First up, the music that soothed the savage beast (me) that returned to his room at 2am wired but exhausted and considering how little sleep one needs to function. This year I kept Weyes Blood’s gorgeous new album, Titanic Rising, at the ready for the 2019 TCM Film Festival. If you feel like branching into all of my areas of writing, I penned a review for the record on Spill Magazine.
This is also fitting because my favorite track on the album is titled, appropriately, “Movies.”
Once again a scheduled Cinema Shame podcast recording with Jessica Pickens (@hollywoodcomet) afforded me the opportunity to get out of my Lyft at the Roosevelt, fail to check in at The Roosevelt, and then haul my recording equipment all over Hollywood Boulevard with a Baja Fresh stop sandwiched (burrittoed?) in the middle. Sustenance!
The brief podcast recording in the bag (hint: subscribe to Cinema Shame on iTunes, Stitcher, or Spotify), I returned to the hotel to officially occupy my room. Alas, ’twas not to be. The room was still not yet ready and I spent much of the next hour hanging out in the Roosevelt lobby with @p2wy and @Priscilla_MR21 and staring at the Social Media monitor wondering if we could make meta performance art. Maybe next year, everybody.
I was loathe to leave the lobby because I still held out hope for a shower and wardrobe change after my 5-hour flight. Time wore on and the social media board told me with regularity that more and more people were lining up for my first film selection Night World. (Here’s a reminder of all my pre-TCMFF picks.)
Finally, I abandoned the Roosevelt lobby and made my way over to the Multiplex where I stood in line for a few minutes before I grew restless and headed over to The Egyptian with @middparent. At the very least I could do some walking to stretch the legs and hopefully see some familiar faces in line for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Of course I did — and I ended up talking to @AlanHait for a solid fifteen minutes. A solid fifteen that wasn’t really in line with the whole get back to Night World scenario. The enthusiasm for the Marilyn Monroe / Jane Russell musical overwhelmed me and how could I deny the bombshells my first slot of my 2019 TCM Film Festival. And what a way to christen 2019.
No post-flight shower. No power nap. Just a coupon for a free Roosevelt breakfast and a cocktail for the inconvenience. Commence conditioning.
So my fifth Turner Classic Movies Film Festival has come and gone. Every year they seem shorter. A far too brief immersion in classic film, a four-day window when my affection for old movies becomes commonplace and not a landmine topic with everyday Joes and Janes. (Have you tried discussing how George O’Brien would have made a great 1929 Don Draper outside TCMFF?) Too much longer, however, and would this Spring oasis lose its luster?
Pre-shaven Tom O’Brien in Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans could totally pre-boot a new Mad Men series.
Another year, another festival without a cocktail break or Sh! The Octopus (1937) as a midnight screening. Seriously, Turner Classic Movies folk, there’s no more perfect midnight screening than Sh! The Octopus. Many dozens of people would attest.
I must once again thank my wife who purchased my first ticket to the TCM Film Festival back in 2015, thus opening Pandora’s Box. She still sends me off to L.A. with a mostly genuine smile. While I’ll never convince her to join me for the festival, one of these years she might make the trip. My father-in-law once again chose not to attend, but I still missed his intermittent companionship.
Knowing I’ll be shipping off to Rochester, NY in a couple weeks for the Nitrate Picture Show makes the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival goodbye slightly less bittersweet. Even so, NPS feels like a methadone clinic after the TCMFF addiction.
Until next year…
The #Bond_age_ Guy will return in 2020. XOXO
The view of the Opening Night When Harry Met Sally gala from across the street with the plebes.
2019 TCM Film Festival Final Tally: 16
*denotes never before seen
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
Merrily We Go To Hell (1932)*
Out of Africa (1985)*
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)*
Vanity Street (1932)*
Open Secret (1948)*
Road House (1948)*
Santo vs. the Evil Brain (1961)*
When Worlds Collide (1951)*
Tarzan and His Mate (1934)*
The Great K & A Train Robbery (1926)*
Blood Money (1933)*
Escape from New York (1981)
The Student Nurses (1970)*
Mad Love (1935)
And had I not left early to catch the non-stop mid-afternoon flight back to Pittsburgh, I also would have seen…
Night World (1932)* in the TBA slot
Cold Turkey (1971)*
A Woman of Affairs (1928)*
The Dolly Sisters (1945)*
1290 minutes of movie
12 first-time watches
6 color / 10 B&W
By decade: 1920’s – 2 / 1930’s – 5 / 1940’s – 3 / 1950’s – 2 / 1960’s – 1 / 1970’s – 1 / 1980’s – 2
9 movies on 35mm film (2 on Nitrate) / 7 on DCP
1 bag of popcorn
4 ramen bowls
Most Memorable 2019 TCM Film Festival Festival Experience:
Tarzan and His Mate Nude Swimming / “Tarzan Yell” Sound Effects Presentation
Even though I knew the film contained a scene featuring nudity, I wasn’t quite prepared for how *much* nudity occurs during the infamous swimming scene in Tarzan and His Mate (1934).
Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) takes a nude dip with Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan), and I expected a flash of flesh before submersion. That’s not the scene at all. In what must surely be one of the most ribaldrous scenes in all of pre-code Hollywood (during which there was great amounts of ribaldry), the nudity takes place beneath the water — and suffice to say it’s not a quick flash before a cut away. The scene features every inch of Maureen O’Sullivan’s swim-double (Olympic swimmer Josephine McKim) in a nude underwater ballet with fellow olympian Johnny Weissmuller. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, sure. The water’s rather dark and cloaks the important bits in unfortunate shadow. Shadows not included. The skin (and the face-value absurdities of the Tarzan production itself) received a warm welcome from the TCM Film Festival crowd thoroughly enhancing the shared viewing experience.
Before the presentation sound designer Ben Burtt and visual effects supervisor Craig Barron discussed Tarzan’s technical achievements — including the inhuman composition of the famous yell. Check out my video of the presentation below:
F.W. Murnau’s “one wild night” movie. Lovely and sinister at the same time. And then it’s just lovely. And then it’s sinister. I won’t spoil where it finally lands, but Sunrise boasts remarkable production values for a story about two peasants falling in love again in the shadow of a half-hearted murder attempt.
Shocked by how much I enjoyed Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa. A beautifully simple movie about intricate, complicated humans. It’s also a meditation on our own impermanence and the connectivity between people and places. I had no interest in watching this, but I walked away enraptured. A true #CinemaShame. I would like to understand why people now hate this film. That Best Picture win can and often becomes a curse. If you wait long enough, the backlash will fuel expectations leading to a surprisingly excellent viewing experience.
Last minute change of plans found me scurrying off to visit the newest TCM Film Festival venue, Post 43, to view at least one of the two Tom Mix silent westerns. Timing dictated that I return to the Multiplex before the end of the second half of the double feature to get in line for Blood Money, which would undoubtedly be a hot ticket. I’d seen some Tom Mix shorts, but never a feature. The Great K & A Train Robbery proved to be a wonderful blend of practical stunts and humor. I can see why some have likened Tom Mix to a proto-Jackie Chan. Plus, you can’t beat a live score by the great and powerful Ben Model.
The queue leading into the theater. The TCM Film Festival mural lining the wall.
The beautiful, arched ceiling of the Post 43 theater.
Most Forgettable TCM Film Festival Movie:
I’ve never seen a bad movie at the TCM Film Festival, but there always seems to be one that slips to the back of my mind before the flight home.
Vanity Street (1932)
This dirty little pre-code depression-era noir depicts a gruff police detective rescuing a down-on-her-luck lady who chucked a brick through a pharmacy window so she’d go to prison and finally get regular meals. She winds up with a job as a dancer at the follies and falls in with the wrong crowd (after Mr. Police Dick spurns her advances). Suddenly she’s taking the blame for a murder she didn’t commit and Mr. Police Dick can’t figure where his allegiances lie. Helen Chandler’s a strong screen presence and Charles Bickford plays an amalgam of every hard-boiled undercover cop that ever walked the silver screen. Moderately competent B-Picture with base pleasures to spare. Nifty but overall rather routine.
John Carpenter and Kurt Russell joined TCM host Dave Karger for a chat before the 2019 TCM Film Festival screening of Escape from New York (1981) — my can’t miss event of the festival.
John Carpenter and Kurt Russell introduce Escape from New York.
During the conversation, Kurt Russell discussed the origin of Snake’s eyepatch. It was his idea, although he didn’t consider the depth perception problems that would present on set. Kurt wanted to play Snake Plissken one more time and made Escape from L.A. happen because “he wasn’t getting any younger.”
The artwork in my room at the Roosevelt Hotel.
Someone tell me what this is about.
This picture in my room at the Roosevelt Hotel perplexed me. I looked at it every morning before I left. If this is a particularly important car, it’s lost on me. And the more I thought about it the more obsessed I became, rifling through all of the TV series and movies in my brain. I’m still stumped.
Bill Hader introducing the wonderfully weird Mad Love (1935).
Not to be confused with the also excellent 1946 Peter Lorre hand-horror film The Beast with Five Fingers. If I’m being honest, I’m wishing we had a double feature.
“Wow, you guys are the hardcore nerds.” —Bill Hader addressing the 9am crowd, eager for Peter Lorre’s classic hand-horror flick, Mad Love (1935).
On Conan, Bill Hader describes an incident in the Egyptian bathroom, which feels rather on brand for TCMFF.
