The feeding frenzy began Wednesday morning, sometime around 11am EDT. TCM released the schedule for the 2018 TCM Film Festival, and the drooling, movie-starved masses fled to their electronic devices to sneak a peak at the ecstasy and the agony.
For those that aren’t familiar with the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival, each spring TCM hosts a four-day film festival on Hollywood Blvd. Movies from 9:00am until 2:00am. Equal parts euphoria and self-flagellation. Maybe you’ll eat. Maybe you’ll sleep. You’ll definitely see movies. In fact, if you set your plans for max consumption you could see 21 movies during your stay.
#ProTip: Don’t plan for max consumption. You’ll enjoy yourself more by focusing on the experience — even if it’ll cost you an extra time slot in travel to and from a more distant venue. My favorite TCM Film Festival event remains The Scent of Mystery at the Cinerama Dome in 2016, an event which spent an entire morning.
Due to the current lack of a proper schedule grid, I took to my trusty notepad and scribbled a schedule for an early attempt at planning my 2018 TCM Film Festival. Because people want to know. People want to share this experience with their Fest Friends. It may feel duly and truly like solipsism, but I’ve come to realize that these TCM Film Festival previews help fellow attendees (especially first-timers) plan their trip. And the recaps help people mourn the Fest’s end and re-assimilate into daily life.
Fun Fact: TCMFF attendees are actually totally, legitimately serious when they ask for your schedule. The path we travel at these events keeps everyone on the edge of their seats. If you blog, blog it up.
Three Quick Observations of the 2018 TCM Film Festival Schedule:
Friday Night is a unholy abomination of quintuple booking. We love to complain about our conflicts. We paid many $$$ for these tickets because there’s always something to see — so when we’re faced with a single time slot that includes The Exorcist (with director William Friedkin in attendance), Leave Her to Heaven on Nitrate (maybe a special surprise celebrity introduction?), Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet (with Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting and Michael York in attendance), Point Blank, and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (with Michael Schlesinger in attendance) we have every right to weep into our hands. In 2018, there are a couple of these impossible time slots and a couple of lessers where I’m merely adequately pleased with the offerings. 2018, more so than my prior festivals, appears to be a feast or famine festival.
Pro tip: Eliminate potential conflicts by watching widely available movies at home before the festival — especially if those movies aren’t being shown on 35mm.
That’s right. The master of horror will make an appearance at the 2018 TCM Film Festival to introduce Howard Hawks’ Scarface (1932). He could have introduced a paper bag named Phil and I’d have shown up.
For the first time in four festivals, I could navigate the entire four days, see a movie in every time slot, and not watch a movie I’ve already seen (The Night of the Living Dead midnight screening excepted). Not that I’m going to follow that path, but that’s damn impressive. I’m not saying I’m the oracle or anything, just that I’ve seen my share.
#ProTip: Don’t ever ever ever ever worry about having a down time slot. TCM does a wonderful job of curating their schedule. You may not know or care about a particular part of the schedule, but this will encourage you to watch something you wouldn’t normally watch. Dabbling outside your comfort zone rewards amply.
Enough jibber jabber. Let’s get to the festival.
My 2018 TCM Film Festival Preview
This will be my first year attending the festival with shiny press credentials. I’ll be covering select screenings for the fine folks at Action-a-Go-Go. What does that mean for you? You can look forward to in-depth coverage of Bullitt, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Also, if you want to grab a #Bond_age_ or Cinema Shame button, I will *definitely* be present at those three screenings. Follow my @007hertzrumble Twitter feed for regular updates. Even if you don’t want a button, feel free to stop by and say “hello.”
TCM chose “Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen” as the loose theme of this year’s festival, which means they’ve attempted to corral films adapted from famous writers and films about writers under the 2018 TCM Film Festival umbrella.
I’ll arrive in Los Angeles about noon. If my calculations are correct, I’ll have enough time to make it to my hotel, stash my stuff and record a quick on-location at TCMFF Cinema Shame podcast special before programming begins at 6:00pm.
