Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (TCMFF) 2016 Wrap-Up

Before we begin, you can read all of my previous daily entries for this year’s festival here. These include breakdowns of what I saw and amusing bon mots that I have the delusional thought that you’ll enjoy.

The Hits

The staff. This is going to sound like sycophantic bullshit, but, honestly, the people running the lines, running the trivia, and even the bartender (we’re beard bros) are all so nice and understanding. They had a lot of difficulties to overcome, not the least of which was the fire alarm on Friday, which everyone I talked to agreed they handled superbly.

– The TCL Standees. Last year at the TCL Chinese Multiplex, there was a large area for people to record videos talking about their love of film. Some of these even ended up on the network, but let’s be truthful here—it’s hard to be emotionally raw in the middle of bustling multiplex, so it was sparsely used. This year a number of three dimensional standees were erected to put the viewers into the scene themselves. This included Pride of the Yankees, The Bandwagon, and Rocky. It’s a lot more fun and I saw some great pics come out of it. (Though why not make it so you could be in the garbage chariot from Horse Feathers with the Marxes? … I know, I know, now someone thinks of it.)

That Shanghai Express digital restoration. Holy shit, guys. Just tell me you have Blonde Venus in queue next.

Adding monitors to the back of Club TCM. Even though I didn’t huddle in the back corner as much as I did in 2015, this addition makes the space much more functional.

The guests. Though I heard complaints about interviewers and being able to see people, the roster for the year was fabulous. I’m not much for celebrity spotting, but it’s great to see people like Ted Donaldson just hanging out in Club TCM and chatting with fans or to nosh a few tables down from Norman Lloyd. Even beyond the personal encounters, I saw Leonard Maltin, Angela Lansbury, Talia Shire, Elliot Gould, Rita Moreno, authors Illeana Douglas and Mark A. Vieira, the sons of both Josef von Sternberg and William Wyler, and Eddie Muller god knows how many times.  If I have to be totally honest, it was just a lot of fun.

The midnight shows. I was kind of disappointed when they were announced since I knew Roar had already gotten some national play and Gog was being rereleased, but as someone without the opportunity to see them otherwise, this venue was ideal. If only the TCL Multiplex kept the bar open past 10:30, I mean.

Hanging out with friends and making new ones. So one lesson I learned this year was to ask people their Twitter handle when you meet them. A number of people seemed familiar, but I didn’t place them until people started responding to my tweets. Sorry, I’m just shy and weird like that. Otherwise, jumping back into the festival was seamless (no, not seemly), and I stick by my assertion that it’s more fun to wait in line for an hour with friends you hardly get to see than just about anything else in the world.

The Misses

The ribbons and social producers. Last year there was a set of 6 collectable buttons that you could get from social producers. This year the festival reversed course and went with 27 ribbons that could be added to the bottom of your pass. How do you find ribbons? Well, theoretically the social producers—people lugging around big bags and with the letters ‘SP’ on their badge—are who to go to. Even if they don’t have them, they should know where they are, right? Well, that leads us to the first problem: some social producers have nothing to do with the ribbons and are simply generating content for TCM. Some are there to play games in line for ribbons, but all of their activities are different and not even they seem to know what one another has. I think more specificity and conformity is needed and maybe split up the social producers into different categories to help make it less confusing. If I, a person constantly connected on Twitter and who knows most of these people personally, is confused, I doubt that  And let’s be honest, buttons are better than ribbons.

Fucking Double Harness, man. Both screenings were packed—so much so that none of the non-Spotlight pass holders past #50 for either showing. That’s an insane ratio, and it even took the TCM staffers by surprise—festival programmer Charlie Tabesh actually apologized for underestimating it on Twitter.  While I’m bummed I didn’t get in, it’s wonderful to see such a good movie get such a reception. And, hopefully, this means next year we’ll see William Powell appear in a bigger theater…

No free booze in Club TCM. I mean, I know, but when the hotel charges you $12 for a beer poolside (which is the amount a six pack costs down the street), just the ability to get trashed at a decent rate makes things so much more financially responsible. Having a cash bar at the closing night party also stung a bit.

The Horse Feathers restoration. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a theater before where crazy wild laughter so quickly died into concerned murmuring. But, hey, I haven’t watched a Nicholas Cage movie in a while.

