Monday, April 13, 2015

TCMFF 2015 – Day 2

TCMFF 2015 – Day 1 post

Like the rest of the days at Turner Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), the morning started with a Noralil's meeting of the TCM Social Media Producers to go over schedules and priorities for the day. For most of of us, we didn't have set schedules, but a handful were covering certain events. For example, Elise (@EliseCD) was covering the Christopher Plummer Handprint/Footprint Ceremony. I wasn't crazy about the notion of having to get up extra early each morning for a meeting, but they did give us real breakfast, and since real food at TCMFF can be such a problem, having a guarantee of a real breakfast each morning was a pretty good tradeoff for the lack of sleep. 

I was still a bit worried about the videos, but during the meeting Shannon (Noralil's boss) said he really liked the video I did with Kristen, where I asked whether she would rather face the leeches from The African Queen or the giant ant. I had decided to come up with bizarre questions for the end of the videos, and it turned out that some of the most interesting stuff I got was answers to those questions. At least, I felt like I wasn't screwing up at that point. The morning meetings were really short, because most of us were trying to get to 9 am screenings. 

My 15-year-old daughter, Jasmine, and I ended up walking with another Social Media Producer, Ariel (@Sinaphile), to The Egyptian for The Dawn of Technicolor. Ariel works in film restoration and was covering aspects of film preservation for TCMFF:

Egyptian ceiling
I really wasn't planning to see all of The Dawn of Technicolor, but my first pass of the schedule didn't have any screenings in The Egyptian. I fudged things around to have The Man Who Would Be King there, but that was opposite The Conversation With Norman Lloyd, so we might not make it to The Man Who Would Be King. This little side jaunt was solely for the sake of seeing the inside of The Egyptian in case we couldn't make it back later. 

Considering The Dawn of Technicolor was a documentary first thing in the morning, there was a really good crowd, though not good enough to justify opening the balcony. Up there you get a really great view of the Egyptian frescoes in the ceiling. I wanted to find seats on the aisle. The plan was to stay for the first 20 minutes or so and cut out for Lawrence of Arabia at the El Capitan. I want to be on the aisle to avoid having to climb over people in the middle of the screening. We had to settle for the last row in the front section all the way by the wall so we could get out by squeezing between the seat and the wall. I wish we could have stayed longer. What we saw of The Dawn of Technicolor was really good, and a lot of people we talked to for the rest of the weekend raved about it. 

We ducked out of the theater and went back to the El Capitan. We probably could have stayed longer, but I wanted to try to do a video in line before that first screening. The people in front of us declined, but after a minute or two an older gentleman named Paul came up and agreed to be interviewed:

One of the great things about the El Capitan is that they have a pipe organ and play movie-related music while you wait for the film to begin. The following video is Over the Rainbow:

Lawrence of Arabia was again Jasmine's pick. I figured that she would like either Inherit the Wind or Lawrence of Arabia out of that block. Before TCMFF, I described both and had her read the descriptions. I really thought she would be more into Inherit the Wind, but she said Lawrence of Arabia sounded more interesting.

Anne V. Coates at The El Capitan, Photographer:
Edward M. Pio Roda. ™ & © 2015 Turner Classic
Movies. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
 Used with permission.
The intro before Lawrence of Arabia was with Anne V. Coates, Editor of the film. She was very entertaining. She said they originally wanted, Albert Finney for the role of T.E. Lawrence, who she thought looked a lot more like the real man, whom she said, wasn't nearly as handsome as Peter O'Toole. She also spoke about how director David Lean had a vision of how he wanted the film to look. She was working in the U.K., while Lean was on location in Jordan and Morocco. She mostly tried to put the film together by following the script as closely as possible with the footage she was given. She said that on occasion she would have a suggestion that Lean would initially shoot down, but then come back a day or two later and say he liked her suggestion better.

The film itself was spectacular. I had never seen it on the big screen, and it was just beautiful. It is such a great film though I do have to say there are some things that a bit hard to take. Lawrence does some pretty awful things, but does so for a nobel reason, so it's very compelling. Jasmine thought it was good too, but found the part with Peter O'Toole and José Ferrar particularly hard to take.

