Monday, May 28, 2018

TCMFF 2018 – Day 2

Friday at the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) started with breakfast at Subway and a change of plans. Of course, I'd pretty much decided to change my plans ahead of time. The original plan called for Grand Prix at the Cinerama Dome, but that would have been involved taking up two film slots for one movie, and I just wasn't willing to do that, especially since the second slot was Witness for the Prosecution.

Getting ready for Pink Panther cartoons.
This meant not seeing Eva Marie Saint speak after the end of Grand Prix, but I did have a chance see her later that day. Unfortunately, that didn't work out either. More on that later.

I started the day with my daughter Jasmine at the Pink Panther Cartoons on the Big Screen. We sat with Michelle and Tom, a woman from Colorado and her adult son who lives out in Southern California and works at a Disney Museum, I think. The presentation by animation historian, Jerry Beck, included the title sequence for The Pink Panther (1963) and numerous shorts from The Pink Panther cartoon series. Also in attendance, where Larry Mirisch, son of producer Walter Mirisch, and the daughters of animation director, Friz Freleng, and one of the animators from the series whose name I don't remember. The animator said that one of the things he was responsible for was the lettering for the credits on the cartoons. Originally, they had a production house do the lettering but any time there was a typo, that caused production delays. By doing the lettering by hand, he could fix minor problems in just a few minutes. He also did a great drawing of the Pink Panther while we watched. Unfortunately, from where we were, you couldn't see it real well. Also there were technical difficulties with the lights.

Next up was a trip down Hollywood Boulevard to the Egyptian for Witness for the Prosecution. I knew that Jasmine had a very short window of only 15 minutes before her next screening, so we ended up sitting in the balcony on the end of a row so that we could get out quickly.

Ruta Lee backstage before Witness for the
Prosecution
(photo courtesy of TCM).
On hand for the screening was Ruta Lee. She played a small part in the film and had some great stories about Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester and Marlene Dietrich. She told a great story about Marlene Dietrich, and how she was very particular about how she was lit on screen. She wanted one light down low and another higher from the one side. She even knew what size and type of lights she needed. The guy in charge of lighting said they didn't have that type of light. Marlene Dietrich told him to wait, and she pulled out a trunk with all kinds of different lights. She had brought her own lights and knew exactly what she needed and just how they should be set up.

Ruta Lee also said how helpful both Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton had been. As a young actress, she knew how to play British accents in fairly broad terms. She could do Cockney or British upper class but the standard British Midlands accent she had no idea about. Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester coached her in a more standard accent that worked better in the part. She also said that everybody had warned her on set about Charles Laughton, how he was a big mean fag (not her term, but what other people had said), and he hated everybody. She found exactly the opposite was the case. He took her under his wing and was very put out if she didn't pay enough attention to him and didn't talk to him first thing when she got on the set.

There was one annoyance. A woman came in and sat next to us and spent the entire time during the interview with the flashlight lit on her phone, taking notes on a little pad. I honestly don't even think she was taking notes on what Ruta Lee was saying but something else she was working on. Then at the end of the interview she got up and left before the film started. Jasmine and I were thinking how rude that was.

A woman in front of us in line had
the coolest Van Gogh Godzilla bag.
The film itself was great. Jasmine had never seen it,  and I've seen it several times. If you haven't seen it, I won't give anything away, only say that it has one of the best twist endings ever. Then after the twist ending, something unexpected happens. I knew the film well enough to know exactly when these things were going to happen, so I knew when to look at Jasmine's face. Her expression in these spots was totally worth the cost of her TCMFF pass.

As I said earlier, we only had a short window before the next film. Jasmine and I booked out the side door and down Hollywood Boulevard back to the TCL Chinese. We caught a light to cross the street and ran down Hollywood Blvd., dodging in and out of the tourists. Right with us was another woman matching our pace step for step. We had to wait for the light at Hollywood and Highland. Turns out she was going to the same movie we were, so in between breaths, I told her we had a different way to get into the Hollywood and Highland Mall. This is what we had found on the Wednesday before TCMFF. If you go north on Highland there's a set of stairs near the bowling alley that goes up into the mall. From there, it's just another quick set of stairs into the movie theater. Well, we made it. Hot, sweaty, and out of breath but we made it.

Now, this hadn't been my plan either. Since I had blown off Grand Prix, I wanted to go to A Hatful of Rain in this block to catch Eva Marie Saint. But in all the excitement to get to How to Marry a Millionaire, I couldn't very well just leave the theater at that point. It turns out this was one of the few films that Jasmine had seen before. It was one of her grandmother's favorites, and she used to watch fairly regular when she was a kid. She actually knew the film fairly well. She didn't know that going in but she did.

