Friday, May 31, 2019

TCMFF 2019 - Pre-Festival Wrapup

Tuesday

Much of what happened in the couple of days leading into the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) April 11-14, 2019, I already covered in a previous post here. This post covers other things that happened on Tuesday and Wednesday before the start of the Festival.

As usual, coming up, I took the train. Part of the plan was that my wife and daughter were driving up on Thursday, which meant I could take a small bag on the train, since they could bring the rest of my stuff later. Great in theory, in practice, not so much. The problem was the bag was just too small, so I had to take another small bag that was completely overstuffed. It must have been one that I had used at Comic-Con, because there was an Edgar Allan Poe baseball card in one of the pockets.


Poe was a decent hitter until his writing caught fire


The train ride was nice. The part of the ride going through North San Diego County runs right along the ocean, and you're looking out the window at people surfing for twenty minutes of the trip.


While I was on the train, I was tweeting back and forth with a woman named Tricia, or at least I think that's her name. I reverse engineered it from her Twitter handle. She and her husband we're coming in from Chicago on the train, and they were coming through Union Station, LA, at the same time I was riding up on the train from San Diego. Later, after I checked into my Airbnb, I went to the Roosevelt Hotel, and met a woman named Elizabeth and a couple from Chicago, who had just come in on the train. It didn't dawn on me until much later that the woman in the couple was the same woman I was tweeting with.

Also, on the train, I remember tweeting with Chris from Austin, Texas. He was saying something about coming into Los Angeles, bringing in a couple of keys, which I wasn't sure, but might just be legal at this point. On a related note, the last part of the trip from San Diego is a 20-minute subway ride to Hollywood. On the train next to me, a guy was rolling a doobie, which is legal. Some transit cops talked to the guy, but then left him alone. I assume they just told me he couldn't smoke it on the train, but were okay with the rest.


Lobby of my Airbnb, building used to be home of
Motion Picture Academy
The check-in at the Airbnb was painless, at least once I figured out where the place was. The Airbnb was kind of a cool Hollywood-themed apartment, I told the guy renting it that I was in town for the TCM Film Festival, and he pointed out a piece of art on the wall. It was a framed program from the Oscars award ceremonies in 1958.


Wall decor at my Airbnb
Most of the rest of Tuesday was covered in my previous post, but I do want to talk about one thing, the wind. The wind on the Tuesday and Wednesday before TCMFF was about as strong if I've ever seen wind blow in California, and I've lived here my whole life. It was knocking big chunks of palm trees off onto Hollywood Boulevard. You might think I'm exaggerating, but look at the picture below. All I know is that everybody keeps saying that climate change is a myth. That's good because if climate change were real, we'd be in big big trouble.


Debris on Buster Keaton's star, the wind knew better than
to try covering Buster

Wednesday

Wednesday morning, I ran into one of my few complaints about our Airbnb. The shower seemed to defy putting out water at a reasonable temperature. First, it would be too cold, then too hot. Trying to get it just right involved the degree of precision on the valve that is usually reserved re-entry calculations on a NASA mission.


My favorite piece of swag in my TCM media bag


After a very uneven shower, I went to get coffee and ended up having breakfast with Elizabeth, whom I had met in the Roosevelt lobby the previous day.

In my survival guide posts, I had mentioned a way of getting in and out of the Hollywood Highland Mall while avoiding most of the craziness of Hollywood Boulevard. I decided to do a couple of videos of how that would work:






Sorry for the poor audio quality, The wind was still kinda insane when I did these. In all fairness, I did find out one day that it may not be any faster. A woman left the same theater at the same time as I did and went via Hollywood Boulevard, and we both hit the corner of Hollywood and Highland at the exact same time. I still like my way better because you don't have to duck crazies selling CDs and Party City Spider-Man.


Group photo from the Roosevelt, clockwise from left, Jackie, Kendahl,
Amy, Paula, me, and Laura
I ended up having lunch with Paula and Tracy at 22 Degrees,the 24-hour restaurant at the Roosevelt Hotel. I had a really good hot dog, then again, for 14 bucks it should be.
A lot of Wednesday was spent on the various parties that we're going on, which I'm mostly covered in the previous post. Between the get-togethers, I spend as much time as I could hanging out at the Roosevelt, talking to TCMFF people. I do remember that there was one Tweet but I was especially proud of:

I'm touching Lubitsch, that counts, right? #TCMFF



From left, Jeff, Aurora, Miguel, and Paula, enamored with Miguel's daughter
From left, Steve Denker from TCM, me, Amy, Beth Ann,
Paula, Karen, and Laura


Late in the day, I did have a very basic, i.e., inexpensive dinner at Subway with Jeff. I think we both felt like we were going through too much money too fast. I had a feeling that if I didn't start economizing, I'd be out on Hollywood Boulevard with a Party City superhero outfit, charging tourists five bucks to take my picture.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

TCMFF 2019 – Initial Wrapup

Another TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) is in the can, and boy, are my arms tired. That makes no sense. I must be tired. After TCMFF, I like to get a post out within a week or so of  return home to talk about the top one or two things each day of the Festival. Again, it was a great event, and the folks at TCM outdid themselves.

I do have to admit that coming into TCMFF, I was less enthused about the schedule than I had been in previous years. Was I worried? Not in the slightest. I knew that it was going to be a great event, and the best experiences would come where I least expect them, just as they always do. 



Pre-Festival – Tuesday

This year I came up on Tuesday, a full day earlier than in previous years. Even though, I had only one concrete plan for that extra day, it was well worth coming up early. The concrete plan was Kimberly Truhler's, Fashion in Film presentation, held at the Hollywood Women's Club. There was a bit of confusion about the start time online (the eventbright page said one thing and Kimberly's Facebook event said another). It turns out both were correct. The earlier time was the opening reception/tour of the club and the later time was Kimberly's actual presentation. 

