TCMFF: Socially Leading You To Film Preservation Victory or Where’s the 35mm, yo?

Hello all!

Our beloved TCM film festival starts tomorrow but I thought that I would give you a heads’ up on a few points of interest!

One question that is asked every year is: How many of these films are being shown ON FILM?

To a film archivist and preservationist such as myself, this is a critical question and very important thing to ask. While it is absolutely true that each time a print is shown we lose a generation and the ability to locate prints of many films is not a piece of cake (if it was, you wouldn’t need archivists! TOTAL SHAMELESS PLUG FOR MY PROFESSION), there are so many beautiful prints out there and one of the things that I love the most about TCMFF is how much film, ACTUAL FILM, they project every year.TCM_CFF_Horz_NoYear[2]

 

 

 

 

I really believe that the fabulous programmers and hardworking folks at TCM really make it a point to put as much 35mm and 70mm into the festival as possible and this year is no exception. In fact, if anything, this year is even more exceptioNAL in that sense. There is one session that discusses the birth of Technicolor (something all classic film fans are familiar with but not too many know enough about) and one session where films will be HAND-CRANKED, the way films used ta be, back in the beginning!

And yes- the theme this year is his/her-story according to Hollywood. But they didn’t *have to* include these panels/screenings as part of the festival. Film history didn’t have to be there. There are certainly enough historically-based classic films to have 3 TCM Film Festivals. Trust me, as someone who has programmed before, I can tell you THAT. And anyone who has any familiarity with classic cinema would rightly agree.

In my role as TCM social producer this year, I want to celebrate what they do for film preservation and restoration. By continuing to show 35mm and 70mm prints for features, by showcasing 16mm, 8mm and other small-gauge in the “Home Movies Panel” with Lynne Kirste and Randy Haberkamp, TCMFF supports the fact that this is a format that is worth seeing and loving. In fact, some of the films shown (Too Late for Tears for example) may be projected on brand-new prints! You never know!

In this post, I am going to let you know what films are going to be showing this year at the TCM Film Festival on film. Feel free to tweet at me (@sinaphile) or comment if I have left any titles out. I think this should be pretty full. I feel that, in favor of projectionists everywhere, as audience-folk, always be appreciative of those awesome ladies & gentlemen in the booth. They’re working hard for ya and caring for those reels. Many of these prints come with VERY strict guidelines on how they are to be handled so that they remain in as good of condition as they are and will remain playable for years to come and the folks who are playing them are gonna do their best to make sure that they get shown beautifully. And entirely for our pleasure. HOW SPOILED ARE WE???

So let’s get on with the show!! Also- please note- I would say…screening location is subject to change. So these are based on the schedule as it is today, 3/25/2015. Please rely on the TCMFF schedule routing information as it is given to you and as you are directed by the lovely TCM humans. And be nice to them. They are awesome. And work super hard to make this run smoothly!

Thursday

(d. Rouben Mamoulian, 99m, 35mm) 6:30 PM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1933, d. Rouben Mamoulian, 99m, 35mm)
6:30 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

(d. Byron Haskin, 99m, 35mm) 6:45 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1949, d. Byron Haskin, 99m, 35mm) 6:45 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

(d. Michael Curtiz, 127m, 35mm)  10:00 PM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1940, d. Michael Curtiz, 127m, 35mm) 10:00 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

 (1980, d. Bruce Beresford, 107m, 35mm)  9:45 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(d. Bruce Beresford, 107m, 35mm) 9:45 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

Friday

(1960, d. Stanley Kramer, 128m, 35mm) 9:00 AM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1960, d. Stanley Kramer, 128m, 35mm)
9:00 AM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

DAWN OF TECHNICOLOR panel/screening – 9:00 am, The Egyptian Theater

(1931, d. Ernst Lubitsch, 93m, 35mm) 9:30 AM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1931, d. Ernst Lubitsch, 93m, 35mm)
9:30 AM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

(1985, d. Woody Allen, 82m, 35mm) 12:15 PM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1985, d. Woody Allen, 82m, 35mm)
12:15 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

(1949, d. Anthony Mann, 89m, 35mm)  12:00 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1949, d. Anthony Mann, 89m, 35mm)
12:00 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

 (1974, d. Bob Fosse, 111m, 35mm) 11:30 AM Egyptian Theatre,  In Attendance: Dustin Hoffman, interviewed by Alec Baldwin.

