While I have enjoyed many of Richard Schickel's previous shows, this one is really pretty much a waste of time. The writing is very boring and pedantic. Watching the show is like sitting through a particularly boring lecture in a college class you really want to enjoy. There isn't a coherent thread of storytelling and it seems to bounce between one topic to the next with little or no transition. I can't tell what the purpose of this documentary is supposed to be... is it about the stars and directors? Is it about the style and themes of the films? Is it about the history of the studio in relation to the world it is in? Is it about everything that happened at WB within specific periods of time? I can't tell what Schickel is trying to get me to take away from this documentary. It is like he has an outline and checklist of things he 'has' to cover and is just going along "Rin Tin Tin... check, The Jazz Singer... check". Where is his passion for his subject?
Clint Eastwood's narration does not pull me into the story he is telling, but then how excited can he be reading the script he was given? The interviews are mostly uninteresting and seem to be a mix of old stuff from Schickel's Men Who Made The Movies series and dropped in to remind us who he has talked to before (and maybe to save him the trouble of doing new work) and talking to critics and academics who we don't know or care about who seem more interested in impressing Schieckel than us, the audience. The camera work on the interviews could have been done by any junior high kid with a tripod and the work of the interviewer does not bring out great storytelling from the interviewees.
Another thing which is bad about this show is the editing... usually very well done in Schickel's documentaries. Some segments show the old magic... like the James Cagney and Busby Berkely segments... which do what the segments should do... make us, the audience, interested enough in the subjects that we want to get the movies we learn about. However, such segments stand out because of how bad he rest of the editing is. I have worked as a projectionist for three decades and know that anyone can cut frames, but editing is more than that. Most of the transitions between shots are very abrupt and look like one shot is dropped down before the end of the previous shot. In addition, the movies we all know are represented by the clichéd clips that we have all seen a thousand times... can he not find anything new to give us about Casablanca and Yankee Doodle Dandy, for example... and not only are all of the clips from those shows the 'usual suspects' he spends way too much time on them rather than spending the time on what we HAVEN"T seen and heard before.
I don't know how much Warner Brothers paid for this hack job, but it was too much and if I am expected to want to buy the DVD to watch this show more than once, sorry... once is more than enough. Maybe it is time for Schickel to call it quits and retire because he sure doesn't seem to have anything worth while to give to the public. I'm sure USC would allow him to give really boring lectures to film students and play his 'greatest hits' to them to show them how wonderful he is.
If you don't get it from my review... I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this documentary to anyone. Jeez, how does ANYONE make the Warner Brothers story a snoozefest? P.S. -- Even before the show starts, you know to expect something bad... the title card of the first part tells us it covers '1929 - 1941' and yet the shows goes back to the teen's and covers films into the 50s. Does Schickel not even know what his show is about or how to use a calendar?
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