TCM Host Tiffany Vazquez Talks Fantastic Films And The Portrayed Experiences We All Share
What could an iconic black and white film noir classic have in common with a light and bright 1980’s teen comedy? Turner Classic Movies host Tiffany Vazquez says they’re her favorite movies.
“Sunset Boulevard” because it’s probably most expertly made movie that captures all the bad things about Hollywood, but still we love it so much,” says Vazquez. “And Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (because) I know what it feels like to be on the verge of adulthood and feel like that could mean the world is coming to an end because decisions have to be made that could change the course of your life and all you want to do is still have fun and not lose that.”
Vazquez, 30, is still having lots of fun, introducing movies every Saturday on TCM. She’s also the Senior Editor of film related content at Giphy, the world’s largest search engine for GIFs. It’s where Vazquez oversees curating the massive library of film GIFs. She was born in the Bronx and raised in Queens. Vazquez went on to get two masters degrees, one from St. John’s University and her second, on Cinema Studies from NYU. Growing up in New York, one of her earliest movie memories came from a fellow Puerto Rican, legendary EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar & Tony) winner Rita Moreno.
“Other than Disney movies, “West Side Story” was the one that, like our family knew because Puerto Ricans were in it. Well, really one,” says Vazquez with a laugh. “But it had to do with where my parents came from.” Vazquez says despite not seeing many people of color in the golden age of cinema, the movies are still a place where people can see each other through shared experiences.
“Listen, if you’re underrepresented in movies, you’re underrepresented in everything. There’s that conflict, so it does hurt me that there’s a very, very small handful of people who were able to thrive during the classic movie era? Yes,” says Vazquez. “But they do exist and they should be honored more than ever.”
Some of the notable stars Vazquez points to: Rita Moreno, Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge and Cicely Tyson. Vazquez notes that some female stars had a magnetic power to not only be the center of a scene, but to set the tone for a picture. Vazquez cites one of her favorite performances captured on film, the 1928 silent film classic “The Passion of Joan of Arc” starring Maria Falconetti.
“I do think it is one of the greatest screen performances ever. And this was in 1928. So what she is doing is textbook acting 101. This is what you do when you want to be one of the greatest actors on the planet,” says Vazquez.
Fast forward a few decades and there are people who continued to write the template on how to shine on the silver screen.
“Cary Grant is the embodiment of the classic film star. Good looks. Ability to have dramatic performances but also be super, super silly. Quick on his feet, very physical when he needed to be. And that always gets me,” says Vazquez. “ I really love Lauren Bacall. I really think she was just able to walk into a room and give side-eye like no one else. She was always the coolest person in the scene. Give very dark and witty one-liners and walk out of a room and she’d be able to take everybody’s breath away.”
“I really love a lot of what Barbara Stanwyck did. I think she had a great knack for settling into any kind of role. She could be the femme fatale. She could be cool and mysterious and sexy. But then she could also be sad and heartbreaking and just endearing,” says Vazquez.
Even though Vazquez has been a movie fan all her life, it wasn’t until a few years ago that she and her favorite movie channel would cross paths and change each other’s future. In 2014, TCM held a contest where fans sent videos of themselves introducing a favorite movie. Vazquez won that year. She and 19 other fans got to live a movie lover’s dream: sitting with TCM host Robert Osborne to introduce a film. She stayed in touch with TCM staff through social media and was approached by a network VP who asked if she wanted to take a screen test. Vazquez did and in December of 2015 she hosted a series called “Girlfriends in the Movies.” Six month later she was named as the Saturday daytime host on Turner Classic Movies in 2016.
This month, film fans from around the world will watch who will win Oscars during the 89th annual Academy Awards. Vazquez has some thoughts on who and what she’d like to see win and the nominees who are not all white as in previous years.
“I hope “Moonlight” wins everything. And I know that’s not going to happen. Out of all the movies that are nominated only one seeped into my soul. And only "Moonlight" is the one that I just keep coming back to and was bowled over and couldn’t believe something so perfect existed,” says Vazquez. “I was very surprised that Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris were both nominated. I love that Octavia Spencer is nominated. I love that Dev Patel is nominated.”
Vazquez is also hopeful for another Puerto Rican who’s been riding a wave of success and awards for his stage work. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is nominated in the category of Best Original Song for “How Far I’ll Go” from the animated movie “Moana.”
“And the best thing about that is he wouldn’t even be the first Latino to get it!” says Vazquez.
As for movies from the golden age of cinema, Vazquez has some advice for those who think classic films are too far flung from today’s reality.
“Unless you think human beings have changed drastically in the last hundred years, then a movie from 50, 60 years ago is still for you,” says Vazquez. “You can start with something like “The Women” or “His Girl Friday” or “The Night of the Hunter” (another of Vazquez’s favorites.)
“The Wizard of Oz” is a classic movie which people watch every year and never get sick of. There are a lot of movies that have that type of mass appeal and just because they may be older than your grandparents doesn’t mean they’re not for you.”
Tiffany Vazquez is the Saturday daytime host on Turner Classic Movies. TCM is presenting “31 Days of Oscar” featuring Academy Award winning films and performances. The 89th annual Academy Awards are Sunday February 26th.