw unsupported conclusions from them...

She would hardly choose movies that would fail to meet her standards, and the list of movies for this season is evidence of that.  For you to say otherwise is an uncalled-for slight on her professionalism. 

 

Yes, alluding to race, gender, and ethnicity on a social media message board is always risky business these hyper-sensitive days.  But I believe controversy is good, as long as an argument is conducted with civility, and I believe in being candid, which is why I said what I said.  And I stand by it.  Rather than defending myself from your accusations that I’ve made “false inferences” and drawn “unsupported conclusions” and made an “uncalled-for slight,” I’ll take the high road and just say…We Agree To Disagree.

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On 12/17/2019 at 8:54 AM, greenpete58 said:

choosing films based on identity (snipped)  just severely restricts the pool of movies.

So first complaint is the Essentials shows the same old movies THEN when the criteria is expanded, the choices are too limited.

On 12/17/2019 at 8:54 AM, greenpete58 said:

If TCM wants to "branch out," maybe start showing more '60s and '70s films, or alternate Essential co-hosts more regularly. 

I hope rotating alternative hosts to choose movies expands the choices shown. I find it interesting what films influenced those who went into the business of making movies. Maybe the movies that first ignited someone's interest in film making aren't for everybody, but they obviously touched that person significantly.

15 hours ago, CinemaInternational said:

Then on the other hand, you had (at least) 145 films removed since the last edition. Some seemed inevitable.

Wow, thanks for noting the additions/subtractions, CinemaInternational, it's pretty telling.

Movies like CALIFORNIA SUITE may not be the greatest movie of all time, but like BOB, CAROL, TED & ALICE kind of hit upon the "swinging' 60's free love" attitude. Right? Wrong? Let's not be judgmental, just accept that was some weird morays of the past.

That's my attitude towards movies depicting condescending treatment of women or racism/blackface. Movies are just historical, moral time capsule stories. 

8 hours ago, slaytonf said:

If there is a discernible bias in her selection of movies, I would say it is to be expected, as guest hosts are invited to bring in their ideas about what is essential. 

Well said. 

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1 hour ago, TikiSoo said:

I hope rotating alternative hosts to choose movies expands the choices shown. I find it interesting what films influenced those who went into the business of making movies. Maybe the movies that first ignited someone's interest in film making aren't for everybody, but they obviously touched that person significantly.

Agreed.  Which is why I'm glad that Ava Duvernay will be exiting in favor of another co-host.  I felt her choices placed significance on identity over film quality (which limited things), although the two did sometimes coincide.  We've seen what movies have "touched her," and which movies she feels other viewers need to see, and now it's time to move on. 

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16 hours ago, greenpete58 said:

 

Yes, alluding to race, gender, and ethnicity on a social media message board is always risky business these hyper-sensitive days.  But I believe controversy is good, as long as an argument is conducted with civility, and I believe in being candid, which is why I said what I said.  And I stand by it.  Rather than defending myself from your accusations that I’ve made “false inferences” and drawn “unsupported conclusions” and made an “uncalled-for slight,” I’ll take the high road and just say…We Agree To Disagree.

My impression is that you took my post as aggressive in some way.   I was simply speaking clearly and directly.  I assure you I never attack, insult, or demean anyone.  I may sometimes use satire, but only to burst a balloon of pretension.  Then I hope I am not hurtful.  There was something worthwhile in what you posted that merited a response.  My analysis, or criticism, of your comments was phrased intentionally and intended to show the flaws in your rationale.  I'll give you an example of each:

As I stated, you misrepresented the character of the movies chosen for this season as being out of the ordinary for TCM, whereas even a quick review shows the great majority of them are standard fare for TCM, including highly regarded classics from all periods of the studio era.

You state in your original post that the movies for this season were chosen using race, ethnicity, and gender as criteria.  Yet nowhere in the discussions between Ben Mankiewicz and Ava DuVernay did I hear any such criteria mentioned.  There is no justification for making any inferences on what Ms. DuVernay used in selecting her movies.  Based on her commentary, you may guess at what she used, but it would be unfounded.

I will be generous and concede the point that the movies were chosen considering racial, ethnic, and gender issues.  Your conclusion that doing so would result in an inferior line-up of movies is belied by the movies themselves.  Even the ones not usually aired on TCM are well-made, entertaining and engaging. 

I made my observations not to belittle you, or inform you of your faulty reasoning, but to allay your fears and apprehensions for TCM and it's future.  Far from breaking new ground, with Ava DuVernay's guest-hosting of The Essentials, TCM is continuing in it's tradition of highlighting marginalized populations in American culture in an attempt to raise people's awareness of injustices in the past and present, and in it's own small way work toward making it a more equitable place for everyone.

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Yes, since you're a liberal Democrat then I guess we'll have to tell you it's a conspiracy against you. TCM is secretly getting marching orders on what to show the masses, it's all meant to bring awareness and innuendos so you vote how they want.

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8 hours ago, slaytonf said:

I made my observations not to belittle you, or inform you of your faulty reasoning, but to allay your fears and apprehensions for TCM and it's future. 

...my fears & apprehensions for TCMs future has more to do with commercials & editing

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I would like to ask the author of this thread, who admits to posting infrequently, to please place his political commentary in the proper forum which, inexplicably,  is provided by TCM.

I prefer to read about films and movies in this particular region of the boards.

As always,  thank you for your time and consideration. 

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3 hours ago, Roy Cronin said:

I would like to ask the author of this thread, who admits to posting infrequently, to please place his political commentary in the proper forum which, inexplicably,  is provided by TCM.

I prefer to read about films and movies in this particular region of the boards.

As always,  thank you for your time and consideration. 

