Wednesday, April 11, 2018

TCMFF Button Barter 2018

I thought of this about a week ago. Every year at the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), buttons abound. I usually have buttons printed and give them out, and as a result, I get a lot in return. By Sunday, I usually have so many that I don't know what to do. Then what do you do with them when you get home? Yeah, I know a lot of people put them away with their badge and lanyard as a cherished memory of the Festival. Me, I'm not that sentimental. That's why I came up with the TCMFF Button Barter. Find one button from a previous TCMFF that you can live without. Bring it to TCMFF this year and try to trade it for something you like better. I'm even having what else some buttons made to celebrate:



Find me or my daughter Jasmine, and we'll be happy to give you one of the button barter buttons until we run out.

Here's how it works. Bring that one button, that you plan to trade. If you want, post a picture of it on your favorite social media platform with the hashtags, #TCMFF and #TCMFFButtonBarter. Then go out and find someone who has a button they are trying to trade. Rinse. Repeat. Keep going until you find one you really like. 

I know what you're thinking, what if this is your first festival and you don't have anything to trade? Here's my thought, Kate Gabrielle has been making classic film buttons for years. Contact her and order a set. Her website is: https://kategabrielle.com/collections/buttons. If you contact her, she can probably let you know which ones have been around for a while and would've been around at a previous Festival. I think she said if you get orders in by April 14, she can ship in time for TCMFF.

Friday, April 6, 2018

TCMFF Madness, Baby

Wednesday, the schedule for the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) dropped. I do have to say that I'm totally psyched, not just on the schedule, but on the fact that it was released six days earlier than last year. I start a new job on Monday, and I fully expected the schedule that first week of the new job. Knowing that the schedule was out and not being able to look at it would be excruciating. Good job, TCM. You saved me a lot of stress.

As usual, I'll be doing my picks in NCAA tournament format brackets. Once again, I will be attending with my 18-year-old daughter, Jasmine. I tend to pick things I think we will both like. On occasion, I run into spots when there are films that she might like better and let her overrule me. For the most part, I limit it to the film screenings, but do indicate the odd thing or two that might lure out of a darkened theater. I also include links to anyone else's picks I run into in the coming weeks. At a glance, the schedule seemed pretty simple. Then I read the descriptions of the films I wasn't immediately familiar with, then it got real complicated. So without any further ado, I give you this year's picks.


Thursday


Kind of amazing, as early as Thursday the choices are pretty rough. My Media pass is more or less the same as a Classic pass, so I don't have access to the Robert Osborne Award presentation/The Producers. That leaves To Have and Have Not  and the Pre-Code Finishing School in the top bracket. Finishing School does sound good, but To Have and Have Not is big favorite of mine. I might have seen it in the theater before, but if so, It would have been the 1980s. Also I don't have much in the Egyptian this year, and that can swing me. In the bottom bracket, I'm not a fan of Murder on the Orient Express, but Detour and Them! are both awesome. The edge here goes to Detour, mostly because Them! gets out the same time the second block of films are getting started. I would hate to have to leave Them! early, but hate even more missing the next block of films. Between Detour and To Have and Have Not, have to go with Bogart and Bacall.









For the late night slot, the first contest is not much of a bout. Stage Door is good Fail Safe is insane. In the other bracket, The Sea Wolf with added footage sounds good, but not against Throne of Blood, a Kurosawa I've never seen before. The last choice between Fail Safe and Throne of Blood is pretty brutal. I'm going with Throne of Blood. I tend to shy away from reading subtitles at TCMFF because you get exhausted watching so many films, but this early in the festival, it's a good time for it. That said, we will be coming from the Egyptian and trying to get in the second smallest theater. It is possible that we won't get in, but if we had to switch to Fail Safe, I wouldn't be all that broken up about it.





Friday

Friday starts off rough. Strangers on a Train is a great and underrated Hitchcock. Intruder in the Dust sounds really good but I don't think I could choose it over Strangers on a Train. In the other bracket, The Merry Widow didn't do much for me, but I grew up on Pink Panther Cartoons. Then you have Grand Prix with Eva Marie Saint. Now Grand Prix was one of the first movies I ever saw in the theater as a little kid. Also, I've never seen Eva Marie Saint in person. To make things worse, if I go with Grand Prix, it being at the Cinerama Dome and being a three hour movie, that means I would mess up the next block. Still, I think that just needs to happen. My daughter Jasmine was, Hmmm, cartoons or a three-hour movie about auto racing, you have fun, Dad.




In the Friday Mid-Day slot, it's really no competition. Witness for the Prosecution all the way, one of Billy Wilder's best, and also one of the best courtroom dramas ever. That said, If I go to Grand Prix, I don't see anything this block, dammit. I was thinking that maybe if Eva Marie Saint talks at the beginning, I might be able to duck out of the film early for Witness for the Prosecution, but I just notice on the only grid, there is a word balloon at the end of the block. I take that means Eva Marie Saint appears after the film. Well, crap. I might end up blowing off, Grand Prix.