I have never seen How to Marry a Millionaire on the big screen and that was a treat. It's such a fun movie, plus for Jasmine, who had just been turned on to Lauren Bacall the night before, seeing her in this in a more mature role was cool for her.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss line number
Next up was Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, but we did have a two-hour fifteen-minute break, which in TCMFF terms means just one thing, a hot meal. Okay, it might also mean an nap, but for us at that point, it meant a hot meal. We toyed with the idea of going to Hollywood landmark Italian restaurant, Miceli's. Unfortunately, I thought it was on Hollywood Blvd. on the north side of the street, but it turns out it was just off Hollywood Blvd., just a half a block south. Whatever the case, we didn't find it. Note to self: You have a computer in your pocket with maps, use them.

Anyway, we ended up going to Pig and Whistle, which was a good alternative. In looking for Miceli's, we did find a couple of Goth stores (if you don't know what that is, think Hot Topic with less Disney). After dinner we had enough time for Jasmine to look through them, while I got coffee at Starbucks.

We sat with Film Geeks San Diego's Beth Accomando and Miguel Rodriguez.  The talk before the movie was with Melvin Van Peebles and fortunately his son,  Mario Van Peebles, was there to translate. Possibly Melvin Van Peeble wasn't hearing the questions or maybe he was tired and having trouble concentrating that late in the day, but all of his answers came out as, how glad he was to be there and how great it was to see all these people, Keep on, keepin' on.

Melvin Van Peebles, Mario Van Peebles, and
Jacqueline Stewart (photo coutesy of TCM)
Having Mario Van Peebles there to speak to the questions being asked was essential. He knew his father's work well enough to speak to it. He was working with his father on films from when he was about 12 on, and it didn't matter that he was just a kid, he had to pull his own weight. He said something I found very interesting. He said that other fathers taught their kids how to play baseball. His dad taught him how to own the team.

The film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, was disappointment, more so for Jasmine than for me. While I can acknowledge that it's an important film, I can't say it's a film that works very well. There's some inappropriate sexuality in the film. That in itself isn't a big problem, but the way the sexuality was handled was gratuitous at times, okay, not just at times, a lot of the time. The film did earn its X rating. The problem with the film is not so much the story, but how the story is told. The story of abuse in the black community is important, and it was good that it was dealt with straight on. But there was some experimental elements going on in the film that made it just a very weird watch. There was a great soundtrack composed by Van Peebles and performed by Earth Wind & Fire but at times, other music was layered on top of it, that just ruined it. There were experimental visual effects that I didn't think served the story. It is an important film, but I think it would have been better served with a more straight-forward approach.

Now, that is my adult objective assessment of the Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Jasmine on the other hand just outright hated it. She was looking forward to that film more than anything else at the festival and then to have it be that disappointing, it was a blow to her. She'd already made the decision that she wasn't going to be doing the late movie. After Sweetback, she was just done.


Dennis Miller, Ruth, and I
My choice for the next block was Romeo and Juliet but a lot of that was I wanted Jasmine to see it. There was nothing else I was particularly enthused to see in that block, so I walked Jasmine back to our AirBnB and headed back to the Roosevelt see if anybody was at Club TCM. I ended up hanging out with a woman I just met a couple of days earlier named Ruth Mundsack. We'd interacted a little bit online on the Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival Facebook page. It turns out I had a flask of some really good bourbon, but I didn't think it was appropriate to drink it inside the hotel lobby so Ruth and I went outside to have some. 

When we got back in and were sitting around talking, we noticed Dennis Miller was standing just about 20 feet away. We went over and talked to him and got a picture. Then we ended up talking to an older couple from somewhere in the Midwest, Nebraska or Wyoming, maybe. It turns out the main lobby bar makes a pretty decent, Mint Julep. In a way, I kind of felt like I should have found another film to see, but had I not taken a break to just slow down and have a drink, I'd never have met Dennis Miller. It really is hard to make a bad decision at TCMFF.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Dynamic Duos in Classic Film Blogathon: Rock Hudson and Tony Randall

This post is an entry in the Dynamic Duos  in Classic Film Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen and Classic Movie Hub. And only five days late....




