May 14, 2016
Whenever my parents would plan family vacations, they'd always fall into one of two categories -- relaxing vacations and busy vacations. Relaxing trips would be places like the Jersey Shore, the Winterthur estate in Delaware, and small-town day trips (Lambertville, NJ, Burlington, VT, New Hope, PA, etc.) where you mosey along and generally just kick-back. Busy trips are places like Disney World, New York, Washington DC, Toronto, Montreal -- places that require a lot of walking, museum-visiting, shopping, hustle and bustle!
I've never preferred one type of vacation over the other, so when I plan my own trips nowadays I try to fit both into my schedule. A little bustle, and a little mosey. And in the last two years I've found both of those trips in the form of TCM vacations. Last fall I went on the TCM Cruise, and this spring I attended the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood.
Since they're run by the same company, it can be hard not to compare them in your head. The festival has more movies but the cruise has a better location. The cruise has better food choices but the festival has more celebrities. The cruise is less crowded and frantic, but the festival is where you're more likely to run into all of your online film friends.
But something Anna Karina said at The Film Forum last week stuck a chord with me. She was asked to choose favorites numerous times (her favorite of her own films, her favorite Godard film, her favorite classic movie) and each time she apologized and said "I just can't choose!" She compared it to preferring one of your children over the others -- one might be the most pretty, one is the funniest, one is the most intelligent -- each has their own qualities that make them special, so you just can't compare. I have a habit of ALWAYS picking a favorite and reducing subjects to a matter of THIS or THAT. Godard or Truffaut. Gina or Sophia. Frank or Bing.
But this doesn't have to be like that. While all signs seem to point to the cruise being a relaxing vacation, and the festival being a busy one (something I was obviously hung up on until Anna Karina opened my eyes) they can each give you the best of both worlds.
If you want to attend the festival, but you aren't cut out for a whirlwind of activity at the moment, take it easy! Nobody is forcing you to see five films a day. This year I managed to watch 11 movies total (I'm not going to beat the world record by any means, but it was still a lot for me) and I took time each day for at least one sit-down meal. Almost every day I spent a little me-time at the hotel, just listening to music and chilling. My hotel didn't have a pool this year, but if it had you'd better believe I'd have been there at least once or twice. If you find a hotel behind Hollywood Blvd. you can cut through the Hollywood and Highland center and avoid most of the sensory overload of Hollywood Blvd. I brought my kindle with me and finished a whole book over the course of the week just while I was standing in lines for movies or grabbing a bite to eat. It CAN be a very fast-paced, hectic week, a non-stop movie marathon with no time for food or sleep. But it doesn't have to be.
Likewise, if the cruise seems a little TOO slow, think again. Movies are programmed all day long, with pool-side screenings running way into the wee small hours. There are plenty of fast food options (I mean food served fast, not like there's a Burger King on board) so you can grab a quick bite and then high-tail it over to your next movie. Even when the ship pulls into harbor for an excursion, they're still doing things on the ship if you want to keep the TCM momentum going and forgo the tropical part of the experience. And while the still quiet of the ship's top deck was like a drug to me, I totally understand if that can be off-putting for people who prefer to be surrounded by action. Hang out by the pool or in the lounge and you won't have to worry about the soundless vacuum of the sea.
So do I have a favorite? Not anymore. I can see why each one is appealing, and in a perfect world I'd do them both every single year. (And if you have the money, I say go for it!! Do both!) But if you're currently doing some hard core penny-pinching, like me, TCM can really give you the best of both worlds in one single trip. All of the relaxation from the cruise can be found at the festival, and all of the buzzing energy of the festival can be found on the cruise.