All posts by jdp

Album Rumble: U2 – The Joshua Tree

u2 the joshua treeI last wrote about U2 after attending the 2011 concert at Heinz Field. I decided it was time to check back in with The Joshua Tree during this, the 30th Anniversary of its release. A version of this review first appeared on The Spill Magazine.

Music feeds nostalgia, it places moments in time, and for a certain generation, few records documented a time and place more precisely than U2’s fifth record, The Joshua Tree, in March of 1987. Impossible details remain vivid, imprinted forever.

Where were you when you first heard the opening of “Where the Streets Have No Name”? Can you remember how you felt when the Edge’s guitar first broke through that wall of synthesizer? Maybe you don’t quite remember the feeling, but you know where you were the first time you heard U2’s The Joshua Tree. Something as mundane as a placing a cassette in a car radio becomes epic poetry. The color of the car. The passengers. Maybe there were none. The smell of the Spring air, the type of flowers blooming… and you don’t even like flowers.

For someone born into an era of digital music, a sonic grab bag of unlimited potential, it’s perhaps difficult to comprehend the way a specific record release could freeze time, if only for a short while. Movies retain the power to unite a movement around an individual work of art, but by and large, those days in music have passed. Unlimited availability, fractured attentions, and the ways in which we consume and download music have eroded the event record.

It’s no longer my favorite U2 record, but the imprint of that moment of discovery remains; The Joshua Tree has positioned itself outside traditional criticism. The band has existed long enough to survive multiple shifts in tone and ideology. They’ve turned fans into naysayers (and vice versa), but the one constant remains that one record in the middle of their discography.

The Joshua Tree Track Listing:

Tinged with gospel, blues, and folk influences, The Joshua Tree would become U2’s greatest success, selling more than 25 million copies, but also the record they desperately longed to escape. Bono famously described Achtung Baby as “the sound of four men chopping down the Joshua Tree.” Bestowing further accolades upon the record seems futile. Instead I’d like to track back and take a slightly different perspective on the record.

The trio of songs that open the record reek of perfection – their omnipresence might diminish their luster to the point that they’ve become background music, easily tuned out. 30 years of constant airplay tends to turn even the greatest songs into Roger Williams.

Check back in with these songs one more time. Listen to “With or Without You” with your eyes closed. Tune into Larry Mullen’s subtle changes in cadence and Adam Clayton’s heartbeat bassline. The synth fills in the blank spaces followed by Bono’s lovesick vocals. “See the stone set in your eyes / see the thorn twist in your side.”  The swell before the damn breaks at the three-minute mark. Try to recapture that virgin listen, embrace the way that all the pieces of U2 fit together. Embrace the bothersome, overplayed perfection.

Too Much Respect?

Focus on the so-called B-sides of this record. “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “With or Without You” don’t make this record a paradigm on their own, but it’s often difficult to see the lesser successes beyond those 800 pound gorillas.

The Edge’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” guitar solos over the years:

As The Edge channels Jimi Hendrix on “Bullet The Blue Sky,” it might seem as if the album takes a left turn, but in the context of the band’s discography, “Bullet” points toward the future, toward Rattle and Hum and eventually Achtung Baby, where guitar-forward became the rallying cry. After the slow-burn symbiosis of the album’s opening volley, “Bullet The Blue Sky” pulls the rug out, shifting and undermining expectations, just when the listener slips into complacency.

In my opinion, the album’s most important song doesn’t even reside on the overworked first side. “Red Hill Mining Town” was meant to be the album’s second single after “With or Without You,” but the band was unhappy with Neil Jordan’s video, and Bono had trouble performing the song during rehearsals. Recently he said about the song “I used to write songs that I couldn’t sing. And sometimes that was okay because the strains of the notes I couldn’t reach was part of the drama, but occasionally they would really just wreck the next show.”

U2’s first performance EVER of Red Hill Mining Town in 2017:

“Red Hill Mining Town” proved to be such a problem that U2 never played it live until May of 2017 in Vancouver for the 30th Anniversary Tour of The Joshua Tree. The politically potent track introduces the B-side with a jolt of melancholic energy that rises to a hopeful crescendo. Bono’s strained vocals included, “Red Hill” stands as a fascinating blemish on the record that shows Bono’s struggles as a songwriter reaching beyond his comfort zone – a comfort zone that had already made U2 one of the biggest acts on the planet.

Place in the U2 Discography?

Say what you will about the latter half of the band’s career, but no one could ever say that U2 became satisfied or complacent. Constant re-invention has been the only consistency. The band may never again reach the resplendent creative heights of this period in their career, but U2 remains relevant and perhaps undervalued – now thirty years removed from the album that made time stand still.

