My Picks for TCMFF 2023: You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

A still from BUtterfield 8 with Elizabeth Taylor wearing a slip in the center, leaning on a doorframe in a pink bathroom

Happy festival season, all!

When prepping this, I read back over a few of these planning posts from years past, and marveled a bit at how infrequently they match what actually happened. For me, the planning stage here is usually very logical: I devise an indisputably perfect system that results in the optimal balance of films I’ve never seen, films particularly suited to a big screen or enthusiastic audience experience, and some old favorites. These selections are impeccable and reveal me to be a person with perfect, inarguably excellent taste. In reality though, the weekend rarely goes anywhere close to that plan. In person, I’m much more easily swayed by emotion: a familiar feel-good movie, something I know friends are going to, or sometimes, especially towards the exhausted end of the festival: whatever’s starting soon and close. I’m trying to allow some grace here in anticipating those changes, but at the very least, here’s a record of where my mind is at the very moment.

A still from Hairspray, with two blonde women in pink dresses glaring at two women with brown hair in floral green dresses

Thursday, April 13

Hairspray (1988), poolside

In all the years I’ve been doing TCMFF, I have still never gone to a poolside screening! Every year (including in at least 3 of these posts) I say This is Going to be the Year. And then I don’t do it. Part of the problem is that the poolside shows usually overlap with two time slots instead of just one—meaning it has to outweigh 8-10 fabulous other films, and by that point I’ve usually been swept up in the momentum of bouncing around the multiplex. This year though, Hairspray has a couple things going for it: it actually only crosses over one time slot because the other films are starting later too due to Opening Night; the Opening Night film should draw a number of people across the street, so there should be some prime seating options; and Ricki Lake is there in person! I’m also working on an upcoming John Waters exhibition for my job at the museum so technically it’s kind of a work-related experience as well.


One Way Passage (1932) is a strong choice, and was something I’d thought was a definite for me once it was announced as a title. As a pre-Code screening in the 6 (instead of the 4), it also might be one of the easier times for me to be able to see a pre-Code this festival. However, I did see it relatively recently, and it’s on DCP, rather than film, so I wouldn’t feel horrible if I missed it.

Genevieve (1953), Multiplex 4

I’m not sure if someone else has already done a thorough analysis of this year’s schedule, but a lot of the titles seem a bit more mainstream—it feels like there are a fair number of repeats, fewer films I haven’t seen, and even fewer that I’ve never heard of. Maybe that’s just result of me having gone to more of these festivals and being more keyed into the types of films that play here, but TCMFF usually includes a lot of discoveries for me. So I have to plan this slot for a “Discovery” film, aka the one Thursday film I haven’t seen: Genevieve! I don’t know a lot about this era of British film, but I do inherently trust them on a madcap road adventure.

I have seen both That Touch of Mink and The Wild One and am not the hugest fans of either, so if I don’t go British comedy, I’ll probably dip out to sleep early and try to start things out a little slow for the weekend to come.

A film poster for La Mujer Murcielago, showing colorful graphics with a woman in a bikini and a Batman-like headpiece with her hand on her hip

Friday, April 14

The Old Maid (1939), Multiplex 4

Dare I start my Friday with a confrontation? Bette Davis + Miriam Hopkins would be my choice in any scenario, especially in this year meant to be celebrating Warner Bros.’ history. But, as always, I’m a bit wary of the size of those stars vs. the size of that theater, plus the fact that it starts after all the other options in this time slot—which means planning on this one will require a bit of faith and steadfast commitment.

If I don’t feel emotionally stable enough for a rumble at Multiplex 4 that early, I will probably dash over to King Kong (1933) in the TCL Chinese IMAX, which I’ve never seen theatrically, or Harvey (1950), which I’ve never seen, period. Or, if I stayed for the later shows the previous night, I might take this as a moment to sleep in.

Footlight Parade (1933), Multiplex 6

I can already tell this is one of my toughest time slots, as in I keep editing this section in the moments before I post it, so this is a lightly deemed “first choice.” I’ve of course seen this before, but the Bruce Goldstein presentation is the tipping factor for me, plus the fact I’m not certain which other pre-Codes I’ll be able to see throughout the fest.

But East of Eden (1955) is one of my favorite books and this film, in its world premiere restoration, seems particularly well suited to see on the big screen. And I’ve never seen Larceny, Inc. (1942)—a gangster spoof starring Edward G. Robinson himself? That seems like something unique that I wouldn’t necessarily think to seek out myself, and TCMFF is often a great space for me to see that type of film.

Blood on the Moon (1948), Multiplex 4

Robert Mitchum. I’ve seen this before, but Robert Mitchum makes it my first choice.

I love the concept of Warner Night at the Movies: The Strawberry Blonde (1941)—recreating a typical “night at the movies,” complete with cartoons, shorts, and trailers. For reasons that I can’t fully articulate, Golden Age films set at the turn-of-the-century are my least favorite subgenre, so despite this incredible cast I’m a bit uncertain at how much I will enjoy it. But the program as a whole is enough to give me pause.

Penny Serenade (1941), Multiplex 1

Mostly already sold on a Cary Grant-Irene Dunne I’ve never seen before, but love the concept of this melodrama and the fact that Grant called it the favorite performance of his career! Also if I stick to the rest of the schedule as picked above, I’ll probably be ready to get out of House 4 for once and get a little more breathing room. And it’s another world premiere restoration!

However Paris Blues (1961) is my pick of the film with “the most beautiful collection of people at their most beautiful” (Diahann Carroll, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Joanne Woodward). And that’s cinema. I also have a big fondness for the Richard Lester The Three Musketeers (1973). Getting over to screenings at the Legion require just a bit more planning, but could also force me to take a needed meal break in the block before or after the film.

