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Who or what defines a TCM classic


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This was brought up on the Miyazaki anime thread and whether or not his films should be shown as part of TCM and I thought it might be interesting to open the argument to everyone:

 

Who or what defines what classic films should be shown on TCM?

 

My take:

 

 

The term classic means many things to many people and TCM provides the big tent in which we can all, at some time during the broadcast day, find something we enjoy. Should TCM narrow its focus to only show "classic" movies made before 1959? How do you define "classic". Too narrow a definition leaves out many great thrillers, film noirs, b movies, low budget gower gulch productions, etc and the audiences that enjoy them. The same holds true for too wide a definition runs the risk of alienating the core audience that TCM has.

 

There has to be a middle ground and TCM is trying to walk that middle ground. They have said, as recently as last week, that they are not going the way of AMC but they are trying to provide films that appeal to everyone in the tent. Some folks love the Young Composers festival and some don't. Some love the documentaries and some don't. Occasionally there is a Star of the month that won't appeal to everybody. What do you do? The Miyazaki festival is only a month long. There will be folks who watch it, there will be folks who have never watched TCM before and because of this festival will get a better idea of what TCM is about. And there will be those that don't like it. Do you not run something because of offending someone who's definition of classic doesn't include Miyazaki or do you run the films because, though it was made post 1959, the animation, the stories and the character are timeless and classic?

 

Where do you draw the line and who makes the decision for all of us of which movies deserve to be called classic?

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Hi lzcutter,it's me again;) This issue just really means a lot to me,because TCM,classic movies,and a standard of excellence for both mean a lot to me.

 

OK,my quick answer is-movies made during the studio system era. Not necessarily movies made under the studio system,or even in Hollywood,but through the time of the studio system. This will include Bollywood and other foreign films,animated films,documentaries,and other forms. I know you'll pose questions on this that I'll need to answer,but I'll need a little time:)

 

As to who gets to decide(as far as TCM programming is concerned)-I'd say,along the lines of a republican form of democracy-it would be impossible to have direct "majority rules",but TCM should make a point of at least determining what the majority of its viewers,and potential viewers who are seeking to view classic movies,would like to see,and then of course using their necessary discretion based upon that.

 

I include early silents based simply on the fact of their being the foundation of all that came afterwards.

 

OK,now you are welcome to pick my definitions apart,so that I may upon further thought refine and defend them:)

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I must add, the Miyazake festival would give new viewers a total misconception of what TCM has always been about-especially if it is,as many are maintaining,a short aberration that we who think it is out of place on TCM, can tolerate for one night every week for four weeks. Unless it's indeed NOT an aberration,and TCM IS expanding their definition of classic movies-and that would be ominous.

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Melanie,

 

I don't know that first time viewer coming to TCM to watch the Miyazake festival would get a distorted view of TCM. The promotional material between films would still be the "classic" TCM material so the viewer would get a better idea of what TCM is offering I would hope.

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Simple. Any film produced from day one of film-making to the mid-1950s, and I'm allowing the 1950s because people seem to like them.

 

I cut off all films at 1949, in my personal taste, with only a very few exceptions, Robert Mitchum and Sterling Hayden films for example.

 

After that, all films from 1955 on upward can be shown on AMC and Showtime and HBO and TMC and the new TCM numbers 2 though 30.

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I agree. I would also add, to answer this question, one has to ask his/herself why they turn on TCM. We all know by now what to expect (or did, in light of recent movies) when we even think of checking out what's on TCM. We're like Pavlov's dogs ... we're conditioned what to expect when TCM is even mentioned. We automatically think old actors/movies, not current ones.. Like your "classic rock" analogy, if people expected to turn on a channel and see Impressionist paintings, they'd wonder what the hell a Warhol was doing on there. Even if they didn't know it was a Warhol, they'd know it wasn't the usual programming and that they were looking at something that was vastly different and not up to par with Impressionism. And why air movies on TCM that we can see on any other channel? Perhaps that's what determines a TCM classic, movies we can only see on TCM.

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I personally don't consider a movie a classic just because it's on TCM, though I think we know why a movie is usually part of their library. I've no problem with 70s movies being on there either as long as they don't start showing the God-awful Billy Jack movies.

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I'm new to this board, so I'm not sure if I should just throw my two cents in from out of the blue. But:

 

The whole reason I started watching TCM is because TV Guide used to run a column called, "Have You Seen These Classic Movies" and they had listed a blurb for "Bunny Lake is Missing" from 1965. I thought the description sounded interesting, so I taped it, watched it and loved it. I had also taped some promos before and after the movie and saw the trailer for "Arsenic and Old Lace" and thought, "That looks funny. I should tape that too." And so my love affair with TCM and "classic" movies began (this was last year and they also sucked me in with the salute to Saul Bass).

 

I really have no problem with TCM showing movies from the 60's, 70's and even 80's. There are classic actors and actresses who appear in those and if I'm a fan, I like seeing their later works (I know they're planning to show The Abominable Dr. Phibes from 1971 soon and I'm super excited since I love Vincent Price and Joseph Cotten, plus it's a great campy movie). Plus there are some stars who had their peak in the 50's/60's (like Doris Day, Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster) and if TCM didn't show movies from those years, they'd be skipping over a whole generation of stars. But I love the black and whites from the 30's and 40's too. I love TCM because it's such a mixed bag of movies. I'll admit, I'm not interested in the Miyazaki anime at all because I'm not into movies like that. But if those draw in some viewers the way "Bunny Lake" drew me in, then I'm all for it. I can just watch something else on those nights.

 

I'm not sure what defines a TCM classic, as the title of the thread says. I think if TCM narrowed it's range to only movies from before 1959, I'd be very unhappy. I love when they show things from the 60's/70's since those movies were made in letterbox (the cable channels butcher them.) Now if TCM started showing commercials and things in Pan and Scan, they'd lose me completely. But I love the variety. I know I'm gushing here, but I had to throw in my two cents on the topic.

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I agree that they shouldn't be showing those "God-awful" movies, although that I enjoy watching some of them myself. That doesn't mean that they should be on TCM. The last thing I want to see is all of us becoming movie snobs. Without the Billy Jack movies and others of that ilk, we couldn't appreciate the nuances of the true classics - like Dean Martin's "Matt Helm" series. (Please note tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

 

By the way, my favorite God-awful movie is "Song of Norway." Beautiful music and scenery, but that's about it.

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When I take that hour and a half drive up to Washington D.C. every other Week to see all the art galleries it's nice to see the Art of South Asia, The Art of Buddhism, American Art, Modern Art, Luxury Arts in Late Imperial China and Japanese paintings all in one place. I don't like my Art to be sequestered and chopped up. The same goes for the Art Form of Film. If the diffinition for classic means old for some, okay, but for me it doesn't. If I am moved by it than it is classic. I don't care who made it, where it was made or when it was made.

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I think TCM should consider diversifying to, for example, TCM and TCMII, so to speak. Like MTV...TCMII could be movies made before 1960 and TCM, films termed classic to 1980 for instance. Personally, I love movies which were made prior to 1960, preferring the earliest films to 1950. For me a classic is a movie that has stood the test of time...that is timeless in message or is historical in its format. But I also love B movies - just so they're from the right time period. I think when TCM experiments by putting on more "modern" movies and the Japanese anime on Thursday nights, they are jeopardizing the formula that has made them successful. To me, the anime should be on an independent movie-type channel or foreign production channel.

 

Please stick with what has made TCM the best classic movie channel. Keep giving us true time-honored classics by legendary movie stars. This is why I subscribe to TCM. I can watch "Sleepless in Seattle" and other so-called modern classics on many other movie channels for which I don't have to pay extra to access.

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lzcutter,you seem to be up on these things-just when did the studio system,as a whole,really end? I know that it didn't happen all at once and overnight,but what's the timeframe that is usually accepted as being the end of the studio system? I'm under the impression that the end of it all came sometime in the mid-sixties,I don't know why I'm thinking that.>>

 

The studio system (as many of us think of it) lasted until the mid-1970s when MGM had its famous auction, Jack Warner finally retired and the studios moved into the hands of corporations such as Gulf -Western, Kinney and others. Many of the big blockbuster musicals of the late 1960s were produced by the then waning studio system. Many cite "Easy Rider" as the death knell of the studio system but in reality, the changing taste of the movie going public coupled with the death or retirement of many in the executive offices plus the fact that the studios were all having trouble making money. In the early 1950s the studios started trimming what they considered the fat by cancelling stars contracts and letting their big name talent go in hopes of staving off the red ink. The ink kept flowing and cuts kept being made. The reality was there was no way Americans would return to movie theatres in the numbers they had during the 1930s and during the War Years and the men who ran the studios kept hoping that wasn't the reality. All were all factors in the passing.

