I used this image as a lead-in to my 2015 TCMFF Post-Mortem, and I’ve got to be honest, there’s really no better way to summarize the experience. So here it is again, primed and ready for my recap of the 2016 TCM Film Festival:
Last year I also arrived at the airport for my midnight flight home with time to spare. Enough time, in fact, to eat some ill-advised Korean barbecue and write a rather inspired email to my family about the experience. I’d planned to do the same this year (minus the Korean barbecue), except I found myself hornswaggled by the LAX TSA Security Check. One of the security agents kept yelling at us like high school delinquents in a heavy-handed teen drama. “I’m here to help you,” he caterwauled, “If you guys don’t start listening and don’t want to be helped we’ll be here all night! I’ve got nowhere else to be. You do!” He must have said this a dozen times as I waited in the winding, interminable queue. I sought solace in my Twitter feed, many of whom remained at the closing festivities.
By the time I reached the gate, I didn’t even have enough time for a much needed libation at the bar, let alone a heartfelt composition on my phone notepad. Just as my flight began to board, I hastily grabbed a bottle of water and a bag of Peanut M&Ms from a woman of the finest brand of occupational disinterest. She reluctantly accepted my $5 bill (she wasn’t “supposed to,” you see) like she were doing me a favor. Apparently cash is preferred currency… except in the Delta terminal at LAX.
I tried channeling that weary, loopy state of mind yesterday as I assimilated to everyday life, but sleep deprivation (something less than 10 hours in three nights) had firmly taken hold. No longer was I loopy; I was walking dead. Instead of writing, I unpacked, went for a short run, consumed a large green smoothie called the “Turmeric Cleanser” (which I recommend highly for gastrointestinal recovery after mass popcorn and Baja Fresh consumption) and managed a 90-minute nap before running my daughter over to gymnastics. (I also have a recommended smoothie for immune boosting that I drank every day before departure. They come from this book, which I treat like a bible… but I digress.)
Still, let’s give that letter a shot, now 36 hours removed from my final screening at the 2016 TCM Film Festival. Hopefully, the unsheathed nerve of sleepless delirium and festering emotion remains raw. Unless you want to talk more about my daily green smoothie regimen.
I’d eagerly awaited this trip back to Underrated 1965 for Rupert Pupkin Speaks so I could share some of my favorite, lesser-known descendants of James Bond. Then I sifted through the movies I’d wanted to highlight and realized that 1965 turned out to be a bit of a buzzkill. There’s a handful of worthy genre flicks, but few really qualified as being overlooked or forgotten gems. They were merely better than the rest of the chicken scratch. The French/Italian Corrida pour un espion (aka Code Name Jaguar) starring Ray Danton, for example. Worth watching, but would you feel rewarded for seeking it out? Spy fans, definitely. The rest of the world? Ehhhh… probably not so much. (It’s available on YouTube if you’re curious.) Beginning with Dr. No in 1962, James Bond churned out four movies by the end of 1965. The rest of the world struggled to reinvent. Many of the early parodies, ripoffs, and cash-ins just failed to distinguish themselves. (Just wait for 1966, though!) Rather than force-feed readers a mélange of mediocrity, I branched out. I’ve included the most notable non-Bond spy flick, an early giallo (also a favorite genre of mine), two films featuring Ursula Andress and a plain old non-genre film about a girl coming of age (what’s that doing here??). Never fear. To make up for the lack of official spy business, I’ve included a bonus commentary on the 1965 Bond film that takes far too much grief.
Agent 077: Mission Bloody Mary (1965, dir. Sergio Grieco)
“You seem rather nervous. This can’t be the first time you’ve seen the breast of a woman.”
“In fact it’s the second. And the first time was my wet nurse.”
Mission Bloody Mary opens on a rainy night. A police officer stops to aid a woman stranded on the side of the road. Of course she’s beautiful. Of course she’s exotic. Of course she’s sopping wet. And of course she stabs him with a flashlight dagger. Thus sets into motion the scheme to be foiled: a nuclear weapon’s on the loose and only a most cunning superspy can infiltrate the mysterious Black Lily crime syndicate to prevent a global meltdown.
This is the first of three spy outings with Ken Clark starring as Dick Malloy, American Agent 077. Clark plays James Bond filtered through the American ideal. He’s taller and physically more imposing than Sean Connery. Clark, he of the chiseled jaw, worked briefly in the Hollywood B-movie system (starring in such films as Attack of the Giant Leeches) and made a few failed TV pilots before casting away to make spaghetti westerns, sword and sandal epics, and Eurospy movies in Italy during the 1960’s.