The unknown future for most of the obscure titles. My two favorite showings last year, Don’t Bet on Women and The Grim Game, still haven’t made an appearance on physical media, and have only gotten one-time-only plays on TCM. (Well, two times for Grim Game since they showed it twice on the same day.) How am I supposed to tell people to rush out and watch Pleasure Cruise or A House Divided when, well, they can’t?

The cool shit I didn’t do because I’m lame. Look, I’m not a saint. I made mistakes this year. I’ll be punching myself in the balls for a while for missing the History of Vitaphone presentation, no doubt about that. And I’m also bummed about skipping 6 Hours to Live (I knew I shouldn’t have!) and the smell-o-vision Scent of Mystery.

And the Big Questions

I was going to do a Twitter survey for this, but I figure I can get lengthier answers out of you here. If I manage to go back to the TCMFF next year (no promises, but I’m always hopeful!), should I…

– stick with nightly updates even if that means mostly missing early screenings?

– just do a big recap post when the thing is over?

– attend all of the pre-Code showings no matter what?

– attend more of the special events?

– at least post a picture of Lassie for goodness sake?

– watch as many movies as possible?

– drink more?

– drink less? (screw you)

– stop talking about other bloggers so much and focus on the movies?

– only talk about how cool and smart Kristen Sales is? (she’d like that)

– actually grab Ben Mankiewicz’s rear next time and not just mime doing it?

Let me know, I’m genuinely curious. Pre-Code.Com will be returning to its regular schedule on Friday with a review of the great Imitation of Life.

To all my friends I got to see in Hollywood,– I was talking about this last night– it’s truly amazing that we have such a wonderful opportunity, all of us, with all of our divergent interests, to meet up once a year and go crazy. I actually delayed this post by a full day because I’m having trouble admitting it’s over once again.

If you’ve never been to TCMFF, here’s my advice. Go to Facebook, join ‘Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival!’. Post about yourself and look into a few posts. If it whets your appetite and you have a Twitter account (or don’t mind getting one), look into the #TCMParty hashtag. In both of those places you’ll find some of the most devoted and sociable TCM fans out there, and they will be able to give you tons of advice about attending, from hotels to screenings. It makes things so much easier, and gives you an idea of what it’s like to be in one of the crowded, wildest places in the world with people who devoutly share your interest in these old cinematic wonders.

And that does it for me from TCMFF 2016. Cheers!

15 Replies to “Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (TCMFF) 2016 Wrap-Up”

  1. As far as your strategy (all Pre-Code, one wrap-up vs daily recaps, etc), here’s my approach fwiw: Come up with a strategy, any strategy. Make your preliminary schedule based on that. Then use it as a blueprint, much like Grant and Loy in Mr. Blandings—be flexible on account of shifting conditions and always follow your gut, even if it leads you to something that’s nowhere on your plan. That’s how I ended up at Joan of Arc instead of Manchurian Candidate, and while I will forever regret missing Lansbury I will forever thrill to the memory of the Dreyer. I snuck in both The Kid and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and they were both religious experiences. Looking back over what I saw (and what I missed) I regret not seeing Bulldog Drummong, Double Harness, Pleasure Cruise, Six Hours to Live, etc. But it’s all good, and I wouldn’t change a thing. That’s my two cents. Well, maybe four…

  2. Danny,
    One day, I WILL get to TCMFF. It’s recaps like yours that stiffen my resolve to do it, no matter the financial sacrifices that may be required. I love the stories of what you did, but also what you “failed” to do. That’s real, as is taking the opportunity to enjoy drinks in Hollywood. I’m a classic cocktail snob, so drink on, I say. For those of us who aspire to going to the festival, the detail about how things actually work, and what events did and did not work is a huge help to my planning-focused brain. I’ll read you next year if you go, or perhaps hang out with you at the bar.

  3. GOG was not a rerelease, we presented the world premiere of a brand new restoration. This was the first time it was seen in widescreen, 3-D and color on a big screen since 1954!

  4. Okay, here’s my two cents:

    -I prefer your nightly recaps, they make me feel as if I’m taking part in the action. Like everything is happening in real time for me (someone who’s sitting at home in Toronto and not partying her life away in Hollywood where she *should* be).

    -I’m torn on whether or not you should attend all the pre-Code showings … I mean, it would be ideal seeing as how that’s what your blog focuses on, but it’s not required. If there’s another screening you’d like to attend over a pre-Code one, then who’s to say you shouldn’t go? It’s YOUR money you used to pay for your trip so why do what other people are telling you?

