The TCM Classic Film Festival begins in just two weeks, and my anticipation continues to grow as we get closer. While I have the great luxury of going to repertory screenings all the time living in Los Angeles, there’s still nothing like watching movies at TCMFF, and I’m excited to attend the beloved fest for the third time. Most of the schedule has been out for nearly a week now, and after thinking it all over multiple times every day since it was released, here are my tentative picks…
Films I Haven’t Seen: Genevieve
Films I’ve Previously Seen In Theaters: N/A
The past two times I attended TCMFF, I followed up the opening day events at Club TCM with the introduction at the festival’s first poolside screening, and right now, I plan to stick with that chill start before diving into the full movie-watching weekend. And this year’s kickoff promises to be a blast, with the original Hairspray being introduced by its star Ricki Lake alongside TCM favorite Mario Cantone. I would’ve loved seeing Shadow of a Doubt, one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, on the big screen (with Oscar nominee John Hawkes providing the screening’s remarks), or perhaps revisiting Ikiru or Airport (playing on 35mm and 70mm, respectively), but I want to put myself in a good position to get to the last film being screened on opening night.
I’d ideally like to leave the Hairspray screening before 9 o’clock, so I can get in line for a movie I haven’t seen, let alone heard of before it popped up on the schedule, a ’50s British comedy called Genevieve, which will be playing in the smallest TCMFF venue. I’m not particularly interested in the other movies playing in that block, both of which I’ve seen before: The Wild One and That Touch of Mink (despite my affection for the stars of the latter film, Cary Grant and Doris Day, it’s not among my favorites from either of them). So I’d hate to miss out on seeing Genevieve because that would also mean not seeing any movies all the way through on the first day of the festival, and I like to see at least one as I’ve done at past festivals. Plus, it’s screening in 35mm and Diane Baker will be in attendance, who is always a pleasure to see at the fest.
My Tentative Picks: discussion before Hairspray, Genevieve
Films I Haven’t Seen: Risky Business
Films I’ve Previously Seen In Theaters: Cool Hand Luke
It’s a battle between a mighty ape and an invisible rabbit for the first block on the first full day of the festival, as the two larger-than-life titular characters of King Kong and Harvey vie for my attention in the early morning hours. The former will be played as big as it deserves on the IMAX screen in the TCL Chinese Theatre, while the latter film will be introduced by filmmaker Joe Dante. Right now I’m actually leaning toward Harvey because it’s a movie I love a lot, and features my favorite James Stewart performance (after It’s a Wonderful Life of course). Plus I’ve missed out on multiple opportunities to see Dante at different screenings over the past year and this seems like the time to finally remedy that. But I haven’t seen King Kong in years and have been meaning to revisit it for some time, so why not see it in the best way possible? I guess we’ll just see where I end up Friday morning. Though my decision may also depend on how I feel about getting in line in time for the movie I want to see in the next block.
Footlight Parade was my top film to see before the schedule was announced, so I’d be pretty bummed if I didn’t get into the screening, which will be introduced by Bruce Goldstein, who I’m sure will provide a fascinating presentation about the pre-code musical. Fortunately, it’s not in the smallest TCMFF venue… but it is in the theater with the second-smallest seating capacity. And as I’ve seen in years past, the pre-codes are always popular, so if I’m feeling anxious, I may just dip out of the previous movie early to get in line and hopefully get a good queue number. But if I don’t make it in, my backup plan is to head to my first Club TCM event: “Warner Bros.: Hollywood’s Ultimate Backlot – A Trip Through the Iron Gates”.
The late afternoon block has a lot of good choices, from the noir western Blood on the Moon screening on 35mm with an intro from Alan K. Rode, a new restoration of The Strawberry Blonde, and Russ Tamblyn in discussion before Peyton Place (in which he earned his sole Oscar nomination). Plus the Club TCM event “Looney Tunes at the Oscars” sounds right up my alley. But I think I’ll finally check out a big pop culture blind spot and head to Risky Business, which will include an interview with star Rebecca De Mornay before the screening.
