Movies on TV

With the holidays many of us will spend hours watching movies of every sort at home on television. It’s certainly easier than rounding up the family and braving the weather to visit the theatre. For most of us the only way to see the classics is on television.

I’m thankful for the classic movie channels that value film as art. Channels like TCM (Turner Classic Movies) make a point of not only showing their features in letterbox format, but also explaining why they do. For those who don’t know, the letterbox format puts the black bands above and below the picture. This allows the entire frame to be visible on a television screen, which usually has different dimensions than a movie screen.

I know some people get fussy about the black bands. They say it makes the picture seem smaller. However, without the bands the film must be altered to fit your TV screen. This is called full-screen formatting. To make it fit the dimensions of your set, the sides have to be cut off.

Frankly, I don’t like full-screen format. Too many good things happen on the edges of the picture. You are cheated out of information that should be there. The writers, directors and actors all intended it to be there. Why give that up if you don’t have to?

Another benefit to watching a film at home is the ability to turn on subtitles. I know. Lots of people find them completely distracting. I do… sometimes. But sometimes the characters mumble, and sometimes the sound balance is off, and sometimes others in the room make noise—sneezing, etc.—and then there’s something even more distracting.

“What did he say? I couldn’t understand her. Why is the music so loud in this part?”

My last comment about movies on the small screen is both a positive and negative. It’s the remote control. Let’s face it; we all have a love-hate relationship with the remote.

Constant changes to volume, pauses, reverses and fast-forwards become annoying. I just want to watch the movie. Sometimes it’s just necessary to hit that pause button and let everyone take a bathroom break and refill drinks and snacks. Everyone is happy and nobody misses anything. Yay!

Movies at home can be a wonderful way for families to spend time together and learn more about each other.

“What was your favorite scene or line? This film was the first movie Dad and I ever watched together. This movie is based on Gramma’s favorite book.”

Take the opportunity to talk with your family about the movies you watch. Enjoy laughing together. Tell them why you got misty-eyed at the train station scene. Remind them about how much Grandpa loved that actor. Tell what the stories mean to you. That’s the purpose of movies. Let’s allow them to do their jobs.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

October is Scary Fun!

For the month of October, my family reviews and re-orders our movie queue to include some good fun scares. We don’t do the slasher films—plenty of those on late night TV already.

We like to compose a Halloween medley of cinematic masterpieces that include both horror classics and contemporary frights. We invite our friends over, make a little popcorn, and then enjoy the fear fest. Last year we watched our Friday Night Frights on TCM, with a sampling of aliens, vampires, werewolves, and other creature features.

We enjoyed these 50’s and 60’s movies so much, that this year I’ve included Earth Vs. Flying Saucers (1956) and Rocketship X-M (1950). Also on board is the original 1951 film, The Thing From Another World. I loved the 1982 version of The Thing, which starred Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley. With a new version coming out, I like to get a refresher for comparison.

What other movies made my short list?

Of course we have the monsters—The Mummy, both classic and recent. We included a variety of Frankenstein flicks, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein, and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. That should cover just about every way to look at the quilted beast. And we can’t have October without Van Helsing to meet our werewolf and vampire quota.

In case you wonder, last year’s The Wolfman impressed me. If you can, rent the edition that includes the original 1941 The Wolf Man, and watch them both. (You’re welcome!)

We want to keep the classic thrillers in the mix, so we added Hitchcock’s Life Boat, and Orson Welles’ 1944 version of Jane Eyre. We maintain a family tradition of enjoying the Halloween treat of Arsenic and Old Lace. I’ve seen it dozens of times, and I still giggle all the way through.

For some new classic tongue-in-cheek fun, rent The Lost Skeleton of Cadavara, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, and Dark and Stormy Night, all by comic genius Larry Blamire and his crew.

My guys and I will enjoy a date night or two at the movie theatre as well. I want to see Dream House, which opens this first weekend, and The Thing, which has a mid-month release.

I could recommend many other suspense films. Hitch has dozens, with varying degrees of fright factor. M. Night Shyamalan created a few good ones, too. I loved The Sixth Sense and Signs, and while I enjoyed The Village, it is not scary.

There are plenty of monster movies to enjoy. If you need some crazy blasts from the past, you might like Once Bitten, Earth Girls Are Easy, Weird Science, or Teen Wolf, all from the 80’s. For the scarier side of the 80’s, catch American Werewolf in London, Poltergeist, and The Howling. The 70’s brought us creepy films like The Stepford Wives and Dracula.

What’s on your October list? Please share!

That’s a wrap for this toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!