Monday, June 15, 2020

Hitchcockian Blogathon - Celebrating the Greatest Films Hitchcock Never Made

Call for Entries


The Hitchcockian Blogathon focuses on the greatest films that Alfred Hitchcock never made. So what is Hitchcockian? Simply put, movies reminiscent of the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Prime examples in no particular order would include:

  • Charade
  • Cape Fear (either version)
  • Wait Until Dark 
  • Blow Up
  • Play Misty For Me
  • Body Double
  • Fatal Attraction
  • Basic Instinct
  • Match Point
There are no restrictions on era and genre, though if you're going to shoot for My Little Pony: The Movie, you better really sell it. Still, I would love to see someone do, The Wrong Trousers. I'm going stake my claim on a Whoopi Goldberg comedy, Jumping Jack Flash, and I might just do The Wrong Trousers as well if no one else does.

I'm going to allow duplicates, but not triplicates (two posts on the same film, but not three). 
If you're interested in joining in, post a comment on this page with your name, the name of the film you want to do, and of course the name and url of your blog. in terms of duplicates and triplicates, first comment first served.

The Hitchcockian Blogathon comes to near you on August 13 (Hitchcock's birthday, falls on a Thursday this year) and continues through the weekend to August 16.

When posting, please use the graphic above with a link back to this page. And I will add links to individual posts from here. 

Schedule so far:

Saturday, April 11, 2020

TCMFF Social Distancing Madness


As we all know, the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) had to cancel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Naturally, this is a huge disappointment. We're all going to miss seeing all our film cronies and hanging out and spending the better part of week geeking out about old movies.
TCM in grand style has decided to respond with a virtual Festival featuring a special weekend of programming films from previous Turner Classic Film Festivals, TCMFF Special Home Edition. Plus, many in the TCMFF community gave responded with virtual events to take the place of some of the social interactions we'll be missing by not being in the same place at the same time. With any luck, there may be more hanging out than in a normal year because we're not all running from theater to theater trying not to miss anything.

Another thing is that we don't have to make those agonizing choices when the schedule drops. Inevitably, there are always spots in the schedule where there are two or three films you want to see playing opposite each other. In years past, I have done my pics of TCMFF schedule in NCAA tournament bracket format. Frankly, I missed doing them this year. Then I thought, maybe I can do them anyway.

Next week, the TCMFF Special Home Edition will feature 45 film/programs. NCAA tournament brackets work best in multiples of 4, 8, 16 and so on. The number 45 is just shy of 48 making for three brackets of 16. The three empty spots I have set up as passes. I printed out a copy of the schedule, and cut out each film or program event onto a separate slip of paper. Then I put them in my hat, my TCMFF hat, and drew them out one at a time to put in the brackets. The first one chosen in each bracket got a "by" in the first round.


From there, it's simply a matter deciding who would win in each contest. Obviously, this is not a time machine. Some of the programs are interviews stars who have since passed away. I don't think it would be a fair to imagine I could go back in time and see them while they were still with us. This is just looking at these films and events as they are now in the Pandemic of 2020 and choosing what I think is best.

Now, I know what you're thinking, how do you get a final four with three brackets of 16. Good question, well, you get a final three, and I pick up fourth from the runners-up in the three brackets. My game, my rules. Then just to keep things fair, I did a random pic (titles in my TCMFF hat again) to see which of the three bracket winners goes up against the runner-up.

For the sake of brevity, something I'm not very good with, I'm going to limit myself to discussing just a handful of the most interesting contest in each bracket for the first two rounds. So without further ado, I give you my 2020 TCMFF Social Distancing Madness picks.

Round 1

Group A – TCL Chinese Theater




I'm not a fan of The Good Earth. It's a good thing it got the round one "by" because it never would have survived. Next, The Creature from the Black Lagoon takes on Sounder. Sounder is a good film but hey, it's up against The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Another interesting battle is The Passion of Joan of Arc vs Luise Rainer Live, not because I am huge fans of either but because of ambivalence. The Passion of Joan of Arc is a very good film, but it's sort of like watching a snuff movie. Still not a fan of Luise Rainer either so Passion moves on.