The next block is a dogfight too. Sounder is great, but a hard watch, even with Cicely Tyson. I've never seen, A Hatful of Rain, but  sounds great. Again, probably a hard watch, even with Eva Marie Saint. I'll take How to Marry a Millionaire here. In the other group, it comes down to Harold Lloyd 3D and The Setup. Edge goes to The Setup, mostly because 3D has a tendency to make me nauseous, and I wouldn't want to chance that at TCMFF. Here Jasmine and I part ways, Thought I might relent and tag along with her to How to Marry a Millionaire. Also if I decide to bail on Grand Prix, I might just go to A Hatful of Rain to catch Eva Marie Saint. Dang, this is tough.




The Right Stuff is great and would be spectacular on the big screen. I'm not a huge fan of The Odd Couple, though I do like it more every time I see it. Here though I would go with Three Smart Girls a charming Deanna Durbin, and an unknown to me Pre-Code, I Take This Woman. In the other bracket, Roaring Twenties by the pool seems to end too late to catch anything in the next block. I saw Eddie Muller introduce This Gun for Hire in San Diego last month, and he was psyched on None Shall Pass. Still, here Jasmine put her foot down, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, and I going to go along with that all the way.





Next, I like Point Blank, a lot. The Exorcist never really did it for me. I really would like to do Leave Her to Heaven in Nitrate, but Romeo and Juliet is just so good. It's probably my favorite film adaptation of Shakespeare. That's got to be the choice.




I think we're going to pass on the Friday night midnight movie. We did both last year, and it was brutal. I know Jasmine will wander off to bed, but I'm going to try to get some drinking done.


Saturday


There are a lot of good choices here. The exception is I'm not a fan of Andy Hardy. Still it all comes down to one thing, His Girl Friday. I've never seen it in the theater before, and I watch it all the time when I'm bored and don't know what to do. I love this movie.




This block is the one where the two films I've never heard of before are blowing the doors off everything else, so it comes done to When You Read This Letter, a film noir melodrama about a nun blackmailing a gigolo into marrying her pregnant sister, wait, what, vs This Thing Called Love, a screwball comedy about a married couple arguing about whether or not to have sex, ohhhh-kaayyy. Jasmine's reaction to this was, "Sponge + Starfish = Clam?" Ah, these kids and their interwebs and memes. Edge here, to This Thing Called Love and Rosalind Russell and Melvin Douglas.





I love Sunset Boulevard, but I saw it in the theater a couple of years ago. Normally, that would be enough to go a different way, but normally, you don't have Nancy Olson. The problem is that it's up against not one but two special presentations, An Invisible History: Trailblazing Women in Animation and Crackin' Wise, a special presentation about witty dialog. I love animation and witty dialog is the main reason I like classic film as well as I do. If you've never been to any of the special presentations at TCMFF, they're always great. Then again, when am I ever going to get to see Sunset Boulevard in the Chinese with Nancy Olson. Plus, it also gives us almost two hours before our next choice. Oh boy, eats.




Next the two top choices are Show People and The Lost Weekend. Normally this wouldn't be much of a contest, and I'd go with The Lost Weekend, but coming off one intense Billy Wilder movie and right into another intense Billy Wilder movie. It wouldn't surprise me if at this point Jasmine would want to go back to the room and unwind, and I couldn't really blame her. I might use the opportunity to catch Hollywood Home Movies at Club TCM and meet up with Jasmine later for a real meal. 





Oddly, I don't think I've ever seen The Big Lebowski. I thought I had, but my wife was watching it a few months ago, and it totally didn't look familiar. I might have to break down and watch it before TCMFF to see what all the fuss is about. Either that or not and see if anyone tries to sell me on it. Otherwise, we're going with Gigi. Spellbound is good but it doesn't hold up to the other better Hitchcock movies. I'd also say that Scarface is very tempting because of John Carpenter.



Then last up we have, Night of the Living Dead with an introduction by Edgar Wright. Wright's Sean of the Dead is both Jasmine and my favorite zombie movie, and Night of the Living Dead basically defined the genre. This just has to happen.




Sunday

Sunday is kind of a weird day. There isn't a lot I wouldn't blow off for the right film in one of the TBAs. I really hope some of those interesting films I'd never heard of show up in those spots. 

First up, Once Upon a Time in the West is so good but a three hour movie is kind of a tough sell at TCMFF, especially with all the other options. I do love Tracy and Hepburn, but I don't like Woman of the Year nearly as well as some of their others. Actually, once I eliminated Once Upon a Time in the West, there was only one choice. The Black Stallion is just such a good movie and on 35 mm in the Egyptian.





