Thursday, August 17, 2023

Reel Gags Archive

All of the following cartoons were posted on social media on the dates indicated. This post is a temporary archive of this material. The art is needless to say a bit uneven. I may end up redrawing several of them. I still haven't figured out a real home for them.

Posted 8/16/2023

Posted 8/9/2023

Posted 8/2/2023

Posted 7/26/2023

Posted 7/12/2023

Posted 7/5/2023

Posted 6/28/2023

Posted 6/21/2023

Posted 6/14/2023

Posted 6/7/2023

Monday, June 19, 2023

Samuel Goldwyn ≠ the G in MGM

I was yesterday years old when I learned this bit of Hollywood trivia. I got it from the book, Hollywood: Stars and Starlets, Tycoons and Flesh-Peddlers, Moviemakers and Moneymakers, Frauds and Geniuses, Hopefuls and Has-Beens, Great Lovers and Sex Symbols by Garson Kanin. For a long time, I have known there was a film producer named Samuel Goldwyn and a film company Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM). Thus, I always assumed that the G in MGM was Samuel Goldwyn, but that is not the case, well, not really. The following story is the way Garson Kanin tells it, as he heard it from Goldwyn himself and as I remember it from reading it yesterday. Some of the details differ from what I just read on Wikipedia, but I think the Kanin/Goldwyn version is more colorful.

Samuel Goldwyn was born in Warsaw as Szmuel Gelbfisz, an orphan he came to America by way of Canada to bypass American immigration quotas for Europe. He Americanized his name to Samuel Goldfish and became an apprentice at a company that made gloves, but soon realized that the job he wanted was salesman, as salesmen made good money, wore nice clothes, and got to travel. He asked the owner of the glove company to make him a salesman, but the owner refused as he was too young and didn't speak English well enough. The young Samuel Goldfish went to night school to improve his English, and eventually talked his boss into making him a salesman for the worst territory in the company's market. He was a natural salesman and turned that worst territory into the most lucrative, and soon was made head of sales. He moved to New York and continued to work in sales, but he knew he want to have a business of his own. He decided that he should go into a new business. That way his lack of experience and lack of money would be less of a detriment.

Eventually, Samuel Goldfish settled on motion pictures and formed a partnership with his his brother-in-law Jesse L. Lasky, Cecil B. DeMille, and Arthur Friend to produce feature-length motion pictures. A couple of years later he partnered with Edgar and Archibald Selwyn form Goldwyn Pictures, taking the name Goldwyn from a combination of the two surnames, Goldfish and Selwyn. Goldwyn was the only way it worked; the other way, it would be Selfish. Samuel Goldfish liked the name Goldwyn, as it sounded more American, and to American ears, Goldfish was a somewhat silly name. A couple years later he legally changed his name to Samuel Goldwyn. Now, Archie Selwyn was good at raising money, and Goldwyn Pictures prospered. However, more money also meant more partners, and Samuel Goldwyn wanted to call the shots, so he left to form Samuel Goldwyn Productions. He had to sue Goldwyn Pictures for the right to use the name Samuel Goldwyn Productions. After a year-long legal battle, the judge granted him the right to use Samuel Goldwyn Presents, but had to include in the same size type a disclaimer that Samuel Goldwyn Productions was not affiliated with Goldwyn Pictures. At about the same time, Metro Pictures merged with Goldwyn Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Pictures to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM. This allowed Samuel Goldwyn to operate as Samuel Goldwyn Productions without the disclaimer, since Goldwyn Pictures had ceased to exist as its own entity.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

TCMFF 2023, Film, Friends, and Fun

Attending the 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) on April 13–16, 2023 was awesome, and an experience I look forward to all year long. I've often said that TCMFF is like the Comic-Con® for classic movies. Others call it a gathering of the tribes. Either way works for me. While seeing great classic films on the big screen in a great theater with a full audience is awesome. Hanging out with a group of folks who love this stuff as much as you do is equally awesome, and this year's Festival was no exception. Once again, this year I was given the honor of attending TCMFF as Media, and although I came up on Monday, April 10, I'm going to limit this post to official events and come back later and talk about pre-Festival shenanigans. 

Media badge pickup was Wednesday, early afternoon, and normally there is some sort of goodie bag. Most years, this includes some TCM-branded tchotchkes, a bottle of TCM Wine Club wine, and a book.  All I know is it's usually something heavy, and I always want to drop it back off at the room, so I don't have to lug it around or risk losing it. This year, the bag was all books, three of them:

  • Eddie Muller's Noir Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the World of Film Noir by Eddie Muller
  • But Have You Read the Book?: 52 Literary Gems That Inspired Our Favorite Films by Kristen Lopez
  • Warner Bros.: 100 Years of Storytelling by Mark A. Vieira

No tchotchkes or wine, but that's okay. As much as I like swag with the TCM logo, it usually is something I already have and don't have a lot of room for. Also, I don't drink wine. I'll get a lot more out of the books.

Next up was the TCM Media mixer, but as always seems to be the case, it was scheduled at the same time as an unofficial event, the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival Facebook group party. Fortunately, the party was scheduled to run three hours, which meant I could catch the beginning, run down the hill to the Media mixer, and then back up the hill for the wind-down of the Facebook group party. (I'll cover the Facebook party later in my pre-Fest Shenanigans post.) The Media mixer is always a blast. You get to see Club TCM early and get a chance to interact with the hosts and others when there are not a lot of people around. When I first got in, my attention immediately went to a display on the other side of the room and the neon violins from Gold Diggers of 1933. I spoke to Mark from Warner Archives. He said the three on display were the only ones that had survived unbroken and could be restored to working condition. I love that TCM includes artifacts like this in Club TCM. 