The 30th Anniversary Edition of The Joshua Tree is available in a number of different formats including a 4-CD Super Deluxe Edition, 2-CD Deluxe, and 7 LP Super Deluxe. All Deluxe Editions include the band’s live performance at Madison Square Garden on September 28th, 1987.

The Joshua Tree Verdict in 2017

You’d be hard pressed to find a U2 fan who claims The Joshua Tree to be their favorite record or even favorite U2 record. And I don’t believe this is a case of merely proving fandom through deep cuts, which is a legitimate nuclear hazard in music writing and appreciation. Denying value as a result of popularity turns discographies on their heads. In this case, maybe, because the band has released three career’s worth of records. That said, a U2 fan who denies the value of The Joshua Tree has just become embittered, jaded, perhaps senile. The Joshua Tree remains a vital classic that may have lost some of its luster over 30 years due to omnipresence. Time, however, has eroded none of its visceral ability to invoke some piece of you in 1987… or whenever it was that you first heard the slow build of that opening track.

 

Album Review: Jen Gloeckner – Vine

I don’t often post contemporary album reviews on the Rumble, but when I get offers of review copies of Jen Gloeckner records on vinyl I must reconsider. If you’re confident enough to splurge for the vinyl shipping costs, this is something that deserves a listen. Now that I’m spinning vinyl, it fits my page’s modus. So let’s continue.

jen gloeckner vine

Iowa’s Jen Gloeckner understands something that most artists can’t quite grasp. Pace and patience. Beware the record that opens with its best offering and follows with a steadily declining parade of grandstanders. For whatever reason, album construction hasn’t fully freed the shackles of the listening post. Ahh, yes. Recall the days when a music stores stuck towers or walls of headphones at the front of the store, ensnaring passersby with the allure of fantastic new music? Before the days of Spotify and streaming and unlimited access, listening posts were just about the only way to indiscriminately sample a new album. I also had a love affair with Blockbuster Music, who allowed you to sample any record in the store, but that is a reminiscence for another bl-g post.

Vine opens without fireworks, the album’s titular track lays downtempo groundwork with an electronic landscape. Digital seagulls, a sea breeze, Gloeckner’s sultry vocal bandwidth. It’s a perfect tease, something more than an intro but less than those listening post thumpers that hoped you didn’t listen beyond three songs. Gloeckner brought me back to the late 1990’s when trip-hop, breakbeat, and acid jazz ruled my 25-disc CD changer. We could also discuss the patently absurd “post-trip hop” categorization, but I’ll refrain from that micro-genre nonsense.

Sample Morcheeba’s “Big Calm” for a reminder of what 1998 sounded like:

The music of Massive Attack, Morcheeba, Lamb, and Tricky didn’t disappear; like most other sneakily-influential genre movements it become assimilated into pop music as prominent artists like Madonna, Janet Jackson and U2 claimed it in the name of progress. Radiohead perfected the merger. With the exception of perhaps Massive Attack, original artists slipped further into the underground. Albums like Doprah’s otherworldly Wasting from 2016 prove a receptive audience remains for downtempo music featuring scattered bpms, sampling, electronic layers and ethereal vocals.

On Vine, Gloeckner’s third full-length LP, she severs her already tenuous ties to the traditional singer-songwriter genre. 2010’s Mouth of Mars experimented with jazz and layered production. A standout track on that album, “Trip,” takes on all the elements of trip-hop without the otherworldly sheen that comes part and parcel with the inorganic roots of the electronics and sampling.

But back to pace and patience. Vine fully asserts its on “Firefly (War Dance)” — the trance instrumental second track on the album — by barging through the door with a tribal soundscape that would have slipped nicely into the backdrop Massive Attack’s Blue Lines. It’s not until the following cut, “Breathe,” that Gloeckner drops Vine‘s thesis statement. Muffled female orgasm, uneven drum machine cadence, synth, and droning guitar that tests the shoegaze temperature before scaling back to white noise.

Gloeckner seems less confident in the dream-pop entries “Ginger Ale” and “The Last Thought” that anchor the middle of the record. Amiable confections that fail to rise to the weight or evoke the same emotional resonance. This segment requires some pace and patience from the listenerVine‘s pendulum begins its return on “Blowing Through,” a loopy woodwind and string-laden waltz that foregrounds some “Enchantment Under the Sea” romanticism.

Vine finishes as strong as it opens. Starting with “Counting Sheep” the second half of the record ebbs and flows, successfully weaving what the press release calls a “Twin Peaks vibe” with ambience, progressive guitar work, electronics, and even the strains of Americana that dominated Gloeckner’s early work. The wonderfully trippy “Prayers” and the AM radio “Sold” stand out as B-side highlights.