To be honest, I'm not all that psyched on Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and even less so for Places in the Heart, especially up against one of Frank Capra's best, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.



In the 1950s, Hollywood remade a lot of great films from the 1930s and 1940s as musicals. Most are just pale shadows of the originals. Silk Stockings an adaptation of Erst Lubitsch's Ninotchka is one of the handful that really works. I do also like Bull Durham. Sometimes celebrity guests are announced at the last minute. With the top stars still around, I might be swayed if any of them were going to show up.





Normally, this would be a no brainer. Silent movie with live accompaniment is a great way to end the festival, but Jasmine and I both saw The Phantom of the Opera with live accompaniment on a huge vintage pipe organ, so we're going to go with the fun romp that is Animal House




Other people's picks (I'll add more as I see them)




Thursday, March 29, 2018

TCMFF Survival Guide: The Revenge

This time it's personal. 

This will be my fifth year at the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), April 26 to 29, 2018. In addition, I have been attending Comic-Con and other fan conventions for a lot of years, so I know what it’s like to spend four or five days in a strange city living out of a hotel room and running around from the time you get up in the morning until the time you collapse in your room late at night. 

Most of what follows are tips to help you get the most out of the Festival while hopefully hanging on to your sanity. Also I've included some links to some other general attending TCMFF blog posts at the bottom. Lots of good info there as well.


The difference between a lady and a flower girl

Left to right, film archivist Ariel Schudson, me,
my daughter Jasmine
This section covers TCMFF etiquette. The most important thing to do is silence your phone and other devices during screenings and do not take them out to post pictures, answer a text, or whatever. You might think it would be cool to take a picture of the movie title onscreen to post for your friends.

Don't!!!

There a people sitting next to you and behind you who are trying to enjoy the film. Just the the light from your phone as you bring it up and try to find an app is insanely distracting in a dark theater. I usually put my phone in both Silent and Airplane modes during screenings. For me, most people who would be trying to contact me know I'm at TCMFF, so if I get a text, I tend to think it's an emergency and worry about it, not that I would be able to doing anything while I'm in Hollywood anyway.

It's okay to tweet, post to Facebook, Instagram, whatever while you're waiting in line or sitting in the theater waiting for things to begin. Once somebody starts talking, finish up what you're doing and put it away. Taking pictures/video during the intro is fine, but turn off the flash. It's distracting and won't help if you're farther than about 10 feet away.

Be considerate of those around you. It's generally considered rude to leave before the end of a screening, but sometimes it's unavoidable. If you have to duck out early, try to get to the event you are leaving extra early and get seat on the aisle so you don't have to climb over people. If you know you need to leave at a certain time, wear a watch. A watch screen is way less distracting than your iPhone X.

I shouldn't have to say this but:
  • Don't talk during the movie.
  • Don't take any pictures during a screening. 
  • Don't check your phone for any reason during a screening. 
  • In an emergency, if you absolutely need to use your phone, go into the lobby. You're not going to be able to help anyone from a movie theater anyway.


I'll have what she's having  

If you need to run to a store, Ralphs on La Brea
takes you past former home of Chaplin Studios
This section covers trying to get some sustenance during TCMFF. I know you’re going to be running around trying not to miss anything, but seriously, try to eat something besides movie theater popcorn and Red Vines over the four days.

There are a ton of restaurants in the immediate area, both fast food and regular sit-down restaurants, but bear in mind that the transition times between screenings can be relatively short, so don’t count on being able to get a regular meal. If you’re a coffee drinker like me, you might want to pick up something like a sandwich or a bagel and a piece of fruit with your latte that you can put in your bag and eat on the go later. For things like snacks, there is a CVS Drug Store a block west of the TCL Chinese/Hollywood Roosevelt on the north side of the street, though by Sunday, it usually looks like Cindy Lou Who's house after the Grinch had visited, nothing but hooks and wires.