The Hollywood  Women's Club was maybe a ten minute walk from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and about a dozen of us headed out for it about 15 minutes before the start time. The reception included complementary champagne. I'm not a big fan of champagne, but they were serving it with little star-shaped chocolates in the glass. I figured I'd give it a shot. It helped I think, but I was kinda bummed that they never melted. 


Ruth Mundsack playing teacher in Edith Head's classroom; teachers at
the Hollywood School for Girls lived in these tiny classrooms
The tour of the Hollywood Women's Club was led by Rosemary Lord. The site was the former home of the Hollywood School for Girls, where Jean Harlow, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and the children of Cecil B. DeMille and David Selznick’s had attended. In addition, Edith Head and Charles Laughton had taught there. The tour included one of the tiny classrooms, where a young Edith Head lived and taught American Literature and French (I think).


Kimberly Truhler's Fashion in Film presentation; note to self:
next year, try to get one picture of the speaker with her eyes open
Kimberly Truhler's Fashion in Film presentation was entertaining and informative. She tailored it to films shown at the Festival, highlighting key outfits in the films and how they influenced fashion in the decades that followed. Personally, I tend to not pay too much attention to costumes, save how they highlight the people wearing them. But having this info in my head as I watched the films really did enhance the experience, so kudos, Kimberly.

One of my favorite parts was the portion about Gentlemen Prefer Blonds. One of the most famous outfits designed for the film by costume designer, Travilla, and intended for Marilyn Monroe in the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" number. The original dress (left in image below) was the one intended for the number, but was too revealing for censors. As a result, it could only be shown from the back (center below) in a brief scene, where she dances with Piggie, Charles Coburn. Travilla had to come up with a plan B for the Diamonds number in just two days. The result was one of the most iconic dresses in film history, the pink gown (pictured on the right below).





Afterwards, Ana Roland, her friend Richard Rivera, and I made our way to a tiki bar named Lono on Hollywood Blvd, kind of a hole in the wall type of place. If you weren't paying attention, you'd walk right past it. The food was good and the drinks, better, including a flaming monstrosity, called the Curse of Lono. We were later joined by Ariel Schudson and later Ana's friend, Isabella Sanders Miller. 


The dreaded Curse of Lono, actually not  dreaded at all, quite tasty.
this was the second light after I blew it 
out the first time.
Photo: Richard Rivera.


Pre-Festival – Wednesday

Wednesday was all about the get-togethers, official and otherwise. Of course, there was the Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival Facebook page mixer. I only caught the beginning and tail end, because also going on at more or less the same time is the TCM Media Reception, which as much as I like to dish with my Facebook buddies, I was not going to miss a chance to talk to the TCM people in an informal environment.


Left to Right, Me, Theresa Brown, Jeff Lundenberger, and Ariel Schudson
at the Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival Facebook page mixer

FYI, if you are coming in for the Festival, try to come in as early as time and budget allow. A lot of people come in early. Noir City Hollywood usually ends the weekend before TCMFF, so a lot of people come in early for that and then stick around for sight-seeing etc. before the Festival starts. If you are debating between coming in on Wednesday and Thursday, definitely come in on Wednesday, and figure on a good three hours between landing at LAX, picking up your luggage, getting to Hollywood, checking into your hotel, and getting out again. If you want to take advantage of the TCM Classic Film Festival Facebook page mixer, try to get in by about 12 or 1 pm, LA time on Wednesday. It's a great way to touch base with people you know online before all of the craziness starts. 

I did get a chance to hang out at the pool with Jeff Davis and Tracey Fama by the pool before the start of the Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival gathering. It was the one chance I go the whole weekend to play my ukulele.


Jennifer Dorian speaking at the TCMFF Media Reception
Next up was the TCM Media reception. TCM replaced Wednesday afternoon press conference with this reception last year, and I think it's a good way to go. Many of the people attending are bloggers like me, and the informal nature of the event allows different people to cover different aspects of TCMFF, based on the needs of their audience. I spoke to Alicia Malone briefly. I had seen her moderate a panel on the new Missing Link animated feature at WonderCon at the end of March. We spoke about WonderCon and Comic-Con mostly. 

I also spoke to Eddie Muller. I love Noir Alley and the research he puts into the films featured. I asked what his favorite neo noir was. He didn't hesitate and said. Mulholland Drive. I'd seen it in the last year or so, but mostly remember it being weird in that David Lynch sort of way. I think I need to give it another shot. 


Eddie Muller and Me, gotta learn to look at the phone,
not the person holding the phone

I also spent some time chatting with Jennifer Dorian. I was surprised last year that she knew who I was. I asked what she thought about the AT&T deal to buy Time Warner, the parent company for TCM. She said, she felt good about it. The business model of TCM makes it kind of unique among cable networks, so she's not worried about their ability to continue to do what they do, great news for TCM fans everywhere.


Bitter sweet moment at the Social Media Mixer.
Jeff Davis (background in blue) makes a toast to
Andrea Rosen.
In the early evening, TCM hosted a social media mixer at Teddy's in the Hollywood Roosevelt. It as a mix of media people plus a lot of the folks who are very very active on the various social media. All told, it's probably my favorite event of the Festival each year as you have a chance to mingle, while you still have the energy to do so. The event did take on something of a somber tone as we had a toast to Andrea Rosen (@AndWhatRosen on Twitter), who had passed away in February. She and her husband Richard had been kind of an institution at TCMFF. Jeff Davis made a very touching toast to her. It was nice to hoist one (or three or four) to her memory. It helped take the sting out of not seeing her and Richard's smiling faces in the bar after that last screening.

