San Diego Classic Film Calendar

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

µ-Blog – Jack and the Gangsters

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

Robots gather at bar, nice film noir feel here
The fifth season of Samurai Jack started last month. In the fifth season, fifty years have elapsed, and Jack has not aged, but lost hope of ever defeating the evil demon, Aku. In watching it, I realized that many of the characters had appeared previously in the series. I was sort of haphazard in watching the first four seasons, so I wanted go back and watch them all.

As I got toward the end of season 1, I watched Episode 12, Jack and the Gangsters. Jack goes to what can only be described as a Prohibition Era speakeasy. Inside the men are wearing tuxes and the women flapper dresses and Deco-inspired evening-wear. Jack ends up fighting, pinstrip suit, fedora, and spats wearing/Tommy gun wielding robot gangsters. 

Jack meets gang leader, Edward G. Robinson
Invertantly, Jack protects a group of gangsters, led by none other than Edward G. Robinson, whose gang includes a parodies of Micheal Madsen and Steve Buscemi from Reservoir Dogs. The attention to detail is excellent. Jack enters the speakeasy after being examined through a peephole. The nightclub has a jazz band and a torch singer, and there are Art Deco patterns on the columns in the background.

I always thought that Samurai Jack was innovative and artistically amazing, and if anything, Season 5 surpasses the original series. The last thing I expected was Edward G. Robinson and Quintin Tarantino. Well done. Even If you don't care about the series, this episode is well worth it just for the great film parodies. The series is currently streaming on Hulu.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

TCMFF 2017 – Day 2

For Friday at the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), it mostly comes down to almost continuous series of screenings starting at 9 am with incredible cartoons and ending after 2 in the morning with an incredibly bad science fiction movie.

Beyond the Mouse: The 1930s Cartoons of Ub Iwerks – My daughter Jasmine and I were out pretty early for this one. I was worried that it might be full. I'd seen a lot of buzz about it on others' pre-festival picks. I think I was shooting for getting there an hour early, and I don't  think we missed that by a whole lot. We got our line numbers and had time to run downstairs for coffee and something resembling breakfast. 

Beyond the Mouse was great. On hand were animation historian Jerry Beck and Leslie Iwerks (Disney animation pioneer Ub Iwerks' granddaughter and producer/director/writer of the documentary on Iwerks). Ub Iwerks was a teenage friend of Walt Disney in Kansas City, and helped establish Disney Studios as head animator, chief character designer, and co-creator of Mickey Mouse. Though Ub Iwerks left Disney in the early 1930s, he returned to work for Disney in the 1940s. Iwerks had a knack for innovation and solving the difficult problems in the fledgling animation field. In the 1940s and 1950s, he worked on everything from animated films to The Hall of Presidents at Disneyland.

The presentation featured about 10 animated shorts, including Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (predates Mickey Mouse), Steamboat Willy (the first cartoon with fully synchronized sound), and a smattering of Iwerks cartoons from the 1930s.  What struck me in particular from the earlier cartoons was how outrageous some of the gags were. Also it was a treat to see the progression from the very simple silent black and white cartoons of the 1920s to incredibly sophisticated technicolor wonders, like the brilliant Art Deco-inspired Merry Mannequins, less that 10 years later.


Ariel, me, and Jasmine waiting for Born Yesterday
Born Yesterday –  Next up was the film that turned out to be Jasmine's favorite of the festival. Jasmine had never seen it before, and I had never seen it on the big-screen. While I had misjudged Jasmine's reaction to the end of Harold and Maude, I knew this was a sure bet, it paid off. Jasmine loved how Judy Holliday is empowered by learning. Me, I think the movie is absolutely hilarious and seeing it on the big screen made it more so.

We sat with Ariel Schudson (Archive-Type: Musings of a Passionate Preservationist) who was possibly more psyched to see it on than I was. It has such great message about the difference between intelligence and a lack of education, all wrapped up in a charming and funny love story. It also says a lot about corruption in Washington, which if anything has only got worse since 1950.


Jasmine and I even got a chance to hang

out with stars afterwards, okay, this was taken
the day 
before but who's counting.

Monkey Business – Next up was Monkey Business at the Egyptian. Dick Cavett in his intro told a hilarious story about Chico Marx and Tallulah Bankhead that I wrote about here. I love the Marx Brothers and seeing them on the big screen was indeed a treat, but.... You probably knew there was a but coming. But I learned something about myself and the nature of TCMFF. Even though we were only barely into the festival, I was having a real tough time staying awake during the screening. I kept dozing and being jerked awake by audience laughter. Fortunately, in a film like Monkey Business the bursts of audiences laughter come every few seconds.

Don't get me wrong, the film was great, but I was having a real tough time staying awake for it. To be fair, I was working on a sleep deficit that started with WonderCon the weekend before TCMFF. What I learned is that I have a much tougher time staying awake in movies, that are long on laughs and short on story than the other way around. Seeing W.C. Fields in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break in very next block only confirmed this. If I had it to do over again, I would have done either Monkey Business or Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, but not both back to back. 

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break – Other than the issue with dozing/being jerked awake by laughter during the screening that continued into this block, I really enjoyed Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. In his intro, Jeremy Arnold said that title of the film is not what W.C. Fields wanted but what the studio changed it to (according to IMDB, Fields wrote the original story under the name, Otis Criblecoblis). Never Give a Sucker an Even Break isn't even a reference to anything in the film, but to two of Fields' earlier films. Fields joked at the time that with limited theater marquee space, it would be shortened to:

W.C. Fields
Sucker


Never Give a Sucker an Even Break is a parody of Hollywood and the studio system, though really more of a series of skits than an actual narrative. The film featured, Gloria Jean, sort of Universal's bargain basement version of Deanna Durbin, whom was also under contract with Universal. Some of Gloria Jean's scenes are direct parodies of things in Deanna Durbin movies.  Still it was very very funny, which helped get me back from dozing every few minutes. The screening also feature the W.C. Fields short, The Barber, which also was very funny and had about as much story as the feature, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

Pig and Whistle – Our choice in the next block was Red Headed Woman, but by the time we got to Never Give A Sucker an Even Break, we'd decided dinner was more important than one more film. I had wanted to try the Pig and Whistle, and since it was next door to the Egyptian, it seemed like a natural. While waiting for W.C. Fields to start, we'd looked at the Pig and Whistle menu online and it seem like as good a place as any. On the way, we walked with Alan Hait, who unlike us was still going to Red Headed Woman. Both Alan and I really liked Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, but Jasmine was a bit overwhelmed by the silliness and rapid verbal humor. Then again, part of that might have been hunger and exhaustion talking. 

