The fourth annual TCM Classic Film Festival was a fast and furious affair that paid tremendous dividends for Golden Age cinephiles. Cultural Transmogrifier‘s chief film critic, Drew Morton, and writer Nicole Alvarado break down their experiences (which included over twelve movies across four days, celebrity Q&As, and too many cocktails by the Hotel Roosevelt pool). You can view our days one and two coverage as well.
DAY THREE: SATURDAY
Saturday morning started out the way any Saturday for a kid growing up would have…with cartoons. A packed house of bright eyed, bushy-tailed, TCMers celebrated the 75th Anniversary of that wascally wabbit Bugs Bunny. The MCs for this event were Animation Historians Jerry Beck (of the site Cartoon Research) and Leonard Maltin (Leonard Maltin‘s Movie Crazy). After a quick introduction, we were shown 10 of Bug’s greatest shorts. The 10 shorts only spanned 17 years, but marked the evolution of both Bugs and the art of animation. The program started with “A Wild Hare,” which is considered to be the first official Bugs Bunny cartoon and ended with what is considered to be one of the greatest cartoons ever made, “What’s Opera, Doc?” The shorts ranged from the frenetic styles of Bob Clampett’s “Tortoise Wins By a Hare,” to Friz Freleng’s ode to Hollywood “Slick Hare,” to Chuck Jones’ witty Rabbit Seasoning (pronoun trouble!). Given that Bugs starred in 167 shorts, these 10 illustrated how far he has come. For me, the best part of this event was not only being able to see these shorts on the big screen, but to see the audience reaction as well. While Walt Disney was making cartoons for kids, Warner Bros made cartoons for their parents. Jokes that could have been lost do to being of it’s time, the TCM crowd were in on the joke, like knowing who those “out-of-work” vaudeville players were in “What’s Up, Doc?” While I can go on forever probably talking about Bugs Bunny and Warner Bros shorts in general, I really applaud TCM for setting up this kind of event. Hopefully they saw the packed house and heard the laughs to warrant another cartoon panel (or maybe more) for TCM Fest 2014.
We followed up the Bugs Bunny birthday batch with John Boorman’s Deliverance, which had an all-star panel discussion with director Boorman and stars Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and Burt “Gator” Reynolds. The stars shared memories about the torturous shoot which involved a couple instances of the stars doing their own stunts (including a waterfall scene which caused Reynolds to break his tailbone and separate a kidney) and the film’s legacy (Reynolds claimed that Deliverance was the only film he made that actually mattered, a slap in the face to the wonderful Boogie Nights if there ever was one) before Ned Beatty took on the role of late-night comedian (when asked about how he felt when he found out about the rape scene, he simply said that he justified it as acting). Deliverance is one of those handful of films that I’ve seen numerous times, find mediocre, and yet keep returning to because I think I’m going to find something I missed the previous time. The action-adventure tale about four men who decide to surround themselves in nature before it gets “raped” by urban sprawl and are raped by nature in return is thematically simplistic. Yes, the film works rather well on a genre level. But the subtext is about as deep as a kiddie pool.
We immediately rushed from Mann’s Chinese Theater to the Egyptian Theater to see a screening of On Golden Pond honoring Jane Fonda, who added to Mann’s impressive collection of cement imprints earlier that morning. Fonda, who doesn’t look a year over 50 (thanks to those workout tapes she pioneered before I was born), shared some touching memories about spearheading the project so that she could work with her father, Henry, before he passed away. From Jane’s perspective, the film is strongly autobiographical in its concern about an emotionally distant father and his relationship with his daughter (Henry’s jerking reaction during the emotional climax was “real,” as the actor began to tear up when confronted by his daughter). In the unintentional canoe double-bill of Deliverance and On Golden Pond, it’s difficult to pick a winner. Like Deliverance, the film’s themes (aging and death) are handled in a ham-fisted fashion. Moreover, the blend of humor and emotion make the Pond the cinematic equivalent to Log Cabin maple syrup. However, even if it is ultimately a pancake topping, there are strong performances in here by the Fondas and Katharine Hepburn (Henry and Katharine both won Oscars for their roles).