I don’t like much about today’s popular culture, but I find gems in the hay at times, especially because I look for them. On the negative point, looking at the promotional “Fall Preview” specials about the new television season (for example, the specialshown by The CW which is the merging of The WB and UPN “networks”), I find that instead ofmaking meeager to see programs being advertised, including ones I may have wanted to see, the promotional preview makes me want to avoid those shows. These TV previews, and many movie trailers that screen in theaters, feature tastelessdialogue or activities,loud music,quick and unintegratable editing, and unappealing, ignorant or pessimistic sarcasticcharacters. I suspect some of the programs and films aren’t as bad as the previews make them seem. Why the promos are made to send away people like me — an employed, college-educated male in my 40s married with children, with an interest in the beautiful, the thought-provoking, the informative, the dramatic and the delightful in my TV or movie viewing — I don’t understand. One would think I’m in a good demographic.
Meanwhile, turn to TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and you are in another world. The presentation, the introductions by Robert Osborne, the short films and documentaries between features, and above all the movies themselves are elevating, quality experiences. The movies by and large are from the 1940s back to the 1920s, the Golden Age.
Well, today, although there seems an endless stream of films with titles and subjects like Beer League, or the latest horror/slasherseries,one can stillfind films and TV series that would not seem out of place among the classic moviesof the 1930s or 1940s.
If you are looking for 21st Century movies that would feel perfectly at home among the Golden Age films, I can recommend two. They have in common that they are period pieces, and that they both coincidentallyfeature actor Paul Giamatti. One is Ron Howard’s “Cinderella Man” from 2005, and the other is the new film now playing at your local theater, “The Illusionist”.
You can rent “Cinderella Man” on DVD, and see a beautiful tale of a man with consistent honesty and an unshaking faithfulnessto his moral code and his deepest values as he strugglesto survivein a boxing career during the Great Depression.
“The Illusionist” is the inspiring story of an Austrianmagician so brilliant at his illusions that he is the object of a prince’s envywhile he is adored by the publicand respected by the police chief hired to investigate him. The plot contains some twists that are fun to observe.
Here are some other recentfilms with that Golden Age quality: “Kate and Leopold” with Hugh Jackman, “Apollo 13” by Ron Howard, “Schindler’s List” and “The Pianist” for vivid views of the Nazi-perpetratedHolocaust, “Cinema Paradiso”, “The Sixth Sense” and “The Lord of The Rings” Trilogy. Although they have their flaws, the recent Star Wars prequels, especially “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith”, are ofGolden Age quality as well. Beyond those, I would addthe “Star Trek” films and TV series. Also, although it’s too dark and convoluted, “Dark City” with Kiefer Sutherland is a fascinating and stylized Good vs. Evil tale with imaginative plot ideas, visual effects and settings, a/k/a production design.
On television, what I’ve seen of “Smallville” and “Law and Order” usually impressed me in a similar way. Many have recommended “24” but I haven’t seen it yet.