Before long we’ll gather in Hollywood for the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (TCMFF). The theme of this year’s event, which will take place from April 26 – 29, is “Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen.”
The schedule for this year’s festival was released earlier this week and online energies have been on fire ever since. By now many of us have ruminated on the possibilities and have come up with a plan of action. Here I present mine. There is a lot to be excited about this year and a few disappointments, like the four scheduled movies that will also be presented by Fathom Events as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series. That said, however, the movie I am most excited about at this year’s festival is Sunset Boulevard, which is a Fathom Events entry and one I have seen countless times. Goes to show that we classics fans are odd creatures.
It was much more difficult for me to come up with a semi-concrete schedule this time than it was last year. These things are based on taste, of course, but it’s strange nonetheless. I’m not quite sure why it’s stressful, but it is. Once I make choices I don’t visit the entire schedule again unless additional guests are announced in which case I must reconsider the question…to be here, or not to be there.
Now to my picks…
When I first saw the schedule the Thursday night line-up hit me like a Mack truck. It is replete with torturous choices no matter how you look at. At this writing I have my choice made, but if the guests I want added are added then my plan will change. With that in mind I will begin my TCMFF 2018 with Frances Dee, Billie Burke and pre-stardom Ginger Rogers in the George Nichols, Jr. and Wanda Tuchock-directed, Finishing School (1934). Wyatt McCrea, grandson of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee who we had the pleasure to interview last year, will introduce the movie alongside author, Jeremy Arnold. Given my fondness for Mr. McCrea and his talented grandparents it is with some guilt that I plan on passing on this screening in favor of Sidney Lumet’s Murder On the Orient Express (1974) IF Jacqueline Bisset and Michael York introduce it. Both Bisset and York will be in attendance according to the Special Guests list on the festival site.
Regardless of which screening I attend first I will leave the theater in a hurry to head over to the Egyptian for Gregory La Cava’s Stage Door (1937). I have to admit, however, that the choice for this time slot gets blurrier every time I look at it. Slated against Stage Door are three films I would absolutely love to see on a big screen – Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957), Curtiz’s The Sea Wolf (1941) and Lumet’s Fail-Safe (1964), which has to be absolutely mind-blowing in a theater. It’s Kurosawa’s movie that’s causing me angst here though. Tough, tough choice. Also worth noting is that once again I am missing the poolside screening on opening night and it’s a great one this year, Gordon Douglas’ Them! (1954).
The full day at TCMFF 2018 serves two of filmdom’s greatest directors up against a landmark movie and I am going for the latter with Clarence Brown’s Intruder in the Dust (1949). Present for the introduction will be historian, Donald Bogle and Claude Jarman, Jr. who is in the movie. The conversation for this one is sure to be memorable as will be that of Ruta Lee who is introducing Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution (1957) in my planned next slot. I cannot wait for this one!
The next Friday slot causes a conundrum so I think I am foregoing a screening and attending the Film Biographers presentation at Club TCM with Donald Bogle, Scott Eyman and William J. Mann discussing their work. I’ve books by all three and am a big fan. Part of the reason I’m skipping this movie slot, however, is because one of my absolute can’t miss movies is scheduled next, André De Toth’s None Shall Escape (1944) with Marsha Hunt in attendance alongside Eddie Muller. This one is likely to be a hot ticket so getting on line early is a must. That said, I am choosing to skip Eva Marie Saint at the A Hatful of Rain (1957) screening and Robert Wise’s The Set-Up (1949), which is a terrific film noir. Roy Del Ruth’s Blessed Event (1932) is another must-see in this slot, but I’ve seen it on the big screen, which lightens the load considerably.
Following None Shall Escape I’m going to see Marion Gering’s I Take This Woman (1931), ignoring The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) in 3D only because I’ve seen it. Next I am confronted with a conflict that surprises even me. Most of the people I know will be running to the Egyptian for the nitrate screening of John M. Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven (1945). No brainer, right? Well, playing opposite is William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) with the director in attendance and even though I am a big-time chicken the prospect of watching this with a TCMFF crowd at the Chinese Theatre may be too hard to resist. Anyway, one could argue that Ellen Berent is scarier than the devil. I’m choosing Leave Her to Heaven for now but may well change my mind.
