That’s what the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival does to you – if you’re doing it right, it stretches you beyond the point of human exhaustion. Wring every ounce of blood from that gracious movie stone. It tests you. It brings you to the point of breaking. You’re tired physically – good luck getting on with a total of 8 hours of sleep over two nights. You’re drained mentally – after seven feature length films in one day, you exit that midnight screening of Zardoz beating your chest, yelling “IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT?!?”
Even though this test of endurance takes place once a year, each subsequent festival conditions you for the next. Sleep deprivation. Survival techniques. Making due with irregular and insubstantial sustenance. Remembering to pack emergency nut clusters.
At the 2017 TCM Film Festival I dozed off during only one film – High Anxiety – and survived both midnight screenings with nary a cat nap. I’ve found that a late afternoon lunch supplemented with a little popcorn adequately nourishes the sedentary moviewatcher without inducing the midnight groggies. Which is precisely why I found this whole Egyptian popcorn strike so unsettling.
When asked about the case of the disappeared popcorn, Egyptian staff could only cite the prepared statement that the theater had just been renovated. Popcorn – that apparent defiler of classic cinemas – had become corna non grata. Only packaged items could be sold. You could only buy a packaged bag of popcorn. What brand of heinous trickery is this?
But back to the movie thing.
Each of the past two years, I’ve composed a letter to family and friends regarding my experience at the festival. The first time it happened organically while I waited for my departing flight to board. Last year I still had new feelings to enhance my original thoughts. This year? Meh. I’m running on instinct and repetition. I’m two days removed from the festival and rather well rested, having taken the afternoon flight home on Sunday to save myself the horrors of the red eye with a layover in San Francisco. So now, with sound mind, and a headful of clarity, let’s compose an obligatory message that lacks the bleary-eyed delirium of years past. Just imagine it on a really nice stationery to class it up a little bit.
On my 2016 Turner Classic Movie Film Festival preview post, I showcased a picture of my tentative schedule. It featured more irregular and irrational lines than the roadmap to China I drew up when I was six years old. This year I’m older. It’s my third festival and therefore I must be wiser. That’s the logic. I’m not sure logic holds with reference to these 2017 TCM Film Festival previews, however. It is, after all a four-day film festival. Movies scheduled from 9:00am until 2:00am. While scurrying between theaters and queue lines you have just enough to scavenge for sustenance. This means a Baja Fresh burrito and/or a bag of popcorn.
Pro tip: Buy a large popcorn so you can carry it around with you for days! Offer it to friends!
The uninitiated are reading this with more than a small amount of skepticism. Burritos? Popcorn? When do you sleep? Wait. Do you sleep? If you’re thinking this sounds #amazeballs and you haven’t been to the TCM Film Festival, you owe it to yourself to set aside time one of these years to make the trip happen. The only thing you might regret is catching the bug thereby requiring a trip every year. Because it’s not just the movies. It’s the people you meet. The conversations you have. These are not ordinary people. These are movie people. They are your people.
For my 2017 TCM Film Festival preview, I attacked the printout with far more reserve. Just a green highlighter, a green pen and a whole lot of indecision.
Fun fact: I took all my notes in college with green pens.
Previewing trips to the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival is the epitome of solipsism. This is what I’m doing with four days of my life and you probably can’t join me!Fun! Yet it’s an honored attendee/blogger (in this case bl-gger) tradition. What’s the reason for this phenomenon? First, it’s a fun way to share your schedule with fellow attendees. We’ll earmark screenings and plan a quick meet up beforehand — it’s also a handy way to see who might save you a seat at a buzzy event. Second, and this is probably the important part, we like to share our passion with those that won’t be in attendance. Maybe it’ll provide the necessary kick in the ass to plan for next year.
Three Quick Impressions of the 2017 Festival Schedule
The TCM Film Festival boasts the equivalent of the Sedgewick Hotel’s 12th Floor. At best it’s merely a minor disturbance. At worst it’s Thunderdome. It’s called Chinese Multiplex House 4. Traditionally, TCM has shown many pre-codes and rarities in the smallish Theater 4. The 2016 Fest will linger in memory as “the Double Harness Festival,” referencing the twice sold out screening for an average William Powell pre-code comedy.