On occasion, certain pairs of actors make magic onscreen. While this chemistry is not commonplace, I wouldn't venture to call it rare. I can think of many examples. Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Bogie and Bacall. And it's not just limited to male-female couples. Two buddies, like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby or Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, can achieve that same kind of magic. Even the bitterest of rivals, like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford have a magic just as strong as any of the others. Often when this magic occurs, Hollywood, in pure Hollywood style, reteams these stars to recapture the magic and it usually works, so I can't in good conscience say this magic is rare.

What is rare is finding this magic twice in the same film with two different sets of characters, and rarer still repeating this in a series of films. Rock Hudson, Doris Day, and Tony Randall made three films together, Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961), and Send Me No Flowers (1964). Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back have very similar in plots and involve Rock Hudson posing as somebody else in order to get Doris Day in bed. If you look at it a certain way, the biggest difference between these two films is the relationship between Tony Randall and Rock Hudson. Of course, there's great chemisty between Rock Hudson and Doris Day, but almost as strong is the magic between Rock Hudson and Tony Randall.

******************************************************************
** Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoilers, probably of all  **
** all three films, Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961), **
** and Send Me No Flowers (1964).                               **

******************************************************************

In Pillow Talk, Tony Randall and Rock Hudson are old college buddies, and Tony Randall is in love with Doris Day and trying to get her to marry him. Rock Hudson plays Brad Allen a playboy songwriter sharing a telephone party line with interior decorator, Doris Day. Rock Hudson is always on the phone talking with his many girlfriends, so much so that Doris Day is unable to make calls for her decorating business. 

Tony Randall knows that Rock Hudson is a womanizer and tries his best to keep Rock Hudson away from Doris Day.  When Rock Hudson meets Doris Day and falls for her, he knows he will have no chance with her once she discovers he is the playboy on other end of her party line. Rock Hudson invents an alter ego, a wealthy Texas rancher named Rex Stetson, in order to seduce Doris Day. From there on, it's just a matter of Rock Hudson keeping both Tony Randall and Doris Day from discovering his ploy.

Early in the film, Tony Randall tries to get Rock Hudson to give up his playboy lifestyle and find true love with a good woman, like he has found with Doris Day. Tony Randall is brilliant here. On one level he is condescending of Rock Hudson's philandering, but one another level you can tell he is secretly jealous of him. Later when Tony Randall almost walks in on Doris Day and Rock Hudson on a date, Hudson's subterfuge with Tony Randall to get rid of him is priceless. When it all blows up on him, the way Tony Randall gloats over his friend’s misfortune is perfect. Pillow Talk was a big hit, and when the followups to the film, Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964) came out, fortunately, producers felt that Tony Randall was as integral to the formula as Doris Day and Rock Hudson.


In Lover Come Back, Rock Hudson and Doris Day are rivals at competing advertising firms. When word comes down that the owner of Miller Floor Wax is looking for a new advertising firm, both Rock Hudson and Doris Day set their sights on the account. Knowing that J. Paxton Miller of Miller Wax is from the South, Rock Hudson prepares to land the account by studying up on the Civil War, and finding out what kind of women and booze he likes. On the other hand, Doris Day realizes that the reason Miller Floor Wax isn’t selling is that the can is ugly. She says, “Believe me, the agency that lands this account is the one that shows Mr. Miller the most attractive can.” They then cut to a party where Rock Hudson is showing Miller a very attractive can, the rear end of a dancing girl. This sums up Doris Day and Rock Hudson's varying approaches to advertising. 

Tony Randall is Rock Hudson's boss at the advertising firm but he has no idea how the business is run. Rock Hudson wins new clients by getting them laid. Tony Randall is neurotic and allows himself to be bullied by everybody. With Doris Day, he is afraid that she will make good on her threat to report them to the Advertising Council. He is bullied by Rock Hudson, who really runs the firm that is his in name only. He is even bullied by the memory of his late father who it dominated him since childhood.

When Tony Randall is criticized by Doris Day for Rock Hudson's behavior, he shows up at Rock's apartment indignant and demanding an explanation. Tony Randall wakes up a sleeping and hungover Rock Hudson by tapping him with his walking stick, a walking stick that Tony Randall’s psychiatrist said would give him confidence. Rock Hudson breaks the walking stick. At every turn, Tony Randall tries assert his leadership, only to have Rock Hudson show him just how little he knows about the advertising business. Tony Randall is weak and a weasel, and Rock Hudson, though unscrupulous, get results. Their interplay is perfect.