Though Mission Bloody Mary’s entrenched as a sincere budget Bond knockoff, it knows precisely which buttons to push. Beautiful women (in rose petal pasties), despicable villains (though a little on the bland side) and exotic international locales. There’s a brutal fisticuffs sequence on a train (recalling From Russia With Love) that ends with an impromptu window guillotine. Though Ken Clark is a largely humorless actor, the script allows him bits of natural comedy that plays off his wooden persona. For example, Malloy starts a bar brawl with a few sailors as a distraction and all the while fights with a lit cigar (James Bond meets Hannibal Smith). At one point a henchman makes a crack about 077’s cardigan sweater and subsequently pays the ultimate price.
As with almost all of these mid-60’s cheap Bond knockoffs, there’s bad acting and poor dubbing, vague motivation and few logical narrative threads. This first Ken Clark outing features all of that… but Mission Bloody Mary manages to offer its own brand of whimsical, half-baked cardigan-clad thrills with panache. The series peaks with the excellent third and final entry, Special Mission Lady Chaplin, co-starring Bond girl Daniela Bianchi.
I stared at the schedule. The schedule stared back.
The theme for the 2016 Turner Classic Movie Film Festival is “Moving Pictures.” In case you’re inordinately slow on the take, this is a play on words. Movies are, you might recall, moving pictures. And TCM is selling this as the year of the weepy, the tearjerker, the inspirational flick, the movies that inspire. The TCMFF schedule programmers have certainly delivered on that promise.
You see, I’m a fairly cynical fellow and the minute I note the way a movie’s pulling the strings on my tear buckets — be it through the score or a fairly contrived piece of narrative — I find myself pulled out of the experience. Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy a good feel at the movies. I’m not an animal. But I also would never choose to watch, for example, The Way We Were over, well, just about anything. Even though I admit (only among select company) to being moved by The Way We Were upon my first and only viewing. Let’s just keep that last piece of information just between you and me.
Since this is now my second festival, I have a baseline schedule comparison. Last year I went in blind, fluttering from movie to movie, basking in the glow of how amazing it all was. Hordes of eccentric movie fans shuttling between movies and popcorn and more movies and sleep deprivation. Brief detours to Baja Fresh for on-the-go sustenance and comparing queue numbers and plotting and texting to see who’s going where and seeing what. Oh my. Meanwhile festival vets grumbled that they found the schedule lacking compared to past years.
I noted some glaring conflicts on my schedule going into the festival last year. I rued the schedule-maker who placed Raiders of the Lost Ark in the El Capitan with live organ accompaniment opposite The Invisible Man and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (with a live score). I chose Raiders because it let out earlier so I could get a better queue number for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I highlighted a couple of suspected conflicts going into 2015. This year I feel like every choice is Sophie’s. Every choice reaches deep into my soul, probing my feelings on love and life and mortality. I am disarmed. Bewildered. And a little bit shaken and stirred. (I’m aiming for hyperbolic melodrama there because themes).
Are you going to make me weep after all, TCMFF 2016? I think you are. Welcome to my 2016 Turner Classic Movie Film Festival Preview. (I’ve linked many titles below to their pages on Amazon or online availability should you want to program your own Turner Classic Movie Mini-Film Festival at home.)
Welcome to my 2016 TCMFF Schedule and Festival Preview
Thursday, April 28th
7:00pm – One Potato, Two Potato – Chinese Multiplex #4
I arrive altogether too early on Thursday morning because that’s the only non-stop from Pittsburgh to L.A. I’ll have half a day to kill along Hollywood Blvd. before I hit my first movie. This means I will likely nap and then hit the bar at the Roosevelt Hotel for free gin before being reminded why free gin is never the answer.
While the big spenders and hot shots will take in the festival’s opening night gala event — a screening of All the President’s Men with Carl Bernstein in the house — I’ll be choosing between Bette Davis in Dark Victory (1939) and the rarely screened One Potato, Two Potato (1964), a film that tackled interracial marriage 3 years before Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. When in doubt I’ll go with the movie I won’t see anywhere else. One of these days I’ll watch the entirety of Dark Victory, which I’ve caught on TCM in fits and spurts over the years.
But but but wait—-
I’m forgetting the 7:30pm poolside screening of Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman with a live DJ score. This is a prime example of the one-of-a-kind experiences that the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival has to offer. Silent movies scored by DJs. Should other attendees be swayed by this oddity, I could easily see myself ditching that first weepy in favor of poolside shenanigans.
