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That Old #TCMFF Magic is Back

the roosevelt

It’s heeeeeeere!

Today, the 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival kicks off and, although it’s virtual, that palpable excitement of the fest has, miraculously, returned. That anxious, TCMFF magic that used to result in chewed down fingernails, knotted stomachs, and nicotine relapses is … somehow … back.

For those of us who live in Southern California, and have fortunately neared the end of the COVID-19 vaccination cycle, that old #TCMFF magic is shockingly tangible. This time last year when Hollywood Boulevard, the epicenter of TCMFF, was a ghost of its former self, this year will be met with familiar sights and sounds. Yes, the festival is still virtual, but L.A. County’s long struggle against the coronavirus finally has us back in the yellow tier which means–for some of us, anyway–this weekend will be filled with (socially distanced), in-person fun.

We’ll be buying books inside the cozy corridors at Larry Edmunds. Drinking chilled martinis in the plump, red vinyl booths of Musso’s. And catching up near the sparkling blue waters of the Hollywood Roosevelt pool. All this, in addition to TCM’s wonderfully curated lineup of virtual events, will, at long last, unite the TCMFF family.

Because for many of us, TCMFF is a family reunion. That random person behind you in line desperately hoping to get into Mann 6 for a rarely screened pre-code? Your new best friend. The person rubbing shoulders with you at the Club TCM bar whom you’ve been chatting with on Twitter for years? A new member of the family.  Or, for me: the person sitting behind you at the Egyptian, eagerly awaiting a 35 mm screening of a film noir, turns out to be your future husband.

The fact that we’re again able to connect with our TCMFF family for–either through TCMFF’s lineup of virtual Zoom meets or in-person at the Roosevelt Hotel–is a bright, golden light at the end of the seemingly endless dark COVID tunnel.

It was a dark place for me, and I’m sure for others, and it certainly took a toll on my own physical and mental health.

But now? I’m in a spin. And I’m loving the spin I’m in. Under that old #tcmff magic called love.

The following is my itinerary for #TCMFF 2021. We’re recording everything (sorry, Tex Avery cartoons at 3AM is a bit too early for me) so the following is what we’re watching “live.” And, as with every TCMFF, this list will probably change over the next few days. (Already I’m itching to find a way to work in Dirk Bogarde in VICTIM…)

Personally, I feel that TCM really brought their A-Game for this. I cannot thank them enough for managing to make this feel as “normal” as possible with a mix of virtual events and special programming on HBO Max, that feel reminiscent of the in-person festival.

See you ‘round the Twittersphere … and the Roosevelt!

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Thursday, May 6th

3PM PT/6PM ET: Opening night toast – TCM Zoom

TCMFF’s first virtual event was actually Tuesday, for the traditional “Meet TCM Panel,” but thanks to a lack of work-life balance I wasn’t able to make it. (The blur between work and personal life, in fact, is one of the biggest reasons this year’s #TCMFF is so important to me: it’s the first time in over a year I will have time carved aside for what ** I ** want.) Join TCM hosts Ben Mankiewicz, Alicia Malone, Jacqueline Stewart, Dave Karger and Eddie Muller to kick off the Festival as they sip cocktails, swap stories and answer your burning questions.

5PM PT/8PM ET: WEST SIDE STORY on TCM

Cautiously optimistic about Spielberg’s remake…but even if it’s (gulp) good, nothing will compare to Robert Wise’s original which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. I’m especially eager to see Ava Duverna’s intro about the film with Ben Mank, and we’ll be following it by watching the cast reunion special feature on HBO Max! Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn? Hello, gorgeous. This might well be one of the last times we’ll be able to see all of them together, so … this event alone makes #TCMFF2021 worth it.

(Although, obviously, I’d much rather be watching it at Grauman’s Chinese than our apartment but, hey, I’ll take it!)

