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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

TCMFF 2023 Opening Night Recap

Opening Night of the 14th annual TCM Classic Film Festival kicked off with a screening of the 1959 John Wayne Western, Rio Bravo. The film was selected in part to honor Warner Bros.' 100th anniversary.

An in depth conversation was held after the screening of the opening night film. The Film Foundation Board members Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson spoke with Warner Bros. CEO, David Zaslav about the mission of The Film Foundation, snd spent some time conversing with honored guest, and co-star of Rio Bravo, Angie Dickinson. It was obvious that everyone on that stage was enamored of Ms. Dickinson, who many may remember best from her television work as "Pepper" Anderson in Police Woman. The woman still has a stunning presence to this day, with a somewhat majestical aurora about her. And the stories she can tell!

Of course, only those holding VIP or Spotlight passes had access to viewing the main film on opening night. The expensive privilege of walking the red carpet into the Chinese Theatre also came with access to the annual luxurious after party held this year at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum. I was not among the lucky hundreds who entered the doors of the specially curated event, but I understand that there were many attractions to wow the top pass holders, including the opportunity to be grasped by King Kong's fist, create a flip book of yourself from pictures taken in a photo booth, and see yourself in a black and white movie, not to mention all the free food and spirits one could imbibe like a Hollywood star at a premiere party.

Others of us enjoyed an opening night toast at Club TCM in the grand ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel, and the viewing of two movies over at the Chinese Multiplex.

Earlier in the day there was the usual panel discussion with TCM executives and organizers. The idea was to give attendees an opportunity to get to know the people behind the so called "curtain". People were allowed to ask questions about all things TCM. However the questions were of the usual softball variety, and were generally proceeded by the questioner professing their love of the network. But there were two questions that nearly stopped the love fest in its tracks. One came from someone accusing the station of working too hard to become "woke" in response to current events, and the other was a thought that was on everyone's minds. The "woke" challenge was quickly dismissed as a part of the ever evolving nature of TCM to represent all aspects of film history, one which they have been achieving since its inception.

The other far more representative of the gathering's concern was why there was an absence of movie guides. It sounds petty, I suppose, but the guides are a much beloved tangible reference to the schedule of events and screenings. It also acts as a souvenir to the festival which many turn to again and again to recount their visit. Why was it not present at this year's festival? Many people in attendance murmured in agreement waiting for a sufficient answer. Sadly, one was not provided. There was an awkward maneuvering around the real cause (money), and a long, somewhat confusing answer that was built upon the suggested difficulties of maintaining up to date information for which you can obtain from the festival app. But you can't refer to an app without a smart phone, the downloaded app, and reliability. Glitches in the app were already highly prevalent, so much so that I and others, could not get updates in a timely manner or otherwise. The app is a huge fail. We need something in our hands. Up to date or not, it. is a reference from which to start.

The panel was followed by the immensely popular trivia extravaganza, "So You Think You Know the Movies", hosted by Bruce Goldstein. The entertainment value is not in whether you can answer the questions or not, but in the obscurity of the questions and the way in which film authoritarian and curator of New York City's renown Film Forum presents them. It's always a crowd pleaser and today was no exception as moans and groans, giggles and laughs were shared amongst the crowd of the pre-show event. No one knows where the hell he comes up with this stuff, but I'd love to sit down with him over a drink sometime and pick his brain.

There was no problem getting into the other opening films since a large number of people were attending the main event. I was treated to the beautiful Akira Kurosawa film, Ikiru, introduced by acclaimed filmmaker and frequent Spike Lee collaborator, Ernest Dickerson. Dickerson was obviously a big fan of the film, so his ruminations didn't quite hold up to the actual story. It was still a lovely experience, but high expectations always let me down. I much prefer a discussion after a film over an introduction. You avoid dropping SPOILERS (as Dickerson had) and then everyone's is able to enjoy the talk with greater depth.

Later, I went to the screening of Geneieve, also held in the smallest venue of the festival with just 177 seats, and just as easy to get into as Ikiru. The line was full of old festival friends making the wait an anticipated pleasure (it's always a little sad when the line moves and conversations end). The British comedy was introduced by Diane Baker, although I don't know why as she is neither British nor in the film. Never the less, the popular festival staple was as charming as she ever is. Geneieve is no great film, but it's one of those special little films you discover because of the TCMFF. It's thoroughly enjoyable and a great way to end the first night of the festival. A quick drink at the theatre's bar and a brisk walk back to my hotel room topped the night before I fell to sleep with the TV still on and turned to TCM, just the way I like to finish every day during the TCMFF.

So, the show is off and running. The collective anticipation can be felt wherever you turn and an. exceptional experience is coveted by all. Let's see if it can hold up.


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