Can one "move" a thread?     Anyhow,   I recommend you use the "report post" function asking the mod to move this thread to chit-chat (where it belongs).

 

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But my wife and I can't help but notice the preponderance of "Essential" movies that showcase  women, racial and ethnic minorities (minorities in the U.S., at least), and non-U.S. cultures. 

Is there something wrong with that ? If they chose movies with a preponderance of comedies, or horror, or war movies , would you still be objecting to them ? Movies are subjective, people like what they like. And no one's preference is going to jibe 100% with yours.

Quote

Should "essential" films be chosen on the basis of quality first, and racial/ethnic/gender identity a distant second, and isn't diversity of ideas the most important consideration?

Are you saying those films aren't of good quality ? If you had made this thread about the films are how you don't think they're good, it would would fit much better.

I wonder if its you who sees this as a PC issue. Did you ever think that just maybe "these are the films these people like and think they should be essential ?". Just because they were filmed in another country or other language or actors of a different race doesn't automatically mean there is some political motive.  Did you know there are good films made by people other than white Americans ?

I personally think the emphasis is that people are tired of hearing about Citizen Kane and Casablanca over and over. Those are great films but, why not venture out and experience other films that might also be great.

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On 12/16/2019 at 11:44 AM, greenpete58 said:

I'm a longtime TCM watcher but only an occasional visitor to this website, so I apologize if this topic was already discussed.  And my intention is not to stir controversy (always a risk). But my wife and I can't help but notice the preponderance of "Essential" movies that showcase  women, racial and ethnic minorities (minorities in the U.S., at least), and non-U.S. cultures.  Ben and Ava now seem to be recycling movies that were only recently shown, like "Sounder," "Gandhi,"  and "Rashomon."

Does Ava choose these movies being shown under the "Essentials" banner?  If so, how long will she be co-hosting?  Is "The Essentials" severely limiting itself, considering so many films from Hollywood's "Golden Age," while deservedly essential,  were blatantly politically incorrect?  Should "essential" films be chosen on the basis of quality first, and racial/ethnic/gender identity a distant second, and isn't diversity of ideas the most important consideration?  Is TCM's emphasis on PC a reaction to the criticism that the Oscar awards received (justly or unjustly) a few years ago?  Essentially (sorry)...are we pulling back too far on the bowstring and completely missing the target? (and possibly encouraging a backlash, like that which occurred in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?)

Thanks, just asking.  For the record, I'm a liberal Democrat who voted for Hillary and supports impeachment and forced resignation of that creature in the White House.

( Just for the record I don't care about your "politics".)

Good cinema is good cinema and is found in every nation, and is created by every gender, every race, every nationality, ethnicity  sexual orientation and religion.

When you get involved with the cinema from one nation, such as the United States of America, then you realize that Cinema is international-- it has no limits, barriers or preferences.

The more you get involved with Cinema, the more you're going to understand the world and all the people in it.

Cinema is art and art has no limitations.

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A quick Google search of Ava Duvernay shows that she spends a large portion of her time focusing on race. Some interesting videos too. One in which she mentions that she doesn't care what white people think of her documentary because "I made it for black people." In another video of her on the show Finding Your Roots, she expresses disappointment when she learns that she has more white people in her lineage than she thought. She is afraid that she may be more than 50% European, but is ecstatic to find out that she is 57% African, exclaiming "I'm black!" in celebration.

I had never heard of some of the films she chose for The Essentials, such as Ashes And Embers, so I appreciate that. I may watch them at some point.

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2 hours ago, Spritz Nipper said:

A quick Google search of Ava Duvernay shows that she spends a large portion of her time focusing on race. Some interesting videos too. One in which she mentions that she doesn't care what white people think of her documentary because "I made it for black people." In another video of her on the show Finding Your Roots, she expresses disappointment when she learns that she has more white people in her lineage than she thought. She is afraid that she may be more than 50% European, but is ecstatic to find out that she is 57% African, exclaiming "I'm black!" in celebration.

I had never heard of some of the films she chose for The Essentials, such as Ashes And Embers, so I appreciate that. I may watch them at some point.

I have some of that in my family. The problem is, you don't feel good if so much of your lineage is connected to people who did not accept you. If you're more than 50% of a race that doesn't accept you and the other percentage doesn't accept you either, where do you go ? Who are you ? We all want to belong at some level.

And, often times, we go to the movie because we want to be that cowboy, astronaut, tycoon or whomever the character is on the screen. At least pretend to be her/him for 90 minutes. That's where diversity comes in.

Don't confuse that with political correctness, they aren't the same thing. Diversity is about making the screen look more like real life. PC is about forcing contrived changes down people's throats who didn't ask for them.

And people come in all shapes, colors and ethnicities.  So do good and bad movies.

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18 minutes ago, GGGGerald said:

I have some of that in my family. The problem is, you don't feel good if so much of your lineage is connected to people who did not accept you. If you're more than 50% of a race that doesn't accept you and the other percentage doesn't accept you either, where do you go ? Who are you ? We all want to belong at some level.

And, often times, we go to the movie because we want to be that cowboy, astronaut, tycoon or whomever the character is on the screen. At least pretend to be her/him for 90 minutes. That's where diversity comes in.

Don't confuse that with political correctness, they aren't the same thing. Diversity is about making the screen look more like real life. PC is about forcing contrived changes down people's throats who didn't ask for them.

And people come in all shapes, colors and ethnicities.  So do good and bad movies.

I was only trying to point out that learning more about Ava made it more clear why the films she selected were important to her. Though the videos I pointed out did make me raise an eyebrow. Reverse the races and you would likely see that person excommunicated from Hollywood.

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