If you have special dietary needs, there aren’t many good close options for groceries near TCMFF. Your best bets are: 
  • Ralphs (7257 Sunset Blvd). Full service grocery store, should have a deli and salad bar and open 24 hours. About 8 blocks away, but not in the direction of any of the other TCMFF venues, dammit.
  • Ralphs (1233 N La Brea Ave). Full service grocery store, should have a deli and salad bar and open 5 am to 2 am. Again about 8 blocks away, but on the map it looks marginally further than the Ralphs on Sunset. Also, it too is not in the general direction of any of the other TCMFF venues. Possibly, this might be worth the extra walk as it takes you past Jim Henson Co. (historic former home of Charlie Chaplin Studios).
  • Trader Joe's (1600 Vine St). About 12 blocks away and open 8 am to 10 pm.
Other food tips: 
  • Breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Yeah, I know I sound like your mother, but if you skip breakfast, you’re already off to a bad start. Me, I’ve never been real big on the granola bars, but if you like them, and they work for you pick up a box and take with you. Bring a couple extra. You might find yourself in line with someone who’s totally famished. A 75-cent breakfast bar could earn you a friend for life.
  • If you get to a screening too late and get shut out or have a block where you're not psyched on anything, take advantage of it. Go get a real meal, where it’s hot and they bring it to you on a real plate. It might be the only one you get over the four days. Actually, last year, my daughter and I ended up taking a break most days and getting one good meal at the expense of a screening. It was kinda worth it.
  • Hungry late? A good bet is In ‘N Out Burger, a Southern California Burger chain. They are located at 7009 Sunset Blvd., corner of Sunset and North Orange Dr., three blocks south of the Hollywood Roosevelt. They have a really simple menu, but have a secret menu that is probably the worst kept secret ever. My favorite is protein style burger, no bun wrapped in big leaves of lettuce so you can eat like a normal burger, great if you’re doing the low carb thing. They are open until 1 am, Sunday to Thursday and 1:30 am, Friday and Saturday.
  • Water – You should try to do some of that too.

Plan everything down to your breaks

Once you’ve figured out what you want to see, you should probably try to get to events a half hour ahead of the start time, possibly earlier. If it’s something you’d be crushed if you missed, shoot for an hour early, especially if it's one of the smaller theaters. 

How do you make that happen? You should be able to figure out the end times by looking at the schedule. Anytime you have a longer break between events is a good opportunity to get some food that doesn’t come in a bucket with fake butter and salt. Do keep in mind that TCL House 4 and House 6 (at 177 and 210 seats, respectively) fill up really fast. Try to get there earlier if possible. This also counts for Club TCM events. In Club TCM, there are booths on the side and rows of chairs on floor near the fairly low stage. Toward the back of the room is a bar for standing, but once the room gets full you're not going to be able to see well in the back.

Know that getting around is going to take you longer than you expect. Figure that if you’re going from one screen in TCL Chinese 6 to another screen in TCL Chinese 6, five minutes from getting out of one theater and back in line for the next is a decent bet. Everything else is going to take longer, and very likely way longer than you think it will. 

If you look Google Maps, the distance from TCL Chinese IMAX to the Egyptian looks like it’s about 2 and a half blocks, but if you look at the way the surrounding streets are laid out, it’s closer to four blocks, or at least a long two blocks. If you figure you walk fast, you should be able to walk four blocks in about 7 minutes. Think again, if you’re on Hollywood Boulevard, the sidewalks are going to be packed, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

It’s not just TCMFF people, it’s tourists, it’s the guys in the cheesy Spiderman costumes, people stopping to take pictures or answer a text, all in your way when you’re trying to get somewhere fast. The sidewalk might be closed for construction, forcing you to go back half a block to cross to the other side when you weren’t planning to. If you can figure out a way to avoid Hollywood Boulevard altogether, that might be a good idea.

The east west street one block south of Hollywood Blvd is Hawthorne Ave. It jogs a bit at Highland Ave, but does keep going. There isn't a crosswalk to get across Highland Ave., so you are probably better off going back to Hollywood Blvd. to cross at Highland. The worst stretch of Hollywood Blvd in terms of sidewalk crowds/craziness is the stretch between The Roosevelt and Highland anyway. 

If you’re planning to change clothes between the daytime and nighttime screenings, figure out which break you’re going to use to go back to the hotel and change.


Know your venues

The important thing to keep in mind about the venues is where they are and how big they are. I’ve arranged the venues more or less in order by how close they are to the Roosevelt Hotel, since that is the host hotel:

  • Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel – Home to Club TCM and the Poolside screenings. Club TCM is where a most of the guest interviews and special programs will be. In years past, there was a fairly low stage, rows of chairs and a standing area behind the chairs. Again, if you’re at the back of the standing area, you might not be able to see very well. If there is an event that is really important to you, make sure you get there extra early. The pool is just that a swimming pool with a screen at the one end.  Everybody says get there extra early if you want one of the lounge chairs. I've only been to one of the poolside screenings.
  • Chinese Theatre IMAX (920 seats) – This is the old Grauman’s Chinese theater. If you cross Hollywood Blvd. from The Roosevelt, you’re there. They usually run some Disneyland-style switchbacks in front of the theater and then up the stairs up into the Hollywood and Highland mall. Don’t panic if the line goes back a long way. It’s a big theater. 
  • TCL Chinese 6 Theatres is located inside the Hollywood and Highland mall. They are using three screens. The thing to keep in mind here is the last two of the following are fairly small, and they are the most likely to fill up and have to turn people away:
    • House 1 (477 Seats)
    • House 4 (177 Seats)
    • House 6 (210 Seats)
  • Egyptian Theatre (618 Seats) – Great old theater, built in the early 1920s. Personally, I like sitting in the balcony because you get a better view of the Egyptian frescos in the ceiling. The balcony isn't always open. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either two long very long blocks or about four normal size blocks away, so allow yourself some extra time to get there.
  • ArcLight Cinemas’ Cinerama Dome (596 seats) – About four blocks south of Hollywood Blvd. on Sunset Blvd. (at Morningside Court). Note that Morningside does not go all the way through from Sunset Blvd. to Hollywood Blvd.
    Address: 
    6360 W Sunset Blvd.
    • If coming from Hollywood/Vine Station, take Vine St. south to Sunset Blvd. Turn right on Sunset, theater is a block west.
    • If walking you can do either of the following: 
      • To avoid the Hollywood Blvd. craziness, take Sunset Blvd. the whole way. Take N. Orange Dr. (street the Hollywood Roosevelt is on) south to Sunset Blvd. Turn left on Sunset. Cinerama Dome is about 8 blocks east.
      • If you like sidewalk stars, take Hollywood Blvd. most of the way. Go east on Hollywood Blvd. to N. Cahuenga Blvd. Turn right on N. Cahuenga Blvd. and go south to Sunset Blvd. Turn left on Sunset Blvd. Cinerama Dome is about 2 blocks east.