Afterwards a group of us adjourned to Boardner's, where unlike the Hollywood Roosevelt, the drinks do not cost an arm and a leg. I was already well on the way to being too drunk, so I vowed to limit myself to one beer. There were about ten of us and we end up in two non-adjacent booths. Boardner's is a decent place that has drinks that run about half of what they cost at the Roosevelt. They had some movie from the 80s playing on the video screens. It was set in a gym, which allowed them to have boob-heavy shower scenes about every two minutes. We got some drinks. Near our booth on a shelf were a number of card and board games. Guy Priley, Jessica Pickens and her boyfriend Brandon, Jackie Brady, Kristen Sales, and I ended up playing Cards Against Humanity, I think Kristen and I were the only ones, who had ever played before. Jackie won. I would never have imagined I would be in a bar playing Cards Against Humanity the night before the start of TCMFF, but it was a nice way to end the evening.

Now, I know what you're thinking. There seems to be a lot of drinking before the Festival. What is this, some sort of Lost Weekend? Of course not. Did I pawn my typewriter for booze? Of course not. I don't even own a typewriter. 


Day 1 – Thursday

Though the first official day of TCMFF, it is something of a slow day. mostly I spent the day, trying to find classic related things to tweet about:



Now, there is a reason I'm showing the above tweet. Every year, at TCMFF, I try to do some sort of swag. I'm not the only one. Lots of people do this sort of thing, but the vast majority of people doing swag at TCMFF do buttons. I wanted to do something different, so this year I did temporary tattoos. The temporary tattoos led to one of my favorite stories of the Festival.

There is an older woman, Virginia Houghton, I talked to on the Going to TCM Film Festival Facebook group in the weeks leading into TCMFF. Last year had been her first time, and she seemed to still be confused about how things worked at the Festival, especially the weird kind of unofficial things that go on, like people giving out buttons and that sort of thing. Looking at her picture on Facebook, she looked like the perfect Grandma. She asked a lot of questions, and I tried to be patient and answer her questions as best I could. Though she had been to TCMFF last year, both the Festival and Facebook seemed very new to her. 

I only told a handful of people about the temporary tattoos beforehand. I wanted it to be a surprise, when I got there. Thursday morning in the lobby of the Roosevelt, I saw Virginia. We recognized each other from our Facebook photos. I reminded her that I didn't have any buttons but I had these. I handed her one of my temporary tattoos, showed her the one on my arm, and explained how they worked and that there were instructions on the back. That's when I got a surprise myself.

This woman who looked like the perfect grandma said, "I have a tattoo." She then showed me this very fine black line in the crook of her hand between her thumb and forefinger. She said that she did it herself with a needle and india ink. "All of the good-looking bad boys in the neighborhood had these crucifix tattoos on their hands there," she explained. She and a girlfriend tried to give themselves tattoos to impress them, but it hurt too much so she only got the one line done.  When I sent her a message on Facebook to ask if I could share this story, she said I could and that the the bad boys were called Pachucos, a name for Mexican-American gang members in the 1950s. 

That's one of the most hardcore things I've heard in my life. This woman who looks like the perfect grandmother was giving herself a home-made tattoo to impress the bad boys in the neighborhood. I wonder if her kids/grandkids know.


#####


Human chandelier from Gentlemen Prefer Blonds
The other big highlight Thursday was something I was never expecting, a screening I was looking forward to but turned out way way better that I ever would have imagined. Gentlemen Prefer Blonds is a film I've seen about a dozen times. I always found it a fun, entertaining musical, but that said. I never thought it was anywhere near as good as some of the other musicals of the era, like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singing in the Rain, or a personal favorite of mine, Guys and Dolls.

In comparison, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds seemed kind of average. But seeing it at TCMFF on that huge beautiful screen with an audience that was so into it, it was just incredible. The comic bits were funny. Marilyn Monroe was so sexy. The costumes and production design were brilliant. The musical numbers were great and the colors gorgeous. Finally, the "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love" number with Jane Russell singing to the men's Olympic team doing calisthenics gives the Top Gun volleyball scene a run for its money for being the gayest thing ever put on film. It's just weird that this film that was barely on my radar for TCMFF turned out to be my favorite screening of the Festival. 


Heterosexuality running rampant in Gentlemen Prefer Blonds

Day 2 – Friday

Interior of the Legion Theater, beautiful venue
The first highlight of Friday was more about the venue than what was on the screen. While the What's Not to Love About Republic Serials special presentation was great, as the special presentations always are at TCMFF, it was more about trying to make it to the newly added Legion Theater. Unlike the opulent glitz and glamour of the Chinese Theater and the Egyptian, the Legion Theater has more of a cathedral feel. The wood arches are just gorgeous, and downstairs is a super cool Art Deco bar. It's a bit more of a hike to get to than the Egyptian, but well worth the trip. 

Good job, TCM, for securing such an awesome venue. I hope you can bring it back next year.


The Sturhann Tribe in the Legion Post 43 Art Deco bar
#####

My next highlight of Friday, was an added surprise that I was totally unaware of. Though it was listed in the schedule in the write-up for Road House, I hadn't read it:

This film will be preceded by the Bill Morrison short film, Light Is Calling ( 8 min, 35 mm, 2004).

I had no idea. In his introduction to the film, Bill Morrison said he was given access to the severely degraded nitrate print of the 1926 silent film The Bells from the Library of Congress film archive. They considered the print too far gone to even attempt restoration. But he said, when he examined the print, it came off the reel cleanly, not all stuck together, as is usually the case with a film this severely damaged, like the film wanted to be shown.

The patterns of the degradation of the nitrate are mesmerizing and emerging from the chemical chaos are haunting bits of the original film, at times distorted at other times crystal clear. According to my daughter Jasmine, it was like a Goth music video. As usual, she hit the nail on the head. Since the film is available online, I won't say anymore, other than I'm so grateful I got to see it on the big screen. Enjoy. 



