Archive for August 21st, 2017

by Sam Juliano

The 2017-2018 school year is just two weeks from commencement, and those of us in the profession are wondering where all the time has gone.  It only seemed like yesterday when we were cleaning out our offices and desks and preparing for a protracted summer season, but in the end the eternal lament about time disappearing is again ruling the roost.  In any event we must face reality and and face the coming autumn season, which for me anyway is the most exciting time of the year in a cultural sense.

The Greatest Television Top 80 Countdown Part 1 has been moving forward successfully, and by all barometer of measurement has been an artistic and statistical smash.  As always the writers and those joining in the comment sections derserve all the credit, but to those registering likes and propeling the page view totals, I extend our deepest gratitude.  We have now officially eclipsed the half-way point, what with today’s posting of Allan’s review of the British documentary masterpiece Civilisation, which has checked in at Number 38.  The project will continue until late September, when the Number 1 essay, courtesy of Robert Hornak will be published.  But the excitement and artistic prowess will hardly conclude, as our much more grandiose Part 2, which will showcase the television works that finished from Numbers 81 through 218 is coming.  That much longer part will begin on Tuesday, December 24  and conclude on Thursday May 10th. (no post on Christmas Day).  Needless to say this massive consideration of television, to the staggering tune of 217 works (arthouse, aspiring arthouse, cult and guilty pleasures, brining together classic sitcoms, fantasy/science fiction/horror, contemporary masterpieces, British landmarks and documentaries and foreign language milestones is easily the most auspicious undertaking in the history of Wonders in the Dark, and what with your ertswhile curator set to turn 63 years old this month (the 26th for those wishing to send me imaginary bouquets) it will be the final enterprise of this magnitude at these hallowed halls.  This Top 218 (the off-kilter number total was reached by way of incessant additions, arrived at by repeated return to the point totals) is meant to set this enterprise aside from others.  Where pray tell can anyone find another Top 218 Greatest Television Shows on-line or anywhere else?  Ha!  And enough revisions have been made to make anyone dizzy, though by simply moving up the proceedings a bit in January, this obssessive pursuit was made possible.  I can only imagine what my friend Pierre de Plume is thinking now?! (more…)

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by Allan Fish

the next in the series of small screen classics

(UK 1969 670m) DVD1/2

Man – the measure of all things

p  Michael Gill, Peter Montagnon  d  Michael Gill, Peter Montagnon, Ann Turner  w  Kenneth Clark

presented by  Kenneth Clark (with Ian Richardson, Patrick Stewart, Ronald Lacey, Eric Porter (voice))

There are so many reasons to venerate Kenneth Clark’s monumental – in every sense – small screen undertaking.  It was the first of the mammoth documentary series that came to redefine the BBC’s factual programming unit in the seventies.  It was the first major series undertaken in the colour age.  It was the start of a series of three such momentous works – Alistair Cooke’s America and Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man are the others – that still stand as magnificently as the rocks at Stonehenge in British – and thus world – television history.  It is on the foundations laid here, and on those laid by Cooke, Bronowski and later the natural history programmes of David Attenborough (who had a large part to play in persuading Kenneth Clark to do this epic series when a BBC2 administrator in the mid-late sixties) that all the wonders of the digital age documentaries from around the millennium, from The Blue Planet to Auschwitz to A History of Britain, stand fast.  It might be old school, but its targets, modus operandi and intentions are probably more relevant than ever.

Clark’s “personal view” in Civilisation begins at the end of the Dark Ages, a period where civilisation itself was all but extinguished by the fall of the Roman Empire.  In his own words, the title of his first episode, we survived by “the skin of our teeth“, and this phrase seems all the more prescient today.  In a modern world where life itself is hanging in there like a boxer waiting for the bell, staggering like Victor McLaglen’s drunken Gypo Nolan to a place of refuge, society itself is once more under threat.  He discusses in this episode how civilisation is remembered, by words, deeds and art.  All three last, but the most lasting is in art.  And he’s right, for who but scholars remember the campaigns and Renaissance inter-family plotting of the Sforzas, Borgias and Dei Medicis, while who can forget the work of Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo?  He covers all forms of art, be it in architecture, sculpture, painting, printing, writing, theology, philosophy, or even music; Beethoven and Mozart rubbing shoulders with Shakespeare, Rembrandt, St Francis of Assisi, Charlemagne, Gislbertus, Dante, Giotto, Botticelli, Erasmus, Luther, Descartes, Vermeer, Wren, Bernini, Handel, Voltaire, Wordsworth, Byron, Delacroix, Rodin, Tolstoy, Brunel, Turner and Constable.  Their works are part of the western consciousness, part of our very fibre.  As man is created equal by the intrinsic belief in God, so art is seen as created equal by Clark. (more…)

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