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.
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:
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!
(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.
Hamlet skull gracing the enveloping screen at the Cinerama Dome before GRAND PRIX.
I tend to catalog my TCM Film Festival experiences by the music that sang me to sleep each evening as flickering images of movies danced in my head. This festival definitely had a piano jazz vibe going for it, so naturally I featured Bill Evans and Bud Powell in heavy rotation. I encourage you to play the following record while reading this recap so you can put yourself in the proper mood.
I landed in Los Angeles about noon and made it over to my hotel a little after 2pm. I checked my suitcase, tossed my computer and microphone into my backpack and rushed over for the recording.
Podcast recording managed (and mostly intelligible) but you can be the judge (hint: subscribe to Cinema Shame on iTunes or Stitcher), I headed back to the Loews, finally checked into my room and showered off the 5-hour flight. Without further adieu I joined the chaos on Hollywood Boulevard (once again forgetting to navigate the sections that had been roped off for the big red carpet event) to retrieve my festival badge from the Roosevelt Hotel.
The historic Roosevelt Hotel — the center of all TCM Film Festival happenings.
Seeing as how I had press credentials this year, I was able to snag a free cup of lukewarm carafe coffee and a bottle of Evian (oooh la la) from the press room along with my welcome back containing a big book and a bottle of TCM Chardonnay. With that extra tonnage added to my satchel, I wandered back downstairs to lazily mingle in the lobby.
Alas. ’twas not to be.
While in the lobby, I noticed the big social media board. Tweets and Instagrams tagged with #TCMFF find their way onto the board. I noticed three or four featured tweets mentioning people already lining up for Finishing School (1934) at 7:00pm. I checked the time. Only 4:15pm. Pre-code. Multiplex Theatre 4 Thunderdome in full effect. No rest for weary same-day travelers/podcasters.
I arrived at the Finishing School queue at around 4:45pm, after a quick stop in Baja Fresh for some sustenance. (My first and only burrito of the festival — a miracle in an of itself.) My festival had officially begun. By the time I found my seat, I regretted the lack of a power nap, but I at least had my burrito.
Each year I’ve written a “letter” about my TCMFF experience. It began as an email to friends and family while waiting for my delayed red eye in Los Angeles and it continued as a means to briefly describing my experience to anyone who cared to read it.
The Yearly TCMFF Letter
Dear So and Sos:
This year I attended my fourth Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. They’ve grown no less rewarding. Some festivals are better than others, but all of them have their own flavor and their own individual vibe. As much as the movies, it’s a time to congregate with friends. I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to know so many like-minded movie fanatics during these last four years. In many ways, it feels like prime time for movie fans. Back home in our respective hamlets, we’re all “the movie people.” At TCMFF, I’m humbled by the knowledge of my fellow attendees. In certain respects it feels very much like a return to film school — just on a self-study program.
I’m still pushing for a built-in cocktail hour so we can all hang out (and not at the expense of any particular movie). We all go for the movies, but we keep coming back for the camaraderie and conversation.
As I’m ever grateful to my wife for purchasing that first pass for me as a Christmas present in 2015, I hope she shares some of my enthusiasm (and not just tolerance) as the reason I’m able to return to Hollywood every spring. Maybe one day I’ll convince her to come out with me. Maybe. For anyone looking to attend their first festival — be careful — that first taste is addicting.
And to my father-in-law, Andy, who could not attend this year’s festival — your company was very much missed. And I’m quite sure you would have really enjoyed TCM’s 2018 offerings. Hopefully you’ll make it back out in 2019. I’ll save you a seat.
Until next year….
The “Bond_age_ Guy” will return in 2019.
2018 TCM Film Festival Recap and Vital Statistics
I stuck largely to my original TCMFF 2018 plan. I deviated on a couple of occasions due to unforeseen circumstances and timing issues. I also chose a more leisurely festival experience compared to prior years. I didn’t stalk any celebrities this year (see 2016 and Gould, Elliott). I partook of some bloody undead cookies, got a Mark Hamill “like” on my Tweet about tracking down his brand new star on the Walk of Fame, and received a tour of the projection room at The Egyptian. (Thanks for the introductions, Deborah!)
