Tuesday, May 17, 2016

TCMFF 2016 - Day 1

TCL Chinese IMAX for 'll The President's Men premiere
(Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Turner)
Day 1 of the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) started with breakfast at Mel's Drive-In on Highland. One of the #TCMParty regulars @BeesKnees_pdx had set it up, and frankly, I was a little worried. We were planning to meet at 8 am, not particularly early, but since there were so many people in town already, I thought that trying to get a table for a large party that close to everything might be a nightmare. It turned out to be fine. They had a several tables pushed together, and we were seated right away. About 8 people showed up with a few more coming in about the time we were getting the check.

I went back to the hotel. We had a mandatory TCM Social Producer's meeting at  11:00. We had just enough time to do some video interviews, the Sturhann Family edition of Reverse Angle. 

We start with an interview of my lovely wife Mary.

Next we have an interview of my 16 daughter and Social Producer partner in crime Jasmine. 

Finally, we have my daughter Jasmine interviewing me.

Next we had TCM Social Producer's meeting. Most of the Social Producers were the same people as last year, but there were a few new faces in the room. Everyone was doing something slightly different than they were doing last year. The main thing that Jasmine and I had going was running a game called, Find the Falcon. We had 3D printed 15 miniature replicas of the Maltese Falcon. The idea was to hide these Falcons in plain sight in the TCMFF festival area for attendees to find as a souvenir. These Falcons were relatively small, just under 3 inches tall, so unless you have eyes like an eagle, you wouldn’t notice one from across the room. 

I was worried that we might get people stalking us and making it hard to hide the black birds. After all, we kind of stand out in a crowd, me with the big mustache and Jasmine with all the hair. That turned out to be a nonissue. A bigger problem was trying to find a spot where no one was around. You'd find a really good spot and come back later only to find two or three people standing right where you want to hide the dingus.

Caricature of Ben Mankiewicz
After the meeting, the Social Producers headed over to the Hollywood and Highland mall for lunch. I was wearing my classic film boater hat at the Festival. It has movie-related sketches all over it, including a caricature of Ben Mankiewicz. As we were crossing Hollywood Blvd., I saw that Ben was crossing the street the other direction, coming right toward us. I stopped him and showed him the hat. I said, "I hope you don't find it weird and creepy."

Ben replied, "I find it appealingly weird and creepy."

Lunch at Trastevere was really good. We all sat at two long tables and one round table off to the side. With this many people, you tend to mostly talk to the four or five people closest to you. I mostly remember Ariel Schudson telling stories about her grandmother. Ariel's grandmother is the late Irene Tedrow, a character actress from the 1940s to the 1980s. Most of her film work was uncredited, but her TV credits reads like a list of all the best TV shows from the start of television to the end of the 1980s.

Ariel had also organized a team consisting mostly of TCM Social Producers for the So You Think You Know Movies trivia contest. Last year we had done the same thing and had lost spectacularly. This year, we won, thanks in no small part to #TCMParty regular Will McKinley. It all came down to a tie-breaker and we sent Will, because he had more of the answers than any of the rest of us. Oddly, my wife who was sitting right next to us had the answer to one of the one or two questions we missed. As we were leaving, Jasmine and I placed one of the Falcons in Club TCM.

Next up, there was an unofficial gathering of #TCMParty. Last year it was out by the pool, but they were only letting hotel guests out by the pool, so we met in this patio right off the pool. In a way, this worked out well for Jasmine and I. Since we were staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt, this gave us a chance to scope out the area around the pool. The plan was to place the second Falcon out by the pool before the screening of The Freshman.

Lots of people turned out for the #TCMParty thing as you can see. I "appropriated" a couple of photos off of Paula Guthat's facebook feed:

Paula wanted to get the group photos out of the way by 4:30, since she was covering the red carpet at 5:00. This worked out well for us, as we wanted to change clothes for opening night. But before we went upstairs, I wanted to check on that first Falcon. I had a feeling that we had hidden in a little too well. Sure enough, it was still there. I moved it to a slightly more conspicuous spot (when we got back later after changing clothes, someone had found it).

Changing clothes turned out to be much more of an ordeal than I imagined. I had a white dinner jacket I was going to wear. I half expected tying the bow tie to be a problem. It was.  What I hadn't expected was, in packing, I had somehow not packed the tuxedo shirt. I only had one other dress shirt, yellow. I wasn't exactly happy with the result. I think it made me look a little like a lounge singer:
Jazzy and I waiting for the start of One Potato Two Potato

The Freshman poolside  screening, taken later after
Jasmine and I had hid the dingus.
(Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Turner)
On the way to the opening party, Jasmine and I stopped by the pool to hide a Falcon. By that time, people had already started to gather. The spot that Jasmine and I found earlier seemed too obvious at that point, so we found another one. We then went to the Opening Night Party. The first thing I did was checked the Falcon I'd place in Club TCM earlier, and it had been picked up.