(1974, d. Bob Fosse, 111m, 35mm) 11:30 AM
Egyptian Theatre, In Attendance: Dustin Hoffman, interviewed by Alec Baldwin.

(1939, d. John Ford, 100m, 35mm)  2:45 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1939, d. John Ford, 100m, 35mm)
2:45 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

(1965, d. Norman Jewison, 102m, 35mm) 3:15 PM Egyptian Theatre

(1965, d. Norman Jewison, 102m, 35mm)
3:15 PM
Egyptian Theatre

 

(1952, d. Charles Chaplin, 137m, 35mm)   2:30 PM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1952, d. Charles Chaplin, 137m, 35mm)
2:30 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

(1931, d. William K. Howard, 35mm) In Attendance: MoMA film curator Anne Morra,  5:30 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1931, d. William K. Howard, 70m, 35mm) In Attendance: MoMA film curator Anne Morra,
5:30 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

(1933, d. James Whale, 71 m, 35mm) 7:30 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1933, d. James Whale, 71 m, 35mm)
7:30 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

[A Man For All Seasons] (1966, d. Fred Zinneman, 120m, 35mm) 6:00 PM Chinese Multiplex House 6

[A Man For All Seasons](1966, d. Fred Zinneman, 120m, 35mm)
6:00 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

(1965, d. Peter Watkins, 48m, 35mm)  In Attendance: Film Author and Professor Emeritus Joseph Gomez. 9:30 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1965, d. Peter Watkins, 48m, 35mm) In Attendance: Film Author and Professor Emeritus Joseph Gomez.
9:30 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

 

(1940, d. Alfred Hitchcock, 130m, 35mm) 10:00 PM Egyptian Theatre

(1940, d. Alfred Hitchcock, 130m, 35mm)
10:00 PM
Egyptian Theatre

 

 

(1940, d. Edward F. Cline, 72m, 35mm) 9:15 PM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1940, d. Edward F. Cline, 72m, 35mm)
9:15 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

(1968, d. Joseph Losey, 110m, 35mm) 12:00 AM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1968, d. Joseph Losey, 110m, 35mm)
12:00 AM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

Saturday

(1937, d. Mervyn LeRoy, 95m, 35mm) 9:00 AM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1937, d. Mervyn LeRoy, 95m, 35mm)
9:00 AM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

(1945, d. John Ford, 135m, 35mm) 9:45 AM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1945, d. John Ford, 135m, 35mm)
9:45 AM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

(1975, d. John Huston, 129m, 35mm) 10:00 AM Egyptian Theatre

(1975, d. John Huston, 129m, 35mm)
10:00 AM
Egyptian Theatre

 

(1948, d. Harold D. Schuster, Hamilton Luske, 79m, 35mm)    11:30 AM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1948, d. Harold D. Schuster, Hamilton Luske, 79m, 35mm)
11:30 AM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

[The Miracle Worker] (1962,  d. Arthur Penn, 106m, 35mm) Arthur Penn, 106m, 35mm)  In attendance: actor Andrew Prine 1:30 PM Chinese Multiplex House 6

[The Miracle Worker] (1962, d. Arthur Penn, 106m, 35mm) Arthur Penn, 106m, 35mm) In attendance: actor Andrew Prine
1:30 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1992, d. Spike Lee, 202m, 35mm) 1:30 PM Egyptian Theatre

(1992, d. Spike Lee, 202m, 35mm)
1:30 PM
Egyptian Theatre

 

(1932, d. John Ford, 84m, 35mm) 1:45 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1932, d. John Ford, 84m, 35mm)
1:45 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

(1977, d. John Power, 99m, 35mm) 4:00 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1977, d. John Power, 99m, 35mm)
4:00 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

(1940, d. Preston Sturges, 67m, 35mm) 4:15 PM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1940, d. Preston Sturges, 67m, 35mm)
4:15 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

Hollywood Home Movies – 6:00 – Club TCM at The Hollywood Roosevelt

>>Highly recommend attending this due to the exciting “behind the scenes” coolness factor! Various formats, various movie folks, various amazing things to see! If you can “Home Movie” it, do it!