    -Who cares about Lassie?

    -Definitely drink MORE. You, sir, are hilarious when you’re drunk.

    -I think you should grab as much ass as possible. Just don’t get arrested.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed your recaps and would also like to vote “drink more” if I can somehow be involved (maybe another congratulatory beer?). I think you captured the social aspect really well in your posts and the way you wrote them was incredibly entertaining. I’m sure having everything fresh in your mind helped!

    Since you skipped a few movies, maybe attend more special events? That’s what I do. I don’t think I could sit through 5 movies in a day. I was so tired by the last day I only went to one and did a few special events instead.

    I’m really sad I missed Roar. It did sound like a blast. Also yes to grabbing Mankiewicz’s butt and keep talking about the bloggers! Us bloggers have something special in that we have built-in network of friends at the festival. I did speak to a passholder who seemed kind of lonely. She comes every year but by herself and was drinking alone at the closing night party. I talked to her for a bit because I know I’d be in the same position if I didn’t have the blogging community there.

    1. Yeah, I always mean to write about that, but I do see people who need friends hanging around. I’m very shy myself– I know the first year I had trouble introducing myself and felt very awkward at several points. That’s why I ended with all of the suggestions of how to connect with people before the festival. There’s a lot of opportunities, you just need to know where to look– and you need to put yourself out there a bit.

      I really would love to do more events, but it’s always been hard for me to see repertory screenings in every place I’ve lived, so a lot of this stuff is hard for me to reason missing. I’m really happy I caught the Bromberg presentation– it was probably one of my favorite things.

      Meanwhile, I do think next year I might suggest TCM create a separate category for press that just involves standing in the back, listening to the presentations, and leaving for films. I always feel bad for taking a seat and leaving when I just want to see the speaker. There should be a way to get around that….

      And, yes, we should definitely get some more drinks together! Woo!

  6. “Fucking Double Harness, man.” Seriously, that was one of the bigger surprises to me.

    As a social producer, I get what you mean about the group and the ribbons. We actually go over everyone’s assignment beforehand, but with like 20 of us, it does get confusing. (Though I had a screenshot of Kellee’s face that I would show to people who were searching for ribbons. For real.) Some people loved the ribbons, some people prefer buttons, but in the very least, it would have been nice to post pictures and names of who had them at the Info Desk and elsewhere. In the past, it’s been much easier to locate these sorts of collectibles.

    I only got to read one of your daily posts during the fest – cause I was, like, trying this thing called sleep 🙂 – but like Vanessa said above, these posts definitely help those not attending the fest feel like they are there, to an extent. I have no clue how you’re able to do that and also survive the madness, but it is a pretty amazing feat. That being said, I do remember talking to you about this in Club TCM and how you missed some of the earlier screenings to write/sleep. Honestly, I don’t think anyone is going to revolt or make a fuss if you don’t post daily and just do a recap at the end, if that means you get to watch some other movies or go to special presentations you want to attend that you would have otherwise missed out on.

    Oh, and I also agree with Raquel on adding more special events. I tend to skip movies I’ve seen before in favor of this stuff, because presentations like the History of Vitaphone or Amazing Film Discoveries you aren’t likely to see elsewhere. Or at least in Japan. (Sorry to rub that Vitaphone one in.)

    And I don’t think anyone who advocates drinking less is worth listening to. In real life, maybe, but not TCMFF.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Kim! I also agree: I should drink more. At TCMFF.

      Part of the daily post thing is that I can’t really do social media with my cell phone and I feel I should do something to promote the festival while it’s happening– gotta earn that media pass somehow. I also like being able to recount everything as it happens– because my memory is just awful, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.

  7. If you feel up to it, definitely keep up with the nightly recaps. No one else has the intestinal fortitude to do it, and they are a lot of fun. I know people have been enjoying them. Writing those experiences down right away really captures the moment. But if you want to catch an early morning movie instead, who will better understand than your readers? And seriously, leave Ben M’s butt alone. I know it is tempting, but can you imagine how many times people must have made a grab at that? I’m sure he never unclenches for fear of further molestation…

    1. Ben’s hinder is probably shiny from how often it gets a good polish from drunk ladies at the closing night party. If they ever make a statue of Mankiewicz, that’s what they’ll rub for luck.

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