The most difficult battle in Round One Group A is North by Northwest vs The Setup. If it was a real Festival, probably the choice would be much easier. North by Northwest is a long film and would likely mean skipping two films. Plus, I have seen North by Northwest in the theater a number of times. The Setup, it's a great film noir about the crooked world of boxing with Robert Ryan. At a normal Festival, The Setup would take it. But this year, North by Northwest, my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie moves on. Shame that a film as good as The Setup gets knocked out in the first round.

Group B – Egyptian Theater




There are only two matchups to gave me a lot of trouble in this bracket. Jezebel vs. Auntie Mame, both great films in totally different ways. I saw Auntie Mame in the theater a couple of years ago, not many people there, but almost all of them were gay men who knew the film by heart, so it more than made up for the sparse attendance. This is a really tough decision. At the Festival, I don't know what I'd say but here I'm going to give it to Auntie Mame.

At the festival, Safety Last against Eva Marie Saint Live would be agonizing especially since I’ve always missed seeing Eva Marie Saint at TCMFF. She's still around so there's still a possibility of seeing her. Safety Last at the Festival would likely have a live orchestra. It would be a really really tough decision if we were in Hollywood. Social distanced, I will give it to Safety Last.

Group C – Club TCM





I saw both A Hard Day's Night and Lawrence of Arabia at TCMFF the years they played and both are awesome in their own ways. Here the edge goes to Lawrence of Arabia. A Hard Day's Night, fun movie, Lawrence of Arabia, great movie. Vitaphone Shorts was one of my favorites the year they showed it, easily moves past Neptune’s Daughter. I'm going to be there with bells on for this one.
Norman Lloyd Live against Casablanca. Again, I saw both at the Festival in years past. Norman Lloyd was awesome, he's so sharp and had great stories, my favorite story didn't even make it to the edited version they showed on TCM afterwards. Still, Casablanca is my favorite film of all time. I have to go to with Casablanca.

Round 2

Group A – TCL Chinese Theater




My toughest choice here is Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story vs Metropolis. Harold and Lillian is just a very very cute movie about a side of the movie industry that you never see. Metropolis I've only seen in the theater once back in the 80s, when they colorized it and did a New Wave score. Surely, at the Festival, Metropolis would have a live orchestra with added footage restored. That would probably be enough to do it for me. Guess what, Metropolis alone is still enough to do it for me.

Then you have, Kim Novak Live vs North by Northwest. Again Kim Novak is still with us, so this could possibly happen. Still, North by Northwest is North by Northwest, and it moves on.

Group B – Egyptian Theater




The toughest choice here is Auntie Mame up against Safety Last. Both are really great comedies, in totally different ways. I'm going with Auntie Mame.

The other tough call here is The Lady Vanishes vs Singin' in the Rain. TCM shows Singin’ in the Rain quite a bit. The Lady Vanishes, not so much. Have to go with The Lady Vanishes.

Group C – Club TCM




The toughest choice here is She Wore a Yellow Ribbon up against Victor/Victoria. Again both are great films in totally different ways. I'm going with Victor/Victoria mostly because no matter how many times I watch it, it always makes me laugh.
 
I just watched the trailer for Floyd Norman: An Animated Life, and wow, it looks good. At the Festival, this would be, Floyd Norman all the way. I've seen Casablanca a number of times in the theater. It's not exactly hard to do, even in a place like San Diego where they don't have a lot of theaters that show classic film. But we're not in Hollywood I have to go with Casablanca, because Casablanca. Don't get me wrong I'm going to watch Floyd Norman: An Animated Life. And if it's on it's on weird time and I can't watch it, I'm going to record it, but Casablanca.

Round 3


Now the going gets tough, only 12 left.

Group A – TCL Chinese Theater




As luck would have it, there are only two science fiction/horror movies on the list, and of course they come up against each other. This is a really tough choice for me. I'm going with Metropolis mostly because they show The Creature from the Black Lagoon fairly regular.

I've never even heard of Bardelys the Magnificent. It made it this far mostly through luck of the draw. It's a newly restored version that was scheduled to show at the 2020 TCMFF. Up against the North by Northwest, Bardelys doesn't stand much of a chance, kinda like my high school basketball team playing Gonzaga, but it still looks mighty interesting. I'm still going to try to catch it. Starting at 10:45 Sunday night my time, not sure, I'll make it, but I will record it. Regardless, North by Northwest moves on.