When we got to the Pig and Whistle, there was a 45 minute wait. I put in our name and cell phone number, and we started to walk east on Hollywood Blvd. I tried to suggest other restaurants we passed but Jasmine wasn't having any of it. We ended up wandering in several souvenir shops, and Larry Edmunds Bookshop, a very cool place, dedicated to Hollywood and movies. By the time we got back to Pig and Whistle about a half hour later, our name was at the top of the list, and they were just cleaning off tables of people who had just left. The food was not cheap, but not super expensive either and quite good. Looking back on it now and the prospect of seeing Red Headed Woman on the big screen, I still think we made the right call. 

Laura – We got to the theater for Laura plenty early, but we were still had line numbers in the high 80s, but in a theater the size of the Egyptian, all was right with the world. We ended up going to Starbucks with our Film Geeks San Diego friends Miguel Rodrigues (Horrible Imaginings) and Beth Accomando (Cinema Junkie) and Fussy and her daughter, The Nitrate Diva

I was really looking forward to Laura, mostly because of all of the hype about nitrate before TCMFF. Many were talking about how seeing a film on nitrate was this life changing experience, but by Friday afternoon, we had run into a few people who had seen The Man Who Knew Too Much in nitrate the night before and were less than impressed. The term nitrate schmitrate was bandied about. Me, I think I fall somewhere in the middle on the Nitrate Schmitrate-Life Changing Experience scale. In watching Laura, I could see certain things that looked really cool, like reflections on glass, highlights on people's hair, and the way jewels sparkled, but it was far from the cinematic epiphany that others had spoke of. After a while I stopped looking for things in the nitrate that looked especially good, mostly because it was distracting me from the film. 

To be honest, I like Laura, but it is not super high on my all-favorite film noir list. I can think of a dozen other film noirs off the top of my head that I like better. Jasmine was similarly unimpressed. Yes, we both liked the film, but neither of us liked it nearly as well as say, Nightmare Alley (Jasmine's favorite film noir) or Double indemnity (my favorite).

Zardoz – When we were at Laura, Fussy mentioned that there might be rain that night, so I decided to run back to the hotel real quick and drop off my hat with the drawings all over it. The hat had never been sealed, so I didn't want to risk getting it wet. This also gave me a chance to pick up a small flask of tequila I had packed. When we got out of the theater, it was sprinkling lightly, the only rain we got at TCMFF, so that was a good call as was the flask. Zardoz, not nearly as good.


We got to theater and were welcomed by the best thing about Zardoz, cookies! Yes, cookies, provided by our Film Geeks San Diego friends, Beth and Miguel. They were giving them out to anyone who would post a picture on social media with the hashtag #FilmGeeksSanDiego. 

Zardoz had been Jasmine's pick. She had seen a parody of it on the Adult Swim show, Rick and Morty. I had seen Zardoz in the last couple years, and I warned Jasmine that it was mostly just weird. Then again it did have Sean Connery in a futuristic banana hammock, and that alone could make for a fun midnight movie.

Well, it turns out that fun midnight movie is a relative term. What might be a fun midnight movie under normal circumstances when you've had enough sleep and have the prospect of sleeping late the next day, sure. But when you're sleep-deprived and you're working on your sixth movie in very very long day, maybe not. We sat with Ariel again. All I can say is that both of us were grateful for the tequila.  Heck, had Jasmine asked, I would have given her some, but I'm a bad parent. 

Yes, Zardoz was funny and stupid at the very very beginning, but that didn't last long and neither did the novelty of Connery in a post-apocalyptic speedo. Again, mostly just weird. On the plus side lots of boobs, but boobs that seem to have been selected because they were unusually small. Don't get me wrong, I'm fine with small boobs. I'm fine with big boobs. Old boobs, young boobs, perky boobs, saggy boobs, all are good in my book. But when all the boobs you see are really small, even that loses its allure. I can't even believe I'm saying that.

Now, it's one thing to watch a bad movie. It's another thing to watch a movie that is weird. It's still another thing to watch a movie that is both bad and weird. It's a completely different thing to watch a movie that is bad and weird and goes on a half hour longer than it should. That's Zardoz. Next year, I'm bringing a bigger flask.

Friday, April 21, 2017

TCMFF 2017 – Day 1

Jasmine and I got to share world's smallest
shower caddy
Thursday was the first full day of the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). It's the lightest day but even so, it's not without conflicts. My daughter Jasmine and I started the day with breakfast at Mel's Drive-in on Highland. We knew this would be the only real breakfast we would get during the festival. Afterwards, it would all be things we had in the room or whatever I could pick up with coffee in the morning on the way to the first screening. Also because the first real event wasn't until 11, we were able to take our time getting out of the room including the impromptu Jinga game in the bathroom with the world's smallest shower shelf.

First up was the Hitchcock Meet and Greet, I covered this in detail in my postpartum wrapup here, so I won't repeat myself. However, I will mentioned that thing about conflicts. We did run into the first conflict before noon. Alan Hait had organized an informal Twitter #TCMParty lunch at In'N'Out Burgers, about a five-minute walk from the Hollywood Roosevelt. Still, it would have meant leaving the Hitchcock Meet and Greet early, and the timing on getting back in time for the Remembering Robert Osborne memorial at 12:30 would be rough. Besides we had breakfast on the late side, so weren't up for lunch that early anyway. 


Remembering Robert Osborne
(Photo: Edward M. Pio Roda)
Turns out this was a good call, Remembering Robert Osborne came pretty darn close to filling the 456-seat Chinese Theater 1. To be honest, I was a bit leery, about going to something that emotional that early in the day, but it turned out just fine. There was the odd tear here and there, but enough time had passed that those speaking could relish the good memories of the beloved TCM host. Those who knew him shared some of their favorite stories about Robert Osborne. 

I think my favorite story was one shared by TCM Producer/Director Sean Cameron (I think it was his story). Anyway, he was talking about his daughters and how he is trying to introduce them to classic film. Robert had recommended they watch a film called, Margie, a sweet coming-of-age story about a teenage girl. He said he was watching this film with his daughters. The girl in Margie is in high school, and and you're not sure how it is going to end. Is she going to end up with the handsome jock or the smart and sweet nerdy guy. Then you get to the end of the movie and the girl marries her teacher. He goes to Robert Osborne, "How could you have me show this pedophile movie to my pre-teen daughters?"

Osborne responded, "It was a different time. That didn't really matter that much back then."

Cameron went on to say that he honestly believed that Robert Osborne had forgot that was how the film ended and just remembered the sweet coming-of-age part and not the creepy marrying your high school teacher part. 

The other thing that stands out from the Remembering Robert Osborne panel was something Host Ben Mankiewicz said. Of all the people on the panel, Ben was the person who knew Robert Osborne least well. He would have liked to have called him his mentor, but the truth of the matter was they didn't see each other all that often. Neither of them lived in Atlanta, so when Robert was in the studio shooting his segments, Ben was at home, and vice versa. About the only time they saw each other was at TCMFF and on the TCM Cruises. Even then a lot of the time, they were going opposite directions. 