Midnight Madness with Beth and Miguel @ Santo vs. the Evil Brain!
Beth Accomando (@cinebeth) passing out Santo masks before the midnight screening of Santo vs. the Evil Brain.
Santo cookies. Mmmm. Santo.
Me, Joel (@joelrwilliams1), Pam (@fallonthornley) and a whole bunch of Mexican wrestlers behind us (including @paula_guthat and @citizenscreen).
Advice for Future Attendees from a 5th Timer – revised and edited from last year’s recap:
If any of this sounds #amazing to you – make every effort to attend the TCMFF. It requires you to plan ahead and commit to the trip long before you actually get anywhere near Hollywood. But you won’t regret any of it. You will only regret never giving it a shot. Warning: it’s addicting. You’ll want to go back because FOMO is real and it is painful.
This past year the dates for the festival were announced in September of 2018. Passes went on sale during November and many tiers sold out. You’ll want to arrange for lodging as soon as the dates are hit the streets. If you want a room as the Roosevelt, book within minutes (seriously). Now that I’ve stayed at the Roosevelt, I must say I prefer the Loews Hollywood, which is attached to the Multiplex, making those 2am walks back incredibly convenient. Many attendees pick up Airbnb accommodations as there are plenty of nearby options!
Prioritize events you’ll never see or experience anywhere else. This includes movies shown on film, rarely screened gems, presentations, talks from famous people who knew other famous people.
Participate in social media. Get to know the people who attend so that you’ll already have a cast list of friends to save you a seat when you’re running late for a screening. As I’ve said before, you’ll go for the movies, but you’ll come back for the people. You also never know when that person you’ve been talking to on social media will pop up in the seat next to you or in the pre-film theater queue. This year I happened to line up behind @SinatrasRatPack at the Egyptian, a fellow with which I’ve been chatting on Twitter for years.
Documenting the queue before Mad Love on Sunday morning — just before @SinatrasRatPack turned around and said, “You’re the #Bond_age_ Guy.”
Bring a portable charger for your phone. You will need your phone for connecting with other moviegoers who are in lines ahead of you. The TCM Film Festival Schedule App helps immensely and updates you with announcements and cancellations. (The app knows everything.) You will need all the extra juice you can get. Don’t rely on being near a charging station. Bring the charger. Charge during the movie. Never run out of juice. You’ll also be popular among those who don’t bring portable chargers.
Eat breakfast every day. I don’t care when you went to sleep the night before. Get up. Shower. Eat breakfast. “Mid-afternoon you” will appreciate the small sleep sacrifice.
Experience the festival at your frequency and speed. If you want to maximize your movie return on value, by all means hit up every slot and every available talk. You won’t regret it. You also won’t regret earmarking some movies to watch later on when you get home and having a leisurely morning or getting a real sit-down meal. If you know you can’t survive the midnights, don’t force yourself. TCMFF is both a sprint and a marathon.
As far as food goes, the ultimate option is the Ramen bar outside the Multiplex. It’s quick and convenient when you’re running in and out of the Multiplex all day. In four days I had four Ramen bowls so I feel qualified to say these things. It’s also not heavy. Those burrito meals put you straight to slumberland.
That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say about the 2019 TCM Film Festival. Oh, one final thing before I put a cap on this year’s festivities. Nikki — aka @NikkiLM4 — puts on a good show (and her basement studio is impressively adorned) but I’m still not convinced she and I attended the same festival. This is where I’d place my annual cocktail picture with #FlatRaquelTCMFF — had Nikki or Flat Raquel actually been at the TCMFF. Instead I’ll just wave goodbye.
(By the way, passes still remain for the 2019 TCM Film Festival. If you feel like a trip to Los Angeles in April, hurry over to the TCM page and pick up a pass today. It’ll be your best purchase of the year.)
Of the films currently scheduled, I’m most excited for Sunrise and Hello Dolly! Why? I’m not sure, exactly, and it’s not always to explain. These just happen to be two films I’ve intended to watch and I can’t think of a better way to do it than at the TCMFF.
According to the website, “The TCM Film Festival 2019 will cover a wide range of programming themes, including our central theme Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies.” From Here to Eternity, The Clock, Gone with the Wind, and Indscreet, certainly fall under that umbrella… and really anything you like once you include films about love and films that we love. The theme actually sounds a bit like a fortune cookie game, except we’ve exchanged “…in bed” for “at the movies.”
You will find love, if you look in uncommon places… at the movies. Lucky Numbers: 2, 6, 9, 12 and 19.
Let’s talk about the fun part of the lead-up to the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival every year. The anticipation. The guessing. The prognosticating. Keep in mind that I have no inside connections or tip-offs, but you may narrow down potential choices by keeping in mind the stated theme and big round number anniversaries.