9:3pm – Los Tallos Amargos (1956) – Chinese Multiplex #4
Unlike most everyone else it seems I am not conflicted about this time slot whatsoever. Over in the Multiplex House #6 you’ll find the amazing Brief Encounter (1945). Truly an essential film that everyone should see. I watched it on the big screen during film school and I just sold my Criterion DVD in preparation for the upcoming Blu-ray release. Los Tallos Amargos meanwhile offers a taste of Argentine film noir and as far as I know is unavailable for home viewing. I can wait to see Brief Encounter again after the next Barnes & Noble Criterion sale. I might not have another chance to see Los Tallos Amargos.
On the other hand, Los Tallos Amargos seems like a shoe-in for one of those TBD slots on Sunday. Is it worth the risk? Is there even a film I’d sacrifice on Sunday? The plot, as they say, has thickened.
Friday, April 29th
Attendees will be found shaking, weeping in the alleys behind the Multiplex after Friday. People who want to be at the TCMFF will look at Friday and take some solace in the fact that they don’t have to make these kinds of choices.
9:15am – Shanghai Express (1932) – Chinese Multiplex #1
Shanghai Express currently resides on my Top 101 List of Favorite Movies at #63. But then again I’m twisting my own logic to justify my whims. I’ve seen Shanghai Express on a big screen before. But I haven’t seen Love Me or Leave Me (1955)at all. For whatever reason I wasn’t even aware of the Doris Day/James Cagney musical until I took stock of this schedule. Who am I kidding? Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong are probably going to win this battle. Ida Lupino’s melodrama Never Fear (1949) over in Multiplex #4 won’t factor into this battle for early A.M. supremacy.
12noon – Double Harness (1933) – Chinese Multiplex #4
Welcome to high noon. I’ve got to decide between William Powell and Ann Harding in Double Harness (1933)and He Ran All the Way (1951), a film noir starring John Garfield and Shelley Winters. Tipping point: Actor James Cromwell will be in attendance to introduce Double Harness, a film directed by his father John Cromwell.
I haven’t seen He Ran All the Way, but the film was just released on a Blu-ray from Olive Films, making it readily available for viewing whenever I see fit. It’s doubtful, however, that James Cromwell will show up at my house the next time I decide to watch Double Harness.
2:30pm – When You’re In Love (1937) – Chinese Multiplex #6
When I first printed out the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival schedule I circled this slot. What was TCM thinking when they scheduled The Conversation (1974) with Francis Ford Coppola in attendance opposite Carol Reed’s Trapeze (1956) with Gina Lollobrigida in attendance opposite the notorious Tea and Sympathy (1956) opposite a rare Cary Grant romantic comedy? Goddamn masochists.
5:15pm – Private Property (1960) – Chinese Multiplex #6
If plans hold, I’ll head right back into Multi #6 for the world premiere of the new restoration of Private Property. Orson Welles-protege Leslie Stevens’ noir had been all but forgotten since its 1960 theatrical run until Cinelicious undertook a 4K restoration last year. I’d love to partake of the pre-code ditty Pleasure Cruise (1933) over in Multi #4… but I think I’ll head on over to Youtube* to watch this one and erase any doubts about my decision.
*it should be noted that this is a last resort to watching any film… but sometimes drastic measures are required.
7:30pm – Batman (1966) – Poolside @ the Hollywood Roosevelt
Sure I could go see It’s a Wonderful Life or The Passion of Joan of Arc or 8 Hours To Live, but why would I do that when Batman (Adam West) and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether) are hanging out poolside? Hell, Lando Calrisian is discussing Brian’s Song at the same time as well, but I won’t be swayed.
Also, LOL at anyone that thought I’d actually consider watching The Passion of Joan of Arc again. Nothing personal, Carl Theodore Dreyer, but I’ve suffered through your film on three different occasions now. Classic, iconic, brilliant cinema though it may be, I just can’t subject myself to that film again. I don’t care if Tom Jones is singing along with your intense close-ups of Maria Falconetti. (Okay, maybe for Tom Jones.)
9:30pm – The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – TCL Chinese Theater
Here’s an idea, TCM, why don’t you slot Angela Lansbury and The Manchurian Candidate up against a highly recommended noir against a highly recommended musical against a terrific British comedy and see how it all shakes out? I suppose these lesser known flicks were supposed to be counterprogramming for one of the festival’s marquee events, but I’m not pleased.
