San Diego Classic Film Calendar

Thursday, March 31, 2016

TCMFF Sidetrips, No. 4 – Bradbury Building, Angels Flight, and More

Have a little extra time to kill in Hollywood at the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), this series covers a handful of my favorite destinations. 

Destinations


The Bradbury Building
304 S Broadway (corner of 3rd Street and Broadway)
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Building hours: 9 am–6 pm, Mon–Fri; 9 am–5 pm, Sat and Sun

[Note: I'm basing building hours off a blog post here, posted August 2015, and it included a picture of the sign showing the hours that match the above. I missed that sign, but this should be correct.]

Angels Flight

S. Hill Street between W. 3rd and W. 4th Streets
[Notes: The railway is no longer in operation. A stairway goes up parallel to the tracks. There is a gate, but it was open when we were there at about midday on a Thursday. I don't know if they lock the gate at any particular time, but I didn't think to look. angelsflight.org was less than helpful. That said, Angels Flight is only a block and a half away from the Bradbury, so it would be stupid not to at least walk by.]

Updated March 13, 2017 – Grand Central Market

When I did this last year, I ignored the Grand Central Market. I figured why bother with a market. Bad idea. Yes there is a market, right in the middle, but mostly there are over 30 restaurants/food stands there, featuring everything from Asian and Mexican to oddities like bratwurst curry (it was actually really good). LA locals will tell you that Grand Central Market isn't nearly as good as it used to be. They are probably right, but still, it's pretty darn good.  Given the choice between Grand Central Market and walking five or six blocks to Little Tokyo, I'd take Grand Central Market unless I really was Jonesing for Japanese food. If you're in front of the Bradbury Building standing on Broadway, Grand Central Market is just across the street, next door to the Million Dollar Theater. If you walk through Grand Central Market from Broadway, you'll come out the next block over on Hill Street, and you'll be looking at Angels Flight.

Getting there from the Festival

Metro Rail:  Take the Red Line from the Hollywood Highland toward Union Station and get off at Pershing Square. The Pershing Square Station is at the corner of W. 5th and S. Hill Streets (or close to it anyway). The streets in this part of downtown run more or less diagonal with respect to North–South/East–West, so apologies for the directions being funky. If you just want to go to Angels Flight and The Bradbury, do the following: From W. 5th and S. Hill Street, take S. Hill Street northeast (toward W. 4th St.) a block and a half, and Angels Flight is on the left. From Angels Flight, continue on Hill Street northeast another half a block. Turn right on W. 3rd Street, and the Bradbury Building is the next block at the corner of W. 3rd Street and S. Broadway. 

However, if you want more, the map below is my self-guided tour of the area with a couple of optional side trips.


Start

Optional side trip no. 1  The Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Before you start or after you finish, you might want to go to the L.A. Millennium Biltmore Hotel since it's only a block or two from the start/finish line. From W. 5th and S. Hill Streets, go northwest up W. 5th Street one block, toward S. Olive. Go left on S. Olive, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel is about half a block down on the right. You should be able to enter the hotel on the S. Olive Street side, go through the main lobby and exit on the S. Grand Street. The Millennium Biltmore opened in 1923, and the lobby is pretty spectacular Dozens of films and TV shows have been shot there, including Chinatown, Ghostbusters, and Mad Men. From S. Grand, you can make your way back to W. 5th Street, where you started.

Start at W. 5th and S. Hill Streets, close to Pershing Square Metro Rail station. Go up S. Hill Street northeast toward W. 4th Street. Between W. 4th and W. 3rd Streets on the left side of the street is:

Stop No. 1 –  Angels Flight

Angels Flight is a narrow gauge funicular railway and has the dubious distinction of being the world's shortest railway. Angels Flight first appeared in film in the 1918 Fatty Arbuckle/Buster Keaton comedy short, Good Night, Nurse. The railway is probably best know as the backdrop of numerous Film Noir pictures in the 1940s and 1950s, including The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Criss Cross, and Kiss Me DeadlyIt opened in 1901 and operated in its original location until 1969, when it was dismantled. Angels Flight was rebuilt in its current location a block away and reopened in 1996. Since then, Angels Flight has been subject to accidents and closures. It has been closed since 2013, there currently is an effort to raise funds to reopen. Details at: angelsflight.org.


