What’s on your family’s movie menu this weekend?
Without having to leave your home, you can treat yourselves to some films nominated for Academy Awards in past years. Check out these classics.
The Best Picture race of 1964 included such traditional entries as Mary Poppins, Becket, Zorba the Greek and the ultimate winner, My Fair Lady. Rounding out the top five was the irreverent, controversial and unforgettable comic masterpiece from Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Picture yourself, for 90 minutes or so, living the possibility of the world coming to an end because people make outrageous decisions and refuse to admit their mistakes and correct their errors. Imagine a world so fragile where one person can, on a whim, signal the end of how people live. And consider the very real threat that placing powerful weapons in the wrong hands can create. That is the world that Kubrick brilliantly creates.
In 1964, its world was all too real to a citizenry in the United States filled with school children who would “duck and cover” under classroom desks and parents who built elaborate bomb shelters in case the inevitable might occur. Because the superpowers of the time — the US and the Soviet Union — each had the ability to destroy the other many times over, people lived in fear that such a doomsday plot could actually happen. So the film, when it opened, was viewed less as fiction than a disturbing interpretation of a feasible reality. Because it all could happen, movie audiences embraced the film as, perhaps, a way to feel better because none of it actually did happen.
Kubrick is too wise to make the film too ominous. Instead he uses humor to examine what inspires leaders to want to destroy the civilized world in the name of supremacy. By putting together such a bizarre collection of characters, and placing them in such hysterical yet plausible situations, he stretches the truth just enough to project what actually could happen if common decency and caring were forgotten long enough to simply push the button to launch a destructive nuclear weapon.
Take a fresh look at this timeless film on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 6:15 p.m. on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
Since television began, the game show has been a staple. We love the chance to watch others succeed, suffer, gamble and fail without having to invest in the outcome. When television was new, in the 1950s, game shows were the national obsession, partly because they were cheap for networks for produce and easy for audiences to absorb, the main reason they remain popular today. As these programs became more popular, the thirst for higher ratings led to larger prizes and intensified drama, as the nation began to root for certain people to win the money. And such programs as The 64,000 Question and Twenty One made instant stars out of everyday people.
But what if the entertainment these shows would promise would overwhelm the need for legality and legitimacy? And what if some contestants received the answers in advance to make sure they were victorious? Would such tampering with the outcome be wrong? Or would it simply be a way to script the medium in a way the audience would demand?
Quiz Show takes us inside the television game show scandals of the 1950s as it teaches us, again, the difference between how people perceive what is right and wrong. We are on the set of Twenty One, a popular game show of the period, when a young man named Charles Van Doren becomes a popular national hero after successfully answering a stunning series of difficult questions. To many, he is a brilliant collector of facts; to others, he is a mysterious product of the entertainment machine. Soon, many begin to question if his victory is authentic. Or, in an effort to garner viewers, do the producers of the show blatantly manipulate who wins and loses? Is this man as smart as he appears? Or is he good at memorizing the facts that someone else gives him? And does it matter?
By focusing on the man, beyond the situation he is placed in, Quiz Show authentically explores if his own ambitions and ego prompt him to stretch the rules or if, simply, his vanity makes him the likely candidate to be manipulated by the media machine. But Robert Redford is too subtle a director to take sides, letting us see the negatives in this man, as well as the positives, as we consider who did what in the scandal of the century.
With amazing detail, Quiz Show recreates a world dominated by television, where success on the small box can change ordinary lives. But it warns us that, behind the box, people continue to live, and when we tamper with people’s lives, all the ratings in the world can’t make up for the ultimate hurt.
Look for Quiz Show on Friday, Oct. 18, on Flix at 9:45 p.m.
Serving worthwhile movies can be as easy as turning on the television. And, as you watch together, you can share what you observe, question and consider. Watching movies together can prompt meaningful family conversations. Enjoy!