In Send Me No Flowers, Rock Hudson and Doris Day are married couple and Tony Randall is their neighbor and Rock Hudson's best friend. Rock Hudson is a major hypochondriac and through a misunderstanding at his doctor's office, he thinks he is dying. When he confesses this to Tony Randall, Tony Randall, dutiful friend he that he is, becomes a total wreck and spends about the first half of the film on a drunken bender. The easy grace that Rock Hudson and Tony Randall had in the first two films is on full display.


In all three films, there is gay subtext. Rock Hudson was gay, and his sexuality was fairly common knowledge in Hollywood, but definitely not to the general public when the three films were made. Tony Randall always came off as gay on film and TV, but was married to his first wife Florence Gibbs for over 50 years until she passed away in 1992. Tony Randall later remarried a woman 50 years his junior and they had two children and remained married until his death in 2004. I honestly don't think it fair to speculate on Tony Randall's person life, when he wanted it kept private, but he did come off as gay onscreen.

In retrospect, the gay jokes in Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back must have been some the best inside jokes in Hollywood history. In Pillow Talk, Rock Hudson tells Doris Day that his alter-ego, Rex Stetson, must be gay. “Well there are some men who... hmmm how shall I put it? Well they're very fond of their mothers... They like to share bits of gossip... collect recipes,” he says. In Lover Come Back, when Doris discovers that Rock Hudson is not the famous scientist she thinks him to be, she lures him to the remote beach where they first kissed on the promise of a moonlight skinny dip. She then abandons him without any clothes. Rock Hudson must hitch a ride home (in seaweed jockey shorts) with a delivery truck from a furrier. He has to walk into his apartment wearing only a woman’s mink coat. Two men who had been watching Rock’s sexual exploits throughout the entire movie observe this. One of them turns to the other and says, “He's the last guy in the world I woulda' figured.”

In Send Me No Flowers, Rock Hudson realizes that Doris Day will never be able to take care of herself, so he sets out to find her a new husband while he is still around to do so. Naturally, he recruits his best friend Tony Randall to help him. Think about, practically the whole plot is gay subtext. Rock Hudson and Tony Randall spend most of the movie on a man-hunt trying to find a surrogate husband for Doris Day. When one of Doris’s old flames Clint Walker appears, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall faun over how good a tennis player and dancer he is and how handsome and virile he is. Later when Doris Day discovers the truth that Rock Hudson is not dying, she kicks him out of the house. He has no choice but to spend the night with neighbor Tony Randall. Rock Hudson borrows a pair of Tony Randall’s pajamas, about three sizes too small. And they go to bed together. Straight guys do that, right? No couch surfing for Rock Hudson and Tony Randall, right to the master suite. And Rock complains about Tony’s cold feet and Tony complains about Rock needing to trim his toenails.

Of course, it’s played for laughs, and it works great like the other two films. There seems to be a juxtaposition of comradery and rivalry that permeates all of their scenes. Sure, when you think Rock Hudson, you think Doris Day, but would those films be the same with Tony Randall, I think not.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

TCMFF 2018 – Day 1

Not everything on Hollywood Blvd is
cheesy. Here, a guy keeps RuPaul's 
star spotless.
In years passed at the TCM Film Festival Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), I've done a separate post for day 0. This year I decided to give it amiss. For one thing, day 0 isn't a real thing. It's just something I made up to refer to things that happened on the Wednesday before the festival. In addition, this year most of what I thought was really cool on Day 0 ended up in my post-partum highlights post anyway. I figured I would just move on to Thursday.

Thursday at TCMFF started with breakfast at Mel's on Highland. One of my classic movie Twitter cronies, @BeesKnees_PDX, had made the arrangements and we had about 20 people at four tables. It was the kind of a cool way to start TCMFF, despite it being too early with me nursing a hangover from the night before. Still, it was fun talking with people about all the things we looked forward to seeing, where people are from, etc. Afterwards almost everybody who was at the breakfast ended up in the TCMFF gift shop in the Sweet store in the Hollywood Highland mall. About the only official thing going on in the morning was a first timer's meet-up, which I figure I didn't need to go to. I ended up hanging out with another #TCMParty twitter friend, Ana Roland.

Ana posing with Hedda Hopper
Other than finding a new way into the Hollywood Highland mall, the main thing we did was we walk East on Hollywood Boulevard. When you go to TCMFF, you tend to spend most of your time on Hollywood Boulevard in that section between the Roosevelt and Chinese Theater and Highland. That's the absolute worst part of Hollywood Boulevard, unless of course you like people in bad Party City Spider-Man costumes, your mileage may vary. But as you go east on Hollywood Boulevard, it actually gets kind of cool.