  • Last year, they used The Montalbán Theatre (500 Seats) for the interviews they plan to tape and run on TCM later. As of this writing, they haven't announced any plans for this, but I assume they will. If they change venues, I'll update accordingly. The Montalbán Theatre is about a block south of Hollywood Blvd. on Vine St. Address: 1615 Vine St.
The last two venues are not in the general area of the festival. Both are about a 25-30 minute walk according the Festival web site, I think it's a bit less than that. Your mileage may vary. The ArcLight Cinemas’ Cinerama Dome is about three blocks further than the Montalbán Theatre. I'm thinking your best bet on both is to take the Metro Rail Red line, from the Hollywood/Highland station to Hollywood/Vine, should be $1.75 each way. That's how we went to the Montalbán two years ago. Trains run every 10 minutes week days and every 15 minutes Saturday and Sunday, and it's about a two minute ride.

You could probably take a cab/Uber/Lift, but with traffic on Hollywood Blvd. that might not save you as much time as you'd like. Also, I don't know how long it takes for one to show up in Hollywood, especially when everyone will be trying to get one at the same time. To be honest, I don't think any way you go is going to substantially faster than any other way.


Line numbers

When you get in line for a screening, you will be given a number in the order you enter the line, this means you can leave the line and go do something if need be, use the rest room, or grab a snack. I would check to see when they're going to move the line. Usually the people giving out the numbers have a good idea. That way you know how much time you have. You need to make sure you get back in in line before your number moves in. They will not hold a seat for you just because you have a number. Take advantage of it when you can. It could be the difference between a sandwich for dinner and Jujubes.

It's really simple if the line doesn't get messed up which does happen sometimes. Say you and the person you're with get line numbers and want to leave to get popcorn. You get back to the line and figure out where your number should be. Most people put the numbers in the pocket of their badge, so you can usually see where you need to go. If you need to ask someone what number they are, go ahead. People are really good about helping you out. Say you and the person you're with have numbers 75 and 76. You find the people closest to yours. It might be 72 and 77. So you get in line in front of 77 and behind 72, knowing that 73 and 74 have to get back in line in front of you.

It's better if you do not squish the line forward. There's are always going to be people who will need to get back in line. Sometimes the line will be really full, and you might not want to make it worse. Just figure out where you need to be and find out who has the numbers around yours. Then when the line starts to move you can get back in at the proper spot.


Hollywood and Highland mall

The TCL Chinese 6 is located in the Hollywood and Highland mall. The mall is sort of a tourist mall. Most malls are fairly easy to get around in. This mall, not so much. It was designed so that you could explore, with an eye toward wandering around and getting lost. This means that you may not always be able to tell what level you're on or how to get up or down one level, or most importantly if you're on the correct level for the movie theater. If you have a spare hour before the festival starts, go over and find the TCL Chinese and figure out how to get from there to the Chinese IMAX and how to get out of the mall itself. It should be easy. It’s not. Note any stairs and escalators you run across. The time you get lost is bound to be the time you have least time to spare. If you see any interesting fast food, see if they have a To Go menu. It might be the only hot meal you get.

A friend Will McKinley did a post similar to this several years ago. He’s the one who suggested avoiding Hollywood Blvd. altogether, good call. He also suggested coming in from the back. If you cross Hollywood Blvd. from the Roosevelt, you'll be standing in front of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. If you follow the sidewalk to the left of the wax museum (north on N. Orange Dr.), you'll come to a traffic circle where tour buses line up. Follow the traffic circle around to the back, and there's an entrance to the mall. My mistake my first year was to not following that route all the way to the movie theater. I got distracted by things in the mall. If you go in this way, where you come into mall, there will two sets of stairs going up on the left. One goes to the mall business office. The other goes to the same level as the TCL Chinese 6, about 30 feet from the door. Find this stairway. It will save you a lot of time.