Jasmine's #TCMFF15YO twitter review of Lawrence of Arabia:

Beautiful movie but Jose Ferrar creepier than Olivier in #Spartacus

On the break before the next movie, we took a trip down the block to Fresh and Easy for a good old sandwich in a bag. When we got the El Capitan, the kind workers for TCMFF let us know that we should put the food in our bag, because the El Capitan didn't allow outside food. Yea, TCMFF workers, and yea, man purse. In line, we got an interview with Steven who programs films for an old movie house in Austin:

The El Capitan Theatre showing PinnochioPhotographer:
 Edward M. Pio Roda. ™ & © 2015 Turner Classic Movies.
Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. Used 
with permission.
Next up was Pinnochio. This time we sat in the balcony. The intro was by animators William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg. They spoke mostly about how great the Disney hand drawn animation was and remains to this day. They also mentioned that Pinnochio was one of the only appearances of Mel Blanc in a Disney movie. Mel Blanc provided the voices for most of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc. Blanc did the voice or more accurately the meows of Figaro the cat. The only other time Blanc did voices for a Disney movie was four decades later in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. 

One of the things that you forget about with old theaters is that they have curtains in front of the screen. The El Capitan is no exception, and for Pinnochio, they pulled out all of the stops. There were at least three curtains, a normal cloth one, an absolutely gorgeous one with an Art Deco design, and a light one with the Hollywood Hills. I assume this was because Pinnochio is a Disney movie, and Disney owns the El Capitan. Whatever the case, it was really cool. 

The film itself was great. I know I had seen it in the theater in the 1980s, I assume that would have been the 40th anniversary. I know that Jasmine had never seen it. We tend to buy most of the Disney movies on DVD when they come out, but for whatever reason we missed Pinnochio. I know we had it on VHS, but I don't think we had a working VCR for most of Jasmine's life. It was shown in digital but looked absolutely beautiful. The animation of Cleo the goldfish with translucent fins was so cool. Again Jasmine loved it, but was in full snark mode afterwards.

Jasmine's #TCMFF15YO twitter review of Pinnochio:

Adorable movie, but somebody's gotta buy Geppeto some Breathe Right Strips

Later that evening, channeling my inner Bond 
Next up was Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I wanted to change clothes beforehand. I had bought a white dinner jacket, and wanted to wear it later that evening for On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I had got the full deal, tuxedo pants and shirt, cummerbund, and bow tie. I got a real bow tie (that you have to tie). I had learned how to tie one last year, but have only done so a handful of times. About a week before the Festival, I tried tying it for practice, and it came out perfect the first time. I figured, hey, that's easy. Of course, that night in the hotel, not so much. I took me about eight attempts before I finally got it right. Whew. I do have to say, I looked pretty sharp. 

The intro  before Raiders of the Lost Ark was a Ben Mankiewicz interview of stuntman, Terry Leonard, who was the stunt coordinator on Raiders. He also did the truck stunt. Ben Mankiewicz talked about him a bit before bringing him onstage, and said among other things, that he looks like a stuntman, and yes, he does.

Terry Leonard and Ben Mankiewicz at the El Capitan.
Photographer: Adam Rose ™ & © 2015 Turner Classic
Movies. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Used with permission.
Terry Leonard had great stories. He said that the hardest part of the truck stunt was not going under the moving truck, but jumping from the horse to the truck. Apparently, on the first take, the driver of the truck shifted, and the truck backfired right as the horse came up to the truck. On the next take, the horse didn't want to have anything to do with that truck. 

Leonard also talked at length about the train stunt from The Fugitive (which he had coordinated and took a month to plan). The idea on that stunt was to blow out the tracks, so that the rail would collapse under the weight of the train and cause the train to derail. The problem is it didn't collapse, so instead of going off the rails and coming to a stop on its side, it continued on the tracks, pushing everything in front of it. The end result was way more spectacular than what they had originally planed. That part where the train is throwing dirt at the camera was also unplanned and actually buried a $250,000 camera. They had to dig out afterwards and find it was undamaged. Since the talk was going so well, Ben asked if Terry Leonard would come back after the screening for a Q and A. 

