This year marks the 6th time TCM has hosted their Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, California. It’s a packed four day experience filled with chances to see a favorite classic on the big screen for the first time, new restorations, and films not easily available for viewing. In addition, the TCMFF has become a kind of annual reunion for classic film fans from around the world to catch up and enjoy a shared passion. The theme this year is “history according to Hollywood,” with many of the films tackling historical events, film history, or how Hollywood has attempted to convey historical narratives. I’m privileged this year to have the opportunity again to cover the festival as a member of the press.
As in previous years, the release of the festival schedule immediately causes one to start brainstorming and prioritizing what screenings are can’t miss and making hard choices in some time slots. Also, trying to figure out when one will eat and sleep (no, really), is a challenge.
So here are my preliminary choices. One thing I’ve learned over the last two years is to be flexible. Sometimes a friend will talk you into a movie you hadn’t even been planning to see. Other times you show up too late to a screening, don’t get in, but get to sit right in front of Quincy Jones while watching The Italian Job (your hastily picked second choice). Sometimes I change my mind just because something sounds more appealing in the moment than it did when I put my schedule together in the first place. But I think what I’ve taken away is that there really are no bad choices, and each event and festival as a whole will be a uniquely individual experience for each person.
1. The venues are all pretty much within one block of each other, with the Ricardo Montalbán Theater being the one exception. For events at the Montalbán, which is on Vine St. near Sunset Blvd, it’s about a 20-25 minute walk give or take how fast you walk. There is a Metro subway line that runs from the Hollywood and Highland complex (where the Chinese Theaters and multiplex is located) to Vine and Hollywood. A one-way fare is $1.75, so it’s a cheap and fast option for those who don’t want to walk.
2. The food issue. I have found it is best to pack snacks, a sandwich or basically any kind of food with you to eat while in line. Because you’ll spend a lot of time in line. What looks like a decent sized gap between movies is really standing-in-line time. Add to that fact that besides a Baja Fresh (fast casual Mexican food) and McDonald’s, there really isn’t much “fast” food around the theater venues, most are “sit-down” type places. The TCMFF organizers have come up with a nice queue system where they begin giving out numbered queue cards when you start lining up for a film screening. Usually you can leave once you have a queue card and then jump back in your place in line once you come back. Luckily, I’ve noticed all the fans are very respectful of this system and each other, so that can give you some time to run and grab a quick coffee or something, but overall I think it’s best to bring your own food.
3. The weather. The festival is about a month earlier this year, but it’s Southern California, so it’s already hitting 90 here. It can still get a little cool (50s) at night, and if it is hot outside the AC inside the theaters might be cranking, so layers are a good idea.
As I said last year, my MO for the festival is usually to see as many new-to-me films as possible. Sometimes I do end up seeing some favorites again, as it’s a blast to see those films on the big screen with a packed house. Here are my preliminary picks for this year’s festival:
-Too Late for Tears- I’ve missed this one at UCLA’s Festival of Preservation just a week or so ago, so looking forward to catching it here.
-The Sea Hawk- I’ve never seen this one. Plus, Errol Flynn.
-Block one is tough, since there are two films in The Smiling Lieutenant and Inherit the Wind that I haven’t seen. But I think I’m going to go with seeing Peter Fonda and Keith Carradine introduce My Darling Clementine, which is possibly my favorite telling of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral tale.
-Block two is also tough. Everyone keeps telling me I’d love The Purple Rose of Cairo, and I love Alan Ladd, so The Proud Rebel is also intriguing. But I think my love for Anthony Mann might win out with Reign of Terror.
-Young Mr. Lincoln. I haven’t seen this one yet either, so a big-screen first time viewing sounds wonderful.
-Steamboat Bill, Jr. Never have seen this one either, and am always trying to expand my silent film knowledge. Plus, Carl Davis conducts a new score for this film. Seeing Why Worry? last year with Maestro Davis conducting was a real highlight, and I look forward to these live musical accompaniment events.
-This slot is a toss-up. The War Game sounds really interesting. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would give me a chance to see another Bond film (I’m slowly getting around to watching them) and the opportunity to see Bond in person. The Bank Dick also sounds interesting, as I haven’t seen a W.C. Fields film yet, and am kind of curious about it’s Lompoc, Calif. setting.
BED: I have tried the last two years to go to midnight screenings, and always fall asleep during them. So I give up.
-Why Be Good? Starting off the day with another silent film.
-42nd Street. Dick Powell. New Restoration. Musical. (But there’s a rare Disney feature in this slot as well. Hoping that might be a Sunday re-screen).
-Air Mail. This is turning into the John Ford festival for me. But I’m interested in the comparison to Only Angels Have Wings.
-Christmas In July. This is actually one of my favorite Dick Powell films, and an interesting transition piece from his musical crooner days to his hardboiled detective roles.
-History of the World, Part 1. I am also slowly making my way through Mel Brooks’ films.
-Imitation of Life. Another new-to-me film.
Sunday is always interesting because there are a whole block of repeat screenings of popular films that aren’t announced until late Saturday, so that often changes Sunday’s plans.
-Calamity Jane or Nightmare Alley. A noir or a musical, probably will be a last minute decision.
-Desk Set. I think this is the only Hepburn/Tracy pairing I haven’t seen yet.
-The Children’s Hour. Keeping with my seeing-new-to-me films agenda, although seeing The Philadelphia Story on the big screen with a bunch of people is really appealing.
-The Grim Game or Kiss Me Kate. The first is a premier of a rare Houdini silent, the second is a 3D showing of a musical I haven’t seen yet. Tough choice.
Looking forward to another great festival! Please follow me on twitter @angelnumber25 for festival updates during the TCMFF. See you all in Hollywood!