There's Larry Edmunds Bookstore, the new and used book store that specializes in movie stuff, very cool, definitely recommended. As you go further east, there are a lot of cool little businesses, things like wig shops and vintage clothing stores. We even went by this restaurant called, Scum and Villainy. I kind of wanted to go in, just to see what was on the menu. As we are walking we passed the big crowd on the other side of the street where they were giving a posthumous star to the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. We ended up in a dive bar called the Frolic Room. It had a cool wall of caricatures of classic film stars.

Victoria Mature and me
We made it back in time for the meet TCM panel. I ended up sitting in the back of the room with Ana, and another #TCMParty person, Leslie Gaspar. It was nice in that we could chat without disturbing people who were really into it. About halfway through, I noticed Victoria Mature, Victor Mature's daughter. She's a San Diego local and I'd met her when she was introducing one of her father's films at the Noir on the Boulevard festival in San Diego. She was at TCMFF just attending the festival, not a guest or anything.

After the meet TCM panel all of the Twitter #TCMParty people got together for a group photo and in Club TCM. We had just enough time for Jasmine and I grab a quick snack before the So You Think You Know Movies trivia contest.

I made the mistake of getting cocky at the trivia contest. I have been lucky enough to be on the winning team two years running so I kind of started talking some smack, and it blew up in my face. The trivia questions are insanely hard. You really have to know your stuff. Frankly, even though I consider myself very knowledgeable on the subject, I felt like I was mostly agreeing with the others on the very easy questions. Needless to say our team did not win.

Jasmine going Hollywood... umm, and Wakanda. This
was taken just a few steps from our AirBnB. You can
You can see the Hollywood Roosevelt sign from there.
At this point, we had to go back to the Airbnb to change clothes for the opening night party. Jasmine and I usually dress up. I have a white dinner jacket that I wear, and Jasmine who is now a senior in high school has a brand spanking new prom dress that I bought her. A couple of months ago at WonderCon, she found a necklace that was the Wakanda Black Panther costume thing, and she wanted to build her prom dress around that. For me doing the white dinner jacket should be a no-brainer except for one thing, tying a bow tie. Yes, I can tie a bow tie. Most of the time I can do it the first try. The problem is tying a bowtie when I really need to be ready quickly, then it takes me about 15 tries. After much swearing and many many many attempts, we were back out to the opening party.

We ended up meeting and hanging out with a 40-ish couple from Colorado, I think. It was their first TCMFF. So they really weren't sure what they were supposed to do, where they were supposed to go, how the line tickets worked, etc. Turns out they were going to see To Have and Have Not which was the same film we were watching, so we walked with them  to the theater and sat with them in the movie.

We sat in the balcony. The view of the film itself isn't quite as good, but the view from of the ceiling fresco more than makes up for it. This year the staff at the Egyptian seemed to be better about letting people in the balcony even if the regular part of the theater didn't fill. In years past, they would only open in it when the regular auditorium was full or near full.

The film itself was wonderful. I can't say for sure whether I had seen it on the big screen. If I had, it would have been when I was in college [mumble mumble mumble] years ago. I know that Jasmine had not seen it period. Though To Have and Have Not is one of my favorite Bogart films, it's really all about Lauren Bacall. How a 19-year-old can take such command of the screen in her first film is amazing. She simply owns that film. Bogart, you can see him falling in love with her, both her character, Slim, and Lauren Bacall the person.

This was my introduction to both Lauren Bacall and
To Have 
and Have Not as a kid
That alone would be enough to make you want to watch it, but throw in witty clever dialog and great performances by people like Walter Brennan, Hoagy Carmichael, Dan Seymour, Marcel Dalio, and Sheldon Leonard, and it all adds up to a great film. As a kid, I knew the film before I even watched it. They used to show old Warner Brothers cartoons on TV after school. One of them was a parody of Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not. That shows how big of a cultural phenomenon it was when when the film was released. Most cultural phenomena are a flash in the pan. You look at them years later and wonder what everyone was thinking. Not so for To Have and Have Not. Like the cartoon Lauren Bacall, To Have and Have Not is a gasoline fire that still rages today.

