Los Angeles is full of film festivals. But the Turner Classic Movie Festival is a different beast all together. Unlike other festivals all the movies they are showing can be bought easily at your local Best Buy or online for relatively cheap. And yet the festival brings in tens of thousands of people from all over the world that share an appreciation for the Hollywood of yesteryear. The four-day festival, now in its third year, took place this past weekend in Hollywood. It is sort of an interactive version of the TCM channel itself. Indeed almost everyone attending the festival was a hardcore fan of the channel and the services they provide. Classic movies, it seems, are still in high demand.
Of course, having members of the films there to speak and give insight on what it was like to make the movies certainly helps. The fest brought out some of the biggest names in what can now be considered classical Hollywood giving people from all over the world a chance to really get to know some true cinema icons.
Listening to film legends like Mel Brooks and Rick Baker tell their stories was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Many of us have grown up seeing their faces but to listen to them rant about what it was like to be a part of Hollywood at that time really added a level of appreciation you can’t find anywhere else.
While the film industry naturally attracts charismatic characters, it was Debbie Reynolds, still full of life at 80 years old, that seemed to walk away with festival goers wrapped around her finger. A natural entertainer, Reynolds talked about turning eighteen on the set of Singing in the Rain and what it was like to be in the Hollywood system at that time. Not only did she get an extended standing ovation, but a long-time fan gave her a dozen red roses before she left.
For the average festival goer and movie lover, TCM’s lineup was like the Lollapalooza of film fests. Having to choose between films like Young Frankenstein and Chinatown or Sabrina and Cleopatra could be almost impossible. All of the films shown throughout the fest could be considered essential. The result was that those that did show up to a certain film were guaranteed to be die-hards and long-time lovers of the movie.
TCM managed to do something amazing during the festival, they recaptured the magic of the movies and put it right out there for everyone to see. Lines formed around the corner for films that were older than almost everyone in the audience. Take, for instance, the case of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film is celebrating its 75th anniversary and not only did the audience form a line that literally went around all of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, but a couple of those in attendance dressed up as Snow White for the occasion.
That love for the film came through during the show itself. Every time the evil queen makes an appearance on screen, the entire audience hissed and booed in reaction. The same could be said for the sold out show of Singing in the Rain on Saturday night. Every time a music number finished, the entire crowd burst out in applause as if it were a live show. That kind of magic and spark can only be created from the magic of the movies.
While TCM’s Classic Movie Festival may not be your ordinary film fest, it is an annual event that needs to be kept a tradition. The film industry should be as much about looking back as moving forward and this festival helps keep that spirit alive. One must remember that it was only in the last decade that film went digital. Before that, everything was on individual reels and not all of them held up well over time. One of the perks of TCM’s fest is the ability to see crisp, new prints of films were almost lost to the abyss of time. Whether you’re a casual moviegoer that has a soft spot for classical movies or a diehard cinephile, there is something in this festival for everyone.