This past week, I had the pleasure of attending my first Turner Classic Movies film festival at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. It was intense, it was magical, and it was everything I hoped it would be. After two years of mostly solitary movie watching, it felt great to be in a theater again, surrounded by other people who love classic films as much as I do. The kind of people who would gladly give Richard Benjamin a standing ovation for the weird and wonderful The Last of Sheila, and who, like me, were incredibly stressed about getting in line early enough to make it into a Pre-Code screening. For four days, I lived on Gardetto’s snack mix and popcorn, trying desperately not to collapse before the last movie of the day. It’s also worth noting, some nights I didn’t even get back to my hotel room until 11:30pm- who even am I??? TCM Liz, that’s who. She’s wild and she doesn’t even need dinner.
Because I believe in positivity, I won’t go into too much detail about my least favorite things about the fest. The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel certainly topped that burn list, and if (when) I go back, I won’t be staying at the place that lost my luggage and served me a margarita instead of the gimlet I ordered, then took the bold stance that gimlets are often served on the rocks.
Reader, they are not.
I’ve had better service at a La Quinta. Plus, I’ve never had to wait 25 minutes for an elevator at a Marriott. But I digress. This post is about positivity!!! So here they are, my top five moments of TCMFF 2022.
- Cocktail Hour Screening
Before the fest, I didn’t know much about Pre-Code films, and I was grateful for the fabulous intro by historian Cari Beauchamp to explain the kind of freewheeling depictions of women and sexuality that were taken from us by Joseph Breen and his censorship office. Cocktail Hour (1933) was a delightful romantic comedy starring Bebe Daniels and Randolph Scott, in an enemies-to-lovers plot about a free spirited artist not wanting to be tied down to any man, even one who’s madly in love with her. She leaves on a cruise, where she unwittingly becomes the third party in an open marriage, before arriving in Paris and getting involved in a murder scandal. This was not even the first movie I saw at the fest where someone fell out a window, but it was certainly the most enjoyable. My only complaint- the TCL Multiplex bar had a paltry list of cocktails to choose from, so I watched with a Mai Tai instead of the French ‘75 I should have been sipping. Oh well. This film is a new favorite, and I never would have been able to see it outside of the fest.
2. Jane Seymour Q&A
I’ve seen the 1980 time-travel classic Somewhere in Time before (and paired it with a cocktail!), but never on the big screen, and never with Jane Seymour discussing how she and Christopher Reeve fell madly in love during its production, and would ultimately be torn apart by a cruel twist of fate. It was obvious to everyone in the audience that Seymour’s love for Reeve endures to this day, and when she said she hopes to see him again “somewhere in time,” I swear there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater. I’m still getting a little misty just thinking about it.
3. Houseboat Screening
Not being a morning person, my 9am screenings were very rare at TCMFF. But for Cary Grant, I’ll put some pants on and leave the hotel room. I’d never seen Houseboat before, so I didn’t expect to receive such an utterly charming and poignant film experience. Although filled with beautiful dresses and chipper songs (including a Sam Cooke single!), I was caught off-guard by the frank and lovely discussion about death between Cary and his on-screen son. Having just lost my dad last year, I kind of needed this fatherly movie icon to tell me it was going to be okay. Houseboat was the warm hug I never knew I needed.
4. The Hollywood Legion theater
I went into this festival really looking forward to being inside the big TCL theater (formerly Grauman’s Chinese), so imagine my surprise to discover that the best movie experience was actually found at the Hollywood Legion! I waited until the last screening of the fest to make the trek over (for Jewel Robbery, another delightful Pre-Code romantic comedy), but it was well worth the extra steps. Gorgeous architecture, cocktails in the basement, and the best surprise of all- a hidden Shining bar! That’s right, this replica of the Overlook Hotel bar was used in pick-up shots for The Shining, and if you’re really nice, a delightful old employee of the Legion will show it to you. Also, three cheers for the free popcorn and chocolate covered pretzels handed out by HBO Max. All the better to soak up that night’s gimlet.
5. The Closing Party
Although I love throwing parties, I don’t always love attending them. I was not expecting a poolside soiree at the Roosevelt to be worth my time (although literally, the only good thing about this overpriced establishment is the heated David Hockney pool), but between bites of hors d’oeuvres and sips of an HBOMax-tini, I found myself talking to other reviewers, TCM hosts, and all the internet friends I’ve made over the last two years of isolation. To have the opportunity to meet these people in person, trading laughs and movie recommendations, hatching plans for the next time we’ll all see each other, made the fest worth every penny for me. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous weekend, and when it comes to me and TCMFF, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.