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It's That Time Again! My TCMFF 2021 Preview

April 24, 2021

TCM’s Classic Film Festival 2021, the network’s second virtual event, is right around the corner. As the festivities kick off in about two weeks, TCM recently blessed us with a full fest schedule to contend with.


While there will be no in-person theater hopping this year, for some there will be channel flipping. That’s because TCM added a second ‘venue’ in addition to the network: HBO Max. (Last month, I wrote about this and more regarding the festival, which you can read HERE.) It appears the programming on HBO Max is viewable at any time starting May 6, though I’m unsure how long the titles will remain available. That said, it’s kind of like having an open theater to waltz into and choosing any title to watch, whenever you want, in between TCM movies, which would be a dream come true in real life. Another perk: I can view EST or PST feeds on Watch TCM, which means I can enjoy late night movies without falling asleep and watch ‘live’ with the east coast folks, which I’ll try to do when I can.


Though the decisions aren’t as agonizing this year, there are still many to make! Without further ado, here’s the movies and presentations I’m hoping to catch from my couch at TCMFF 2021, starting with the selections airing on TCM.


8pm: West Side Story (1961)

Keeping with tradition, TCMFF opens with an anniversary screening, and as a special treat, we get a special mini reunion with Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn and George Chakiris. Confession time: This is yet another classic I’ve never seen, and now seems as good a time as ever to correct that oversight.

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1:30am: Doctor X (1932)

A perk of being on the west coast means I can watch this at 10:30pm. Granted, that is usually my bedtime, but I will (try to) rally for this creepy pre-Code – one of the few screening during this event. (If I fall asleep – a 95% probability – it’s fine because I’ve actually seen this at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.)


5:45am: My Favorite Wife (1940)

Comfort classics like My Favorite Wife are not usually priority for me at festivals, but I did make a last-minute change of plans at TCMFF 2019 to see this in the Hollywood Legion Theater, which ended up being my best decision of the fest. Though there’s no way I will be awake for this screening, PST or EST, this is a must-see in general.  




7:30am: The Fortune Cookie (1966)

The title, the above image, the logline – “A crooked lawyer trumps up an insurance case for a cameraman injured at a pro football game” – have me sold on this movie, which I actually haven't even heard of!


10am: The Whistle at Eaton Falls (1951)

I’m not watching the previous film at PST time so I can catch this one live with the east coast folks at 7am PST, because: 1. This is also a movie I've never heard about, 2. It’s a world premiere restoration, and 3. It has one intriguing plot. Reveling in a new discovery before work begins seems like a great way to start the day.


4pm: Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival: Sophia Loren (2016)

This is actually the only live TCM taping I’ve seen in person at the fest, and it’s only appropriate to have Sophia in the background as I finish work.

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8pm:  SF Sketchfest Presents Plan 9 from Outer Space Table Read

I actually haven’t seen Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), but I feel like that may be an advantage going into this table read with a laundry list of comedians, which was the #1 selling point.


3:15am: let me come in (2021)

I’m quite curious to see this short from Bill Morrison after watching Dawson City: Frozen Time a few years ago. Here’s hoping it’s on demand!


8am: I Love Trouble (1947)

I caught I Love Trouble on the back end of Noir City 2018’s opening night double bill. I was tired and it was late – never a good combo – but I do remember it being weird. as. hell. I can’t tune in live, which is sad because this bonkers movie would be a trip to live tweet with others, but it will be one I definitely want to revisit on demand and attempt to understand what’s going down.


11:45am: Nichols and May: Take Two (1996)

I recently got my boyfriend a book of Nichols and May interviews, so this will be something he’ll want to see. And I will learn a lot, since I’m only a little bit familiar with May’s work.

8pm: They Won’t Believe Me (1947)

I feel like I’ve seen a movie by this name but this… isn’t it. Always here for the restoration of original footage, which in this case is a whole 15 MINUTES! Yes, please!

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10pm: Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

I’m not very familiar with Billie Holiday’s story or Diana Ross’ acting, and I’m hoping Jacqueline Stewart’s conversation will enlighten me!