After Light is Calling, Road House was good, but after four other films that day, I was struggling to stay away through it. That makes it all the more surprising that I was more or less wide awake for the midnight movie, Santo vs. the Evil Brain. Santo was a perfect choice for a midnight movie, camp, funny, but also good in its own way, though it did seem to have a strange obsession with driving scenes. I think if they got rid of all of the driving scenes, about a third of the film would have gone away. Maybe, they spent a lot of money renting the car and felt obligated to use all of it.

A treat to go along with the film, both figuratively and literally, Film Geeks San Diego (Beth Accomando and Miguel Rodrigues) came through again with fun and tasty treats for the midnight movies. This time they had Santo masks and cookies, as well as home-made candy. That package on the candy was perfect. It looked like it came straight out of a Tijuana mom and pop grocery store.


Santo! Courtesy of Film Geeks San Diego


Day 3 – Saturday

One of the rarities showing at TCMFF this year was a little War-time comedy called, All Through the Night. Humphrey Bogart plays a gangster/gambler who stumbles on a Nazi plot after the baker of his favorite cheesecake is murdered. Yes, that's the real plot. I know I had seen it on TCM once before, but coming into the Festival, I could only remember that it was funny. And boy was I right. It was great.

Though not really a flop (made a decent amount of money when released), it wasn't exactly a hit either. Filmed in 1941 before Pearl Harbor, when poking fun at Nazis seemed like a great idea, but released after Pearl Harbor, the jokes didn't seem quite as funny to a country going to war. Still, it is funny, hilarious, in fact. Bogart is at his best when he's giving the Germans the business, and it's every bit as true in All Through the Night as it is in Casablanca. It also has a great supporting cast, Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre as the Nazi leaders. and Frank McHugh, William Demerest, Wallace Ford, and Edward Brophy, as well as early appearances, by Jackie Gleason and Phil Silvers as Bogart's hoodlum cohorts.


#####

The other big highlight Saturday was the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell interview before the Escape from New York screening. The pair have a great rapport, so it was cool to hear them reminisce about the film. When asked if there would ever be another sequel, Kurt Russell joked that it would be more like Escape from the Geriatric Ward. John Carpenter on the other hand refused to say there wouldn't be another sequel. Me, I love the idea of Escape from the Geriatric Ward. Could you imagine Snake Plissken in an old folks home, cataracts in his one good eye, maybe recovering from a stroke, coming out to kick ass on some young whippersnappers. How great a movie would that be?

They also spoke about the big fight with Ox Baker.  Carpenter remembers having a tough time getting through to the ex-professional wrestler that the fight was just pretend. Kurt Russell remembers more like he was fighting for his life when they were filming. Going into the screening, I thought, oh I have to look for that.  I do remember them getting ready to fight and then fell asleep and woke up after the fight was over, damn.



Day 4 – Sunday

The big highlight on Sunday was the Frank Darabont interview before The Shawshank Redemption. I know a lot of people consider The Shawskank Redemption is not old enough to be a classic. I am not one of them, by the way. Also, even if it's not. it's still a great movie. In fact, I would put it as my second favorite movie of all time, right behind Casablanca. My daughter Jasmine and I sat with Michelle Conte, who had never seen the film. She loved it.

I have seen Shawshank in the theater before, and normally that would be enough to skip it over other options at TCMFF, but hearing the director, Frank Darabont speak before the film, that sold me. I won't spend a lot time talking about what was discussed in the video, since I got all but about 10 seconds of it in the two videos below. The one thing I did want to mention is that they considered both Robert Duvall and Gene Hackman for the part of Red. In the Stephen King novella, Red was Irish. Coming to The Shawshank Redemption from the standpoint of the film and not the novella, I can't imagine anyone but Morgan Freeman in the role. Sure I think either Robert Duvall or Gene Hackman could have been fine. Both are great actors, but for me, the humility and humanity that Morgan Freeman brings to the film is absolutely perfect. 

Conventional logic in Hollywood is that you can't have a person of color playing a part written for a person of European descent. Sadly, it tends to not work the other way around. I think film-makers need to reexamine this logic and decide whether the ethnicity of the characters is important to the story. Obviously, with The Shawshank Redemption, they did just that, and it works brilliantly. 

The Frank Darabont interview is captured in the following videos:






#####


As always, the other big highlight for me on Sunday was the closing party. I always have a great time interacting with the people I have so much in common with. My only complaint is that and the party is too short, and there are too few opportunities to do this at the Festival. I love hanging out with #MyTribe. It's absolutely one of the best things about TCMFF, the coming together of people who love classic film. 


There were a couple of things that were special this year. They had people going around with Polaroid cameras taking pictures of people at party, not the best quality images very cool and a fun idea all the same.



They also did a champagne toast with commemorative glasses They even gave a glass to Jasmine. Shhh, don't tell anybody. She's only 19. She took one sip for the sake of the toast and then poured the rest in our glasses. I don't know what we did right as parents but neither of our kids have any interest in drinking or drugs. Just seems strange to me.

I did take quite a few pictures that night. I'll post more of them later when I do my full Sunday writeup. I'm going to post these two. mostly because I thought the cosplay was fun.


Scarlett O'Hara curtain dress cosplay, what a fun idea.


She said because she was Miss Scarlett, she had to do something
naughty. What  happens at TCMFF stays at TCMFF.

Stay tuned for my full write-ups of each day of another Great TCMFF, coming soon to a Blog near you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

TCMFF Survival Guide Part 3, Preserving Your Sanity

This will be my sixth year attending the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), held April 11 to 14, 2019. In addition, I have been going to Comic-Con International and other fan conventions for decades, so I know what it’s like to spend four or five days in a strange city living out of a hotel room and running around from the time you get up in the morning until the time you collapse in your room late at night. 

This is, I think, the fifth version of this guide I've done. I've tried to refine things over the years. This year, I've decide to split this post up into three parts:
  • Part 1 (posted here) covers the nuts and bolts of how TCMFF works. 
  • Part 2 (posted here) covers making the most of your experience and will also contain links to other similar posts past and present. I will do my best to update with new links as I find them. 
  • Part 3 (this part) covers preserving your sanity in the craziness of TCMFF, I hope.

