Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 TCM Film Festival Summary

This year's TCM Classic Film Festival was great fun, I saw an amazing 19 films in three and a half days.  Here's a list of highlights for me followed by the details of what I actually saw (which differs slightly from my proposed schedule which you can find here) along with some thoughts from each screening.

At last year's TCMFF, there was a single, standout film for me in I AM SUZANNE!  This year, while there wasn't one singular standout, there were a handful of things that are sticking in my mind:

  • Meeting many friends--old and new--from the online Twitter community.  My film friends are so knowledgeable...I'm blessed to be able to learn from them.
  • Documentaries GREY GARDENS and BEST BOY
  • Seeing the original GOJIRA in the Egyptian Theater
  • Special presentations by Bruce Goldstein for EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE, GOJIRA and STORMY WEATHER (TCM, please bring him back next year!)
  • Emotional screenings of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, CITY LIGHTS and TOKYO STORY

Some breakdowns of the 19 films:
  • New or old:
    • New discoveries - 9
    • Old friends - 10
  • Format:
  • Decade:
    • 1930s - 8
    • 1940s - 6
    • 1950s - 2 (both Japanese!)
    • 1970s - 3 (including both documentaries)
  • Actor:

Now...onto the individual screenings and memories:

Wednesday - Day 0

Even though I didn't arrive to the festival until Thursday afternoon, a lot of cool stuff went down on Wednesday including some 'tweet-up' parties.  I really missed out on these (I enviously watched them unfold on Twitter) and have decided that next year I'll make an effort to fly in on Wednesday in order to 1) have 24 more hours to adjust to Pacific time zone and 2) have more time to hang out with friends socially while not standing on line for a film.

Thursday - Day 1

This opening evening of film was my Ginger Rogers double-bill:
  • 5TH AVENUE GIRL (1939) - What a great way to kick off the festival with this lovely Ginger Rogers film.
  • BACHELOR MOTHER (1939) - Another great Ginger Rogers film introduced by comedian Greg Proops who knew a lot about the film and did a great job prepping us for the it.

Friday - Day 2
  • STAGECOACH (1939) - Author Nancy Schoenberger (who's getting ready to release a book on John Wayne and John Ford) read off a typed list of fun facts.  The film was a 35mm presentation, and like film professor Drew Morton mentioned in his blog post for The Black Maria, I thought the print wasn't one of the best (and reflecting back it was probably the worst print of the festival that I personally saw.) 
  • GREY GARDENS (1975) - My first viewing of this film...what an interesting film with the most unique characters.  It was sad seeing where this mother and daughter came from and where they were now, in a decaying house being slowly overrun by cats and raccoons.
  • MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) - Shown on the huge Grauman's screen in glorious Technicolor (the first of only two films I saw at Grauman's Chinese.)  Before the film there was a nice interview with Margaret O'Brien.  Although I've seen this many times before, this was a very emotional viewing, maybe because of the size on the big screen, maybe because of friends around me all sniffling.
  • DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) - The second film I saw at Grauman's Chinese.  What can I can say about this great noir film that hasn't already been said?
  • EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE (1933) - This screening was preceded by a great presentation by Bruce Goldstein called 'Pre-code 101'.  He showed various clips and talked about what Pre-code films had in common thematically.  It was very entertaining and memorable.  The film has Warren William at his smarmiest.
  • ERASERHEAD (1977) - I hadn't seen this in about 26 years and was viewing with friends who had never seen it.  It was introduced by actor Patton Oswalt who asked who in the well attended house had never seen this film before...surprisingly to me about one third of people raised their hands.  After the screening, some friends were visibly upset, not at the disturbing imagery from director David Lynch, but the fact that it was 85 minutes of their life they weren't getting back.