House of Wax 3D (1953), Multiplex 6

This slot largely depends on where I’ve ended up the rest of the day, but a special presentation like 3D is a good swing factor. Those 1950s gimmicks, designed to get people away from their TVs and into theaters still work on me! And this is another restoration premiere.

My alternate for this time slot is Ocean’s Eleven (2001) with Steven Soderbergh in person. I didn’t see this one until semi-recently, but it’s so breezy and fun. But it gets out very late which might interfere with…

The Batwoman (1968), Multiplex 6

I am a big fan of the work Viviana García Besne does at the Permanencia Voluntaria archive in Mexico—saving works of “popular” film that don’t always get the same respect that more esteemed genres do. I wrote a seminar paper in grad school about her, as well as the films of El Santo! So I trust anything she brings out, which means I will be at this one for sure. I’m also completely sold by the key art and excellent poster alone.

A still from Xanadu, showing Olivia Newton John, a white blonde women, holding her hands up to her face while she is outlined in neon pink

Saturday, April 15

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX

This is a true “problematic fave,” but since I simply must see the barn-raising dance on the biggest screen possible, I will just mentally check out anytime the plot of the film is happening.

The Wiser Sex (1932) also sounds like a great bet! I wanted to be sure to see at least one of the big musicals at the Chinese this day, so if I feel like Bye Bye Birdie is looking more likely in the afternoon, I may swap.

When Worlds Collide (1951), Hollywood Legion Theater

This choice is honestly pretty loose. I’d usually go for something like Play It As It Lays (1972), but it has been making the rounds at LA theaters as part of what I’ll assume is a Joan Didion-inspired fervor, so I just saw it theatrically last year. At the same time, I feel like I “just” saw When Worlds Collide (1951), as I saw it when it played at the 2019 TCMFF. The Barron-Burtt presentation would make a rewatch worthwhile, though… if I can get in and up to the Legion on a fairly short turnaround! But I think it makes the most sense to be positioned up at the Legion since my next movie is…

Crossing Delancey (1988), Hollywood Legion Theater

This was my hardest slot! And was for a lot of other people, though I liked that we had all had different motivations. I would’ve thought Bye Bye Birdie (1963), with Ann-Margret in person, was a sure thing. But I also saw this at the 2017 festival! So I have to give the edge to Crossing Delancey (1988), a modern classic, with Amy Irving and Peter Riegert in person. This also results in a tempting ~2 hour break until the next film.

Butterfield 8 (1960), Multiplex 4

This is one of those movies I’ve never seen and felt like I was always waiting for the right moment to see it, and this is it.

Alternates? NO SALE! Butterfield or bust.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), Multiplex 6

I’d love to see this with the Doug Jones intro, but the turnaround with Butterfield 8 is very tight. As in, basically non-existent. If I don’t make it in there, I’ll probably go Unfinished Business (1941), which is one of the few I don’t know!

Xanadu (1980), Multiplex 6

Obviously, and without a drop of irony. A movie I love! Simply one of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time!!!!!

A still from All About Eve, showing Bette Davis in a black off-the-shoulder gown, standing on a staircase looking down

Sunday, April 16

Heaven Can Wait (1943), Multiplex 1

Another loose first choice, swayed largely by the cast and never having seen it. I also saw the other Heaven Can Wait (1978) with Warren Beatty at the festival last year. But Jason and the Argonauts (1963) is another very strong contender—I adore it and I think I’ve only seen it in a very low-res VHS.

Six Degrees of Separation (1993), Hollywood Legion Theater

This is another tough slot, as there’s no clear frontrunner for me immediately. My first inclination would be No Man of Her Own (1932), but that will probably be entirely dependent on my gut if the line situation looks bleak for House 4. The Red Shoes (1948) could also be a winner, as I’ve never seen it theatrically, where it seems like it would gain extra magical powers. I’ve also never seen Six Degrees of Separation (1993), and I love that it’s part of a spotlight on the production designer Patrizia von Brandenstein. It’s always good to see the crafts get a little more attention! So that’s my loose choice for now. The In-Laws (1979) plays fairly frequently in LA so that’s the only one I’m sure I don’t need to see!

All About Eve (1950), Multiplex 1

Here we start running into unknowns with the TBAs, so it’s all a bit in the air from here on out. (More than usual, at least.) I do truly hate The Music Man (1962) so all I know is that it will not be that one, and I just saw Stand and Deliver (1988) a few weeks ago, so it probably won’t be that either (though this would be the option with the least walking, so, being on Sunday, that may win out). So it’s between All About Eve (1950), Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk (1935), and three TBAs. Of those, I’d give it to All About Eve, if only because Leonard Maltin is with Mr. Cohen in House 4—and he’s such a draw alone for the TCM crowd that I’m not even sure I could make it in.

Clash of the Wolves (1925), Hollywood Legion Theater

Again depends on what those two TBAs are, but I usually try to go for something big and memorable for the final film. Many years that has been a musical, but a few times that has been a silent film with live accompaniment, and this year we have that in Clash of the Wolves (1925), with a salute to Warner Bros.’ truest star: Rin Tin Tin. That seems like a good note to go off on, but I’ll wait and see what those other TBAs are before fully locking in.

And that’s it! My fate is sealed. Let’s see how many of these I actually end of going to, and how many sounded totally unappealing from my living room but suddenly become must-do’s once I get there in person.

Happy planning, everyone, and see you in Hollywood!

1 thought on “My Picks for TCMFF 2023: You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”

  1. I enjoyed reading about your picks and your process, Emily! I’ll definitely be at Blood on the Moon and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (my only chance to see Russ Tamblyn!). I hope you have a great time at Hairspray!

Leave a Reply