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A Message for the Young

July 8, 2008

I found myself watching Turner Classic Movies again last night.  I caught TOOTSIE at 8:30, which I had seen when I first got cable, but didn’t remember it too well.  I thought it was hilarious.  Then at 11 I watched the first hour of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS.  I would have watched more, but I was starting to get sleepy.  As I watched these great movies, I began to think about how difficult it must be to convince the teenagers and pre-teenagers out there that this is definitely a network worth watching every once in a while.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy newer movies very much, and the movies that are out now will be remembered by this generation of young people as the movies they grew up with.  I have no argument with that at all.  That’s how good memories are created.

My concern is that this generation may choose to ignore Hollywood’s fascinating and fantastic history.  That would be a shame.  I think it’s so important for young people to understand how we got to where we are now, good and bad, through the study of history of all kinds.  I have to give TCM some credit for trying.  This summer, on Sunday nights, movie stars that the younger generation are familiar with are introducing family-oriented movies from the TCM library.  I’m not just talking about the classic Disney library they recently acquired, and shame on YOU Disney Channel for ignoring YOUR own history, but other movies in ALL genres.  The only downside to this noble endeavor is that these Sunday night family classics don’t seem to be advertised on the other Turner Networks.  At least they’re not when I’m watching them.  If they are, and you young people are catching them, then good for TCM, they’re getting the word out.  Otherwise, I’d say they really need to buy time on the other stations to promote this great idea.

As for you young people, I’m going to offer you this advice, and yes, it is always meant to be friendly advice.  How about every now and then, turning off the MTV networks, or the Sports networks, or taking your copy of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL or NORBIT, or any other movie you’ve seen time and again, and look through Turner Classic Movies’ schedule to see if you can find a film that you might be able to sit through without feeling silly, uncomfortable, or squeamish.  I promise you you’ll find a few if you look hard enough, or are patient enough.  You just might surprise yourself.  You may see an older actor you like in one of his or her first screen appearances.  You may discover that HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL owes a lot to the classic musicals that came from MGM.  You may even find that true screwball and physical comedy doesn’t have to be grotesque to have you falling out of your seat with laughter.  And don’t worry if you feel you might be unpopular for preferring some of these movies over what’s playing at your nearest multiplex.  You don’t have to defend that at all.  Your friends should like you for who you are, and not because you follow the crowd.  You’re learning how we got from scrolling projected backgrounds to blue screen digital effects.  You’re learning how we got from silent to speaking to 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems.  Who knows?  You may even be inspired to start developing a screenplay or two of your own.  In any case, if you DO discover a new favorite classic movie, let me know about it here.

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