And no, this doesn’t have anything to do with the time that Will McKinley and I ducked down the back stairwell after a movie in the Chinese Multiplex and uncovered the employees’ pot smoking hideaway.
The 2019 TCM Film Festival schedule fell into our laps Tuesday morning, which meant that whomever wasn’t filling out their NCAA brackets was now consumed with festival mapping and weighty decisions about whether to see The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or Mogambo on Thursday night.
So a quick recap for those stumbling onto this post without backstory. Each spring for the past nine years, TCM has hosted a four-day film festival in Hollywood. The movies start at 9:00am and run until 2:00am. If love classic film, this is your Super Bowl. If you aim for mass consumption, you could see 20-21 movies during your stay.
#ProTip: I stress this every year — don’t aim for mass consumption. This is an overall experience that doesn’t begin and end with moviewatching. TCM offers other programming and special events that you may not want to miss. Maybe you need a break for real food — or a drink with a friend you only see once a year. Seeing movies is the point, but also remember to breathe.
And now let’s engage in that yearly tradition of sharing our observations and festival-going plans. By all means share your own — I’m told these conversations help first-timers navigate what tends to be an overwhelming experience.
Three Quick Observations About the 2019 TCM Film Festival Schedule:
They’re playing some of my all-time favorites, but they’re playing them opposite movies I haven’t and would love to see for the first time at TCMFF. Raiders of the Lost Ark played during my first festival (a repeat!) so skipping that in favor of Sunrise:A Song of Two Humans doesn’t weigh on my conscience. Elsewhere I’ll be missing Kind Hearts and Coronets, featuring perhaps my favorite Alec Guinness performance, to see Tarzan and His Mate because where else would I ever make the effort to see this movie… or I could just default to Kind Hearts. Never a wrong decision.
I can again see a movie in every slot and not watch something I’ve already seen. It’s a nice problem to have. It’s less nice when four of those unseen films play at the same time, which happens Saturday afternoon when my love of Working Girl will come to blows with four movies I’ve never seen.
All in all, I’m less enthusiastic about this schedule than past years. This won’t hinder my experience. The last time I felt merely whelmed by a TCM Film Festival schedule I wound up having one of my best overall collection of first-time watches. There’s the rub. You can’t get too excited about the stuff you haven’t seen until you see it. #Logic
Also, the Chinese Multiplex Theater 4 has gone AWOL. Theater 4 has been the source of much consternation among festival-goers because of the limited capacity, and TCM’s tendency to stick the ferociously attended pre-code films in it. It became such a source of rage-fueled moviewatching that I created this design for a button that I never actually made:
And now on with the show.
My 2019 TCM Film Festival Preview:
I will again be passing out #Bond_age_ and Cinema Shame buttons throughout the festival. I have new 2019 TCM Film Festival varieties of each. Come get yours. If you need help tracking me down, the following guide will help you pinpoint my position at any given point during the festival. I’ll also be Tweeting regularly from my @007hertzrumble account.
TCM branded the 2019 TCM Film Festival “Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies.” While there are a few more romance and romantic comedies on the schedule, it’s not exactly a hard and fast rule — plus, can’t you fall in love with a movie from any genre at the movies? This year also marks the 10th year of the TCMFF. Pardon me while I post the obligatory:
I arrive in Los Angeles about 1pm on Thursday, which gives me a little bit of time to grab food, get to the hotel, and hopefully sneak in an on-location 2019 TCM Film Festival @CinemaShame special with Jessica Pickens before programming begins at 6:30pm.
Before you jump headfirst into TCM Film Festivaling, let’s go over a few choice pieces of advice for every new attendee:
Drink lots of water. Buy bottles of the stuff at CVS or Trader Joe’s and keep them handy. You’re going to be eating more than your share of salty food. Plus hydration keeps disease at bay…
…and speaking of disease, build up your immune system before arriving. Lots of sleep. All the Vitamin C you can manage. Travel, lots of people with weird regional diseases, lack of sleep, irregular sustenance require a fully-operational immune system. You do not want to come down with something on Day 2.
