Year after year, I’ve looked at other bloggers with a mix of admiration and jealousy as they’ve intricately planned out their schedules at the annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. Every spring it’s the same thing, seeing other bloggers post like debauched emperors, “Should I perchance suckle upon a new restoration of The Thin Man or mayhaps take a luxurious nibble on the cheek of a personal appearance by Jane Seymour?”
Well, the shoe’s on the other foot this year, jerks! As my first post on the subject noted, I, too, will get to be a debauched emperor as I will be attending the TCM Film Festival in just a few short weeks. That means I get to put together my own Nero-at-an-orgy schedule of unearthly delights of the cinematic realm. (And no promises as to whether or not I’m just wearing a bedsheet while writing this.)
My plan so far is to arrive in Los Angeles around noon on Wednesday, the 25th. I lucked out in two regards: my wife has a friend who lives in Studio City who will let me crash on their couch, and I got media credentials for the Festival, meaning that all I’m spending money on during the festival is travel, food, and bail money for any attempt I may make to steal Ann-Margaret.
I’ve pretty much been following Will McKinley’s obsessive-compulsive guide to the festival from last year which has helped shape a lot of my planning, and, if you’re going, it’s a must read. Most of my choices for the following schedule are based on these criteria, in order:
- This is a pre-Code site, so I’m giving those movies priority. There are six on the schedule: Queen Christina (1933), The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), Don’t Bet on Women (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), 42nd Street (1933), and Air Mail (1932), though a few conflict as you’ll see below.
- Personal appearances or Q&A events take priority over regular repertory screenings.
- Movies I haven’t seen before take precedence over those I have, unless they’re a favorite.
- Several other bloggers have said that you should try to see at least one show at every different venue your first year, just in case you don’t make it back. And for that I will strive!
As always, choosing what to see and what to skip is like playing Tetris on its highest levels, only instead of being met with .midis of sped up Russian music, you’re missing out on opportunities that you will never have again in your entire life. With this in mind (and the fact that the trip from Japan to America will probably leave me a bit jet lagged), here’s what I’m planning on for the time being:
Thursday, March 26th
Unsurprisingly, the easiest day to plan is the one with the fewest showings. My plan right now is pretty obvious, but here you go:
- 1:00 PM – Meet TCM – I’ve never met TCM before, so this seems like an appropriate way to begin.
- 3:00 PM – So You Think You Know Movies – I’m actually pretty terrible at film trivia (I have no idea why considering how many I’ve watched), but I’m still excited to attend the event since it will be hosted by Bruce Goldstein. For those of you who don’t know, Goldstein was the person widely credited with coining the phrase ‘pre-Code’ in defining the films of the early 30s. If I’m lucky, I can pester him for an email address or phone number for an interview at a later date. And I can embarrass myself at trivia, that’s always good.
- 5:00 PM – Welcome Party / Sound of Music Red Carpet – Kind of hedging my bets on this one. Bloggers sometimes get red carpet access, though I have a hard time believing I would be granted it (“Yes, as a person who blogs exclusively about the early 1930s, I think my readers would love awkward pictures of Julie Andrews.”). Then again, I didn’t think I’d get media credentials, so I’m riding this crazy train so far as I can take it. This also heavily depends on whether or not there is food at the Welcome Party, as I’m one of those gross people who will eat 30-40 cheese cubes and call it dinner. Is there booze there? I feel like there should be booze there.
- 6:30 PM – Queen Christina – Amazingly, the DVD of Queen Christina just arrived last week since I was planning to review it in August (this is how far I plan ahead, people), but revisiting it on the big screen with a crowd beforehand will undeniably be a wonderful experience. This will also be my first Garbo movie on the big screen, which I’ve heard can be revelatory.
- 9:45 PM – Breaker Morant – This one is iffy. While I love My Man Godfrey which is playing at 10, I’ve never seen Breaker but have always heard good things. I think this one will depend on the jetlag at this point anyway.
Friday, March 27th
Friday morning and there’s already challenges. That, and it’s probably the largest amount of movies that I’m going to sit through in a day in the whole festival. Let’s hope that jetlag is either gone or my crippling caffeine addiction is in full swing when we get to this point.
- 9:00 AM – The Dawn of Technicolor – Believe it or not, this is actually the toughest choice for me in the entire festival. Also playing during this slot is one of my favorite films, Inherit the Wind, the pre-Code classic The Smiling Lieutenant, and the undeniably sublime My Darling Clementine. The Dawn of Technicolor presentation wins out here because I’m partway through reading the book of the same name released just a few weeks ago (look for a review here this same time next week) and because I’m more interested in getting a lecture on film history and a chance to see clips of so many movies (including I assume some pre-Code two-strip Technicolor sequences) over rehashing stuff I’ve seen before. I hope I’m making the right decision. Oh god, I hope.