Option 1: Angela Lansbury, living legend, queen of the screens large and small introducing The Manchurian Candidate.
Option 4: Carry On… Up the Khyber (1966) – Though I own this on DVD, I’d love to support this British comedy that’s overshadowed by everything else at this time slot. Maybe this is the movie to which I lend my Out of Sight moral support by grabbing the #1 pass before skedaddling.
12midnight – Roar (1981) – Chinese Multiplex #1
Welcome to the loony bin. The tired, weary masses will gather in the Multiplex for misguided sleep deprivation during one of cinema’s most misguided filmmaking efforts. I own Roar on Blu-ray from Olive Films, so I might take the opportunity to nod off a bit… but I wouldn’t want to miss the crowd’s reaction to this unreal experience. Last year’s midnight screening of BOOM! lives on in infamy. I expect the same from Roar.
Saturday, April 30th
I scribbled “Sleep in?” next to this first slot on Saturday. It’s the only slot I could see myself sacrificing for the good of my health/sanity. I’ve seen Ace in the Hole, and One Man’s Journey doesn’t particularly interest me. But then again there’s…
9:00am – 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone – Egyptian Theatre
So, yeah, let’s rise and shine with early talkies and a big ass jug of coffee instead. I’m talking 64oz Slurpee-sized coffee. This is the easy decision of my morning. I’m going to need to get my game face on for the rest of the day because once I exit the world of Vitaphone, my day gets cutthroat.
12noon – An Afternoon with Carl Reiner / Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) – TCL Chinese Theatre
I’d earmarked Carl Reiner on my schedule the minute the TCM news blast went out about his attendance. The man’s a comedy legend and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is an unassailable classic of noir misanthropy and parody. My devotion to this time slot sacrifices two gems from the early 1930’s: A House Divided (available on Dailymotion) and Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (also on Dailymotion). Elsewhere, others will be tied up with A Face in the Crowd (1957), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and D.W. Griffith’s magnificent spectacle Intolerance (1916) that must be seen on a big screen to be appreciated. It’s brutal out there, moviegoers. Come prepared for heartbreak.
And this is that heartbreak I mentioned.
If I stay for the entirety of the conversation with Carl Reiner (which takes place after the screening of Dead Men), I will miss Burt Reynolds at the Montalban Theatre. And in case you’ve missed my many tweets about Burt Reynolds, Sterling Archer and I share similar fascinations. I’m going to play this by ear. Audibles may be called.
Back to reality.
4:00pm – A Conversation with Elliott Gould – Club TCM
Alec Baldwin chats with Elliott Gould. If I go all the way down to the Montalban for Burt, I’m probably not getting a spot in the tiny Club TCM in the Roosevelt for Elliott Gould. Huge heavy sigh. Picking Elliott Gould also means I bypass my last chance to see Gina Lollobrigida at the screening for Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968).
YOU WILL NOT BREAK ME, TCMFF!
6:30pm – The Long Goodbye (1973) – Egyptian Theatre
So, yeah, I’ll stalk join Elliott Gould at the Egyptian for my favorite version of Philip Marlowe ever captured on film. Yeah, that’s a bold statement and many people don’t care for Gould’s interpretation of the character… but The Long Goodbyeis an droll (anti-?) noir filmed by the great Robert Altman. It’s one of my favorite films. It straddles every genre under the sun. Except slasher. Don’t bother picking this theory apart because I’m sure there are holes. Choosing The Long Goodbye means I’m neglecting Rita Moreno and The King and I.
I’m not losing sleep over The King and I, but seeing firebrand Rita Moreno in person seems like a TCMFF necessity. If I stick with my plan to see Gould at Club TCM, there’s a good chance I’ll entertain the TheKing and I option. No guarantees.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier during the next slot either…
9:15pm – Band of Outsiders (1964) – Chinese Multiplex #1
Jean Luc Godard and I have a love hate relationship stemming from our forced and repetitive introductions during film school. I’ve since come to love many of Godard’s films, but I’ve never quite forgiven him for our rocky beginnings. Band of Outsiders is a film I’ve not revisited since my first viewing more than ten years ago. And I probably wouldn’t have chosen to watch it here… except Anna Karina will be in attendance. Courtesy of JLG’s lens, Anna Karina is less a human, more a mythical being. I cannot miss a chance to see her, to prove to myself, if nothing else, that she is actually real.
