Tuesday, May 3, 2016

TCMFF 2016 Wrap-Up

#TCMParty friends (photo courtesy Will McKinley)

I mostly stuck to my original schedule. Six films were repeat viewings, twelve were new-to-me. I’m quite pleased with this year’s TCMFF. Here’s some quick-takes on how it all went down:

A group of us Uber’d over to the New Beverly cinema to catch a double-feature of Footlight Parade (1933) and Follow the Fleet (1936). I nodded off a bit during the films having just flown cross-country. One thing I’ll say is that The New Beverly cinema is a gem in the LA theater scene. Lovely house with spacious seating and friendly staff.


  • One Potato, Two Potato (1964): what a way to begin the TCMFF. This film has a real “kick-in-the-gut” ending. I really wanted to see Barbara Barrie, but she was a no-show. Donald Bogle (who you should seek out at the fest) interviewed the film’s director. Unfortunately, the fire alarm was tripped at the Chinese Multiplex, clearing all three TCMFF houses down to street level. Most film-goers were at the emotional climax of their films. However, TCM and their band of volunteers did an excellent job of handling communication to fans waiting outside. We waited for about 15-30 minutes outside, before the “all-clear” signal was given, fest staffers came out and communicated what was going to happen once we re-entered the building: They would load us back into our original theater and restart the film a few minutes before the fire alarm. We filed back into house 4, and they showed the final reel (this being 35mm.) Overall doing the ‘restart’ wasn’t perfect, but obviously the best they could do under the circumstances.
  • Los Tallos Amargos (1956): Introduced by Eddie Muller, who promised that this was going to be as dark as any noir we had previously seen. He was so right. See this if you get the chance and don’t flinch from seeing subtitles.

I didn’t get into Double Harness (1933) because after leaving The More the Merrier, I went to the Roosevelt lobby to get my copy of “I Blame Dennis Hopper” signed by the delightful Illeana Douglas. I never know what to say to ‘stars’ (I put this in quotes, because she seems like the most down-to-earth person and has no problem hanging out with classic film fans) so I had some awkward chit-chat with her, got my picture taken and headed back to the Multiplex across the street.

I knew that Double Harness was airing on TCM later in May (5/27) so wasn’t too put-out by this. Interestingly, there were a lot of spotlight and VIP pass-holders (who get priority seating) which only allowed 40-some ‘standard’ pass-holders to get into the small ‘house 4’ theater that seats 177.

I also made a decision to skip Pleasure Cruise (1933) feeling the gap between it and The Passion of Joan of Arc would be too tight and I didn’t want to get shut out my festival “must see” film experience.

So, here’s Friday’s film recap:

  • The More the Merrier (1956): A great film..loved seeing it with a healthy crowd at the Egyptian theater.
  • When You’re In Love (1937): Surprisingly entertaining film with Cary Grant and lots of lovely opera singing. I was thoroughly entertained by this gem.
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928): This was THE event of the festival for me and boy, did it deliver. Easily the most impressive thing I’ve seen in four years attending TCMFF.
  • Repeat Performance (1947): Slow-paced and quiet noir led me to doze through most of the first half of this. I’ll have to catch it later...really interesting idea for a film.
  • Roar (1981): Needs to be experienced once, but only once! Repetitive tale of why you shouldn’t live with 40 big cats in the middle of nowhere. Only interesting parts (to me) were seeing Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith playing themselves (and in the case of Griffith, showing off a lot of midriff.)


My scheduled was exactly as planned earlier:

  • 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone: lovely review about challenges of sound syncing with film, early attempts, how Vitaphone worked, etc. Followed by six (I think) Vitaphone short subjects including Baby Rose Marie, Burns & Allen and more. I laughed a lot during many of these, the vaudevillian comedy was terrific.
  • A House Divided (1931): After Maria Falconetti, this was the next best acting performance I saw at the fest. Walter Huston plays an absolutely terrible brute to his son and mail-order bride. Great special effects at the end of the film as well. Seek this one out!
  • Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934): Ronald Coleman sending up early whodunit films. Terrifically funny and tons of great supporting actors (including Mischa Auer, Charles Butterworth & Una Merkel!)
  • Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968): A nice film with a theme similar to that of last year’s closer Marriage Italian Style (1964). Only this film also stars Phil Silvers, Telly Savalas, Peter Lawford and Shelley Winters. Ben interviewed Gina Lollobrigida before the film. It occurs to me that he had some tough interviews this year, with non-native English actors Lollobrigida, Anna Karina and Salvatore Cascio.
  • The Song of Bernadette (1943): My favorite pre-film interview of the festival. Illeana Douglas interviewed Sister Rose Pacatte on how she got into film reviewing and comparisons between church and the movies. At the end of the interview Sr. Rose asked the audience if anyone had a birthday today...someone said they had a birthday this week, she said “see me outside after the film, I have a gift for you.” Such a warm person.
  • Band of Outsiders (1964): I wanted to like this film, but dozed off a little during it. I’d say it’s easily not one of my favorite Jean-Luc Godard films.
  • Gog in 3D (1954): Super turn-out for this film, the largest midnight crowd I’ve seen in four years. While waiting in line, another (ahem) older passholder asked what we were in line for:
                Passholder: “What’s this film?”
                Me: “Gog”
                PH: “Dog”?
                Me: “Gog”
                PH: “God”?
                Me: “Gog”
                PH: “Oh” [walks away]

    Great 3D effects amidst a bad story and cheesy 50s sci-fi SFX. My take-away? Herbert Marshall with a flame-thrower. No...for real.

My schedule was also exactly as planned:

  • The Fallen Idol (1948): Absolutely fascinating British drama. Catch this if you can.
  • Law and Order (1932): Introduced by Leonard Maltin (who’s great at film intros, by the way. In fact I’d suggest you seek out Maltin, Eddie Muller and Donald Bogle for any film intros.) Nice early telling of the Wyatt Earp story with Walter Huston in the lead role. Complete with Tombstone setting and shootout at the O.K. Corral.
  • Horse Feathers (1932): A packed house. Introduced by David Steinberg (who was good, but brief.) Great seeing this in a packed theater...lots of uproarious laughter.
  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949): Very excellent to see Technicolor on the big screen. We sat near an exit wanting to make a quick departure to get good queue-card numbers for Cinema Paradiso. Something I felt we didn’t need to worry about. And boy we didn’t have to worry...this was the most sparsely attended closing event at Grauman’s Chinese theater I’ve experienced in 4 years. My guess is that there were 300-400 people in the 900+ seat theater.
  • Cinema Paradiso (1988): The actor who played young Toto was on hand for the intro. Ben Mankiewicz interviewed him via a translator.  I admit there was ugly crying during the end of this film. I agree with critics of this film that the end is overly sentimental. The director purposely puts things in the film to elicit tears. But I also admit that I still love that it’s sentimental and I love that this was the fest closer for me (and many friends.)

Although TCMFF is a time to see wonderful classic film on the big screen. And also the chance to ‘get close’ to people you see on TV (like Ben Mankiewicz, Illeana Douglas, Kate Flannery, Keith Carradine, etc.) the best part is meeting up with friends I’ve made on Twitter. Truly great people who share my passion for classic film. Thanks to all who said ‘hey’, exchanged buttons, offered a hug, etc. I cherish you people.