The original plan for opening night had been The Freshman by the pool, followed by Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. The problem was that it would require us to leave before the end of The Freshman to make the second movie. Both Mary and Jasmine had thought that One Potato Two Potato looked interesting, so we decided to go to that instead. In a perfect world that would make the transition to the second movie easier. It's not a perfect world. More on that later. The other good thing about going to One Potato Two Potato would be that it made sense to switch gears on the second film as well and see the Argentinian Film Noir Los Tallos Amargos. I didn't think I would want to see two interracial romance films back-to-back.

Donald Bogle (left) and Larry Peerce (right)
I thought we had left ourselves plenty of time, and if memory serves me, our line numbers were not very high (in the 70s). Still, when we got into the theater, it was pretty full. The only place we could find three seats together was in the front row. None of us had eaten anything since mid-day, so I left and got a large popcorn. I came back into the theater, "Honey, I brought dinner."  The one advantage to sitting in the front row was that we were 6 feet away from Donald Bogle  and director of One Potato Two Potato Larry Peerce for their discussion of the film beforehand.

When One Potato Two Potato was released in 1964, interracial marriage was illegal in just under a third of the states in the Union. The film did very well at the Cannes Film Festival, getting a Palme d'Or nomination (highest prize at the festival), and Barbara Barrie winning Best Actress. Despite this buzz, they couldn't get distribution for the film in the United States due to the content. It wasn't until Larry Peerce went The Tonight Show with  Johnny Carson that the film got released nationwide. 

The film itself is brilliant. Naturally, you want to compare One Potato Two Potato to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Other than the obvious (both films dealing with interracial marriage), they come from a completely different perspective. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is about a black man who has fallen in love with a white woman, and ultimately, the families doing the right thing. One Potato Two Potato is about the relationship between the black man and the white woman, something that is almost entirely absent in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. As such, One Potato Two Potato feels more real. Don't get me wrong, I love both films, but Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is about a situation. One Potato Two Potato is about the people in a relationship and how race affects that.

So remember that perfect world comment earlier, well about 2 minutes before the end of the film, a fire alarm went off.




We had to exit the theater right before the end of the movie. It was terrible, the most frustrating thing that could ever happen. We had no idea how long it would last. Would it be twenty minutes or would they tell us that the theater was done for the night. I like to think I handled the situation with quiet grace and dignity:

What the #$%& happened in the movie!?!?!?!

I ended up reading the last part of the plot description on wikipedia. Then, it turned out it was only about 20 minutes, and they were going restart the film from five minutes before the alarm went off. In hindsight, reading the ending was not the best idea. Admitting that I had done so to my friends in the theater, even worse idea. They gave me so much crap about it. 

Jasmine's Twitter review of One Potato Two Potato:

Crap is crappy, but crap used to be way crappier #TCMFF #TCMFFSP #TCMFF16YO

I wouldn't let her say, shit.

After the film, we quickly hid the last Falcon of the day in the lobby of the TCL Chinese 6. Mary and Jasmine were both famished and exhausted, so they skipped the last screening in favor of a snack at 25 Degrees in the hotel and sleep. I toughed it out for Los Tallos Amargos. Will McKinley and I ended up getting numbers one apart from each other and didn't know if we would get in. We did. Yea. And thanks, Joel Williams, for holding seats for us.

Eddie Muller talks about Los Tallos Amargos
In his introduction, Eddie Muller gave some really great background on the film. The film won the Silver Condor award for Best Picture, the Argentinian equivalent to an Oscar. The film was thought lost until a print was found in the collection of the film's producer in 2014. The print was an original film negative, but stored in the worst possible way, in an underground cellar with roots growing out of the walls and the cans rusted shut. The print was in surprisingly good shape except for the soundtrack, which had to be restored from a 16 mm print that one of the actors owned.

Eddie Muller also said that when they screened the film at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), one of the actors was living in New York about 20 blocks away. He came out for the MOMA screening, and told Eddie Muller that he had left Argentina and had never seen the movie before. He got to see it the first time in a museum 60 years after it was released.

Los Tallos Amargos was great, but I have to admitted I was nodding through much of it. I kept jerking myself back awake, and wondering what missed on the last two or three subtitles. Still, I really enjoyed it. I'm sure I'll never get a chance to see, either  One Potato Two Potato or Los Tallos Amargos in the theater again. Switching plans was a good call.

After the film, I checked and that last Falcon had been found. I went back to the hotel. The Library Bar was still open, so I stopped in for a drink and ended up chatting with Theresa Brown. That was about the only real chance we had to talk this year. Last year, we closed down the bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt, almost every night, so I'm glad we had a chance to hang out at least the once.

Despite the fire alarm, it was a great start to TCMFF 2016.

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