This year, it seems that TCM has learned from their repeat mistakes. Finally recognizing that most attendees gravitate toward these harder-to-find rarities, they’ve moved many of them to the much larger Egyptian Theater. As a result I’ve only noted a few films that will lure me back to the Theater 4 Thunderdome. While I’m relieved TCM has taken steps to ameliorate the Theater 4 crush, I’m going to miss the war stories and battle scars.
Fun fact: I was one of the select few that witnessed the very first Double Harness screening at the 2016 fest. I’m in the process of stitching my own merit badge.
There isn’t one screening at the 2017 TCM Film Festival that I’ll fight you to see. 2015 had George Lazenby introducing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. 2016 had Elliott Gould introducing The Long Goodbye and Angela Lansbury introducing Manchurian Candidate. Sure, I’m jazzed about Peter Bogdanovich (more about this in a minute) and Michael Douglas and The Jerk, but I also didn’t plan my entire day around any individual screening. This year I’m charting my course through the movies offered on film.
Despite one screening not ruling my festival, I’m faced with no fewer of those “Sophie’s Choice” scenarios where I’m staring down three, four or even five (!) movies I want to see that are all playing at the same time. Look no further than the Friday night conundrum.
Pro tip: Eliminate potential conflicts by watching widely available and tempting movies at home before the festival.
All that said…
My 2017 Turner Classic Movie Film Festival Preview
The non-stop from Pittsburgh arrives slightly later than in past years, so I won’t be able to participate in the “Remembering Robert Osborne” session at 12:30, but I’ll be there in spirit. I’ll also miss out on my 2pm power nap, which could have dire consequences. My filmgoing schedule meanwhile won’t begin until 6pm. While the big spenders dance the night away with Sidney Poitier and the 50th Anniversary of In the Heat of the Night, I’ll begin my evening at the Egyptian… with one of those movies that probably would have played at the Chinese Multiplex 4 in past years.
This year’s theme is “Comedy” — I hear TCM’s awarding a special prize for the attendee who’s face most resembles The Joker by the end of the festival. The 2017 TCM Film Festival preview proper begins now.
Thursday, April 6th
6:00pm – Love Crazy – Egyptian Theater
Not the best of the Powell/Loy collaborations, but Dana Delany’s been chosen for introduction duties. I don’t really need to see Some Like It Hot again. Jezebel, William Wyler’s 1938 “fearless feminine” picture, holds some sway as something I’ve never seen… but even a lesser William Powell and Myrna Loy lark is a lark worth revisiting.
Fun fact: Dana Delany in China Beach, you guys.
9:30pm – The Man Who Knew Too Much – Egyptian Theater
Here’s a tough one. I’ve seen The Man Who Knew Too Much. Quite a few times. I even just picked up the Criterion Blu-ray at the last Barnes and Noble sale. But it’s shown on Nitrate film stock — a rare treat. Meanwhile at the Chinese Multiplex, Harold and Maude, Requiem for a Heavyweight and I’m All Right Jack battle it out for supremacy. Of all of the films in this slot, I’ve only not seen Requiem for a Heavyweight. The “Czar of Noir” Eddie Muller introduces, and that might be enough to cause a last-minute disruption in plans.
Friday, April 7th
The first full day begins. So do the tough decisions.
9:00am – Rafter Romance – Egyptian Theater
The Ginger Rogers 1933 romantic comedy is being presented in 35mm and introduced by Leonard Maltin, which gives it the edge over the “Beyond the Mouse” presentation. I’d still love to see the shorts from early Disney animator Ub Iwerks on the big screen, but I own most of these through the numerous Disney collections that have been released. Even though I own three different articles of clothing featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, I’ll defer to Ginger on film, which sounds a little bit like a pornography. Bonus points.