Before you jump headfirst into TCM Film Festivaling, let’s go over a few choice pieces of advice I try to give to every new attendee:
Drink lots of water. Buy bottles of the stuff at CVS or Trader Joe’s and keep them handy. You’re going to be eating more than your share of salty food. Plus hydration keeps disease at bay…
…speaking of disease, bring some of those Vitamin C tablets, Airborne’s or the like. I’d suggest one per day. Travel, lots of people, lack of sleep, irregular sustenance do not build a functioning immune system.
Eat food when you have the opportunity. Especially breakfast. You can bring food into the theater. Go directly to your movie queue and wait for your numbered voucher. Once you have that, you’re free to leave. If you’re in a hurry, toss a burrito or a sandwich into your bag and return to your queue. They load the theaters 30 minutes prior to showtime. Once you’re seated, break out that sandwich and have at it.
Bring a portable phone charger. Even if you’re not on social media and burning through your battery, you’ll still want to make sure you can communicate with other people at the festival. Things like “Save me a seat!” or “Where are you in line?” or “What are you seeing at 7?” will be oft-repeated. I use this one — it’s a brick, but it charges multiple devices at once… and fast. Plug it in at the beginning of the movie and you’ll have a fully charged phone by the time you leave.
As you can see by my old school workflow chart, I scribbled out my schedule before someone threw together the proper grid to share with the community. It’s charming. Feel free to borrow these.
I kid. Just wait until I get to tomorrow and my shorthand becomes completely unintelligible.
7:00pm – Finishing School (1934) – Chinese Multiplex 4
TCM baptizes by fire in this first slot. I would have been happy to see any one of the other films shown. To Have and Have Not, Detour, Murder on the Orient Express, and Them! poolside. Finishing School is the only one I haven’t seen and it’s in 35mm and the only one I don’t already own on DVD.
#ProTip: So many variables come into play when choosing a film to see at any given time slot. Have you seen it? Is it rare or unavailable on home video? Is it being shown on film or digital? Who’s speaking before the film? You’ll notice on my scribbled schedule that I’ve marked up four stars next to Finishing School. Unseen. Shown on film. Guest speakers. Pre-code.
9:15pm – Throne of Blood (1957) – Chinese Multiplex 4
This is my first crisis. Stage Door is being shown on Nitrate film stock at the Egyptian. Throne of Blood on 35mm in Multiplex 4. Stage Door is great, but Throne of Blood is my all-time favorite Kurosawa and I’ve never seen it big and on film. The irony is that I care so much about the aforementioned duo that I haven’t considered Fail Safe or The Sea Wolf — two films I haven’t seen… though I do love me some Sidney Lumet and Fail Safe is something I should watch… urgh.
Fun fact: Plans are meant to be broken.
The first full day kicks off with three consecutive toss-up decisions.
Fun fact: By my calculations there are roughly 5000 different schedule combinations for each Friday and Saturday.
9:00am – Intruder in the Dust (1949) – Chinese Multiplex 4
My first instinct had me watching the Lubitsch musical The Merry Widow at the Egyptian, but I had to change course after some more consideration. This could be a teaching moment for all you first-timers. I’ve seen The Merry Widow and while it’s tremendous fun and shown on 35mm, I would likely never make the time to see the lesser known Intruder in the Dust. Many consider Intruder the finest adaptation of a Faulkner novel. Clarence Brown, a friend of Faulkner’s, pushed this into production at MGM, and as a result the legendary writer had a unofficial hand in the production. (He was contracted over at Warner Bros.) Years later, when you look back on your festival experiences, you’ll probably remember these movies far more vividly than rewatches of movies that you already know you enjoy.