4:15am: I Know Where I’m Going! (1945)

As someone on Twitter quipped, I know where I’m going at this hour: bed. This is basically a reminder that I still need to see this movie, and even though the DVD sits one room away from me, maybe this will finally be the time I tune in – on demand, that is.  





8:45am: Her Man (1930)

Starting Sunday with a pre-Code = this will be a good day. The fact that it’s a restored version of the movie = even better.

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12:45pm: Princess Tam Tam (1935)

World (TV) premiere restorations always grab my attention. And this new-to-me title starring Josephine Baker sounds like a trip!


7pm: Hollywood Home Movies: Stars at Work and Play

Though I’ve probably already seen some of these home movies, they are always such a treat.


8pm: So This is Paris (1926)

Without a doubt, this was one of my favorite films of TCMFF 2017 – and that was my second time seeing it; my first viewing was at Cinecon 2016! Very much looking forward to a re-watch and hopefully tweeting along with this party! I feel like I need to get champagne for the occasion...


11:45pm: Fame (1980)

As a fan of the brilliant Center Stage (2000), I feel like I’d really enjoy this – right? Would definitely need to catch this PST.


4:15am News from Home (1977)

Avant-garde doc, NYC in the 1970s, Chantal Ackerman. This certainly won’t be a live viewing, but it is one I definitely want to watch on demand!

The Thin Man.JPG


I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised at the selection of titles available on HBO Max – and the festival extras do not disappoint! Here's an overview of everything I'd like to catch, and here's hoping I'll make at least half of these happen.

The Thin Man (1934)

This movie may well be the classic I’ve watched the most times. That said, I’m here for the extras, including Julianne Moore discussing Myrna Loy and Ben Mankiewicz talking with animal agent (I didn’t know that was a thing!) Greg Tresan.

So This is Paris (1926)

JUST MENTIONING THIS AGAIN so everyone tunes in for this title – either on TCM OR HBO Max! It’s one of the very few movies available on both platforms, as it should be.


The Namesake (2006)

I loved Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2001), so I have a feeling I’d enjoy this, too.


North by Northwest (1959)

I’m due for a re-visit of this Hitchcock classic. Also, one of the extras is Eva Marie Saint’s Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival taping from 2013, and after hearing one of her intros at a later festival, I am kind of obsessed with her. She seems like the sweetest human on the planet.

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Cleo from 9 to 5 (1962)

I don’t believe I’ve seen all of this Agnes Varda movie, and it’s long been on my list!


Once (2007)

One of the very few modern movies I own on DVD, Once captured my heart back in 2007. I’m very excited to see the special feature with the two stars – and I’m very curious to know if that was shot back in 2007 or if it’s a new conversation!

Harlan County USA (1976)

Barbara Kopple introduces her Oscar-winning doc and I haven’t seen it, so… yes.

Chain Lightning (1950)

1.I’ve never heard of this movie. 2. Eleanor Parker and 3. I never miss a special presentation by Ben Burtt and Craig Barron. Obviously, this is a must-see.

Victim (1961)

Another classic I haven’t pressed play on yet, and all of the extras, from Robert Osborne’s introduction to a history of gay and lesbian cinema, sound like winners to me.


Special Collections

Themes centering on The L.A. Rebellion, Immigrants in America, Hawks & the Art of Comedy, George Méliès, MGM Musicals, Powell & Pressburger, and New York all catch my eye. I’ll probably catch a few films screening and several of the special features. In particular, I’m looking forward to the new documentary The Mystery of Méliès (2021), The Red Shoes (1948), Bruce Goldstein's short New York films, Coming to America: The Immigrant Experience, The Hawksian Approach to Screwball Comedy, and some of those MGM musical outtakes!

As usual, TCMFF delivers a packed slate brimming with loads of celebrity guests, special presentations, countless extras, new discoveries and restorations, tributes – and of course, the movies. What’s on your must-see list?

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.

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