Apparently, They Also Have Bette Davis' Head in Warner Archives

For me, that's always a big part of the experience for me to see the actual props and costumes from the films we all love.

Shortly, after the start of the event, the hosts came out on the little stage and made a few brief statements about what they were looking forward to. 

Then the hosts came down to mingle. I spoke briefly to Eddie Muller and told him how psyched I was to delve into his Noir Bar book. As we were talking, I mentioned that I wasn't a fan of martinis, but I thought that it might be that I didn't like vermouth. If you made a martini by swirling around vermouth in the glass and dumping it, then adding the chilled gin, so you just get a hint of vermouth, I like them that way. Eddie then proceeded to give his martini technique. You take very dry ice straight out of the freezer. Stir the vermouth in the ice and then dump it, then add your gin. That way the only vermouth you pick up is the vermouth that sticks to the ice. That's pretty much exactly how he describes it in the book, but hearing it first hand, I felt like I was being anointed. 

Me, Talking Drinks with Eddie, photo courtesy of Laura Grieve

I asked what he felt about shaken vs. stirred, and someone else asked if he could tell the difference between shaken and stirred. He said he could tell in two seconds. Shaken will be cloudy, whereas stirred will be clear. I asked whether he thought it bruised the booze. He said, that his bartending school mentor used to say, "You don't bruise the booze." I not sure he was exactly buying it. After all, wouldn't shaking any drink bruise the booze. A general rule of thumb is small spirit forward cocktails are traditionally stirred, not shaken, and I have a feeling he ascribes to it for that reason more than any bruising. By the way, I heartily recommend, Eddie Muller's Noir Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the World of Film Noir. It's a great book. 

Eddie Muller, Ready to Sign Noir Bar, photo courtesy of TCM

After that, I spoke to Genevieve McGillicuddy, Executive Director of TCMFF. I mentioned that I worked for Comic-Con in San Diego. I know I had mentioned that before to her but I wasn't sure she'd remember. I asked about not printing a book this year. We made a similar decision at Comic-Con as well. For us, it was an expense thing. It's not that anyone dislikes paper, but you need to provide all of the info for the show on people's smartphones. It just doesn't seem to make sense to devote resources to reformatting into a book form, and then have to throw stacks and stacks and stacks of them away at the end of the show. I asked if she'd got any blowback on showing, There's Something About Mary. She said, no, but I got the feeling that she knew it was out there. I think she just didn't want to seek it out. I said, I was planning to see it. I thought it was a great film. I mentioned that I thought the complaining about it I saw on the Facebook group page was a bit funny.

For me, I think that There's Something About Mary is a bit similar to Blazing Saddles. Both are very funny and irreverent and politically incorrect, but manage to say something real. Blazing Saddles is a parody of Westerns, but at its core, it's about racism, and under all of the jokes, it says something real about racism. By the same token, There's Something About Mary is about men being stalkers, but does manage to say real about it. She agreed and mentioned that she thought the treatment of the Warren character (Cameron Diaz's mentally challenged brother in the film) was very well done. 

Finally, I did speak the Professor, Jacqueline Stewart. We spoke mostly about the Academy Museum and how much I was looking forward to seeing The Art of Moviemaking: The Godfather exhibit. I mentioned that the Comic-Con Museum is now open in San Diego, and that there was a connection in the Comic-Con Museum's current exhibit to Ray Harryhausen and Robert Osborne. She didn't know there was a Comic-Con Museum and said she would like to come down and see it. I explained that it's tiny in comparison to the Academy Museum, but that it's had over 20 exhibits in the little over a year that it's been open. She agreed how important it is for museums to rotate in and out new exhibits, to keep the experience fresh. 

Sadly, I didn't get a chance to speak to Ben Mankiewicz, Alicia Malone, or Dave Karger, but it still was a good time, maybe next year.  As it was starting to wind down, AuroraJocelyn,  and I shared an Uber to the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival Facebook group party. It turns out the Uber driver was a big TCM fan, and we spent the short trip talking about old movies.


Thursday is always a bit of a slow day at TCMFF. It starts as always with the Meet TCM panel at Club TCM, and as usually, it alternated between a total TCM love fest to a gripe session about things that are mostly beyond anyone's control or otherwise trivial and not worth asking about. There were actually one or two constructive suggestions from people. Turns out, I did have something constructive to ask, but I didn't think of it until Saturday, about two days too late. I wanted to mention how much I liked them showing old Warner Bros. cartoons on the network in April and wanted to suggest they keep doing that sort of thing going forward. In between the Meet TCM panel and the next one, a very large number of us squeezed way too close together for the Twitter #TCMParty group photo:

Twitter TCMParty People

Next up was Bruce Goldstein's So You Think You Know Movies trivia contest. I joined a group with five total strangers and formed a team, Team Asta. We gave it our best shot, but did not win. I really wasn't expecting to win. The questions are insanely hard. The winning team seemed to be the same group that wins every year. They must sleep with IMDB under their pillow. Yes, I know that makes no sense.  At one point, I was on the winning team two years running about 6 or 7 years ago. One time, it was with a group of #TCMParty people, a fluke, and the other time, it was when the group that seems to always win needed an extra body and grabbed me. Still, it's not about winning. It's about how spectacularly you can crash and burn. We did that real well.

