Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My take on TCM Remembers 2012

The other day (Monday, December 10th) Scott McGee (a TCM producer) posted a tweet with a link to the 2012 version of TCM Remembers.  For those who don’t know, TCM Remembers is an annual short video that serves as a remembrance and a memorial to people in the film industry who have passed away in the past year.  I immediately watched it and fell in love with it.  It’s so well made and there are so many great ‘pieces’ to it that I felt I had to write down why I love it so much.

So, if you haven't seen it...here's the clip:

The song is “Wait” by French synthpop group M83.  It appears on their album “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”.  I’ve never heard of this group before, but this song is just perfect for the clip.  It starts slow and gradually builds and has an ethereal sound to it.  I imagine choosing the song is a very critical step in the process of producing a video like this as the images have to be presented and hung off of the music.

The video was produced by TCM’s Christian Hammann and shot/edited by Scott Lansing of Sabotage Film Group.  As Scott Lansing said in a tweet, Ms. Hammann “killed it.”  I concur.  I’ve been watching these for about twelve years now and I didn’t think TCM would be able to top the 2003 production, but I think this one has.

I loved the concept of the drive-in theater.  And I loved that they showed film clips and stills on the drive-in theater screen before maximizing them to the frame.  Some great special effects were done with back-lit screens and flood-lit trees and night skies with stars, etc in the background when we see the images on drive-in screen.

The concept of regeneration is prevalent here.  We initially see a weathered and deserted drive-in theater.  Rusted fences, it’s fall.  Initially there’s a real sense of decay here.  What perfect imagery for the end of a career/life.  When the drive-in theater lights come on and the projection room ‘comes to life’, you get a sense that even though this is an old and decaying place, there is life here.  Which makes me think that even though these people have passed, their lives will be remembered in their work.

As usual, the editing and timing to the music are excellent.  Take for example the following moments:

  • When the birds take flight on cue with the music
  • When Davy Jones steps back to the beat of the music
  • When there is a drum fill in the music and we see Levon Helm

These things were all nicely done and thought through with an eye to the details.

Some great shots:

  • Andy Griffith hanging off the side of the train as it pulls out of the station, with a big smile on his face...hat in hand.  What a great image.
  • Some of the ‘Instagram focus’ effects (for lack of a better word) where the full image is all in focus, then we zoom into the primary person and the edges become blurred.
  • The opening of the cigar box from title sequence of To Kill a Mockingbird, transitioning to light/shadow on the snack-bar wall as if light were coming out of the cigar box.  A simple and powerful image (around the 3:05 mark) that even continues to a clip from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • The shots where there is an image on the drive-in screen and the screen and trees are back-lit are amazing (see around 3:20 mark, also recurs at the 4:21, 4:31 and 4:55 marks)
  • The concept of light streaming *into* the projection equipment and up and out of the building.  I thought of this as a ‘reversal of cinematic love’ concept.  Normally the image goes out of the projector and onto a screen, here it’s like we (or something) is sending that love (light) back into the camera and up into space.  Maybe I'm overthingking it...whatever it means it’s well done, thought-provoking and beautiful.
  • The time-lapse photography of stars and trees is so beautiful
  • The still shot of Nora Ephron is great because Meg Ryan is in the background (slightly blurred, but recognizable) and they worked together on some great films.
  • As usual, they save the best for last...Ernest Borgnine at the end puts me over the edge each time I watch this.  And they chose two great clips: the first from Marty when Clara breaks down and cries on his shoulder and the second from The Wild Bunch.

Here’s the complete list of fifty-five people who appear in the video:

I hope you enjoy this clip as much as I do.  I really love all the in-house production work that TCM does, and these TCM Remembers pieces are so thoughtfully done.


  1. As weird as this is gonna sound: I look forward to these "Remembrance" videos every year because I know they're going to be good. I really do think that the Oscars should use these videos instead of producing their own, because TCM's are FAR superior.

    Do you have a link to the 2003 video that you like so much?

    1. Vanessa, I agree...they could just run this 5 minute clip and pay homage to those that passed away so nicely. But they never ask us, do they?!

      Here's the 2003 video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTHl9a877no

  2. Very nice- thanks Joel. All of it bittersweet for me- I am of the drive in generation. Love it, very moving. I so hate that Davey Jones died
    wicked cricket

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting...it's sad about a lot of these folks. But I love how TCM puts them together like this.