Someone asked about how the network is going to fill Robert Osborne's hosting duties. Ben told a story about how he loved music and in particular Bruce Springsteen. When Clarence Clemons of Springsteen's backing band The E Street Band died, the band didn't just hang it up. They didn't want continue without him, but they didn't want to stop either. They ended up getting Clemon's nephew, who also played saxophone, but ultimately, they end up replacing the late saxophone player with three people. Ben continued that there was no one person who could step into Robert Osborne's shoes. The hosting duties would be spread among several hosts.


And the winner is ... Robert's Raiders
(photo: Tyler Golden)
We had just enough time to pick up a quick lunch at Johnny Rockets. We ended up in back-to-back booths with a couple from Texas who were trying to navigate the schedule on their first TCMFF. Jasmine and I spoke with them and answered questions about things like how the line numbers worked. We got back to the Hollywood Roosevelt just in time for So You Think You Know Movies trivia contest. Right as we arrived, I got recruited on a team, called Robert's Raiders. I covered this in detail here, but the short version is that we ended in a tie with another team and won the tie-breaker round.

Just as the trivia contest was ending, they were doing the Twitter #TCMParty group photo out by the pool. Since #TCMParty co-founder Paula Guthat (Paula's Cinema Club) had to be there on time and was part of the winning trivia team, I grabbed Paula's bag and rushed out for the photo. 


Jasmine and me, hanging with Dustin Hoffman, umm,
and Anne Bancroft's leg
This was probably the most short-lived get-together of the festival. Many people were going to the Red Carpet or had to change for the opening party. Jasmine and I were there just long enough for the photo and then had to run back to our room to change. Though neither Jasmine nor I have ever walked the Red Carpet, we still dress for opening night as if we do. (Jasmine had a Classic Pass, and my Media Pass was the equivalent of a Classic Pass, neither of which include walking the red carpet or the Opening Night Screening.) Still, it's kind of fun to dress up. I have a white dinner jacket tux I bought two years ago, and I figure I'm going to wear it until the seat falls out of the pants. Jasmine is young and pretty and looks good in anything, but in her cocktail dress, she was stunning.

We went to the Opening Party but only stayed for about 5 minutes. Between changing and elevator issues, the Hollywood Roosevelt is an old hotel with tiny elevators that do not respond well to lots of people trying to get up to their rooms and back downstairs all at the same time. We then made our way to the Egyptian for the first screening, Myrna Loy and William Powell in Love Crazy, probably my favorite of the Loy Powell non-Thin Man movies. Both Jasmine and I were on the fence about this. The other big draw in this time slot was the documentary, Dawson City: Frozen Time, about a cache of rare nitrate films from 1903-1929 found in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, incredibly well preserved due to the low temperatures. 

At my urging, we opted for Love Crazy. I reminded Jasmine that she had called, William Powell, her spirit animal, after seeing My Man Godfrey at her first TCMFF. Myrna Loy and William Powell are just magic onscreen, and the odds of San Diego's limited classic film scene digging that deep into the catalog seemed unlikely. Dana Delany introduced the film and looked gorgeous. Love Crazy was a delight. I find the film very funny on TV, but with an audience, it was hilarious.

Next up, we made our way back to the Chinese Multiplex for one of the films I was most looking forward to, Harold and Maude. We had come directly from The Egyptian and made our way quickly. When we got there, we ended up getting line Nos. 3 and 4. The lowest line number Jasmine and I had ever got in three years at #TCMFF. At the front of the line in the No. 1 slot was Karen Burroughs Hannsberry (shadowsandsatin), whom I'd met the day before. I said to her that if I'd just got here a few minutes earlier I could've had the No. 1. Karen said, she had got there an hour earlier. "Opps, you win."

I also have a vague recollection of someone mistaking Karen for Jasmine's mom. My wife is black, and Jasmine is obviously mixed race. If you are a black woman of a certain age at TCMFF, you too could be mistaken for Jasmine's mom. It happened again to another friend on Sunday night. After we got out of line, we got a nutritional dinner of of popcorn and a pretzel. I remember Jasmine and I joking about asking her mom (Karen) to take our picture.

On Harold and Maude, I was looking forward to sharing it with Jasmine. I figured she would love it. I kind of figured wrong. She did love the characters and the relationship. She was not prepared for the ending. Jasmine and I think a lot alike. I loved Harold and Maude from the very first viewing. The thing is I saw it when I was about 25. Had I seen it at 17 like Jasmine I might have had the same reaction. I forget that she is still very young.

We sat with Jocelyn (Classic Film Observations & Obsessions), who if memory serves me, had not seen it either. Introducing Harold and Maude was Dave Karger, who shared two stories about the film that I loved. First off, Elton John was wanted for the role of Harold. Director Hal Ashby wanted him for the part, and Elton John read and loved the script and very seriously considered it. The problem was that it came very shortly after Elton John had his first hit record. He and his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, figured that making the film would take six months, right at the time when they needed to concentrate on music.

The other story involved the late Bill Paxton. Harold and Maude was Paxton's all-time favorite film. He saw it for the first time on a date with a woman, he really liked. After the movie, Paxton absolutely loved the movie. His date absolutely hated it. Paxton made some excuse for dropping off his date early. Immediately, he got back in his car, drove to the theater, and watched it again.


Richard Rosen and I enjoying the masterful
drinks at the library bar (photo: Andrea Rosen)
After the film, I was a little let down. I tried to justify the ending, but it was too fresh for Jasmine. Now that, I think about it, Jasmine's reaction was perfectly normal, but I just hadn't seen it coming. Still, we were only two films in on a very long weekend. She had really liked Love Crazy. And I knew we'd see others she would adore. We got back to the hotel. Jasmine turned in, while I stopped for a drink, and ended up in the Library Bar with Andrea Rosen and her husband, Richard. Richard had ordered some unnamed vodka, lime, and ginger concoction, that was so good I switched to it on my second drink, even though I'm not really a vodka drinker. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TCMFF 2017 – Day 0

First off, Day 0 isn't really a thing. It's my term I made up for the Wednesday before the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). There are a number of official, semi-official, and unofficial events going on. Me, I try to get up there in time for the TCMFF Press Conference in the early afternoon.


As usual, my daughter Jasmine and I took the train up from San Diego. It's a nice trip that hugs the coast at least the the first part of the way. Between Amtrak and L.A. Metro, it gets you there as fast as you could drive in the normal bad traffic without the stress of dealing with traffic. Also, it's a good way to gather your thoughts as you're getting geared up for TCMFF. I usually spend most of the trip looking at Twitter to see who's en route, who's already there, and so on.

The one thing that jumped out at me on the trip up was an interaction I had with Dr. Richard L. Edwards who taught the Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir and Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies online classes the last two years. He said that it was only a day until the Hitchcock Meet and Greet at TCMFF. I told him I was bringing a MacGuffin. He wrote back that he hoped I could get Lincoln's nose through airport security. I responded that I was on the train, where they were much more generous about oversized National Monument carry-ons.

