After years of avoiding the annual TCM Film Fest, I took the plunge last year and fear I am forever hooked. It’s a whirlwind weekend of classic films, classic film stars, and classic film fans which is a paradise for someone like me who has been enamored with Golden Age cinema since I was a kid, but didn’t find people to connect with until I was an adult.
This year ended up being relatively light compared to last year’s inaugural visit. The nice thing about living ten minutes away from Hollywood is that I don’t have to travel or spend money on accommodations. On the flip side, my day-to-day responsibilities are not too far away and being so close to home ends up making me less immersed and connected to the activities than a lot of the other participants. Still, I once again had a fantastic time.
First off, there’s the films. One of my main goals with TCMFF is to see movies I have never seen before and I was 100% successful this year. I only managed to catch six films this year, but I was pleased with my choices which were:
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – This was actually the film I was most looking forward to as I have always wanted to see it and just never got around to it. Even though I was sobbing towards the end, I was still fully enjoying it when…a fire alarm went off during the climax and we had to vacate the theater. My fest partner, Darin, and I waited for a bit and then threw in the towel and went home. He was getting over a sinus infection and I had worked that day and was tired. So, living close worked against both of us and I have no idea how the film ends.
- Shanghai Express – This is another one I have always wanted to see and it was well worth the wait. Dietrich and Anna May Wong are amazing together and it should probably be in the Guinness Book of Records for the film with the largest amount of perfectly lit close-ups. Seeing this film almost makes me want to dig out that Dietrich Madame Alexander doll that has been in storage for the past 9 years.
- Pleasure Cruise – I was among the many, many, many people who did not get into Double Harness on Friday (ya her that TCM? Move the pre-Codes out of the broom closet!), so I was determined to get into this one and got in line early. It’s a fun film and Genevieve Tobin is delightful. It takes a very pre-Code turn towards the end and was worth the wait.
- 6 Hours to Live – I am very conflicted on this one. I loved the concept and the sci-fi elements, as well as the moral conflict, but sitting through Miriam Jordan’s wooden performance was sheer torture. Every scene she was in felt like an eternity, and during these drawn out moments, I think Darin and I both had our mouths open, drooling with boredom. Still, it’s not something I would have ever sat down and watched at home, so I am glad I did it.
- Harold and Lillian: A Love Story – The Saturday morning programming was completely sacrificed to watch my daughter play a dolphin in a school performance, so this documentary that aired in the afternoon was my first film of the day. For the sake of full disclosure, the filmmakers are good friends of mine, but that doesn’t change the fact that this engaging film about a Hollywood power couple you’ve probably never heard of is completely worth your time.
- The Long Goodbye – Watching this one reminded me of two things I tend to forget; I love 1970s dramas and I love Robert Altman. Ben Mankiewicz interviewed Elliot Gould before the screening at the Egyptian Theater, which was delightful. The film itself is a showcase of an early 1970s Los Angeles. At one point, my friend Erik and I audibly gasped when the neon sign for the former Ship’s coffee shop in Westwood made a brief appearance. This was definitely my film highlight of the festival.
Of course, TCMFF is as much about the people as it is the films. The great thing about the folks who attend the festival is that they are the type of film fans who just genuinely love film and want to wax ecstatic about it, rather than snootily demonstrating their vast knowledge to anyone who will listen. Many of the people who attend the festival are part of the robust online community of classic film fans, so it was great to briefly connect or reconnect with Jessica, Angela, Danny, Laura, Kristina, KC, Karen, Emily, Beth Ann, Raquel, Kellee, Jill, and many others.
We’re at a movie at 9 in the morning!
Probably the biggest highlight of TCMFF is spending a few days being total movie geeks with my dear friend Darin. Once upon a time, we were an inseparable Will & Grace, and while we both relish in the lives we’ve created for ourselves separately, it’s still great to spend a a few days talking about Ann Dvorak and Norma Shearer ad nauseam (well, maybe for those around us. We never get tired of Ann and Norma).
I can’t really think of a good Ann Dvorak connection for this year’s festival so this is a decidedly un-Dvorak post. All I have to say to that is – Hey TCM! Show an Ann Dvorak film next year!
My daughter started elementary school this year, which has been fine for her, but overwhelming for me with PTA this and that (and I barely do anything with the PTA), along with my stupid, yet enjoyable decision to be a Girl Scout troop co-leader. In other words, it feels like we are constantly on the go and seldom slow down. So, when my daughter sent me the above email after three nights of not being tucked in by mom, I threw in the TCMFF towel and instead stayed home for Cuddlefest all day on Sunday.
It was worth it.