TCMFF 2018 Wrap-Up: “It’s like putting a saddle on a pekingese but here it is.”

The 2018 Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) has come to a crashing close. There were tears, there was laughter, there was a whole lot more Barry Fitzgerald than I would have suspected.

Some quick stats from me:

  • My total, if my math can be trusted, was twelve films, three shorts that were in the presentations, and four additional introductions I snuck in for. About half and half were new-to-me films versus rewatches.
  • Somehow, this was the third time I’ve seen Safety Last, or part of it, in the theater, second time for “Never Weaken”. Everything else was the first time I caught it on the big screen.
  • I actually managed to see a movie in every venue, including every house of the multiplex, the Arclight, and the Linnwood Dunne theater.
  • Lowest number was ‘2’ for Girls About Town (Joelllll), highest was 460-something for Bullitt.

The Hits

  • The art direction of the festival – Besides hearing plenty of people ‘ooh’ing and ‘ahh’ing over the festival guide this year, the look of the logo and design of the advertising and badges was immaculate. The Festival moved beyond its often-minimalist look into something that was a nice mix of vintage and modern.
  • Seeing movies as they were originally intended to be shown – My favorite screening at the Festival, of Grand Prix, preserved the original experience of seeing one of the last roadshow movies right down to the programs. Others, like the hand cranked Harold Lloyd shorts, were also a blast to witness. It takes a lot of work and coordination to go back to these more rudimentary methods, but it makes them extra special to be sure.
  • Wine samples at the poolside screenings – I drank a lot less this year than previously (this is also the first year I didn’t suffer a hangover/jetlag/get sick; coincidence?), but free samples of the TCM-branded wine at the poolside screenings were a very nice touch, especially considering how much that would have costed at the bar. The free boas for the Roaring Twenties party (which was a similarly great idea) made the event even more special. My two-year-old loves her new boa now, too.
  • The Backlot events – I lucked out and attended two of them. Even though one of them was literally watching someone discuss a dozen movie posters, it was filled with great tidbits about both poster collecting and the collector’s own work within the industry. (Who doesn’t love interacting with someone who knew Stanley Kubrick on a first name basis?)
  • The setup for the closing party – The lobby of the Roosevelt was much better managed than in previous years, and the bar was much oriented than before.
  • The photo printing kiosks – They were great! I wish the photos were stored for longer, but c’est la vie.
  • Bruce Goldstein’s intros – I saw him do both Blessed Event and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and both were witty, funny, and extremely knowledgeable. (I know, not a surprise.) My wife even remarked that she wished he could give tips to a few of the other hosts.
  • Leonard Maltin’s intros – I saw a ton of Leonard Maltin this year. There is never too much Leonard Maltin.
  • The community – As always, I saw festival goers help one another out, take pictures of strangers and share stories freely. There’s colorful characters of all types– I still can’t believe how many times that one guy said he’d seen Napoleon in the theater– and the passion for these films and history is plentiful.

The Misses

  • A few low-content introductions – While there were some very informative ones, others… not so much. Especially bad was the one before Where the Boys Are and the one for I Take this Woman which, as previously noted, wasn’t for the right movie. (I mean, at least the latter one was kind of funny.) A couple of cancellations also meant that we had some TCM hosts just riffing as the intros, which wasn’t the greatest either.
  • The disappearance of the multiplex cutouts – The cutouts in the previous two years were a lot of fun to interact with and made for some unique pictures. Their replacement, lit up displays of posters and festival images less so. Besides the fact that backlighting these displays meant that the person in the photo was almost certain to be dark in the resulting picture, there was plenty of other festival material elsewhere to pose with, making this seem redundant.
  • They didn’t show the musical version of Lost Horizon even though Olivia Hussey was right there – I’m probably the only one complaining about this, but still.
  • No festival poster for sale. – I know it was to try and get me to bump up to Essential level, but it’s still surprising to me that these weren’t offered at the shop, especially considering all the great designs they had this year.
  • I Take This Woman (1931)This pre-Code just seemed downright mean to show, it’s so bad. Did they lose a bet with UCLA or something?
  • Not tracking the handicapped seating for those waiting in line – I heard a couple of gripes about this this year, as there is a limited amount in each theater. Not keeping track of it can lead to real headaches as people with disabilities may not be able to get seating despite long wait times.
  • Putting the line for Theater 4 outside – Luckily, the weather this year was pleasant (probably the best we’ve had, tbh), but this arrangement left many people confused, which isn’t the best since getting into a show in Theater 4 is hard enough already without the added thrill of just finding the line. Adding the extra lines inside for the other two theaters just seemed to confuse them as well, and didn’t really prevent much of anything that wasn’t already happening. (Also, that meant you can’t take your beer out to wait with you in line.)
  • And the biggest– no sitting in line. – This measure may have been meant to try and stop people from squatting for the screenings they really wanted, but in reality it seemed to punish people with injuries or disabilities.

Final Thoughts & Hopes

Overall, it was another really fun festival that just went by in a flash. My wife, who made it for the entire week this go around, was still being introduced to new people at the closing party.

Next year will be the 10th TCM Classic Film Festival (and my fifth, barring anything terrible from happening) (again). I’m sure the nostalgia will be fast and furious, and the guests appropriately epic. As for hopes, mine would be along the lines of more obscure pre-Codes (as it always is) and maybe a few Allan Carr musicals, because I love them all.

But that’s the Film Festival for you, too. Some years are more satisfying than others, and this was a darned good one.

For all of my coverage of TCMFF over the years, please click here.