Either this is an artist that finally tapped into her wavelength or she’s placed her trust in muse-like producers with clarity of vision. Perhaps both. Producer Brian McTear has worked with Sharon Van Etten, Marissa Nadler and War on Drugs, and a certain relative retrospective throughline can be heard in all of these acts. Contemporary fans will hear Lana Del Rey (with a slightly less bombastic, more controlled vocal range) while others, like me, will be transported back to a time when trip-hop soundtracked our lives.

jen gloeckner

Perfecting the atmosphere of a record is a tricky thing. Jen Gloeckner may not have quite defibrillated the genre of Mazzy Star, Morcheeba or Lamb on Vine, but she did the next thing. She reminded us that the threads of their music remain vibrant and relevant. She also reminded us that proper pace and patience require attention and that that investment amply rewards.

The History of the Mummy Movie Monster

the mummy 2017 poster

During recent Stanley Cup Final broadcasts, NBC broadcaster Doc Emrick plugged The Mummy (2017) with the assertion that the Mummy has (and I’m paraphrasing here because I wasn’t taking movie notes about this Mummy article during a hockey game) “terrified and fascinated humanity throughout the millennia.” He’s of course making a glib, studio-prescribed sales pitch that highlights the fact that mummies are really old.

I love deflating these prosaic platitudes with darts of reality.

The History of the Mummy Movie Monster

To be more specific, the ad men are saying that the Egyptian mummification process first appeared on the historical record circa 3400 BCE – and “true mummification” using evisceration techniques (removal of the vital organs) began circa 2600 BCE. This means that these shrouded monsters officially began terrorizing fragile moviegoer constitutions starting around 2600 BCE! Clever!

The Mummy as a fictional monster didn’t appear, however, until 1932 during the first Universal horror cycle under studio founder Carl Laemmle and that of his wide-eyed and eccentric son and head of production Carl Laemmle, Jr. Even though Mummies time somewhere between the Blob and Zombies on their rates of attack, the cinematic Mummies in question didn’t literally take 4000 years to reach multiplexes near you – not even with Tom Cruise and his baggage in tow.

Instead of merely offering hokey studio taglines some side-eye, let’s look at the actual genesis for the Mummy monster. Even though the Mummy seems like such a natural villain, the journey from sarcophagus to movie immortality was hardly predestined. Three primary events came together at just the right time to inspire Universal’s wildly successful The Mummy in 1932.

 

dracula 1931

The success of Dracula (1931).

German expressionism ushered in a new era of visual storytelling. Dramatic, high contrast cinematography, gothic surrealism and the ultimate import of these filmmakers, like Paul Leni, shifted the visual landscape of American film in the early 1930’s.

Few pundits believed American audiences were ready for a deadly serious, full-length supernatural horror film. At the time of its release Dracula was considered an enormous risk, despite the cultural acceptance of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel into the public conscience. And although America had reacted positively to silent thrillers like The Cat and the Canary (1927, directed for Universal by the aforementioned import Paul Leni), Dracula would not pull back the curtain to reveal a trick ending or comic relief. Until now the “Scooby-Doo ending” had been a common tool to delegitimize the supernatural elements and release the viewer from the on-screen terror.

 

karloff the mummy makeup

William Henry Pratt, aka Boris Karloff.

One story suggests that James Whale’s domestic partner, David Lewis, saw the actor in the stage production of The Criminal Code and recommended him to Whale for the role of the monster in Frankenstein. At this point, Karloff had been toiling in Hollywood anonymity for about 15 years. Even at 5’11”, Karloff projected the physicality and provided a countenance that had been lacking in other actors testing for the part. Karloff plus John P. Pierce’s makeup equaled movie magic.

Variety called Karloff’s performance “a fascinating acting bit of mesmerism,” and the film went on to become the highest grossing film of 1932. Universal immediately wanted to find a new vehicle for the buzzy actor, billed then as “Karloff the Uncanny.” The studio went forward with a story by Nina Wilcox Putnam and Universal’s story editor Richard Schayer called “Cagliostro” about an immortal man who’d lived through many millennia. With rewrites by John L. Balderson (who’d written a stageplay called Berkeley Square that concerned a romance across the ages) based on recent events, the immortal European wanderer became an undead high priest of Ancient Egypt.

 

king tut 1922

The 1922 discovery of Pharoah Tutankhamun.