Team Asta After Our Humiliating Defeat, Went B/W Original Was Very Blue

There was about an hour break between the trivia contest and the Opening Night Reception.  I ended up meeting Cathy for a late lunch at Jameson's Irish Pub. They have signs outside saying no food items over $14, and it lived up to that. I had Fish and Chips and a Black and Tan. The service was fast and with a decent tip, it was about $20. That's pretty close to miraculous by TCMFF standards. 

Cathy and I and a Couple of Black and Tans, photo courtesy of Cathy

This gave me enough time to go back to my room to change clothes. I normally like to dress up a bit for Opening Night Reception. I didn't have a whole lot of time to hang out at the reception before the first screening. I walked over to the mall with Trudy Ring. We were both going to see, Shadow of a Doubt. Now, I'm not sure how this happened, but I think probably the ghost of Uncle Charlie got ahold of the passkey to my motel room and put this bottle of  Russian River Shadow of a Doubt Imperial Porter into my man purse:
Now, How Did That Get in There

Since I just so happened to have a bottle opener on my key ring, I had no choice but to open it and enjoy it while watching the film. I was sitting  with Ana. I don't remember if she wasn't drinking or just didn't drink beer, but she didn't want any. She did want the empty bottle as a souvenir, which I was glad to oblige. You mean I don't have to sneak it out of the theater after successfully sneaking it into the theater, cool, sign me up.

Now, this first screening was my biggest dilemma of the whole Festival. My Media pass didn't get me into the opening night screening of Rio Bravo. I really wanted to see Mario Cantone talk about Hairspray. I bet that was a hoot. Still, what really got me was the choice between Shadow of a Doubt and Airport. I have seen Shadow of a Doubt on the big screen before (normally this is enough to push me the other direction), but Shadow of a Doubt is just so good, I really needed to see Joseph Cotten do his rant against women:

Uncle Charlie: The cities are full of women, middle-aged widows, husbands dead, husbands who've spent their lives making fortunes, working and working. And then they die and leave their money to their wives, their silly wives. And what do the wives do, these useless women? You see them in the hotels, the best hotels, every day by the thousands, drinking their money, eating their money, losing the money at bridge, playing all day and all night, smelling of money, proud of their jewelry but of nothing else, horrible, faded, fat, greedy women.

Young Charlie: But they're alive. They're human beings.

Uncle Charlie turns to the camera, extreme closeup, his face 20 feet high: 

"Are They?"

That alone justified my decision to skip Airport. Besides, the timing on Airport made it virtually impossible to make my next pick, That Touch of Mink. I love 1960s sex comedies, despite the fact that no one ever has sex in a 1960s sex comedy. When it comes to this sub-genre, the three films Doris Day made with Rock Hudson rule the day, but in my mind, That Touch of Mink, with Doris Day and Cary Grant, comes in a close second. Umm, or fourth. Now, this is a movie that I have seen 3 or 4 times a year every year for probably the last 15 years. Wow, that means I have seen it 50 or 60 times, yeah, that's probably about right. I will watch it every time it plays on TCM, and I still think it's funny, but seeing a movie like this on the big screen with a full audience is hilarious.


First up was a one of my all time favorite movies, Harvey

We were all very surprised when a special guest showed up unannounced. That's right, Harvey himself was in attendance. They said they'd contacted his publicists, and they never got back to them. Then he just showed up. It was a real treat to "see" him. I'm not sure how pookas age, but considering the film was made over 70 years ago, he looks great.  The film itself was an absolute delight as expected.

Harvey, I'm Pretty Sure He's Had Some Work Done, photo Courtesy of TCM

Next up was the Footlight Parade, and I ended up sitting with Theresa Brown. The screening was hosted by Bruce Goldstein. His knowledge of Pre-Code classics is amazing, and it's always a treat to hear him speak. He let us know to stick around at the end of the film for a special presentation. For me, I had never seen a Busby Berkeley film on the big screen, much less a Pre-Code Busby Berkeley. It just doesn't get much better than this. As many know, I'm a huge fan of Joan Blondell, and at this point, she is absolutely gorgeous. She doesn't show as much skin here as in Gold Diggers of 1933, but she does get one of the all-time greatest classic movie insult lines, "As long as they've got sidewalks you've got a job." Footlight Parade is the first film where James Cagney really got to show his dance skills, and he's incredible. Frank McHugh is also great. I can't talk talk about Footlight Parade without mentioning little person Billy Barty. If I did the math right, he would have been nine years old when this was made. As a result of his age and his size, he could sort of pass for a toddler, a old, odd-looking toddler, used to great comic effect in the "Honeymoon Hotel" number.

The films other big numbers include "By a Waterfall" and "Shanghai Lil." Counting the Dick Powell/Ruby Keeler intro and outro, "By a Waterfall" runs just over 10 minutes and in my opinion is the most impressive bit of choreography Busby Berkeley ever did.