The funny thing about this festival and this time slot in particular is that The Maltese Falcon is being shown in Multiplex 1, and I didn’t even circle it as a possibility. Films achieve higher priority by excelling in the following three categories: 1. Unseen; 2. Film; 3. Special presenter/presentation. If you meet all three criteria, that’s a must see event.
The necessary exclusion that drives me crazy is It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World at the Cinerama Dome. My trip to see Holiday in Spain in Smell-o-vision at the Dome last year unexpectedly became my favorite experience at the festival. Seeing IaMMMMW in Cinerama would be something special, but it would sacrifice two time slots… and I’d really like to see…
11:15am – Beat the Devil – Chinese Multiplex 6
John Huston’s crime spoof has regretfully eluded my eyes for years. I once began watching a DVD of Beat the Devil but the print quality was so poor I couldn’t continue. Bogart and Lorre. Script by Truman Capote. I’ll gladly take this opportunity to scratch another film off my Cinema Shame list. This comes at the expense of the Lubitsch musical One Hour With You and Born Yesterday, both of which I’ve seen. Not recently and not on the big screen, of course. Temptation remains.
Fun fact: This will be the first TCMFF at which I’ve not seen a Lubitsch musical starring Maurice Chevalier.
2:00pm – Monkey Business – Egyptian Theater
Panique looks interesting over in Multiplex 6, but this is out of my hands. Dick Cavett’s introducing a Marx Brothers favorite and I’m going to be there. This renders other options null. Apologies also to Rob Reiner and The Princess Bride, which I’m sure would be a blast on the big screen, especially with this audience.
4:30pm – So This is Paris – Egyptian Theater
I’ll just go ahead and start paying rent at the Egyptian. I atone for not seeing the other Lubitsch with the silent rarity So This is Paris on 35mm. Sure, I could go see old familiars The Bridge on the River Kwai introduced by Alex Trebek (?) or Broadcast News with James L. Brooks in attendance. I could also partake of W.C. Fields in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. But I return to the three checkboxes presented above. So This is Paris checks off all requirements. Unseen. 35mm. Live piano accompaniment.
The brevity of So This is Paris will allow me plenty of time to head out into the evening air and return immediately to the Egyptian for…
Pro tip: There’s a very nice breakfast place on the street perpendicular to the Egyptian. Decent coffee. Egg sandwiches to go.
7:00pm – Red-Headed Woman – Egyptian Theater
This isn’t my favorite Harlowe, but it’s a 35mm presentation. I could be persuaded to venture back to the Multiplex for a change of scenery and “The Great Nickelodeon Show” which will recreate the Nickelodeon experience of early 20th century. The Vitaphone and hand-cranked silent presentations of past years rekindled that juicy film school nostalgia.
9:15pm – High Anxiety – TCL Chinese Theater
So. This slot takes no prisoners. I would love to be five places at once. Over at the Egyptian, viewers will be treated to Laura on Nitrate film stock. Howard Hawks’ first sound comedy, Twentieth Century at Multiplex 1. Cat People in 35mm at Multiplex 4. And then there’s Those Redheads from Seattle in 3D at Multiplex 6.
It’s. Not. Fair. But it’s the best kind of not fair.
Fun fact: Festival attendees love to complain about their conflicts, but goddammit they thrive on these decisions.
How much do I love thee, Mel Brooks? A lot. Mel Brooks introduces his Hitchcock spoof and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.
12:00am – Zardoz – Chinese Multiplex 1
Sean Connery. In a red banana hammock. At midnight. Be there.
You’d rather be hungover than get up at 7:45am to get in line for your first movie of the morning, but it only gets worse on Sunday morning so suck it up, shower off the Zardoz and get back in the game.
9:00am – The China Syndrome – Chinese Multiplex 1
I’ll go for Michael Douglas who’ll be there in person. But I’ll have a They Live-style fisticuffs with myself over not seeing Arsenic and Old Lace in 35mm next door at the Multiplex 4. Meanwhile Alex Trebek is over introducing Stalag 17 for some reason. This festival is full of surprises.