Group B – Egyptian Theater

 


Some Like It Hot vs They Live by Night is not all that tough of a choice. It's a case of good movie vs great movie, Some Like It Hot takes it.
 
At the Festival, the next choice would be a really tough call. The Lady Vanishes is a great movie that you never get to see in the theater. But we’re not seeing it in the theater. Thanks, Pandemic. I like Auntie Mame better, and it moves on to the Final Four.

Group C – Club TCM



Vitaphone Shorts is like that little college in the NCAA tournament that nobody expects to go anywhere, but ends up taking out some of the top teams. Here it's no different, Vitaphone Shorts over Network.

This brings us to Victor/Victoria vs Casablanca. I think you know what I'm going to say here, Casablanca.

Round 4

And then there were six.

Group A – TCL Chinese Theater



This one’s really tough. I love both Metropolis and North by Northwest, but if I really have to pick one over the other, which I do, that was the whole point of this, I have to go with North by Northwest.

Group B – Egyptian Theater



Another tough choice here, Some Like It Hot up against Auntie Mame. Frankly, I think Some Like It Hot is somewhat overrated. I definitely don't call it the greatest comedy of all time. It is a great movie and a very good comedy, but I really think Auntie Mame is funnier. Rosalind Russell for the win.

Group C – Club TCM



This one is a heartbreaker, my favorite film of all time, Casablanca, up against up against one of my favorite things I ever saw at any of the six TCM Film Festivals I've attended. Vitaphone Shorts was so cool, but here we go again, I have to go with Casablanca.

The Final Four

As I mentioned previously, for the fourth spot in the final four I was going to pick my favorite of the last round runner-ups. That honor goes to Vitaphone Shorts. I put Vitaphone Shorts in the lower left of the one bracket and then did a random draw (again from my TCMFF hat) to fill in the rest.

In case you were wondering, this is what the hat looks like
when not full of Social Distancing Madness slips of paper.




It is with great sadness that again I go with something other than Vitaphone Shorts. It comes down to I really think Auntie Mame is better, dammit. Cinderella story comes to an end.

Then we have Casablanca vs North by Northwest. My favorite film of all time against my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film. That's tough. Actually, no it's not. I knew going in that Casablanca was going to take it all.

That just leaves the final matchup of Auntie Mame vs Casablanca. This is like one of those championship games where it's a total rout. Auntie Mame is good, but good as it is and as much as I love it, it didn't really stand a chance here.

That just leaves the consolation game North by Northwest up against Vitaphone Shorts and as you probably can guess North by Northwest takes it.

Thanks a lot for playing along. I hope to get to talk to you a lot of you next week and again IRL at TCMFF 2021. So long!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival and COVID-19

The Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) Is scheduled for April 16-19 and many classic film fans are about over how the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) might affect the Festival. I'm going to start by saying that I am not a virologist. The closest I have come is my first real job out of college was a proofreader at a company that published science journal. I did proofread on numerous occasions a journal, titled Virology, but that was roughly thirty years ago. Thus, my expertise in virology is mostly limited to being able to recognize when certain words are misspelled.

I do have some experience running comic conventions, specifically Comic-Con International. Effectively, though I have no insight into the inner workings of TCMFF, but I feel it is safe to assume that the challenges TCM faces putting on TCMFF are fairly similar to the challenges Comic-Con faces running our events.

COVID-19 in Los Angeles

Though as mentioned before I am not an expert in virology, I do know a little about it, and I also know about media hype. First, if you want information about COVID-19, I suggest you go to cites such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/) and the (https://www.who.int/). These are the orgnaizations charged with tracking COVID-19 and protecting the public from it. These sites will give good information without trying to color it with worst-case scenarios that the 24-hour news media thrives on.

Before we move on, let's look at one of the bits on info you will find in the mainstream media. The following map was saved from https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6?ocid=eventhub (got there from a link from MSN News). By the way ArcGIS.com is a geographic information service, not a news or health organization.