The following movies are ones I’d like to program for the TCM Film Festival 2019 based on those big round anniversaries. Last year I offered up a bunch of suggestions/predictions and nobody took them, but that won’t stop me from predicting again.
Breaking Away (Peter Yates, 1979)
Snappy dialogue and surprisingly efficient performances. In a way, it’s a kind of traditionally-framed sports movie, yet that’s hardly the point. All the going around and around in circles is like life, you see… it’s the tedium of childhood and the need to escape your comfortable childhood stasis, while the overwhelming centripetal force pulls toward your origination. Maybe I’m digging too deeply into the psychology of a silly little “cycling movie.” Or maybe I’m digging just fine. Despite the contemporaneous affection for Breaking Away, Peter Yates’ film has slipped out of the general public consciousness — and would play like a blockbuster for the TCM Film Festival 2019 crowd. Unfortunately the great Peter Yates is no longer with us, but stars Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher, Jackie Earle Hayley, and Daniel Stern should be ready for a 40th anniversary reunion, right?
Support Your Local Sheriff (Burt Kennedy, 1969)
I watched this for the first time a few years ago, and it immediately shot into my top 25 or so comedies of all time. I had to pause the film to recover from and then rewatch a specific bit where Sheriff James Garner is forced to preside over a jail without walls. Not since childhood have I fallen in love with a film faster than Support Your Local Sheriff. It plays as a comedy and as a revisionist Western and would serve as a wonderful contrast to the already announced Winchester ’73. The supporting cast consisting of Walter Brennan, Harry Morgan, Jack Elam, Bruce Dern, and Henry Jones would create rousing in-theater applause. (Because these crowds clap upon the arrival of favorite actors, you see.) Also, can I be the only person who *always* wants to spell “sheriff” with two R’s?
The Tingler (William Castle, 1959)
1959 seems to be the year of the movies that should be shown in the midnight slot at TCM Film Festival. (See also: The Wasp Woman, The Killer Shrews, and The Giant Leeches) I know people who would buy a ticket JUST to see The Tingler among such a crowd — even minus the gimmick. Though I imagine that if TCM can recreate Smell-o-Vision (as they did for Scent of Mystery in 2016), they can do something to recreate William Castle’s original theatrical presentation of The Tingler, which involved a seat-based vibrating device called “Percepto!” This is pure fun, acid trip, pop-art horror, but it’s also a rather astute analysis of the horror movie experience — and it won’t put our butts to sleep at 1:00am.
edit: Alan Hait dropped the bomb that The Tingler played during the 2nd TCMFF. So, let’s course correct with the aforementioned…
The Wasp Woman (Roger Corman, 1959)
Less effective, but even weirder, The Wasp Woman would make for a solid midnight.
The Passionate Friends (David Lean, 1949)
Call this one a blind program. David Lean directing Claude Rains, Trevor Howard, and Ann Todd sounds like a must watch to me. I missed viewing this on FilmStruck (RIP), and I’ve since listened to multiple podcasts, including Pure Cinema Pod, lauding David Lean’s 1949 film as a masterpiece of romantic melodrama. Our ability to watch this film is currently being limited by the gatekeepers who’ve elected not to make this available on physical media here in the states. As far as I can tell our only option (without importing a foreign DVD) is a Criterion stream though Amazon. (Fingers crossed for the Criterion Channel to carry it when it officially launches.) I’m holding out hope, however, that it’ll appear at the TCM Film Festival 2019.
Midnight (Mitchell Leisen, 1939)
Director Mitchell Leisen made a trio of screwball comedies in the 30s and 40s that should be required viewing for any classic film fan. Remember the Night, Easy Living, and the best of the lot, a 1939 comedic retelling of the Cinderella story, Midnight. This slick under-the-production code farce puts on a school for screenwriters looking to avoid the heavy hand of the Hays office. A terrific script by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett is made more perfect by the rapport between Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche. Supporting cast includes John Barrymore, Francis Lederer, and Mary Astor. Out of all the essential screwball comedies of the 1930’s this is, in my opinion, the one that’s tragically the least known.
edit: And Ana Roland reminded me that Midnight played at a festival I attended! Wow. How memories get jumbled. So let’s swap it out for…
The Saint Strikes Back (John Farrow, 1939)
aka The Saint in San Francisco. This, the first of the SAINT films with Sanders, finds its groove in the scathing wit of the ever holier-than-thou Sanders – who shares an especially memorable scene with an Irish safecracker whom he steals into his employ and then punches in the face. He does this because it makes their story play– but also because he just really wants to punch this guy in the face I think. And that’s the crux of the character. His intentions are always purer than his motivations…
Stay tuned for another round of picks in the coming weeks when I’ll probably just start rambling about SH! THE OCTOPUS.