Saturday, April 26, 2014

TCMFF 2014 Day 2

The ceiling of The Egyptian
Back to TCMFF 2014 Day 1 

Day 2 (Friday) of the TCM Classic Film Festival started early with a 9 am screening of The Thin Man at the Egyptian Theater. It's a beautiful old theater and just sitting there waiting was a treat. I couldn't find the name of the guy who introduced, The Thin Man, but suffice it to say, he was perfect. He told how he had been out drinking late the night before and described his interaction with one of his colleagues something like this:

Drinking buddy: Aren't you introducing something first thing in the morning?
Presenter: Yeah.
Drinking buddy: Well, what are you still doing here? What are you introducing?
Presenter: The Thin Man.
Drinking buddy: You'll be fine.

He also mentioned that if there was only one thing we should remember from his introduction was that Dashielle Hammett's name was pronounced, "dah-sheel." So there you have it.

A number of the films at TCMFF started with one the TCM perspectives on one of the people associated with the film. For The Thin Man, it was Julliane Moore's tribute to Myrna Loy. While watching it in the darkened theater, I realized that I was starting to tear up. I glanced at the woman sitting next to me. She was wiping away a tear as well. At TCMFF, I always felt I was in good company.

The Thin Man was wonderful as always. I had seen it once on film (16 mm), back in the 80s at San Diego Comic-Con, when my soon-to-be wife and I volunteered to run projectors for the film department. Still, there is a huge difference between running a 16 mm film in a mostly empty hotel meeting room and sitting in a large theater, mostly full of people who love it every bit as much as you do. My wife and I only ran films one year at Comic-Con, but both of us ended up back working for the Con from the early 90s until now. We like to say the we are the Nick and Nora of Comic-Con. While we probably have as much right to lay claim to that as anyone, but that's an awful high standard to live up to. Still, that's what we strive for.

The next block of films was the only one on the entire schedule that didn't excite me. Touch of Evil is a brilliant movie, but like most of Orson Wells films, it's not a movie I particularly like. Of the remaining, the two that looked most interesting were Make Way for Tomorrow and The World of Henry Orient. About three weeks before TCMFF, I rented both and while I liked them, I had to ask myself if I would be upset if I did not see them on the big screen, and the answer was, no.

A rarity at TCMFF, real food
I realized that this might be my only chance to get a hot meal at something close to a normal time of day. I really wanted to go to Musso and Frank's, but didn't have anyone to go with, so I ended up at the sushi place in the mall, so much for a hot meal, though it was the best meal I had the whole time of TCMFF. I used the extra time to pick up a sandwich and run it back to my hotel. I wanted to change clothes before Double Indemnity, and I knew the timing would be tight. I also took my skateboard in case I needed to get somewhere fast.

Skipping the mid-day, block of movies also allowed me to catch part of A Conversation with Richard Dreyfuss at Club Dreyfuss, well sort of. Dreyfuss was about a half hour late. I only stayed long enough to get one or two pictures that looked like him and not like a Richard Dreyfuss-shaped blur. I honestly don't remember a single thing he said, unless it was, "Thank you," "Good to be here," or something like that. The problem was that my 3:00 was Invasion of the Body Snatchers was both something I considered a must see and at The Egyptian, pretty much the furthest of the normal venues from The Roosevelt and Club TCM. Luckily the skateboard and a side street that runs parallel to Hollywood Blvd. got me there in minutes, shortly before they let the line inside.

Richard Dreyfuss

This was my second showing at The Egyptian, and this time I opted for the balcony. Actually, I think I like the balcony better. The introduction to Invasion of the Body Snatchers was by Joe Dante. He was very knowledgeable about the film and production, but you could also tell he was a genuinely a fan of the movie.  We would watching it in Superscope, a print from Francis Ford Coppola's private collection. How cool is that? 

Dante went on to explain what Superscope was, a low-budget wide-screen format. Other widescreen formats like like Cinemascope required more expensive lenses and camera equipment. Sci-Fi movies from the 50s usually didn't have the budget for that sort of thing. Superscope was a process where they would shoot with an normal 35 mm camera and in processing, crop off the top and bottom to get the widescreen. Now, where it gets interesting is when they put it on TV. In the 50s, when they still had access to the original negatives, it was a simple matter to make 16 mm prints for TV that used the cropping of the 35 mm (before the Superscope process). But in time, these 16 mm prints deteriorated and by this time, the master negatives were gone, and the only option was to pan and scan from the Superscope. Thus, later copies of Invasion of the Body Snatchers shown on TV cut off the top and bottom and wait for it, both sides.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers was great as well. It's my favorite Sci-Fi movie of the 50s and just squeaked into my list of Top 15 Sci-Fi Movies of all time. At that point, TCMFF had been going for a little better than 24 hours, I had seen four movies and every one of them was one of the best classic movie experiences of my life.

