I See A Dark Theater's 2017 TCMFF Preview
March 22, 2017
Every year, thousands congregate in Hollywood to celebrate the classics over four non-stop, filled-to-the-brim days of movies, Q&As and special events at TCMFF. Fest attendees were lucky this year: as opposed to the 13 month wait we had to endure between TCMFF #6 and #7, a mere 11 months stand between TCMFF #7 and #8, which takes place April 6-9.
This isn't the first rodeo for many fest-goers; we know the entire program is usually unleashed 2.5-3 weeks before opening night, though we received periodic title releases to whet our appetite over the past seven months. (Speaking of which, about two weeks ago I picked out some early festival must-sees and discussed this year's theme, "Make 'Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies.")
That said, this past Monday TCM published the full festival schedule online. Despite the expectation, I'm 98% sure the announcement flung many classic film aficionados' daily agendas into disarray; I, like many others I presume, put aside whatever I was doing (sleep in this case, cause I was on vacation!) to pore over the intricately assembled, color-coded chart that would become my TCMFF guide. After a few days of contemplation, negotiation (internally, with myself), concessions (also interally, with myself) and highlighter battles, I've created a monster - or more accurately, my stab at a personal festival schedule. (I must say, this year my schedule looks rather clean and tidy!)
So without further ado, below is my rough TCMFF game plan, which I can assert with 101% confidence is 125% likely to shift between now and April 9 in ways I cannot possibly foretell. But hey, that's half the fun of it, right? (Right?)
Thanks to Kate Gabrielle for making these printable pages!
11am - Hitchcock Fan Meet-Up
This could be fun. Richard Edwards, who 'taught' the free Ball State University-TCM online courses in film noir and slapstick comedy, will be hosting.
12:30pm - Remembering Robert
I'm assuming this celebration featuring TCM staff and friends will be packed...and teary-eyed.
6:15pm - Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016)
From the TCMFF site: "One hundred sixty-five miles south of the Arctic Circle, film preservationists stumbled upon one of the greatest treasures in film history: a buried cache of 1,500 reels of nitrate film, a good deal of it still viewable thanks to its being encased in permafrost. The location, a swimming pool under a one-time hockey rink, had been used to store films shown in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, between 1903 and 1929." What the what?!? How did I not know about this? Extremely curious. Plus, director Bill Morrison and film preservationist Anne Morra will be in attendance.
6pm (Backup) - Love Crazy (1941)
Love Crazy probably ranks among my favorite non-Thin Man William Powell and Myrna Loy outings. Normally, this would be a no-brainer. But then a documentary about film preservation with an insane premise shows up...also, I own this on DVD.
9:30pm - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
NITRATE. HITCHCOCK. NEW-TO-ME. Really, what more do you (I) need.
9:30pm (Backup) - I'm All Right Jack (1959)
Aside from the pre-Codes, the 'Discoveries' section at TCMFF always excites me. At past festivals, I've fallen for pictures in this category like Why Be Good? (1929) and On Approval (1944). I don't think I'll have a problem getting into the Egyptian for The Man Who Knew Too Much, but if I do, I'd be more than down for a British satire starring Peter Sellers.
Of course this is a UK poster.
9am - Beyond the Mouse (2017)
This animation special featuring both well-known and rare works from Walt Disney collaborator Ub Iwerks made my initial fest list, even though I'm not a big animation fan. However, since then, I attended an evening of Paramount shorts at UCLA's Festival of Preservation and was astonished at how much I enjoyed them. Hopefully, I'll be able to say the same of this event!
9am (Backup) - Rafter Romance (1933)
Honestly never thought I'd pass up a pre-Code for animation, but here we are. I've seen Rafter Romance years ago on TCM, but of course I'd gladly re-watch, if it comes down to that.
9:15am (Special shout-out) - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
There's no way I'd be physically capable of watching a 2 hour 40 minute movie first thing in the morning. However, TCM presentations by Oscar-winners Ben Burtt and Craig Barron are always so entertaining that I'm considering catching this first and then trying to sneak in late to Beyond the Mouse...
11:30am - One Hour with You (1932)
I'm not generally a Jeanette MacDonald fan, but pre-Code Lubitsch sparkles with wit and naughtiness like no other. Plus, I want to see how the pre-Codes play in the Egyptian.
11:15am (Backup) - Beat the Devil (1953)
I thought this picture played last year when one of the fest special guests was star Gina Lollobrigida, but I guess not. Beat the Devil is another title I've watched previously but would be happy to re-visit, PLUS Angela Allen will be present; she is credited with 'continuity' on this picture. I'd absolutely love to hear what memories she had from being on set! (Like, that may almost be worth missing One Hour with You for.)