My Tentative Picks: Harvey, Footlight Parade, Risky Business
Films I Haven’t Seen: Beach Party, The Batwoman
Films I’ve Previously Seen In Theaters: American Graffiti (twice, and both times were just last year!), Ball of Fire
Nearly right up until I began writing this post, I was planning to see Penny Serenade in the early evening block, which is set to have a discussion between George Stevens, Jr. and Oscar-winning screenwriter Alexander Payne. Hearing Stevens speak about his father’s work at the screening of Giant was one of the highlights for me at last year’s TCMFF, so I’d love to see him again and I’d be curious to hear Payne’s connection to this film. But as it turns out, Richard Dreyfuss was recently added to appear at the screening for American Graffiti, which wasn’t revealed in the original schedule announcement. So far it’s just him and co-star Candy Clark (who was Oscar-nominated for the film) who are set to show up, and who knows, perhaps more will join them (though I’m not counting on Harrison Ford to be among them). As I noted above, I’ve already seen the movie twice quite recently on the big screen, but it’s one of my all-time favorites so it’d be great to see it inside the TCL Chinese Theatre. We’ll see how it all shakes out when the moment to decide arrives.
If I do indeed end up going to see American Graffiti, I may be tempted to leave early and check out Frankie Avalon at the poolside screening of Beach Party. I haven’t seen the movie though and don’t want to miss out on my pick in the late-night block, so it might be better if I just stay in my seat for whichever movie I end up seeing, as I’d prefer to avoid leaving screenings early as much as possible and just stick ’em out. Anyway, I was lucky enough to see Ball of Fire in 35mm at the Academy Museum recently, so as much as I’d love to see it with an adoring audience again, I’ll pass it over (especially since it’s screening in the smallest theater). House of Wax in 3D is also very intriguing, and I wouldn’t mind taking the trek up to the Hollywood Legion Theater to see Ed Begley, Jr. ahead of the screening of 12 Angry Men, which co-stars his father. But I’m going for another more modern pick with Steven Soderbergh introducing his remake of Ocean’s Eleven. One of the categories it’s listed under is titled “Better Than the Original?” and I’ve gotta say overall, I do think so… though the Rat Pack version has one of my favorite movie endings! Also, I saw Angie Dickinson introduce the original movie at the first poolside screening of the very first TCMFF I attended back in 2019, so seeing the 2001 film would be a nice sort of symmetry to that moment. The screening is set to end at midnight, so I’ll just skip out on Friday’s midnight movie The Batwoman, and get some sleep before another busy day.
My Tentative Picks: American Graffiti, Ocean’s Eleven
Films I Haven’t Seen: The Wiser Sex, The Jackie Robinson Story, The Crimson Canary
Films I’ve Previously Seen In Theaters: Amadeus (technically not in a movie theater but at the Hollywood Bowl), Play It as It Lays, When Worlds Collide (at a previous TCMFF), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
My other most anticipated screening of the festival starts bright and early: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with Russ Tamblyn! This was actually originally announced for the 2020 TCMFF before it had to be canceled, so you could say I’ve been waiting a long time for this one. It’s one of my favorite musicals and Tamblyn is a big reason why, so I’m excited to see him in person and hear what he has to say about his experience working on the film. I would’ve loved to see The Wiser Sex though, so hopefully that pre-code ends up being one of Sunday’s TBA titles.
Depending on how much time I have to spare after the movie ends, I may try to hightail it to the Hollywood Legion Theater, just to see this year’s presentation from TCMFF favorites Craig Barron and Ben Burtt, who will be breaking down the sound and visual effects of the sci-fi film When Worlds Collide. I saw this at my first TCMFF in 2019 when star Barbara Rush was there, so I’d only stay for the introduction. But whether or not I make it over there, I’m skipping the rest of the movies in this block and heading to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for what may turn out to be my only chance to go to a Club TCM panel for “The Evolution of Henson Puppetry” (fingers crossed there’s a surprise Kermit appearance).
Now we get to Saturday’s late afternoon block, the most brutal grouping on this year’s schedule for me. Since I’ll have already seen Russ Tamblyn that morning, I’ll skip out on his in-depth conversation, which I’m banking on being uploaded to TCM’s YouTube channel, as the sit-down conversations were last year. Another tough one to eliminate is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is being introduced by actor Danny Huston, famously the son of the film’s director, John Huston, and in turn, the grandson of one of the stars, Walter Huston, but as noted, I have seen the movie in theaters before. So now it’s down to the 35mm screening of Crossing Delancey with stars Amy Irving and Peter Riegert, or Bye Bye Birdie in the TCL Chinese Theatre with thee Ann-Margret! This could honestly change at a moment’s notice for me, but at this very moment, I’m leaning toward the latter.
