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  • Carrie Specht

The TCM Big Screen Classics Series is Back for 2020


Classic Film Fans have a great new treat to look forward to in the New Year. As cinephiles have come to expect, a new year brings a new batch of all-time favorite films back to theaters nationwide. Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies are teaming up for the fourth year in a row to present the hugely popular TCM Big Screen Classics Series in movie theaters near you. Stretching across more than sixty years from 1933 to 2000, these films are : Airplane!, An American in Paris, Annie, Babe, The Blues Brothers, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Color Purple, Fiddler on the Roof, Ghost, King Kong, A League of Their Own, Love Story, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Psycho.


In addition to pristine digital projection and movie-quality sound, each presentation will feature new pre- and post-film commentary from TCM hosts. This is actually one of my favorite parts about the screenings. It's fun to hear from respected experts about the specific qualities of these unique cinematic achievements, and what it is that qualifies them as important parts of movie history. TCM is bar none when it comes to bringing the theatrical experience into the home. In this case it's the reverse. Since the information is coming from a beloved TCM host, the experience of being snug in our own home is being brought into theaters. That's a very clever twist.


The success of the series has been a win-win. Not only are classic film fans thrilled with the experiences, but the organizers have reaped the monetary rewards. “2019 was a banner year for Fathom and the TCM Big Screen Classics series, with record levels of attendees and a bigger box office than ever before,” said Fathom Events Vice President of Studio Relations Tom Lucas. “That success challenged us to search out some of the greatest films ever released, including iconic titles from over six decades, featuring world-renowned filmmakers, legendary stars, Best Picture winners, and epic productions." So in short, if we keep buying the tickets they'll keep putting the films we love back into theaters. I know I'm up for the challenge. Especially if the films continue to be of the caliber of the 2020 lineup. I offer some of my thoughts on the films in the following paragraphs.



Nominated for eight Academy Awards, and winner of Best Picture in 1951, An American in Paris is frequently heralded as one of the greatest works in musicals. Gene Kelly is an ex-GI in post-WWII Paris who falls for a sweet young Leslie Caron who is already committed to another. Oscar Levant is at his sardonic best as Kelly's best friend and voice of reason. Award wise, Vincente Minnelli lost for Best Director, but the film did win six of its eight Oscar nominations. This is a must see for anyone who loves musicals, Gene Kelly, or gorgeous cinematography. It is one of the films that defines American cinema.


Celebrating its 50th Anniversary from Paramount Pictures, Love Story will screen Sunday, February 9, and Wednesday, February 12 (just in time for Valentine's Day). One of the most romantic movies ever made remains one of the most enduringly popular. This heartfelt tale of the love of a lifetime may be a bit sappy by today's tastes, but in its day it received seven Academy Award nominations, and saved a studio from financial ruin. Directed by Arthur Hiller, the film stars Ryan O’Neal, Ali MacGraw, and Ray Milland.


The Color Purple screens Sunday, February 23. It's hard for some of us to believe it's been thirty-five years since its release, especially since the film is as fresh today as it was then. The resilient Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) endures decades of abuse, bigotry and violence, as she finds love and family amid Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, and Akosua Busia. The Steven Spielberg film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It's screening date has been chosen specifically to honor National Black History Month.


On Sunday, March 15 the un-nominated best picture of 1933, King Kong will be enjoying its first national theatrical release since its original run more than 60 years ago. Fay Wray may be the beauty who led the poor beast to his death, but it was directors of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack who were the ones to oversee the use of an untested stop-motion technique that would stand as a major achievement in cinema. Kong's ever changing crushed fur, caused by the need to manipulate the dummy, was believed to be a problem by the filmmakers. That was until they realized the projected effect made the model look more alive. It was a "happy accident". One that helped King Kong make it into the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress in 1991.


A League of Their Own comes back to theaters for three days on Sunday, April 26; Monday, April 27; and Wednesday, April 29. This star-studded account of a real-life, World War II-era women’s professional baseball league may not have earned a single Oscar nomination, but its cast did have an Oscar winner and an Emmy winner, while the rest would go on to win Academy Awards, Emmys, Golden Globes and Grammys. Penny Marshall directed Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, and the rest of the cast in the funniest film any of them ever made. And that's nothing to cry about (if you haven't seen the movie you'll get the reference afterwords).


A masterpiece of off-the-wall comedy, Airplane! boasts an all-star cast and an uproarious plot that spoofs airplane disaster movies, religious zealots, television commercials and romance movies. Nothing, and no, one is safe on this flight.