I posted this before, but it's not 
every day you get to play dress
up with your drop-dead
gorgeous daughter.
Next, we went back down to the TCL Chinese for Throne of Blood. We sat with our San Diego old movie cronies, Miguel Rodriguez and Beth Accomando (collectively known as Film Geeks San Diego). The film was introduced by the new TCM host, Alicia Malone, and she assured us that we were in for a treat. Jasmine and I were psyched as we nestled into a nice dinner of popcorn and Akira Kurasawa. To be honest, Jasmine and I were both too tired to really enjoy Throne of Blood. Once we'd had our fill of popcorn, neither one of us was having much luck staying awake. Both of us intermittently dozed off, and then woke up throughout the entire movie, each time wondering just how many subtitles we'd missed.

It's not that it was a bad movie or anything, but it an adaptation of Macbeth. For me what makes Kurasawa interesting is that, while his films are often set in feudal Japan, the characters are treated with a modern sensibility. They are not all good or not all bad, but a mix of both. Toshiro Mifune and Isuzu Yamada (Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, respectively), were just corrupt and evil, as they should be in a Shakespeare tragedy. I just felt that the subtlety and shades of gray that normally draw me in on Kurosawa films being virtually absent made it hard to get into. That and falling asleep didn't help in the least. 

As we went back to our AirBnB, Jasmine said she didn't want to do late movies anymore, and I was kind of with her on that. I don't know if it's so much it being late, but after being up and running around almost continuously takes a toll. It really doesn't do you a lot of good to see a great movie if you're too exhausted to enjoy it. I'm sure that was a contributing factor to our reaction to Throne of Blood. In fact, I don't even think I went back to the Roosevelt for a drink that night like I normally would.

TCMParty people, photo stolen from TCM Party FB feed

Saturday, May 5, 2018

TCMFF 2018 – Post-Partum Wrapup

This post is my initial thoughts about the 2018 TCM Classic Movie Festival (TCMFF), held April 26-29, 2018. It covers just a handful of highlights at each day of the Festival. In-depth coverage of each day will follow as time permits.


Wednesday

On train from San Diego, business class is about $20.
This is what $20 worth of leg space looks like.
Wednesday at TCMFF started as usual with the train ride up from San Diego to Union Station, LA, and then the 20-minute subway ride to Hollywood Highland station. It's about the same time as driving, provided you don't hit any bad San Diego or Orange County before you hit the horrendous LA traffic the last 20 miles into Hollywood. Now, you know why I take the train, but it's also a good way to gather your thoughts and start connecting with people you'll be seeing the next several days.

I cover the festival as media and normally, it's a rush to make it to the TCM press conference, that is usually starting about the time I'm popping my head out of the subway station and scrambling to get upstairs just a minute or two late.


TCM did things a bit different this year. Rather than the standard press conference in the early afternoon, TCM did a media mixer in the late afternoon. Though this was a nice change of pace, the timing of the event overlapped with the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook group meetup at the pool. I really didn't want to miss the Facebook group meetup, I felt I should take advantage of the media mixer that was offered. I ended up touching base with people in the first half hour of the Facebook meetup and then coming back after it was in progress. Unfortunately, by the time, I got back it didn't seem worth the trouble of sticking around for the tail end. Plus, that was the only window I had to get dinner for my daughter who attends TCMFF with me.



My daughter Jasmine and me, obligatory train selfie
The media mixer was great, an informal format with drinks and hors d'oeuvres. TCM General Manager Jennifer Dorian made some brief announcements and then turned us loose to mingle. I spent most of my time catching up with my fellow film bloggers/twitter #TCMParty fiends, though I  got a chance to talk with Eddie Muller. He's great, a real down-to-earth guy and super knowledgable about film noir and classics in general.

Oddly Jennifer Dorian sought me out to talk about the festival (it might have been the hat), but she was sincere. I'm sure there were many mainstream media outlets there. The fact that she took the time to track me down speaks volumes on how TCM as a whole feels about the classic movie blogging and social media community.  The food was good, and I took advantage of the free drinks to sample the rather aggressively overhopped IPA (typical of most West Coast IPAs). Yes, I'm craft beer geek as well as a classic movie geek.



Theresa Brown and me at Influencer Mixer
The other thing that stands out was the Influencers Mixer at Teddy's in the Roosevelt, though it did seem to me that it was a lot of the same people as the Media Mixer. If I had to guess, I would say that the Media Mixer was limited to people with Media badges whereas the Influencers Mixer had a mix of Media people, and TCMFF goers, who spend lot of time online. Anyway, it was a good crowd, and it was great to have a chance to bond with the people you only talk to online the other 360 days a year. Last year, TCM had an event similar to this in the Spare Room on the mezzanine. The Spare Room is a cooler venue with a bowling alley etc., but Teddy's was larger, and it seems like it accommodated more people. For me, that's a good tradeoff. All I know, was a lot of my online cronies were there, and TCM picked up the tab for the
drinks. Gotta love that.