Food

This section covers trying to get some sustenance during TCMFF. I know you’re going to be running around trying not to miss anything, but seriously, try to eat something besides movie theater popcorn and Red Vines over the four days.

There are a ton of restaurants in the immediate area, both fast food and regular sit-down restaurants, but bear in mind that the transition times between screenings can be relatively short, so don’t count on being able to get a regular meal. If you’re a coffee drinker like me, you might want to pick up something like a sandwich or a bagel and a piece of fruit with your latte that you can put in your bag and eat on the go later. For things like snacks, there is a CVS Drug Store a block west of the TCL Chinese/Hollywood Roosevelt on the north side of the street, though by Sunday, it usually looks like Cindy Lou Who's house after the Grinch had visited, nothing but hooks and wires.

If you have special dietary needs, there aren’t many good close options for groceries near TCMFF. Your best bets are:

If you need to run to a store, Ralphs on La Brea
takes you past former home of Chaplin Studios

  • Ralphs (7257 Sunset Blvd). Full service grocery store, should have a deli and salad bar and open 24 hours. About 8 blocks away, but not in the direction of any of the other TCMFF venues, dammit.
  • Ralphs (1233 N La Brea Ave). Full service grocery store, should have a deli and salad bar and open 5 am to 2 am. Again about 8 blocks away, but on the map it looks marginally further than the Ralphs on Sunset. Also, it too is not in the general direction of any of the other TCMFF venues. Possibly, this might be worth the extra walk as it takes you past Jim Henson Co. (historic former home of Charlie Chaplin Studios).
  • Trader Joe's (1600 Vine St). About 12 blocks away and open 8 am to 10 pm.


Other food tips: 
Breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Yeah, I know I sound like your mother, but if you skip breakfast, you’re already off to a bad start. Me, I’ve never been real big on the granola bars, but if you like them, and they work for you, pick up a box and take with you. Bring a couple extra. You might find yourself in line with someone who’s totally famished. A 75-cent breakfast bar could earn you a friend for life.

If you get to a screening too late and get shut out or have a block where you're not psyched on anything, take advantage of it. Go get a real meal, where it’s hot and they bring it to you on a real plate. It might be the only one you get over the four days. Actually, last year, my daughter and I ended up taking a break most days and getting one good meal at the expense of a screening. It was kinda worth it.

Hungry late? A good bet is In ‘N Out Burger, a Southern California Burger chain. They are located at 7009 Sunset Blvd., corner of Sunset and North Orange Dr., three blocks south of the Hollywood Roosevelt. They have a really simple menu, but have a secret menu that is probably the worst kept secret ever. My favorite is protein style burger, no bun wrapped in big leaves of lettuce so you can eat like a normal burger, great if you’re doing the low-carb thing. They are open until 1 am, Sunday to Thursday and 1:30 am, Friday and Saturday.

Water – You should try to do some of that too.

Drink

We all like to think we can hold our liquor like Nick and Nora, but realistically no one can. I know you’re on vacation and want to have a good time, but keep in mind, you’re probably going to want to be up early the next morning for whatever screening. If you do overdo, take some aspirin and force yourself to drink some water before you collapse in bed. It won’t prevent the inevitable hangover, but it might take the edge off a little bit. 

I'm sure if you asked, the good folks at TCM would say don't bring your own alcohol to TCMFF, but they do usually have a flask for sale in the gift shop and on the web site, so I'm going to call that mixed signals and act accordingly. Just don't abuse it.

FYI, drinks in the Hollywood Roosevelt are crazy expensive. There are several bars in the Hollywood Roosevelt. It seemed to me the drinks were better in the Library Bar and the Spare Room on the mezzanine, than in the lobby and pool bars. If you going to pay a fortune for a drink, you might as well get one made with fresh ingredients by a mixologists who know what they're doing. That said, I'm not sure the Library Bar is still open. The website doesn't seem to list it, though there is a new bar, Teddy's, which I assume is taking its place. Looking at the menu, Teddy's might be your best bet getting a good drink, and they do bottle service, so if you're in the mood to pay $400 for a bottle of Maker's Mark, they'd be happy to oblige you. 

In the past, they have had complementary beer and wine in Club TCM in the evenings. Not sure about this year. If it happens, score. Of course, the problem for me is that Club TCM closes at midnight, and most of the time I don't make it back from the last screening before it closes. 

 TCM with a Twist did a great post on Hollywood bars, must reading if you imbibe.

Weather

I can guarantee you that it will not snow. Beyond that, all bets are off. Personally, I like to check the 10-day forecast about a week out. That should give you a ballpark idea of what to plan for. Then check the forecast again, a couple of days before you leave and make any necessary adjustments. I’ve lived in San Diego my whole life, and we have weather pretty comparable to L.A./Hollywood. Generally speaking, weather in Southern California is pretty mild in the Spring. It might get a little chilly in the evenings, but most of the time a light jacket or sweater is good enough. Having said all of that, what you mostly need to worry about is two rather obnoxious extremes:

  • Extreme heat – While not common in April, temperatures in the 90s do happen in the Spring, and bear in mind that you might be standing in line in the sun during the hottest part of the day. I honestly don’t remember standing in the sun last year, but I know that at the Egyptian, they run the lines in the courtyard in front of the theater, so if you’re there in the middle of the day, you’re going to be in the sun. Even if we get mild weather, sunscreen is highly recommended and maybe even a hat. If you don’t have room to pack a hat, consider buying a cheap one when you get here and just toss it at the end of the trip.
  • Rain – The song says, it never rains in Southern California, but people always forget that the end of the verse is, it pours, man it pours. Very very true, both literally and figuratively. Hollywood doesn’t get a lot of rain, but there are times, when it comes down in buckets. This year in San Diego, we've had more rain than we've had in years. I'm hoping we're done for the year, but don't bet on it. Because we don’t get a lot of rain out here, we tend to hopelessly ill-prepared for it. Streets flood. Hotel lobbies flood. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but it could. That’s where your forecast will help. If you’re coming from a different part of the country, you’re probably already way better prepared than we are here. Even if the forecast doesn’t call for rain, if you have an umbrella that packs easy, bring it. You're not going to be able find one easy walking distance from the Festival, especially if it's raining. One of my TCMFF cronies, Deborah Leigh, an L.A. local recommends an umbrella, rain or shine, to keep the sun off. Good call.