Saturday - Day 3
  • CITY LIGHTS (1931) - What a way to start the day with this classic Chaplin silent film.  We had a nice group of TCMParty folks at the film, including some who had never seen it before.  Wonderful being with them for their first time seeing it.
  • GOJIRA (1954) - This was the only film that I saw in Grauman's Egyptian Theater.  My buddy Miguel and his friend Beth were queue cards 1 & 2, so they got really great seats!  The print was a restoration from Rialto on DCP & it looked great.  It was great sitting in a full theater watching a Japanese movie where the theater applauded when Takashi Shimura appears on screen for the first time.  After the film Bruce Goldstein had a nice presentation (including film clips) of the differences between the original Gojira and the edited US version with addition of Raymond Burr.
  • STORMY WEATHER (1943) - I hadn't originally planned on seeing this, but before Gojira, I was reviewing the next block and realized that this great film with Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, Dooley Wilson, The Nicholas Brothers, Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson that I had seen once before might just be something special.  Indeed it word: entertainment.  From start to finish this thin-on-plot-but-rich-in-entertainment film did not disappoint with its 20 musical numbers.  Film historian Donald Bogle introduced the film with great information on the African-American performers in the film.  After the screening (a beautiful digital print) Bruce Goldstein discussed the Nicholas Brothers and showed a clip from a television special taped when the brothers were in their mid-to-late 40s where the reenacted (more or less) the ending dance number scene from the film.  After airing the clip, Bruce announced that members of the Nicholas brothers' family were in the audience, he asked them to stand up to a rousing ovation.  This was a last-moment change in plans that paid off.
  • THE STRANGER'S RETURN (1933) - This was one of those 'long lost' films that had fallen off the face of the earth.  An early King Vidor film with great performances put in by leads Miriam Hopkins and Lionel Barrymore.  I thought it was quite an interesting little film about a 'bad girl' (separated from her husband) who returns to her roots on the family farm and falls in love with the married neighbor.
  • HAT CHECK GIRL (1932) - Ginger Rogers in a supporting role here about a hat check girl (played by Sally Eilers) who falls in love with a millionaire.  MoMA folks in attendance to introduce the film.  (I think they own the print that was screened.)
  • HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946) - I was looking for something more with this Edgar G. Ulmer film...the story line, though was very interesting.
  • FREAKS (1932) - What can be said about this great Tod Browning film, introduced hilariously by Dana Gould (who also intro'd last year's PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.)

Sunday - Day 4
  • TOKYO STORY (1953) - Introduced by the lovely and talented Illeana Douglas, she quipped that after seeing this slow-paced, quiet film and then stepping out onto Hollywood Blvd. you may want to step right back into the slow-paced TOKYO STORY again.
  • BEST BOY (1979) - This was an amazingly touching documentary that was introduced by the filmmaker himself, Ira Wohl who was joined in the theater by his teenage daughter.  After the film there was a great Q&A with the director with many thoughtful questions from the audience.  I finally got to meet Lawrence Carter-Long at this screening.
  • EASTER PARADE (1948) - This was introduced by Leonard Maltin and noted Garland biographer John Fricke.  Maltin explained that 35mm Technicolor prints can simply no longer be struck because the equipment to do so has long since been dismantled.  That explains some of the rough patches and splices at reel changes.  A pretty good print overall, though.  An enthusiastic audience applauded after most musical numbers.
  • THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948) - This is the first time I've ever seen this film.  It was a 4K digital screening which looked absolutely amazing.  Closeups of Rita Hayworth were incredibly detailed (and beautiful.)

As we did last year, a bunch of twitter folks gathered at the Roosevelt pool to chat about the festival.  Miguel also got us to participate in recording a podcast for Monster Island Resort answering some questions about the festival.  That was fun and it was great to see people's different takes on the festival.

I hope to return next year for the festival and meet even more folks from twitter.  See you all in 2015!


  1. Cool, weird that I didn't meet you until the Sunday night party, because we were in the same theater five times. And if you throw in TBAs from Sunday, we saw seven of the same movies.

    1. glad we finally caught up with each other at the party!

  2. Great to see you again, Joel. I can't believe you did 19 films - and with jet lag to boot. Well done!

    1. It sounds like a lot, but somehow I saw 18 last year! Good to see you always, hope we run into each other before TCMFF 2015 :)

  3. Thanks for the shout out, Joel! Glad to have met you!

    1. No problem, hope to see you at next year's TCMFF.

  4. WOW. 19 films. I'm really going to have to up my game! Great post, Joel. Glad we finally met.

    1. So great to meet you and Larkin at the wrap party...looking forward to more classic film conversation next year :)