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Podcast Episode 141: TCMFF And Reel Science 2.0

Reflections on classic film fest and real scientists talking about reel science

Photo caption: At the midnight screening of "Night of the Living Dead" at TCM Classic Film F...

Photo credit: Getty Images/Universal

At the midnight screening of "Night of the Living Dead" at TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown in "Back to the Future."

Episode 141: TCMFF and Reel Science 2.0

This episode is a week late so that I could include a wrap-up from the TCM Classic Film Festival that ended Sunday and provide a preview of the San Diego Natural History Museum's new Reel Science Film Series that runs through May. Enjoy four real scientists — an entomologist, a neuroscientist and two physicists (no, that's not the opening of a joke) — as they discuss the reel science in films. Find out which bug is ready for a starring role in a sci-fi film and why the premise of using humans as batteries is all wrong.

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My apologies for getting this podcast out a week late, but I had the TCM Classic Film Festival and Reel Science 2.0 to cover!

Thanks for your patience, but I didn't want to skip either the TCM Classic Film Festival — TCMFF — or the San Diego Natural History Museum's latest installment of Reel Science, so I have combined these two fabulous events for one podcast.

The 2018 TCMFF served up another fantastic year of classic cinema and amazing guests. I will have a full wrap up on my Cinema Junkie Blog next week, but here are a few highlights.

I saw 16 films and a presentation on trailblazing women animators in four days. One film was on nitrate, most were on 35mm, one was accompanied by live music, and all were spectacular. The festival takes great care in making sure that it screens the films in the best way possible. Sometimes that means a title is shown on the volatile format of nitrate that could spontaneously combust at any moment; sometimes it is a newly struck print or an archival print from a studio; and sometimes it is a brand new digital restoration.

Some of the titles are well known, like Mel Brooks' "The Producers" or George Romero’s "Night of the Living Dead." While others, like "The World’s Greatest Sinner," are not available in any format so only a small cult following that saw it in theaters or on VHS know about it.

The festival is a mecca for film lovers and the care in presentation is well matched by the selection of people to introduce and give context to the films. TCM Noir Alley host Eddie Muller introduced the boxing noir "The Set Up" and had poet Malcolm Mays read from the poem that inspired the film. The poem was about a black fighter, which the film unsurprisingly recast it as a white boxer.

There were also celebrities who came not to promote their own films but to show their love for films made by other people. John Carpenter, who pretty much refuses to talk about his own films these days, presented Howard Hawks’ pre-code sensation "Scarface."

TCMFF ended on Sunday, and I have had the blues ever since.

Fortunately, the San Diego Natural History Museum kicks off its Reel Science season two Friday to help lift me out of my depression.

Reel Science pairs an actual scientist with a film so that science fact and science fiction can meet. The museum’s purpose in doing this is to find new ways to engage audiences in conversations about science. Pop culture proves to be a brilliant entry point for this. Films such as "Back to the Future" and "The Matrix" can make science feel less threatening and more accessible, and then add in a real scientist to point out what the films get right or get wrong and suddenly people are painlessly learning things.

For this podcast, I will provide some audio clips from TCMFF and then speak with the entomologist, neuroscientist and two physicists that are part of this year's Reel Science program.

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