Thursday

TCMFF breakfast at Mel's
Thursday started with breakfast at Mel's. A big thanks go to @BeesKnees_pdx, who made the arrangements. We had over twenty people at four tables, but despite the crowd, it was great. Often, groups like this can go off the rails, and you end up waiting forever to eat. But the good folks at Mel's rose to the occasion, and what would normally be a pain came off without a hitch.


After breakfast, we ended up in the TCMFF Gift Shop in Sweet. My daughter wanted some me time, i.e., shopping, so I ended up hanging out with Ana Roland. We took a walk down Hollywood Blvd. The biggest benefit of this was discovering a way in and out of the Hollywood Highland mall all the way to the TCL Chinese Theater from The Egyptian side, while mostly avoiding Hollywood Blvd. Five years I've been coming to TCMFF, and I finally found a good way into the mall from that direction.


Playing dress-up with Jasmine
Afterwards, we ended up at Larry Edmunds Bookstore, a specialty new and used bookstore with everything from movie biographies to screenplays to movie posters. We continued east all the way to the Frolic Room at Hollywood and Vine near the Pantages Theater. It's kind of a hole-in-the-wall bar, but what stands out is they had CNN on, and they were just announcing that Bill Cosby was convicted, yea!

The other big thing Friday was playing dress-up with my daughter. Okay, that came out a lot weirder than I intended. A few years ago I bought a white dinner jacket, and TCMFF is the one chance a year I have to wear it. This year my daughter is a high-school senior, and I got to see more of her prom dress than just taking pictures before she wanders off into the night with her boyfriend.


Friday


The big thing of Friday was, Witness for the Prosecution. I had originally planned to skip it for Grand Prix, but that meant skipping two whole blocks of films, and I just couldn't bring myself to do that. Of course, I've seen it, but my daughter hadn't, and her face on the big reveal by itself was worth the cost of her Classic Pass. We only had a fifteen minutes between the end of Witness for the Prosecution at The Egyptian and How to Marry a Millionaire at the TCL. I would like to say that we set a world record on the trip, but we did have to wait a full two minutes at the light at Hollywood and Highland, so I doubt it was an actual record, but we did make it, and that has to count for something, right?



Dennis Miller, Ruth, and me
The other big highlight on Friday was something I hadn't even planned on doing. Jasmine really wanted to see, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, but neither of us liked the movie (more on this when I do my Friday post later). Jasmine decided to skip the late block and that left me on my own after dropping her off at our AirBnB. I ended up hanging out with Ruth Mundsack, a woman I interacted a bit with on the Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook group before TCMFF and had met the first time on Wednesday.  As we sat in the Roosevelt lobby, she noticed Dennis Miller. We talked him and even got a picture. He seemed nice. I refrained talking politics because a) We wouldn't agree. And b) He's way smarter than me and would make a monkey out of me in a political argument.



Saturday

Saturday kind of all came down to celebrities, and oddly the ones I'm going to talk about are the ones I wasn't planning on see. About a week before the Festival, TCM announced that Jeff Bridges would be appearing at the screening of The Big Lebowsky. I wasn't originally planning on seeing it, but the addition of Bridges was quite an enticement. Plus, I hadn't seen the film. I'm not sure how that happened. I would have sworn I had seen it, until a couple of months ago, when my wife was watching it.

The interview with Jeff Bridges was fun, mostly because of how far it went off the rails. Ben Mankiewicz was perfect because he just rolled with the punches and just let it unfold the way it was going to. Having now seen the film, I can safely say Jeff Bridges is the Dude. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I figure videos work about the same. The following videos are about the first 12 minutes of the interview.







The next big thing was, Night of the Living Dead as a midnight movie. Edgar Wright (director of Shaun of the Dead) was supposed to appear, but had to cancel at last minute. He was stuck in the UK with visa problems. Thanks, Obama. Oh wait, that wouldn't be Obama. That would be Trump. Anyway, rumors had been circulating that Edgar Wright was working on a surprise replacement. I don't know if it was Wright or the TCMFF staff, but somebody came through when Simon Pegg (star of Shaun of the Dead) came out to introduce the film. It was perfect. Simon Pegg is a huge fan of zombies, and I couldn't think of anyone better to introduce the film. 



