I wasn’t born into the world of classic films. Most of the people who attend the TCM Film Festival are lifelong classic film fans. There is a handful of us who have developed our love of film over time. I would say I’m about 15 years into my ‘film education.’ I'm still a teenager learning the ropes.
When TCM announced its first Film Festival, I knew I desperately wanted to attend. It took me a few years of saving and learning what my taste in film was. I had to watch hundreds of movies to determine what genre I preferred, what actors and actresses I gravitated to and what made it so special to me. I needed to know that it was going to be worth the money for me to attend.
The first year I attended was in 2016. I went solo, but my friends Angie and Jess took me under their wings. Angie let me tag along to most of the showings she wanted to attend. When I went with her, they were films I wouldn’t have chosen myself.
I fell in love.
I learned something new about myself, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. The experience really changed my entire film-going experience. I am now far more open to giving something a shot and trying something new. I used to be pretty by the book with my taste.
Thanks to her I went to see: When You’re in Love, (1937); Roar, (1981) and The 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone, (1928-1929). The Vitaphone experience was incredible. Had I missed Beau Brummels I would have kicked myself. All of the Vitaphone shorts were so good, and I know that's something I wouldn't have gone to if Angie didn't give me that push.
When I was left to my own devices, I chose films that I had already seen. I didn't take any big risks. I didn’t try to delve into the unknown.
Looking back at 2016 I wish I would have gone to see Band of Outsiders, (1964); Cinema Paradiso, (1988); Intolerance: Love’s Struggles Throughout the Ages, (1916); and One Man’s Journey, (1933).
I went to see so many safe films. I’m not saying that's wrong or don’t see those films you love. I wouldn’t have missed seeing The Way We Were on the big screen (hello its one of my fav’s! My dog is named Robert ‘Hubbell’ Redford, and my blog's named after the film). What I am saying is that I played it pretty safe seeing Network, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and a couple of others.
I thought that maybe the first year you’re supposed to play it safe, but perhaps not.
2017 was far worse though. I played it way safer because it was my husbands first year and I didn’t want to spook him. He is new to this classic film business. I genuinely regret playing it so safe. There were so many films that I regret not seeing especially on Nitrate. YES, I SAID ON NITRATE. But I didn’t want to scare my husband in his first year and take him to a bunch of films we both hadn’t seen and risk anything.
I chose films I knew he would enjoy. I wanted him to have a good time. I made safe bets on films I knew were great and chose films he loved.
Playing it safe we saw: Barefoot in the Park, (1967); The Graduate, (1967); High Anxiety, (1977); The Awful Truth, (1937); The Jerk, (1979); The Egg and I, (1947); Speedy, (1928); and What Happened to Baby Jane, (1962).
We took a risk seeing: Zardoz, (1974); The China Syndrome, (1979); Red Headed Woman, (1932); The Man Who Knew Too Much, (1934).
Sure, Zardoz was bonkers, and one of the worst films I have sat through, but the cookies were worth it. Everything else was incredible! The China Syndrome made me laugh, cry and feel things I didn’t know a movie could make me feel. Red Headed Woman I had seen but, I wasn’t sure where it would land with Brian (my husband). The Man Who Knew Too Much was a bit of a gamble, but it was introduced by Martin Scorsese, and it was on Nitrate, and it was at the historic Egyptian Theatre (We were only scheduled to see one other film there.) So I knew that even if the film wasn’t that good, I had those few things to fall back on. If the film was bad, he would still look back on it as a great experience because we got to see Scorsese introduce it. Much of the same with the China Syndrome. It was a bit of a gamble, but I knew that Michael Douglas was doing a Q&A after the film and if the film was awful or we didn’t enjoy it we could at least have the chance to see a great interview with Douglas.
So even though it seemed like I was taking a risk on these films, I wasn’t because I had a safety net on a few of them.
So what I’m saying is my two years at the TCM Film Festival have been spent playing it fairly safe. Now that I have found my footing I don’t want to do that anymore. I asked for a lot of advice before I attended my first Film Festival. Everyone told me that there would be things that I would be upset that I missed and that I would have blocks of films that I would want to see three different things at a time. They were right. Nobody told me to decide to see the film I hadn’t seen. Nobody gave me advice either way. They just said to me the decision would be difficult. It will come down to the moment you’re standing on Hollywood Boulevard in between movies and how you feel. You may feel like seeing a film you have seen fifteen times, but you may decide to take a risk.
The films I would have liked to have seen that would have been a bit riskier and all films I hadn’t seen at that time: Cock of the Air, (1932); David and Lisa, (1962); Dawson City: Frozen Time, (2016); Lady in the Dark, (1944); Laura, (1944); Lured, (1947); One Hour with You, (1932); and Rafter Romance, (1933).
I don’t regret the way I went in the first year by splitting it up pretty evenly. I went to some films I wanted to see on the big screen, and I went to some films I had never seen before. It was the perfect combination.
The second-year was perfect for Brian but not for me. You have to take it at your skill level. If you're the in-between film lover like me go 50/50. Take the risk but also see the 'Box Office Hits.' If you're the newbie like Brian go for more of the 'Box Office Hits.' If you're the seasoned vet like most of the people I know, you're not reading this blog because you don't need any advice at all.
The easy decision isn’t always the right decision; you'll always have TCMFF regrets. The good news is that you'll have so much fun that will outweigh all of the regrets you may have and all of the films will be great.
Except for Zardoz. Zardoz is the worst.