The screening of Raiders was a blast as I expected. I don't think I had seen it in the theater since it first came out. Jasmine had not seen it at all. I felt a little like I failed as a parent on that one, but I would feel even more so if I hadn't used this opportunity to rectify the situation. The term thrill-ride to describe a movie is so overused it's become a cliche, but I think Raiders of the Lost Ark is the first film where it really fit. My second choice in this block was Steamboat Bill Jr., with a world premiere score and full orchestra, conducted by its composer, Carl Davis. I may never get a chance to see Steamboat Bill Jr. with a live orchestra again, but seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark at TCMFF with my 15-year-old daughter who had never seen it before, I have no regrets.

Jasmine's #TCMFF15YO twitter review of Raiders of the Lost Ark:

It's what kids in my day call freaking HARDCORE

We got out of the theater, shortly after the credits rolled. We didn't stay for the Q and A because I didn't want to take a chance on messing up On Her Majesty's Secret Service in the next block. It turns out we got queue numbers in the low 40s. We probably could have stayed for part of the continuation of the Ben Mankiewicz/Terry Leonard interview, but we didn't know that until afterwards.

We ran into Miguel (@HIFFSD) and Beth (@cinebeth) from our native San Diego. I had met Miguel at TCMFF last year and Beth earlier this year at a screening of Yojimbo. Miguel had been a TCM guest programmer, and he and Beth are running the Universal Suspects festival this year, showing all 31 Universal Monster movies. We did the following video with them:

George Lazenby at the Chinese Multiplex. TM & © 2015
Turner Classic Movies. A Time Warner Company. All
Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Next up was On Her Majesty Secret Service. We took seats up front off to the one side mostly for the sake of getting good pictures of George Lazenby. The results were something less than stellar, so I decided to go with the one of the pictures that TCM kindly gave me access to. George Lazenby was absolutely hilarious. He talked about how he basically, bluffed his way into the role James Bond. 

Lazenby told the one of the producers that he had made some films in Czechoslovakia, and then when he was meeting with the main producer, he couldn't remember what he had told the first guy. So when Lazenby was asked about what film work he had done, he just looked out the window and told him to ask the other guy. The producer had apparently had never had anyone talk to him like that, and was so impressed and told Lazenby that he needed to come back the next day. Lazenby bluffed again, saying that he was going to Paris the next day to start a film, and they were paying him £500 a day (that was about half a year's wages in the U.K at the time). The producer told him to go downstairs and draw out £500, so that he could lock him in for the next day. Thus, George Lazenby became James Bond. 

Another great story was how after On Her Majesty's Secret Service, one of Lazenby's friends convinced him that the whole James Bond thing would never last. This friend said everybody was becoming hippies and nobody would be into short haircuts and suits. He had introduced Lazenby to John Lennon and The Rolling Stones, so he was very impressed with him. When the James Bond producers tried to get ahold of Lazenby for the next Bond film, he avoided getting back to them and ended going sailing around the world until his money ran out. Ben Mankiewicz said out loud, what pretty much everybody in the audience was thinking, "That is possibly the worst advice I have ever heard in my life."

Lazenby went on and on, and the stories were hilarious. I have to say Ben Mankiewicz did a great job on the interview. The stories were so funny, and he was just enjoying it all with the rest of us, but then he would stop and say, "Maybe, we need to bring it back to James Bond for a minute here." For me, hearing his stories for 15 or 20 minutes was a highlight of the entire Festival.

The screening of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, now that was another thing. I think I should preface this by saying I love Bond movies, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service remains one of my favorites of the whole series. That said, seeing it on the big screen was not a good experience for me. I react very poorly to shaky camera work as it can make me nauseous, and there was a lot of it. Helicopter shots, point-of-view shots, and the tight frenetic way the fight scenes were done were all combining to make me ill. I've never had this reaction to seeing the movie on TV, but here I did. It may be that the screen was big, and we were very far forward and off to one side that made it worse. It had a similar effect on Jasmine, not nausea, but she said it was giving her a headache. It also didn't help that we were seeing it at the end of a very very long day, and I kept forcing myself back awake after dozing for a few seconds.

It's a shame, because I really do think it is one of the best Bond films. Lazenby though inexperienced was great as Bond. He had the right amount of what, for lack of a better term, is a sort of dickish arrogance that Jame Bond demands. He was also very good at the physical stuff. I hadn't seen the film for probably five or ten years, and I completely forgot that he was wearing a kilt in part of the film. I wore a kilt to the TCMFF closing party and was somewhat disappointed that no women wrote their room number on my inner thigh in lipstick that night. Then again, much as it pains me to admit, I am no George Lazenby. 

