For Christmas my wife shocked me with a pass to the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. The event takes place March 26th to the 29th, which means I’ll be journeying across country to Los Angeles in just a couple of days to partake of the cinematic masochism. I’ll be meeting up with my father-in-law to be my movie buddy for the week. He has no qualms about surviving on Cherry Coke and popcorn alone. You do what you can to survive… and watch as many movies as possible. He’s got the right mentality.
TCM Film Festival 2015 at the Frequency of 30/007Hz
Each year Turner Classic Movies hosts this affair, shepherding Old Movie Weirdos and Young Movie Weirdos from all across the country into a three block section of L.A. They then hold us captive, force our eyelids open and subject us to flickering images from 9am until 2am each day. Sounds amazing, right?
As this is my first trip to the event, I’m relying upon the grizzled veterans for guidance and support. Will McKinley, a notorious Old Movie Weirdo, for example, has written the TCMFF survival guide. I plan to make three copies, just in case I lose a couple. It also appears that tradition dictates, as a bl-gger of sorts, I must also post my anticipated schedule and then explain why the whole thing might blow up as I make last-minute decisions on the fly. Like whether or not to eat… or sleep. Anyway. Here we go.
Day 1 – Thursday, March 26th
Arrive at LAX sometime around noon. I even got a non-stopper from Pittsburgh.
I hear there’s some trivia contest happening around 3pm. Time enough to throw my stuff in the hotel room and hop over to the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. I’ll be in need of a few pints by this point in the day (air travel and I have a troubled relationship). I’ll be excited to meet some familiar Twitter faces for the first time over movie trivia. And beer. Some of these people I’ve been chatting with for years now. Luckily I’ve been hosting my #Bond_age_ live tweets while sauced so I don’t think a little inebriation will misrepresent me.
After this the movies formally start. Right off the bat, I need to make the decision between an old favorite and a movie I’ve always meant to watch as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance goes up against Queen Christina in the same time slot.
Ultimately, I think, Jimmy Stewart punching John Wayne will win out over Garbo.
6:15pm: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
After that it looks like I’ll have a break for sustenance as my presence won’t be requested until 10pm when I have to decide between a favorite William Powell/Carole Lombard comedy, My Man Godfrey, and my favorite Errol Flynn swashbuckler.
I’ve seen My Man Godfrey on the big screen a couple of times. Errol Flynn not so much. Swashbuckle me all night long, Errol.
10:00pm: The Sea Hawk (1940)
End with a nightcap? Errol Flynn would have wanted it that way.
Day 2 – Friday, March 27th
The Festival begins in earnest at 9:00am with a battle for attention between Inherit the Wind, My Darling Clementine and The Dawn of Technicolor, a special presentation that “illustrates the development of Technicolor through the boom period of Hollywood’s early sound musicals.” True to form, I’ll roll in a little bit late and catch the 10:30, the Ernst Lubitsch-directed The Smiling Lieutenant featuring Claudette Colbert and Maurice Chevalier. Lubitsch and Colbert? Sold. Plus this one’s new to me.
Since I’m generally choosing the never-before-seen tact at the festival, this means I’m bypassing the glorious spectacle of Lawrence of Arabia, despite never having seen this OMFG epic on the big screen. It is long. And I can see like seven movies in the same amount of time. Maybe not seven, but you understand the hyperbole. Lawrence starts at 10am, which means it blocks out the entire middle of the day until 2:30pm. Sorry, Larry. Catch ya later.
10:30am – The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)
After my date with Claudette Colbert, I can either hoof it over to Lenny with Dustin Hoffman and Alec Baldwin in attendance (Alec is interviewing Dustin. I hope he calls him Dusty) or enjoy a more leisurely lunch-filled stroll over to see Anthony Mann’s Reign of Terror at high noon, Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo or Michael Curtiz’s The Proud Rebel. Purple Rose is a favorite, but I just recently picked it up on Blu-ray. Terror trumps Rebel because I think I need to the French Revolution done film noir style… and it gets me out earlier to make sure I have enough time to get in line for The Cincinnati Kid with Ann-Margaret in attendance.
12noon: Reign of Terror (1949)
3:15pm: The Cincinnati Kid
After basking in some Steve McQueen cool for a couple hours, I’ll have to face the fire. I have real life and death decisions to make. Raiders of the Lost Ark starts at the El Capitan Theatre at 5:30pm. Raiders overlaps Don’t Bet On Women, A Man for All Seasons, Norma Rae, Rififi, The Invisible Man (1933) and Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. with a live performance of Carl Davis’ brand new score for the film. On one hand, it’s Raiders. On the other hand, I’ve seen Raiders in magnificent fashion at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta complete with villain-hissing and hero-cheering. But then again, it’s Raiders of the Lost m’fing Ark. Right now I have Rififi penciled into the schedule as I’ve never seen Dassin’s brilliant heist film on the big screen.
But don’t be surprised if I end up at the Capitan.
6:15pm: Rififi (1955)
On second thought, Raiders might end up being the smart play here anyway. My whole weekend revolves around the next film. Sure, Roman Holiday would be swell. I’ve only seen the Peck and Hepburn classic on DVD. Apollo 13 is a no-brainer. And by no-brainer, I mean I didn’t especially care for it the first time I saw it in the theater. Even if Alex Trebek is scheduled to converse with Captain James Lovell. I just hope all these other attractions distract people from getting in line for arguably the best James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with James Bond (George Lazenby) in attendance. It’s actually #2 on my list of Bond films (behind only From Russia With Love), but that would have lessened the build-up to the reveal.
