You know you’re getting old after completing something monumentally fun and your hair hurts from the effort. The hair no longer there, mind you. Still, I’ve completed what I think was a personal best, movie and number-wise. That being my first 3-day weekend attendance at the TCM Classic Film Festival.
Sure, I live in the same city as this celebratory event, now four years old. However, nary one of their screenings did I do till last year, via an impromptu stop in a festival standby line. You see, the first two years TCM scheduled this opposite the longstanding L.A. Times Festival of Books. In other words, during the same weekend of the largest, two-day, book festival in the U.S.
Something we, as a family and friends, never miss.
So, it pitted two things I love, books and film, against one another. As Faye Dunaway said in Three Days of the Condor:
Not that my complaints made any difference, but TCM shifted the festival back to the fourth weekend in April come 2012. I’d have no excuse whatsoever to ignore it going forward. With this film event staged in the heart of Hollywood, centered around the Roosevelt Hotel (you guys know it’s haunted, right?), you damn well better be prepared.
TCM surely was.
The organizers ran it like a well maintained carbon arc projector. Using the famed movie palaces of Grauman’s Chinese (I refuse to use TCL out of reverence for this landmark) and the Egyptian Theatres along Hollywood Blvd. as showcases. Challenging to say the least. Especially considering the notorious (almost legendary) pedestrian foot traffic along the Walk of Fame. Yet, the long lines were organized and efficient, and worth the wait.
Praise indeed as L.A. is my hometown and Hollywood is not for the meek.
Picked up my Palace Pass the day before on Thursday and planned out my schedule in advance. Needed in the utmost as my daughter’s orchestra recital would also happen at the weekend’s midpoint in Anaheim, way down come Disneyland way. Oh, boy. This is why you have a car in Los Angeles. Everything else risks not getting around to anything situated within our well-known sprawl.
The film festival joyously overflowed in people and film.
The Swimmer (1968) – I thought I was getting one over on the folks jammed into the palaces for Ben-Hur and The Night of the Hunter by heading to this 9 AM showing in the Chinese Multiplex House #1. Nope, this was packed, too. A Burt Lancaster role I’d always heard of (his favorite), but had never seen. Ideal, too. Allison Anders interviewing Marge Champion, another best. Check out Dennis Cozzalio’s Day 1, Pt 1: Disillusionment and Bliss post on this supremely allegorical tale.
The Narrow Margin (1952) – The large gaping hole in my film noir log that had to be filled was done so right here. And in the Egyptian Theatre, at high noon. Yes, I’d seen the 1990 remake, but the Richard Fleischer original certainly made that pale. And with Jacqueline White there, it was such a great experience. I didn’t even mind when the projectionist missed a changeover ‘cuz…wait for it…a 35mm print was used! Fantastic.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) – Anytime I can return to The Chinese Theatre, it’s memorable. So with this landmark film, one my friend and author John Kenneth Muir cited as one of the earliest and best of savage cinema, how could I pass that up? It’d been years, but Arthur Penn’s production had lost none of its power and appeal. Robert Benton’s in-house anecdotes were sublime. In fact, Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie broke my heart all over again by the time the audience reached its still shocking finale.
The Great Escape (1963) – For weeks, I’d be waiting for this 5:30 PM screening of a James Garner favorite, mine as well, one of great war films of all-time. At the Chinese Theatre where it premiered 50 years ago and played for weeks. Producer Walter Mirisch’s interview made that much more special when my son arrived after-school (taking two buses to get there) in time to get through the stand-by line to join me. His first time with the film and venue. Just doesn’t get any better than that.
Best way to end the day really — my first quadruple-header, ever.
As I attended my daughter’s orchestra down in Orange County this day (wouldn’t miss it for the world), this proved my lightest movie-wise. But I got back in time to see…
Le Mans (1971) – One of few Steve McQueen films I’d missed over the years. A near legendary, quasi-documentary thrill ride of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the gear-heads and movie lovers. With son Chad, race drivers Derek Bell and Vic Elford discussing the film in person, I wouldn’t miss the 9:15 PM starter’s flag. As the Porsche drivers exclaimed re: the engine roars awaiting, nothing sounds like this movie… before or since. They were right, of course.
Gilda (1946) – The actress Debra Winger led a packed house for the 9 AM show of the film that forever set Rita Hayworth in the minds of everyone, man or woman. It was simply something to behold on the Egyptian’s big screen. My son clapped when it was over. A tinge of sadness came with me out the door, however. Rita was always Gilda from that moment forward. “Every man I knew went to bed with Gilda… and woke up with me.”, she forlornly confessed years later.
The Birds (1963) – I’d missed the Turner Classic Movies, Universal Studios, and Fathom event for this film the year before. Wasn’t about to do it again, especially in Grauman’s Chinese. And with Tippi Hedren in person, right there as Hitch’s target! As I mentioned to Aurora in her piece on the work, this “…struck an emotional chord that Alfred’s films rarely hit“. “Here, a good bit of the melodrama was hot-blooded.” My son scrunched down throughout and almost shouted at Melanie to “…not go up those stairs!”
Three Days of the Condor (1975) – My final film had to a good one, and it was. With Max Von Sydow among those being celebrated at this year’s fest, a number of his films were on the schedule. Robert Osborne interviewed the Swedish actor right before the film’s projection onto the Chinese Theatre’s screen. The digital print and Dave Grusin’s score never looked and sounded as good as it did here. The whole cast, actually. Don’t tell his mother, but my son’s favorite quote in the entire film was another line delivered by Faye Dunaway:
“Oh no, I’ll help. You can always depend on the ol’ spy fucker.”
Eight films in three days and I wanted more. In a happening such as this, no matter how much you take in, you’re going to miss most of it. For those I’ve listed, what competed and lost in my selection process (or lacking the time and energy) was:
Ben-Hur, The Night of the Hunter, River of No Return, Notorious, The Twelve Chairs, On the Waterfront, To Sir With Love, Mildred Pierce, Badlands, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Scarecrow, The Train (twice), Cape Fear (the original), Giant, Deliverance, Shane, The Seventh Seal, The Lady Eve, The African Queen, The General, and Airplane!
And that didn’t count the midnight screenings for Plan 9 From Outer Space and Island of Lost Souls! Just a fraction of it all. I wish they could re-run the fest another four or five times just so I could catch everything I pined for.
Just the same, what I saw or came in contact last weekend was pure highlight reel (even if it did cost me in gas, parking, driving to hell and gone, and sleep). Matching this was the delight in meeting up with some truly special and remarkable people. Some of them movie bloggers, scribes, and Twitterers who’ve kept me enthralled the past year with their continuing interest and writing toward all things cinematic. It was simply great to put a face to:
- Paula of Paula Cinema Club, who is just an absolute joy to speak to
- Followed closely by her husband Tim of Alchemist Blend
- So, too, the awesome Aurora of Once upon a screen…
- The splendid Iba of i luv cinema (meeting after her last film on Saturday)
- A too quick howdy with Will McKinley, the NYC-based writer, producer and classic film obsessive
- And those attending or around the same venue as I while in the Twitterverse, a 140 character thoughts at a time via the #TCMFF hashtag.
The three-day set at the TCM Film Festival really turned out to be a high point for 2013. All I know is what it’s now come down to:
“Let’s plan to meet up again next year!“