…all that said, I wouldn’t discount a trip to the Cinerama Dome to see James Garner in Grand Prix. At some point everyone needs to make a trip over to the Cinerama Dome. And if I do that, these first two time slots are spoken for…
11:45am – Witness for the Prosecution (1957) – Egyptian
Unseen and on 35mm. Witness narrowly edges out Errol Flynn in The Charge of the Light Brigade. War movies generally don’t powder my canons, but I could make an except for Errol — who plays like gangbusters to a classic film crowd. Plus, Light Brigade might win in the end because it gets out earlier and that might benefit my next selection…
2:30pm – Blessed Event (1932) – Chinese Multiplex 4
The Set-Up‘s a great noir over at the Egyptian, but Blessed Event is a pre-code comedy playing in the Chinese Multiplex 4 and I’m all about braving a bloodbath. (See 2016’s Double Harness debacle.) TCM made a habit of stuffing hugely popular pre-code comedies into this, the smallest theater in the festival, grabbing a box of popcorn and watching the carnage. Last year, attendees were given a reprieve from the harrowing experiences of prior years (these films mostly played at the Egyptian in 2017). It seems, however, that TCM grew bored with widespread harmony. There’s a reason the Multiplex #4 is known as the Thunderdome. If you really want to see this movie, you may need to arrive early.
4:45pm – None Shall Escape (1944) – Chinese Multiplex 6
This is where the schedule on Friday gets a little wonky. Two 85-minute movies play in the Multiplex 4 and 6. Depending upon when Blessed Event gets out, I might be able to sneak in the one with the earlier start before Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song at 6:15pm — but a bunch of variables will come into play here and I’ll just have to see how it goes. I’ve got this one earmarked, but I can’t make any commitments because I’m contractually obligated to be at…
6:15 pm – Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) – Egyptian
Melvin Van Peebles in the house to introduce his masterpiece of independent filmmaking. Even if I weren’t covering this film for Action-a-Go-Go, nothing keeps me away from this truly special opportunity.
9:30pm – The Exorcist (1973) – TCL Chinese Theatre
Prepare to raise your first to the heavens and shake it angrily. During this time slot you, dear 2018 TCM Film Festival goer, must choose between five amazing films. This is the cluster#&$% about which I spoke above. The Exorcist, Leave Her to Heaven, Romeo & Juliet, Point Blank or Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
Luckily the midnight choice is easy… since there’s only one film playing.
12:00am – The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962) – Multiplex 6
I don’t know anything about this, but that doesn’t matter. Catch that third wind and settle in for the midnight screenings. You may regret all of your decisions in the morning, but when you’ll look back fondly on those bleary-eyed evenings spent with other like-minded hooligans.
In my opinion, this is the weakest day of the 2018 TCM Film Festival.
Fun Fact: Plenty of people will disagree with me because everyone approaches this thing from a different angle.
9:00am – Ox-Bow Incident (1943) – Egyptian
I love both His Girl Friday and Kiss Me Deadly; I own them both on Criterion Blu-ray. I haven’t seen the other three offerings, and TCM calls them all “Essentials.” I am Cinema Shamed. Now of the three, I’m least jazzed about Love Finds Andy Hardy and that’s the one shown on 35mm. I’m not remotely familiar with A Letter to Three Wives. A stiff breeze could make this decision for me.
11:45am – Bullitt (1968) – TCL Chinese Theatre
I’m all in for Bullitt (with Jacqueline Bisset) on the biggest screen of them all. I might be more unhappy about the options I’m not watching if I stopped for a minute to consider them — Ida Lupina’s Outrage (1950) on 35mm, This Thing Called Love (1940) introduced by Ileana Douglas, and the goddamn kicker, Jean-Pierre Melville’s When You Read this Letter (1953). Melville’s one of my all-time favorite directors (he could make a case for my favorite) and this is a film of his I haven’t seen — in fact, it’s not even available on DVD in North America. ENOUGH. I HAVE TO SEE BULLITT. THAT’S IT. JAY IS GETTING UPSET.
2:00pm – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938) – Multiplex 4
This is going to be tight. Bullitt will let out right about 2pm. Between Wife vs. Secretary and this one, Sawyer‘s the closest in proximity to the Chinese Theatre. I could take a leisurely break and wait for Sunset Boulevard at 3:00pm — but I’ve seen it a few times. And it’s DCP. And I’d rather opt for the unseen pre-code…
4:30pm – Girls About Town (1931) – Egyptian
Directed by George Cukor, starring Kay Francis and based on the Hollywood exploits of Tallulah Bankhead? I’ve never heard of this film, but it’s got the making of the sleeper hit of my festival.
