Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 TCM Film Festival Picks

The TCM Film Festival calendar came out late last week, and I've gone through the schedule day-by-day and and read a bunch of other friends' blogs and here's what I've come up with for myself (so far, obviously, one factor in having fun at the festival is to be flexible and be able to switch gears.)

Once again, I'm using Will's 'block' approach from last year as the films are fairly evenly laid out in blocks.  (Note, films that I'm currently planning on seeing are bolded and in GREEN)

Block 1: Thursday early evening

Since my flight isn't scheduled to arrive until 2:30pm PDT, I won't be able to catch most of the early 'non-film' items.  I really wanted to catch Scott McGee with the 'Sons of Gods and Monsters' discussion...oh well, another year.

I can't get into opening night OKLAHOMA! or the party afterwards.  Although WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? would be a scream to watch in a packed theater, and the soundtrack of AMERICAN GRAFFITI is one of my favorites (not to mention Paul Le Mat and Candy Clark will be there in person)  I'll probably check out 5TH AVENUE GIRL because I love anything with Ginger Rogers.  

Block 2:  Thursday late evening

I originally wanted to see JOHNNY GUITAR... with a badass Joan Crawford a little later in her career.  I've seen some clips from the film, but I'm going to make Thursday night a Ginger Rogers double-bill by seeing BACHELOR MOTHER.  Looking forward to seeing both of these for the first time and then getting into bed at a reasonable hour.

Block 3:  Friday morning

I wrote a blog post (rather a video blog) a while back about character actor Thomas Mitchell who appears in a lot of films, including STAGECOACH.  Also here are character actors Donald Meek and Andy Devine.  John Wayne's first big role...and a great story.

Block 4:  Friday early afternoon

This was a tough block for me to pick from.  Initially I narrowed it down to TOUCH OF EVIL (which I've never seen,) ZULU which I've seen one time quite a while's a great story of severely outnumbered British troupes defending a position against Zulu warriors.  Finally there's GREY GARDENS which I'm leaning towards as it's a quirky documentary.  After careful consideration, I've decided on GREY GARDENS.  I can't seem to pass up quirky characters or quirky films.

Block 5:  Friday late afternoon

Even though I just watched this on TCM the other night (at least up until The Trolley Song), a personal appearance by scene-steeler Margaret O'Brien means I'm hoping to get into MEET ME IN ST. may be a tough ticket.  Seeing that lovely Technicolor in the newly refurbished Grauman's theater will be a wonderful treat.

Block 6:  Friday early evening

I'll exit Grouman's and get right back in line for DOUBLE INDEMNITY - great noir on the big, big screen.

Block 7:  Friday late evening

This block presets some problems.  BLAZING SADDLES with intro discussion with Mel Brooks or THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES which is in my all-time top 5 and I've never seen on the big screen.  Think I'll go with the latter...I can't seem to get enough of that film.

Block 8:  Friday midnight show

David Lynch's ERASERHEAD is perhaps the most disturbing film I've ever seen.  Fellow film buff, Will McKinley opined on Twitter the other week that he was disappointed in the picks for the midnight films this year.  I have to say that I agree with him and during a brief discussion online we threw out a handful of other options (although in hindsight, I'm not sure our picks would have fit in with the theme of the festival.)

Intro by Patton Oswalt should be funny.

Block 9:  Saturday morning

This was a fairly easy pick for me, as CITY LIGHTS is my favorite silent film.  Chaplin's masterpiece, made after the silent era bowed out, has a serious plot thread that is woven throughout humerus vignettes.  If you've never seen a silent film, let me request to go to this screening...and bring your Kleenex for the final absolutely perfect ending.

Block 10:  Saturday early afternoon

I'm not the biggest monster movie lover, but I do appreciate the original GODZILLA and it's undercurrent message about the dangers of nuclear weapons.