12:00pm – David and Lisa – Chinese Multiplex 4
My first trip to the Thunderdome takes place on Day 3. I won’t even need to put up a fight. Lame. This is another brutal time slot, however. The Awful Truth, Rear Window, The Great Dictator and The Last Picture Show with Peter Bogdanovich in attendance all happen concurrently. That’s four amazing films… and then the one I’m seeing. David and Lisa is in fact the only one I haven’t seen. It’s on 35mm with star Keir Dullea in the house. I might shift gears and see Peter Bogdanovich because I’ll miss out on his chat before What’s Up Doc? on Sunday. The problem with The Last Picture Show is timing. David and Lisa gets out much earlier, which allows me to head over to the TCL Chinese Theater to get a good seat for…
2:45pm – The Jerk – TCL Chinese Theater
So I’ve seen The Jerk a few times. Seeing The Jerk on the big screen prefaced with a Carl Reiner chat might by my special purpose of the festival. I saw Reiner and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid last year, but Carl Reiner chats are the best kind of chats, full of wisdom, humor and optimism. I’ll gladly double dip.
6:30pm – Theodora Goes Wild or King of Hearts – Egyptian / Multiplex 6
Toss up. An unseen Irene Dunn screwball in 35mm or Genevieve Bujold in an unseen anti-war comedy. I’ll do some research on home video availability and watch one of these (if possible) before the festival to alleviate any lingering doubts about my choice here. Stay tuned for updates.
Fun fact: I know you will.
9:30pm – Black Narcissus – Egyptian Theater
Scratch another Shame off the list. I’ve long meant to watch Black Narcissus. On Nitrate stock in the grand Egyptian? Doesn’t get much better for a first time viewing. This comes at the expense of personal favorite Top Secret! introduced by the Zucker brothers and the unseen The Incident introduced by Martin Sheen. Also worth noting here is that I didn’t even consider The Graduate or Unfaithfully Yours. I’ll resort to the “I have those on Criterion DVD” defense.
12:00am – The Kentucky Fried Movie – Chinese Multiplex 1
And here’s the reason I’m okay with missing Top Secret! Not only do I get the Zuckers and Jim Abrahams, but also John Landis chatting before a screening of the legendary Kentucky Fried Movie. The crowd will be locked and loaded for this one. John Landis!!
Fun fact: I love John Landis.
Sunday, April 9th
If getting up on Saturday morning is a hangover, getting up on Sunday morning is the equivalent of jumping in front of a moving truck on Hollywood Boulevard. Daylight is your punishment. Mind over sleep deprivation.
Pro tip: Hydrate whenever possible. It’s too easy to forget. Especially when you’re loading up on salty food throughout the day. Upon arriving, pick up a few big bottles of water. Keep them with you.
My abbreviated final day. I must depart the festival a touch early to return home, to return to daily life and function as a real, live human on Monday morning. The only way to do that is a mid-afternoon non-stop. The past two years I’ve taken the midnight red-eye. A regular red-eye is brutal. A sleep-deprived red-eye is banned by the Geneva Convention.
9:00am – Cock of the Air – Chinese Multiplex 6
If there’s a Double Harness of the 2017 TCMFF it’s this little pre-code Howard Hughes ditty. Originally censored by the Hayes Office, the original cut of the print was thought lost. Until 2007 — when it was found, except without the soundtrack. The original cut has been restored using voice actors and new sound effects and music. I’ll be in line early to make sure I get prime real estate.
Pro tip: You know the old saying… the early bird gets to see Cock of the Air.
11:15am – Lured – Chinese Multiplex 6
My final screening of the festival before departure. Also not a comedy. Film noir-esque drama directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Lucille Ball, George Sanders and Boris Karloff (?!?). I know nothing about this movie, but the creative minds involved requires a viewing. I have no problem sacrificing The Front Page for this one because, say it with me, “Criterion DVD.” Technically, it’s just a bonus on the recently-released His Girl Friday Blu-ray.
I’m not especially happy about missing Peter Bogdanovich and What’s Up Doc? Sunday afternoon, but thems the breaks. The reward for leaving mid-afternoon is a non-stop flight and my own bed instead of a 90-minute layover in San Francisco followed still by the upright seat of a cramped airliner for 5+ hours. This will also result in a far happier wife who gets to return to her regularly scheduled Monday activities rather than worrying herself with my ability to function in the real world. She takes days off work to permit me this brief dalliance.