In a way, it was daring that they tried to make it into a love story, but the love story is really undercut by, umm, it being Bond. He has infiltrated Blofeld's lair, and the night he is discovered and escapes, he had arranged trysts with three different women, at eight o:clock, nine o:clock, and ten o:clock. He then escapes and happens to meet up with Diana Rigg and confesses undying love for her and proposes. Not that men can't be in love with one woman, and sleep with others at the same time. That's kind of what men do. Okay, it's what they would do if they looked like George Lazenby and figured they wouldn't get caught. 

As we left, I asked Jasmine what she thought about On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and she said she didn't like it. Part of that was the headache, but when I asked her about it that night, she didn't say much beyond that. I think she knew that I liked it and didn't want to hurt my feelings. I asked her about it just now, she said, she thought it was slow. "He just had sex with a bunch of women and then explosions." Now, technically, that is pretty much what happens in every James Bond movie. Then again, she wasn't raised on Bond like me, so how can I blame her.

Jasmine's #TCMFF15YO twitter review of On Her Majesty's Secret Service:

Don't eat the pink snow #ImSorry

If you haven't seen On Her Majesty's Secret Service lately, one of Blofeld's henchmen has a rather unfortunate altercation with a snow blower.

We went back to the hotel. I had toyed with the idea of going to the midnight movie, Boom!, but considering how many times I almost fell asleep during On Her Majesty's Secret Service, I figured that would be a bad idea. I think hadn't had anything but popcorn to eat since that sandwich during Pinnochio. Jasmine would have been fine calling it a night, but I guilted her into getting something to eat with me at 25 Degrees in The Roosevelt.

I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich over my first choice of a burger (didn't think a nice juicy burger would be a good choice when wearing a white tux). Jasmine just got order of fries. the sandwich was very good, but it had so much cheese I could only eat half of it. Had I finished the whole thing, I don't think I would have pooped for the rest of the weekend. The highlight of the meal was the Guinness milkshake:

As we were leaving, I asked a guy standing outside to closed doors of Club TCM if he would take a picture of Jasmine and me. I'd missed the chance to get a picture of Jasmine and me when she was wearing her dress. I didn't want to make the same mistake twice (this time with me in the white dinner jacket).

Jasmine and me

If there is any one thing from this year's TCMFF that I cherish more than any other it is the above photo. 

It was probably 1 am when I put Jasmine on the elevator to go back to the room. I really wanted another beer and turned to the bar, and there was Theresa (CineMava). We talked for a while about life, the universe, and old movies. While I was sitting there, I had two different groups of people ask to take a picture with me in my tux. The first was a blond woman in a group of very young, very hot women. It was sort of like doing cosplay at a comic convention. Now, I'll be 53 in August, and as you get older, you start to wonder if you still have it. All I can say is, sitting on a bar stool in Hollywood and having a hot-ass blond woman half your age ask to take a picture with you, that does wonders for your ego.

If you're reading this and wondering whether you should dress up or even overdress next year, well, I guess it probably comes down to how much you like positive attention. Me, I kinda like it. Your mileage may vary.

The second group who wanted to take a picture with me were some TCMFF folks. In fact, I think one of them worked for TCM. While we were talking, Theresa ducked out. I turned around and noticed that she'd left her phone on the bar. I knew she couldn't have left more than a couple of minutes earlier, so I grabbed her phone and ran out to catch her. I figured she was probably staying at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. There was a decent chance, she would have had to wait for a Walk signal, and I could catch her. I got almost all the way to Highland before I realized I had missed her. I came back figuring I could leave the phone at the front desk at Lost and Found. When I got back in the lobby, I saw Theresa and another woman frantically searching around the fountain in the lobby. Theresa had come in through the side door of the lobby while I was running out the front. Boy, was she glad to see me. The last place in the world you want to lose your phone is TCMFF. Okay, maybe, the desert with your car broken down would be worse, but TCMFF has to be second.


I've heard that there are ghosts of Golden Age Hollywood
haunting the Roosevelt Hotel, but I guess they like TCMFF,
so it's all good. Photographer: Adam Rose. ™ & © 2015 
Turner Classic Movies. A Time Warner Company. All Rights
Reserved. Used with permission.

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