Block 11:  Saturday late afternoon

The only problem with going to see GODZILLA in the previous block is that it runs up against the beginning of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.  I'm also sorry to say that HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY is not one of my favorite films (I can hear the gasps now.)  Even the rare appearance by Maureen O'Hara probably isn't enough to get me to that screening.  That means that I'll probably go to see the discussion with Thelma Schoonmaker, I'm a big fan of Martin Scorsese and it will be interesting to hear about her collaboration with this great director.

Block 12:  Saturday early evening

Although fellow classic film friend Aurora (whose blog post on what she's seeing can be found here) suggested that this was a tough block for her...I found that this was a fairly easy pick for me.  I'm going to attend what many have called the 'pre-code double-bill' of THE STRANGER'S RETURN and HAT CHECK GIRL.

Block 13:  Saturday late evening

This was a tough block for me to decide between, but ultimately I've chosen HER SISTER'S SECRET from the poverty row production house Producer's Releasing Corporation.  To my knowledge I've never seen an Edgar G. Ulmer directed film...hoping for good things here.

Block 14:  Saturday midnight show

TCM is screening FREAKS as the midnight film on Saturday, a film they show fairly often (it feels to me like the air it about twice a year.)  It's a one-of-a-kind film belonging to that niche genre of 'disability dramas'.  Tod Browning does something marvelous and gives these 'freaks' real depth and personality over the short 62 minute running time.  Dana Gould is scheduled to introduce the film...I think he intro'd one of the midnight screenings last year as well.

Block 15:  Sunday morning

This is one of those blocks, where I see a film, and I know "this is the film I'm going to see."  The film is TOKYO STORY, Yasujiro Ozu's masterpiece about aging parents and their children who have no time for them.  Typically Ozu--quiet, reserved, still camera--this is a perfect pick for the theme of the festival.

Block 16:  Sunday early afternoon

As tempting as GONE WITH THE WIND is on that huge Grauman's screen, I'm going to attend the screening of the documentary BEST BOY at the Chinese Multiplex.  A story of aging parents who have a mentally challenged son.

Block 17:  Sunday late afternoon

This block present a problem for me...because I didn't have a great interest in seeing any of the films presented.  The festival has added Alan Arkin in THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER at the Egyptian, so I may see that, or I may see something light like EASTER PARADE.  There's always the TBA slot which should be announced sometime Saturday.  UKNOWN.

Block 18:  Sunday early evening (final group of films)

I'll probably watch THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, a film I've never seen (again, I hear more gasps.)  I know a lot of folks are going to see THE LODGER which is a new restored (by BFI) version of the Hitchcock silent complete with live accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

So...that's my list as of today. My schedule may be changing in the very near future!


  1. Great going, Joel and thanks for the shout-out. You gave me lots to think about. I suspected I chose just too many movies I'm familiar with I may shift a few around and see more new ones. Gotta figure out my new-to-me pick ratio.


    1. Thanks for adding a link to my blog on your post! See you in 1.5 weeks :)

  2. Cool, Joel. The more I read the more I'm thinking I shouldn't be too tied to a preconceived plan.

    1. One of biggest concerns last year (my first year attending) was that I'd get 'closed out' of a lot of films that I really wanted to see (like MILDRED PIERCE) but that never happened. It turned out that every film I wanted to see, I got into.

      I probably helped myself by scheduling films that weren't 'back-to-back' where I could get in line fairly early (which means a lot of time waiting on line.)

      My point is flexibility will certainly help...if you decide to see something else, get turned away, decide to do something else (like eat) it'll be better if you're not 'white-knuckle-clutching' your schedule. :)

  3. Looks like you picked some REAL winners Joel! Bachelor Mother is a great choice - you'll really like it. I don't think I've ever heard anyone saying they didn't like that movie. It's so charming!

    1. Thanks, VB...really looking forward to seeing this one. We're going to miss your passion for classic film in LA! Hopefully you can attend in a future year (if you're not already in England :)