Wednesday, May 4, 2022

2022 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (#TCMFF) Recap

The 2022 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival has come and gone. It went by so fast, as it always does, but it was great to see friends I hadn't seen in two years. This year, I went a day before the festival started.

It was always tough arriving on the day of the festival and jumping into watching movies. I found myself falling asleep during the last movie of the evening. So arriving Wednesday morning meant I could relax before the festival got started. This year, due to the pandemic, we had to pick up our badges in person. Every other year, badges were mailed to us. We had to prove that we were vaccinated before we could get our festival badge. Once we proved our vaccination status, we were given a wristband that we had to show to get into certain venues.

Day One
Thursday morning, I went to the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The venue is interesting. Part of the museum was a repurposing of the old May Company Department Store at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue. The museum is part of Museum Row, which is on the Miracle Mile.

One of the prop sleds from Citizen Kane

The museum was a bit of a disappointment. There didn't seem to be any logic, at least any logic that I could figure out, to how the museum was organized. I thought we would be exposed to the history of film from its very beginnings, but that wasn't the case. There were exhibits that seemed almost random to me. There was an exhibit of artifacts from Citizen Kane next to artifacts from Brue Lee movies. 

The famous matte painting of Mt. Rushmore from North By Northwest

Many of the exhibits were interesting, including the matte painting from Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest (1959). It was photo-realistic and a favorite spot for folks to take pictures. If you positioned your camera properly, you could appear to be at the famous landmark.

Posters from movies made for Black audiences from the silent era to early talkies

It isn't cheap to go to the Academy Museum, so do your research before you plan your trip.

Here I am with the winning team, featuring Lara Gabrielle (in blue), me (the only guy on the team), and Karen Hannsberry (in black next to host Bruce Goldstein).

At 3 p.m. in the Blossom Room (Club TCM) of the Roosevelt Hotel, it was time for So You Think You Know Movies, one of the hardest classic movie trivia contests around, Bruce Goldstein, repertory program director of New York's Film Forum and founder of Rialto Pictures, was the host of the annual event. You can play this team challenge (2-8 members each). The questions are really tough. Year after year, I go thinking I have a chance but have ended up humiliated for the last six years. But this year was different. My team won! Not only did we win, but we won outright. Generally, there are a few teams tied that require a tiebreaker. As winners, we received a canvas tote bag with a DVD collection, a book, and refrigerator magnets. To see if you could have been a winner, click here.

Since I had a Classic pass, going to see E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982) was out of the question. So my choices were The Harvey Girls (1946), Jeweel Robbery (1932), The Slender ThreadI (1965), Tender Mercies (1983), and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. So which film did I choose? The Harvey Girls. I've seen it before but never on the big screen so that's why I made that choice. To see the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe number on the big screen was a treat.

Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, and William Demarest
in a publicity shot from Hail the Conquering Hero

The next choices were difficult. The choices were Lover Come Back (1981), Topkapi (1964), Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), and A Star is Born (1937). I've seen all of these movies and saw a great print of A Star is Born at the TCMFF several years ago. So which movie did I choose? Hail the Conquering Hero.

Day Two
Friday morning, I had five movie choices: The Sunshine Boys (1975), Maisie Gets Her Man (1942), The Gunfighter (1950), Dinner at Eight (1933), and The Jungle Book (1967). There were a couple of movies in this grouping that I hadn't seen. So which movie did I choose? Maisie Gets Her Man. I'm a fan of Ann Sothern and I had never seen this Maisie movie before. And co-starring with Sothern in an early film role was Red Skelton. I've been a fan of Skelton since I was a boy, watching his weekly television show.  The film was introduced by actress Kate Flannery, an Ann Sothern superfan. She set up the movie and the cast perfectly which made me enjoy it all the more.

In between the morning and afternoon movies was the Lily Tomlin hand and footprint ceremony in the Chinese Theatre courtyard. I've never attended any of these ceremonies in the past, mainly because you have to miss two movie showings if you do. I always pass. Congratulations, Lily!

The afternoon's offerings included Tootsie (1982), The Group (1966), Spy Smasher Strikes Back (1942), Coming Home (1978). Also on the schedule was a short film A Little Song, A Little Dance (2022). So which movie did I choose? None! Instead of the movies, I went to Club TCM to see Mark McCray present Looney Tunes in Hollywood. It was a fun look at how (primarily) Warner Bros. animators portrayed the movie stars of the day in cartoon form. McCray, an animation historian was energetic and entertaining in his presentation of the clips he chose. I was glad I choose this presentation over the movies.

John Rait and Doris Day (center) in the delightful The Pajama Game

Later in the afternoon, I had pretty much made up my mind I was going to see one movie. My choices were All of Me (1984), The Pajama Game (1957), Pride of the Marines (1945), Queen Bee (1955), and Lillies of the Field (1963). Also during the afternoon was A Conversation with Bruce Dern in Club TCM. So which movie did I choose? I chose The Pajama Game. There was really no other choice for me. I had never seen it before and I'm a huge Doris Day fan so it was a no-brainer. The film was introduced by Eddie Muller. The host of Noir Alley on TCM may seem like an unlikely person to introduce this movie, but Muller is an unabashed Day fan. He said when they announced that this film was being screened, he expressed his interest in introducing it. The only way he wouldn't have introduced it is if Bonnie Rait, actor John Rait's daughter, was available. Well, she wasn't so Eddie got the gig. This was a premier restoration of the classic musical and boy did it look amazing. The audience was really into the movie; we clapped after each musical number. It was only day two but knew this would be my best movie experience at the festival. And by Sunday, nothing had changed. It was far and away my favorite experience.

The evening choices were many but again, my choice was dictated by a decision I made before the final schedule was set. The choices were Giant (1956), The Letter (1940), Fatal Attraction (1987), It's Always Fair Weather (1955), The Gay Divorce (1934), Cocktail Hour (1933), I, The Jury 3D (1953), Nebraska (2013), Cooley High (1975), and Soylent Green (1973) poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. So which movie did I choose? Giant. From the moment they announced this film, I knew I had to see it. I always wanted to see Giant on the big screen and when I found out that they were premiering a new 4k restoration, that sealed the deal. TCM host Ben Mankiewicz conducted interviews with Steven Spielberg, George Stevens Jr., and Margaret Bodde, Executive Director of The Film Foundation. The movie never looked better and those 3+ hours just flew by. It was amazing to see Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean at the height of their attractiveness. 

For those who like to stay up late, there was a screening of Miracle Mile (1988). I have never had enough gas to stay up for any of these midnight screenings. I passed.

Day Three
Another full day at the movies. The morning choices were Houseboat (1958), The Third Man (1949), 100 Busy to Work (1932), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), and Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980). So which movie did I choose? I chose Houseboat (1958) starring Cary Grant and Sophia Loren. This might seem like an odd choice given the other film options but Houseboat was a favorite movie of mine as a kid so I was happy to see it on the big screen at the Chinese Theatre with an appreciative crowd. The film was introduced by film critic and journalist Tara McNamara who was enthusiastic about the movie, but kept referring to Sophia Loren's husband as "Carlos." You can't make a mistake like that at the TCM Film Festival!

The lunchtime movie schedule included Annie (1982), To Kil a Mockingbird (1962), Three on a Match (1932), The Last of Sheila (1973), and The Flame and the Arrow (1950). So which movie did I choose? I chose The Flame and the Arrow starring Burt Lancaster and Virginia Mayo. I had never seen this Technicolor swashbuckling adventure. It was interesting because Lancaster and friend and co-star Nick Cravat did their own stunts which are pretty spectacular. The film was introduced by Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burt and Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Crag Barron. Both Burt and Barron are regulars at the TCM Film Festival and are probably the most entertaining presenters the festival has ever seen. The two friends have a great report and are audience favorites.

