December 27, 2012

Movies At Dog Farm Remembers . . . Glorious Black & White

black and white tv test pattern

       I'm not completely backwards.  I'll embrace any new technology that I believe genuinely improves my quality of life.  I'm much quicker to embrace improvements in audio and video presentation, too, because how could any sane person argue that high definition, lossless audio, and correct aspect ratios aren't improvements.  I do not, however, believe that new tech automatically renders old tech obsolete.

     Example:  I can't stand listening to my home theater receiver attempt to make 5.1 surround sound from an older movie's mono soundtrack.  The sound engineers who created that soundtrack created it with the intent of mono playback, and trying to "improve" that soundtrack by spreading it over multiple channels just sounds thin, scattered, and wrong.  I'm not a big fan of "better" refresh rate making my shot-on-film-at-24-fps movies look like shot-on-video soap operas, either.  Different isn't automatically better.

colorized Ymir from Harryhausen's 20 Million Miles to Earth
The colorized Ymir from 20 Million Miles to Earth.
     You've probably already surmised that I wouldn't be a fan of colorizing old movies, either, and you'd be right.  There are exceptions, though.  Ray Harryhausen oversaw the colorization of three of his black and white movies a few years back (story here), and by God, if Ray Harryhausen himself is cool with it, then I want to see it.  They're beautiful, by the way.  The DVD releases offered the original black and white versions, too, so it's not like the "real" versions were tossed aside.  As long as originals aren't replaced by the newer versions (I'm looking at you, George Lucas) then the artists can do as they please with their own work.

     So how about making a color movie black and white?  Well, the same reasoning applies.  If the artists who created the work want to see it in black and white, have at it.  Black and white presentation still has merits, strengths that color presentation can't duplicate.  Particularly with horror movies, the interplay of light and shadow in a black and white presentation can render a focused and dreamlike atmosphere not possible with color.  It can also make a newer color movie look more like its cinematic forebears.  Witness the black and white version of Frank Darabont's The Mist (2007), for example.  Some work  benefits from a noirish presentation.  Like maybe . . . oh, I don't know . . . The Walking Dead?

The Walking Dead black and white comic panel
The Walking Dead comic
     The Walking Dead's former show runner Glen Mazzara recently Tweeted an image from a fan mag (prior to his departure) that indicated AMC will show all 18 episodes of seasons 1 and 2 in a monochrome format.  Makes perfect sense, right?  The black and white presentation mimics the presentation of the show's comic book source and will make the whole affair hearken back to the moody glory days of the old black and white Universal classics.  What's not to love?

The Walking Dead tv still in black and white
The Walking Dead TV show
     I was horrified to discover that pretty much everyone I know who isn't as old as me felt like this was an unwarranted step backwards.  O.k. - don't watch.  I'm sure AMC will also re-run all the episodes in color.  Personally, I can't wait for the black and white episodes.

     Black and white is a misnomer, anyway.  When we say a program is black and white, what we really mean is that we're seeing a continuum of black and white that includes the shades of gray.  I suppose the youngsters just prefer not to see things in shades of gray.  Sorry, kids, but I'm seeing more and more gray every day.  I'm cool with glorious black and white.

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