We got to the hotel, and while we were waiting to check in, Jasmine noticed that the person in front of us was Kelly Osborne, umm, and her dog.  I noticed the woman and the dog, but didn't associate either with Kelly Osborne or her dog, until after Jasmine mentioned it. Then again, she would know better than me. Our room wasn't ready, so we left our luggage and went up to pick up my Media pass and bag. We had enough time to grab lunch at the restaurant, 25 Degrees. We also ran into Kellee Pratt (Outspoken and Freckled), Aurora Bugallo (Once Upon a Screen), Annmarie Gatti (Classic Movie Hub), and in a separate group Laura (Laura's Miscellaneous Musings). 

Hopefully, I didn't miss anyone. Apologies if I did. Now, I know these posts seem like I'm name dropping, and that is probably true, but when you have been going to TCMFF for awhile and start putting names and faces with the people you know online, it's like running into an old friend after a long long time, when in reality, it was only last year.


Both Jasmine and I ordered ordered grilled cheese and split an order of fries which turned out to be a small mountain of fries. I remember setting down the Media bag and hearing the glassy thud of a bottle hitting the floor. I hadn't looked in the bag, but was more than psyched to see my Hitchcock Zinfindel was okay. 

We got to the press conference about fifteen minutes early. I wasn't sure whether it was okay to bring Jasmine along, so I want to have time to sort that out. Turned out to not be a problem. While we were waiting to go in, I met Karen Burroughs Hannsberry (shadowsandsatin) and Lara G. Fowler (Backlots), both of whom I knew online but neither I had met before.

The press conference was about as expected. Charles Tabesh, TCM SVP, Programming and Production; Jennifer Dorian, TCM General Manager; Ben Mankiewicz, TCM Host; and Genevieve McGillicuddy, TCM Classic Film Festival Director discussed TCM, TCM Backlot, FilmStruck, and of course TCMFF including highlights like the nitrate and Cinerama screenings. I remember someone asking about TCMFF guests they were trying to get but could never pin down. Someone said, they been after Doris Day for years and would keep on trying.

I had two questions that I wanted to ask, but felt like I wussed out and asked the easier of the two. I said that I had heard a lot online and social media this year that they were making changes to attract Millennials. I pointed out that I had my Millennial (Jasmine) with me, but I wanted to know if they considered that demographic important and wondered if they were actively going after it. For the most part, they downplayed it. While they want to have younger viewers, their focus for both the network and the festival is to have good quality programming that will appeal to people of all ages. Often younger fans (Millennials) are brought in through other people, like an aunt or a grandparent, so by appealing to all classic fans, the younger fans will come. If you're curious, my other question would have been about The Great Dictator, and whether it was the current political climate that prompted its selection.

About halfway through the press conference, they brought in additional speakers, Randy Haberkamp, Managing Director of Preservation and Foundation Programs, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences and Jennifer Ahn, Managing Director, The Film Foundation to discuss nitrate film and film preservation, and David Strohmaier, Film Editor and Cinerama expert. Randy Haberkamp told a story about how one of the film archives, Eastman I think, had an an unusual way of disposing of nitrate prints after that had been transferred to safety film. They would set them on fire on the Fourth of July. Once the prints were earmarked for destruction, they would write on the canisters, Do Not Return. At the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences when they were getting together nitrate prints, they kept running into canisters of film marked, Do Not Return. Obviously, employees of the Eastman (or whatever) archive didn't have them destroyed and luckily that's why they exist today.

Also I found David Strohmaier's comments interesting. In addition to working on Cinerama restorations, he also was a Cinerama projectionist and would be running the projectors at the Cinerama Dome screenings. From a projection standpoint, it was every bit as complicated as the cinematography. You have three reels of film running through three projectors to create one seamless image. That's why films like This is Cinerama often had talking segments in the middle. It gave the projectionist a chance to make subtle tweaks to the synchronization of the three projectors.

By the time, the press conference ended, our room was ready, and Jasmine and I were able to get a little bit situated. Since we had a little extra time, I wanted to go to a grocery store to pick up water and food/snacks for the weekend. We ran into Joel Williams (Joel's Classic Film Passion)  about a block away from the hotel. He and his wife were on the way to Trader Joe's more or less doing the same thing we were, but I wanted to go to Ralphs, mostly because it would take us by Charlie Chaplin's old studio, now the home of the Muppets. Jasmine is a huge Chaplin fan and had never seen the studio lot.


Theresa Brown and Julia Ricci
We made it back to the hotel in time for the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook Group mixer at the Hollywood Roosevelt pool. Though I'm not in the group (joined just a few minutes ago, oops), I still know a lot of the people  there. And it's another good chance meet and hang out with people before the craziness starts. I didn't get to meet TCMFF first timers, Julia Ricci (Cinema Crossroads) and Priscilla Smith (Rambling In Writing). As usual, there were Golden Age guests, Cora Sue Collins and Ruth Roman. Despite there being a microphone this year, you still couldn't hear very well. Fortunately, Danny Miller (cinephiled) did an interview with Cora Sue Collins after the festival and posted it hereIt turns out that Ana Roland and I ended up sitting together on a large round chaise lounge thing looked like it was something out of an Austin Powers movie. Oddly, we ending up talking with other people from Texas, Ana's also from Texas.


Jasmine bowling, yes there's a two-lane bowling
alley in The Spare Room, hence the name
By about 7, there was a text message from Jasmine saying she was starving and when were we going to dinner. Fortunately, Jasmine is now old enough to like food that doesn't necessarily come in nugget form, so we went to the sushi place in the Hollywood Highland mall. Yay, sushi. After dinner, Jasmine and I went to the TCM Media Influencers mixer in The Spare Room on the Mezzanine level at the Roosevelt. We had a great time. I covered that event previousy, so rather than repeating myself, you can check that out here. Suffice it to say, a fun time was had by all, and the combination of very good drinks, a chance to hang out with other film bloggers, 1940s decor, and a gaming theme made The Spare Room one of the highlights of the festival for me.

By about 10:00, Jasmine was fading fast. She has to get up way early for school, so she never deals well with late nights. I had made tentative plans to meet Theresa Brown (CineMaven's ESSAYS from the COUCH), so I wandered downstairs to check out the bars in the lobby. If memory serves me, and it might not, I ended up in the Library Bar having a drink at the bar with Andrea Rosen and her husband. After a while Theresa wandered in and I joined her for a drink and old movie talk after the Rosens called it a night. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

TCMFF 2017 – Postpartum Wrapup, Part III

I decided to break up my initial wrapup of the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) into three parts. Part I is posted here and covers pre-festival activities on Wednesday and Thursday (Day 1). Part II covers Days 2 and 3, Friday and Saturday, and is posted here. This post covers Day 4 (Sunday) and any leftover bits on the trip home on Monday.  None of these posts are comprehensive. My intention is to cover the handful of things that really jumped out at me each day.

