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TCM Fest 2014: Presentation

19 May

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For many cinephiles, myself often included, TCM Fest means one thing – old films in 35mm, as they were meant to be seen. And not to worry, there was plenty of that to go around. But to limit oneself in such a way would be to miss out on larger, more varied possibilities of presentation. Digital projection is getting better every year, and while I doubt that we’ll reach a stage at which I legitimately couldn’t tell anymore (there are those reel changes, if nothing else), the hard-and-fast dividing line is gradually disintegrating as the more recent technology demonstrates unforeseen benefits.

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TCM Fest 2014: The 1960s

1 May

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Due to the nature of the festival, the relative rarity of the films screening, and my own personal predilections, I tend to stay away from anything at TCM Fest made after 1960, and don’t recall seeing anything in my four years of attending made after 1970. It’s less an issue of the ever-expanding definition of what constitutes a “classic” (the twenty-five-year rule seems fair to me), and more to do with the fact that the older films are just flat-out more difficult to see in any other capacity and are more likely to be shown on 35mm. But the schedule’s always going to throw some curveballs, and I found myself at two ‘60s films this year.

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TCM Fest 2014: Ginger Rogers, Warren William, and Pre-Code Pleasures

23 Apr

I (hope I) am far from alone in considering Ginger Rogers one of the greatest screen actors of all time. There’s her range of talent, certainly. She could be funny or touching (or both). She could dance, and she could sing. She avoided playing the same character over and over, yet retained something of a consistent star persona. One could guess a bit at one gets from a Ginger Rogers picture, but even that seemed to change year to year, a diverse range of expression quite well represented by three films that played at this year’s Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival – 5th Avenue Girl, Bachelor Mother, and Hat Check Girl.

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The prospect of starting off the festival with two Ginger Rogers films was too good to pass up, and both 5th Avenue Girl and Bachelor Mother proved well worth their while. For those of us who came to love her through her Pre-Code musicals, these later films are often a real revelation. In both films, she plays the absolute moral center, at once intensely put-upon yet able to bear it all. Gregory La Cava’s 5th Avenue Girl (1939) sees her play a near-penniless working girl who happens to meet a wealthy industrialist (played by Walter Connolly), who himself happens to be a bit lonely on his birthday. Fortunately for Rogers, he’s not after the kind of company she initially suspects, and soon enough, they’re off to dine and dance. The evening goes so well, he hires her to make his uncaring family jealous by just merely spending time with him.

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Coming Attractions at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

8 Apr

Johnny Guitar

Johnny Guitar

Like most film festivals, the TCM Classic Film Festival is endlessly customizable. I was not too surprised to find that, when comparing schedules with a friend, we only had one film in common – even if you’re not taken in exclusively by the star appearances and more glamorous aspects of the weekend (this year, April 10-13) – or, hell, even if you are – you’d almost have to work at it to come away with a bad experience. Are you a purist who only wants to see 35mm prints for four days straight? Done. An all-auteurist weekend? Sure thing. Focus on the 1930s? 40s? 50s? Musicals? Westerns? Comedies? Those might not fill every slot, but you’ll walk away far richer in any of those areas. All I can do is point you to the festival website – http://filmfestival.tcm.com/ – and highlight the ones I can vouch for, or which are of enough interest to find their way to my schedule. All films in bold are being shown over the course of the weekend.

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