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.
I had some idle time in traffic this afternoon and my mind started to wander to the upcoming Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. TCMFF attendees get quite edgy the weeks before the final schedule release. To date we only know a handful of films — these can be found here. It’s a rock solid set of films, but nothing that sets my hair on fire. Not yet.
(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.)
Still, I can’t help but consider the possibilities for what is yet to come. The theme for this year’s festival is Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen. We’re talking adaptations of famous works and writers. We’re talking movies about writers and landmark original screenplays. With that in mind, I let my brain ponder some potentials. What would I want to see with these parameters in mind?
Keep in mind I know absolutely nothing. Anything I guess here will likely not come true and anything I guess correctly will obviously be the product of true genius.
I’ll begin my frivolous exercise by considering big anniversaries. Which films do we have a monumental reason to celebrate? What are some films I’d like to see for the first time at TCMFF this year? Maybe some that just deserve a big screen? Here’s my picks for an Anniversary-oriented Turner Classic Movies Film Festival Wishlist for 2018.
Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli, 1958)
Frank Sinatra plays a drunk novelist in this drama also starring Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. Not only was this Sinatra’s first film with Dino, Shirley MacLaine earned her first Academy Award nomination. Shirley has attended prior Turner Classic Movie Film Festivals, why not another? I’ve been on a Vincente Minnelli kick lately, so I figure I should scratch this off the list, too.
The Long, Hot Summer (Martin Ritt, 1958)
Steamy Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward melodrama based on the short stories of William Faulkner. All that plus Orson Welles, not a bad scribe in his own right. Prior festival attendee Angela Lansbury. Lee Remick. The film re-established Ritt’s career after the Blacklist and fast-tracked Newman’s career. The title came from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and some of the characters were inspired by Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Authorial pedigree, you guys.
The Swimmer (Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack, 1968)
Frank Perry’s excellent David & Lisa (1962) screened at last year’s festival. The Academy gave Perry a director nomination and his wife Eleanor Perry a screenplay nod for this film based on a short story by John Cheever. The Swimmer has received a bit of notoriety after a deserved rediscovery upon the release of the Grindhouse Blu-ray. I’m sure festival patrons would be thrilled to “discover” this Burt Lancaster great for themselves. If we’re talking unique and original voices, this film surely fits the theme.
Danger: Diabolik (Mario Bava, 1968)
If I could make one festival request, I would wish this upon everyone as a midnight screening. Not that it wouldn’t play well at any other time, but a midnight screening of Danger: Diabolik would tear the roof off of the Multiplex. I can’t make a connection to “Powerful Words,” except for the fact that it came from a series of Italian comics called Diabolik from Angela and Luciana Giussani.
Hooper (Hal Needham, 1978)
Notable for it’s gonzo stunts. Plus Burt Reynolds, Adam West and Sally Field, and I must always hope for a Burt Reynolds film. This would go over really well with a jazzed-up classic film crowd. Fits into the writing category ironically. No writers were needed for the making of this film — yet four are listed in the credits. Maybe Peter Bogdanovich could attend to discuss the Roger Deal character — who was apparently intended as a Bogdanovich spoof.
All that said, what do I know? And per usual, the best and most exciting films at the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival are the ones I didn’t know I wanted to see in the first place. I look forward to what TCM has in store for us… but I really wish they’d take the Danger: Diabolik request into consideration.
On 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
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.
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 6th
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
12:00am – Zardoz – Chinese Multiplex 1
Sean Connery. In a red banana hammock. At midnight. Be there.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If I were to summarize my experience at the 2015 TCM Film Festival in an image…
[I typed this up on my phone from the airport terminal before my red eye flight home on Sunday night. I wrote it as an email to my family, many of whom had not heard from me in days.]
I’ve arrived at the airport. Currently sipping a $15 Tanqueray martini next to my gate with some Korean barbecue that was far better in theory. The American Airlines gate is reserved apparently for second-rate flyers. There was nobody in my security line despite the heinous traffic jam getting into the airport. The TSA agents were cracking jokes about not having anything to do.