Nothing Sexual Going on Here, Move Along

The plot (yes, there is one) of the film is that James Cagney produces prologues, live musical performances that precede the film in the high-end movie palaces of the day. To get the contract for a large chain of theaters, Cagney's company must put on three prologues at three different theaters the same night. In between the numbers, the cast of 80 or so beautiful women all run past the camera in various stages of undress. I may need a cold shower to get though this. Finally, the film's final number, a drunken love-struck James Cagney sings, dances, fights, and explores an opium den in search of his girl Shanghai Lil (Ruby Keeler). When he finally finds her, the pair dances on bar tops and tables, before the number's climax, about a hundred sailors, precision marching. Finally, as promised, Bruce Goldstein came back out and gave a presentation on what scenes/shots were cut from the film in what geographic regions. It was a blast.

My plan in the next block was the Western/Film Noir hybrid, Blood on the Moon, and since it was in the dreaded Theater 4, I went to get in line and spoke to the person with the numbers, who said something I interpreted to mean the line was already full. I later found out that I had misinterpreted what he'd said and could've made it. Still, I had heard a lot of good buzz about The Strawberry Blond, so I decided to go to that, despite it not even being on radar in my pre-Festival planning. I had seen the film just once, a month or two before TCMFF. It was cute and kind of funny, but didn't really do a lot for me. Still, the presentation was a "Warner Night at the Movies" complete with cartoon, short subject, and trailers (no newsreel, Warner Brothers didn't have a newsreel division at the time The Strawberry Blond was made). Now, this goes to show that it's really hard to make a bad decision at TCMFF. The short subject, about polo, was entertaining, but the cartoon.... Directed by Tex Avery, "Tortoise Beats Hare" features the debut of Cecil Turtle, [spoiler alert] and friends [end of spoiler alert] having a foot race with Bugs Bunny. Now, I grew up on Warner Bros. cartoons (they used to show them on TV after school when I was a kid), and "Tortoise Beats Hare" is one of the few times anyone ever got the best of Bugs Bunny. Seeing it on the big screen with a full audience was worth the change by itself.

Smart Money Is on the Rabbit 

Though The Strawberry Blond had failed to impress me when I saw it on TCM, seeing it at TCMFF was a whole different experience. Things that were mildly amusing on TV were laugh out-loud funny in the theater, and what was cute was utterly charming. It just goes to show the value of seeing movie in the theater with an audience. The Strawberry Blond had a closing bouncing ball sing-along bit at the end, and that was a lot of fun too.

I was hoping to get real food, but had no takers, and didn't want to eat alone. I ended up getting nachos in the theater. They were out of hot dogs, and I didn't want to wait. 

Me and Kelly From the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival Facebook Group
Note that this is a closed group; you need to request to be added

Next up was The Killers with Eddie Muller introducing. He did throw in a plug for his book. He said, that publishers originally wanted the title of the book to be, Noir Bar..., by Eddie Muller, but he said, for once he wanted to have his name above the title. That's how or why it became, Eddie Muller's Noir Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the World of Film Noir.

In speaking of the film, Eddie Muller said that The Killers was about as noir as film noir gets. Burt Lancaster is so messed up by Ava Gardner that he doesn't even get up when he learns they're coming to kill him (not really a spoiler because it happens in the first few minutes of the film). He also said that producer, Mark Hellinger bought the rights to the Hemmingway story of the same name, because it was the cheapest one he could find. While I was writing this, I found the short story online. The entirety of the short story is covered pretty faithfully in that first five minutes of the film. The rest of the film, the flashback is all fabrication by screenwriter Anthony Veiller and an uncredited assist from John Huston. The film itself was amazing, and I have to say, Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner are not too tough on the eyes.

After The Killers, I immediately got in line for Ball of Fire (in the dreaded Theater 4), and I was worried it would fill. Looking at my number and the time, I figured I could try for some food. The nachos weren't doing it. I didn't take my own advice and left the mall by the front. I was hoping that there might be some coffee shop or something would be open in the mall. No dice, and I got stuck behind some homeless guy with, I swear, a king-size comforter wrapped around his shoulders. The darn thing trailed behind him like King Charles' coronation robe. You couldn't get around the guy with stepping on it. It took me like three minutes to get 50 feet, before I finally could get around him and zig-zag through the normal pedestrians like O.J. in the old Hertz Rent-a-Car commercials. I was heading for the Subway across from the Roosevelt. Fortunately, nobody was in the place, and I was able to get a sandwich and drink in about a minute, then out the door to do the O.J. thing again, back in through the side of the mall this time. All tolled, it took me 13 minutes to get my sandwich and back in line. I didn't have enough time to eat before the line was being moved, but I smuggled the sandwich into the theater in my man purse and ate quickly while the rest of the theater was being seated. 

Normally, a film like Ball of Fire would be in one of the larger theaters, and not the smallest venue at the Festival. They were showing it in 35 mm film, and I found out a few months ago that Theater 4 is the only screen in the multiplex equipped to show 35 mm. I think George Clooney appearing for Oceans 11 at the Chinese IMAX might have saved me from missing this. The small theater was pretty much completely full, but I got in without any issues. Dana Delany was on-hand to dish out the hoi toi toi on the film. She said that this was the last film that Billy Wilder wrote, but did not direct. During the filming, Billy Wilder shadowed Ball of Fire director, Howard Hawks, to get a feel for directing. At the time, only a couple of directors wrote their own films, John Huston and Preston Sturgis, so it was by no means a given that a successful screenwriter like Billy Wilder could become a director. Apparently, Billy Wilder picked up a thing or two, because he certainly hit the ground running. 