8:15PM PT/11:15OPM ET: MEAN STREETS on TCM

Only at TCMFF can you follow up one of the most cherished movie musicals of all time with one of the grittiest, grimiest New York movies ever made. Aside from the New York City setting, WEST SIDE STORY and MEAN STREETS couldn’t be more different which is why I’m loving this choice as the second film of the festival. TCMFF programmers are endlessly creative in their choices, so a hearty well-done to this lineup AND we get the added bonus of a new introduction from Martin Scorsese himself!

(Over on HBO Max, Scorsese also has a new introduction for GOODFELLAS. Gotta find a way to squeeze that one in…even if just to watch that glorious tracking shot…)

10:30PM PT/1:30AM ET: DOCTOR X on TCM

Martin and I will attend anything that has film historian Alan K. Rode attached to it, so we’ll be spending the late hours of Thursday watching Michael Curtiz’s two-strip Technicolor DOCTOR X. This print was recently restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Film Foundation in association with Warner Bros. It stars Lionel Atwill, Lee Tracy and Fay Wray and, honestly, what else could you want from a pre-code? Murder? ✅ Prostitution? ✅ CANNIBALISM? ✅ And with Curtiz biographer Rode giving insight into the film, you know you’re in for a good time.

Friday, May 7 

>> Martin and I are checking into the Roosevelt Hotel for the weekend, to absorb the historic energy of the Roosevelt–TCMFF HQ’s and the home so many, many unforgettable memories.

We’ll be watching TCM and HBO Max from our hotel room (or maybe even, poolside on a laptop!) and for us, to quote Deborah Kerr, it’ll be the closest thing to heaven.

7 AM PT/10 PM ETThe Whistle at Eaton Falls

One of the best things about TCMFF is being introduced to new films, for the first time, on the big screen. This year it’ll be the small screen, but I’m no less enthused about watching this new-to-me Robert Siodmak film noir. (Although it’ll be pretty early for us, film noirs pair well with strong, dark, black coffee…)

This presentation is the world premiere of a new restoration by the Louis de Rochemont estate, presented by Flicker Alley.

12PM PT – Scarecrow (1973)HBO Max

Over on HBO Max, there is a cornucopia of content to choose from. For me, TCMFF is about new experiences and the HBO Max lineup has a number of new-to-me offerings, including SCARECROW (1973). (Ok, technically I’ve seen half of it.) Gene Hackman + Al Pacino + Jerry Schatzberg? Can’t miss.

3PM PT/6PM ET – “Curating the Classics” – TCM Zoom

If you’ve ever wanted to see/hear how TCM develops its programming (which keeps us coming back for more every month, year in and year out) TCM host Eddie Muller is going to pull back the curtain during this zoom sesh.

5PM PT/8PM ET – Plan 9 From Outer Space Table Read

I don’t even have to comment on this. Sketchfest is presenting a table read of Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), adapted by Dana Gould and will feature Bobcat Goldthwait among many others. Be there. (Also, can in-person table reads be introduced to future TCMFF’s? Pretty please?)

{Martin and I are taking an evening break for our traditional TCMFF dinner at Micelli’s}

10:15PM/1 AM ET – The Producers

YOU WILL PLAY IT!

After a full day of #tcmff delights, this hilarious comfort food of a film will be the cherry on top. Also, the dazzling, brand-new Modernist glory of Lincoln Center is on full display … just 7 years after it was home to the Jets and the Sharks. 😉

Saturday, May 8

Martin and I are taking some time out of the festival schedule today to drink in the spirit of TCMFF headquarters.

10 AM: We’re starting the morning by watching HBO Max in our hotel room. Martin is pushing for ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, while I’m pushing for A STAR IS BORN. It was the opening night film of the first-ever TCM Film Festival which means … I’ll be crying over breakfast, reliving that unforgettable experience. (It’s OK if Martin wins, though. HBO Max content is available throughout the remainder of the festival.)


12 PM: We’re excited to re-visit the comfy, cozy aisles of the Larry Edmunds Bookshop, every TCMFF’ers favorite bookstore. Patorinising our historic legacy businesses will continue to be an important endeavor for all of us Angelenos. These businesses have survived insurmountable odds and we owe them ALL the love in the world.

1 PM: Swim time at the Roosevelt pool! I mean … it’ll be my first actual slice of relaxation since early 2020. Lemme have this.

3PM: “Sight + Sound Makers: A Chat w/ Ben Burtt and Craig Barron.” What would TCMFF be without Ben Burtt?! Can’t wait for this special live zoom–a rare chance for an up, close and personal experience with the incredible Ben Burt!!

4PM – TCMFF Poolside Meetup This is going to be a socially distanced but MUCH NEEDED gathering of the clan. I reckon most all TCMFF regulars, who are properly vaccinated, will be there. And … yeah … there will be tears. Laughter, too, but … mostly tears.

5PM PT/8PM ET – They Won’t Believe Me. Now, this is another new-to-me film noir even though Eddie Muller featured it on Noir Alley not long ago on TCM. This, for me, is the kind of film that would sell out an Egyptian–or any one of the Mann’s theaters. Just LOOK at this gorgeous opening.

7PM PT/10PM ET – Lady Sings the Blues

Martin has never seen this one, so I’m super excited to share his first time viewing. Because we both a mutual love of jazz, sour relationship has been a constant exchange of favorite artists and their art. For me, LADY SING THE BLUES is an admittedly flawed film, but a must-watch. Diana lost to Liza that year, for CABARET, which is a marvelous film and performance … but is it better? Discuss.

10:15 PM – Nightcap at Musso and Franks

When Musso and Frank’s announced their return to in-person dining, you can bet the reservations went fast. I was only able to snag a late-night spot…mere hours after the announcement. Supporting L.A.’s legacy businesses has been a primary focus for my work at the L.A. Conservancy during the pandemic, so I’m exceptionally delighted to be able to support this one during #TCMFF2021.

Sunday, May 9 

7:15 AM PT/11:15 AM ET-  The China Syndrome

Ok, so waking up to THE CHINA SYNDROME might not be the most ideal way to start the day … but we’re doing it regardless.

Everyone in this film is excellent (especially Michael Douglas’ hair) but it’s Jack Lemmon’s searing performance that gets us every single time. If this was an in-person festival, you can bet we’d be one of the first in line for it.

9:45AM PT – 12:45PM ET – Princess Tam Tam (1935)

There’s no way in heck I’m missing my girl Josephine Baker. Beautiful, sure. Brilliant, obviously. Ahead of her time? JUST WATCH.

I have, admittedly, not seen much of her work on screen so this is a big treat. I’m not expecting it to be the best film of the festival, but I am expecting to absolutely fall in love with Baker all over again.

>> Martin and I are taking some time out of the festival schedule for some brunch at the Roosevelt PLUS a leisurely drive through Old Hollywood

4PM PT/7PM ET: Hollwood Home Movies: Stars at Work and Play

If you’ve ever been to the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library, you’ll be familiar with the jaw-droppingly gorgeous home movie reel that plays in the library foyer. For this special presentation, Randy Haberkamp and Lynne Kirste of The Academy will share home movie treasures from the Academy Film Archive’s collection and I can’t wait to see behind-the-scenes footage of stars like Shirley Jones and Fayard Nicholas.

This feels like it would have been a Club TCM Event, which is a must on the schedule for all TCMFF-ers, so we’re absolutely making time for this.

5PM PT/8PM ET: So This is Paris (1926)

Since the very first TCMFF, silent films have played a key part in the festival lineup. Dependable crowd-pleasers, silent movies bring excitement, energy, and a rare live component that moviegoers rarely experience these days.

We can’t wait for the restored Ernst Lubitsch silent SO THIS IS PARIS which features a brand new score by much-beloved silent film composer, Ben Model!

8:45PM PT/11:45ET: FAME (1980)

FAME is hardly a new film, but since I haven’t seen it in well over 20 years this will feel like a new-to-me experience. I’m looking forward to being re-introduced to it AND we’re both excited to see that a conversation with Debbie Allen has been added to the lineup! We’re sure this will be a fun and exciting way to close out the festival.

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