I’m coming down off the high from an amazing four day movie experience. This festival is a test of your meddle and cinematic fortitude. Even the most ardent cinephiliacs are winding down on Day Four. I spent no more than 2-3 waking hours in the hotel room. I lived like a nomad on Hollywood Blvd. for 16 hours each day, shuttling back and forth between 4 different theaters.My four day total: 16 1/2 movies (I had to leave Marriage Italian Style to get to the airport) and 1 seminar (the Art of the Title, about title credit sequences). I skipped only 1 time slot.
I saw conversations/film introductions with Shirley MacLaine (twice), Sophia Loren, Ann-Margret, the stuntman on Raiders of the Lost Ark, Zach Galligan (Billy Peltzer in Gremlins), Errol Flynn’s daughter, and Ileana Douglas who was here just because. I ate lunch with Lou Lumenick, the critic for the New York Post. He knew me as “the #Bond_age_ guy.” I saw two midnight movies of varying degrees of quality (both very rare and not available for public consumption) with my father-in-law. “Midnight movies with my father-in-law” sounds like a brilliant idea for a podcast. I saw a program of hand-cranked silent movies, including a piece of film that was just discovered in a film archive and made its first appearance at this festival. I met people to which I’ve been talking on Twitter for years.
This was an amazing experience. I’m extremely grateful that my wife gave me the opportunity to be a part of this. And Andy (my father-in-law) for joining me on this whirlwind tour. I sincerely hope he enjoyed himself because I enjoyed our time spent talking movies and sharing this experience.
In other news, the stewardesses for this flight are delayed and I’m still sitting here on the floor with my back against a recycling bin and regretting the Korean barbecue situation that I dispatched to the trash can after only a few bites.
In conclusion. I need sleep.
Before the Apartment at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Shirley MacLaine speaks with Leonard Maltin.
30/007Hz 2015 TCM Film Festival Post-Mortem
I have a B.A. in film studies and participated in my fair share of triple-features at the Cinema, but I’ve never experienced anything as cinematically intense as the gleeful 4-day grind that is the TCM Film Festival. I knew what to expect, clearly. I’d read the tweets for years now, felt my share of jealousy and monitored all the joy being had without me. I’d studied the schedule, planned my attack. All that was left was the execution… and navigating Hollywood Blvd.
I’m now reminded of this famous passage from the Robbie Burns poem “To a Mouse”
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!
Since this recap is taking a free-form construction, influenced likely by the only souvenir I brought back from Hollywood (a killer head cold), I’d just like to mention that enjoying Robbie Burns day in Ireland some years ago was an absolute delight. The Irish celebrate (heavily I might add) a day dedicated to the Scottish poet (his birthday, January 25th). That would sort of be like Americans celebrating a day for Bliss Carman (Canadian-born poet, Canadian poet laureate).
Back on topic.
TCMFF 2015 Final Tally: 16 1/2 movies
*denotes never before seen
**denotes previously viewed, but no memory remains
Too Late For Tears* (1949)
The Sea Hawk** (1940)
The Smiling Lieutenant* (1931)
Reign of Terror* (1949)
The Cincinnati Kid* (1965)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
42nd Street (1933)
Air Mail* (1932)
Christmas in July* (1940)
The Apartment (1960)
Return of the Dream Machine* (1902-1913)
Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)
Don’t Bet On Women* (1931)
The Children’s Hour* (1961)
Marriage Italian Style* (1964) — had to leave halfway through to get my plane!
Best *new to me* movie(s):
Either Reign of Terror or The Smiling Lieutenant.
Reign of Terror (aka The Black Book)
Reign is Anthony Mann’s noir-style interpretation of the French Revolution. If that doesn’t interest you, this may not be a movie for you. It’s beautifully shot, with top notch chiaroscuro, black and white cinematography. There’s lot of devilish villians (one even kicks a cat to solidify his villainy) and a solid starring turn by Robert Cummings, but it’s Arnold Moss’ Fouche that steals every scene.
The Smiling Lieutenant
The Smiling Lieutenant is an essential Ernst Lubitsch musical comedy. Innuendo is never more potent than it is in the hands of Lubitsch. Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins work wonders with a wink and a turn of phrase. Checkers will never be the same. Nor will breakfast. *nudge nudge* They both mean sex. *wink wink*
Most forgettable movie:
John Ford’s Airmail.
