TCMFF 2020: Thoughts and Highlights

April 20, 2020



The 11th annual TCM Classic Film Festival came to a close on Sunday night with a screening of the beloved pre-code film Baby Face from 1933. By this time, many avid fans and attendees of festival's past had tweeted out countless photos and memories made at this celebrated event from previous years. I was among them, and although I have only been present at the 2019 festival, it was an experience that I hold near and dear to my heart, an experience that cannot be replicated simply by posting memories and engaging in live tweets of films that would have been shown had the original plans for the festival still been underway.

With that said, I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the hard working, diligent folks at TCM who did everything in their power to provide an immersive, carefree environment and remote replacement festival for the time being. I greatly enjoyed tweeting along with everyone during the screenings, as it felt like everyone, including the TCM fan community, really made every effort to focus on making these last few days a unique experience.

 As for my own experience, my sister and I watched a decent amount of films that we had planned on viewing. Of course, we still have a handful of recordings to catch up on, but overall I was impressed at the quantity of movies we did actually see. We began the at home festival with a sci-fi silent directed by Fritz Lang. That, of course, was the critically acclaimed Metropolis from 1927. We were both fascinated by the storyline and visual effects for the time. Brigitte Helm was captivating in her dual role as Maria and her robot counterpart. It was our first viewing, and definitely one I will need to watch again to fully absorb.

A few other festival highlights for me include the charming documentary Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015) directed by Daniel Raim. This documentary details the inspiring story of real life behind the scenes Hollywood couple Harold and Lillian Michelson. It utilized a bulk of valuable archival footage, interviews, and documents to supplement a wholesome account of a couple who was known as the heart of Hollywood. I cannot recommend this film enough, as the insight and inspiration I felt from it is still lingering days after I viewed it.

Another new to me film that stood out among the rest was Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). A fun, action packed sci-fi film, this one had my attention throughout, and for more reasons than Richard Denning. I enjoyed many of the innovative shots, especially the underwater ones, and the way the camera played with different angles of the creature. I missed the live showing of this, but caught up on TCM host Alicia Malone's live tweets the following day as I watched. I was surprised to learn that the story originally came from a Mexican folk tale, so I thought that was neat.

This year's festival also allowed me to return to old favorites, such as Some Like It Hot (1959), filmed in part in my hometown, Singin' in the Rain (1952), and Safety Last! (1923). I was present during all three of those live showings. It was during the live showings that it really felt like a festival to me. Living three hours behind on the west coast, it was refreshing to see those on the east coast power through to stay up late to live tweet a movie. There was a sense of togetherness that I was not really anticipating as much initially. Even though we are all sprinkled throughout the world, in these last few days it still felt like we all came together.

While I enjoyed the distant 2020 TCMFF, I am holding onto every hope that 2021 will happen, business as usual. As I am sure most can relate, there can be a tendency for a lot of distraction at home. Living with other family members, pausing to make meals, scrolling through your phone, and other little things that come up can be distracting versus sitting in a quiet, dark theater filled with fellow film fans where your collective focus is nothing but the movie being shown. You get to hear live reactions then, something you were only able to read in a tweet this year. I miss mingling with people with common interests, I miss stopping to eat at all the fun places in LA, and I miss physically being in such a welcoming, carefree environment. The cancellation of this year's festival in Hollywood was absolutely necessary, but as I have stated, I am beyond grateful for the TCM crew still managing to make this a memorable and immersive experience that was able to distract me from the circumstances outside, even if it was only for moments at a time.

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