TCMFF Home Edition: Picks and Thoughts

In an alternate universe, this post does not have to be written. At this very moment on Earth 2, I am just getting breakfast at Mel’s Diner and prepared for a full day of activities in Los Angeles. My plans for the 2020 TCM Classic Movies Film Festival included almost two full days of exploring the city before the festival started on April 16. Sadly, due to the coronavirus pandemic, I was not on a plane from Nashville to LAX on April 14. Instead, I indulged in a Disney movie marathon and picked up groceries.

The folks at Turner Classic Movies came up with a brilliant idea for all of us stuck at home this weekend. Last month, they announced TCMFF 2020 – Special Home Edition. They could not exactly replicate the schedule-that-never-happened, but instead put together programming to pay tribute to the first 10 years of the festival. The slate starts Thursday night, just as the in-person festival would have, and continues through Sunday, April 19. In order to keep the feeling of community going, the #TCMParty folks will be doing several live-tweeting events during the weekend. (The schedule can be found here.)

I’ve been to three festivals – 2014, 2016 and 2018 – and some of the most memorable moments from those years are baked into the at-home programming. It is so hard to understate how important the festival has been, and I can’t wait for 2021. No one knows what the “new normal” will look like after the coronavirus pandemic is over – if it can ever truly end – but we all need something to look forward to. In the meantime, her’s my picks for the TCMFF at-home schedule. You can find the full schedule here.

Thursday, April 16

The at-home schedule kicks off with A Star Is Born (1954) at 8 p.m. ET. This was the opening night movie for the first festival in 2010. The real highlight of the first night though is Louise Rainer: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2011) at 1:45 a.m. ET, which was also recorded at the first festival. Rainer, then 100 years old, discussed her life and career with Robert Osborne. It will be followed by The Good Earth (1937), which earned Rainer an Oscar for Best Actress.

Friday, April 17

The first full day of the festival has a lot to offer, including events I missed at the 2014 festival – a tribute to the Maysles brothers with Grey Gardens (1975) (1:30 a.m. ET), A Hard Day’s Night (1964) (12:30 p.m. ET) and Eva Marie Saint: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2 p.m. ET). As a Beatles fan, missing an opportunity to see A Hard Day’s Night on the big screen at the TCL Chinese Theater was a killer and I can’t remember exactly what I went to instead. I know I didn’t go to Eva Marie Saint’s talk because I saw her at The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.

One film I’m really excited for more people to see is Night Flight (1933). This was out of circulation for decades until it was screened at the 2011 festival, with John Barrymore’s granddaughter Drew Barrymore there to introduce. The film is a wonderful little relic, packed with an all-star MGM cast. Warner Bros. Home Video did release a DVD after the TCM screening (which I have), but many probably still haven’t seen it. Set the DVR for it, as it airs at 3:15 a.m. ET.

Saturday, April 18

I cannot stress how happy I am that TCM will air a condensed version of the late Ron Hutchison’s incredible Vitaphone Shorts (10:30 a.m. ET) presentation from 2016. I remember getting up super early to make sure I was at the Egyptian Theatre for this event and it remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Unfortunately, TCM is only airing three shorts and did not include The Beau Brummels, featuring vaudeville performers Shaw and Lee. This short is a riot, and one everyone kept talking about for the rest of the festival.

Saturday also features the infamous Double Harness (1933) (9:15 a.m. ET). This William Powell pre-code played to a packed Theater 6 twice in 2016. I didn’t even bother going, because I’d seen the film on TCM in the past and I wanted to see He Ran All The Way at the Egyptian. I’m also excited to see the talks with Faye Dunaway (4:30 p.m. ET) and Norman Lloyd (1:30 a.m. ET). At 4:15 a.m. ET, TCM will air The Passion of Joan of Arc, which was screened with a full live orchestra in 2016.

Sunday, April 19

The last day of the festival always has a strange feeling. We’re sad to see it come to an end, but still excited for more movies. I remember the last day of the 2014 festival kicking off with Fiddler On The Roof at the Chinese Theater, which remains one of the most emotional experiences in a movie theater I’ve ever had. Anyway, moving on…

The schedule includes an interesting moment from the 2018 festival. Eddie Mueller introduced The Set-Up (1949) (7:45 a.m. ET), Robert Wise’s excellent boxing noir, with actor Malcolm Mays brought in to read the poem the film is based on. Mays ended up reading the poem from his phone, so it will be curious to see how that is edited for the network.

New York Film Forum programmer Bruce Goldstein is one of my favorite guests at the festival. He hosts the trivia game at Club TCM on the first day, which is always fun to watch. He also gives a presentation on pre-code film. This year, his presentation was set to be paired with the Barbara Stanwyck classic Baby Face (1933) (12:15 a.m. ET).

TCM also included other movies set to play at the 2020 festival. The Hustler (1961) (9:45 p.m. ET) was going to be part of a Piper Laurie tribute, with her in attendance. Serge Bromberg was set to show the new restoration of Bardelys The Magnificent (1926) (1:45 a.m. ET). Disney animator Floyd Norman was set to be honored, so TCM will air the 2016 documentary Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (8 p.m. ET). The at-home festival will end with Victor/Victoria (1982) (3:30 a.m. ET) because Julie Andrews was set to attend. To me, that would have been like seeing Angela Lansbury before The Manchurian Candidate at the 2018 festival.

It still hurts that there is no 2020 TCM Film Festival in-person, but the at-home version will help ease the pain. We are all in this together, and we’re all in the same boat. We should focus on what we have – in this case, a three and a half days full of really cool programming from TCM – instead of dwelling on what we don’t. Just try to watch Casablanca, Singin’ In The Rain, Lawrence of Arabia, The Lady Vanishes, The Seventh Seal and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and forget our troubles. And try desperately not to think about ice cold water for one dollar.

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