2018 TCM Film Festival Final Tally: 14.2
*denotes never before seen
Finishing School (1934)* – 35mm
Throne of Blood (1957) – 35mm
Grand Prix (1966)* – Cinerama
The Set-Up (1949)* – 35mm
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)* – 35mm
The Exorcist (1973)
The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962)*
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)*
Girls About Town (1931)* – 35mm
Show People (1928)* – 35mm
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)*
(part of) The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – 35mm
Had I not chosen the earlier non-stop flight home, I would have theoretically also seen:
This Thing Called Love (1940)* or Hamlet (1948)
A Star is Born (1937)* or The Phantom of the Opera (1925)*
1,438 minutes of movie
10 first time watches
9 B&W, 5.2 color
By decade – 1920’s: 1 / 1930’s: 3 / 1940’s: 2 / 1950’s: 1 / 1960’s: 5 / 1970’s: 2.2
6.2 movies on film, 8 movies on DCP or digital
3 bags of popcorn
Most Memorable Festival Experience:
Grand Prix (1966) at the Cinerama Dome
Like 2016, the Cinerama Dome again boasts my favorite TCMFF event. There’s something about the venue. Maybe it’s the spectacle. Maybe it’s the Intermissions. Maybe it’s just the fact that you’re watching a movie with hundreds of people who blocked off an entire morning for a certain kind of experience, forsaking multiple movies for a little jaunt over to the Cinerama Dome.
That said, I’ve become so fond of the Cinerama Dome, I made it my iPhone lock screen.
Frankenheimer’s Formula One racing scenes enveloped the audience with boneshaking rumble and sickness-inducing car-mounted camerawork. This was an experience that just could not be duplicated elsewhere. I’m glad I made the last minute schedule adjustment, bypassing Intruder in the Dust (1949) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957), two films I can watch at home without much lost in translation.
If we’re talking scope and scale, I don’t know of a bigger Western than Sergio Leone’s 1968 masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in the West. Project that onto the IMAX screen at the TCL Chinese Theatre and you’ve got an experience you won’t see anywhere else. I’ve had Once Upon a Time in the West on my Cinema Shame list for years now. I’ve never been so happy I waited (unintentionally) to see a movie for the first time.
Imagine Bronson close-up coming at you in IMAX, four stories large.
The winner of The Big Lebowski and Jeff Bridges vs. Scarface and John Carpenter battle. But not necessarily by choice. Due to a fire alarm incident in my prior film (Show People at the Egyptian),I exited the theater 15 minutes late — which made it impossible to make it over to the TCL Chinese Theatre in five minutes for the start of The Big Lebowski. Howard Hawks’ gangster classic began 15 minutes later and thus my decision was made. John Carpenter strode into the venue like a rock star, spoke about the film’s “X” motif, made a feisty comment about Ann Dvorak, and then the Master of Horror exited stage right. 3 minutes and 20 seconds of John Carpenter.
John Carpenter introduces Howard Hawks’ Scarface (1932) at the 2018 TCM Film Festival.
And speaking of the movie that made me late for seeing the Dude… Show People proved to be a delight that made the delay worthwhile. I’m not particularly well versed in Marion Davies. I’ve seen more movies featuring characters based on Marion Davies than I’ve seen Marion Davies movies. King Vidor’s Show People showcased Davies’ uncanny comedic abilities — one would have thought that the “ponce-y” face that became an overworked gag through the latter half of this film would have grown stale. It should have grown stale, but Marion Davies does so much with such a little tic that it always landed. More Marion Davies silent comedies, please.
The best part of waking up is a lynching in your cup. And all this time you thought it might have been Folgers. (For the record, Folgers is a reason not to get out of bed in the morning.) Gripping dissection of the mob-mentality justice system and how the rule of law, innocence until proven guilty, provides the foundation for a civilized society. Wellman’s stoic drama hammers its point home with a gut-punch ending. Peter Fonda has rarely been better than he is here. The way he straddles moral conscience with minor scoundrel distills the best of his on-screen persona. A beautifully shot film with an equally astute sense of tone.
Tarantino must have assimilated this film into the DNA of Pulp Fiction’s boxing segment — the difference is that Bruce Willis takes the money and refuses to go down. The look, the chiaroscuro, the narrative. Robert Ryan gives a desperate performance as the boxer who doesn’t know he was supposed to throw a fight. Wise keeps the film clipping along in real time, and Audrey Totter makes something of a character that could have been a throwaway bit of feminine angst. Other than an unintentionally funny line from Totter at the end (not her fault) The Set-Up maintains consistent tension from start to finish, and Wise does a tremendous job of showcasing the men who box rather than just a boxing match.
Not that it was a poor film, just that a year from now this is probably the movie that’ll disappear from my memory. A pretty rote pre-code affair with a nice central performance from Francis Dee. Beulah Bondi’s headmistress villain (as scripted) might be a little over the top. Ginger Rogers slides into the background too early. I definitely liked this more than the midnight show of The World’s Greatest Sinner, but being perfectly “fine” becomes this film’s major bugaboo.
Advice for Future Attendees from a 4thTimer – 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 L.A. 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.
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.
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 Schedule App helps immensely and updates you with announcements and cancellations. 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.
Experience the festival at your frequency. 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.
Hydrate, caffeinate and just enjoy your surroundings — even the shaggy pair of Wookies wandering around Hollywood Blvd.
Oh, and one more thing… the Theater 4 Thunderome lives! While I didn’t get shut out of Theater 4 this year, I know many people who suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
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.