Day 4 – Sunday 

The highlights for Sunday are:

Son of a Sea Cook, TBA –  Back in January when TCM announced the first group of about 20 films for TCMFF, I made a list of my top 5. Number 2 was Arsenic and Old Lace. Much to my chagrin, when the full schedule dropped the about two and a half weeks before the festival, they had placed Arsenic and Old Lace in one of the toughest blocks for me against two other films that I would pick over just about anything else in the festival. They placed Arsenic and Old Lace against Stalag 17 and Red River. Stalag 17 won.

Sometimes things have a way of working out, because Arsenic and Old Lace showed up in the first of the Sunday TBA slots, and with any luck, it would get out in time to see, Lured, my choice for the second film in that block. Well, we weren't that lucky. Lured was full by the time we got out, but we did get to see The Front Page. Still, it was totally worth it. Despite being shown earlier, the theater was packed for Arsenic and Old Lace with only a handful of empty seats, and it was so so funny. I had never seen it in the theater, and I'm so glad I got a chance to.

Skipping Fathom Events, Not Such a Bad Thing – When the TCMFF schedule dropped, I was kicking myself for not seeing the Fathom Events screening of Singing in the Rain when it played back in January. Now, I felt obligated to spend a slot at TCMFF to see it. Looking back, seeing Singing in the Rain in a close to packed Chinese theater, with an audience who knew every nuance of the film and applauded all of the musical numbers was well worth spending a film slot on. That has to be 10 times better than a one third full screening in the local multiplex courtesy of the good folks at Fathom Events.

Musical Saws – The last screening of the festival was one that both my daughter Jasmine and I were looking forward to since it was first announced, Speedy with live accompaniment from the Alloy Orchestra. The three piece group features junk percussion/musical saws/accordion, keyboards, and clarinet/more percussion. When the film rolled, and they started playing, you just couldn't help but smile. The film itself is delightful, and the accompaniment only made it more so.

A Gift for Ben – A lot of people at TCMFF do tchotkes, mostly buttons. Yes, I did buttons too, but I wanted to do something different. About a month before the end of the festival, we watching/live tweeting on #TCMParty to A Place In the Sun. At the end of the movie, a thought came to me. If only Montgomery Clift had used a condom, he could have ended up up with Liz Taylor. As a joke, I made up a graphic and direct messaged it to one of my #TCMParty friends and said, wouldn't it be great to get condoms printed up with this. Well, the more I thought about it the more I thought would be hilarious. I did some research and it turns out you can get 50 condoms custom printed for about a buck apiece. This is the final result:


Now, in the back of my mind I thought it would be cool to get one to Ben Mankiewicz. When I got to the closing party, Ben was there doing the rounds. There were a lot of people around, and I didn't want him to think I was stalking him. I bided my time, talked to other people, and hoped a better opportunity. After all, I was, well, stalking him. About 20 minutes later, he had moved all of about 20 feet from where he was the first time I saw him, but this time there were less people around, and I knew the people standing next to him. I came up and waited for Ben to finish with the person he was taking a picture with.  He turned to me, and I asked, "Did you get one of these?" and gave one of the three or four I had left. He took it, adjusted his glasses slightly, so he could read it. He smirked and put it in his pocket. It was perfect.

Day 5 – Monday 

The highlights on the last day/trip home are:

Really, Patrick Swayze? – After packing in morning, Jasmine and I went out for breakfast at Mel's Drive-In. Mel's has a jukebox, mostly 1950s/early 1960s rock'n'roll songs. Soon after we sat, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" played. Okay, Dirty Dancing, that goes along with the theme, sort of. Then about three songs later, "Hungry Eyes." I'm like, Really, Patrick Swayze? Duuudddeee.

Hurt Me, Joan Blondell – As I was going through the lines to get into The Jerk, I noticed we went over Joan Blondell's footprints at the Chinese Theater. Now, I make no secret out of the fact that I totally have the hots for Joan Blondell. If I had access to a time machine, I wouldn't go back to kill Hitler, I'd go back to try to hook up with Joan Blondell. She was so hot in the Busby Berkeley Pre-Codes, but to be honest, I think middle-aged heavy-ish Joan Blondell in Desk Set is pretty hot too. In a pinch, I'd even go for old frumpy Joan Blondell in Grease. Yes, I'm a pig. Don't judge me. Back on Saturday, I'd made a mental note to take a picture on her footprints on Monday before we left:

Where I'm lying, Joan Blondell's size 2 pumps would be grinding into me.
Hurt me, Joanie, hurt me.
Now you might think I'm exaggerating on the size 2, but here are the footprints, with Jasmine's shoes for scale.

Those are some tiny feet.

Broken Glasses on the Train
– Jasmine and I took the train up from San Diego to Union Station and then the L.A. Metro to Hollywood Highland. On the way up from Union Station navigating my  luggage in the subway, I broke my glasses. No big deal, they were cheap readers, and I had a backup pair, but it's related to something on the way home. I tweeted something about snack box on the train being kinda cute. Deborah Leigh (Essential Leigh) responded that she thought trains felt classic film-y. I replied that Claudette Colbert had just stepped on my face and broken my glasses.


My Favorite Buttons, All Two of Them – This is not really related to anything that happened on Monday, but I didn't know where else to put it. I'm always kind of surprised by the amount of swag (free stuff) I get at TCMFF. When I checked in and got my Media badge, there was a gift bag about comparable to what we got the last two years as Social Producers. Then we won the So You Think You Know the Movies trivia contest, and there was another gift bag for that. I got some DVDs from Matt at Warner Archives. Then there's the buttons, lots and lots of buttons.

I made buttons to promote my t-shirt designs. Shameless plug, see the link on the top right of the sidebar. Since I was giving out buttons I got a lot of buttons in return. In the picture below, mine is Gunsel on the bottom, but the other two are my favorites. On the left, is the Gayer_Than_Thou button that Alan Hait did. If you do live-tweeting on #TCMParty, you probably already know Gayer_Than_Thou. If you don't do #TCMParty, you should and Gayer_Than_Thou is one of the reasons. He never comes to TCMFF, but having the button made me feel he was there in spirit. The other on the right is the X-rated symbol Film Geeks San Diego did. Not they show any X-rated stuff at TCMFF, but I thought it was a clever idea.


,

Thursday, April 13, 2017

TCMFF 2017 – Postpartum Wrapup, Part II

I decided to break up my initial wrapup of the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) into three parts. Part I is posted here and covers pre-festival activities on Wednesday and Thursday (Day 1). This post covers Days 2 and 3 and Part III will cover Day 4 and any leftover bits on the trip home on Monday.  None of these posts are comprehensive. My intention is to cover the two or three things that really jumped out at me each day. Unfortunately, I just can't do that for Friday and Saturday. It really has to be four or five things each day, but I will try to keep them short.

