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Previewing the 2015 TCM Classic Film Fest

The Sixth Annual TCM Classic Film Festival is nearly upon us – four glorious days of immersion in classic film in the heart of Hollywood along with hundreds of our fellow classic film fans. It’s the best time of the year for those of us who love Hollywood’s golden era of filmmaking.

This year hasn’t been without its controversy, as the early press releases announced programming such as Hollywood’s enduring classic…Apollo 13 (1995)? Malcolm X (1992)? Out of Sight (1998)?! But never fear – though TCM is bringing some newer films to the table, in order to woo some fans who haven’t quite made it as far back in Hollywood history as others, to expand the reach of their theme History According to Hollywood, and honor certain guests like editor Anne V. Coates and stunt coordinator Terry Leonard – they’ve still got PLENTY of pre-1970 films to choose from.

In fact, choosing is the hard part! Some of these time slots are so packed it’s nearly impossible to choose what to see. Such is our burden. I’ve gone through each timeslot, and detailed the choices in each one – basically what to look for if you want to catch all the essential films, if you’re looking for lesser known discoveries, or if you want to make the most of experiences you can’t get anywhere else. Obviously, these are all subjective to some degree.

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A few general suggestions to start with, based on my five years experience of this festival.

Plan Meals and Bring Snacks

The schedule is VERY packed if you want to see something in every slot. You’ll often be running directly from screening to another line without a break. Plan ahead and make sure to eat in any hour long breaks you have. It’s not a bad idea to bring some small bags of chips and a bottle of water with you, in case you end up crunched for time. The theatre doesn’t really make a big deal out of it for festivals – if you’d rather not sneak in food, they do have actual restaurant food and a bar as well as regular theatre food. Plus there are several relatively quick restaurants scattered around the top level of the Hollywood-Highland Center, including a pizza place, a Quizno’s, a Johnny Rockets, a Mongolian Barbecue, and a few more right next to the theatre.

See Something at Each of the Palaces

TCL Chinese, the Egyptian, and El Capitan are the centerpiece theatres and they are all pretty amazing venues. The Egyptian is a bit plainer these days than the other two on the inside, but the balcony is very nice. Head up there, because a lot of people don’t know it’s there and the middle front has the best view in the theatre.

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Elsewhere: Billy Wilder and More Billy Wilder

A couple of elsewheres this time, but both are about Billy Wilder. You can expect a lot of that, since I’ve been researching him and his films extensively and I want to get as much content out of that as I can. :)

Over at the Flickchart blog, I wrote a career overview and Top Ten, using Flickchart’s global Top Ten rather than my own.

And over at Row Three, I resurrected the “Finite Focus” feature to highlight a scene from The Apartment.

Check them out!

Watch This: First and Final Frames

I kind of wish the titles of the films were included on the video, since I could only recognize about half of them right off (the titles are in the description with timestamps), but then again, the beauty and symmetry of these shots mixed with the music is so perfect that I’m also kind of glad the picture is unmarred by data. It’s fascinating to see how sometimes the images mirror each other, sometimes they differ greatly, but always there’s a relationship implied. I wasn’t following this guy Jacob T. Swinney on Vimeo, but you bet I am now.

Elsewhere: I was interviewed on Polygamer!

I actually have a few things going on other sites lately, so keep an eye on this space (and my Twitter) to see where else I’m, uh, doing things. The most timely at the moment is that I appeared on the Polygamer podcast, courtesy of host Ken Gagne. The podcast is largely game-centric, but we also talked about film criticism, writing in general, and raising toddlers. Well, I talked about raising toddlers. He doesn’t have kids, but was interested in how I keep up with everything media-wise while also raising a toddler. (Answer: I don’t, but I put up a decent front.)

Click here to listen, or search for the Polygamer podcast in your podcatcher of choice.

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The Roundup: March 13, 2015

Cinema

TCM Film Festival Fanatics Cry Foul by Wade Sheeler at The Black Maria

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This year’s TCM Fest includes such classics as Apollo 13, Out of Sight and Raiders of the Lost Ark, which has some purists among classic film fans up in arms. Wade addresses this concern with some well-needed perspective. Personally, I myself had some words when Raiders was announced purely because it plays three times a year in LA, but a friend helpfully reminded me that most people coming to the fest aren’t blessed with the kind of rep culture we have here. The final lineup announced this week is extremely diverse and well-rounded, with films from 1900 to 1998 represented, and with 81 films playing over 3 1/2 days, there’s absolutely no reason anyone will have to see anything they don’t want to. My own festival preview is coming soon; in the meantime, here are some guides from other sites: Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, Hollywood Revue, and Pre-Code.com.

So, when the 2015 TCM Film Fest schedule was released this week, it was tantamount to Martin Luther’s 95 theses being nailed to the church door. Fanatics took to Twitter, to Facebook and to all manner of social media to decry that TCM has “lost their minds.” They were “super disappointed”, the programming “uninspired” “dull,” one going so far as to say “their programming sucks. I’ve been telling them that since Year 1.” Another says the TCM programmer “got drunk and chose a film at random without much thought behind the selection.” While yet still another lamented: “if I am told it is a TCM CLASSIC Film Festival, I have every right to the expectation that the overwhelming majority of the fare be what I fully believe Mr. Robert Osborne himself would define as a classic movie.” Another is secure that “empty theatres will tell TCM all they need to know.” There are even factions that plan on having their “voices heard” at the Meet TCM Panel at the beginning of the festival, to complain about this loose definition of classic, while others fear that they won’t follow through with their resolve, and pull a “Caine Mutiny.” (These are all real quotes, btw).

People. Chill.

There’s No Universal Right Age for Aliens or Any Other Movie by Tasha Robinson at The Dissolve

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Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com showed Aliens to a bunch of kids at his son’s birthday party, and then wrote about the experience, attracting a whole bunch of concerned parents worried that 11 is too young to see Aliens. Tasha Robinson pens this great, spot-on response to the maelstrom.

In turning this into a large-scale fight about parental control, age appropriateness, exposure to violence, and the long-term earnings potential of early Aliens-watchers, the debaters are, predictably enough, skipping over what actually happened at the slumber party. Seitz made a number of eminently responsible choices. He picked a movie he’d already seen multiple times, so he knew what to expect. He talked to the children about what films they’d already seen—in this case, virtually all of them had already seen Alien or an Aliens franchise movie. (Frankly, any kid who’s seen the suspenseful, graphically bloody, mildly risqué Alien should be automatically vetted for the much more action-oriented Aliens.) He stayed with them while they watched the film, and guided them through it. He monitored their reactions individually to see how they were responding, and was clearly aware of the behavior of the meekest one of the crew. Here’s the MPAA’s explanation of what constitutes an R-rated movie: “Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.” Seitz followed every aspect of that description fully and responsibly: He accompanied the kids in watching a film he knew well, and he helped contextualize it for them.

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