My Tentative Picks: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, “The Evolution of Henson Puppetry”, Bye Bye Birdie
Films I Haven’t Seen: Unfinished Business, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Films I’ve Previously Seen In Theaters: The Exorcist (twice), In the Heat of the Night, Enter the Dragon, Xanadu
There are two movies I would’ve liked to see in this next block: David Wyler introducing one of my favorites of his father’s films, How to Steal a Million, or William Friedkin at the big IMAX screening of The Exorcist. I have seen The Exorcist twice in theaters before, and I’ve actually also seen Friedkin previously but at a screening for Cruising (where he gave probably the longest post-screening Q&A I’ve been to). However, I think I’ll actually skip out on seeing a movie and grab something to eat instead, as I’m more interested in checking out the intro for the final poolside screening of the fest: A Mighty Wind with Michael McKean and Annette O’Toole, both of whom were Oscar-nominated for one of the film’s songs, “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow”. I’ve enjoyed seeing them on TCM and in their respective projects (especially McKean on Better Call Saul), so I’d love to see them in person and possibly catch a bit of this Christopher Guest movie. So yes, I’d be leaving a poolside screening early again; one of these years I will stay the whole time! But this puts me in another prime spot to catch what I currently have my eyes on in the late-night block.
It’s yet another festival discovery screening in the smallest theater, Unfinished Business, another film I wasn’t at all familiar with before it showed up on the schedule. I’d like to leave after the opening remarks by the pool to get in line early… unless the mysterious TBA in that block turns out to be something irresistible. But whatever it is, it’s slated to end at midnight, which would put me in a very tight spot for the midnight screening of Xanadu, which I’m really hoping to stay awake for and experience with the TCMFF crowd. Fortunately, I have seen it in theaters before so it wouldn’t be so bad if I ended up missing it, but I’d much rather not!
My Tentative Picks: discussion before A Mighty Wind, Unfinished Business, Xanadu
Films I Haven’t Seen: Jason and the Argonauts, Six Degrees of Separation
Films I’ve Previously Seen In Theaters: Casablanca
The last day of TCMFF will basically be wherever my mood takes me. For the first half of Sunday, if I can manage to get up early enough, I’ll finally check out the Ray Harryhausen classic Jason and the Argonauts, though I’d love to see Heaven Can Wait on the big screen too. In the block after, I’m leaning toward another movie I haven’t seen before, Six Degrees of Separation, which is screening at the Hollywood Legion Theater. Regardless of whether or not I make it to the Barron & Burtt presentation on the previous day, I’d like to try to see at least one movie at that great theater, and this may be my only opportunity to do so. Plus, being an Oscar nerd, it’s been on my watchlist as the film earned an Academy Award nomination for Stockard Channing. I do hate to miss out on seeing The Red Shoes in a theater, but I’m sure I’ll get a chance another time somewhere in L.A. Though if I end up not wanting to sit down for a full movie, I may just go to Club TCM for “You Gotta Have a Gimmick: The Warner Bros. Trailers Show”… or just simply go get something to eat.
My Tentative Picks: Jason and the Argonauts, Six Degrees of Separation
Films I Haven’t Seen: Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk, Clash of the Wolves
Films I’ve Previously Seen In Theaters: All About Eve
The final stretch of the festival will all depend on what the TBAs will be. If I stick with what’s been announced though, I’ll be winding down TCMFF in front of the IMAX screen with one of my favorite musicals, The Music Man, and a mini-reunion for The Big Chill. Right now it’s just writer-director Lawrence Kasdan and stars Tom Berenger and JoBeth Williams set to take the stage, but some other big names could very well show up too. I’ll just say I saw Jeff Goldblum in the middle of the first TCMFF I attended, and I saw him again just before last year’s festival… so why not continue the TCMFF streak! It’d be a notable end to my festival experience before the closing night party, to say the least.
My Tentative Picks: The Music Man, The Big Chill
So according to my tentative picks, I’ll be seeing 14 films, with 5 being new-to-me movies. During my prior two times at TCMFF, I saw 12 movies total, so I’m sure I’m overshooting it with how many films I’ll actually see. Either way, it’ll be a fun time watching it all!