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why are so many old black and white movies considered to be classics?


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Old 25-03-2013, 00:26
jackbell
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That's one of the consolations of being old.

When I told her that I had flown all the way from London to attend her tribute at The Lincoln Centre in New York, she put her arm around me and said,
"Well, after coming all that way, we must have a photo taken together." That certainly is a great memory.

Other great memories are seeing Katharine Hepburn dressed in a white pants suit, marching down Charing Cross Road in 1959. She was over here filming Suddenly Last Summer at Shepperton.

Then standing up at The National Film Theatre in 1971, shaking in my shoes as I asked Bette Davis of she would ever like to direct a film. She thought for a moment then said,

"No, but I like the idea of producing, I rather like the idea of ordering all of those men around."

Wow. Brilliant.

Those women were pioneers and ahead of their time. Thankfully we have their films and none have been lost. I'm always suggesting their films to younger Internet friends. If they just take to one of them then my job is done. Even if it's 'The Anniversary'. lol
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Old 25-03-2013, 10:28
Metal Mickey
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As has already been alluded to, there's a lot of "self-selection" in the old movies that tend to get shown these days - there's such an enormous pool to choose from, and such limited slots (and getting less all the time unfortunately) that it's not surprising that it's mostly only the "classics" that end up getting shown

Being "Old" or "black & white" aren't quality marks in themselves, but I do think that older movies were generally less constrained by notions of being "cool" or "hip", and concentrated more on straight ahead storytelling, which I appreciate more & more as time goes on.

What I do find very strange is that older movies tend to be much shorter than newer ones - you'd think that shorter attention spans these days and ever-faster editing would lead to the reverse, but not so... quite why dull sitcom "This Is 40" needed to be longer than "Citizen Kane", "It's A Wonderful Life" or "Vertigo" (hell, even "Star Wars") is something only Judd Apatow can tell us!
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Old 26-03-2013, 00:52
stripedcat
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That's one of the consolations of being old.

When I told her that I had flown all the way from London to attend her tribute at The Lincoln Centre in New York, she put her arm around me and said,
"Well, after coming all that way, we must have a photo taken together." That certainly is a great memory.

Other great memories are seeing Katharine Hepburn dressed in a white pants suit, marching down Charing Cross Road in 1959. She was over here filming Suddenly Last Summer at Shepperton.

Then standing up at The National Film Theatre in 1971, shaking in my shoes as I asked Bette Davis of she would ever like to direct a film. She thought for a moment then said,

"No, but I like the idea of producing, I rather like the idea of ordering all of those men around."
Wow. You truly were lucky to met Barbara, Katherine and Bette. Couldn't find a more finer set of actresses from Hollywood's Golden Age.

PS- I can tell you're Barbara fan from your avatar name.
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Old 26-03-2013, 01:50
fender101
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I guess what I am really alluding to is that I see so many 5 star ratings for these old films than more recent films. So maybe "classic" was the wrong term. Maybe a classic is different from a 5 star rating. For example, if I was a reviewer, I would give City Of God, Amélie or The Kite Runner 5 stars. But I bet they would only get 4 on the Radio Times Website. Where it seems anything old film in black and white automatically gets 5.
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Old 26-03-2013, 02:22
Gort
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I guess what I am really alluding to is that I see so many 5 star ratings for these old films than more recent films. So maybe "classic" was the wrong term. Maybe a classic is different from a 5 star rating. For example, if I was a reviewer, I would give City Of God, Amélie or The Kite Runner 5 stars. But I bet they would only get 4 on the Radio Times Website. Where it seems anything old film in black and white automatically gets 5.
Both City of God and Amelie are given five stars in the Radio Times (and rightly so); the other one was only given three, though.

As for older films more likely being given five stars, maybe it's simply because the best films tend to last over the years and that skews the impression that black-and-white films are automatically given higher ratings. There were plenty of bad old films that have been made in the "good ol' days", but they tend to get forgotten or not shown as much. Saying that, I've seen a few examples of old films that have been given one, two or three stars in magazine listings, etc.
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Old 26-03-2013, 08:28
barbeler
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Try comparing the original version of All Quiet On The Western Front with the remake. The creaky old original was far more moving and ultimately devastating.
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Old 26-03-2013, 15:22
Gort
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Try comparing the original version of All Quiet On The Western Front with the remake. The creaky old original was far more moving and ultimately devastating.
I agree, the original is the best and has the greater impact. Mind you, I thought the remake was quite good in itself (I have both versions on DVD), but it still begs why it needed to be remade at all other than the fact that it was in colour. Anyway, it's not surprising that the 1930 film is rated better than the 1979 made for TV remake and gets shown more often.

The book the films are based on is a classic, BTW. Well worth reading.
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Old 26-03-2013, 15:39
afx237vi
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I guess what I am really alluding to is that I see so many 5 star ratings for these old films than more recent films. So maybe "classic" was the wrong term. Maybe a classic is different from a 5 star rating. For example, if I was a reviewer, I would give City Of God, Amélie or The Kite Runner 5 stars. But I bet they would only get 4 on the Radio Times Website. Where it seems anything old film in black and white automatically gets 5.
It's interesting that you pick three foreign-language films to illustrate your point, because I think a lot of foreign-language cinema is subject to the same sort of critical over-inflation that you pin on old B&W films.