Eat food when you have the opportunity. Especially breakfast. You can bring food into the theater. Go directly to your movie queue and wait for your numbered voucher. Once you have that, you’re free to leave. If you’re in a hurry, toss a burrito or a sandwich into your bag and return to your queue. They load the theaters 30 minutes prior to showtime. Once you’re seated, break out that meal and finish before the film rolls. Do not be a hero.
Bring a portable phone charger. Even if you’re not on social media and burning through your battery at every break, you’ll still want to make sure you can communicate with other people at the festival. Things like “Save me a seat!” or “Where are you in line?” or “What are you seeing at 7?” will be oft-repeated. I use this one — it’s a small brick, but it charges multiple devices at once… and fast. Plug it in at the beginning of the movie and you’ll have a fully charged phone by the time you leave.
Embrace the social aspects of the TCMFF. Some of it may seem daunting. The mass of people, the constant go-go mentality. Here more than anywhere else you’re among friends. Talk to the people in line next to you — because you will be in lines. Collect the pins and buttons. Compare schedules. Talk about your favorite festival experiences. I love the movies, but I come back every year because of the people.
Get on with it, already, bub.
Thursday, April 11
“O” denotes unseen. Check = seen it.
6:45pm – Night World (1932) – Chinese Multiplex 6
Let’s take another opportunity to mourn the disappearance of the Chinese Multiplex 4 from the 2019 TCM Film Festival circuit because Night World would have definitely played in Theater 4.
The 2019 TCM Film Festival kicks off the entire shebang with a doozy of a Catch-22. The effervescent Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953), Bogart and Bacall in Dark Passage (1947) or the lesser known Night World featuring Boris Karloff, Mae Clark, and Lew Ayres. I’m opting for the movie I haven’t seen (as I tend to do) but kicking off your festival experience with either of the other choices wouldn’t be wrong choice.
#ProTip: So many variables come into play when choosing a film to see at any given time slot. Have you seen it? Is it rare or unavailable on home video? Is it being shown on film or digital? Who’s speaking before the film? Unseen. Shown on film. Guest speakers. This is the trifecta of TCM Film Festival essentials.
9:30pm – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) – Chinese Multiplex 1
Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Shirley Temple in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) on a Nitrate print. John Ford’s Mogambo (1953) in 35mm? I adore Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg but it’s being shown on DCP. At least I can rule out Gary Cooper in Sergeant York (1941) because that movie gives off so many “Let’s Sell War Bonds” vibes. It’s most definitely not among my favorite of Howard Hawks’ films. While my first inclination is to default to Catherine Deneuve on the big screen, I could just as easily wind up at Mogambo because it checks all my TCMFF boxes.
Fun fact: TCMFF plans are meant to be broken.
Friday, April 12
“O” denotes unseen. Check = seen it. “X” means No, Just No.
It’s lovely when a TCMFF schedule gives me easier choices by eradicating options I would never entertain. Goodbye High Society (1956) and The Sound of Music (1965).
9:00am – Merrily We Go To Hell (1932) – Chinese Multi 1
It’s almost sacrilegious, but I don’t really care for The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). It’s not even the best adaptation of James M. Cain’s source material. That honor belongs to Visconti’s Ossessione (1943). I haven’t seen The Clock (1945), but my thoughts about Judy Garland’s non-musical screen presence get me in trouble so they’ll remain unsaid. That leaves me with some more delightful pre-coding starring Sylvia Sidney and Fredric March. Directed by Dorothy Arzner, Merrily We Go To Hell has been on my radar for some time. It’s DCP but we can’t hit the trifecta every time.
11:15am – Out of Africa (1985) – Chinese Multi 1
Cinema Shame confession: I have not seen Out of Africa. I’ve claimed for many years that I’ll get around to it. (I really wasn’t going to get around to it.) Being on the big screen at TCMFF, however, proves to be a game changer. While Sleeping Beauty would surely look magnificent on the Egyptian screen, and Love in the Afternoon‘s super charming — I own both on Blu-ray. Only the special Republic Serials presentation might dissuade me from the 161-minute Out of Africa.