But this slays me…
…because over in Chinese Multiplex #4 during this same time is Midnight (1939) starring Don Ameche and Claudette Colbert. I recommend Midnight to anyone that will listen. Even those that won’t. I watch this film at least once a year and never tire of it. Bonnie Hunt is even introducing it. I don’t know why she’s there, but I think Bonnie Hunt seems pretty swell, and I’d like to know more about her connection to the film. Maybe I’ll even get to chat with her and tell her that we were at the same press party in Chicago sometime in 2002. It’s heresy, I know, but I might only stay for Karina’s chat before Band of Outsiders and then ditch for Midnight.
Speaking of midnight…
12midnight – Gog in 3D! (1954) – Chinese Multiplex #1
Gog is an oddball sci-fi shown in 3D for the first time since it’s release in 1954. I’m super excited for all the hazy, late-night delirium.
Sunday, May 1st
Sunday at the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival felt like a hangover. Only there’s no actual time to consume booze. Caffeine is a wonderful drug. I hope the person that discovered the potential of caffeine won all the awards.
10am – Holiday in Spain (1966) – Cinerama Dome
I might crowdsource this one. If I successfully stalked Elliott Gould on Saturday, I’ll feel little need to revisit M*A*S*H (1970) with Gould first thing Sunday morning. Douglas Sirk’s melodrama All That Heaven Allows(1955) and Carol Reed’s noir The Fallen Idol are available via Criterion discs (though, I’ve just learned Idol is OOP). Holiday in Spain (aka Scent of Mystery), however, is presented in Smell-O-Vision! The one and only time the gimmicky device has ever been used with a motion picture.
I’ll have to hustle back afterward to make my next feature. And this timing might make or break my weekend.
12:45pm – The Longest Yard (1974) – TCL Chinese Theatre
If I bypassed the long haul to the Montalban to see Burt Reynold’s interview, this screening of The Longest Yard might be my only chance to see the legend in person. I’m a fan of the film, of course, but the presence of Burt supersedes all competition including Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921) and the Marx Brothers in Horse Feathers (1932). All things even, I’d have chosen the 2-for-1 early comedy double feature, but this is Burt frikkin’ Reynolds, and The Longest Yard is currently only available on an old MGM DVD. Let’s get this fixed, eh?
No word on whether Burt will bring the famous bearskin rug.
edit 4/26/16: Since Burt has dropped out of the TCMFF due to unforeseen circumstances, this has thrown my Sunday into upheaval. At first glance, Plan B seems to be 12:30pm THE KID (1921) at the Multiplex 1 followed by the Marx Brothers in HORSE FEATHERS at 2:30pm. Plan C seems like venturing over into The Art of the Film Score: Creating Memories in the Movies at the Club TCM and staying right in my seat for A Conversation with Gina Lollobrigida immediately afterward. I’m not wild about seeing THE KID again, but I will *always* watch the Marxes. But then again this is probably my only chance to see Ms. Lollobrigida. Even in the void of Burt, concrete plans elude me. Also, I do hope Burt’s doing well. I think all of us assume his health is keeping him away from the festival.
4:15pm – The Russians Are Coming! The Russians are Coming! (1966) – Egyptian Theatre
Fat City (1972) is a great, underrated boxing flick over in the Chinese Theater. Stacy Keach representing as well. John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) happens in Multi #1. But Eva Marie Saint joins us for The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! so as far as I’m concerned there’s no controversy here. The rest is just noise. Too bad we couldn’t sneak Alan Arkin in as well. Maybe he’ll just show up. Fingers crossed, eh?
Now we stumble to the finish line…
7:45pm – The Band Wagon (1953) – Chinese Multiplex #1
I just watched The Band Wagon for the first time on TCM not so very long ago. I’m not a huge fan, but it would certainly be worth seeing on a big screen with a bunch of aficionados. I’d go to see Cyd Charisse on the big screen. I can’t be the only one with a Cyd Charisse crush.
Still… I’m hoping for miracles in the two TBD slots programmed into the schedule for encore performances of festival favorite that some might have missed out on during their first showing.
After this time slot, whatever it may be, I’ll be off to the airport for that long, lonely flight back to Pittsburgh. I’d love to stay for that delirious closing night party but I’d lose an entire day to travel if I left in the A.M. The wife needs to get back to the office (she takes days off work to allow my L.A. sojourn), and I’ll need to get home and pretend to hold myself together with some cocktail of duct tape, Advil, espresso and green smoothies.
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.