Written and Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, the film stars Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges in this 1980 masterpiece of comedy that would not see its like again until the three filmmakers would collaborate again on The Naked Gun series. Airplane! celebrates its 40th Anniversary in theaters Sunday, May 17, and Wednesday, May 20.


I suppose you have to be of a certain age to really appreciate Annie. It certainly helps if you know the origin of the story from comic books to Broadway, and from the stage to the screen in 1982. I personally don't get it, and I sure as hell find it very surprising that the film is directed by the celebrated John Huston. Yes, that John Huston. And Albert Finney plays Daddy Warbucks! It just blows my mind. You can check it out yourself and form your own opinions on Sunday, June 14, and Wednesday, June 17. The film also stars Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Ann Reinking, and Tim Curry who are all mis-cast or under utilized. Either way, they certainly aren't showing off their incredible talents.


Another 80's comedy celebrating a 40th anniversary, The Blues Brothers is in theaters Sunday, June 28, and Wednesday, July 1. Written by SNL alum Dan Aykroyd and directed by John Landis as a followup to his very successful Animal House, The Blues Brothers has become a beloved film with a huge cult following. The success was due mostly to the performances of Aykroyd and John Belushi as Jake and Elwood Blues who set out on “a mission from God” to save an orphanage from foreclosing. Getting their band back together for a benefit show turns into a hilariously chaotic ordeal supported by the talents of James Brown, Carrie Fisher, and Aretha Franklin.


Director Jerry Zucker revisits this list with the 30th Anniversary presentation of Ghost Sunday, July 19, and Wednesday, July 22. This romantic mystery-thriller, was an immediate hit, and has one of the most mocked moments in all of cinema. It sure helps that the undeniably likable (and sexy) Patrick Swayze stars along side Demi Moore at the height of her charms as the tortured lovers. Nominated for 5 Oscars, Ghost garnered a Best Supporting Actress award for Whoopi Goldberg, who made movie history as only the second African American women ever to do so, 51 years after Hattie McDaniel won for Gone With The Wind.


The adorably endearing family film, Babe is celebrating a 25th Anniversary. It screens Sunday, August 9, and Wednesday, August 12. Not only was the film a surprise hit, but it also earned a surprise Oscar nomination for James Cromwell as a supporting actor to a pig. He may have said very few words in his performance, but Cromwell's delivery of, “That'll do, pig. That'll do.” is one of the most loving praises in all of movies. You will believe a pig can heard!

And keep your eye out for Hugo Weaving pre-Matrix.

You'll have three opportunities to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind including Sunday, September 13; Monday, September 14; and Thursday, September 17. Steven Spielberg was on a roll when he directed this epic story of an everyday man who risks everything to prove his encounter with a UFO really happened. Richard Dreyfuss gives a brilliant performance as a man who needs to know what is happening, and why it's happening to him. Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, and François Truffaut all give strong supporting performances, but make no mistake, Dreyfuss owns this film.


Director Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (starring Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin) is celebrating its 60th birthday this year. The master of suspense steps into the world of horror with this story of a young man with an unhealthy attachment to his mother, and creepy sexual hangups. Upon its release, Psycho was considered unspeakably shocking and remains a groundbreaking moment in movie history. You'll have a chance to see just why these words are so true on Sunday, October 11, and Monday, October 12.


Milos Forman directed the multi-Oscar winning film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975. On Sunday, November 8, and Monday, November 9 you can see for yourself why this film was the first in 40 years to sweep the top five major categories at the Academy Awards: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. 45 years later, the story of a criminal who fakes mental illness in order to be moved to a psychiatric hospital for an easier stint remains as riveting as ever. Of course, Jack Nicholson has a lot to do with that.


And finally, come Sunday, December 13, and Monday, December 14 you can watch Norman Jewison's gorgeous screen adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof (1971) back up on the big screen. It's the only way an epic musical should be seen. It's full of joy and heartbreak as it follows one family's difficulties through the growing pains of a transitioning Russia at the turn of the twentieth century. Lead actor, Topol is an unknown to today's audiences, yet he fills the screen with such energy and magnetism you'll never forget him. The same is true of the movie. It's a musical unlike other musicals, and one that even those who say they don't like musicals will walk away praising. I highly recommend it as an inspired way to round out your year of celebrating great movies on the great silver screen.


Tickets to all films in the 2020 TCM Big Screen Classics series are available now at the Fathom Events website, as well as participating movie theater box offices. For a complete list of theater locations for each event, visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).