9:15pm: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
While OHMSS is happening, Hitchcock’s classic Rebecca also happens somewhere else, but that’s just static and more places for people to get distracted while I can get a good seat for 007. You may or may not have heard, but I’m a wee bit of a James Bond fan.
Tired, weary and probably hungry, I will now find a double-shot of espresso, hoist my petards, and tackle the midnight showing of Boom! I’ve never seen this but I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity. This one’s a camp classic rarity with a legendarily bad (so bad it’s good?) reputation (8% on Rotten Tomatoes). A Tennessee Williams’ “adaptation” gone haywire, featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Noel Coward.
12midnight: BOOM! (1968)
….and… nightcap. Elizabeth Taylor would have wanted it that way.
Day 3 – Saturday, March 28th
I’m totally down for seeing silent vixen Colleen Moore in the excellent Why Be Good (1927) but this is looking like a rest and recover morning. I’m thinking brunch. As a waitress once said to me in a bed and breakfast in Cork, Ireland before just giving me a third breakfast course, “Ohhhhhh the day is long.” The Irish know how to do breakfast. If you’re going to drink at the pubs all day you’ve got to start your day with a three-hour breakfast. Maybe the same holds true for the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival.
This clears my morning. I’ll bypass Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King at 10am in order to let Busby Berkeley dazzle me with 42nd Street at 11:30am.
11:30am: 42nd Street (1933)
After being dazzled, I’m definitely avoiding The Miracle Worker (been there quite a few times) and 1776 and Malcolm X (both too long). That leaves time for lunch and perhaps joining a Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival conversation with Sophia Loren. Or another viewing of Rebel Without a Cause or going to a book signing… I literally have no idea. None of these events are essentials. We’ll let this sit here as a wildcard, potential nap time slot. I’ll have to get back on the wagon by 4:15pm because an unseen Preston Sturges, Christmas in July, will demand my A-game. After that it’s another full night.
4:15pm: Christmas in July (1940)
Now begins a night of wicked decisions. Shirley MacLaine stops by for the screening of The Apartment, one of the all time great Billy Wilder flicks, if not just one of the all time great movies period. Choosing The Apartment, a movie I’ve probably seen a half dozen times, means I’m ignoring a Mel Brooks favorite of mine History of the World Part One, The Wind and the Lion (more Connery) and Viva Zapata! (Brando!) All of which start at the same time. This one’s going to come down to the epic adventure vs. in-person Shirley MacLaine. I expect to crowdsource this decision, meaning The Apartment might freeze me out with a super long line. If I’m putting dollars down, The Wind and the Lion might be the underdog with the big payout. Plus I’ve never actually seen it. If a crazy line awaits me at The Apartment, I could see myself hopping over to see Slouchy Bond woo Murphy Brown.
6:00pm: The Apartment (1960)
The French Connection happens at 9:15, and I do love me some Popeye Doyle, but I’ve seen this three times in the theater. Adam’s Rib would be fun with comedian Greg Proops hosting, but it’s not a big-screen essential for me. The Loved One‘s a cool flick, but I own it on DVD and watched it not entirely too long ago. Great choices all, but there’s only one that can’t be imitated elsewhere. At 9:30pm, TCM offers a collection of silent films, all hand-cranked and shown on 35mm. This is the way the earliest audiences watched movies. A rare experience that I can’t pass up. Return of the Dream Machine features Melies’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), The Great Train Robbery (1903), D.W. Griffith’s A Corner in Wheat and Suspense (1913).
9:30pm: Return of the Dream Machine (1903-1913)
The midnight show is another rare treat. Nothing Lasts Forever was produced in 1984 by Lorne Michaels and features the absurdly cool cast of Zach Galligan, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Imogene Coca, and Eddie Fisher. The studio buried the picture. Presumably because MGM didn’t believe a black and white, noir-style science fiction film would sell. It’s never appeared on home video of any variety. Zach Galligan will be attending this TCM Film Festival screening. I watched it on YouTube before it was erased from the Interwebs’ collective conscious and on TCM Underground a couple months ago. (I still have it saved on my DVR. NOBODY WILL DELETE IT. EVER.)
12midnight: Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)
Day 4 – Sunday, March 29th
Patton screens at 9am. Pass. The Hunchback of Notre Dame happens at 9:30am. Pass. I can’t do pre-noon weepies. This happily leads me to a noir classic. Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley at 9:45am.
9:45am: Nightmare Alley (1947)
Gunga Din offers some dated adventure-time thrills. Cary Grant is always a bonus, but it lets out at 3:45pm, mere minutes before my next planned feature. All signs point to Desk Set because I had to do a shot-by-shot analysis of a large portion of Psycho in film school. I haven’t watched it since. Maybe time to revisit finally? Ehhh….. I think I need more Katharine Hepburn in my life. No offense, Hitch.
1:15pm: Desk Set (1957)
This brings up a moment that has my panties in a bunch. TCM has pitted me against myself. Classic Film Me is like “Of course you have to see The Philadelphia Story. Don’t be a shmuck.” Modern Film Me is like “Out of Sight is ahead of The Philadelphia Story on your Top 100, man. Just look at the numbers.” Grrr. The movie poster is on my wall.
4:15pm: Out of Sight (1998)
I’ll get to sneak one more movie in before I need to catch that last flight out of La La. No better way to close out the Festival than with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in Marriage Italian Style.
7:30pm: Marriage Italian Style (1964)
Race out of the theater, hail a cab, head back to LAX for some red eye action.
…stay tuned for more dispatches from the 2015 TCM Film Festival in the frequency of 30/007Hz.