PBS

Robin Williams Teddy Roosevelt

As with any Ken Burns documentary, PBS’s The Roosevelts (having finished its second of seven two-hour episodes last night) features a trove of archival material including photographs, documents, newspaper headlines, excerpts of diaries and books reads by actors ranging from Meryl Streep to Billy Bob Thornton, and new footage from the preserved estates of the title characters. Yet what dominated yesterday’s entry (which takes place roughly between 1901 and 1909) was silent film footage of the United States’ 26th President, often brought to life for a sound-sync audience through music or even foley effects. While Burns’s films are known for their archival display, they don’t always contextualize how certain information is made available at certain points in history. Yet as The Roosevelts promises to cover over a century of ground between 1858 and 1962, the way information spread is a story that will inevitably be told, explicitly or implicitly. Between the early days of the moving image alongside the rise of industrialization in the late 19th century to Hollywood’s important role in rallying Americans during WWII, the story of how media develops in turn shapes how history is known.

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Mel Brooks Noise

Everyone loves Mel Brooks because he’s amazing and wonderful. He should be given the key to every city and a parade in his honor every day. Short of that, PBS is delivering a documentary meant to celebrate the brilliant comedian who made the funniest movie of all time (Blazing Saddles). Thanks to Pop Candy, we can now watch a slew of famous faces trying to explain what Brooks is all about. We also get to see a limo speeding to a sound stage just in time to stop the show. Hopefully Brooks will interrupt every segment with a song about himself:

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Mitt Romney’s comments about PBS and Big Bird during the presidential debate the other night struck a nerve with many a fan of public broadcasting and Sesame Street. And there are a lot of reasons movie fans shouldn’t favor a world without PBS, including all the documentary programming and now a new web series called Shanks FX. Part of PBS Digital Studios, the Internet-only show presents filmmaker and animator Joey Shanks (real name: Joe Schenkenberg) creating cheap and relatively easy practical special effects without a computer. “You don’t need a ton of money to create high-end visual effects,” the synopsis for the series claims. Interestingly, PBS does offer a warning at the beginning of each episode about how Shanks is a professional and viewers shouldn’t try these “activities” at home. Of course, if you’re a teenager hoping to one day become a pro effects artist — so long as non-CGI, “in camera” stuff is still of interest — you’re definitely going to attempt every one of these tricks, and Shanks even lays the episodes out like they’re intended to be instructional.

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Why Watch? A brief examination of a growing, brass-filled culture. PBS‘s Off Book series is a wondrous mini-doc collection that examines some fascinating parts about our culture and society. In this installment, they get antique without getting rusty with the growing geek movement or art, music, dance and theater that we know (and love) as Steampunk. It’s a joyous window with a small view into the world, and as an October bonus, there’s even talk of a Steampunk Haunted House. Plus, they close out the doc with 7 Things That Are Better Steampunk’d. Yes, Hello Kitty is involved. What does it cost? Just 5 minutes of your time. Check out the trailer for Off Book: Steampunk for yourself:

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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