Simon Pegg, photo courtesy of TCM


Sunday

King of Cool at The Egyptian
By Sunday everything was kind of a blur. It opened with The Black Stallion on 35 mm at The Egyptian. The film itself was great and Jasmine and I sat with Jeff Lundberger, the first person I met at my first TCMFF back in 2014. The film was great, but that's not what I'm going to talk about. For the first time, I didn't bring a real camera to TCMFF. I'd just got a new phone, a Google Pixel 2. It has a great camera and takes great pictures in almost any situation. One of the things I love about The Egyptian is the theater itself and the view of the fresco in the ceiling from the balcony. Though we were sitting in the main theater, before the film I went up to the balcony and took what might be the best picture I ever took at the Festival.


Animal House cast courtesy of TCM, left to right: Mark

Metcalf, Steven Bishop, Martha Smith, John Landis,
James Widdoes, Tim Matheson, and Bruce McGill
The last screening for me was Animal House at the Chinese. Before the film, a talk was scheduled with director, John Landis, and most of the people in the cast who are still with us. My friend Ariel Schudson said she didn't want to see John Landis dominate the conversation. He did, but to his credit his stories are very funny. Present were the actors, Tim Matheson, Otter; Bruce McGill, D-Day; James Widdoes, Hoover; Martha Smith, Babs; Mark Metcalf, Neidermeyer, and singer/songwriter Steven Bishop, who wrote and sang the "Animal House Theme" song. Also present was, I think, producer Matty Simmons. All I know was that when John Landis would tell a story, he would usually chime in with what he was going through with the suits at Universal.


Animal House was shot at the University of Oregon. The cast members who were in the Delta house all came up about a week early, which gave them a chance to bond together and against the Omegas. Apparently, when Mark Metcalf (Neidermeyer) first arrived, the cast invited him over to the coffee shop at the hotel they were staying in, and then threw food at him when he arrived. Steven Bishop play a small role as the guy with the guitar singing, "I Gave My Love a Cherry" in the toga party. They had scored a guitar to make it break easier, but apparently, not well enough. When John Belushi hit it the first time, it didn't break. He hit it the second time with such force that Bishop was absolutely terrified.


I sat with one of my Twitter friends I had met for the first time this year, Stacy Black from Austin. I had bought a bag of what I used to know as penny candy as a kid from the Sweet shop in the Hollywood Highland mall, Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, Dum-Dums, etc. I was offering them to people all weekend. By Sunday, I was down to my last couple of pieces. Stacy I had found out earlier on Twitter likes the same bourbon I do, Elijah Craig Small Batch. I just so happened to have a flask, so we watched the film over bourbon and Smarties.

As always, the closing party was great. For the first time, Jasmine stayed more or less until they kicked us out of Club TCM at midnight. It was great to talk and share a drink with the people I've met over the years, including those like Stacy and Ruth, I'd just met this year and Jeff Davis and Guy Priley, who were at the Festival for the first time and whom I know will be back. Again, I'm going to let the pictures do the talking here.


Clockwise from lower right, Jackie, Jeff,
Jasmine and me

Jazzy and me


Stacy and me



Jeff and me, stolen from his Facebook feed.
I love Jasmine photo bombing in the back

Monday




Shot from the train
Monday after TCMFF, not much happened. For me a highlight was breakfast at Mel's with Jasmine. We had to be out of our AirBnB by 11 am, so we packed went to breakfast. I had two buttons left, and I found a group of the three women, one of whom was wearing a TCM shirt. I gave one to her a let the other two fight for the last one. They were from Marin County in Northern California. It also turns out that Guy was sitting at one of the other booths. Breakfast was good, but that's not why I mention it, nor Guy, nor buttons, nor the women from Marin. It was the jukebox. At each table, they have one of those things to play songs.

I had some quarters, so I dropped a few in, fully expecting to never hear the songs I just selected, as is typical in a place like that. I put in the number for the Chi-Lites, "Oh Girl." The next song that came up "Oh Girl," the Chi-Lite. Jasmine punched in David Bowie, "Space Oddity." It came up. We played and heard all of the six or seven songs we played. I just love subjecting strangers to my taste in music.


Reading material courtesy of TCM
We had left our luggage at the AirBnB. We went back, grabbed it, and hopped the Metro for Union Station. We got on our train with a good three minutes to spare. No sense having to rush.  On the way home, I alternated between reading #TCMFF tweets and the Must-See Sci-Fi book that came in my TCM Media bag. It was a great way to end a great Festival.

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)