Next up was Double Indemnity, and I had an hour and fifteen minutes before it started. On my skateboard, I was able to get from The Egyptian back to my hotel on Sunset in about five minutes. This gave me time for a quick shower, change of clothes, and back out to the Chinese. I brought the sandwich I had bought earlier with me to eat in line. I immediately got in line for Double Indemnity. I think the queue number I got was in the low 200s. In line, I talked to a woman in line from Minnesota, and two guys in cowboy outfits from Washington state (ready for Blazing Saddles).

Since we had our queue numbers, the woman from Minnesota and I took turns running off the use the restroom. On my turn, I felt like I needed some caffeine. There was a vending machine near the restroom, but I noticed that there were about 7 or 8 bottles of various drinks stuck in the bottom of the machine. No Frappuccino for me. I noticed another vending machine close by, but when I got up to it, it was selling caviar of all things. Apparently, caviar is one of those few things that is much better from a vending machine. I tried that candy shop. They had soda in bottles, and I thought maybe they'd have a Jolt Cola. No dice, but I did find a coffee flavored soda. Also, by the counter they had bins of what we used to call penny candy when we were kids. I bought the most immature candy, I could find, some Smarties, Black Cows, Necco wafers, and Cola-flavored pez, not as good as Cola Bottle Caps, had kind of a Pez after taste. In line I offered candy to the people standing near me.

When I first started writing this, I couldn't remember who introduced Double Indemnity. Turns out it was Robert Osborne. I had to ask on twitter and @diandapanda filled in the gaps. Robert Osborne talked about Fred MacMurray and what a shame it was that neither Stanwyck and Robinson never won Oscars. There was one other thing I'd forgot. Before each screening, someone would always come out and make some announcements. These always included a thank you to the sponsors and instructions that everyone should turn off/silence their cell phones. "People want to see the big screen, not your little screen." What I had totally forgotten was that Robert Osborne's cell phone rang while he was introducing the picture. Awesome. Welcome to the glamour of Hollywood.

Anyway, Double Indemnity was gorgeous on the big screen. The print was immaculate, and it was so cool to finally get a chance to see it, not just in a theater, but the Chinese Theater. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go off on a short tangent about the big screen. It seems to me that screen size has nothing to do with it. I mean if I sat in the Chinese Theater watching a movie by myself, I don't think it would be all that different than watching it at home. Okay, maybe, it would be, but my point is the real thing that makes it better is the audience not the size of the screen. It's sitting in a dark theater with a group of people you don't know, all experiencing it together that makes it special, not the size of the screen. I know the term big screen is not going to go away any time soon. And I'm not going to stop using it either, but I just felt that it had to be said.

Next up. Exit the theater and immediately get back in line for Blazing Saddles. Now, Blazing Saddles was one of the only three films the entire weekend that I had seen on the "big screen." Yeah, I know. Anyway, my dad took me to see it when it came out. I would've been about 12. Now, back in the 70s, people didn't take their 12-year-old kids to see R-rated movies, at least not very often. For me, it was the only time until I was at least several years older. It was also the only time I ever went to a movie with just my dad and not the whole family. Add to that the fact that there was a Mel Brooks interview before the screening, and that made this my number 1 pick of the whole festival.

The Robert Osborne interview of Mel Brooks that preceded the screening turned out to be largely the same as what I had heard the day before at The Roosevelt. He made more or less the same jokes and told more or less the same stories, but that was fine. He was just as funny the second time. I could listen to him read the phone book. He'd find a way to make it funny.

Now, there's something I haven't mentioned, and it was true of most of the screenings at TCMFF. People applauded during the movies. They applauded the title of the movie, and the names of the stars and director in the credits. Then when the movie started, the audience would applaud the first appearance of all the major characters on-screen. Blazing Saddles was no different. We applauded Clevon Little. And then Slim Pickens and Harvey Korman. And of course, Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, and Madeline Kahn, all the way down to Dom DeLuise. Well, at the end of the movie, when Harvey Korman grabs a cab and tells the driver to take him off this picture, he ends up going to watch the end of the movie that he is appearing in. Then as Harvey Korman was sitting there watching the movie. It dawns on us, like the entire theater all at once, that he is sitting in the same room that we were sitting in right at that moment, so we applauded the theater. It was one of my favorite things of the entire festival.

Tempted though I was by seeing, Patton Oswalt introduce Eraserhead, I'm not much of a fan of David Lynch, and I didn't want to be wasted the next day from watching a midnight movie.  I was tempted to go just to see the Oswalt intro. The problem is that I was certain that he would get me so hyped up that I would need to stay for movie, and I really didn't want to risk that. Instead I stopped by The Roosevelt. I didn't see anyone I knew and there weren't many people there, presumably because they were finishing up the late  screening, so I called it a night.

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