With all the bustle of holidays, my film friends and I have had a terrible time getting together for our usual movie watching. I myself have even had little time for solo sofa loafing and watching films; hence the lack of film posts recently. But hubby and I did manage to watch TCM’s A Night at the Movies: The Gigantic World of Epics.
The special discussed Hollywood’s “biggest screen spectaculars,” from the genre’s beginnings to how the genre fell out of favor in the ’70s and ’80s — and how epics were recently reborn with films like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gladiator, Braveheart, etc. What I really learned was how few of the classic film epics I really have seen.
Of all the films covered, I’ve only seen Gone with the Wind, The Ten Commandments, and Samson & Delilah. Hubby fared far worse, having only seen exactly zero of the films mentioned, despite a college course on classic film history. (Maybe that’s because in ’93, epics were still out of vogue?) In any case, I decided my movie watching gal pals and I would have to select a few epics and schedule them for our Classic Schmassic film nights.
On my list are The Birth of a Nation, Doctor Zhivago, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and On the Waterfront (which has been on my list because of Brando in Street Car). But my first choice may just be Cleopatra.
Not just because it’s an epic, but because, like Let’s Make Love, I’ve preconceived notions — and wish to protect Marilyn. Simply put, I’ve avoided this last of the epic films because of the epic film history behind it: Cleopatra was sucking the studio dry, so studio execs (fearful that Elizabeth Taylor would walk off set, sending the film and studio further into the sinkhole) used Marilyn Monroe as the whipping girl for film and film star extravagance. Maybe now it’s time to finally watch Cleopatra and judge it as a film.
But I’ll have to see how the other girls in my group feel.
TCM’s own page for the documentary is sans input and your’s truly feels too sheepish to write a synopsis (let alone a review) of documentary of classic films — especially as she’s seen so few of the films under discussion. But Mike Hale at The New York Times has posted what I think is a good review of The Gigantic World of Epics.
I could be biased though, because Hale starts his article off naming Turner Classic Movies as his favorite television channel and ends his article with what I call the proper sentiments regarding acknowledging TCM’s value:
They probably would have also been amused at the notion that within half a century, work like theirs would need preserving — that a television channel would be devoted to it, like an around-the-clock museum. We should all take a moment to look up from our cellphone screens and give thanks.
I do thank TCM. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to try before I buy movies, nor would I know about a majority of films to put on my ‘to watch’ lists. Including epics.