This poster makes Beat the Devil seem like a Biblical epic, no?
1:45pm - Panique (1946)
Little-seen French film noir: sold.
3pm (Backup) - A Conversation with Peter Bogdanovich
I heard Bogdanovich speak a few months back at the Cinefamily. Aside from being a prolific actor, writer and director, he's got such great stories to tell, and I'm sure the crowd will hear a bunch this afternoon!
4:30pm - So This is Paris (1926)
This time slot is one of the more difficult ones for me. I've seen So This is Paris once, but I was rather tired. Normally I'd pick another selection, but given its limited availability (and my exhaustion), I'm going for So This is Paris again...and downing a cup of coffee beforehand.
4:30pm (Backup) - The Magic Box (1951)
The Magic Box is 1. a new title to me, 2. about film history and 3. introduced by Leonard Maltin. But it's also available to watch digitally... Seriously, that's how I'm making a lot of my decisions this year: based on availability.
5pm (Honorable mention) - Bring 'Em Back Alive: Tales of Film Restorations
Currently, one of my favorite things is listening to UCLA Film and Television Archive preservationist Scott MacQueen's introductions during the Festival of Preservation. I love hearing about all the adventures select titles have endured to survive, and I think it's great that TCMFF is celebrating the people behind the scenes who help make this possible.
7:15pm - The Great Nickelodeon Show (2017)
This is another special LIVE presentation that I highlighted a few weeks ago. TCMFF has done a fantastic job with similar 'recreations' (like Return of the Dream Machine in 2015), which makes this one-night-only event a must-see for me.
7pm (Backup) - Red-Headed Woman (1932)
Of course The Great Nickelodeon Show is pitted against the one pre-Code I really wanted to watch with an audience. As much as I'd really love to catch Red-Headed Woman, I don't think I'll have the chance to see anything like The Great Nickelodeon Show again. Perhaps ever.
Sorry, Jean Harlow. (Swedish poster for Red-Headed Woman.)
9:45pm - Those Redheads from Seattle in 3D (1953)
Without a doubt, this block presents the most challenges for me, because four of the five selections I really want to see, and they are all vastly different: a noir (1944's Laura, in NITRATE), a comedy (1934's Twentieth Century), a horror/thriller (1942's Cat People) and a musical (this one). Of all those categories, a musical is generally the type of movie I'd least likely be watching; in fact, films noir, comedies and early thrillers are three of my favorite kinds of pictures! Again, though, it comes down to the issue of accessibility and what I've seen before. Laura and Twentieth Century I've watched previously, and Cat People is readily available on DVD. That leaves Those Redheads from Seattle. Plus, I love early 3D.
9:30pm (Backup) - Twentieth Century (1934)
It's been many, many years since I've seen this film, and I've been meaning to re-visit it. I think Twentieth Century would be a hoot with a crowd, don't you agree?
9:30pm (Just for fun) - Laura (1944)
Floored that I'm sending a nitrate selection to the back of the line, but with the Egyptian's brand new retrofit and with Laura being such a well-known movie, I'm crossing my fingers the American Cinematheque or UCLA Film and Television Archive will screen it again.
10am - This is Cinerama (1952)
I absolutely love the novelty of Cinerama, and since LA's Cinerama Dome is one of the last remaining theaters IN THE WORLD with the capability of screening this format, these are always must-sees for me. I've watched Cinerama Holiday (1955) and Scent of Mystery (1960, in Smell-o-Vision) in the Dome at previous TCMFF's, and I'm very much looking forward to this title. The only issue is that it starts an hour later than the rest of the block, which means I'll have to skip out early (I hate doing that) to race the half a mile back to the main venues to get in line for the next round of movies.
9am (Backup/Jolt of laughter if needed) - Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Really, what could be better on an early Saturday morning?
12:15pm - David and Lisa (1962)
I've never heard of David and Lisa before, which meant that my curiosity was automatically piqued; plus, I've enjoyed 1960s indies that have played in the past, like One Potato, Two Potato (1964) and Private Property (1960, which I actually saw at UCLA and not TCMFF). Though the film isn't rare per se (it's available to watch on Amazon Video), it isn't screened often, and star Keir Dullea will be in attendance. Fun story: I once circled around a convention floor a few times before working up the nerve to approach him and say hi.