(1952, d. Elia Kazan, 113m, 35mm) 6:15 PM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1952, d. Elia Kazan, 113m, 35mm)
6:15 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

[The Wind and The Lion]  (1975, d. John Milius, 119m, 35mm)  6:15 PM Egyptian Theatre

[The Wind and The Lion] (1975, d. John Milius, 119m, 35mm)
6:15 PM
Egyptian Theatre

(1943, d. Mervyn LeRoy, 124m, 35mm) In attendance: Nuclear Chemistry Professor Emeritus Darleane C. Hoffman Phd. 6:30 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1943, d. Mervyn LeRoy, 124m, 35mm) In attendance: Nuclear Chemistry Professor Emeritus Darleane C. Hoffman Phd.
6:30 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

( 1950, d. George Cukor, 101m, 35mm) Note: The film will be preceeded by a 30-minute performance by Greg Proops, which will be recorded for use on his podcast, Greg Proops Film Club. 9:30 PM Egyptian Theatre

(1950, d. George Cukor, 101m, 35mm) Note: The film will be preceeded by a 30-minute performance by Greg Proops, which will be recorded for use on his podcast, Greg Proops Film Club.
9:30 PM
Egyptian Theatre

RETURN OF THE DREAM MACHINE: HAND CRANKED PROJECTOR SHOW (1902-1913) – hand cranked films from the early part of film history!!! You are cheating yourself if you miss out on this one!! Click on the link above for more information. – (d. various, 105m, 35mm) – 9:30 PM, Chinese Multiplex House 6

Old_projector

 

(1965, d. Tony Richardson, 122m, 35mm)  9:30 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1965, d. Tony Richardson, 122m, 35mm)
9:30 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

 (1984, d. Tom Schiller, 82m, 35mm) 12:00 AM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1984, d. Tom Schiller, 82m, 35mm)
12:00 AM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

Sunday

(1970, d. Franklin J. Schaffner, 172m, 70mm) 9:00 AM Egyptian Theatre

(1970, d. Franklin J. Schaffner, 172m, 70mm)
9:00 AM
Egyptian Theatre

 

 

(1947, d. Edmund Goulding, 110m, 35mm) 9:45 AM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1947, d. Edmund Goulding, 110m, 35mm)
9:45 AM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

(1963, d. George Stevens, 180m, 35mm) 12:30 PM Chinese Multiplex House 6

(1963, d. George Stevens, 180m, 35mm)
12:30 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 6

 

 (1939, d. George Stevens, 117m, 35mm)  1:00 PM Egyptian Theatre

(1939, d. George Stevens, 117m, 35mm)
1:00 PM
Egyptian Theatre

 

(1961, d. Stanley Kramer, 186m, 35mm) 4:00 PM Chinese Multiplex House 4

(1961, d. Stanley Kramer, 186m, 35mm)
4:00 PM
Chinese Multiplex House 4

 

(1961, d. William Wyler, 107m, 35mm) 4:45 PM Egyptian Theatre

(1961, d. William Wyler, 107m, 35mm)
4:45 PM
Egyptian Theatre

I hope that this list helps all of you who are looking for the “what’s on film” films. As someone who loves handling film and adores film as a format and a way to watch stories being told, I am beyond excited to see so many wonderful narratives being projected this year.

It is absolutely and unquestionably a part of the history of Hollywood therefore it is only right that it should be such a beautiful and magnificent presence at the TCM Film Festival, 2015, as it has been each year.