If you keep going up S. Hill Street another block and a half to the corner of S. Hill  and W. 2nd Streets, on the left you will see:

Stop No. 2 –  Second Street Tunnel

Los Angeles Times reporter, Dan Neil, describes the Second Street tunnel as "probably the most recognizable city landmark most Americans have never heard of." The tunnel has appeared in dozens of film, and numerous TV commercials, especially for cars. The tunnel is probably best know as where Vivica A. Fox and her dog narrowly escape getting blown to smithereens by aliens in Independence Day. The tunnel has also appeared in Blade Runner, Kill Bill, and a personal favorite of mine, Sneakers. For more info on the tunnel, see http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/21/business/fi-ct-neil21.



From S. Hill  and W. 2nd Streets, follow W. 2nd one block to Broadway. Go right on Broadway, and another block back to W. 3rd Street. This brings you to:

Stop No. 3 –  The Bradbury Building

The Bradbury Building is best known as the home of J.F. Sebastian in the 1982 Neo-Noir Sci-Fi Classic, Blade Runner. It also appeared prominently in classic Film Noir films, D.O.A., I, The Jury, and the 1951 remake of M. Even if there was no connection to film, I'd want to go there. Built in the early 1890s at a cost of $500,000, over $13 million in today's money, the cathedral-like interior with massive skylight and ornamental wrought iron is spectacular. The lobby is open to the public at the hours listed above. You can go up to the top of the stairs leading to the second floor landings.

When we first came into the building, there was a man coming down the stairs when I snapped my first picture. I actually got a better picture of the stairs with the second shot, but the man in the blue shirt at the top of the stairs in the first picture below is a police detective with a badge and gun at his waist. I thought it was more appropriate to use that shot.







My lovely wife and I

Across street from the Bradbury
on 3rd Street is a building with this mural

Across street from the Bradbury
on Broadway is the Million Dollar Theater
Relief on Million Dollar Theater Building
Optional side trip no. 2  Little Tokyo. From the Bradbury, if you go southeast on 3rd Street about four blocks to S. Los Angeles Street, that puts you at the start of Little Tokyo. We went left on S. Los Angeles Street and took a right on 2nd Street. Another block southeast on 2nd Street, and we were in the heart of Little Tokyo. We ended up having ramen at a place called, Orochon. Located at 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka Street, Orochon was featured on the Food Network show, Man vs. Food, where host Adam Richman failed to finish their insanely hot ramen. I got spicy level 4, which by their standards is just starting to get hot and was about as hot as I could stand. Then, again, I'm a bit of a wuss.


Level 4 ramen from Orochon, Mmmm
Back at the Bradbury, if you go southwest on Broadway, in a couple of blocks, you'll be at:

Stop No. 4 – Broadway Theaters

On South Broadway between W. 5th and W. 6th Streets, there are the Roxie, Cameo, and Arcade theaters. Then on South Broadway between W. 6th and W. 7th Streets, there are the Los Angeles and Palace theaters. None of these are functioning theaters now, but they all have the original Art Deco facades on the front. Check out historic Downtown L.A. theaters for more info. We just went to the theaters that were on the way to where we were going, but if you poke around on this site, I'm sure you'll find others that are worth a look.


Building under renovation apparently
had hired octopus contractor

My lovely wife in front of
Cameo Theater





Arcade Building detail






Keep going on Broadway to W. 7th and go right. Go one block to S. Hill Street and this brings you to our last stop:

Stop No. 5 – Warner Brothers Office Building

At the corner of W. 7th and S. Hill Streets sits the Warner Brothers Office Building, now home to numerous jewelry stores. While the studios in Burbank cranked out motion pictures, the money men handled the finances in Downtown L.A. The building was originally the home of the Pantages Theater, which sat over 1700 people.





