The Retro Set’s 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival Top Picks

It’s that time of year again, cinephiles! In just a few days, the 5th annual TCM Classic Film Festival kicks off here in Hollywood, and boasting a range of must see events — from celebrity appearances (Maureen O’Hara, Richard Dreyfuss, Mel Brooks, William Friedkin, Jerry Lewis, to name the few!), world premiere restorations (Touch of Evil, Double Indemnity, Sorcerer), and parties — so we here at The Retro Set have decided to chime in with some of our picks before the festivities begin! Here are The Retro Set editors Drew Morton, Jill Blake, and Carley Johnson with their top 5 can’t miss festival picks, and staff writer Kyle Turner weighs in with his whimsical pre-Festival 21-point checklist.




Make Way for Tomorrow (1934) OR Touch of Evil (1958)
One of the hardest choices I have to make during the festival is deciding between the world premiere restoration of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958, with Fraser Heston in attendance) and Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (1934, with Dennis Bartok in attendance). Touch of Evil is one of the classics of the Golden Age of Noir – arguably the last film of the moment that became a genre – and one of Welles’s most beloved films. The pulply plot – rendered in his trademark high contrast, deep focus, long takes by Russell Metty – features Charlton Heston as a Mexican (?!) law enforcement agent investigating a car bombing and Welles as a portly corrupt cop. I’ve seen the film endless times and I’m excited for the restoration, but I’m also tempted to trade a DCP projection (which will premiere on Blu-ray the week after the Festival) for a 35mm print of McCarey’s weeper – which I actually have never seen! Make Way for Tomorrow features an elderly couple (Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi) separated by the turmoil of the Great Depression. According to Welles, the film would “make a stone cry.”

Eraserhead (1977)
I cannot express how excited I am that TCM is successfully testing the waters with some “modern” classics. With all due respect, I can only watch Casablanca (1942), Citizen Kane (1941), and Gone with the Wind (1939) so many times (I needed to take a three year break from Singin’ in the Rain (1952) after screening it for 3 times a year for a decade). David Lynch’s Eraserhead is a surrealist classic and the 35mm presentation with Patton Oswalt seals the deal for me. For those who have yet to see the film: you should know that it’s an unsettling representation of parenthood and it will probably flavor your nightmares for weeks. That’s the highest recommendation I can provide.


A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
It is the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania and what better way to celebrate than with a world premiere restoration of Richard Lester’s classic A Hard Day’s Night. The relevancy of Lester’s film, however, is not solely attributed to the phenomenal presence of the Fab Four. Its status as a classic has also been solidified by Lester’s energetic, French New Wave infused, camera work and editing. MTV began here, folks!

Sorcerer (1977)
William Friedkin’s infamously maligned Sorcerer-– which has never been available in a home video release of decent quality – has been restored and is – perhaps – in a position to be redeemed. The film, a remake of the French classic The Wages of Fear (1953), was swiftly buried at the box office by George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977) and nearly ended the New Hollywood auteur’s career. However, given the reactions of my friends who have properly seen the film (I have not seen the film, but UCLA has a 35mm print that they do screen occasionally for classes), Sorcerer got a bum rap and deserves a reassessment. I look forward to finding out if they are right!


The Wizard of Oz (1939) OR The Lodger (1927) OR The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
This is another close call. I heard the IMAX 3D re-release of The Wizard of Oz  was quite the sight to see when it hit theaters last year. At the same time, it is counter-programed with a restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s silent classic The Lodger (reviewed at The Retro Set here) that will be accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and Orson Welles other great noir The Lady from Shanghai. Given that I’ve seen Lady countless times and that I just watched The Lodger, I have a feeling that Oz is going to win out here. All in all, my philosophical plan of attack to these TCM Film Festival conundrums is to prioritize format over film. Essentially, since there is no other way to see The Wizard of Oz in IMAX 3D or The Lodger with a live orchestra, Lady from Shanghai (just as Touch of Evil will probably get tossed for the 35mm of Make Way for Tomorrow) has an uphill battle here. In any case, I’m excited and look forward to seeing all of you at the Fest!





Why Worry? (1923)
The best festival experiences i’ve ever had have all been silent films. From the closing night of the opening TCM Festival with Metropolis, to last year’s Girl Shy, TCM Fest excels with its presentation of silent film. This year, they are bringing the big guns: legendary silent film composer Carl Davis will introduce he new score to Harold Lloyd’s 1923 classic Why Worry? Since Davis was meant to have conducted last year’s score of Girl Shy, seeing the Maestro in person is something I have waited well over a year for.

The Italian Job (1969)
Quincy Jones is pretty much responsible for producing the entire soundtrack of every 80s child–mine included. This is almost surely the only opportunity I will ever have to see the legendary musician in person, and I am absolutely not missing this. The Italian Job is a fun, feisty caper that perfectly encapsulates swinging London in the swinging 60s, and also affords the excuse of me fawning over they young Michael Caine who pretty much owned “swagger” in the late 60s.