I look forward to seeing the old familiar TCM Festival faces and sharing all that movie talk and queue standing. I’m still lobbying for built in cocktail hours and a full bar in the Multiplex.
A sample of my own Kino Lorber Studio Classics collection.
Another Argument for Physical Media
Every so often I highlight a DVD/Blu-ray distributor because they’re putting in overtime to preserve movies on physical media. You’ll be happy to know that time has come again. Kino Lorber has been churning out films under their Studio Classics label for a few years now. These are films that the major studios have pushed aside, shoved into the spidery corners of their warehouses, deemed unworthy. Oftentimes I get the impression that some of these studios *cough* *cough* Paramount *cough* *cough* would rather burn their catalog titles to roast marshmallows than release them to the loyal film fans devoutly pursuing and purchasing physical media.
Whenever I highlight one of these distributors I must also weigh in on the value of physical media and the supposed omnipresent availability of films via streaming services. The “everything available all the time” myth touted by those forward-thinking pioneers of digital streaming is a farce. Movies dip and dive and disappear faster than you can say “queue it up,” so let’s look at some recent developments.
Amazon has apparently decided to step into the void of Blockbuster, which famously refused to stock any unrated or NC-17 film because they were a “family friendly” establishment. Pure drivel. By this arbitrary benchmark they’d be perfectly pleased with stocking Snuff 102 (2008) but Ang Lee’s beautiful Lust, Caution (2007)bears the shame of demon-food disgrace. But I digress. I can’t get all hot and bothered (again) about the hypocrisy of the MPAA and NC-17 rating, especially as it pertains to its views on violence versus sexuality.
Ang Lee’s moving Lust, Caution (2007) still doesn’t have a Region A Blu-ray release. You’ll have to import this one.
The Netflix Smokescreen
Netflix Streaming (as of today, March 7th, 2017) only featured 117 films released before 1980 (stats culled from instantwatcher.com). I chose 1980 as an arbitrary cut-off date for “classic” film. This 117 number includes individual TV episodes such as the Dick Van Dyke Show and Star Trek the Animated Series. Removing TV episodes knocks that number down dramatically to 91. Yet the Netflix is the most common service cited in the movies available anytime, anywhere claim.
Word of mouth among classic film fans also suggests that Amazon has been pulling free streaming titles based on current events. Say a movie star or director dies — their films seem to disappear from Amazon Prime immediately after their death when demand would be highest. Sure, you can pay to watch these films, but that’s certainly not the same as omnipresent availability. Yes, it’s a business. Amazon has a right to charge what they want for their services — just as long as people remain mostly satisfied with the overall product. And the sad fact is that most people just don’t care or don’t hold these streaming services to any sort of standards regarding classic film.
The Great FilmStruck Hope
TCM and Criterion’s joint effort called FilmStruck has been a godsend, but it’s still not available across all streaming devices and platforms. Roku owners like myself stew idly and wait for that vague “Spring 2017” compatibility window.
Maybe you can predict where I’m going with this. The only service that isn’t subject to the whims of the marketplace is your own personal media library. Streaming has proven to be an essential supplement, but we’re no closer to an individual service or services providing acceptable sustenance for the classic film fan than we were five years ago. Of all the online venues for viewing rare and classic films, YouTube has proven to be the most useful. I’m not going to tout the quality of the viewing experience. That these films are available at all is our primary concern. The fact remains that many older films have no hope of a proper release on physical media or streaming.
But let’s rewind and get back to Kino Lorber.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics Sale @ Amazon
The Kino Lorber Studio Classics line rescues forgotten films from obscurity or the major studio vault. As movie bloggers, part of our job is making sure that worthy titles find their audience so that that audience can then purchase and support the releases from Kino, Twilight Time, Olive Films, Flicker Alley, Warner Archive and more niche genre distributors like Code Red and Mondo Macabro. These purchases fuel future releases. Without our support, physical media ceases to be. We’ll all be rerouted to streaming services that probably don’t feature the movie we want in the first place.