At the roofline, you can still see Warner Brothers inscription
If you look under the diamond, you can
still see the Warner Bros. shield
Warner Bros. Building in its heyday, circa 1938
This brings us to the end of the tour. If you head up northeast up S. Hill Street for two blocks, you're back at the Pershing Square Metro station.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

µ-Blog – My Favorite Thing from Wonder Con

µ-Blog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

My favorite thing from Wonder Con this weekend was something that just might be one of the coolest things I've seen at a comic convention in years. I came out of the programming room I was working, and there was a group of about five people standing in a circle talking. This little boy about 2 years old in a Flash costume was running around and around them in circles. By the time I thought to get out my camera, he had run off to his father. I'm sure this is what was going on in his head:


Friday, March 25, 2016

µ-Blog – Downtown Film Locations

µ-Blog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

I was planning to do a TCMFF sidetrips about this, but since I'm up here and only have a tablet to work on, I thought I'd do a short post now and fill in the gaps later. We're up in Downtown LA for Wonder Con and had some time to explore. We made our way to The Bradbury Building, which put us close to The Million Dollar Theater (across the street), Angels Flight (couple blocks away), and the Second Street tunnel (couple blocks away in a slightly different direction). Plus, from there you're about six blocks from Little Tokyo. This is some of what we saw.

Interior Bradbury Building
Me and my lovely wife
Elevator and attrium 
Building across street from Bradbury
Angels Flight
Second Street tunnel

Million Dollar Theater

Relief on Million Dollar Theater building

Mmmm, really good ramen

Thursday, March 17, 2016

TCMFF and Newer Classics

With this week's TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) announcement, I'm sure there are those who are upset with number of post-1960 films revealed. Newly added were one film each from the 1980s and 1990s, four films from the 1970s, three from the 1960s, and one from the 1920s. Here's the breakdown so far:

  • 1990s – 1 film
  • 1980s – 2 films
  • 1970s – 4 films
  • 1960s – 5 films
  • 1950s – 2 films
  • 1940s – 4 films
  • 1930s – 2 films
  • 1920s – 3 films

That's a total of 23 films, just over half of which are 1960s or newer. Now, there are a lot of classic film fans who say, a classic film must be older than 1960. By the way, I'm not one of them, but I'm sure these pre-1960s people are starting to have kittens about now. 

Now, I'm going off on a tangent, so please bear with me. When I was young and walked into a mall or a grocery store, you would hear something called, Muzak. For those unfamiliar, Muzak is elevator music. In practice, it was more or less contemporary music played by an orchestra with lots of strings, so that no one could possibly find it offensive. If you took the time to listen to it, what they were playing were extremely easy listening versions of songs from the likes of The Beatles, Elton John, Tony Orlando and Dawn, etc. 

Now I was raised on album rock, bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, ZZ Top, and ELO. By the time I graduated high school in 1980, many of these album rock bands were shadows of their former selves. When I was about halfway through college, a local radio station switched format and started playing New Wave music, bands like New Order, The Human League, Berlin, and Blondie. For me, it was like a veil had been lifted. Instead of bands past their prime limping along on music half as good as what they used to do, there was interesting new music with life and energy. 

So what does any of this have to do with TCMFF and classic film? Frankly, nothing, but now, when I walk into a mall or a grocery store, what do I hear, New Order, The Human League, Berlin, and Blondie. Win for me, I still love this music. And I'm sure there are young people, who like it too. Then again, there are young people who grew up on Hip Hop or Death Metal, who have as much affinity for New Wave as I did for Muzak. 

My point is that time marches on. If you're a 25-year-old classic film fan, films made in the 1960s and 1970s were made anywhere from 10 to 30 years before you were born. Films made in the 1980s and 1990s, you probably never saw in the theater.  You may think that a classic film needs to be pre-1960, but there is a whole generation of classic film fans, who think that certain films made in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and yes, even the 1990s are every bit as classic as those made pre-1960. 