3:00pm – Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans – Chinese Multi 1
The Cinema Shame rolls on with a film that’s been on my Shame Statement for the past two years, F.W. Murnau’s supposed masterpiece Sunrise. It’s a good thing I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark at the El Capitan during my first festival experience or I’d be tempted to ignore the unseen Sunrise and A Patch of Blue. Broadway Danny Rose shouldn’t be overlooked at Post 43. It’s a wonderful (and probably underseen) Woody Allen film with tremendous central performances.
5:30pm – Vanity Street (1932) – Chinese Multi 6
My wife has been actively lobbying for me to see Steel Magnolias (1989) on her behalf (and it would fit my #Watch1989 year quite well) — but, well, no. I’ll be happy to watch it with you at home some other time, love. Had I been covering the festival for Action-A-Go-Go as planned, I’d have been locked into seeing Escape From Alcatraz again. Then there’s Truffaut’s Day for Night. It’s a difficult slot to nail down. I don’t know anything about Vanity Street other than unseen, pre-code, and 35mm. Plus opting for the 67-minute film also allows me to pad my movie totals by catching dinner and an extra flick…
7:30pm – Open Secret (1948) – Chinese Multi 6
A movie that was once thought lost (save for a few unfortunate public domain prints) until UCLA recently found a source and restored the film. A rarely seen thriller from the 1940’s sounds like the kind of thing that fits squarely in the TCM Film Festival wheelhouse.
9:30pm – Desert Hearts (1985) – Post 43
While I might have opted for Do the Right Thing (1989) on the big screen at the TCL Chinese Theatre, Open Secret lets out just as the Spike Lee joint gets going. With the director and stars of Desert Hearts appearing in a post-film conversation, this is the moment I should choose to embrace one of the films I haven’t seen. Desert Heart trumps Goodbye, Mr. Chips because the talent’s quite literally in the house. If Winchester ’73 were playing at another time you would have found me front and center.
Midnight – Santo vs. The Evil Brain – Chinese Multi 1
And back to the Chinese Multi for some crimefighting masked Mexican wrestler action. A midnight I never thought I’d see happen. One of the tremendous surprises of the 2019 TCM Film Festival. It’s no SH! The Octopus, but it’s a damn fine consolation prize. I haven’t seen this specific Santo film — though I’ve seen quite a few.
Saturday, April 13
Generally speaking every TCM Film Festival Saturday can sit and spin. This Saturday is no exception.
9:15am – When Worlds Collide (1951) – Chinese Multi 1
I’m back in my favorite venue this TCMFF. Chinese Multi 1 houses the minor classic Sci-Fi epic When Worlds Collide. It’s also the title of a righteous Powerman 5000 track. I’m not going to cast shade on any of the other films during this block either — From Here to Eternity should ONLY be seen on the big screen, Double Wedding is firmly in the middle of the non-Thin Man Powell and Loys, and All Through the Night is a nifty Bogart thriller that most probably haven’t seen.
And then the rest of the day becomes an interminable battle against the unseen versus the known and loved commodities.
11:45am – Tarzan and His Mate (1934) – Chinese Multi 6
Sigh. I love Kind Hearts and Coronets. It’s one of my favorite films of all time. Upon last calculation it resided at #52. But Gena Rowlands introduces John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence (unseen) at the Egyptian and this one, Tarzan and His Mate, plays on 35mm. I honestly have no idea where I’m headed during this block. My head says Tarzan because it’s unknown, but my heart’s screaming Kind Hearts… and if I don’t see A Woman Under the Influence at the Egyptian, I might not even see the inside of that theater this festival, which is inconceivable considering I rented space there the last two years.
2:45pm – Love Affair (1939) – Chinese Multi 6
I love Irene Dunne. I adore her. I would light candles and create shrines for her if I knew how one even went about creating a legitimate shrine. My experience in shrines dervies from Jobu in Major League. Probably not the best influence, especially regarding the chicken sacrifices. I know I promised everybody I’d be there to support the festival’s screening of Working Girl, but what am I supposed to do here? I live for the party scene with Harrison Ford drinking exotic umbrella-clad drinks.
