The countdown is on for the in-person return of the TCM Classic Film Festival, with just a couple of weeks to go! I’m so excited to be going back to TCMFF, especially now that I live in Hollywood and am within walking distance of all the venues. Since I’ve experienced TCMFF once before back in 2019, and because I have the good fortune of living in a city full of great repertory screenings, I’m going to try to take a more relaxed approach this year and allow room for flexibility. With that said, here’s what I’ve decided on after mulling over the schedule for a few days, as well as my thought process on my picks… but I expect I’ll change my mind on some of my choices when the time comes; that’s all part of the TCMFF fun!
Films I Haven’t Seen: N/A
The first day of the festival is off to a strong start, and as it turns out, I’ve actually seen every movie playing on this day. Last time around, I hung out in Club TCM at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for the “Meet TCM” and “So You Think You Know Movies” events before heading over to the red carpet of the opening night film and then heading back for the intro to the first poolside screening. That turned out so well last time, so I plan to do the same this year, especially since this year’s opening night film is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Steven Spielberg and Drew Barrymore will be among the special guests walking the red carpet. I have the Classic Pass again this year, so I won’t be able to see the film itself but it’ll still be a treat to see them in person.
After the red carpet, I might drop by the opening night party back at the hotel, but if not I’ll just grab a quick bite to eat before catching Topher Grace’s introduction of the poolside screening of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and possibly stay for the beginning of the movie. Then comes my first screening of the festival, and you really can’t go wrong with any of the films showing in this last block of the night. Before the full schedule was released, I was strongly considering A Star Is Born, but since it’s playing at the Hollywood Legion Theater, I decided it’d be better to stick with a film playing closer at the Chinese Multiplex instead of making the trek up to that screening. So instead I’ll go with Topkapi, which will be screening in 35mm. I just watched it for the first time a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, and I imagine it’ll be even more fun watching with the TCMFF crowd.
My Tentative Picks: Topkapi
Films I Haven’t Seen: Maisie Gets Her Man, Spy Smasher (re-edited here as Spy Smasher Strikes Back), The Group, All of Me
Following the opening night excitement, I’m giving myself a little extra time to sleep in before heading down to see The Jungle Book at the El Capitan Theatre, which will be the only time during the festival the theater will host a screening. Seeing Sleeping Beauty was one of my biggest highlights of the 2019 TCMFF, so while The Jungle Book is not among my favorite Disney movies, it’ll be worthwhile to see Floyd Norman talk about his work on the film, as he did three years ago alongside his former colleagues. Since that screening ends with little time to head to other films in the next block, I figure I’ll just catch a glimpse of the hand and footprint ceremony for Lily Tomlin as I make my way over to the “Looney Tunes in Hollywood” Club TCM event.
I was interested in checking out the musical showcase “A Little Song, A Little Dance” but since that starts just as the “Looney Tunes” event ends, I’ll have to skip it. So for the next block of movies, the one I’d be most interested in is All of Me, which I’ve never seen and includes a discussion with Lily Tomlin. However, I’m leaning toward sticking around Club TCM for the conversation with Bruce Dern, as I don’t plan on going to the other screenings he’ll be introducing (Coming Home and Nebraska). And since there will be some time surrounding the two Club TCM events, I should be able to grab some food and just hang out a bit before heading into a busier night of screenings.
My Tentative Picks: The Jungle Book, “Looney Tunes in Hollywood”, A Conversation with Bruce Dern
Films I Haven’t Seen: Cocktail Hour, I, the Jury, Miracle Mile
The first block of Friday night is where my first big conflict comes up. I’d love to go to the Club TCM panel celebrating Doris Day for her centennial, but It’s Always Fair Weather is a film I really had my eye on seeing before the full schedule was released. That film will be screening in 35mm and have an introduction with Mario Cantone, who I’ve loved seeing on TCM and at the festival, so right now that’s where my choice goes for this block. But if I decide to go to “TCM Celebrates Doris Day”, then I’ll probably swing by the poolside screening of Soylent Green for the introduction, which will include Leigh Taylor-Young. Another option would also be checking out the rare pre-code Cocktail Hour, but that may end up being a TBA on Sunday since I imagine it’ll be a popular showing as is typical with the pre-code screenings.
Another film I’ve been eager to see since it was announced is The Gay Divorcee, a wonderful chance to see the magic of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on the big screen (and in 35mm)! But if I don’t get into that screening, then my backup will be the 3D presentation of I, the Jury. This year I’m hoping to check out both midnight screenings as I skipped them the last time around. Friday’s midnight movie is Miracle Mile, which has been on my radar to check out for a while, so hopefully, I still have some energy to stay awake for it.