As Leonard Maltin said in his introduction to the movie (I’m paraphrasing), “This isn’t Ford’s best, but Ford never made a movie that wasn’t worth watching.” This is a lesser Only Angels Have Wings, but Howard Hawks clearly borrowed liberally from Ford’s 1933 film when making that 1939 masterpiece. I can’t recall ever considering Ralph Bellamy a great lead. Slim Summerville elevated the movie from a supporting role.
Most memorable moments:
James Bond in the house before On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Ben Mankiewicz looking appropriately confounded by George Lazenby’s interview.
“For the first time in this conversation you’re underselling yourself.” @BenMank77 to George Lazenby. #TCMFF#OHMSS
Best moment of #TCMFF Saturday: @007hertzrumble + me getting lost in a secret stairwell at the Multiplex where the staff goes to smoke weed. — Will McKinley (@willmckinley) March 29, 2015
Hand-cranked silent movies.
The Return of the Dream Machine program. Hand-cranked silents as they were originally shown in the early 20th century. Photo courtesy of @NitrateDiva.
The midnight screening of the infamously so bad it’s good BOOM! (1968).
At one point the editor (apparently) fell asleep and after an awkward cut Liz Taylor (now off-screen and apropos very little) screeches “WHAAAAAAT?”
BOOM! survivors at the festival quoted this line for the next two days.
Meeting folks I’ve chatted with on Twitter for years now.
#Bond_age_ contributors @NitrateDiva and @MiddParent
@MiddParent, me, @WillMcKinley
@joelrwilliams1, @NitrateDiva, @MiddParent, me at Reign of Terror. (We’re waving to Will because he spent too long eating fries at Johnny Rockets and got shut out of the screening.)
@ChrisSturhann snapping photos of Ben Mankiewicz before On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
not pictured: Trevor and his Buster Keaton hat (@tpjost), Paula Guthat (@Paula_Guthat) and Tim Guthat (@tkguthat), @BeesKnees_pdx, @LaurasMiscMovie… and others I’m surely forgetting.
The Bogart’s Gin.
I’ve never tasted a gin (and I’ve had a lot of gin) that was both harsh and flowery. It was sandpaper and lilacs. Even free gin has a price.
I didn’t get to meet everyone on my Twitter list.
With so much going on and everyone taking full advantage of the festival’s offerings it’s often hard to pre-arrange a path crossing or a meetup at a movie. I bypassed the opening #TCMParty meet and greet because I opted for a power nap. I’d been up since 2:30am PST and something had to give.
Drinking too much coffee on Saturday night to stay up for Nothing Lasts Forever.
Zach Galligan introducing Nothing Lasts Forever on Saturday night.
A midnight movie after 5 hours of sleep the night before is hard enough. Not being able to sleep at 2:30am when you’ve absolutely got to get up by 7:30 to catch the encore of Don’t Bet On Women is worse. Just let the midnight mid-movie snooze happen. See @WillMcKinley during BOOM! and J.P. (@HollywoodComet) during Nothing Lasts Forever. J.P. even found herself in an elevator with women who were talking about the girl that fell asleep at the midnighter, not knowing she was standing right next to them. Now that’s infamy.
Not being able to watch three movies at once.
The entire Friday schedule was a test of endurance and decision-making confidence. My day fell into place around On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Tough decisions were made for me so that I could get to the queue OHMSS early. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark instead of Steamboat Bill, Jr. (with a live orchestra!) because Buster had me out of the theater only 30 minutes before Bond time. Unacceptable. Meanwhile Sunday afternoon indecision (without the benefit of a must-see) had me weighing two of my oft-watched favorites, Out of Sight and The Philadelphia Story, against The Children’s Hour, a movie that wasn’t even on my radar. I doubled down, supported Out of Sight with a flurry of tweets pre-show, got my #1 ticket (’tis a badge of honor)… and eventually went to see The Children’s Hour and some more Shirley MacLaine pre-show chatter with this crew. When in doubt, I decided, it’s best opt into the never-before-seen film. Always take the opportunity at these events to see something new or different.
Also, this is what happens when you try to take a picture selfie-style in a large, semi-dark theater. The flash, naturally, is on the other side of the phone so doesn’t flash. Duh. Almost pictured: @MiddParent, me, @fallonthornley, @WillMcKinley
…and this provides a segue way into one final segment…
Advice for future attendees from a 1st timer:
1. See your favorites, of course, but prioritize special or one-of-a-kind screenings, like the restoration of a film thought lost or a special exhibition, such as the hand-cranked silent films.