Please stay tuned for another post that will celebrate the fantastic digital restorations being screened and discuss the importance that they have to our cinematic culture and to the TCM Film Festival as well.

 

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God, Men and Monsters: Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life

In 1956, Nicholas Ray made a film that was such a departure from the rest of his work that people still speak of it today.  Just one year after Rebel Without a Cause (a film that did remarkably well, snagging not one, not two, but three Academy Award nominations), Ray had leverage. As a result, he could do a film based on drug addiction and, more or less, get away with it. Sure, films had been done about drug addiction before (in the same year as Rebel, Otto Preminger’s Man with the Golden Arm had been nominated for three awards) but none had utilized drugs and addiction in quite the same way; ripping open the very fabric of the American dream, showing it to be what it really was: an American nightmare.

Did it do well at the box office? Not entirely. Is it interesting anyway? You bet!

Bigger Than Life starred, was produced and co-written by James Mason, and like many other films or television programs of the time, it was “based upon a real incident.” In 1955,  New Yorker magazine had published an article entitled “Ten Feet Tall” which was penned by a medical journalist named Berton Roueche. Shortly thereafter, this particular entry of their “Annals of Medicine” column became translated into Nicholas Ray’s epic, full-color CinemaScope piece, Bigger Than Life (1956). The originating article is a familiar story- a cautionary tale about the horrors of drug addiction and how it can destroy a family from the inside out. Nicholas Ray’s film, on the other hand, was much less polite (if addiction could ever be called polite). It skinned American suburban life like an animal and revealed it to be the diseased and fractured monster that it truly is, underneath all that smooth so-called “perfection.”

I would argue that,  in many ways, Bigger Than Life could be viewed as a horror film. It functions on fear, ideas of masculinity and the monstrous and postulates that true terror is catalyzed by the volcanic eruptions of a figure whose conflicts are drawn out by a severe chemical addiction. The lighting, color use and Joseph MacDonald’s cinematography only serve to enhance this, and the fact that it is a CinemaScope film makes it even more horrifying with every frame. As you watch this film, both the narrative and the visual sensibility will tell you that it lives  up to the title- this film really is Bigger Than Life.

I was lucky enough to see this film at the TCM Film Festival this past year, complete with a Q&A with Robert Osbourne and the leading lady, Barbara Rush (who was simply fantastic and looks like a million bucks!). I have to say- for the first viewing of this film, view it big or as big as possible. I’ve seen many other ‘Scope films that look great but didn’t use the lens as a narrative tool. Nicholas Ray knew what he was working with, knew what he could do, and he did it.

Because of the sheer magnificence of the CinemaScopic vision, a shot that would normally be passed off as simply the "happy car ride" becomes almost oppressively happy due to its epically large and colorful flavor. While the tone of the film at this point is a happy one, it should be noted that the claustrophobic intensity of this shot is not accidental.

The shattered masculine image plays a huge part in the narrative. This shot emphasizes it even further by showing him staring at his own reflection in a vulnerable physical stance.

Mirrors are powerful objects in this film, and in this scene more than any other. Once more, we have the glory of the sophisticated technologies ('Scope lenses had only been being used for about 3 years when they made this film, so it was still pretty new!) to hammer in the point even more clearly: he knows he has become the monster, and he doesn't like it. But, like every other chemically-involved-monster (Jekyll/Hyde, Invisible Man), he bought a one-way ticket, and there's no going back now.

While this film could have been shot in black and white and an alternative aspect ratio, this shot is a perfect example of the power that Ray had by making the choices that he did. His experience in black and white and noir enhanced the shadowy/terror-like aspects while still wanting to keep the colored/lit bits for a balance. This is one of the most terrifying and visually stunning scenes in the film. This forced perspective shot also underscores the "Mason-as-Monster" theme, seeing as forced perspective shots are not unfamiliar territory within monster films!

Rush said that this film has been shown at various Film Noir festivals. I could see that, however I am still more on the side of the horror genre when it comes to Bigger Than Life. Without spoiling too much of the film, I would like to  bring up a few issues through which I believe that this film can be ultimately defensible as a piece of horror.

Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931), The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933) and most versions of Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde are recognized as parts of the horror film canon. They helped to establish a visual and narrative iconography which, in turn, built the monster world.  I would contend that in certain ways, Bigger Than Life is meant to inspire just as much terror as any of these monsters ever did. Nicholas Ray’s film plays to those monsters and their individual characteristics, features and attributes. The “monster” in Bigger Than Life calls up some of our greatest fears which were revealed in the early 30’s by the great horror masters and places them squarely in front of us, just as Whale or Fleming did. Horror is a device that exposes the ugliest and most devastating issues within society and the humans living within that society. By that definition, I believe that Ray has succeeded in making a horror film.

In Bigger Than Life, James Mason’s character, Ed Avery, becomes less human the greater his addiction. At first, the cortisone appears to be having a positive effect on his life- he’s stronger, has more energy, is filled with enthusiasm for life and everything in it. As the pill-popping increases, Ed Avery seems to disappear and The Monster comes out. The Monster abuses his wife and child, gets into virulent arguments at the workplace and eventually has himself convinced that there is only one way that this series of events that he has put in motion can go- it may not be good, but it’s right because The Monster couldn’t be wrong.

Meanwhile, his suffering wife Lou is playing a dual role- the victim of the nightmarish happenings as well as the “Fritz” or lab assistant in the creation of The Monster. In her own addiction to codependent behavior, she is no better than her husband with the exception that she finally comes to terms with her own “monstrous” behavior and, in doing so, is able to try to effect change on her son’s behalf (as well as her own, I would imagine).

Ed Avery’s flipping between personalities and wild unpredictability gives him somewhat of a Jekyll/Hyde sense. While we are aware that it is dependent upon the pills he is taking, the levels which he reaches throughout the film are so grand that by the climax of the film, it has almost become  Grand Guignol-type behavior, shown by his ludicrous propositions to Lou. I think that this may be one of the main reasons I’ve heard the film referred to as “campy” or “cultish.” By the time the tension has built, the surreal energy in combination with the elaborate colors and shot structure make it seem almost…too much. And yet, I don’t believe that it is too much. From where I sat, the ending seemed like a nightmare bathed in a fever-dream, but one that you may not awaken from.

Terror, pure and simple. And the terror came from the multi-faced monster of addiction itself. Addiction- addiction to substances, addiction to conformity and normalcy against the betterment of one’s family (Lou’s line “We musn’t let Bob think Ed is still sick!” gave me the chills), addiction to abuse, addiction to codependency and, significantly, addiction to power.

In James Whale’s The Invisible Man, the title character (played by Claude Rains), states simply, “The drugs I took seemed to light up my brain. Suddenly I realized the power I held, the power to rule, to make the world grovel at my feet. ” If one were to look at Ed Avery in Bigger Than Life, he seems to be saying precisely the same thing. What is most terrifying in Nicholas Ray’s film (moreso than Whale’s, in my mind) is that there is always a certain level of uncertainty that the chemical supplement is actually the  issue in the long run. Sure, Avery’s an addict. Sure, he’s getting more crazy and abusive due to the drugs. But when he looks at himself in the mirror in the shots shown above, and sees the shattered image, there is something that he recognizes- a fractured Monster Image that he sees with ultimate clarity. Somehow, this made for an even more uneasy scene. What if that Monster was really there behind the man the whole time? That kind of ambiguity is the scariest there is. It means that perhaps it isn’t so much that the drug creates the Monster, but reminds the Monster of what he knows is there all along.


Bigger Than Life‘s goals were to present a picture of the American family and suburban life that wasn’t quite standard for the time. To a certain extent, this trajectory was a little like Billy Wilder’s Ace in The Hole, due to its cynicism and biting social critique. While the film may not have fared well in the box-office back then, it has more than made up for that now in the fact that the horror and nightmarish-ness of each frame remain as singularly beautiful and terrifying as they were in 1956. Thank you, Mr. Ray, for this exquisite vision into the depths!