When Dana Delany asked how many had seen the film before, I didn't see a single person in the full house with their hands down. It's such a great film and such a treat to see it with that audience. Gary Cooper is so good as a bookworm English professor, and Barbara Stanwyck can do no wrong in my book. Dana Andrews made the perfect gangster, and the rest of the cast is like a Who's Who of great classic Hollywood character actors, Dan Duryea, S.Z. Sakall, Oscar Homolka, Henry Travers, Richard Haydn, Charles Lane, and the gunsell, Elisha Cook, Jr. Plus, it has one of my all-time favorite musical numbers, "Match Boogie," the nightclub scene, where Stanwyck whisper/sings to Gene Krupa's percussion on a box of matches.


Saturday was the first time at TCMFF that we had decent weather. It had been cold, cloudy, and spitting sprinkles of rain up to that point. I even took a picture. It seemed so rare.

Finally, California Sunshine

The day started with one of my all-time favorite musicals and my first screening at the Chinese IMAX, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. This one took a little bit of planning. First off, I wanted to get video of the Russ Tamblyn, but I also needed to be able to get out of the theater quickly. The break between the end of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and the start of the next one at the Legion was only a half hour, and it's a 15 minute walk. That was cutting it pretty close. I figured I wanted to get out of the theater as quick as possible. Then, if I could, get right on a shuttle, take it, but if the shuttle wasn't there or there was a big line, keep going and hoof it up the hill to the Legion Theater. I had toyed with the idea of bringing my skateboard, but realized that I didn't want to carry it and a helmet the rest of the day. Yes, I do still ride a skateboard. By the way, a 60-year-old on a skateboard on Hollywood Blvd., no one bats an eye. It's just Tuesday. In fact, if you're riding a skateboard, the Hollywood Blvd. grifters leave you alone because they assume you're one of their own and not a tourist.

Anywho, when I got to the theater, I ended up a line number in the 60s, so was able to get a seat down in front center about three rows back, to do the video. Then, afterward, I moved to a seat on the aisle higher up, so I could get out of the theater faster. Russ Tamblyn was highly entertaining.  My video is below:

The film itself was amazing. I'd never seen it before on the big screen. It just doesn't get much better than a great classic like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on that huge screen with a TCMFF audience, and them Sobbin' Women. As soon as The End flashed, I was up and out. In the Chinese theater, there are hallways on both sides of the theater so you can get in and out without going up the aisles inside the theater. I was able to walk fast and not worry about getting stuck behind people. I was probably in the first 20 or 30 people out the door, not bad considering I was in the top of the lower section in a huge theater that seats close to a thousand.

I continued speed walking to up Orange Ave and was able to walk right on the shuttle. I was about the third or fourth to last person on, and we left in just a minute or two. I was in good shape for the next screening. I probably didn't need to be that worried. I've never seen the Legion theater have to turn people away, though it probably does happen. Still, seeing the Craig Barron and Ben Burtt do their Academy Conversations on When Worlds Collide was a must for me. I'm not even that big of a fan of the movie; there are quite a few other 50s Sci-Fi movies I like better, but their presentations are amazing. 

Courtesy of TCM

Before the presentation, they announced that there was going to be a surprise during the screening. Both Craig Barron and Ben Burtt discussed the film in general, cast, production, etc. but at the beginning, Craig Barron more or less took the lead, talking about the visual effects, and how they use mattes to blend miniatures of the spaceship with live action. He shared lots of behind-the-scenes of the special effects crew working on the miniatures, setting up the shots, and so on. Then on the latter part, Ben Burtt took over and discussed the sound effects. The film has an earthquake scene, and they recorded huge boulders being toppled over one another under water to get the basic sound, then rerecorded it and amplified it as much as they could with 1950s technology. 

This dovetailed into the surprise. Ben Burtt had brought in additional speakers and amplifiers to add I think he said an additional 4000 watts of sound to the Legion Theater's existing sound system. The idea was to re-create an effect from the 1974 disaster film, Earthquake, and take it to 11 with 2020s technology. The effect from Earthquake (1974) was called "Sensurround", and as Ben Burtt was discussing it, the Sensurround logo flashed on screen.  At that, Craig Barron stopped him, and said words to the effect of, "Wait a second, we don't own the rights to that. We'll get in trouble for using the logo."

To which Ben Burtt replied, "How about this?" The screen flashed and the Sensurround logo disappeared only to redraw itself with a B at the beginning instead of an S to to make, "Bensurround." Perfect. Now, I mentioned earlier that When Worlds Collide was not a big favorite with me, but I do have to say that I am a huge Sci-Fi movie nerd, so any 1950s Sci-Fi movie on the big screen would be a treat. The movie itself was better than I remember it being, but Bensurround.... Bensurround was friggin' awesome. It was loud, but not just loud, like fifth row at a Black Sabbath concert, it was the vibrations. You felt the sound shaking your chest and your pant legs shaking from the vibrations. It was probably my absolute favorite experience from the Festival this year.  

