Sunday, April 9, 2017

TCMFF Madness, Baby!

Yesterday, the schedule for the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) dropped. As usual, I'll be doing my picks in NCAA tournament format brackets. Once again, I will be attending with my 17-year-old daughter, Jasmine. I tend to pick things that we will both like. On occasion, I run into spots when there are films that she might like better and let her overrule me. For the most part, I limit it to the film screenings, but do indicate the one or two things that might lure out of a darkened theater. I also include links to anyone else's picks I run into in the coming weeks. So without any further ado, I give you this year's picks.


First up, Thursday early evening. My first choice here would be In the Heat of the Night with Sydney Poitier and Norman Jewison in attendance, but I don't have that level of pass (need to have an Essential or Spotlight Pass), so I won't even discuss it.

This leaves Love Crazy and Some Like It Hot in the first set of brackets. At first, I didn't recognize Love Crazy. William Powell is married to Myrna Loy and has to pretend he is crazy to keep her from divorcing him. It's a great screwball comedy I've never seen in the theater. Some Like It Hot is a great comedy, period, but it does appear in the theater pretty regularly, so going with Love Crazy. Next, we have the battle among Jezabel, Dawson City: Frozen in Time, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Dawson City: Frozen in Time is a special presentation about a cache of nitrate films from 1903 to 1929 discovered in a town in the Yukon. To be honest, I don't think I've ever seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory all the way through, but the timing would make it really tough to catch anything in the second block. Now, for whatever, I've never been all that into Jezebel. I'm sure seeing it on the big screen at TCMFF would change that. Still, Jasmine is more into Dawson City: Frozen in Time. I'm giving the edge to Love Crazy, but we could just as easily switch to Dawson City: Frozen in Time.

Next up, we have a Nitrate print of The Man Who Knew Too Much vs Harold and Maude. Never been that into that version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Harold and Maude is just such a cool movie. In the other bracket, we have a very good drama about the end of a boxer's career up against a 1950s British comedy. I'm not sure why, but these early English comedies leave me cold, so it's an easy KO for Requiem for a Heavyweight. Still, the aging Anthony Quinn doesn't have the stamina to take out Harold and Maude.


First up, we have the Pre-Code Rafter Romance up against The Maltese Falcon. I love The Maltese Falcon but I've seen it in the theater several times. No contest here. Then we have Cry, The Beloved Country, Beyond the Mouse, and It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World at the Cinerama Dome. I've never seen Cry, The Beloved Country, but both of the others are things you only see at TCMFF.  I love It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. As a kid, it was the funniest movie I had ever seen, but now I just don't find it all that funny. I still love it for all of the people in it and for nostalgia sake. In additon, the length of the film would take up two block, so the edge goes to Beyond the Mouse, rare cartoons from the 1930. Beyond the Mouse takes this one.

In the next block, it all comes down to Born Yesterday, a long time favorite, up against a fairly new to me 1930s musical, One Hour with You. With the exception of Fred and Ginger and Busby Berkeley Pre-Codes, I've never been a big fan of 1930s musicals. I saw One Hour with You about four months ago, and it was an instant favorite. Still, Born Yesterday is a bigger favorite.

Addendum 1 [March 27, 2017]. I messed up here. The film I saw that became an instant favorite was Love Me Tonight, which like One Hour with You was made in 1932 and starred Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. Honestly, it doesn't change anything. I still would be willing to take a chance on One Hour with You over Beat the Devil, but would still not skip it over Born Yesterday.]

In the Friday afternoon block, we have one of the most quoted films ever, The Princess Bride vs the Marx Brothers, quotes coming up so fast. it's hard to keep up with them. Having director Rob Reiner introducing The Princess Bride, that's a big plus, but it's also one of those films that plays all the time. Think I'm going with Monkey Business. In the lower bracket, I have no interest in seeing Barefoot in the Park (not a fan), so Panique wins by default. Reading the description, the French film noir, Panique, sounds really good. Still, I'm going to stick with my guns on Monkey Business. That said, it wouldn't surprise me if whim overruled at the festival and either or both of us switched to The Princess Bride or Panique.