Archaeologist Howard Carter and financier Lord Carnarvon explored the Valley of the Kings in Egypt for more than a decade before finding the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun. The discovery ignited a very public obsession with Ancient Egypt. The King Tut craze inspired songs, movies, and the name of President Herbert Hoover’s Belgian Shepherd. The mysterious deaths of some of those involved in the tomb’s excavation resulted in the legend that has become known as the “curse of the pharaohs” – the perfect real-life fuel for cinematic nightmares.

 

The Rise of the Mummy

In the hierarchy of classic monsters, the Mummy often takes a backseat to Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man. Vampires are sexy. Frankenstein features the re-animation of parts from dead people using lightning. Lycanthropy even sounds snazzy and legitimately science-y.

the mummy 1932 poster

The terror of the Mummy, meanwhile, took the form of a shrouded monster in raggedy bandages that wandered around (slowly) picking off those that dared interrupt his beauty sleep. (In many ways, the Mummy became a proto-zombie figure.) Someone inevitably doubts the legend and reads a forbidden scroll and so on and so forth. It’s all very formulaic and predictable – when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. It’s not a stretch to consider the Mummy Universal’s least loved monster.

Now that I’ve sufficiently lowered expectations, let’s circle back so I can explain all the reasons why the Mummy became my personal favorite of the classic Universal horror franchises.

The makeup effects in The Mummy (1932) stand as one of Jack Pierce’s greatest achievements.

The Universal Mummy franchise lacked the dramatic highs of the Frankenstein series or the legendary countenance of Bela Lugosi, but consistently churned out a capable mixture of chills, romance, and eventually humor through six Universal-produced films between 1932 and 1944. Highlights include the elaborate and exotic set design, Jack P. Pierce’s painstaking makeup effects, and innovative variations on a narrow thematic bandwidth.

Like the other Universal horror films, The Mummy (originally titled Im-Ho-Tep) relied on mood and setting. There’s nothing face value terrifying about these films, but they burrow under your skin for reasons other than their fright-factor. As a kid the Mummy ignited my imagination in ways that the other movie monsters couldn’t. I’d dream of exploring ancient tombs or discovering spiritual artifacts that could resurrect the pharaohs. Meanwhile, I recoiled at the thought of dissecting a frog so no part of me wanted to deal with cadaver bits. And what kind of fresh nonsense was a man that turned into a wolf during a full moon? What about heavy cloud cover? And what would a lunar eclipse do to his disposition? For whatever reason, I’ve always found the Wolf Man a more problematic transformation than Gremlins.

The Mummy had magic, mystique and romance. Within the tattered bandages and decomposing flesh lived the beating heart of a romantic. The resurrected walking corpse almost always had love on his mind – the kind of timeless love that spans multiple regenerations. He’s really just a Romeo with an unfortunate hobby of homicide. Like the other monsters, he was just a little misunderstood.

Read my Countdown of the 10 Essential Mummy Movies to watch in preparation for the latest Mummy resurrection at Action-A-Go-Go.

 


To read more about the Universal Horror Monsters, I recommend the following books:

And in case you missed it, Universal just released the Mummy Legacy Collection on Blu-ray. 

2017 TCM Film Festival Recap

2017 TCM Film Festival Recap: The Year the Popcorn Went on Strike at the Egyptian

Past recaps: 2015 TCM Film Festival / 2016 TCM Film Festival

Each night in Los Angeles, I fell asleep listening to Julie Byrne’s excellent new record Not Even Happiness. The number of songs I’d hear each night decreased until, upon the third and final night, I finished nary a song. Did I even press play?

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?!?”

TCM Film Festival

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?

2017 TCM Film Festival #Bond_age_ Day 3 t-shirt

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. Continue reading 2017 TCM Film Festival Recap

3rd Time’s a Charm – My 2017 TCM Film Festival Preview

2017 TCM Film Festival preview ScheduleOn 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

2017 TCM Film Festival preview image


 

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.

2017 TCM Film Festival preview Joker

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 6thlove crazy 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

 

the man who knew too much 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

 

rafter romance 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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…

 

beat the devil 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

 

monkey business 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

 

so this is paris 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

 

red-headed woman 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

 

high anxiety 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

 

zardoz 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

12:00am – Zardoz – Chinese Multiplex 1

Sean Connery. In a red banana hammock. At midnight. Be there.

Even though we just live tweeted this on #Bond_age_ not too long ago, there’s nothing like a live audience for the insanity that is Zardoz.

 


Saturday, April 8th

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.

 

china syndrome 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

 

david and lisa 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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…

 

the jerk 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

 

theodora goes wild 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

 

black narcissus 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

kentucky fried movie 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

cock of the air 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.

lured 2017 TCM Film Festival preview

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.