Don't get me wrong, I like foreign films, but it seems to me that even the most mundane stuff automatically gets higher praise if it comes with subtitles attached.
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Old 27-03-2013, 11:34
barbeler
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Anyway, it's not surprising that the 1930 film is rated better than the 1979 made for TV remake and gets shown more often.
It was supposed to have been on a few days ago and was billed as the b&w original, but turned out to be the re-make.
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Old 27-03-2013, 13:02
Frillynix
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hmmm.............I sort of know what you mean - but I think when they do show the "black and whites" on telly these days they do tend to show the "better" standard - there were many many lemons made in those days- I suppose we are only getting to see the higher standard on the movie channels now.

To be honest I surprise myself all the time when watching them - they dont have the special effects, they dont have the "colour" and glamour of our offerings now - but sometimes the "story" is enough and actually I end up enjoying them MORE because to me sometimes the special effects are too heavy handed these days - Gawd Im thinking of "2012" for example - what a pile of steaming crap that was (soz if you like it!)

Im thinking of comedies like "Some LIke it Hot" which to me is every bit as amazing as the day it was made - Its a Wonderful LIfe - All about Eve and the like.

I think its more these "classical" films that they show - and we dont see the rubbish that was made then - and maybe thats why they have a higher star rating?
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Old 27-03-2013, 14:44
Metal Mickey
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Don't get me wrong, I like foreign films, but it seems to me that even the most mundane stuff automatically gets higher praise if it comes with subtitles attached.
It's a similar thing, inasmuch as we only ever see the best of the best of the foreign movies that are released, and are spared most of the dreck that is out there... it works both ways - ask anyone foreign about British films, and they'll be thinking about "Howards End", "Remains Of The Day" and "Pride & Prejudice", not "Run For Your Wife" and "Sex Lives Of The Potato Men"!

Subtitled films also benefit from the fact that we're reading all the dialogue, so there's usually no opportunities to "mis-hear" what's going on... and it can also be hard to tell exactly how good an acting performnce is in a foreign language, as the nuances are lost to us, so we tend to give the actors the benefit of the doubt...
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Old 29-03-2013, 09:47
balthasar
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I rather think if the story is good,

Robinson Crusoe 1964 kept me watching even after The Banana Splits.
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Old 29-03-2013, 20:38
Walter Neff
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Wow. You truly were lucky to met Barbara, Katherine and Bette. Couldn't find a more finer set of actresses from Hollywood's Golden Age.

PS- I can tell you're Barbara fan from your avatar name.
Yes, I thought that it might have caused confusion to call myself Phyllis Dietrichson or The Lady Eve.
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Old 29-03-2013, 21:49
mgvsmith
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As a few people have suggested many of the old B/W are classics because they have stood the test of time. Very few of the best movies on the BFI Sight and Sound list are dated after 1970 even.

'Citizen Kane' was made in 1941 and is often rated the greatest movie of all time and it is, of course, in B/W. It's seen as a classic now but it wasn't at the time and didn't win the main Oscar. I guess in terms of film history it takes a while to get critical and popular recognition, so it's only a matter of time before some of the modern colour films will be regularly seen as classics. 'Apocalypse Now', 'The Godfathers I/II', 'Bladerunner', 'Fargo' are probably already that.
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Old 30-03-2013, 00:07
SirMickTravis
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I don't think we are living through a golden age of film right now. The simple reason to my mind is that a lot of the writing talent is now directed towards television not film. So you have some very good long running tv series but a lack of great films. There just aren't enough good writers working in film now. Writers were never treated that well in the industry and tv seems to treat them better. For all movies have become more expensive and high concept and full of showy auteur directors, by and large the basis for a good film is a good script and there just aren't enough around.
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Old 30-03-2013, 11:12
mgvsmith
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I don't think we are living through a golden age of film right now. The simple reason to my mind is that a lot of the writing talent is now directed towards television not film. So you have some very good long running tv series but a lack of great films. There just aren't enough good writers working in film now. Writers were never treated that well in the industry and tv seems to treat them better. For all movies have become more expensive and high concept and full of showy auteur directors, by and large the basis for a good film is a good script and there just aren't enough around.
Yes, 'The Wire', 'The Shield', 'The Sopranos', 'Boardwalk Empire', 'Battlestar Galactica', 'Game of Thrones', 'Breaking Bad'....you could go on and on but these TV shows are superior to much of the stuff from Hollywood.

HBO give projects time to develop. There is also an unhealthy obsession with superheroes in US movies at present. Still there are gems like Looper, Argo, Another Earth, 500 days of Summer and most movies by the Coen Bros or the occasional Tarantino.
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Old 30-03-2013, 15:02
Wetherby
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B/W and subtitled films do cause problems for quite a few posters.
Best they stick to Michel Bay, Dannie Dyer etc etc
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Old 30-03-2013, 18:16
Johnbee
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A classic is something which has been very widely judged over a long period of time as outstandingly good.

It is therefore total nonsense that all old black and white films are said to be classic. They aren't. It is also nonsense to say that a film was not considered classic on it's release. How can iot be judged over a long time the day after release?
It is also nonsense to say that all foreign films are said to be classics, because they plainly are not said to be that.

The people who say those sorts of thing ought instead to tell us which film they consider to be wrongly rated as classic or 5 star.

You might not like Casablanca, or The Seventh Seal, but at least you really ought to be able to see why they are considered as outstandingly good.

It is in fact not possible to explain simply why they are great films. Of course it is not just plot or subject matter. A person might look at a Rembrandt self portrait or Cezanne's apples and if they ask why they are supposed to be so good, all one can do is shrug and say that they just are, and suggest looking at a lot more stuff and then come back to them, perhaps then they will see.
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Old 30-03-2013, 18:28
007Fusion
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I think its the powerful imagery that is conveyed in Black and White, which misleads people to believe they are watching something superior to modern times. Also, time is another factor; Nostaligia for the medium at that time and its pureity.
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