Next up, I stayed at the Legion Theater for Crossing Delancey. I ended up sitting Ana Roland again and Pam. Now, Crossing Delancey is a movie that I only saw the first time a few years ago and found it utterly charming. Before the film, Eddie Muller interviewed Amy Irving and Peter Riegert, who starred as Isabelle Grossman and Sam the Pickle Guy Posner, respectively. First, I want to say that anytime you get to see Eddie Muller is great. We have a tendency to think of him as only the Czar of Noir. Crossing Delancey is about as far away from noir as you can get, though you never see what's in those pickle barrels in back of Peter Riegert's shop. Still, Eddie Muller he has a great knowledge of film in general. 

Also, it was great seeing the big stars in a film before a screening. I know that to a lot of the people reading this, classic film means pre-1960 studio-era films, and Crossing Delancey was made almost thirty years later, but we only have a handful of studio-era people left with us, and each year we lose more. Me, I have no problem calling 35-year-old Crossing Delancey a classic film and put it on the same level as other romantic comedies like It Happened One Night or Roman Holiday. In addition, we are losing people who made films in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s as well. I want to hear what they have to say while they are still around as well. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.

The interview was great, both Amy Irving and Peter Riegert couldn't say enough good things about working with Reizl Bozyk, who played Amy Irving's grandmother, Bubbie. Amy Irving also told a cute story about how she got the part. She was dating Steven Speilberg at the time. They were at some event, and she was famished. Crossing Delancey director Joan Micklin Silver saw her across the room, stuffing her face with popcorn and said, That's my Isabelle Grossman. The movie itself was a treat. I guess you could call it a bit formulaic, but it does take an interesting road getting there.

Peter Riegert, Amy Irving, and Eddie Muller, photo courtesy of TCM

My Saturday evening block choice was A Mighty Wind, partly because I wanted to see Michael McKeon, but also because I really like A Mighty Wind better than the other films in that slot. Also the timing gave me a good long break between films, and of course anytime that happens, that's the time to get some real food. I ran into Susan from Chicago. She and some of her friends were planning on going to Miceli's for dinner. I asked if she'd mind if I tagged along. My wife and I had dined with her on Saturday night at last year's TCMFF. On the way to the restaurant, I noticed that my phone was almost completely dead. I'd made the mistake of trying to upload my Russ Tamblyn video on my phone, and it never made it all the way, just sat there spinning, draining my battery in the attempt. Fortunately, my room was only about two blocks away, so I excused myself to go back to my room and charge it. I stayed in the room just long enough to plug in my phone and connect to WiFi (and hopefully finish uploading the video).

Dinner was great. The food and conversation were excellent. I didn't feel like pasta, and pizza seemed like too much food for one person, so I got a salad and a meatball sandwich. Both were very good. After dinner, I went back to my room to pick up my phone. It had finally finished with the video, yea, and picked up almost a full charge. I also changed clothes. I wanted to do something a little more dressy for the evening. I still had plenty of time to get to the poolside screening of A Mighty Wind. I decided to stop for a cup of ice coffee on the way. By Saturday at TCMFF, you're pretty much completely exhausted, so the last thing I wanted was to fall asleep in one of the screenings, or worse fall asleep poolside and literally fall out of my chair. I took a walk through Club TCM and then headed to the pool. I ran into Jennifer Churchill as I was coming into the pool area, and we talked for a bit, before I headed to the poolside bar for a pre-film libation. I ended up sitting way in the back in the rows of chairs they set up for the screenings. I sat near, Kelly Kitchens Wickersham from the Facebook group and her husband Mark. The pre-film interview was short but great, and since a video is worth a thousand words:

A Mighty Wind Intro, from TCM YouTube

A Mighty Wind was great and a lot funnier than I remember it being. I always thought that This Is Spinal Tap and Best in Show were funnier than A Mighty Wind, but seeing it again, it's every bit as funny as the others. By the way, I only saw Waiting for Guffman for the first time in the last year or so. As a results, it's hard to make the same comparison with it. I left a little bit early, maybe 10 minutes, before the end. I probably could've waited until they ran the credits, but you never know that until after the fact. 

I got to the Chinese IMAX for There's Something About Mary and walked straight into the theater. I stopped at the snack bar, and by the time I got into the theater, there were only about 40 or 50 people there. Bear in mind, I was about 25 minutes before the start of the film.  There was a fairly steady trickle of people coming in the whole time I was waiting. By the time they started, there were probably 150 to 200 in the theater. It seemed kind of barren in a theater that size, but it probably would have been a reasonable crowd in any of the multiplex theaters. 

I heard a lot of people complaining about There's Something About Mary. Why a movie that new? Why a movie that new like that. Why a movie that new like that in the Chinese on a Saturday night. I didn't hear anyone complaining about Oceans 11 or A Mighty Wind, both of which are newer. In past years, I never remember anyone complaining about Mel Brooks movies. His movies are pretty raunchy too. As far as it being on a Saturday night in the Chinese. I'm just going to say that we don't know what's going on behind the curtain. Maybe this wasn't the first choice. Maybe, they were hoping to get the premiere of a new restoration that didn't get done in time. Maybe, they had Cameron Diaz or Ben Stiller or the Farrelly brothers or some combination of all of them lined up, and they pulled out at the last minute. Sure, they could've juggled the schedule and put something in that would've been a bigger draw, but there are a lot of moving parts in putting together a show like TCMFF. One last minute change that effects one event is a way easier to pull off than multiple changes to multiple events.

Me, I still think There's Something About Mary is a great movie. I think it's as funny now as when I saw it first run 25 years ago. Yes, it's been 25 years. I have to say that Alicia Malone was fully committed to the screening as her hair style shows. 