TCMFF is a product, a product that we all love. Or at least, I presume we all love it. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. As a product, TCMFF offers four things:


  • Classic films shown on the big screen – We could argue all day about what is and what is not a classic film. If you are in a movie theater watching a movie you consider a classic film with a group of people who also consider it a classic, it doesn't matter if it was made in the 1930s or the 1970s. That's a special thing.
  • The gathering of the tribes – Meeting others who share a love for classic films. This could be people you know online and are meeting for the first time in real life or reconnecting with friends from previous festivals. Or even just talking to people on line for a film or at the bar at Club TCM. Being able to bond with other classic film fans over the films we love, for me, this is the best part of TCMFF.
  • Classic film history – Certain TCMFF guests fall into this category. People who are experts on aspects of classic film and can provide unique insights on things like Film Noir or early Technicolor. To a certain degree, venue is included in this category. There's a reason TCMFF is held in Hollywood. Going to events in the same room where the first Academy Awards ceremony was held or seeing films in restored vintage theaters, like TCL Chinese, the Egyptian, or the El Capitan, that's part of the history too. 
  • Classic film people – There are two categories of classic film people. The classic film people themselves and those who knew the classic film people, their children, grandchildren, etc. 
Of all of these aspects of TCMFF, only the last one can be considered a dwindling resource. Sadly, every year we lose some of these people and even their children's and grandchildren's memories of them become dimmer. If your definition of classic film is pre-1960, how many classic film people are left with us, and how many will be in five years or ten years. 

The big announcement this week included the following:

  • All The President's Men (1976) – Both stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman have careers that fall squarely in the post-1960 period. Redford is 79, and Hoffman is 78. I'm not saying, Robert Redford and/or Dustin Hoffman will appear, but if I was running TCMFF, that's who I would be trying to get.
  • Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) – Carl Reiner is 93. His career started pre-1960, but most of the pre-1960 work is television not movies.
  • M*A*S*H (1970)/The Long Goodbye (1973) – Elliot Gould is 77. His career is also post-1960.
  • The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Comings (1966) – Eva Marie Saint had a career that started pre-1960, woohoo! She is 91. 
  • Boyz in the Hood (1991) – This is the newest film announced, and at 48, director John Singleton is a kid compared to the rest.
  • Fat City (1972) – Stacy Keach is 74 and his career is post-1960.
  • Band of Outsiders (1964) – Anna Karina is 75, and with the exception of one short film from 1959, her career is post-1960 as well.

I understand the love for the classic era, before 1960, but the number of people left from that generation of film professionals is small and getting smaller every year. Even the next generation is getting up in years, and while I'm sure we all hope they will have long active lives and careers, there are no guarantees. We need to embrace the next generation of film people while they are still with us. Otherwise, we will be talking to their children and grandchildren instead.

When the announcement of the full schedule drops, I know there will be plenty of pre-1960 screenings to keep us all happy. In fact, I'm sure the choices will excruciatingly difficult, whether it's a newer classics or older ones.

Monday, March 14, 2016

More TCMFF Appearances/Titles Announced



Big news dropped today about the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). The big news is the announcement of the opening night screening, All the President's Men (1976). No word on guest appearances for that screening, but considering that both the film's subjects as well as the stars who played them are still around, it's bound to be pretty spectacular.

The big news for me is the appearance of writer/director Carl Reiner for a screening
of Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982). I don't think I saw it in the theater when it came out, though at the time, I probably didn't know enough Film Noir at the time to really appreciate it.