If you're staying at Loews Hollywood Hotel, there's a walkway that leads directly into the mall. I would find that and make sure that you know exactly how to get to the movie theater that way. If you oversleep some morning, you'll thank me.


Read everything you can

Take the time to read everything you can find on the website, http://filmfestival.tcm.com/. Search for blog posts like this one. A good source of info is Twitter, follow @tcm and search on the #TCMFF hashtag. There will be lots of good tips there. Also you might want to join the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook group (link at the end of this post). Google the people being listed as guests, you never know, you might be standing next to one of them at Starbucks, and it will give you something to talk about. If they are showing one of your all-time favorites, read the Wikipedia and IMDB pages about the film. You’re sure to pick up some interesting tidbits that most people don’t know. You can look smart to other people in line.


There and back

Whenever I go to an event like TCMFF, I like to take Airborne, Emergen C or something similar the morning I leave and each day while I’m there. Does it guarantee that you won’t get sick? No, but it doesn’t hurt. 

Remember that read everything you can thing. Well, I know how you can get busy and time can get away from you, especially when preparing for a trip/vacation. Most people are going to have a good 5 or 6 hours travel time getting to TCMFF. Make some printouts or save copies to your tablet or whatever to read in the airport and on the plane.

Are you the type who likes to buy souvenirs? If so, are they going to fit in your suitcase? You might want to consider bringing a Priority Mail Flat-Rate box. If you’re worried about items getting lost or damaged in the mail, you can always mail home your dirty clothes. There is a Post Office at 1615 Wilcox Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028 (hours 9 am to 6 pm, Mon to Fri; 9 am to  3 pm, Sat; closed Sun), about another four blocks past the Egyptian. Another option is Mail and More on Hollywood, 7095 Hollywood Blvd. (hours 9 am to 6 pm, Mon to Fri; 10 am to  5 pm, Sat; closed Sun), much closer, about two blocks west of the Roosevelt. It is a private shipping place, so you may pay more. Then again, it's much closer to the Festival than the Post Office. It might even be worth calling your hotel and see if they can mail for you.


Weather, there will be some

I can guarantee you that it will not snow. Beyond that, all bets are off. Personally, I like to check the 10-day forecast about a week out. That should give you a ballpark idea of what to plan for. Then check the forecast again, a couple of days before you leave and make any necessary adjustments. I’ve lived in San Diego my whole life, and we have weather pretty comparable to L.A./Hollywood. Generally speaking, weather in Southern California is pretty mild in the Spring. It might get a little chilly in the evenings, but most of the time a light jacket or sweater is good enough. Having said all of that, what you mostly need to worry about is two rather obnoxious extremes:
  • Extreme heat – While not common in April, temperatures in the 90s do happen, and bear in mind that you might be standing in line in the sun during the hottest part of the day. I honestly don’t remember standing in the sun last year, but I know that at the Egyptian, they run the lines in the courtyard in front of the theater, so if you’re there in the middle of the day, you’re going to be in the sun. Even if we get mild weather, sunscreen is highly recommended and maybe even a hat. If you don’t have room to pack a hat, consider buying a cheap one when you get here and just toss it at the end of the trip.
  • Rain – The song says, it never rains in Southern California, but people always forget that the end of the verse is, it pours, man it pours. Very very true, both literally and figuratively. Hollywood doesn’t get a lot of rain, but there are times, when it comes down in buckets. We had storms in San Diego last year that dropped about 20% of our annual average in a 24-hour period. Because we don’t get a lot of rain out here, we tend to hopelessly ill-prepared for it. Streets flood. Hotel lobbies flood. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but it could. That’s where your forecast will help. If you’re coming from a different part of the country, you’re probably already way better prepared than we are here. Even if the forecast doesn’t call for rain, if you have an umbrella that packs easy, bring it. You're not going to be able find one easy walking distance from the Festival, especially if it's raining. One of my TCMFF cronies, Deborah Leigh, an L.A. local recommends an umbrella, rain or shine, to keep the sun off. Good call.

Good and plastered

We all like to think we can hold our liquor like Nick and Nora, but realistically no one can. I know you’re on vacation and want to have a good time, but keep in mind, you’re probably going to want to be up early the next morning for whatever screening. If you do overdo, take some aspirin and force yourself to drink some water before you collapse in bed. It won’t prevent the inevitable hangover, but it might take the edge off a little bit. 

I'm sure if you asked, the good folks at TCM would say don't bring your own alcohol to TCMFF, but they do usually have a flask for sale in the gift shop and on the web site, so I'm going to call that mixed signals and act accordingly. Just don't abuse it.