Clothing

This section covers what to wear. By and large, Southern California is pretty casual. You often see people in nice restaurants looking like they just stepped off the beach. If you’re attending the opening night Red Carpet screening of When Harry Met Sally, a suit for men and cocktail dress for women is recommended, although a tux or formal gown wouldn’t be out of place either. 

For the rest of the Festival, some people dress up and some people dress down. 

Me, I do a little of both, shorts and a t-shirt during the day and something dressy at night. I even managed to procure a white dinner jacket a couple of years ago. God, I hope it still fits. I plan to wear it Thursday night, even though I'm not going to the Red Carpet. If you want to dress like a cowboy for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, go for it. People would dig it.

All things considered, most everything is pretty centrally located, but you will do a fair amount of walking and standing. I can pretty much guarantee that at some point you're going to feel like you’re bouncing back and forth like a pinball. If you have new shoes that kind of hurt your feet and you think it will get better, it won’t. If you're dead set on wearing them, at least consider changing into them late in the day. Remember what happened to Moira Shearer when she put on The Red Shoes. I'm not saying the wrong shoes are going to make you jump off a balcony in front of a train, but they might make you feel like you want to. 

If you have one pair of shoes that are really really comfortable, bring ‘em, even if the make you look like you like your Great Aunt Matilda. My friend Kellee Pratt mentioned that the AC in the theaters can be pretty aggressive, especially at the Egyptian. If you get cold easily, she recommends one of those roll-up fleece blankets that can be purchased at the airport and fit into your bag.

Though this has nothing to do with clothes, Barry Wright on the Going to the Tcm Classic Film Fistival! group suggested bringing a cushion as the seats in the multiplex are not the greatest.

Gadgets

Think about the electronics you’re bringing. Are you going to be posting on Facebook to make the friends back home jealous? If so, how well does your battery do? If it barely makes it through the day, sitting in your pocket you might want to consider getting one of those portable batteries to recharge during the day. It might not be a bad idea anyway. Sometimes when you’re in a strange city, your phone will die just by virtue of having poor coverage and constantly trying to find a signal.

In years past, there were charging stations in the lobby of the TCL Chinese 6 and in Club TCM. Presumably there will be something similar this year. 

Think about what devices you need. Did you promise your boss that you’d check e-mail? Are you planning to blog during the festival. Can you get by doing that on your phone or do you need a tablet or laptop? You're not going to have as much time as you think you will.

If you’re counting on the hotel having Wi-Fi, it might be worth finding out whether that’s in your room (and what they charge) or only in the lobby. Look at your broadband usage and if you think it might be an issue, possibly see if you can get more from your provider for just the trip. We tend to burn through all of our data at TCMFF. That in itself was not a huge deal, but I find the constant barrage of text messages from Verizon telling me about it annoying.

You’ll definitely want to have a camera. Think hard about how good the camera on your phone is. Cameras on smartphones keep getting better and better, but many still do not do real well at a distance or in low light. Obviously, you’re not going to be taking pictures in a darkened theater, but you might want to get a shot of whoever is introducing the film and movie theater house lights tend to be less than optimum for photography. You might be better off with a point and shoot or digital SLR camera. Then again, if all you're planning to do is post some pics on Facebook, your phone camera might be good enough.

Make sure you take the time to free up space on your device's storage or look into cloud storage if you haven't already. The last thing you want is to find yourself standing next to Ben Mankiewicz and realize you have to figure out which pictures from your cousin’s wedding you can live without. The mistake I made a couple of years ago was to wait until late the night before we left to empty out my camera and phone. I start moving the files and saw, About 45 minutes remaining.... Aw, man, I need to go to bed.

Obviously, all these gadgets will need to be charged, so don’t forget to pack the appropriate chargers. You might be able to find a charger for your iPhone or Android but probably not for your camera.

Avoid Changing Routine

This is something I didn't really think about until a couple years ago. If you are a big breakfast-is-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day person, don't skip breakfast every day at TCMFF. I normally drink coffee during the day until about 5 or 6 pm.Then at TCMFF, I would have a cup in the morning and not have time for any the rest of the day and wonder why I was falling asleep on the late screenings. Now I make sure to stay properly caffeinated. The key here is staying properly caffeinated. Going back to your hotel, wired on a double latte, and staring at the ceiling until four in the morning is not a lot better than falling asleep at 5 or 6:00 because you didn't have enough.

Julia Castien, the president of the newly formed San Diego Backlot chapter came up with a great tip. She normally drinks tea for caffeine, but didn't want to have to use the restroom all the time. Turns out they make Caffeinated Jelly Beans. Brilliant. I'm sure you can order them on Amazon, might be hit or miss at brick and mortar stores.
That's right, Caffeinated Jelly Beans

There may be certain things that you can't avoid. Say you normally go to bed at 9:00, and you know you're going to be staying up later. Try to compensate by forcing yourself to stay awake later in the week or so before the Festival. If you do need to make changes, try to not go overboard. It's really easy to swing too far the other direction.