- 11:30 – Lenny – As opposed to the earlier slot, the noonish slot doesn’t have anything to grab me. While I love Purple Rose of Cairo, there’s no discussion or interviews to really elevate the screening. The other two films at the time I’ve never heard of and don’t really do anything for me, and the Club TCM discussion… well, I just disagree with its premise and will probably spend most of the time wanting to yell things, so that’s a pass. Lenny wins out by process of elimination.
- 3:15 PM – The Cincinnati Kid – Live appearance by Ann-Margaret? Yes, please. It doesn’t hurt that the movie’s a lot of fun, to boot. The only option I’m regretting missing out on is a no-frills showing of Chimes at Midnight, which I’ve heard good things about.
- 5:30 PM – Don’t Bet on Women – TCM’s pick for their rare pre-Code is 1931’s Don’t Bet on Women, which they tout as the only film in which Jeanatte MacDonald does not sing, which almost automatically puts it in my good graces. It also sounds like it’s been newly restored, so it’s an easy choice.
- 7:15 PM – Steamboat Bill, Jr. – I know up above I said I’d prioritize pre-Codes, and while I do deeply enjoy James Whale’s The Invisible Man, I actually have to write a review of it before I leave for the upcoming Villains Blogathon, so I should be sick of it by the time I get to TCMFF. Add to that that Steamboat Bill is getting live accompaniment and it’s a no-brainer.
- 9:15 PM – Bank Dick or Roman Holiday – This slot is kind of depressing. Apollo 13 was one of those movies that made my adolescence, one that I watched over and over again when I was young. And while that was formative, I’m not so sure I need to see it on the big screen again. I was never a huge fan of Rebecca, and while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of my favorite Bond movies, it does get rather tiring at a point. The War Game sounds fascinating, but considering it was made-for-TV, I probably don’t need to see it on the big screen. Since The Bank Dick includes appearances of several of W.C. Fields’ kin, that will have to be my pick. (Though, if my wife were able to come this year, it would have been Roman Holiday, one of her favorite movies, hands down.)
- 12:00 AM – Boom – Always down for midnight movies, and this one sounds interesting.
Saturday, March 28th
Where I packed my schedule with movies on Friday, Saturday I’m looking at doing a little less. We’ll see how that works out.
- 11:30 AM – 42nd Street – Busby Berkeley on the big screen is one of the biggest attractions there is for anything. It’s a new restoration, too… dare we hope a blu-ray is coming our way?
- 1:45 PM – Air Mail/The Picture Show Man or Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Sophia Loren – Another pre-Code rarity making an appearance… but, then again, Sophia Loren. Since I can’t make the Norman Lloyd talk since that’d mean missing 42nd Street, this would have to be the live filming to attend. If you want to vote in the comments which I should see here, this is a Sophia’s Choice if ever there was one.
- 6:00 PM – The Apartment – Neither hell nor highwater can keep me from this. I’ll skip The Picture Show Man and just stand in line for this if need be.
- 9:30 PM – Return of the Dream Machine – This one just intrigues me on a film nerdery level. Silent films will be shown via hand cranked projectors. Though I’ve seen a couple of the films before, it’ll still be a unique experience for sure.
- 12:00 AM – Nothing Lasts Forever – The #TCMParty crew on Twitter recently went nuts for this one, a fairly rare/weird comedy that features cameos from a number of SNL players. Looks pretty nifty, and the chance of another theatrical screening of the film any time soon seems nil, so I’ll grab this one if I can.
Sunday, March 29th
Sunday is the hardest to plan because several showings at the Chinese Multiplex are still marked TBA, so there’s a big chance that this whole thing could be upended in a few weeks time. As for now, my schedule is relatively tame:
- 10:00 AM – Calamity Jane – This is a purely nostalgic pick on my part since I grew up watching the movie with my sisters and mother singing along. The late start time helps, too, since I don’t know how much sleep I’ll be running on at this point.
- 1:00 PM – 100 Years of Title Design – I like titles that have been designed.
- 3:00 PM – A Conversation with Shirley MacLaine – If entrance to this event is decided by an arm wrestling competition, I shall rip my opponent’s appendage from their body.
- 8:15 PM – The Grim Game – The only movie I was ordered to go see by my father. That’s because my great-grandfather was actually an assistant to Houdini at one point, though no one knows for how long that actually entailed. I’ve been told to watch this and keep an eye out for people in the movie who look a lot like myself, which is always a fun endeavor during basically any motion picture.
- 9:00 PM – Official Closing Night Party – I just want free cheese cubes. Give me free cheese cubes, TCM.
I’ll list other bloggers here when I see them post their breakdowns. If you’ll be there, hopefully we’ll get to sit in line and chat and/or throw business cards at each other. I have a business card for this site! It probably won’t surprise you that Joan Blondell is on it…
But I’m very excited, and its hard to believe that this is only two weeks away. TWO WEEKS AWAY. … LET’S DO THIS.
So what do you think? Am I making any ghastly errors? What would you like me to cover in particular? Let me know in the comments!