I haven’t seen Love Affair and it’s something I need to make right. Meanwhile I’m just flat out ignoring A Raisin in the Sun, which I’d love to see, and the Tom Mix Double Western Feature would surely be a good time.
Love Affair also has the timing of getting out earlier to allow for the acquisition of food and the option to catch anything at all during the next block.
5:15pm – Blood Money (1933) – Chinese Multi 6
…assuming I actually choose this path. Once again we’re faced with beloved commodities in the form of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Nashville and Wuthering Heights versus two films from the 1930’s that I never knew existed until this week.
7:30pm – Life Begins at 40 (1935) – Chinese Multi 6
Part of me is still wondering if I can hoof it over to the TCL Chinese Theater for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at 6:15pm since Blood Money falls just shy of the 60-minute mark. At the very least It Happened Here (1964) starts at 6:30pm at the Egyptian. This is where the games begin and it’ll all depend on how much I want to run my ass down Hollywood Boulevard at 6pm on a Saturday. Life Begins at 40 and Will Rogers just represent the convenient option.
Fun fact: I have no idea what the hell I’m going to do in the heat of the moment!
9:45pm – Escape from New York (1981) – Chinese Multi 1
Even though it’s the bloody “Special Edition,” I’d still love to see Star Wars on the screen at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Indiscreet would be swoon-worthy, and Waterloo Bridge is a fine pre-code melodrama… but Kurt Russell and John Carpenter are going to be present before a screening of Escape from New York, so all the rest is just background noise. I’m actually in line for this one as I type.
Midnight – The Student Nurses (1970) – Chinese Multi 6
Love-ins, acid trips, Mexican radicals, secret abortions, and naughty nurses. Thank you, Roger Corman. Stephanie Rothman’s The Student Nurses provides a measure of exploitation that the TCMFF hasn’t seen, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
#FunFact: I was looking over my picks for the 2018 TCMFF and it’s like I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I ignored every planned movie on 2018’s Friday except for Sweet Sweetback and The Exorcist. You should probably not listen to anything I say except the parts about keeping your options open!
Sunday, April 14
Unfortunately this is the bittersweet portion of our program when I again announce that in order to catch the sensible non-stop back to Pittsburgh, I’ll need to leave the festival sometime just before 1pm. I’ll miss out on some terrific offerings, but turning 9 hours of travel time into a single 5-hour flight always seems like the right play. One of these years I’ll get to stay for the Closing Party… in the meantime, let’s send the 2019 TCM Film Festival out with one more Cinema Shame viewing.
9:00am – Hello, Dolly! (1969) – TCL Chinese Theatre
Mad Love, Holiday and The Defiant Ones are all great options. If you haven’t seen Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in Holiday, I’d make that a priority of your festival. Instead, I’m turning to Barbara Streisand and the big, boisterous, silver screen adaptation of Hello, Dolly! (In no small part because of the role it plays in Wall*E.)
So that’s it. I might consider popping into the discussion prior to The Robe (1953) for one final nugget before heading back to LAX for my flight home.
#ProTip: Don’t kill yourself getting home. My first two years, I took the red-eye and that form of transportation should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention. You’re already sleep deprived and generally not ready to go back to public life. Stay the extra night if you can afford it. Lodging, as you may have noticed, is very expensive. With two kids under 10, I need to return to regular life first thing on Monday morning. Taking the red-eye means I’m a miserable human for at least another day. Probably two.
Read my previews of past TCM Film Festivals for more info — I tried not to be too redundant!
Also be sure to check out these 2018 TCM Film Festival previews and hot tips from other fellow festival attendees!
Aurora’s Gin Joint (@citizenscreen)
Cinema Crossroads (@julsrich)
Joel’s Classic Film Passion (@joelrwilliams1)
Journeys in Classic Film (@journeys_film)
The Way We Watch (@NikkiLM4)
Outspoken and Freckled (@IrishJayhawk66)
Blog of the Darned (@ChrisSturhann)