Day 2 – Friday 

Friday is the first day with screenings running starting the first thing in the morning and ending with a midnight movie. Keeping it short, these are the highlights from Friday:
Mannequins and Art Deco – If you have never been to one of the special presentations at TCMFF, you really should. These are indeed unique experiences that you will never have again or even come close to. The one we selected this year was Beyond the Mouse: The 1930s Cartoons of Ub Iwerks.  My daughter Jasmine and I love animation and cartoons. Me,  I was raised on the cartoons of the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the cartoons of that era slipped into Public Domain by the 1960s, so that was what the local independent TV station was showing in the afternoon for kids after school. To be honest, I've always been more into the Fleischer Studios and Warner Brothers cartoons over Disney, but this was too good to pass up.

Of the 10 or so short cartoon films, the standout for me was a gem from Columbia, called Merry Mannequins. Cartoons from the 1930s and 1940s were made to precede feature films and often parodied the films of the day. Since musicals were a dominant genre in the 1930s, many of the cartoons were mini seven-minute musicals. The TCMFF guide called Merry Mannequins "an Art Deco masterpiece paying tribute to the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals of the era." That about sums it up. Two mannequins fall in love and sing and dance their way through a department store in front of the most beautiful Art Deco backgrounds imaginable. Incredible.

Danger of  ignorance – One of my top films for the whole festival was Born Yesterday. It's an absolutely wonderful and perfect film. Aside from being a great romantic comedy, it's also a severe indictment of government corruption in Washington, and as such it's just as poignant today as it was when released in 1950. I'll do a full review later, but now I want to touch on one thing that happened during the screening. There is a line from William Holden, "A world full of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in." That line drew applause from the audience, proving just how relevant Born Yesterday is today.

Chico Marx and Talluluh Bankhead – This a reference to something from Dick Cavett's intro to Monkey Business. He said that of all the people he interviewed, he considered Groucho Marx the most brilliant and a great writer. He ended the intro with a story about Chico Marx and Tallulah Bankhead. Groucho had been in New York and had met Bankhead. Chico wanted to meet her, but of course Groucho knew how much of a womanizer Chico was. Groucho warned Chico to be on his best behavior. Bankhead's father was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and her uncle and grandfather had both been U.S. Senators. Groucho and Chico went to a party at Tallulah Bankhead's house. Chico saw her on the dance floor.  He walked up to her and said, "I want to fuck you"

"And so you shall." replied Tallulah Bankhead. "You old fashioned boy."
Ribeye over Red-Head – One of the big problems with TCMFF is finding time to eat. Jasmine and I had gone to the store on Wednesday for milk and cereal for Jasmine for breakfast in the morning, while I picked up something like a cheese danish with my coffee. We also bought Lunchables and fruit we could carry with us during the day. That said, by early evening, you're really famished, and popcorn and Jujubes just ain't  gonna cut it. Add to that nitrate. Everybody was all gung-ho to see the nitrate prints, and Laura in nitrate was on almost everyone's list I read. We decided to skip Red Headed Woman for a real meal at Pig and Whistle and definitely ensuring that we would be able to get in to see Laura. I honestly felt like a complete wuss doing this, skipping a movie I really wanted to see just to eat. Jasmine and I split a calamari appetizer. She had fish and chips, and I had a ribeye and an Anchor Steam. It was such the right call, especially since we were committed to seeing Zardoz at midnight.

Zardoz, the cookie not the movie – Jasmine was really psyched to see Zardoz, as she recognized it from a parody they did on the cartoon show, Rick and Morty. I knew Zardoz was not a great movie, but as a midnight movie, what do you expect? It's not funny or camp, mostly just weird. We got to the theater and two of my San Diego film cronies, Beth Accomando (Cinema Junkie Blog and Podcast) and Miguel Rodrigues (Horrible Imaginings Film Festival) had made cookies, and they were giving them out to anyone who would post a picture to social media with the hashtag #FilmGeeksSD (Film Geeks SD).


I even discovered that you could eat the cooking in such a way that you could make cookie Sean Connery's head float like Zardoz.


The Zardoz cookies were great, the movie, not so much

Day 3 – Saturday 

The highlights from Saturday are:


The end of Awful Truth – If I had to pick one screwball comedy as a favorite, I don't even have to think twice about it. It has to be The Awful Truth. It is such a funny and wonderful film, but for years I have complained about one thing. I really felt that the film falls on its face in the last 10 minutes. Still, the rest of it was so strong that I could easily overlook this. Seeing it in the theater with an audience, the ending worked just fine, forcing me to take a step back and reexamine. Classic films were made to be seen in a theater with an audience, not to be watched 50 or 60 times on DVD and every time they air on TCM. It's a credit to The Awful Truth that it can and is still very funny, even after 50 or 60 viewings. On the small screen, the last 10 minutes aren't all that funny, then again, neither are the first 10 minutes, but both are necessary. The first 10 minutes establish the situation; the last 10 minutes resolve it. Sure, maybe you could probably come up with at different way to resolve it without the silliness of the motorcycle cops, the connecting door, and the figures in the cuckoo clock, but in the context of watching the film in the theater, it works just fine. The Awful Truth, I owe you an apology.

Nontoxic children – Sometimes, what stands out at a screening is not the film itself but a single blip from the introduction or interview.  For me, that was the case for Ben Mankiewicz's interview of Carl Reiner before The Jerk. Carl Reiner had great stories about the making of the film, but when Ben asked about family, Reiner said something that really hit home. Now, I'm in my mid-50s. I sometimes think about where I am in life and where I thought would be when I was younger. I'm not rich, but doing okay financially. I've never written the great American novel or run with the bulls in Barcelona. Carl Reiner said that the most important thing in life is raising nontoxic children. My wife and I have two kids. Both of them are good people. Many of my classic film friends have met my daughter Jasmine. My son is every bit as caring a person as Jasmine, not a trace of toxicity in either one of them. Thank you, Carl Reiner, for putting my life into perspective.

Meeting Dick Cavett – Another of the great things about TCMFF is that you sometimes run into celebrities when you're not expecting to. Jasmine and I had gone back to hotel to change clothes. We got into the elevator to go back into the fray. The elevator opened on one of the floors and an attractive 50s-ish woman got on with an older gentleman. We said, hello. The man looked familiar, but it took a few seconds to sink in. "You're Dick Cavett, aren't you." He said yes, and asked if we'd met and said I looked familiar. I thought about it. I had seen him introduce Monkey Business the day before, but we were sitting in the balcony, no way he could have seen me. It didn't dawn on me that maybe he saw me in the trivia contest until later. I told him how much I enjoyed his show as a kid. His wife said they were re-airing his show on Decades. I told him that he was always very clever and witty on the fly. We spoke briefly and shook hands. I should have asked to take a picture with him, but I never think of that sort of thing. My father, who passed away several years ago, always had disdain for most celebrities. Dick Cavett was one of the few he genuinely admired and respected. He would have got a kick out of knowing I'd met him.

