It never gets old. April is always a crazy month for me. One where my cinematic worlds collide. From classic film, to contemporary indies and finally the start of the summer box office season, what is created is a dizzying celluloid haze.
There is a saving grace in the rush however – every so often, I pocket aside a quiet moment which allows me to reflect upon the individual experience of one event. In this post, I am reflecting on the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF).
The “old” feels so fresh
This is what I feel every year after my trips down Hollywood Boulevard (and its surrounding environs) where I am transported to a world of cinema from Hollywood’s Golden Age. This year’s festivities were doubly awesome in that not only was it the festival’s 10th anniversary, but the event coincided with the network celebrating 25 years of giving its devoted audience an unedited, commercial-free visual catalog, surveying our collective cinematic history.
Before any of the official festivities kicked off, I decided to arrive in LA a few days early to settle myself in and to catch up with a friend in the area. I must admit, for this born and bred New Yorker, each subsequent trip out West makes me understand just what it is that draws people to the area. Every year is an opportunity for me to explore another wonderful aspect of the Dream Factory.
This go around, I spent some time in the Downtown area, which included a glimpse of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (former home to many an Academy Award ceremonies) and well as the architectural marvel which is the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Then of course there was meeting up with fellow classic cinephiles in the lead up to the official start of events. My face may not always convey it, but these encounters are like a comforting, warm blanket, a sense of home and familiarity which is always welcomed.
It’s the main event and what we are all here for the movies! This year’s theme – Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies – operates on so many levels. From what we see on screen to the love shared with complete strangers as you queue up and wait for the privilege seeing these films on the big screen, it truly is a movie lover’s paradise made real.
As time permits, I will attempt to take deeper dives in a few of the films that I saw, but for now, here is a quick rundown –
- Night World (1932). Sarah Karloff (Boris’ daughter) was on hand to talk about her dad and how awesome he was.
- The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964). This is such a vibrant, beautiful film. It was a must that I see it on the big screen.
- Merrily We Go to Hell (1937). Pre-Code is one of the best things about this festival and this title did not disappoint!
- Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927). Another one that I have seen but made it mandatory that I see in projected. The clue is in the title – this is a song – a beautiful melody.
- Road House (1948). Nitrate. Ida. Yup I am there for it. Always.
- Santo vs the Evil Brain (1961). No words needed. It’s a midnight movie.
- A Raisin in the Sun (1961). Introduced by eminent film scholar Donald Bogle and one of the film’s stars (a very spry looking octogenarian Louis Gossett, Jr). Every dang time I see this film I brace for the tears, hoping this is the one time I am able to hold them back at the appointed moment. I will leave it to you to guess the end result.
- The Bad Seed (1951). Camping it up poolside at the legendary Hollywood Roosevelt, G&T in hand was an experience – one enhanced by sitting next to the coolest random lady from San Diego. And yeah – Patty McCormack!
- The Student Nurses (1970). Ummmm…
I cannot even describe how swiftly the time passes, by the time we got to the final day, I was already plotting my 2020 trip! But first …
My Favorite Wife (1940). Cary Grant. Do you really need to ask?
Everything in its place
Even with these escapist adventures in the darkened theater, TCM gives its festival attendees the gift of allowing those of us willing to examine the films that we are watching with a sense of today. This year, more than most, I took an opportunity to really go out and explore these opportunities. From the fun quiz to a book signing with TCM’s own Alicia Malone, I took advantage of all that I could. A couple of notable events:
A Conversation with Fred Roos. Q&A with the legendary producer who helped give audiences many unmissable classics including The Godfather, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, just to name a few.
Hollywood Stories and Celebrity Culture. A wonderful exploration of Hollywood fan mags and the stories which they generated. Some nice flavor added by Diane Baker made this event a wonderful treat for all who attended.
The Complicated Legacy of Gone With the Wind. This could probably be a post all on its own. Moderated by Donald Bogle, the panel featured producer Stephanie Allain (see Something New, folks), Molly Haskell and Professor Jacqueline Stewart. A thought provoking, inspiring and refreshingly honest and open conversation about the social, historical, racial and sexual dynamics which swirl around this landmark American film.
Wrapping Up #TCMFF2019
Well, I did not expect it to take THIS long, but here we are – my summary of another magnificent weekend spent with some awesome people and awesome films. One final note: you cannot possibly see everything that is screening (cursing the linearity of time), but this festival also is a wonderful blueprint of what else there is to discover via home viewing. And that is what I intend to do – catch some of these later. Watch this space!