Turner Classic Movies Film Festival: Part Two (2021)

The second part of highlights from this year’s TCM (virtual) Film Festival, this time focusing on ‘Classics Curated By TCM’ available to stream via HBO MAX.

It’s worth noting that I have no idea how long these will be available to stream. If I had to guess, I’d say they’ll be available until May 11th.

Full ‘Classics Curated By TCM’ HBO MAX lineup: https://filmfestival.tcm.com/on-hbomax/films-a-z/

BALL OF FIRE (1941): A lesser known Howard Hawks screwball classic, featuring Gary Cooper as a stodgy professor and Barbara Stanwyck as a nightclub singer in trouble with both the police and the mob. It’s classic TCM fare in that it airs rather regularly and I find it endless re-watchable. (If you don’t have HBO MAX, it’s also available via kanopy.)

THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (1981): Directed by Penelope Spheeris (BLACK SHEEP, WAYNE’S WORLD) not only is THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION a great music doc about the Los Angeles punk scene of the late 70s/early 80s — including Black Flag, X, and Fear — but also a brilliant doc in general, one which resulted in two more iterations that are also worth your time.

HARLAN COUNTY USA (1976): Director Barbara Kopple’s in-depth look at striking Kentucky coal minors. It’s a classic, an important piece of American history. (I’ll note that it does run regularly on TCM and Criterion’s streaming service.)

THE MELIES MYSTERY (2020): A doc detailing the restoration of over half of silent film auteur Georges Méliès. I haven’t seen it, but can’t help but imagine any self-respecting film nerd wouldn’t want to watch it.

THE NAKED CITY (1948): Previously recommended! (Also, it’s easily available on any non-TCM fest day.)

SCARECROW (1973): This Jerry Schatzberg film is completely new to me — I’ve only see THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK — but it features Gene Hackman and Al Pacino as two misfits trekking across the U.S., so I doubt it’ll completely waste my time.

SO THIS IS PARIS (1926): Lubitch directed more than several handfuls of silent films before helming talkies such as NINOTCHKA and DESIGN FOR LIVING. While I’ve never seen it — I’m largely unfamiliar with Lubitch’s silent work — it’s a new restoration, heavily features folks dancing the Charleston, and Myrna Loy makes an appearance.

THE THIN MAN (1934): Previously recommended! (That said, if you’re pressed for time, it’s easy enough to watch any old day.)

TO SLEEP WITH ANGER (1990): Charles Burnett (whose first film is the the fantastic KILLER OF SHEEP) weaves this tale of an old acquaintance (Danny Glover) who pops back up in a family’s life and slyly disrupts them. It’s a remarkably surreal but grounded film, chock full of great little scenes, performances, and intriguing tracking work.

I hope some of you can catch these while you can, and that the next TCM Fest has both virtual and physical screenings!

Turner Classic Movies Film Fest: Part One (2021)

Turner Classic Movies’ annual film festival is virtual for the second year in a row. While last year it took place entirely on TCM’s cable channel, this year they’re also leveraging HBO MAX for ‘Classics Curated By TCM’. Unlike prior years, there’s no real theme, which is disappointing, and I think leads to a rather lackluster lineup, but your mileage may vary.

I thought I’d point out a few noteworthy pieces for TCM’s timed ‘screenings’ today, and HBO MAX’s offerings tomorrow:

‘Screening’ via TCM Full Schedule:

May 7th 1:30am EST: DOCTOR X (1932)

If I were smarter, I would have posted this earlier this week because this probably will have already aired by the time you read it, but it’s worth mentioning. The UCLA Film & TV Archive and The Film Foundation recently restored this two-color Technicolor marvel — similar to how they restored the previously recommended THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933). Michael Curtiz also directed it (as he did WAX MUSEUM) and Fay Wray also appears in it, so you know it’ll be some top-notch classic horror.


Comedic genius and horror film fan Dana Gould wrangled an all-star list of comedians including Maria Bamford, Bobcat Goldthwait, Oscar Nuñez, Bob Odenkirk, Janet Varney, Paul F. Tompkins, and more to perform his adaptation of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Fun fact: Gould was good friends with Vampira (who barely but memorably appears in Woods original film) near the end of her life, and helped out of more than a few bad times.

May 8th 3:15am EST: let me come in (2021)

Bill Morrison (DAWSON CITY: FROZEN CITY) shaped this from the remains of the German silent film PAWNS OF PASSION (1928). While I haven’t seen this, I’m fascinated with it simply from a film history perspective and the fact that it’s managed by Morrison intrigues me even more.

May 8th 8am EST: I LOVE TROUBLE (1948)

I haven’t run the numbers, but it feels like there are fewer noirs in this fest than prior years, but this is one I’ve been meaning to watch for a while.

May 8th 11:45am EST: NICHOLS AND MAY: TAKE TWO (2021)

A new doc regarding the extremely influential comedic team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May. I’ve seen prior docs on ‘em, and yet I’m still making time for another.

May 8th 10pm EST: LADY SINGS THE BLUES (1972)

I’ve only read about this film in contrast to the recent Billie Holiday docudrama, and I know it takes wild liberties with her life, but are you going to pass up the chance to see Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, -and- Richard Pryor in the same film? (Yes, I know Ross and Williams were in MAHOGNY together.)

May 9th 4:15am EST: I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING! (1945)

Exactly the sort of fest film I’d attend without knowing anything but the basics. It’s a romance and it’s written and directed by legendary English filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Tomorrow: some HBO MAX TCM Fest recommendations.