TCM Film Festival 2016: My Plans

It’s that time of year again! The TCM Classic Film Festival is upon us this week, and soon classic film fans from around the country (and the world) will descend on Hollywood for four glorious days of classic movies playing on giant screens to packed theatres. There are some great films and guests this year, plus some really cool-sounding special programs. Of course, I’m as always drawn to the obscure, rare, noir, and Pre-Code, and the schedule did not disappoint. Most of my choices this year came pretty easy, but there are a few headscratchers that I still might change my mind about!

But as of now, here’s what I’m planning to see. Note that I’ll be writing up the majority of my coverage over on the Flickchart Blog, but more personal stuff will be here or on Twitter.


I won’t be taking the whole day off work on Thursday, so I’ll miss the early social events, like Meet TCM (a conversation with the TCM programming staff) and the So You Think You Know Movies trivia contest, which I’d dearly love to attend someday. Maybe next year I’ll plan ahead a bit better and get to that!

6:00pm – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)


My media credential doesn’t get me into the main festival opener All the President’s Men, but I likely wouldn’t choose it anyway – it’s a great movie, but I’ve seen it. Instead, I’m heading over to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I’ve never seen this, and I’m not totally sure it’d be on top of my list except for one strange little thing – I’m part of a movie exchange group on Facebook, where people are secretly assigned to recommend a movie to someone else, like a Secret Santa thing, and whoever got me as a target (still secret!) this month recommended A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I found out it was going to be at TCM Fest and opted to wait to watch it.

Other options would be Bette Davis in Dark Victory, a movie I’ve seen and like a lot, Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman, which I need to rewatch but am unconvinced that the poolside venue is right for it, and One Potato, Two Potato, a very obscure 1964 film about interracial romance – three years before Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. I’d be very tempted by this one if I hadn’t promised to see Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

9:30pm – Los tallos amargos (1956)


Speaking of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, it’s playing in this timeslot, so if you wanted a double-dose of your 1960s interracial relationships, you can do that. Instead, I’m headed to an Argentinian noir from 1956, Los tallos amargos. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an Argentinian film at all, much less a classic-era one, and I can’t wait to see what it’s like. The only other option in the slot is David Lean’s classic forbidden romance Brief Encounter, which is a favorite for many, but didn’t do a whole lot for me.

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Challenge Week 16: The Trial

I read Kafka’s The Trial back in high school or college for fun, because that’s the kind of kid I was, and I really loved it – but that was let’s say several years ago and aside from the premise and general nightmarish inexorability of it, I didn’t remember a whole lot of actual details about it going into the film. That may have been unfortunate, since I did find it difficult to follow in some parts (I’ll admit to a little drowsiness, too), but in a way, it kind of weirdly enhanced the experience, since the whole point is Josef K is stuck in this labyrinthine and inescapable legal system, on trial for charges that are never stated. He can’t figure out what’s going on with him, so some confusion on my part felt fitting.

I wasn’t wholly on board with Anthony Perkins’ performance, especially in the beginning – what was he so nervous about? He had me feeling like he must be guilty of SOMETHING. Later he often strikes an odd note between exasperated and bored. I also wanted to see more Jeanne Moreau, but I was happy when Romy Schneider popped up. I’ve only seen her in a couple of other things, but I like her a lot. And of course, Welles as the The Advocate Hastler is unparalleled, a sort of older, fatter Harry Lime; less boyish but equally devoted to manipulating to the system to his own benefit.


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Challenge Week 16: The Wrestler

I decided I was a huge Darren Aronofsky fan on the strength of one film – The Fountain – and then proceeded to not really watch more of his filmography for a while, especially when his very next film dealt with a subject I could barely care less about – a washed up wrestler. (I’m now at 4/6 features, with Requiem for a Dream coming up later in the challenge.) I’m not generally a huge sports person, and boxing/wrestling/fighting sports are my least favorite. I was told “oh, but this is a character study!” but, I mean, so was Raging Bull and I didn’t care for that at all. So this was a risky choice, though I’m sure Ryan didn’t realize what a risky choice it was!

The saving grace of The Wrestler is how much I liked Randy the Ram himself – Mickey Rourke invests the character with a lot of weariness but also a lot of heart. He was a major WWE-style wrestler in the ’80s, but now it’s twenty years later and he’s on some kind of small pro circuit with a lot of other wrestlers who seem to be either aging like him or up-and-coming. Every fight is planned out in advance, but that doesn’t stop them from being brutal.


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Challenge Week 15: Naked

I hadn’t heard of this film at all until a few months ago when someone (I don’t even remember who!) was raving about David Thewlis’ performance in it, but it definitely seemed like a difficult watch – I approached it with some trepidation when Chewie recommended it. And while it’s certainly about a great number of people who range from borderline dislikeable to absolutely horrible and features a lot of highly dysfunctional “relationships” among working class (and below) Brits, I found it surprisingly witty, compelling, and even enjoyable, though enjoyable seems like a weird word to use.

David Thewlis’ character Johnny starts the film off raping a woman in an alley, so yeah, that gives you SOME idea of what we’re dealing with. He flees to London and stays with an old girlfriend of his (Louise) and her roommate Sophie, who immediately starts a thing with him. Then there’s a secondary plotline that eventually intersects with the first, about a truly sadistic guy (Jeremy). In the meantime, Johnny leaves the girls’ apartment, spends some nights on the street and hanging out with a bored night watchman, and getting beat up himself for no reason.


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Challenge Week 15: Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

I’d heard of Sion Sono before seeing this, but mostly got the sense that his stuff would be too weird/extreme for me. This one, however, is like an actual Japanese version of Kill Bill, except even more extreme, plus a filmmaking angle, which you know always attracts me.

A set of young filmmakers wants to make one amazing film, and what could be more amazing than filming an actual yakuza battle (with their own Bruce Lee-yellow-jumpsuit-wearing action star for good measure). The plot is actually much more complicated than that, involving a yakuza boss, his badass wife and wannabe actress daughter, a rival yakuza gang, and the regular guy who gets caught in the middle of all this, but BASICALLY it’s an over the top homage to 1970s Asian action films.


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