FYI, drinks in the Hollywood Roosevelt are crazy expensive. There are several bars in the Hollywood Roosevelt. It seemed to me the drinks were better in the Library Bar and the Spare Room on the mezzanine, than in the lobby and pool bars. If you going to pay a fortune for a drink, you might as well get one made with fresh ingredients by a mixologists who know what they're doing. They do usually have complementary beer and wine in Club TCM in the evenings. The problem for me is that most of the time I don't make it back from the last screening before it closes. 

Added April 6, 2019: TCM with a Twist did a great post on Hollywood bars, must reading if you imbibe. Link at the end of this post.


The Red Shoes

This section covers what to wear. By and large, California is pretty casual. You often see people in nice restaurants looking like they just stepped off the beach. If you’re attending the opening night Red Carpet screening of The Producers, a suit for men and cocktail dress for women is recommended, although a tux or formal gown wouldn’t be out of place either. 

For the rest of the Festival, some people dress up and some people dress down. 

Me, I do a little of both, shorts and a t-shirt during the day and something dressy at night. I even managed to procure a white dinner jacket a couple of years ago. God, I hope it still fits. I plan to wear it Thursday night, even though I'm not going to the Red Carpet. If you have 1940s outfit for His Girl Friday, more power to you.

All things considered, most everything is pretty centrally located, but you will do a fair amount of walking and standing. I can pretty much guarantee that at some point you're going to feel like you’re bouncing back and forth like a pinball. If you have new shoes that kind of hurt your feet and you think it will get better, it won’t. If you're dead set on wearing them, at least consider changing into them late in the day. Remember what happened to Moira Shearer when she put on The Red Shoes. I'm not saying the wrong shoes are going to make you jump off a balcony in front of a train, but they might make you feel like you want to. 

If you have one pair of shoes that are really really comfortable, bring ‘em, even if the make you look like you like your Great Aunt Matilda.

Updated March 30, 2018. My friend Kellee mentioned that the AC in the theaters can be pretty aggressive, especially at the Egyptian. If you get cold easily, she recommends one of those roll-up fleece blankets that can be purchased at the airport and fit into your bag.


Gadgets

Think about the electronics you’re bringing. Are you going to be posting on Facebook to make the friends back home jealous? If so, how well does your battery do? If it barely makes it through the day, sitting in your pocket you might want to consider getting one of those portable batteries to recharge during the day. It might not be a bad idea anyway. Sometimes when you’re in a strange city, your phone will die just by virtue of having poor coverage and constantly trying to find a signal.

Last year, there were charging stations in the lobby of the TCL Chinese 6 and in Club TCM. Presumably there will be something similar this year. 

Think about what devices you need. Did you promise your boss that you’d check e-mail? Are you planning to blog during the festival. Can you get by doing that on your phone or do you need a tablet or laptop? You're not going to have as much time as you think you will.

If you’re counting on the hotel having Wi-Fi, it might be worth finding out whether that’s in your room (and what they charge) or only in the lobby. Look at your broadband usage and if you think it might be an issue, possibly see if you can get more from your provider for just the trip. We tend to burned through all of our data at TCMFF. That in itself was not a huge deal, but I find the constant barrage of text messages from Verizon telling me about it annoying.

You’ll definitely want to have a camera. Think hard about how good the camera on your phone is. Cameras on smartphones keep getting better and better, but many still do not do real well at a distance or in low light. Obviously, you’re not going to be taking pictures in a darkened theater, but you might want to get a shot of whoever is introducing the film and movie theater house lights tend to be less than optimum for photography. You might be better off with a point and shoot or digital SLR camera. Then again, if all you're planning to do is post some pics on Facebook, your phone camera might be good enough

Make sure you take the time to empty device's internal storage and/or the SD card. The last thing you want is to find yourself standing next to Ben Mankiewicz and realize you have to figure out which pictures from your cousin’s wedding you can live without. The mistake I made a couple of years ago was to wait until late the night before we left to empty out my camera and phone. I start moving the files and saw, About 45 minutes remaining.... Aw, man, I need to go to bed.

Obviously, all these gadgets will need to be charged, so don’t forget to pack the appropriate chargers. You might be able to find a charger for your iPhone or Android but probably not for your camera.


Be flexible

Despite all of your planning, leave yourself a little wiggle room. Each year they leave four or five TBD slots open on Sunday to repeat films that turned a lot of people away earlier in the Festival. They should announce the TBDs fairly late on Saturday. This could be your chance to see something that you had to skip earlier. On the TBDs, bear in mind that certain things probably will not be repeated. A silent film with an orchestra may not be repeated just because the musicians would have to be available on short notice. Nitrate films can only be shown at the Egyptian, and they don't do any TBDs there; at least, they haven't in the years I've attended TCMFF.