Theresa Harris and Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face

Later in the afternoon, the choices were The Wizard of Oz (1939), Somewhere in Time (1980), A Man Called Adam (1966), The Tall T (1957), and Baby Face (1933). Again, for me, there was no choice so I chose Baby Face. Introduced by Bruce Goldstein who called the film the Citizen Kane of pre-Code films and that it is. The movie features a dynamic performance by Barbara Stanwyck in an early role. The movie also stars George Brent, Douglass Dumbrille, and Theresa Harris. The film was screened in the Hollywood Legion Theater, one of the most comfortable theaters being used at the festival.

Dinnertime movies included Heaven Can Wait (1978), The Hustler (1961), Little Women (1949), The French Way (1945), Invaders from Mars (1953), and Counsellor at Law (1933). So which movie did I choose? I chose Invaders from Mars. I remember watching this movie as a kid on Saturday afternoons and being terrified. I hadn't seen it in decades so I was keen to see this newly restored print. Boy was I surprised to realize that the movie was in color! I had watched the movie on a black and white television back in the day. The movie was introduced by the director, writer John Sayles. In the audience was Jimmy Hunt who starred as David MacLean. It was fun seeing this film after so many years. I was surprised at how much of the film I remembered. I was glad I saw it.

The evening selections were Singin' in the Rain (1952), Force of Evil (1948), Portrait of Jenny (1948), Drunken Master II (1994), Diner (1982), and Blue Hawaii (1961). So which movie did I choose? None! I was exhausted and went to bed early. And forget about the midnight showing of Polyester (1981).

Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor in Waterloo Bridge

Day Four--the last day!
Sunday was the last day and the last day of the TCM Film Festival is always bitter-sweet. But there were still a lot of movies to choose from. The morning film choices were Paper Moon (1973), After the Thin Man (1936), Waterloo Bridge (1940), Wim Wenders, Desperado (2020), and Spartacus (1960). So which movie did I choose? I chose Waterloo Bridge. I chose Waterloo Bridge. The movie was introduced by writer, actor, and film historian Sloan De Forest. Unfortunately, the movie we saw was an edited version that didn't make some scenes quite clear. Still, the film was enjoyable for the performances of Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor and the direction of Mervyn LeRoy.

Piper Laurie interview in Club TCM

The lunchtime movies included Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), High Noon (1952), Fly-by-Night (1942), and Popi (1969). Well, I chose Fly-by-Night but I didn't get into that one. So I decided to go to Club TCM for A Conversation with Piper Laurie. I was happy to see Laurie. She was scheduled for the festival two years ago but due to the pandemic, her appearance was postponed. We're so fortunate to have her with us still at age 90! She had an interesting life and career and she seems very happy with herself, her career, and the choices she made.

The later afternoon choices included The Sting (1973), Has Anybody Seen My Gal (1952), Key Largo (1948), Evenings for Sale (1932), The Pajama Game (1957), Three on a Match (1932), and The Letter (1940). Some movies that were shown in smaller venues or were very popular get repeated on Sunday so you get a second chance to see a movie you missed earlier in the week. I chose The Sting. I hadn't seen The Sting on the big screen since it was first released so I thought it would be fun to see it on the big screen at the Chinese Theatre.

Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in 7th Heaven

The evening movie choices and the last movie (sniff) that I would see at the festival would be one of the following: A League of Their Own (1992), 7th Heaven (1927), Jewel Robbery (1932), Coffy (1973), and The Group (1966). I chose 7th Heaven. I had never seen the silent classic and I had always wanted to. The film was accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra which was wonderful. They also had a foley artist create sound effects which were pretty cool. I'm glad I saw this film directed by Frank Borzage and starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell who made a total of 12 films together.

Total films seen:
  1. The Harvey Girls
  2. Hail the Conquering Hero
  3. Maisie Gets Her Man
  4. The Pajama Game
  5. Giant
  6. Houseboat
  7. The Flame and the Arrow
  8. Baby Face
  9. Invaders from Mars
  10. Waterloo Bridge
  11. The Sting
  12. 7th Heaven

With the last movie screened, it was time for the Closing Night Reception at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel poolside. This too is bittersweet because we have to say goodbye to folks we probably won't see for at least a year and it's back to reality and day-to-day life back home.

It's been a week since I left for the TCM Film Festival and it seems like a long-ago distant memory.

Well, there's always next year!

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