 

The 1970s are often referred to the second golden age of movies and a number of wonderful movies that would never get made today were produced. With the burial of the Hays Code movies were allowed to be more realistic in dealing with life matters, adult themes and it wasn't all four letter words and nudity. Some truly classic movies came out of that era such as "Last Picture Show", "What's Up, Doc", "The Godfather 1 & 2",

"Three Days of the Condor", "McCable and Mrs. Miller", "Nashville", "All the President's Men", "Coming Home", "The Parralax View", "Chinatown" and more.

 

It would be shame for TCM not to show these films because you cannot see them presented in letterbox format and unedited on the majority of cable stations. Many of these films have withstood twenty years (and more) are regarded by many as true classics.

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lzcutter,

 

I agree with the message concerning your wide-ranging knowledge about cinema history, technical issues, etc. I have enjoyed the clarity and succinctness of your posts.

 

May I make a suggestion? I don't know about others but, would you consider a 'single header' thread (re: "Ask Mongo", "Happy Birthday"), a database, of your posts. I know, a lot of copy and paste. Would be good as a 'single stop' reference.

 

Thank you for your input!

 

Rusty

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As to who gets to decide(as far as TCM programming is concerned)-I'd say,along the lines of a republican form of democracy-it would be impossible to have direct "majority rules",but TCM should make a point of at least determining what the majority of its viewers,and potential viewers who are seeking to view classic movies,would like to see,and then of course using their necessary discretion based upon that.>>

 

But Melanie, isn't that what TCM is currently doing? Yes, there are those who want only classic films made before 1959, those that want to include films made until the demise of the studio system and then those of us who want the films of the 70s included and even those that want more recent films. Is any one group larger than all the rest or is it possible that our numbers are all pretty similar and so TCM is trying to program for all of us?

 

If we go by a majority rules then we have to be willing to live with the consquences. For example, what if the numbers for silent films is less than all the rest, should TCM stop running silents because the majority of viewers don't like them or watch them?

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That's why I feel that TCM shouldn't go by a strict "majority rules" guideline,without some clarification of "classic" in place,that is true to their original intent. It would be too easy for them to turn to the large younger demographic out there,which unfortunately as a whole is NOT that interested in "classic" film.

 

 

 

I really don't know exactly where TCM's boundaries should be set-I know where "I" would set them-but I do know that there should be some-for exactly the reason that you mention,that if they turn to trying to appeal to the "majority",TCM as we know it is history.

 

 

 

Yes,they have to draw in new viewers to stay viable,but how do they go about doing this,and what new viewers? If TCM tries to grow too large too fast,they're going to destroy themselves as the channel that we know and love,because beyond what they have now,there just won't be that many new viewers interested in what we have always understood to be "classic" film.UNLESS they do as they doing with the programs in the schools,and try to educate and make aware,younger potential viewers of the beauty,relevance,and craftsmanship of the old classics.

 

 

 

But they just won't be "Turner Classic Movies" after a certain point,if some boundaries aren't set. No,I DON'T believe in strict "majority rules". TCM needs to have some guidelines first of all-they need to have the integrity and the cojones to set these,staying faithful to the historical generally accepted defintion of "classic"-and then WITHIN these guidelines,which would ideally protect their original staed intent of showing CLASSIC movies,they turn to the wishes of their CLASSIC MOVIE viewing audience,and taking that into account,use their discretion.

 

 

 

That's why I qualified my statement with "the majority of its viewers,and potential viewers who are seeking to view classic movies.

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The programming decisions for TCM are based on the same as any other network: To satisfy the majority to ensure its consistent viewership. They also have the same problems as other networks in that they lose touch with their base now and then. They should offer annual or biannual polls on their site and supply a toll free number for those without computers, to poll what the majority wants. Every company goes with a majority ruling because it's a business at heart, TCM is no different. When they take it upon themselves to make unexpected changes it's usually a test. If they get enough feedback either way, they'll know whether it was a good decision or not. Not many people would just think to e-mail them an opinion, thinking no one is going to read it. But if there were a poll taken on their homepage and advertised between movies, I'm sure people would participate. That's the only fair way to go about it. Some may not like the consequences, but most would. I think these boards are a pretty good indicator that most want TCM as it was without recent films, anime, etc. The reason most turn on TCM is to see something you can't see on any other channel. The recent changes for the most part, can be found elsewhere. I think silent films in their place Sundays at midnight aren't endangered by a majority vote.

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But if there were a poll taken on their homepage and advertised between movies, I'm sure people would participate. That's the only fair way to go about it.>>

 

Matt,

 

One quick question:

How do you prevent the inevitable ballot stuffing that would probably ensue?

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