Taking the above example: I love Out of Sight but I saw it during it’s theatrical release. I own it on DVD and Blu-ray. The 35mm-showing of The Children’s Hour featured in introduction with Shirley MacLaine in the grand Egyptian Theatre. Of course, editor Anne V. Coates introduced Out of Sight, and Madeline Stowe introduced The Philadelphia Story in Grauman’s. It’s hard to go wrong at the TCM Film Festival.
2. Visit all the venues. One of the greatest things about the festival is the chance to see films (on film!) at some of the greatest and most storied moviehouses in the world.
The organ grinder at the El Capitan played a selection of John Williams hits before Raiders of the Lost Ark.
A silhouette “selfie” before The Children’s Hour that was all about the ceiling at The Egyptian Theatre.
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre during the red carpet ceremony before The Sound of Music. Later on at the fest, I saw The Apartment and Marriage Italian Style here.
3. Find someone in the know, pick their brain early on at the festival. Chat with the six-timers who know all the tricks. These tricks, like how to manage the queues and still find time for food and the fastest paths between theaters are the keys to seeing everything you want. Befriend these people, hell… befriend all the people. You never know who will show up at one of your screenings with a higher queue number and seat-saving abilities. I was lucky enough to have the very recognizable fellows @joelrwilliams1 and @WillMcKinley line up right behind me at my very first movie, Too Late For Tears.
4. Take advantage of social media. Connect with those Twatterquaintances and keep in touch regularly during the festival so that you know who’s going where and doing what. Clearly, you’re there to see the movies, but the people on your Twitter list that you finally meet in person and the offhand conversations with complete strangers make the TCM Film Festival more than just a succession of great movies, more than just the sum of it’s parts. More than once I ended up in random conversations with people who I already followed on Twitter.
5. People love the Festival swag because they love to bedazzle their passes with buttons and flags and stickers. If you have a website bring something to promote it. I tacked on stickers to a business card order to promote my James Bond Social Media Project before the Festival. The business cards were nice, but the stickers were more memorable. If you can afford it, do buttons. It’s Pokemon syndrome up in there for buttons. (The great Paula Guthat even turned one of my stickers into a button!)
It’s awkward introducing yourself to people as “the #Bond_age_ guy,” especially so near Hollywood Blvd. I eventually got used to using my @007hertzrumble Twitter handle as a lead-in, but the damage had already been done by the “#Bond_age_ guy.” #Bond_age_ looks great on paper, but verbally, it’s all a bit clumsy.
The TCM staff put on a great show. I know there’s drama about calling movies released after 1980 “classics,” but it’s probably not worth the fuss. Many wouldn’t consider Apollo 13 or Out of Sight worthy of a slot at the festival. Is it worth some debate? Sure. But there’s always other options and it’s unlikely that these more modern movies are jeopardizing slots that would otherwise be occupied by anything rare or special. If it were rare or special it’d already have a slot in the lineup.
The merchandise for purchase at the festival’s TCM Shop was woefully uncreative and overpriced. Where are the movie posters with original artwork for some of the festival headliners? Or even just a music festival-style piece of artwork with all the names of the represented movies? Original, unique artwork that can only be found at the TCMFF would sell $30 t-shirts, posters, post-card sets, etc. Just slapping the name of the festival on a black t-shirt is lazy. I wanted to buy something at the shop, but there was just nothing worthwhile. (Psst, my design services are available for such an endeavor, TCM. Call me. You might have a card or two of mine sitting around Hollywood Blvd. somewhere.)
I don’t know if I can make this an every-year trip, but I’m sure going to try. Now that I have a taste of the goodness and know what I’d be missing, it’ll be damn near impossible to sit idly by and watch the barrage of pictures and stories featuring familiar faces and #TCMFF shenanigans.
…so next year (hopefully), I’ll get to come back and be known as something other than just “the #Bond_age_ guy.” “Jay,” for example, would do just fine. Hell, if I’m honest it’s still fun being called the “#Bond_age_ guy.” Carry on, either way.