Alicia Malone and Lin Shaye, photo courtesy of TCM

My  favorite bit from the Alicia Malone's interview of Lin Shaye and Khandi Alexander was when Lin Shaye told the story of the doggie kiss. The script called for her to just pick up the dog and talk to it. The dog apparently liked the taste of the latex old age appliance she was wearing, and the dog just kept licking and licking. She thought maybe she should stop, but stuck with it and got the Pap smear line out. All of the camera people and crew were trying to keep from laughing. Afterward, co-director Peter Farrelly said that was film history. You couldn't do it again. You couldn't get the dog to do it again. It's one of those moments that will live forever.

I was very glad to get to see There's Something About Mary. It was absolutely hilarious, and I don't say that about very many films.


I decided to skip the midnight screening and get some sleep. At some point during the day, I'd noticed that I had a very minor sore throat. It didn't seem anything to worry about. When I woke up at about 6 am the next morning, it was a full blown sore throat. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn't. In the back of my mind, I was thinking I probably should get tested. After about an hour of not sleeping, I got on my phone and found a 24-hour drugstore nearby. I donned a mask and went out and bought a COVID test.

Positive – I Was Done, Dammit

I then got back on my phone and sent messages via Facebook, Twitter, and text to anyone I could remember talking to the previous day. I also did posts on Facebook and Twitter that I had tested positive for COVID in case I'd missed anyone. It turns out Susan who I'd had dinner with the previous night also tested positive that morning as well. I'm guessing that we did *not* get it from each since we both got symptomatic at about the same time.  I called my wife. She was planning to drive up Sunday, spend the night, and then we'd drive back down to San Diego the next day. I had her come up earlier than she had planned, so I could get out of the room by check-out time and not have to spend too much time standing outside the motel on the sidewalk wearing a mask, waiting for her.  I wore a mask in the car the whole way home with the exception of when we stopped for fast food and parked in an empty section of a parking lot to eat in the car with all the windows open. 

Had I done Sunday, the following is what I would have seen:

  • Jason and the Argonauts, The Man Who Knew Too Much, or Mister Roberts – I hadn't made a call on this one.
  • Casablanca
  • The Music Man
  • One-Way Passage (and then dinner with my wife)

I remember seeing this tweet from Elise in the car on the way home:

I do and I will

But my biggest regret is missing the closing night party. That is always the best part about TCMFF, hanging with my peeps at the end of a long weekend, having drinks, and basking in the glow of what just happened. 


I know that I was not the only one to tested positive for COVID at and following TCMFF. I had a mild case, cold symptoms for several days and then a bit of a cough that hung on for about three weeks. I hope everyone else who caught it had a case as mild as mine, and if not is doing much better now. See you all next year.

Courtesy of TCM

Comic-Con is a Registered Trademark of San Diego Comic Convention.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

TCMFF Madness, Baby – 2023

The schedule has dropped for the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) April 13–16, 2023. As usual, I'll be doing my picks in NCAA tournament format brackets. Once again, my daughter, now 23, will not be attending this year. She is working full time and in college part-time.


Early Evening

In the Thursday early evening matchup, my media pass does not get me into the Opening night screening of Rio Bravo. Under normal circumstances, putting Rio Bravo up against and Shadow of a Doubt or Airport would be a no-brainer, but the addition Angie Dickenson would make it tough, but I don't get in, so I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. Looking at the top bracket, Ikiru would be in the running, but not against Shadow of a Doubt. In the lower bracket, Airport is my clear favorite. I remember seeing it in the theater as a kid, one of the first grown-up movies I saw in the theater as a kid, so there's some nostalgia there. The competition here, Hairspray, I saw it back when, thought it was okay. The main reason I would go see it would be for Mario Cantone, but that's not enough to beat out Airport. One Way Passage would be strong contender in most blocks, but sadly not here. That leaves Shadow of a Doubt up against Airport, my toughest call of the whole festival, but Joseph Cotten is going to make me call uncle as Uncle Charlie.

Thursday Early Evening

Late Evening

This block was not much of a choice for me. I like The Wild One. Genevieve might fare better in a different block, and who knows, it might turn up in one of the TBA blocks on Sunday. The thing is I love That Touch of Mink. I love Cary Grant. I love Doris Day. I love 1960s sex comedies where no one has sex. That Touch of Mink wins hands down. 

Thursday Late Evening



The competition in this block is insane. All are ones that I would want to see under normal circumstances. In the upper bracket, my top two are King Kong and Bicycle Thieves, with the latter moving forward, mostly because King Kong was one of the last movies I saw in the theater as a Fathom Events screening right before the lockdown. In the lower bracket, The Wild Bunch in 70 mm is tempting, but Harvey touches my soul in a way that few movies do, and it easily moves forward and handles Bicycle Thieves for the win.

Friday Morning


Another block with very tough competition. I want to see all of them. I'm not going to fuss over the details here. It really comes down to two things, Busby Berkeley and young Joan Blondell. Noting else stood a chance here.

Friday Mid-Day


Under most circumstances, Cool Hand Luke would be the clear winner here, but this block is all about timing for me. The later start of Blood on the Moon hopefully will give me enough time to hit the line early enough to catch a film in the dreaded Multiplex House 4, and the early end I hope will give me the time to catch a quick bite and change clothes before the evening's festivities.