Purchasing films via online services such as Amazon, Vudu and iTunes is of course an option, however, these services generally provide a more modern selection of films. If you dive into their classic-era catalog, you’ll never know what you’ll find, but you’ll also never know what kind of state the film is in. These services have no skin in the game. They won’t take a damaged print, restore it using best available sources, provide color correction, etc.
Even physical media distributors remain subject to the quality of the print sourced by the owning studio and the cost of revitalization. But without Kino, Flicker Alley, Twilight Time, Olive, etc., I doubt restoration ever takes place. This might be the most vital component to this chain of film sales and consumption.
Kino and Amazon have again partnered to bring you heavily discounted titles from the Kino Lorber Studio Classics library. Many of these titles are as cheap as they’ve ever been. I’ll suggest a few of my favorites from the sale and leave you to explore the rest of the catalog. (This link to the KL Studio Classics page on Blu-ray.com details every single release.) I’ll paste a complete list of discounted titles below.
I’m not suggesting you need to go out and pickup the entire catalog from every niche distributor. Realistically, that’s not within any of our means. Pick up a favorite title or two. Risk a blind-buy on something recommended here or on my favorite go-to website for sleeper picks, Brian Saur’s Rupert Pupkin Speaks. If we, as film fans, all do a little to support these distributors that act speaks volumes about the continued importance of physical media.
My Kino Lorber Sale Suggestions:
The complete list of titles on sale:
23 Paces to Baker Street – $15.99
52 Pickup – $12.49
99 River Street – $11.41
American Dreamer – $12.64
Astro Zombies – $12.80
Back Roads – $14.99
Biggles: Adventures in Time – $11.41
Big House U.S.A. – $14.65
Black Sabbath (AIP cut) – $11.18
Blown Away – $12.49
Burnt Offerings – $11.08
Canadian Pacific – $13.05
Cariboo Trail, The – $11.41
Chandu The Magician – $13.48
Compulsion – $14.99
Cop – $11.41
Cops and Robbers – $12.92
Crimson Cult, The – $12.26
Daddy Long Legs – $12.94
David and Bathsheba – $14.99
Deranged – $12.25
Finders Keepers – $14.33
F.I.S.T. – $12.92
Framed – $15.99
FX2 – $14.99
Galliant Hours, The – $11.41
Gator – $12.49
Grandview U.S.A. – $12.79
Haunted Honeymoon – $13.34
He Ran All The Way – $14.75
Hidden Fear – $11.41
Highway to Hell – $12.65
Hornet’s Nest – $14.13
Hurricane, The – $14.67
Invitation to a Gunfighter – $12.80
I, The Jury – $12.06
I Wake Up Screaming – $12.97
Internecine Project, The – $11.41
Journey to the Seventh Planet – $11.41
Juggernaut – $12.16
Long Goodbye, The – $12.49
Madhouse – $15.99
Malice – $15.99
Man on Fire – $12.51
Man with the Gun – $14.14
My Bodyguard – $12.86
Modesty Blaise – $13.63
Neptune Factor, The – $13.08
No Retreat, No Surrender – $15.99
On the Beach – $14.99
Oblong Box, The – $11.80
Panic in the Year Zero – $11.41
Porky’s II / Porky’s Revenge – $14.59
Prime Cut – $15.99
Quatermass Xperiment, The – $12.88
Reivers, The – $14.70
Shield for Murder – $11.41
Siege of Firebase Gloria, The – $11.99
Stryker – $11.41
The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming – $14.99
Trouble Man – $12.99
Ulee’s Gold – $11.41
Unholy Four, The – $14.15
Welcome to L.A.- $11.41
White Lightning – $13.78
Who? – $11.41
Wonderful Country, The – $14.80
I will save this picture on the off chance that one day I can build my DREAM house and find this architect and this decorator and tell them to make me a dining room like this. I think it's one of the first formal dining rooms I've ever really liked.