The Kentucky Fried Incident – My original plan for Saturday included seeing Black Narcissus in nitrate, but The Incident was a very close second. We had seen Laura in nitrate the night before. While I did think it made certain things, like the reflections on glass and highlights in hair look especially cool, it was far from the life changing experience others described. Maybe, I'm just not that visually oriented. Still, I wanted to see Black Narcissus. If anything was going to prompt that nitrate epiphany, a technicolor visual treat like Black Narcissus would do it. But then we talked to Ariel Schudson (Archive-Type: Musings of a Passionate Preservationist) about The Incident. She was raving about how great it was. It had been Jasmine's top pick and a very close second for me.

That's how we ended up switching gears and going to The Incident instead of Black Narcissus. The Incident is about two psychopaths who terrorize a group of passengers on a subway train. It was so good, and one of the most intense movies I've ever seen. My friend Theresa Brown (CineMaven's ESSAYS from the COUCH) described it as, Auschwitz on a subway train. That sums it up surprisingly well. It has a great cast, an early role for Beau Bridges, the first major role for Martin Sheen, Thelma Ritter's last film role, plus Brock Peters, Ruby Dee, Gary Merrill, and a surprisingly good dramatic performance from The Tonight Show's Ed McMahon. 


Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi
The problem is this not a movie you can watch and then just go to sleep. It reminded me of when Jasmine and I watched the last half of the last season of Breaking Bad, all in one sitting, ending at two in the morning. Jasmine was so traumatized that she was just lay curled up on the floor in a blanket. We ended up watching an episode of Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi, so that Jasmine could sleep. After The Incident, we both felt like needed to curl on the floor in a blanket. Of course, Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi was not an option, but Kentucky Fried Movie was. After seeing,  Zardoz as a midnight movie the previous night, the last thing we needed was another midnight movie the next night, but we really had no choice. Hindsight being what it is, we would have been way better off skipping Zardoz and planning on Kentucky Fried Movie, which was great. Then again, you never know that ahead of time.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

TCMFF 2017 – Postpartum Wrapup, Part I

At this point, I've been home about 24 hours, but I wanted to get my initial thoughts posted on the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). Not intending this to be a comprehensive look (that'll come later), this just the handful experiences that jump out each day. As I started going through it, I found that I was over 2000 words on just highlights of the pre-TCMFF activities and the first day, so I decided to break the Postpartum Wrapup into three parts. I'm shooting for getting the three parts up this week, with detailed posts on everything from each day in the coming weeks.

Day 0 – Wednesday 

As usual my 17-year-old daughter Jasmine accompanied me on the train up from San Diego Wednesday, a relaxing way to get to the festival. One of these years, I want to come up earlier. Many TCMFF regulars come in several days early to soak up as much classic film as possible as a prelude to the festival. We arrived in time to drop our luggage at the hotel, pick up my Media badge and bag, and get a quick bite before the press conference at 2:00. 


Charlie Tabesh, I honestly think he's a good guy, but
if you zoom in, he looks like he's up to something here.
I'll cover the press conference in detail later, but I will say I like the new format. Charles Tabesh, TCM SVP, Programming and Production; Jennifer Dorian, TCM General Manager; Ben Mankiewicz, TCM Host; and Genevieve McGillicuddy, TCM Classic Film Festival Director discussed the festival and TCM in general. Then they brought out guests, David Strohmaier, Film Editor to discuss the challenges of restoration and projection of Cinerama films, and Randy Haberkamp, Managing Director of Preservation and Foundation Programs, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences and Jennifer Ahn, Managing Director, The Film Foundation to discuss nitrate film and film preservation.

That said, a highlight for me was not any one thing from the press conference, but something that happened immediately afterwards, as we were milling about. A little background here, at the 2015 and 2016 TCMFFs, my daughter Jasmine and I worked as TCM Social Producers as a father-daughter team covering the festival. TCM discontinued the program this year. In getting ready for the 2015 TCMFF, I told Jasmine that there was a chance she could get to meet Ben Mankiewicz. She kind of freaked out, not at meeting him, but at the thought of meeting him. She couldn't handle meeting someone who was on TV. Just the thought of it was giving her a panic attack.

Ben came up and hugged one of my former Social Producer colleagues, Christy Putnam (Christy's Inkwells). We spoke briefly and I introduced Jasmine to him. She shook his hand and spoke to him. From the young teenage girl who practically melted at the very thought of meeting a celebrity to the young woman who could meet and speak with Ben with grace and composure just two years later, that was a treat for me to see as father. 

The Spare Room
The other highlight of Wednesday was the TCMFF Media Influencers Party at The Spare Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt. Now, when I heard The Spare Room, I was half expecting to find some multifunction room with a temporary bar set up in one corner. Oh my God, it was so cool. The Facebook page calls it a modern-day gaming parlour and cocktail lounge. The bar features designer cocktails 1930s/1940s decor and gaming theme, that features games such as chess, dominoes, Monopoly, Connect 4, and get this, a two lane bowling alley.


Near as I can tell, The Spare Room opened in 2013, but from the looks of the place, it seems like it has been around since the 1930s, you could easily imagine, Robert Benchley sitting at the bar with Raymond Chandler, while Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart roll a few lines in the back. I've stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt the last three years, and I didn't even know the place existed. 

The party all boiled down to three things. First off, the people. I knew about three quarters of the people there, most of whom were classic film bloggers like myself, and it was great to hang out with them before all the craziness starts. Second, the venue was just a treat to hang out in. Third, the bartenders were totally on point.

Shortly after arriving, I made my way to the bar. I could tell at a glance that the bartenders knew what they were doing. Usually, at a place like this, I skip the vodka, cucumber, lime, Douglas Fir, and grapefruit tonic concoction (not making this up, I swear), in favor of a classic drink. Looking at the bartender as he put the finishing touches on one of the signature drinks, I thought to myself, I bet this guy knows how to make a really good old fashioned. Sure enough, I was not disappointed. I've never had a old fashioned that tasted like this, and I mean that in the best possible way. It was less citrusy and had pronounced spicy notes, I assume from a second custom bitters in addition to the traditional angostura bitters.

After getting a drink, Jasmine and I took a crack at bowling. I only expected to do a couple of frames but after about three frames, it morphed in to a full-fledged game with me, Jasmine, and Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings' husband, Doug. He edged me out by a couple of pins in the last frame. All told, it was great way to open the festival.