The next block is one, where they show a couple of longer films against pairs of short films. The longer films Bridge on the River Kwai and Broadcast News are both very good, but I don't think I want to miss two films for either of them. Of the shorter films, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break is the clear winner the first group. Then on the second group, Red Headed Woman is another easy call for me. But nothing is ever easy at TCMFF. Looking at all of these films, I know that Jasmine would like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane better than all of the rest. The problem is Baby Jane starts late (by the pool so needs to get dark). It might get out so late that it would mess up everything in the next block (one of the best in the festival). The current plan is Jasmine goes to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. In the meantime, I will look at the timing real hard to see if it's possible to do the poolside screening and still make something in the next block. With Feud running on Fx, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane may show up in theaters this summer anyway. I may have to talk Jasmine out of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane for the sake of the next block.

In the late evening block Friday, it's easy to dump two of the five. Twentieth Century I just don't like. Those Redheads from Seattle sounds interesting, but not nearly interesting enough. Cat People is a great film, but I can't pick it over either Laura (Nitrate) or High Anxiety (with Mel Brooks in attendance). Filmwise, I think Jasmine would prefer Laura, but Mel Brooks is 90. How many more chances are we going to get to see him? Tough call. Real tough call. At this point, going with Laura and sending prayers that Mel Brooks continues to lead an active healthy life.

The midnight show is Zardoz. Since sleep deprivation is a big issue at TCMFF, it's hard to pull off a midnight movie. Funny story: I was going through the schedule with Jasmine last night and trying to explain Zardoz. I showed her the picture of Connery, and Jasmine got excited, "Oh, I know that one. They did it on Rick and Morty. We're going." Rick and Morty is an animated show for Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. 

So I guess that means we're doing the midnight movie, Friday.


The first block Saturday is another killer. The easiest way to go here is start eliminating. Not a big fan of Danny Kaye, The Court Jester is gone. This is Cinerama is cool, but the timing would make it virtually impossible to catch anything in the next block. It's gone too. The China Syndrome is a good film and will have star, Micheal Douglas, but in my book, it's not anywhere near as good as the other three. It's out too. That leaves Red River, Howard Hawks' great Western, up against Arsenic and Old Lace, Frank Capra's great Comedy, up against Stalag 17, Billy Wilder's great War movie, none of which I've seen in the theater. In the end, Stalag 17 has it all, comedy, drama, and a great ending. The weird part here is that I got badge ribbons done for Arsenic and Old Lace, and it looks like we're not even going to it. If you see me or Jasmine and want one, just ask.

This block we eliminate Rear Window right off the bat. Great film, but I've seen it several times in the theater, and even Jasmine has seen it the theater. The Last Picture Show and David and Lisa might be in contention in a different block, but not here. It comes down to The Awful Truth is a huge favorite of mine, and Jasmine is huge Charlie Chaplin fan. Here I think we may part ways. I may relent, when we get there and join Jasmine for The Great Dictator, but as of now this is how it stands.

Here, I had to do some tweaking to get the brackets to come out right. First round, The Jerk with Carl Reiner breezes past Bye Bye Birdie. In the lower bracket, The Underworld Story sounds enough more interesting that it moves on. Still, The Jerk has to prevail, though you never know what will happen once we get there. I could easily see us going a different way here with The Underworld Story or even Way Out West here.

To be honest, I'm not incredibly psyched about anything here. I like both Theodora Goes Wild and Best in Show. Both are very funny in their own ways, but this might be a good spot to get a real meal. Hard to say what will happen here.