The Goodbye Girl (1977)
I like my Richard Dreyfuss the way I like my whiskey: straight, with a helluva kick. The Goodbye Girl is one of my favorite films of the 1970s, and perhaps my favorite Richard Dreyfuss performance ever– he’s outrageous, yes, but in supreme control of his instrument. The magnetic Marsha Mason and prodigiously talented Quinn Cummings make this a triple-threat film that I refuse to miss on the big screen. Besides, Dreyfuss will be in attendance for a Q&A and there’s no way I’m passing up an opportunity to see Richard Dreyfuss be all…well…Richard Dreyfuss.

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Since Flux Capacitor technology still has yet to come to pass (damn you, Bob Zemeckis, and all of your lies! LIES!!) at least I will have the chance to see the special 50th anniversary screening of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night. This is an essential film, not only because of my love for the Fab Four, but because I will be able to watch the first every music video on the big screen at the Chinese Theatre. (It’s the “Can’t Buy My Love” segment, by the way: watch the invention of MTV happen in front of your eyes.) Also, a friendly warning  to everyone planning to attend this screening: stay far, FAR away from me. I. Will. Be. Screaming.


Hobson’s Choice (1954)
I saw this film on a random evening a few years ago, when TCM’s guest programmer was…wait for it…Cher. That woman shocked me to my foundation with an exceptional taste in film (although my shock was, in retrospect, disgustingly snobbish: Cher has been excellent in everything from Silkwood to Mermaids). Without her I would never have seen this film, which became an immediate all-time favorite. David Lean’s glorious, acerbic battle between the sexes–specifically, father and daughter– is hardly a contender next to the bigger closing night films like The Wizard of Oz and The Lady from Shangai, but I don’t care. It is an exceptional film on all counts, I adore it, and I want to close the night with something very dear to my heart.





The Heiress (1949)
I’ll cut out of American Graffiti a little early and head over to the Hollywood and Highland complex for William Wyler’s 1949 masterpiece, The Heiress. I’m a huge Wyler fan and have seen a large portion of his filmography, but this is one I haven’t seen! Very excited about this one!


Double Indemnity (1944)
70th Anniversary world premiere restoration of Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity. Although I’ve seen an amazing print of this film before on the big screen, it’s hard to pass up…especially with all of my friends there. Back up plan: Paper Moon (1973) at Chinese Multiplex 1.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
This is the world premiere restoration of William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) with Mark Harris in attendance. This is the absolute only can’t miss screening for me at the festival. It’s also a heartbreaker. During this same time slot? Blazing Saddles with Mel Brooks and Harold Lloyd’s Why Worry with live accompaniment. You’re killing me, TCM!


How Green Was My Valley (1941)
John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley, with Maureen O’Hara in attendance. I have never seen this film and I absolutely cannot pass up seeing Ms. O’Hara in person. Back up plan: The Goodbye Girl (1977) with Richard Dreyfuss in attendance, at the Egyptian Theatre.


The Lodger (1927)
I’ll be closing the festival with Alfred Hitchcock’s silent suspense film The Lodger featuring live musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. As much as I’d like to go to the “official” closer over at the Chinese, I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz a million times, several times on the big screen, and I cannot stand 3D…especially when a film is “retro-fitted” (and the original filmmakers aren’t here to stand by their work).




  1. I don’t know what to pack. Hopefully it won’t be like the last time I took a trip and came back with, what, two dozen movies filling my duffle bag.
  2. How many pairs of socks should I bring?
  3. I have an issue with over packing so I am hoping this doesn’t happen.
  4. My primary goal is to a) not die and b) not make a fool of myself. I will be concentrating on the first one.
  5. This is my first film festival. This will be the first time I will be surrounded by people who love movies as much, if not more, than I do. I may or may not cry during this experience.
  6. I’m very excited for my nine hour flight. Commence sleeping.
  7. This will be the first time I will be out on the West Coast. Friends keep telling me to hit up West Hollywood. I think I know what they’re implying, and to them I say, “With pleasure.”
  8. There is no measurement system to quantify my excitement for the festival.
  9. The fact that Eraserhead and Freaks are getting midnight screenings seems appropriate. I will probably die from the excitement alone, thereby failing at my primary goal.
  10. I’m going to meet some of my favorite film people, the likes of the Retro Set Gang and folks like Marya Gates, Kristen Sales, Dan Schnidel, and Trevor Jost, to name just a few. They will probably immediately understand how insane I am and act accordingly: running for their life.
  11. I will be in warm weather. WARM WEATHER. You don’t understand: I live in New England. It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve experienced honest to goodness warm weather.
  12. I’m planning to see, amongst other things, The Thin Man, A Matter of Life and Death, the Innocents, City Lights, Paper Moon, Hannah and her Sisters, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. That is about half of my schedule. I am more than ready for the cinema to completely exhaust me.
  13. I will be bringing my camera and I will be taking embarrassing pictures.
  14. I will demand that selfies of me and film people be taken.
  15. They have lots of coffee in Los Angeles, right?
  16. At some point, I will make a bad City of Angels/Wings of Desire joke.
  17. Nah, let’s face it. I’ll make bad films jokes the entire time.
  18. I will eat a lot, probably.
  19. Lately, I’ve learned to write pieces on my phone, so, hopefully, I will not be that guy who lugs around their laptop everywhere. Hopefully.
  20. I will dread going home the entire time.
  21. Alright, TCM Film Fest. Make my life! (Be gentle.)

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