In addition, you never know how you will feel. Last year on Saturday night, I had planned on Black Narcissus in nitrate, but our friend Ariel was raving about The Incident, so I switched. That turned out to be one my favorites of the whole festival. It’s perfectly okay to switch things around. You might be late getting to a screening and get shut out. Check the schedule, you might be able to get into something else. Maybe, you figured that you’d be too tired for any of the midnight movies, but you get out of that last screening and feel really pumped and want to keep going. Go for it.

Maybe, there is a block that you’re not particular enthused about. This is the perfect chance to get a real meal or even sneak back to the hotel for a nap. Just remember, you’re there to have fun. It’s almost assured that you’re going to be running around a lot, but there is nothing that says you have to. It’s okay to take a breather.


Try to do something you've never done before

To a certain degree, this is going to vary from person to person to person. Maybe, you've never been to one of the midnight or poolside screenings, try to find a way to make that happen. Maybe, you've never seen a silent film with live accompaniment. Maybe, you're the type of person who puts a premium on seeing films you've never seen before over old standards that you've seen a bunch of times. Know that seeing something like Casablanca in the TCL Chinese IMAX in a packed theater with an audience who knows the film by heart like you do is a different experience than seeing it on the big screen at the multiplex with Fathom Events.

My second year at TCMFF, they did a special presentation on the history of Technicolor. I thought it sounded really cool, but I decided on something else instead. Afterwards, everybody was raving about how cool the Technicolor thing was. The next year I decided to not make the same mistake twice and went to the Vitaphone presentation. Vitaphone was the first technology to make talking motion pictures viable on a large scale, and the presentation was awesome. 

Just try to step outside of your comfort zone at some point during the Festival. Maybe, it works out. Maybe, it doesn't doesn't work out so well. It's actually kind of hard to make a bad decision at TCMFF.


Try to see something beside the inside of a theater

Even if you only have a couple of hours to spare, take advantage. Maybe you can squeeze in one of the tours. If you keep going east on Hollywood Blvd., things start to get less cheesy and you'll find cool things like vintage clothing stores. Also it seems like more of the sidewalk stars that direction are Golden Age Hollywood people. Me, I want to try to have a meal at Musso and Frank's again and maybe trip to Amoeba Records (6400 Sunset Blvd.). Occupying an entire block, Amoeba Records is arguably one of the best record stores in the country. They also have a great selection of DVDs upstairs, organized into categories that TCMFF people will appreciate, such as Film Noir and Pre-Code.

If there is somewhere you want to go, it might be worth it to call and see that they are still there, or that their hours haven't changed.  A couple of years ago, I did a series of posts on my favorite TCMFF Sidetrips. See links at the bottom of this post.


Talk to people

You probably wouldn’t know but I’m kind of an introvert. Oh, I’m fine talking to people if I feel have a reason to or if I think I have something in common with them, but in some social situations, I clam up or spend the whole time talking to the people I already know. Know that pretty much anybody wearing a TCMFF badge is someone you have something in common with, probably way more than most of your friends back home. This is your tribe. Revel in it. By Saturday, almost anyone you talk to has seen at least one of the same movies you have over the Festival. At any given time, there are about five things going on at once. If you’re standing in line, everyone else in that line has just passed up four other things that under normal circumstances they would love to see. If that’s not something in common, I don’t what is. If you’re shy, try the following conversation starters:
  • What have you seen so far? A lot of the time it’s things you saw too or something you really wanted to see, but had to skip for something you wanted to see more. If it’s one of those rare titles, you can find out whether it was worth it. This may help you decide on those TBDs on Sunday.
  • What’s your favorite thing so far? You might get some great stories: Eddie Muller was very funny. Or I was standing in line for coffee with Ben Mankiewicz. 
  • And don’t forget the standard ones: Where are you from? How was your trip?

Avoid changing your normal routine

This is something I didn't really think about until a couple years aro. If you are a big breakfast-is-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day person, don't skip breakfast every day at TCMFF. I normally drink coffee during the day until about 5 or 6 pm.Then at TCMFF, I would have a cup in the morning and not have time for any the rest of the day and wonder why I was falling asleep on the late screenings. Now I make sure to stay properly caffeinated.

There may be certain things that you can't avoid. Say you normally go to bed at 9:00 and you know you're going to be staying up later. Try to compensate by forcing yourself to stay awake later in the week or so before the Festival. If you do need to make changes, try to not go overboard. Take my example of staying caffeinated. If I'm feeling tired in the evening, I may have a cup of coffee in the evening after my normal 6 pm cutoff, but I'm not going to do a double espresso and risk being up at three in the morning looking at the hotel room ceiling.  

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Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful. Don't forget to check the links below. Good info there as well. I will update these links as I see more.


Related links

Most of these links are from last year or older, but the info should still be good. If I see any updates or good new related posts, I'll do my best to update here. If you know of a good one, leave me a comment, and I will update.


My TCMFF Sidetrip posts from 2016: