Friday, January 8, 2010

How To Be a Classic Film Fan without TCM

I do not have Turner Classic Movies and extenuating circumstances prevent me from getting the channel. I'm not going to explain why because from the reaction I've been getting from people, it's very unlikely you will understand. I love TCM and the channel played a pivotal role in the early development of my love for classic movies. I hope to have the channel again someday soon, but it's just not in the books right now.

Does this make me any less of a classic film fan? Absolutely not and I resent anyone who implies that. It just forces me to be more creative. It makes me sad that I miss things like The Siren's Shadows of Russia series  (watch it please if you have TCM!). But in the end, I'll survive.

Here are a few ways to be a classic film fan without TCM.

1) Netflix

Althought Netflix gets a bad rap for hurt DVD sales, it's by far the best way of watching classic films on DVD. Their selection is enormous and I like to mix up my queue with classics, indie flicks, contemporary comedy and foreign films. Plus you can watch Documentaries and TV shows on here too. It's relatively inexpensive, with the 1-DVD-at-time monthly cost being only $8.99 or you can even rent 2 DVDs a month for $4.99. Blockbuster does not support classic films like Netflix does and Blockbuster also censors what they will or will not rent, so Netflix is really your best bet for variety.

2) Classicflix

Netflix doesn't have some of the more obscure DVDs and they don't carry the Warner Archive collection like Classicflix does. With rates starting at $9.99 a month for 1-DVD-at-a-time, you can watch as many Warner Archive movies as your heart desires (without having to buy all the DVDs yourself). It's a great deal and a good supplement to Netflix. If you live on the East Coast however, there is a significant delay since the distribution point is in California. But it's a mom-and-pop organization and those are always good to support.

3) DVDs owned/Movies taped

If you take TCM away from a classic film fan for a whole month, I bet you they probably can fill said month with tons of films they haven't seen. Your average classic film enthusiast has tons and tons of movies on DVD or taped on DVR, TiVo, burned DVDs or VHS tapes. What's great about having your own library of films, is the ready access to some great classics and the comfort of knowing you can re-watch your favorites any time you want. Don't take your personal library for granted though. So many unseen films collect dust in our homes and really they deserve to be watched. Take some time out to watch from your own collection!

4) Libraries

You can find lots of great classics through your local library and best of all it's free. Some libraries will let you loan from other libraries from other towns through their sharing networks. If you are a college student and your school has some kind of film program, then you've just hit the jackpot. Chances are your school's library or the film department has lots of films for viewing. Most will let you take them out, others will require youto watch them there or that you be part of their film program. It depends on the school. I could never borrow from my Grad school but I remember watching The Quiet Man (1952) at my Undergrad school in a little booth in their film library.

5) Books on Classic Films

Why not extend the pleasure of watching a great classic by reading about it? Or reading about the life of one of your favorite actors or actresses? It's not enough to just watch the classic films, you need to learn about them too. There are so many great books on classic films and biographies on stars out there and new books are published every year. Peel yourself away from your TV and cuddle up with a good book.

6) Borrow/Share with Friends

Sharing films with friends is a great way to watch movies you wouldn't normally see and to share your favorites with those people that are close to you. Sharing like this is totally free and it widens your film horizons. You have to be open-minded to do this. Don't shun a film just because of some strange excuse you may have (like your distaste for perfectly fine actors such as Edmond O'Brien, you know who you are). If a friend recommends it, try it out!

7) Buy new DVDs

The DVD industry is a faltering business with most people preferring to rent than to buy. If you have a classic that you absolutely love, support it by buying it on DVD. You can get some great deals online. Just don't buy so many that you end up in the poorhouse. Just buy the DVDs that are most important to you. And watch online stores for clearances and sales!

8) Watch movies online

YouTube,, Internet Archive, etc. There are even some not-so-legal movie sharing websites that you can access or be invited to. I don't care for watching movies on my computer but some folks have really come to depend on this for their regular classic film viewing repertoire.

9) Obscure Films at Online DVD Stores

Again, another venue I'm not all that familiar with but lots of people have come to depend on these sites. Two examples are Yammering Magpie and Vintage Classic Movies . eBay is also a great source. Contact your favorite classic film blogger if you want to find more! I know for a fact that Katie of Obscure Classics , Jonas of All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!, Kate from Silents and Taklies and Elizabeth from Oh By Jingo! Oh By Gee! are all experts on finding some really rare gems online. Kate just posted her personal library of films online and you can buy copies from her at $8 a piece or $5 per for 15 or more. Great deal!

10) Repertory Theatres and Other Venues

I've seen classic films at my local repertory theatre, a local university, an art museum and even at a park and an armory. Watching films in these venues gets you out of the house and out with friends (or strangers). You get to watch the film on the big screen which is always a treat and it's a surprise to see how the audience reacts. Sometimes it's negative but for the most part the people who go to these venues genuinely want to be there. I'm lucky that I live in a metropolitan area like Boston and that this community fully supports history and the arts so it's easy to watch classic films in my area. However, if you don't have these options available to you have a regular movie night at your place (or someone else's place) with friends. Don't delegate all your classic film watching to isolated and private consumption in your own home. Get out! Share!