Also announced is the appearance of Elliott Gould for showings of M*A*S*H (1970) and The Long Goodbye (1973), as well as a conversation in Club TCM. Other appearances announced today:

  • Eva Marie Saint will introduce the political comedy, The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming (1966)
  • John Singleton will present a 25th anniversary screening of his coming-of-age classic Boyz N The Hood (1991)
  • Stacy Keach will introduce his boxing film, John Huston's, Fat City (1972)
  • Anna Karina will be on hand for Band of Outsiders (1964), which director Jean-Luc Godard described as, "Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka" 

Finally, two more films were announced:

  • The Freshman (1925) with a live DJ re-score by Thomas Golubić and Harold Lloyd's granddaughter Sue in attendance
  • Holiday in Spain aka Scent of Mystery (1960) presented at the Cinerama Dome on Sunset, a comedy about a British mystery writer trying to protect an American heiress from a band of murderers presented in Smell-O-Vision
For me, this is going to take a while to digest. Naturally, I most excited about, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Each year, there is one screening I attend more because of the celebrity introducing the film than the film itself. The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming is a good bet for that one. Beyond that, I'm not as well versed in foreign film as I should be. I've never seen Band of Outsiders but it looks intriguing (had me at "Alice in Wonderland meets Kafka"). Finally, Scent of Mystery in Smell-O-Vision sound like a hoot.

Once again, TCMFF is bound to be full of really tough decisions again this year.

Read the full press release here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My Somewhat Less Than Successful Attempt at Home-Made VIP

According to my wife, I have too much time on my hands. I'd told her that I wanted to make some VIP for the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF).

If you don't know what VIP is, I can explain, but to do so, I need to do major spoilers on the Rock Hudson Doris Day film, Lover Come Back. You've been warned. In the film, Rock and Doris work at competing advertising firms. Rock gets clients the old-fashioned way, by getting them laid. Doris has a radical new-fangled approach, trying to sell the product, but she usually loses out to Rock's tried and true methods.

When Doris loses a new client to Rock, she vows to get even by bringing him before the Advertising Council for his unscrupulous practices. Her star witness is Rebel Davis (Edie Adams), one of Rock's good time girls. To keep Rebel in line, Rock makes up a fake product, VIP, and films some television commercials with Rebel as the VIP girl. Rock Hudson's boss (Tony Randall) is the ineffectual head of the advertising firm he inherited from his father. Effectively, Rock Hudson runs the firm. When Rock is away, Tony Randall makes a command decision. He runs the bogus commercials that Rock had filmed. 

The advertising campaign works and orders for VIP start coming in. Unfortunately, they don't have a product to sell, and this is just what Doris would need to expose Rock's shady dealings. They decide that they just need to invent a product to sell as VIP. They hire Dr. Linus Tyler, a genius scientist who is also a bit of a trouble maker, to invent something they can sell as VIP.


VIP!
Through circumstances, Rock Hudson masquerades as Dr. Tyler and attempts to seduce Doris Day. Lover Come Back is after all a Rock Hudson Doris Day movie. Of course, Doris learns the truth about Rock (and VIP) right before she about to go to bed with him. She goes to the Advertising Council to bring charges against Rock for selling a product that doesn't exist.

Just in the nick of time, the real Dr. Tyler shows up with what he's been working on, VIP, a pleasant ten-cent candy, but it turns out this no ordinary confection. Dr. Tyler describes it as:
... a triumph of advanced biochemistry. Looks like candy, tastes like candy, goes down like candy, but it enters the bloodstream as pure alcohol. Each one to these [piece of VIP candy] is the equivalent of a triple martini. 
And that was my brilliant hair-brained scheme, make some reasonable facsimile of VIP for TCMFF. My wife may be right. I do have too much time on my hands. I did a little research. It turns out, there is a product called, Wilton Candy Melts. These are small candy ingots that you can melt and mold into candy shapes.  You can find them at Micheals and Party City. They have a mild vanilla flavor, so you can easily add your own flavor. 

To do peppermint candy, you would add about 2 teaspoons of peppermint extract for a 12 ounce bag of candy melts. Now, peppermint extract is peppermint oil in almost 100% pure alcohol, but 2 teaspoons is a very small amount. If I did the math right 2 teaspoons of pure alcohol is roughly equivalent to half a shot hard liquor. Technically, yes. If you ate enough of it, it would be like having a drink, but you'd have to eat a whole lot (like a pound and a half) to get the equivalent of one drink. I'm thinking the aftereffects of eating a pound and a half of candy is not worth the intended effect of having a drink. 