Con Crud

People who go to a lot of conventions can attest that they can be a great place to get sick. You travel across the country, don't get much sleep, don't eat right, and spend lots of time in close quarters with hundreds if not thousands of strangers. It's like living in a Petri dish for several days. It's one thing if you get sick after you get home, but getting sick in the middle of TCMFF would suck, and not in a good way. I like to take Airborne, Emergen C, or something similar the morning I leave and each day while I’m there. Does it guarantee that you won’t get sick? No, but it doesn’t hurt.   

####

Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful.

Monday, March 25, 2019

TCMFF Madness, Baby – 2019

Tuesday, the schedule dropped for the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) April 11–14, 2019. If memory serves me this is a couple days earlier than last year, which was a couple of days earlier than the previous years. Yea, TCM.

As usual, I'll be doing my picks in NCAA tournament format brackets. Once again, I will be attending with my 19-year-old daughter, Jasmine. Generally, I tend to pick things I think we will both like. On occasion, I run into spots when there are films that she might like better and let her overrule me or we may decide to go our separate ways. For the most part, I limit it to the film screenings.It takes a lot to get me out of a darkened theater. In addition, this year my wife, Mary, will be attending with us (her second TCMFF after attending once in 2016).

I also include links to anyone else's picks I run into in the coming weeks at the end of this post. There are a couple of blocks that are pretty torturous. One of the biggest issues this year, at least at a glance, will be getting to the new Legion Theater venue. I just don't have any must-sees there, so I had to figure out how to get there at least once over the Festival. Well, without any further ado, I give you this year's picks.


Thursday, Early Eve

First off, this block is like a couple of others, where if you choose certain of the films, there is no way you could catch anything in the next block. This always a tough sell at TCMFF. Fortunately, I'm not a huge fan of either Sergeant York or Ocean's 11My Media Pass is effectively the same as my wife and daughter's Classic passes, That means When Harry Met Sally is off the table too. It might not have made the cut anyway, though realistically, if I had a chance to see Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, and Meg Ryan appear with a film this good, I would probably have what she's having and go.

This means Gentlemen Prefer Blonds moves forward in the first round. That leaves Dark Passage up against a scrappy little Pre-Code I've never seen, Night World. At a glance, even with Dark Passage not being either Bogie and Bacall's finest hours, it seems a shoe in over Night World. Then reading up on Night World, it sounds awesome. You have Boris Karloff in a non-monster role with his daughter, Sara, introducing the film. It's Pre-Code, so that's points in its favor. Throw in Hedda Hopper killing someone and a Busby Berkeley dance routine, and Night World takes down Dark Passage.

We have Gentlemen Prefer Blonds vs Night World. Night World has the added advantage of being short, so you might be able to get some real dinner. Then again, food is less of an issue on Thursday, and I just can't bring myself to pass up Gentlemen Prefer Blonds.




Thursday, Late Eve

Mogambo has never been a huge favorite, so that just leaves The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer up against The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg sounds very good, and I've never seen it before. Yeah, I know I probably should have. Still, The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer is Cary Grant and Myrna Loy in what I'd call their best pairing together, and it's in Nitrate. Actually, I've only seen one film in nitrate, Laura, at the 2017 TCMFF. To be honest, the earth didn't move for me over Nitrate. Maybe, it will this time, and I'll become a Nitrate convert. Whatever the case, we're going to The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.





Friday, Morning

In this block, I'm going to throw out The Clock and High Society right away. The Clock is a cute little movie, but doesn't do a whole lot for me. The music in High Society is great, especially Louie Armstrong and the Bing Crosby-Frank Sinatra duet, "Did You Evah," but it suffers from what a lot of the 1950s musical remakes suffer from. You have a remake, that is not nearly as good as the original, because aspects of the original film were gutted to make room for songs. I'm also going to knock out, Cinerama's Russian Adventure. The film would take up two blocks, and I can't see doing that. 

That leaves the film noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice vs the Pre-Code Merrily We Go to Hell, the title alone is almost enough to give it the edge. Still, The Postman Always Rings Twice is Lana Turner. Going to have to go with The Postman Always Rings Twice.





Friday, Mid-Day

This block doesn't do a lot for me. Out of Africa is a decent movie, but it came out the same year as The Color Purple. At the Oscars that year, both Out of Africa and The Color Purple were nominated for for 11 awards. Out of Africa won seven. The Color Purple, zip. Still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, because I thought The Color Purple was a much better movie. Love in the Afternoon, I just think Gary Cooper is too old for Audrey Hepburn, so I'm not a fan. That leaves Sleeping Beauty and the Republic Serials Special Presentation. Normally, a Disney feature on the big screen would be too good to pass up, but looking at the schedule as a whole, this might be our only shot at getting to the Legion Theater, so Republic Serials takes it.





Friday, Afternoon

This block all comes down Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans and My Favorite Wife. Yes, I love Raiders, but we saw it at TCMFF in 2015. Plus, it is not a film that is particularly hard to find in the theater, even in a place like San Diego. I really love Woody Allen's early films. the later ones, not so much. A Patch of Blue is good, but not good enough for this competition. When it comes down to it, My Favorite Wife is just too good to pass up. Of course, my big concern here is that this leaves me without seeing a silent movie this year. I like to see at least one.  You never know, I might jump ship at the last minute and go for Sunrise.





Friday, Early Eve

I'm thinking I will catch Steel Magnolias in May as a Fathom Event. Escape from Alcatraz is good, but there are a lot of Clint Eastwood movies from that era that I'd rather see. Not a fan of either June Allyson or The Opposite Sex. It just makes me want to watch The Women. Sadly, every time I try to watch something with subtitles at TCMFF, I find myself dozing off every two minutes and jerking myself awake, wondering what I missed, so I'm going to cross off Day for Night, too.  If it wasn't for 70 mm, I wouldn't even consider The Sound of Music. Still, Open Secret sounds too good to pass up, though we're fairly ambivalent about Vanity Street. It's looking like the plan will be, skip Vanity Street, get some real food and then on to Open Secret.