Friday Afternoon

Early Evening

Another tough block for me, in the upper bracket, American Graffiti, my favorite George Lucas movie advances easily. In the lower block, Beach Party would be the clear winner, but as is often the case with poolside movies, it messes up the following block, and I don't think that works for me. The Killers against The Three Musketeers, I'm going with the The Killers to give me more time to get to my next film, and the later start time helps me in the previous block, so The Killers edges American Graffiti. Still, there is a chance that I might skipped this block entirely for a real meal.

Friday Early Evening

Late Evening

In the top bracket, House of Wax is the only serious competition for Ball of Fire, but 3D is a deal-breaker for me, always makes me nauseous. Not a big fan of Ocean's 11, I'm not sure why. I like pretty much everyone in it, just the movie always left me a little flat. I more or less feel the same way about the original. Twelve Angry Men moves forward easily, only to be taken out by a small and wiry Barbara Stanwyck. Also, I'm a bit concerned of getting locked out on Ball of Fire in the small theater, but I think I would have enough time to make it to the Legion Theater and 12 Angry Men as a plan B.

Friday Late Evening


I think I'm just going to make an audible on this one, see what I feel like in the moment and go with whatever feels right.

Friday Midnight



For me, there are two musicals I like a lot better than all the rest. The first is Guys and Dolls, and the second is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  Add to that, Russ Tamblyn in attendance, and there really is no choice here, Seven Bride for Seven Brothers.

Saturday Morning


As 1950s Sci-Fi goes, When Worlds Collide is not very high on my list, but the Academy Conversations that Craig Barron and Ben Burtt do are about as close to a must-see as anything on the TCMFF Schedule. Missing Bless this Mess: Laurel and Hardy shorts is going to cause some heartache, as is missing The African Queen at the Chinese IMAX. I don't know what Craig Barron and Ben Burtt have in store, but I want to be there. Now the question is how do I get there. The window between Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and When Worlds Collide is only a half hour. In years past, we made a window that short from The Egyptian to the Multiplex, but I've never attempted Chinese IMAX to the Legion Theater in that time. I haven't heard whether there is a shuttle to the Legion this year. I didn't take the shuttle last year, but if they have one, and I can manage to step aboard a shuttle right after exiting the Chinese, I'll do that. Otherwise, I'm bringing my skateboard. You may think I'm kidding. I am not. I don't have the leg strength or the lungs to push up the hill to the Legion, but I'm sure I can shave enough time off the walk between the Chinese and the Franklin and Highland intersection to make it worthwhile. Anyone know if there is a side door out of the Chinese? Otherwise, I may be sitting way in the back to get out quickly.

Saturday Mid-Day


Crossing Delancey is just a delightful film. That's all I'm going to say here.

Saturday Afternoon

Okay, I do have one more thing to say. There seems to be a Mexican restaurant right next to the Legion. Anyone want to see how fast we can get them to rustle up some tacos between 1:30 and 2:30?

Early Evening

This is a very weird block for me. I kind of want to see everything, but I don't really want to see any of them with the exception of A Mighty Wind, mostly because Michael McKeon is going to be there. The plan is go back to the hotel, changes clothes, have a real meal, and then get back to then get back to the Roosevelt early enough to get a decent seat for A Mighty Wind. I might even leave early to catch Enter the Dragon.

Saturday Early Evening

Late Evening

This block all depends on what happens at A Mighty Wind. If I stay to the end, I won't make any of the films in the next block. If I decide to leave A Mighty Wind early, I will do Enter the Dragon. I guess it all depends on whether I can get my nunchucks back from the cleaner on time. Otherwise, I might just hang out at the Roosevelt, drink, and decide whether or not I can make it to Xanadu at midnight. Also I am intrigued by the TBA at the Chinese. Possibly, that could change everything.

Saturday Late Evening


Xanadu [spoiler alert]: It's not what most people would consider good. However, I do like the Electric Light Orchestra portion of the soundtrack, and it might be fun, drunk, as a Midnight movie. Like the Friday midnight movie, I think I'm just going to leave this open and see what happens.

Saturday Midnight



Okay, I know the grid makes no sense here, but that's because it's a total tossup among Jason and the Argonauts, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Mister Roberts. I'm going to give a slight edge to Jason and the Argonauts or The Man Who Knew Too Much, because then I wouldn't have to walk up the hill to the Legion Theater. By Sunday, my feet will thank me.

Sunday Morning


On any other day against any other film but Casablanca, The Red Shoes would win here.

Sunday Mid-Day


The tough choice here is between All about Eve and Stand and Deliver. I like All about Eve way better than Stand and Deliver, but Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Luis Reyes. Then The Music Man takes out All about Eve, because I saw All about Eve in the theater a few years ago. The real tough choice will be when they announce the TBAs. Any of the three are fairly likely to blow The Music Man out of the water.

Sunday Afternoon

Early Evening

In this block, I really want to see Lawrence Kasdan, but I would much rather see Body Heat than The Big Chill, so I'm going with A Shot in the Dark, just to be petty. In the lower bracket, Clash of Wolves is something I never thought would go this far, but it takes out A Shot in the Dark, mostly, because it's a silent film with live accompaniment. That said, I think either of the TBAs here stand a good shot here, especially if they give more time to grab a bite and change before the closing night party.

Sunday Evening