There is no better destination for serious cinephiles than the TCM Fest, which took place April 18-21, 2024 and did not disappoint. Celebrating its 15th year as a festival and 30 years as a cable channel, there was magic in the air as this year’s event was chock-full of special guests and restorations. With the impeccable curation, friendly staff, highly organized for an event of its size, and the spectacular presentation of pristine sound and picture, the atmosphere couldn’t have been better.

Opening night kicked off with a Pulp Fiction reunion, gathering most of the stars from Quentin Tarantino‘s 1994 film which changed the face of modern cinema and now is considered an undisputed classic on par with the greatest of all time. John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Harvey Keitel took the stage for a lively Q&A with TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz and reflected upon the huge reaction to what was arguably the first “indie” blockbuster, grossing over 200 million worldwide on a 9 million dollar budget in 1994.

Uma Thurman summed it up perfectly, “Pulp Fiction changed cinema. It’s almost hard to have it sink in. I have had an evolving, beautiful, and growing relationship with Pulp Fiction throughout my life. It changed cinema. It changed every filmmaker I’ve ever met since.”

The ’90s were in full force as there were also screenings of Silence of The Lambs, The Shawshank Redemption, and Se7en. With a theme of crime and punishment, these pre-millennium films were some of the most indelible of their day and truly stand the test of time with sadly ageless themes.

Those of a certain age can’t help but feel wistful of that time when most films were shot on film, movies had more depth and structure, and there were complex dramas that could play to multiple audiences without dumbing anything down. Collectively, these films represented pieces of time, now creating a snapshot of the era, predating reserved seating – many would show up at a screening and would be turned away and some films were a miss at the box office that solidified their following in the last days of VHS.

The Shawshank Redemption was not a box office hit but built up a massive following after its home video release. When asked why the movie has such a large fan base now, Tim Robbins enthused, “A lot of working-class men started approaching me on the street and they would say how important the film was to them. Then I started thinking that this movie touched something that a lot of movies don’t… It has to do with the core friendship and the love that happens… something about the idea whether we are in prison or not we all have things that put us in prison, whether its a shit job or a bad relationship and we all want to believe there’s a Zihuatanejo ahead for us.”

Silence of the Lambs is still a unique mythic story that is just as powerful today as it was then. After a handprint and footprint ceremony earlier in the day, legendary 2-time Academy award-winning actress and filmmaker Jodie Foster took the stage and humbly recalled her road to this project, which included trying to buy the book rights and direct it herself. Ultimately, it would be directed by the late Jonathan Demme and went on to be a box office smash in February of 1991.

It is one of three films in Oscar history to sweep the top 5 awards (Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay) along with It Happened One Night and One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.

There are many reasons why this film still resonates. For starters, it was a trailblazing film that placed a woman as the mythical hero, she was the center of attention and we were right there with her. Foster elaborated, “Clarice’s superpower is her compassion. It’s never going to be that she’s big and brave. It’s that she’s compassionate for the victim and that she’s willing to open herself up vulnerability to understand that the killer is a human being which is something that many of the other characters in the film won’t do.”

Cinema titan Steven Spielberg crowd-pleased, just as heartwarming and charming as ever, and this time he brought the director’s cut of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s never looked and sounded better. The film still makes you watch the skies afterward and makes you wonder what is out there.

Spielberg shared a childhood memory that inspired the film of when his dad took him in the middle of the night to see a meteor shower, “I had a chance to suddenly develop an awareness that we are not alone, can you look up at the sky? Your imagination immediately looks up there and says there’s something happening out there that we may not fully understand here and not just an area of physics. And I became romanced by the sky. The night sky was a romantic thing that I didn’t look up there and say, death is going to come raining down on us from some Martian invasion. I really looked up and thought, if anybody does bother to come hundreds, thousands, millions of light years to find us here, it is going to be.”

There were so many amazing screenings that cinephiles wish they could watch them all, one had to make a Sophie’s Choice between Double Indemnity and Lawrence of Arabia. However, this is exactly why this event is so essential: every movie is an absolute classic that deserves single screen attention in an auditorium. People traveled a great distance to be there, to see the films that are important to us, perhaps even changed us, including a Robert Evans-produced classic.

A brand new restoration of Chinatown (50 this June) was premiered at the Chinese Theater. There was a Q&A between Carl Franklin and the Czar of Noir himself, Eddie Muller, who observed, “The thing is that I love this film because it threads the needle between classic Hollywood and New Hollywood, because it’s such a tribute to the old days when the movie starts and you hear Jerry Goldsmith‘s theme, and it’s in black and white and it takes you right back to the 1940s. But then it becomes an entirely different film as it goes along. And it’s a very, very modern, very difficult and hard film by the time it reaches the end.

The festival ended with Sherlock Jr on its 100th anniversary exactly to the day. Buster Keaton’s classic film tells the story of a man down on his luck who lives his fantasies out through the cinema, which we all did for the duration of the fest. It was only a year ago that TCM was in danger of shutting down. Based on the festival, it’s thriving in 2024. This was a call to arms for its fans who came out in full force this year, and judging by the sheer numbers and enthusiasm, TCM will be educating, entertaining, and moving audiences for a while longer.

Eric Green

Eric Green has over 25 years of professional experience producing creative, marketing, and journalistic content. Born in Flushing, Queens and based in Los Angeles, Green has a catalog of hundreds of articles, stories, photographs, drawings, and more. He is the director of the celebrated 2014 Documentary, Beautiful Noise and the author of the novella Redyn, the graphic novel Bonk and Woof, and the novel, The Lost Year. Currently, he is hard at work on a book chronicling the lives of the greatest Character Actors.