The opening slot of the Saturday schedule seems like another one of those easy choices with Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday (1940) playing at the Chinese. Once again I know most of my friends will be there will bells on, but upon closer inspection it’s not such an easy choice and I might go elsewhere. Playing opposite His Girl Friday is William Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955), which is one of the greatest films noir ever made. The sleeper in this slot is George B. Seitz’s Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), which is the only 35mm presentation and features Judy Garland’s first appearance in the Hardy series. I am leaning toward The Ox-Bow Incident because it’s the only Western I’ll get a chance to see at the festival this year. I used to say I didn’t like Westerns, yet every single screening of one that I’ve attended at TCMFF has stood out in some way. That may be the deciding factor.
Peter Yates’ Bullitt (1968) is up next with Jacqueline Bisset in attendance. And then there’s Billy Wilder’s masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard (1950). This is playing at the Chinese, which is a dream, and Nancy Olson will introduce the movie. I’m already jittery with excitement about what stories she’ll tell. What’s unfortunate about this screening is that the folks at TCM scheduled it so that it spans two slots, which means I get to watch less movies. Still, I’ll no doubt leave the theatre devastated as I always am after watching the doomed inhabitants of the decrepit mansion. The screening of King Vidor’s Show People (1928) is next on my list with Ben Model accompanying the movie.
The Saturday night schedule offers killer choices. Sarah Karloff is introducing Corman’s The Raven (1963), John Carpenter is introducing Scarface (1932), which I love, and Minnelli’s Gigi (1958), which features one of my all-time favorite scores, is at the same time. Any one of those would have been a must-see for me IF they weren’t opposite Alfred Hitchcock. I thought long and hard about this one, but I don’t think I’ll be able to ignore Spellbound (1945) in nitrate. Finally, I’m already nervous to report that I plan to attend a rare midnight screening, the restoration of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). I just hope I can get to sleep after.
Much of my schedule on Sunday will depend on what movies end up filling the TBA spots. So far I plan on George Stevens’ Woman of the Year (1942), the Growing Up Mankiewicz discussion at Club TCM, Olivier’s Hamlet (1948), and Wellman’s A Star is Born (1937) to close the festival. We’ll see how it all goes.
A few people have asked me how I approach the schedule and I have to say I have no method, it’s all madness. I probably do what most others do, which is fret and second guess. I begin by highlighting the movies or presentations that I simply cannot miss and then review the rest from the beginning. I check what follows each time slot to ensure there is nothing coming up that’s a must in which case I have to allow enough time for a long line. That’s it. I’ve yet to be disappointed with a screening I’ve attended at TCMFF so I guess my madness is as good as anybody’s.
I’ve offered some tips for first-time festival attendees in the past, but in lieu of that I encourage you to visit Blog of the Darned where a fantastic TCMFF Survival Guide awaits. I will, however, remind you of what I think is the one rule you must abide by in order to enjoy the festival – take it in stride. If you miss a movie you planned on seeing, just go to another one or go to a presentation or simply talk to the other fabulous, like-minded attendees about movies.
Be sure to stay tuned to my social media accounts as noted below. I’ll be covering TCMFF as part of the media and hope to share as much of my experience as possible as often as possible. Also, be on the lookout for our pre-TCMFF discussion at Classic Movies and More. Co-host Annmarie Gatti of Classic Movie Hub and I will discuss the festival offerings with a special guest this year.
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Take a look at other bloggers’ picks!
If you’ve published your picks send me the link so I can include it here.
Chris at Blog of the Darned has a creative way of picking his movies.
Angela at The Hollywood Revue
Samantha at Musings of a Classic Film Addict
Jocelyn at Classic Film Observations & Obsessions