Kristin Sales (salesonfilm.tumblr.com)
in the next lane. she was quite good. 
I mention it to her. She said, she wasn't
 that good, but compared to us....
For more info on The Spare Room, visit their site at: http://www.spareroomhollywood.com/. Yes, the drinks are a bit pricey, so is almost anything at The Hollywood Roosevelt. With their specialty cocktails running, $15 to $17, I have done worse for drinks not nearly as good.

Day 1 – Thursday 

By TCMFF standards, Thursday is a slow day with a handful of events during the day and a full slate of films starting in the early evening. The first sort of official event was the Hitchcock Meet and Greet at the Library Bar hosted by Dr. Richard L. Edwards who taught the Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir and Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies classes. Jasmine and I arrived about 15 or 20 minutes early to find the tiny Library Bar filled to fire marshal No-You-Can't-Have-This-Many-People-In-This-Room levels. 

I saw Shannon Clute, Director of Business Development and Strategy at TCM, and asked why they had put the event in arguably, the smallest room in the building. He said that they tend to assume that no one is here this early on Thursday, so they booked in the small room, but he said they thought they were trying to find a bigger room. Standing near Shannon was Professor Edwards, and I introduced myself as the guy who was joking on twitter with him the day before about MacGuffins and Lincoln's nose. I gave him one of my MacGuffin ribbons, I had left over from a couple years ago:


Fortunately, the TCMFF staff adapted well and moved everyone into the adjoining room and were able to accommodate I assume most of the overflow. Though the new L-shaped room with pillars about every 12 feet was ill-suited for the event, Dr. Edwards on a wireless mic used a theater in the round approach and made it work surprisingly well. The big announcement was a TCM Presents The Master of Suspense: 50 Years of Hitchcock online course coming up in June. 

Registration for the course is open now at: https://www.canvas.net/browse/bsu/tcm3/courses/hitchcock50.

Dr. Richard Edwards, Hitchcock in the round
In his talk, Dr. Edwards asked the audience to share stories about their first Hitchcock movie. Someone about my age got up and talked about The Birds. It dawned on me that although I remember seeing The Birds on TV, I had probably seen Lifeboat earlier, as they played it fairly often on the local stations. I raised my hand and he called me. I spoke briefly about what it was like being an 8-year-old kid seeing a film like Lifeboat

Also associated with the class is a Card Against Humanity-like card game, where you can download the files, print on card stock, and cut up to play the game. Now, I'm a huge fan of Cards Against Humanity, so I was stoked on this. Again, he was looking for volunteers, so I decided to volunteer Jasmine and started pointing at her.  Well, Jasmine was all, No, no, not me, and she started to point at me. Well, with all of this pointing going on, Dr. Edwards volunteered both of us. This how it worked. He got suggestions from the audience for the following from Hitchcock movies:
  • Male character – L.B. Jeffreys (James Stewart) from Rear Window
  • Female character – Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) from Vertigo.
  • Setting  – Mount Rushmore from North by Northwest
  • Plot point or possibly and murder situation  – Murder on a train, not sure which film this would be from, possibly one of the early British ones that I don't know well
  • Weapon – Rope from Rope, duh
  • And a plot twist – This was Jasmine's job; she was going to come up with a plot twist that would be thrown in at some point
My job (as Director, I think) was to come up with a film using all of these things. The following is more or less what I came up with, though possibly, a bit more cohesive, since I'm recapping and not pulling all of these things out of my butt on the fly.
L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries is sitting in his somewhat slummy Greenwich Village apartment, which despite being rundown would now go for several million dollars.  Grace Kelly has left Jeff, because she finally realized that he was never going to commit. He decides that he needs a change of scenery and takes a trip, even though he is still in a wheelchair. Thelma Ritter offers to go with him, but she's not exactly his idea of a perfect woman. On the train, he meets Madeleine. Eventually, a murder occurs on the train, and Madeleine and Jeff leave the train and persue the murderer to the top of Mount Rushmore, where they use the Rope to climb down after the murderer. 
At this point, Dr. Edwards jumps in and asks Jasmine for her Plot Twist. Jasmine says, "The rope gets tangled." 
Crap, I think. Okay, so Jeff, still in his wheelchair and his broken leg sticking out in front of him, is being lowered down by Madeleine, and it is working surprisingly well. He is going slow and steady. Then suddenly, the Rope gets tangled and wraps itself around the wheel on the wheelchair causing it to flip over and Jeff has to grab on to the wheelchair to keep from falling to his death. Meanwhile, across the way a Park Ranger Sharpshooter is standing next to Leo G. Carroll and James Mason (okay, in all honesty, I didn't think of Leo G. Carroll and James Mason, but in a perfect world they would be there). The Park Ranger sees that the is a small ledge underneath Jeff, and he shoots the Rope so that he falls safely to the ledge.  Umm, and breaks his other leg (okay, I didn't come up with him breaking his other leg, but that's what would happen). The End.
The next highlight for Thursday was the So You Think You Know Movies trivia contest, hosted by Bruce Goldstein of New York's Film Forum. By the time, Jasmine and I got there, most people who were planning to compete had already formed teams. Joel Williams (Joel's Classic Film Passion and one of the co-founders of the #TCMParty Twitter group) came up to me and said that Paula Guthat (Paula's Cinema Club and also a co-founder of #TCMParty) was looking for two more people for her team. I looked around and saw, Peter Avellino (Mr. Peel's Sardine Liqueur) standing about 10 feet away. Last year, our team had won, and I remember that he had come up with one or two answers that no one else got). By the way, Goldstein's questions are insanely hard.

Before the contest, Theresa Brown (CineMaven's ESSAYS from the COUCH), who was on another team, came up to me and said something to the effect of, you're going down. Thus, throughout the whole contest, we making gestures at each other across the room, pointing at your eyes with two fingers and pointing to the other person's eyes with two fingers (I'm looking at you), pointing at the person and doing a thumbs down, broad fisticuffs gestures, you know, very mature, high-brow stuff. To steal a line from Gene Kelly, Dignity, always dignity.

Well, our team, Robert's Raiders, tied with another team and won the tie-breaker round, so I got the extreme pleasure of lording it over, Theresa. Hah! Dignity, always dignity. To be honest, in terms of trivia, I didn't do much of the heavy lifting for our team. I think I only knew the answers on about one in three question, and by the time I turned around, they had already circled the answer, so I agreed with it. I did, however, bring Peter aboard, and he knew one answer, that no one else got. With questions this hard, one question could be huge. As a prize, we all got a gift bag of TCM swag.

The Winners, Robert's Raiders.
Take that, Theresa. Dignity...

Finally, though Jasmine and I do not walk the red carpet, or even cover it as Media, we do dress to the nines. In 2015, I bought a white dinner jacket for the James Bond screening, so I break that out on opening night. Getting dressed up with my daughter who is way prettier than I care to admit for my 17-year-old not-so-little-anymore girl, that is always going to be a highlight for me.

Jasmine and me, her eyes are half closed but she
 still looks way better than me