Now, I know what you're thinking, doesn't alcohol burn off when you cook it? Well, yes and no. Alcohol will burn off (evaporate) when you cook it. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature (173°F) than water (212°F), but if you boil water, it doesn't immediately evaporate. Likewise, if you melted Wilton Candy Melts, added alcohol, and removed from the heat as soon as it was mixed, very little of the alcohol would have a chance to burn off. 

Still, the equivalent of one drink per a pound and a half of candy isn't even close to what VIP was in the movie. Peppermint extract though alcohol based was not the answer. I thought maybe peppermint schnapps would work. Most hard liquor is 80 proof. Peppermint schnapps varies from liqueur strength (about 60 proof) to Rumple Minze and a couple other brands (about 100 proof). I got some and tried my first experiment. I took a half a cup of Wilton ingots and a quarter cup Rumple Minze. This breaks down to roughly the equivalent of two shots of hard liquor to half a cup of candy, making enough to fill all six sections of the candy mold I bought. 


Home-made VIP, roughly the equivalent of 1/3 of a
normal alcoholic beverage; you taste every drop of booze
The result of this attempt is pictured to the right. It is a very large mint patty, about a half inch thick, not even close to wafer thin, and two inches in diameter. Though you do taste the mint what you mostly taste is booze. As I write this, the ones we didn't eat last night sit on a table. I can smell the alcohol from about four feet away. The VIP from Lover Come Back is described as quite tasty and unusually refreshing. These things are kind of like eating a small hockey puck made out of dried cake icing and mint flavored booze. 

I will continue these experiments. After all, I do have too much time on my hands, but ultimately I will have to admit that I am not the genius that Dr. Linus Tyler is. This country will have to continue without what Dr. Tyler says it has long needed:
... a good ten-cent drunk

Monday, March 7, 2016

TCMFF Boater

In 2014 , I was at a comic. I saw a guy with a straw cowboy hat, and he was having artist do sketches on it. It was such a cool idea I thought I had to steal it. That year at Comic-Con International, San Diego, I bought a Stetson and had the same thing done. The result of that endeavor is here

It turned out so well I decided to do a movie-themed hat last year for this year's TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). I'd found a vintage boater hat on ebay. The style of a boater seemed to be more in keeping with TCMFF, though the texture of the hat was not as easy to work with as the Stetson. I put some blue tape on the hat so the artists could see where the hat band would go and work around it. I still need to get a new hat band made.

I started it at Wonder Con (got three pieces done) and continued at another convention (another three pieces). I had it finished at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The results are shown below with the artist and their individual sketches, more or less in the order they were done.



The hat
Still need to get a new hatband
Scott Loblish
TCM logo
Chuck Wojtkiewicz
King Kong

Alex Hoffman
North by Northwest
Larry Welz
Man with no name,
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Jamie Sullivan
The Shawshank Redemption
Mystery Artist, I took a picture of his
badge but it didn't have his name on it
Charlie Chaplin
Steve Lieber
Norma Desmond, Sunset Blvd.
Robert Roach
Sheriff Bart, Blazing Saddles
Dave Garcia
Casablanca
Batton Lash
Bride of Frankenstein
Ron Lim, didn't get his picture
Jaws
Stan Yan
Ben Mankiewicz
Jimmie Robinson!
Phantom of the Opera
Howard Shum
Tinman, The Wizard of Oz
Michelle Delecki
Marilyn Monroe
Scott Zambelli
Planet of the Apes
Sue Dawe
cCreature From the Black Lagoon
Greg Espinoza, didn't get his picture
Godzilla
IW Miller
Frankenstein
Thomas Yeates
Robot Maria, Metropolis
Alex Niño
Harold Lloyd
Eric Shanower
Lawrence of Arabia