12pm (Backup) - The Awful Truth (1937)
Once again, I can't believe I'm relegating one of my favorite comediennes, Irene Dunne, in one of my favorite comedy teams (Dunne and Cary Grant) to a backup position. Sigh. The good thing is that if I get shutout of David and Lisa - which is a possibility because it's in theater 4, I have to leave This is Cinerama early and then race a half mile to the theater - I'm sure I'll be able to slip into the massive Chinese IMAX for The Awful Truth. For once, I'd really love just being able to walk into a movie without waiting in line!
Another Swedish poster for another movie I'm probably going to miss: The Awful Truth.
5pm - Hollywood Home Movies
There's a bunch of films screening in the 3pm slot that I'd be more than happy to watch, like The Jerk (1979, with Carl Reiner), The Underworld Story (1950, which I've seen before) and Way Out West (1937, with Dick Cavett?!). But I think I'm going to need a break by this point, and a laid-back hour of Hollywood Home Movies at Club TCM seems like the perfect fit. (Though I may try to catch Carl Reiner's Q&A...and then maybe eat a real meal.)
6:30pm - Theodora Goes Wild (1936)
Irene Dunne comedy vs. pre-Code vs. wacky sounding British comedy with a special guest. CHOICES. I really want to see a Dunne movie this year, and right now I'm sticking to that plan. (Easy for me to say two weeks out, right?) However, Theodora Goes Wild is by far the easiest to access of my three options..
6:30pm (Backup) - King of Hearts (1966)
This new-to-me comedic anti-war fable sounds rather bizarre in a way that the Brits do best. Plus, star Geneviève Bujold will be present...yeah, this may bump Dunne. #TCMFFproblems
7pm (I doubt it, but maybe) - Street Scene (1931)
This Sylvia Sidney-starrer has been mentioned in so many books and articles that I feel like I've watched it before, but I don't believe I have. Does that ever happen to anyone else? If Street Scene were in another time slot, it would probably be promoted to regular schedule status. Or at least first backup.
9:30pm - Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
This Preston Sturges dark comedy has been on my imaginary to-watch list for a while, and many people have urged me to see it. So, I'm giving in. Blissfully and willingly, I might add.
9:30pm (Backup) - Black Narcissus (1947)
The bewilderment keeps coming. I'm naming this nitrate screening of Black Narcissus as a backup, because I'm 100% counting on either UCLA or the American Cinematheque to screen this famed title again in the future. (Please?)
I'm assuming Black Narcissus will look splendid on nitrate.
9am - Cock of the Air (1932)
I had the opportunity to watch this version, in which modern day actors fill in for the lost soundtrack during restored scenes, last year at the Academy. Though I found the plot thin, I wouldn't mind re-watching, if only for the novelty. (Depending on what's TBD, naturally.)
11:15am - Lured (1947)
A film noir with Lucille Ball, George Sanders (in a romantic role, what the what?!), Charles Coburn and Boris Karloff? And I haven't seen it? Um, yes please.
2:15pm - Republic Preserved (2014)
This preservation-centered presentation sounds very special. Paramount’s head archivist, Andrea Kalas, will be on hand to show clips from Republic Pictures titles preserved by Paramount, many from movies not seen since their original release! How could I miss this?!
1:30pm (Backup) - The Palm Beach Story (1942)
Just cause I've wanted to see this on the big screen for a long time. (And I'll probably still have to wait for another opportunity...)
4:30pm - Detective Story (1951)
This slot has excellent in-person guests: Lee Grant for this picture, Bob Newhart for Hell is for Heroes (1962), Peter Bogdanovich for What's Up, Doc? (1972) and Todd Fisher and Ruta Lee for Singin' in the Rain (1952). I've seen a few of these selections and the others I'm not keen on, so I may sneak in for a Q&A and then take a short break. (Again, depending on the TBD.)
This French poster makes Detective Story look so dire!
7:45pm - Lady in the Dark (1944)
This is a Ginger Rogers musical, and I'm not a huge fan of either of those things, but Lady in the Dark is being screened on nitrate and it's quite a rarity, so it looks like this will be my TCMFF closing night film.
8pm (Backup) - Speedy (1928)
Of course, if that doesn't go as planned, a Harold Lloyd silent with his daughter Suzanne present and the Alloy Orchestra playing a live score would more than do!
9pm - Closing Night Party
Last year I enjoyed some cocktails, In-N-Out and then some sleep. Hopefully, this year will be a repeat of the same, but maybe with a little less In-N-Out and a little more sleep.
As always, if you'd like to follow along digitally, I'll be tweeting occasionally (@kimbo3200), sharing photos on Instagram (@kimbo3200) and updating my whereabouts on Facebook (I See A Dark Theater). If you'll be attending TCMFF this year, please feel free to share your picks below!