7:00pm – Show People (1928) – Egyptian
The gap between Girls About Town and Show People gives me the opportunity for a real meal. If I tackle Heaven Can Wait, it’s another rush and grab job — though Heaven‘s a movie I’ve always intended to watch and it would make a really solid Cinema Shame entry post-festival… and this all assumes I’m going to overlook The World of Suzie Wong with Nancy Kwan and Sam Fuller’s Park Row with John Sayles introducing. This is a sneaky block of difficult decisions.
#ProTip: Sometimes there are no wrong decisions.
9:45pm – Scarface (1932) – Multiplex 6
After a day of rigorous indecision, TCM rewards me with an evening of no-brainers. John Carpenter will introduce Howard Hawks’ classic Scarface. It’s widely known that The Master of Horror is a huge Howard Hawks fan so this should be a treat.
In case you’re not a Carpenter fanboy, the other options are also quite exceptional. Hitchock’s Spellbound on Nitrate. Gigi introduced by Oscar-nominated costume designer Mark Bridges. The Raven with Sara Karloff (Boris’ daughter) introducing. And, finally, here’s the biggest curiosity of the festival — at least for me. My beloved The Big Lebowski at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Now. Here’s the question. If TCM has decided to play a film from 1998 in the Chinese Theatre (and not in the Multiplex), there’s a goddamn good reason beyond it just being the film’s 20th anniversary. I have a suspicion that someone special will be in attendance and that someone won’t be announced until the start of the festival. Take from that what you will. (Last year Martin Scorcese introduced The Man Who Knew Too Much and that wasn’t announced until the day of.)
12:00am – The Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Multiplex 6
Introduced by Edgar Wright. Sleep isn’t that important. Sunday’s pretty much a half-day anyway. It’s perfectly fitting that we’re getting a zombie movie on the second night of the festival.
Fun fact: The above photo was snapped as 2017 TCM Film Festival attendees left Zardoz.
Rise and shine, beauties. You’ll feel as hung over and any real hang over you’ve ever endured. Roll out of bed, get that last breakfast and get back to the grindstone.
9am – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) – Multiplex 4
I’ve avoided this movie because A Midsummer Night’s Dream was one of my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. Having taken multiple semesters dedicated to The Bard in college, I’ve read my share; I’m not just comparing it to Macbeth and Hamlet. I could choose the 164-minute Once Upon a Time in the West because the movie’s currently on my Shame Statement for 2018 (as it was in 2017 and 2016 because I JUST NEVER WATCH IT) but I do actually believe I’ll at some point choose to watch OUATITW. I don’t feel the same about the former. If you’re looking for a recommendation here, I’ll sing the praises of Ronald Neame’s Tunes of Glory.
12:30pm – The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – Egyptian
My last film of the 2018 TCM Film Festival will be a good one — and my final assignment from Action-a-Go-Go. Due to the flight schedule and my need to be a functional human on Monday, I have taken to departing Los Angeles in the afternoon in order to sleep in my own bed that night.
The reward of taking that one non-stop is a 5+ hour flight rather than 9 hours of total travel time including the layover. I did that twice. It was terrible.
I sacrifice my final two films. I’ll regret missing out on Ron Shelton introducing Bull Durham (what are they going to get Millie and Jimmy for their wedding gift?!?) and don’t even get me started about that final time slot. At least I won’t have to make that decision, I suppose. (For what it’s worth, I would have gone with Animal House because pretty much the entire cast plus John Landis is going to be there!)
After The Taking of Pelham, I’ll say my final goodbyes, so-longs, farewells, see-you-next-years and rush off to LAX. The conclusion is always so bittersweet, filled to the brim with cinema and sanity stretched wafer thin. At least we’ll always have the people we meet at the TCM Film Festival to help ease us back into the real world, because they’re all out there on Twitter or Facebook, perhaps just an email away.
Read my previews of past TCM Film Festivals for more info — I tried not to be too redundant!
Also be sure to check out these 2018 TCM Film Festival previews and hot tips from other fellow festival attendees!