This is another tough one. The Graduate is a really good movie, and I would love to see Buck Henry, but I'm thinking that if Nitrate is really as good as everyone says it is, Black Narcissus is where it's going to really work. In the bottom bracket, it's The Incident all the way. For me, it's about a chance to see the people in it, Martin Sheen in his screen debut, Thelma Ritter, and Brock Peters. For Jasmine, when I explained it was a hostage situation, and Brock Peters (the black guy from To Kill a Mockingbird) wants to stay he likes seeing white people being abused, she was all in. My guess is that when it comes down to it, one or the other of us is going to join the other. Who that will be is hard to say. We might even decide with a coin toss.

The Saturday midnight show, we're going to play it by ear. I'd be surprised if either of us has the energy. Kentucky Fried Movie would be very fun, especially with Jim Abrahams, John Landis, and David and Jerry Zucker in attendance. Then again, a nightcap and looking at the inside of my eyelids for a couple extra hours might be more so.


Sunday is kind of a strange animal. The schedule is peppered with TBA slots that will almost certainly be films that turned people away. The way the schedule looks many of these slots overlap the next block, making it possible you might need to skip the next group of films. In practice, that might not be the case. Often what shows up in these slot are Pre-Codes with short running times, so I'll be looking at the timing real closely. 

This brings us to the first block of films. Most of these don't blow my dress up. Bonnie and Clyde, good movie, not a huge favorite. They don't list any guests, but with most of the stars still alive that might change and so might my pick here. Dr. Strangelove has moments but I'm not real big on it. Same with The Front Page, if it was His Girl Friday, I'd be all over it. The Egg and I is fun, so it gets the nod. In the lower bracket, Cock of the Air and Lured are looking very good for both of us. Then again so are the two TBA slots. And to complicate matters, I bought a costume piece, a British Naval jacket, worn by Montegu Love in The Buccaneer (1938). Depending how the packing goes, I might want to bring it up and have it appraised. The problem is the jacket is wool and weighs as much as a leather jacket, seriously. I'm not sure I want to schlep it up on the train from San Diego, when I'm not sure I'll have the time to have it looked at.

In this block, The Palm Beach Story is winning hands down. Plus, at this point in the festival, an old favorite seems to be the way to go. I've never seen Postcards from the Edge, but reading the description, it has an insanely good cast. While I could be lured away with the right TBA, probably going to stick with The Palm Beach Story.

At this point, I'm kicking myself for not seeing the Fathom Events screening of Singin' in the Rain back in January when I had a chance. Still, with the choice of Singing in the Rain and What's Up Doc, I'd still go with Singing in the Rain. I liked What's Up Doc as a kid, but now, I have the same problem with it that I have with Bringing Up Baby (don't like ditsy women). In the other bracket, the scrappy underdog, Hell Is for Heroes is taking it. For me, it's Bob Newhart. For Jasmine, the story sounds better. Still, Singin' in the Rain in the TCL Chinese should prevail. One factor in its favor is that it's the first film to end in that block, meaning we might get a real meal for dinner.  

Finally, we move to the last block. I can't think of a better way to end the festival than Casablanca at the TCL Chinese, despite having seen it a lot of times. It is my all-time favorite movie. But this is TCMFF, nothing is ever that easy. Of the Nitrate presentations, the one I wanted to see most is, Lady in the Dark. That said, Jasmine has been looking forward to Speedy with live accompaniment from the Alloy Orchestra, using the musical saw and junk percussion. Speedy takes it.

Other people's picks



  1. I love the Bracketology system. I might have made different choices looking at it this way. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall as you tried to explain the premise of Zardoz to your daughter. I'll also have to find that episode of Rick and Morty. Anything that references Zardoz is a must see.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. Jasmine is kind of a hoot. My wife and I have worked for Comic-Con and WonderCon forever, and both of our kids kinda grew up there. One year when she was about 13, she decide that she wanted to bone up on geek film so she could get more of the references that people make there. In one 24-period, she watched Star Wars (I refuse to call it Episode IV: A New Hope), Hellboy, and They Live. I asked which of the three she liked best. She said, They Live. I was so proud.