Here’s something to help you get 2014 started off right: for all of January, Turner Classic Movies is turning its Friday Night Spotlight on “Science in the Movies.” Every Friday night they’ll be playing no fewer than four classic films (we interpret “classic” a bit loosely in some cases) with some kind of scientific theme. I happen to know this because I’ll be the one introducing each film. Not live, of course; I already recorded all the introductions back in October. I don’t think my introductions contain any especially insightful nuggets of scientific wisdom or cinematic insight, but it was a fun departure from my usual thing.
And the movies are quite a bit of fun, too. The full schedule is here. (That’s the entire TCM schedule for the month; skip to Friday nights to find the science movies.) There are quite a few undisputed classics in there, from The Bride of Frankenstein to Solaris. And only one or two real stinkers (It Happens Every Spring was … not so good.)
I managed to watch or re-watch (almost) all of the films, and discovered a few gems I hadn’t heard of. The Man in the White Suit, starring a young Alec Guiness, was a lot of fun. And the biographical films, like Pasteur, were more enjoyable than I expected; back in the day Hollywood really knew how to make a good biopic.
But probably my favorite discovery was For All Mankind, a documentary I had never known about. It’s about the Apollo program, and is constructed exclusively from actual NASA footage and interviews with the astronauts. It wasn’t that long ago, but it’s easy to forget what it was like to never have actually visited the Moon. Hearing the astronaut’s voices, and seeing some rare and thrilling footage of the real thing in action, really brings home the drama and excitement of the time. It’s showing this Friday, catch it if you can.