TCMFF 2016: A Brief and Exhausted Summation (with More to Come)
May 3, 2016
Once again, the hazy vortex that is TCMFF has past, leaving many utterly exhausted yet supremely satisfied classic film fans in its wake.
All in all, TCMFF 2016 goes down as another wonderful and unforgettable festival for me. I got to interview stars on the red carpet; hear Angela Lansbury, Gina Lollobrigida, Eva Marie Saint, Anna Karina, Burtt and Barron, Bruce Brown and more speak; experience Smell-O-Vision; watch 11 new-to-me movies and/or presentations (versus two that I had already seen); help represent the brand as a Social Producer; and of course, catch up with old pals and make some new friends!
Out of the 17 films and special presentations I originally planned on, I was pleasantly surprised that I made it to a total of 14 events, which is personally a lot. Almost each day, I bumped one movie from the list, sometimes due to a need for down time/coffee/nourishment, or perhaps in favor of another movie; in fact, 1934's Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back deserves recognition as the film that took not one but two spots that I initially assigned to other pictures, since I saw it twice.
Though this year was my 7th festival as an attendee, it was only my 2nd year as a passholder, which makes it an entirely different experience for me, mainly due to the special events in Club TCM and the fact that I take two days off work so I can enjoy the entire celebration. This edition of TCMFF also marked my 2nd time as a Social Producer, an endeavor I enjoyed this time around just as much as last year.
This year the Social Producers got special passes, kind of. (Picture by Kim Luperi)
Some differences from last year? Due to a busy first few months of 2016 (which led right up to TCMFF), I found myself way more tired from the movie-marathon attempt than I was in 2015. For instance, after watching three films right in a row on Saturday morning, my body and I had a slight dispute schedule-wise, and I had to re-adjust my agenda (read: reduce) accordingly. Consequently, I cut my Sunday picks in half so I could rest, enjoy one decent sit down meal and hang out at Club TCM to recharge a bit. I thought that I would lament that decision later, but I actually enjoyed the time away from the theaters and crowds.
Also, being a Social Producer afforded me a wonderful opportunity, one that I initially turned down but accepted when the occasion came back around: interviewing talent on the red carpet on opening night. I have to admit I was not very well-prepared, but I was proud of myself for stepping in and chatting with some people (though if I get the chance again, next time I will have better questions!) I'll post more on this and share the insight and stories I heard on the carpet sometime soon.
I also noticed much longer lines for theater 4, which notoriously screens most of the pre-Codes, new discoveries and overall rarer titles, most of which are usually only available on 35mm. (Apparently, only two theaters, #4 in the Multiplex and the Egyptian Theater, screened 35mm this year.) At the same time, I was surprised that special guests in theater 1 did not amass larger audiences; in particular, Bruce Brown (for 1966's The Endless Summer) and Anna Karina (in from France for 1964's Band of Outsiders) only filled half of that theater, which seats a little over 400 people. Overall, from what I saw in the theaters and read online, it seemed that the older pictures proved more popular, as usual, than what you would call the more modern ones (60s/70s - onward), though the difference in attendance was much larger this year, in my opinion. Save for Angela Lansbury and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), of course.
Getting ready for the red carpet on Thursday night. (Picture by Kim Luperi)
The biggest surprise? There were two actually. First and foremost, if you read my preview post before the festival, you'll notice how often I mentioned the title Pleasure Cruise (1933). Seriously, it was about nine times. Though it pained me to deliberately miss that picture, I was mentally prepping for a huge line and shut-out because 1. pre-Code, 2. theater 4, the tiniest of them all, and 3. the title and cast. Also, from what I recall from reviewing fellow fest-goers schedules before TCMFF, it seemed like Pleasure Cruise was one of the most sought-after and highly anticipated of the pre-Code screenings, or at least that's the illusion I was under. (Maybe that belief was clouded by my own ardent enthusiasm, which may or may not have accounted for 75% of said expectancy.) Regardless, I was 150% positive Pleasure Cruise would nab a Sunday TBD spot and shared my prediction with several people - whoops - because it seemed to possess all the qualities of a sell-out.
And from what I've read, the theater filled up quickly and people were turned away. But alas, my TBD forecast for this particular picture unfortunately was way off; I anxiously awaited the full TBD list as spots where announced sporadically throughout the weekend, and I grew a little more nervous each time Pleasure Cruise was omitted. I finally came to realize that though most of movies chosen to run again did turn passholders away from their first screening (though not all, while others that played only once certainly did), TCM was also able to bring back most, if not all, of the special guests for those selections, including actors. So, a film like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), which I'm pretty sure did not reach capacity the first time around and normally would not screen again, filled one of the slots because actor Ted Donaldson returned, which is definitely a big selling point. Same with Shanghai Express (1932) and Nicholas von Sternberg.
HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED THIS MOVIE?!? (It's Pleasure Cruise, by the way).
For the first time in a long time, nearly every TBD spot was taken by a movie I actually managed to get into initially, and naturally, the one I missed out on was the film I wanted to see most. I guess the takeaway here is that you really never know what will happen at TCMFF!
The second surprise was seeing Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934) not once, but twice. I've never repeated a movie during the festival, especially one I didn't even intend on seeing at all. In this specific case, I planned on catching Serge Bromberg's presentation in Club TCM, but since I already had the opportunity to behold my French archivist (imaginary) boyfriend once already at the festival, I decided to forgo him for my real boyfriend, who had his sights set on Bulldog Drummond.
Ronald Colman, for the win.
When comparing our schedules initially, he was firmly set on this film, and I was adamant about Bromberg, which is fine, because our tastes differ, and we only saw a handful of movies together anyway. (For the record, where Bromberg is concerned there is usually no chance of any other program becoming a viable option.) However, once I actually read more about Bulldog, it gained the (atypical) ability to wage a substantial threat against the Bromberg slot, due to the fact that Bulldog is a pre-Code and an incredibly rare one at that, which is the equivalent of dangling a bright, shiny object in front of me. So, despite my original dismissal of Bulldog because I knew of the series, thought it was a straight crime serial and figured it was available, luckily I was proven wrong. For the second time this weekend. Only goes to show you - yet again - that you truly never know what you're in for at TCMFF. Turns out that not only did the film delight in its pre-Code-ness, but it was also absolutely hilarious, which I did not see coming at all. More on this one at a later date.
Actually, there will be more coverage on almost everything, starting with a fest recap in two parts, coming at a later date.
Once I get some sleep...
thanks for stopping by!
I See a Dark Theater is a website dedicated to classic movie-going—and loving—in the City of Angels. Whether it's coverage on screenings, special presentations, or Q&As around Los Angeles that you're looking for, or commentary on the wonderful and sometimes wacky world of classic cinema, you've come to the right place for a variety of pieces written with zeal, awe, and (occasionally) wit. Enjoy.