My Tentative Picks: It’s Always Fair Weather, The Gay Divorcee, Miracle Mile
Films I Haven’t Seen: Houseboat, Return of the Secaucus Seven, Too Busy to Work, Annie, The Tall T
Saturday morning will depend on how I feel after Friday’s midnight screening, but for now, I’m planning to dedicate the first half of the day to the Hollywood Legion Theater. The first block was between Houseboat and Return of the Secaucus Seven, both movies I haven’t seen before. Right now there aren’t any guests planned for the former screening, so I decided to go with the latter, which will include filmmaker John Sayles in person. So since I’m planning to start my day at the Hollywood Legion Theater, I figure I might as well spend more time there and stick around for The Flame and the Arrow, especially because it’d be my first time seeing a presentation by Craig Barron and Ben Burtt, who I always hear are a highlight of TCMFF. Also in attendance will be former child actor Gordon Gebert, who I know best playing Janet Leigh’s son in Holiday Affair, so it’ll be a treat to hear about his experience working alongside Burt Lancaster in this adventure film. But if I change my mind in this block, the other film I’d be interested to see with the TCMFF audience is The Last of Sheila, which includes a discussion after the film with Richard Benjamin.
Another tough decision in the afternoon, between Bruce Goldstein presenting the classic pre-code Baby Face and Jane Seymour on hand for Somewhere in Time. I’d go with Baby Face here, but assuming I start my day early following the midnight screening, right now I’m actually opting to skip this block and head back to my place to rest up and eat as I want to be as alert as possible for what’s ahead in the evening.
My Tentative Picks: Return of the Secaucus Seven, The Flame and the Arrow
Films I Haven’t Seen: The French Way, Counsellor at Law, Invaders from Mars, Drunken Master II
My anticipated screening for this year’s TCMFF is Heaven Can Wait, a movie I love and would’ve probably made sure to see regardless of the special guest: Warren Beatty! But him being there to talk about his film makes this even more of a must-see, so while it will be screened in the grand TCL Chinese Theatre, I want to make sure I get in line early enough to guarantee a good seat. If it weren’t for this movie, I would’ve been interested in seeing Counsellor at Law with Leonard Maltin receiving the Robert Osborne Award, or actually staying for a whole poolside screening with Blue Hawaii.
Singin’ in the Rain is my all-time favorite film, and while I’ve already seen it a couple of times in theaters, I can’t miss this chance to see it on the big IMAX screen in the TCL Chinese Theatre. Otherwise, I’d probably consider going to see Portrait of Jennie, though seeing some of the stars of Diner reunite for that screening is tempting too. After Singin’ in the Rain, I’m hoping to make it to the midnight showing of Polyester, one of my favorites from John Waters, which will include a discussion between Mink Stole and Mario Cantone. Should be a fun way to end an exciting night!
My Tentative Picks: Heaven Can Wait, Singin’ in the Rain, Polyester
Films I Haven’t Seen: Wim Wenders, Desperado, Popi, Fly-By-Night, Evenings for Sale
Since this is the last day of the festival, I plan to be flexible on Sunday, also because I’ll likely still be recovering from the excitement of the previous days. While there are some good movies playing in the morning, there’s nothing that really jumps out at me to see, as most of the films in this block don’t have any guests scheduled. If I hadn’t already seen Paper Moon at the New Beverly a couple of months ago, that would’ve been my choice. But instead, I plan to sleep in and skip this block altogether. The next block poses a bit of a dilemma between one of my favorites, Peggy Sue Got Married, and one I’m curious about, Fly-By-Night. Since there will be more opportunities for me to see the former in a theater, I’m favoring the latter film for the moment; but if someone from the cast or crew is announced at Peggy Sue Got Married, then I’ll go for that instead of Fly-By-Night.
From what I’ve chosen so far, I’ve yet to see a pre-code, so this last block of the afternoon gives me what might be my only good chance of seeing one with Evenings for Sale. There’s also a TBA scheduled which could end up being a movie I wanted to see but missed on one of the other days. But the Club TCM panel hosted by Jacqueline Stewart sounds really interesting, so for now I’m going with that, but again, my picks here could easily change at a moment’s notice.
My Tentative Picks: Fly-By-Night, “Reframed: Exploring the Complex Topic of Art vs. the Artist”
Films I Haven’t Seen: Has Anybody Seen My Gal
So last week I went to a screening of The Sting at the New Beverly so I would have one less film to worry about at TCMFF. But that was such a blast to see with an audience, I’m actually strongly considering going to this to experience it with the festival crowd. For now, though, I’m going with Has Anybody Seen My Gal as I want to hear Piper Laurie talking about what it was like working with Douglas Sirk and Rock Hudson. There are also a few TBA titles in contention here, so we’ll have to wait and see what I feel like going to when the time comes.
TCMFF is really ending with a bang with this last block of films, it’s hard to pick between the three titles that have been announced: A League of Their Own, which includes a handful of the cast in attendance; 7th Heaven with live accompaniment; and Pam Grier introducing Coffy. And of course, there are a couple of TBA titles. Right now I’m leaning toward A League of Their Own, as it promises to be a fun way to end this year’s festival before heading to the closing night party.
My Tentative Picks: Has Anybody Seen My Gal, A League of Their Own
Going by my tentative picks, I’ll be seeing 13 films, which is just one more than what I saw back in 2019, though at the last in-person TCMFF I watched 5 new-to-me movies and this time around it looks like I’ll be seeing 4. We’ll see how it turns out in a couple of weeks! Regardless, I’m thrilled for the festival’s return to Hollywood and to reunite with fellow classic movie fans.