As I struggle to find the words to begin this introduction to my coverage of the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival—now in its eighth annual addition—I am, of course, reminded of the master of the introduction, Robert Osborne. It goes without saying that this year’s event will serve as a sort of public memorial to the longtime voice of TCM, who had the pleasure of introducing so many of us to the movies that would change our lives in the hours (and years) that followed. If you grew up after the era of repertory cinema, as I did, then your first contact with “Citizen Kane” and “Casablanca” and “Vertigo” (and hundreds of gems of lesser stature) was most likely initiated—and later illuminated—by Osborne.
These days, the small screen viewing experience has a way of trying to keep movies inside your home — you can keep watching Netflix on an infinite loop of algorithm-curated recommendations. But long before all-consuming gizmos like Rokus and 4K OLEDs took over, when you sat in front of a fuzzy, flickery box, Osborne had a way of making sure the movies felt much bigger than just your TV. So much bigger, in fact, that it doesn’t even seem the least bit ironic to celebrate the legacy of a small-screen icon by staring at images beamed onto the giant canvases of Hollywood’s grandest movie palaces. Osborne’s words were always about opening people’s eyes to the world outside their living rooms, not keeping them bound to the couch.
As I write this, the festival’s Opening Night Gala, a 50th Anniversary presentation of “In the Heat of the Night” with Lee Grant, Norman Jewison, Quincy Jones, Walter Mirisch, and Sidney Poitier all in person—yes, this is the festival with the best guests—is underway. But the movies continue all weekend, and if you’re in the Los Angeles area, it’s definitely worth heading to Hollywood and Highland to catch at least one show (individual tickets are available for $20 to most shows). Below are some of my picks to get you going.
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If you’ve never seen a movie on nitrate, this is your chance. The Egyptian Theatre booth was recently equipped with the capability — and thanks to the required fireproofing, there’s no risk of you turning into a piece of burnt toast in the name of classic cinema. If you’re reading this, you’re missing the opportunity of a lifetime in seeing Martin Scorsese introduce Hitchcock’s first version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” in the format—I’m just as bent out of shape I’m not there right now as you are—but fear not, you have three more nitrate opportunities.
“Black Narcissus” — Technicolor in nitrate? Don’t mind if I do. Powell and Pressburger in nitrate? This only gets better. (Saturday, 9:30 p.m., Egyptian)
“Lady in the Dark” — If a Ginger Rogers musical involving psychoanalysis doesn’t excite you, seeing Edith Head’s costumes on nitrate should. (Sunday, 7:45 p.m., Egyptian)
“Laura” — Preminger. Tierney. Noir. You know you’re going to see this even if you’ve seen it a thousand times. You don’t need me to tell you. (Friday, 9:30 p.m., Egyptian)
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The Art of Subtitling — If you’re reading this article, a history of subtitling definitely sounds erotic to you, and Bruce Goldstein will therefore be fulfilling your every desire in this lecture. (Saturday, 12:30 p.m, Club TCM)
The Great Nickelodeon Show — Director and producer Russell Merritt and music director Frederick Hodges recreate the experience of an early Nickelodeon show. (Friday, 7:15 p.m., Chinese 6)
“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” — If you haven’t seen this one in 70mm Ultra Panavision, now’s the time. Few moviegoing experiences top it, and increasingly rare are the opportunities to see it in the Cinerama Dome, the theater where it originally premiered. (Friday, 9:15 a.m., Cinerama Dome)
“Speedy” — The Alloy Orchestra is always one of the highlights of TCM. This year, they’re doing Harold Lloyd! (Sunday, 8 p.m., Chinese 6)
“This is Cinerama” — Another one of those must-do experiences. If you haven’t seen 3-strip Cinerama the way it was meant to be seen, time to check it off the list. The Dome’s current screen isn’t quite concave enough these days to get the perfect, historically accurate effect, but it’s still pretty awesome. (Saturday, 10 a.m., Cinerama Dome)
“Those Redheads from Seattle in 3D” — Bob Furmanek’s 3D shows are a blast (last year, we were treated to the inimitable “GOG in 3D”), and this time you don’t even have to stay up until Midnight. Billed as “the first musical shot in 3D.” (Friday, 9:45 p.m., Chinese 6)
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Go For The Guests
“Broadcast News” – James L. Brooks, the original critic of “fake news.” (Friday, 5:15 p.m., Chinese 6)
“The China Syndrome” – If you grew up on Michael Douglas thrillers, as I did, you’ll need to go find out whether he looks just like he did on the VHS box in person. (Saturday, 9 a.m., Chinese 6)
“High Anxiety” – Mel Brooks was a complete blast when he showed “Blazing Saddles” at this festival a few years back (in conversation with the one and only Robert Osborne), and this is one of his most under-appreciated movies, a great spoof. (Friday, 9:15 p.m., Grauman’s Chinese)
“The Kentucky Fried Movie” – Jim Abrahams, John Landis, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker in conversation with Edgar Wright? I’m not built to stay up for Midnight movies anymore, but… I’ll be damned if I don’t this Saturday. (Saturday, Midnight, Chinese 6)
“The Last Picture Show” – Bogdanovich presents his masterwork. (Saturday, 12:15pm, Chinese 6)
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Because I Told You So
“The Graduate” — I saw this last summer on the big screen at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco and I realized it is one of my ten favorite films. This show will premiere the 50th Anniversary restoration. (Saturday, 9:30 p.m., Grauman’s Chinese)
“The Jerk” — Good comedies are best in a room full of 1,200 people. There won’t be crickets. (Saturday, 2:45 p.m., Grauman’s Chinese)
“The Palm Beach Story” — Preston Sturges can never get enough respect. You should pay yours, as this is one of his finest. (Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Grauman’s Chinese)
“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” — I saw this as part of the festival a few years back in the Chinese multiplex and that was a blast, but as one of the Roosevelt cocktail-accompanied poolside screenings, hot on the heels of “Feud,” with the great Allison Anders introducing? That takes it to a whole ‘nother level. (Friday, 7:30 p.m., Roosevelt Hotel)
“Zardoz” — Find me a better Midnight movie choice. OK, other than “The Kentucky Fried Movie” with five high-profile guests, find me a better Midnight movie choice. (Friday, Midnight, Chinese 6)
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For the full schedule and further festival information, visit http://filmfestival.tcm.com/.