Since this is merely a fun exercise in thinking about what might be, I decided to extend the thought process to come up with another short list that emphasized movies about writers and the writer’s life. This is the ultimate form of procrastination. With the TCMFF right around the corner, I’ve started to daydream about that schedule, which is surely coming… any… day… now…
(By the way, passes still remain for the 2018 Turner Classic Movie Film Festival. If you feel like a trip to Los Angeles in late April, hurry over to the TCM page and pick up a pass today. It’ll be your best purchase of the year.)
Mask of Dimitrios (Jean Negulesco, 1944)
Excellent and underseen noir directed by the prolific and talented Jean Negulesco. Peter Lorre stars as a Dutch mystery writer who becomes fascinated by the sordid story of a dead man that has washed up on a nearby beach. Available via Warner Archive DVD, this movie might cause Double Harness-brand riots at the small Multiplex auditorium.
House by the River (Fritz Lang, 1950)
Falls under the category of movies I’ve had on my watchlist for a long time. Fritz Lang’s films always offer something of interest and this one has had a kind of rediscovery of late after a nice DVD presentation by Kino Lorber. A rich novelist kills his maid after she becomes inebriated and attempts to seduce him. The writer dumps the body in the river, shenanigans ensue. There’s a gloomy mansion, Victorian-era set decoration, murders, chiaroscuro and an avant-garde score by George Antheil. Sounds like something I’d prioritize at the TCMFF.
In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
Because I just watched this Nicholas Ray film and because it was one of the best things I watched in all of 2017, I think we should all have a chance to see this one the big screen. Humphrey Bogart plays a struggling screenwriter who may or may not have committed murder. Gloria Grahame supplies his alibi, but does she believe in his innocence? Beautifully shot and featuring two actors at the peak of their powers.
Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
This should become an entry on my personal Cinema Shame list. I’ve owned this Criterion DVD for as long as I can remember, and it still remains unopened. This just happens to fit our theme ever so perfectly. A genius playwright is lured to Hollywood to work on an adaption of The Odyssey by a “vulgur” producer played by Jack Palance. Plus Bridgitte Bardot. I tend to appreciate Godard when I get the opportunity to experience him in the cinema. Make it so.
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
As I was considering films about writers that I’ve never had the opportunity to see as the Cinema Gods intended, my mind went straight to Kubrick’s masterpiece. An opportunity to see this at the Egyptian or the Chinese Theater would be a dream come true.
Castle of Blood (Antonio Margheriti, Sergio Corbucci, 1964)
And finally my writer-themed midnight movie. Castle of Blood features a writer spending the night in a haunted, gothic cathedral on “All Souls Eve” in order to challenge the legitimacy of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe (which in this film are presented as non-fiction). An example of the European gothic-style of filmmaking, Margheriti’s film may not be very scary, but his innovative camerawork and use of score makes for a highly entertaining slice of horror cinema. A Barbara Steele classic that should play well among TCMFF attendees — if they give it a chance. It’s style over substance and pure cinema over scares.
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.
A bl-g about classic and not-so-classic movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick