Tuesday, January 17, 2017

TCM Classic Film Festival: Now is the Time, the Hollywood Roosevelt is the Place



[EDITOR'S NOTE: Unlike virtually every review, which typically is of a screener that a studio or distributor provides, this post on the upcoming Turner Classic Film (TCM) Film Festival is a public service announcement. TCM has not provided a press pass or any other consideration for the following thoughts.]

A macabrely accurate way to think of the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival, which focuses on comedies and is being held April 6-9, that is headquartered at the truly legendary Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and the equally renowned Grauman's Chinese Theater (and scads o' other nearby venues) is that it is strongly akin to visiting an elderly relative before he or she passes away. The slew of celebrity deaths roughly a month ago is a sad reminder that the population of greats is rapidly diminishing. The fact that Debbie Reynolds no longer can discuss making "Singin' in the Rain," The Unsinkable Molly Brown," and her other classics is a prime example of this loss.

We fortunately still have the chance for filmmakers, such as 2017 festival guest Peter Bogdanovich, from the '60s and more recently to discuss their craft. However, even their stories are not as compelling as those from the Golden Age of Hollywood, which is a well-earned nickname. One can only hope that the festival organizers can persuade '50s matinee idol (and genuinely righteous dude) Tab Hunter to leave his Santa Barbara home to share some of his tales. His repeatedly thanking a "boutique" review site for interviewing him is solid proof that his beloved momma raised her boy right.

Highlights from the aforementioned awesome era include "Arsenic and Old Lace" and "The Palm Beach Story." Of course, the Hunter/ Natalie Wood classic that that pair knows as "The Girl With the Left Behind" also is an apt festival candidate.

A more recent event that is behind this break in the ordinary Unreal TV programming is the news this weekend that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is beginning the process of winding up business after more than a century of putting on shows. Citing the short-attention span of millennials as a factor is a bad portent regarding the future of the festival. One can only hope that the festival fares better in this era in which our president-elect communicates in 140-characters-or-less and far more eyeballs see six-second vines than most films during their theatrical runs.

The bottom line regarding all this is that the festival this year may be one of the last chances for big-screen showings of the films (including those mentioned above) that do not sacrifice art for the bottom line and that TCM spectacularly showcases. They also are the movies that many of us used to spend our Saturday nights watching in revival theaters and our Sunday afternoons viewing on UHF television stations. The chance to hear the actual true Hollywood stories behind these films is a no-brainer.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding the festival is much better served contacting the good folks at TCM than emailing me or reaching out on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. I do hope to see you at the movies and ask (considering that the lost greats include Siskel and Ebert) that you please save me the aisle seats.