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Turner Classic Movies: 100 Years at the Movies

08 May

Not only does TCM create feature film’s about Shorts; they also create shorts that involve features. In 1994, TCM dove headfirst into the industry and created a film called 100 Years at the Movies. The film is similar to The Hollywood Shorts Story in that it is an account of the history of film, shown in chronological order. It was created to honor 100 years of American Film making, and to me, is the most impressive contribution that TCM has made to short film.

The film is shot in documentary style, and takes clips from the most notable films of the century. They are then tied together chronologically and through sound. Sometimes, the clips are connected in some way but this is not always the case.

It starts with something we’ve seen before – Annabell, dancing and throwing around her dress. A staple of what early film was. ‘Look, it moves!’ Along with the clip, TCM gives a short summary of the origins of American Film. Even from the start I can tell I would have enjoyed this less had I never taken Short Film; even in the first minute there are several recognizable clips.

The film points out several films by name, but the clips do not necessarily match. We see clips of the most famous actors from the silent era, all drastically overacting to make up for their loss of voice. The whole time, the clips accompanied by the ever-so-recognizable tunes of the 20’s. Every so often a new film name fades into the screen, acting almost like a roadmap. The named film, along with its year of release, gives the viewer an idea of what point in time they are at, an effective tool. The slapstick humor runs rampant early, as it should; it really gives a good sense of what the early shorts are like to watch.

The switch to sound is possibly my favorite part of this film. It happens so suddenly it almost makes you jump. One second all you have is music, and the next there is an array of different voices. The music changes at ther right times, and cuts out occasionally for the most iconic scenes(It’s Alive!).

The transition into color is more subtle, it almost sneaks into the film. One or two clips have color, and then, eventually, all of them do. It was a nice effect, in my opinion. Simply adding to the realism of the film as a whole.

The film isn’t limited to clips from shorts, and as the film goes on you see less of them. By the end, it’s all features. But TCM made an excellent short here, definitely one worth watching. They chose great scenes and the best music possible. They emphasized all the right things at all the right times. The goal here was to give a history of film in nine minutes and that is just what they did. Each effect and transition adds to the greater feeling of being pulled through a time machine.

In case you’re curious, here is a list of all the films mentioned by name. I don’t think it was intended as a ‘best of;’ I think it was meant to be seen as a simple guide. These movies are ones that truly represented their era.

1915 – The Birth of a Nation

1923 – Greed

1927 – The Jazz Singer

1933 – 42nd Street

1934 – It Happened One Night

1936 – San Francisco

1939 – Gone With The Wind

1942 – Casablanca

1946 – It’s a Wonderful Life

1948 – Red River

1954 – On the Waterfront

1962 – Lawrence of Arabia

1969 – Easy Rider

1972 – The Godfather

1976 – Rocky

1980 – Raging Bull

1994 – Schindler’s List

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