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Here is a look back at the highlights of Out of the Past ~ A Classic Film Blog through the months of 2009.

My first ever recipe post with a meal straight out of The Fortune Cookie (1966)
I try to make sense out of all those "Heaven" movies
I declared my adoration for Ernest Borgnine

My very first giveaway. TCM 31 Days of Oscars Notebooks
I take some friends to see Pillow Talk (1959) on the big screen.
My most controversial post ever: I declare never to participate in blog awards

I get people thinking about Susan Peters
I show off my own entertainment center and ask fellow bloggers to do the same.
Norma Shearer Week!

Norma Shearer Week continues into April
I turn a Ball of Fire (1942) review into a recipe
I become smitten with Pamela Tiffin

An Ode to My Father
Latino Images in Film series and giveaway in conjunction with TCM's festival

Guest Blogger month with lots of great contributions from: Mercurie, Jonas, Alex, Tommy, Nicole, Donna, Kate Gabrielle, Paulie, Steve-O and Sarah.

Karl Malden breaks my heart
Then I fall in love with Carlos and watch The Hustler (1961) for him.

I watch Rebel Without a Cause (1955) outside in a park
I drag Kevin's butt to see The Arrangement (1969) at the HFA

I take a bit of a break this month. Lots going on but managed to post a few things.

I get to see director Stanley Donen in person twice! For Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) and Two for the Road (1967)
Carlos and I see Phantom of the Opera (1925) in an armory with live musical accompaniment. Just in time for Halloween.

Casablanca Squared happens!
I become fascinated with Charles Emmett Mack (McNerney) who shares my birthday

I finally FINALLY watch It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and I liked it.
I make a menu out of Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
I bite my thumb at that mean blogger and at last put up my Anita Page - The Easiest Way (1931) post.

Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

George Sanders, Zsa Zsa and Me

George Sanders, Zsa Zsa, and Me
by David R. Slavitt
Northwestern University Press

Slavitt has a lot to say. In this book, he gets an opportunity to get those thoughts on paper and into the public's hands. Slavitt is a film critic (local to me since he lives in my area) who has shmoozed with and panned lots of greats from the classic film world. You may think from the title that this book is just about George Sanders his wife Zsa Zsa Gabor and Slavitt. Well, you are completely wrong. While George Sanders' life is the foundation of this book, it is really a free platform for Slavitt to talk about his days as a critic and his interactions with various people in the film world.

While reading this book, to me it seemed like Slavitt was a pretty angry guy. What saves the book for me is that he's a no-nonsense, straight-talking critic who isn't afraid to tell you what he thinks. For that reason, and that reason alone ,I kind of admire the man. George Sanders is a figure of both admiration and curiousity for Slavitt. Sanders was a charming, intelligent man who didn't realize his talent and settled for making lots of not-so-great films and as the final words of the book read: "Sanders' performance [in Viaggio] and All About Eve earned him a crumb of immortality. It's more than most of us get." Slavitt touches upon a lot of aspects of Sanders' life including his odd relationship with Zsa Zsa Gabor who he claims is a sort of angel of death in the lives of her husband Sanders and his brother Tom Conway.

There is a laundry list of other stars mentioned throughout the book and I can guarantee you none of them are put on a pedestal and adored. Slavitt sees them as real people who may or may not have done extraordinary things, but not as untouchable ethereal stars. People mentioned in the book include Alfred Hitchcock, Kim Novak, Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis, Suzanne Pleshette, Jennifer Jones, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Otto Preminger, etc. Slavitt gives us insights that you won't find anywhere else. He tells us about how he disliked Suzanne Pleshette for snubbing his wife in an elevator and he tried to get out of a breakfast with Alfred Hitchcock because he couldn't stand The Birds and didn't want to face him. He also comments on a rumor started by Ava Gardner about her ex-husband Frank Sinatra's lack of sexual prowess. This book is not for the faint of heart. Pretty much everyone is a target for some disdain on Slavitt's part, except for George Sanders. If anyone is on a pedestal in this book, it's him.

I highly encourage you to read this if you have an interest in the life of George Sanders or if you want a different look at classic Hollywood. The book has no real structure and it moves strictly through wandering thoughts with everything coming back to Sanders.

I also want to take a moment to mention The Siren's series on George Sanders. She, like Slavitt, is fascinated by Sanders and has written some excellent pieces on him. Here are a few to check out:

Life with Zsa Zsa, or the Importance of Closet Space
Surreal Sanders: The Private Affairs of Bel-Ami (1947)
George and Bernard: Notes on a Scandal
George Sanders: "Caddishness of Homeric Proportions"
George Sanders on the Kind of Thing to Give the Public  

Special thank you to Northwestern University Press for sending me a copy to review. And a special thanks to Slavitt for mentioning Northeastern University Press (Boston)! I used to work there as an undergrad, a couple of years before it closed it's doors and it was nice to see it mentioned.

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