Friday, Late Eve

Not much of a contest here, Road House all the way.





Friday, Midnight

For midnight movies, we usually do one and not the other. Santo vs the Evil Brain sounds like a hoot, perfect midnight movie fodder.




Saturday, Morning

From Here to Eternity is a great film, but not one I feel like I couldn't miss. I do love Myrna Loy and William Powell (Double Wedding). I'm sure I've seen Double Wedding, but it must not have had much of an impact, as I barely remember it. You don't get a lot of Sci-Fi at TCMFF, so When Worlds Collide moves forward. The Little Colonel was cute, but I seem to remember, All Through the Night being hysterical. Plus, at this point, I'm kind of looking forward to seeing Nazis get the short end of the stick, so All Through the Night goes on for the win.





Saturday, Mid-Day

I seem to Sleepless in Seattle as a formulaic chick flick that came out trying to capitalize on the success better formulaic chick flicks, like When Harry Met Sally and Pretty Woman. A Woman Under the Influence sounds good, especially with Gena Rowlands in attendance, but I really wanted to see Tarzan and His Mate on the big screen. That said, looking at the schedule the first time, Kind Hearts and Coronets wasn't even on my radar. It's one of those films that has been on my classic film bucket list forever, but I really hadn't planned on it. Then going through the schedule with my wife and daughter, it just sounded better than anything else in this block. There you go.





Saturday, Afternoon

I'm not a huge Western fan, so the Tom Mix silent double feature is not going to stand up against the competition here. Love Affair is one of these melodramas that just doesn't work for me. A Raisin in the Sun is good, but I can't pick it over, Father Goose. But Working Girl is such a good movie with a great cast, most of whom are still alive. It boogles my mind that they couldn't get one of the principals to appear. It boggles my mind even more that we're picking if over Father Goose, but I just know it's the right call. Also, I just noticed that Working Girl is in the Chinese IMAX. I can't imagine TCM putting it in the biggest theater, unless they had some surprise guests up their sleeve.





Saturday, Early Eve

Saturday night is the absolute worst, and by absolute worst, I mean the toughest block to pick among. Not the early evening block, but the one that follows this one. The problem is the way The Bad Seed is placed. It straddles this block and the next and makes it virtually impossible to catch anything else before or after it. Normally, The Bad Seed would be one of my top picks for the whole festival, but sadly, I just can't bring myself to sacrifice the next block for it. 

That said, we have, Nashville. I saw it recently and was not all that impressed, but it does have Jeff Goldblum appearing. Now, my daughter Jasmine wasn't even sure who Jeff Goldblum was until I explained, "Umm, he's the smart guy in Jurassic Park, and the smart guy in Independence Day,...." You seeing the trend here? Well, she still wanted to see his picture. I pulled up a picture. 

"Oh, him," she said. "I love him." 

Now, my wife Mary needed no explanation. She loves Jeff Goldblum, has had a crush on him for years. I can't stress the word love enough. Now, as a husband, I feel it is my duty to go and make sure my wife does not rip off all of her clothes and throw herself on him.... And ultimately get arrested. The thing is I don't think we want to watch the movie. At this point, the plan is to allow Jeff Goldblum's very presence have it's way with my wife nether regions, and then sneak out and go have dinner. Don't judge, that's just the way our marriage works.




Saturday, Late Eve

Even without The Bad Seed, this block is killing me. Honestly, I could care less about Star Wars. Wasn't particularly impressed at 14 when I saw it on its first run, and even less impressed now that George Lucas has made several iterations of changes that make it a worse movie. Samson and Delilah in Nitrate with Victor Mature's daughter Victoria introducing would be awesome. Victoria is a friend and a San Diegan. I feel like I should be there to represent.  

Indiscreet is one of those movies that I should have seen by now, but I haven't, and sadly, this is not the time. Waterloo Bridge is a good movie too. The fact is, the choice here is not Samson and Delilah vs Escape From New York, but Escape From New York vs The Bad Seed. Here, I'm going to let celebrity sway me. John Carpenter and Kurt Russell and Escape from New York, it is. I hope Victoria forgives me.






Saturday, Midnight

I'm guessing that no one is going to have the energy for a second Midnight movie. Jasmine, I'm sure, will turn in. Mary and I will likely have some drinks.



Sunday, Morning

Normally, going through the schedule involves explaining to my daughter, Jasmine, what most of the movies are about. At this point, Jasmine let me know in no uncertain terms that she was well aware of what Hello Dolly was about. Her grandmother used to watch it all the time. That's her choice. The schedule doesn't say who is introducing, Hello Dolly. If there is any poetic justice in the world it, would be Alex Trebec, because that is her final answer. 

For Mary and I, the final answer is Holiday. Let's move on. 





Sunday, Mid-Day

The Shawshank Redemption is in my top 5 movies of all time and with director, Frank Darabont to introduce it, this is my pick. Jasmine is going along with that. Mary on the other hand really wants to see The Killers with Angie Dickinson, so she will likely take a nap in this block and then go to The Killers.

In theory, there might be the perfect TBA here to make me skip, Shawshank, but that's mostly because it would also give me a chance to see either The Killers or Marty in the next block. 




Sunday, Afternoon

As mentioned previously, this block if all goes to plan will Jasmine and I still in Shawshank, while my wife goes to The Killers.





Sunday, Eve

For Mary and I, the only choice here is The Godfather: Part II. I have never seen it in the theater. Honestly, the right TBAs here might lure me away. Jasmine on the other hand loves Abbott and Costello, so she's going with Buck Privates, preceded by A Woman of Affairs. I don't know whether the timing will work on this. It's a half hour between the two and with Buck Privates at the Legion Theater I don't know if that is enough time. Still, a good TBA might help here. That one, Jasmine is probably going to play by ear for now.



As usual, I'm providing links to other people's picks. This is what I've found so far. I'll try to update more as I go along.

Other People's Picks