Looking at this map, Holy Moses, it's frightening. If each one of these red dots was a nuclear bomb, it would spell the end of life as we know it. Fortunately, the dots do not represent nuclear bombs. For example, the red dot in Western Australia, represents two cases (per https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert as of 11:00 hrs on 9 March 2020).

Still, the map is pretty scary. Let's see what happens when you zoom in on Los Angeles. The following is as far as the map will let you zoom in, before the dots disappear.


The large dot in Los Angeles represents (according to the Los Angeles County Board of Health, 9 March 2020) 11 cases. The dot in San Diego, where I live (according to the San Diego County, Department of Health of and Human Services, 6 March 2020) represents two cases, listed as, "Individuals on repatriation flights (2/5/20 and 2/7/20) from Wuhan, China under federal quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar."

TCMFF will be held in Hollywood in Los Angeles County. Los Angeles has a population of 10.6 million people and has reported 11 cases of COVID-19. That is a number I can almost do the math on in my head, slightly less than 1 in a million (1 in 963,636 to be exact).

The situation might get worse. This is just the way it looked on the morning of 9 March 2020. TCM has no control over this. We have no control over this, other than taking reasonable precautions, washing hands more frequently, avoiding touching the face, and so on. The situation might get worse, but it might get better, or at least, slow the rate at which it gets worse.

We are all familiar with the term, cold and flu season. Most years, the cold and flu season ends in March. In bad years, it might run as late as May. It's probably safe to assume or at least consider the possibility that this is a bad year. My understanding of the cold and flu season is that viruses thrive in the cold weather and when they become airborne, live longer. Regardless of whether or not this is a bad cold and flu season, every day that passes takes us one day closer to the end of it. Also, Southern California warms up faster than most of the country. That likely bodes well for the COVID-19 situation on Los Angeles.

TCMFF and the COVID-19 Outbreak

First off, I have met quite a few of the people who work for TCMFF. They are good people. I am sure that none of them want to put anyone in danger. I am sure they are monitoring the situation very closely. I am also sure that if a bona fide health organization suggests they cancel, they will do so. Now, I know what you are thinking. Why not just cancel it anyway, just to be safe?

Well, if you ask me, one in a million is a risk I am willing to take, and that seems like a reasonable amount of risk for not cancelling TCMFF, at least at this point in time. There is another reason for not cancelling.

You might not like it. Ready?

Money. TCM stands to lose a whole lot of it if they cancel, especially if they cancel right now. Figure every penny that has been spent to have people work on the Festival is just gone. You can't go to your employees and say, You know that project that you have been working on for 40 hours a week for the last however many months, we need that money back because TCMFF isn't happening this year.

Some things probably aren't that big of a deal. Presumably, film rentals, you don't show the films, you don't have to pay for them. Other things, not so much. You have blocked out rental of several theaters months in advance, do you get the money back that you put down to reserve those theaters? Probably not, you might get some of the money back, but it's unlikely that you would get all of it back. Hotel reservations, hotel function space reservations, and flight reservations would likely work the same. Just about anything where a deposit has been made, getting all of the money back is going an uphill battle, especially if you are cancelling just to be safe.

It's a different situation if the California Department of Health, acting on info from the Centers for Disease Control, tells you that you need to cancel. Then, you have a better chance of the getting money back, but it's unlikely that TCM would get all of it or even a large portion back.

Another issue that you might not have considered.  I think the credit card fees on normal transactions is 2.9%. TCM already paid the processing fee, when the passes sold. TCM figured that into the cost of the pass. It's the cost of doing business. If they have to refund everybody's money, they get to pay those fees again. Now, 2.9% might not seem like a lot but on a $749 Classic Pass, it's about $20 times however many passes they sold. It would be close to $60 on a Spotlight Pass. These fees would add up quickly.

I am confident that TCM has the best interest of its fans and the Festival in mind. At this point in time, deciding to continue with the TCMFF is the right decision.  I am sure TCM will continue to make the right decisions. Unless the situation gets a whole lot worse, next month, we're going to have a great time and another great TCMFF.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Best $5 Ever

I just spent the best five dollars of my life at Kobey's Swap Meet. Let me explain. For the last, two or three months my phone has been giving me trouble charging. I would plug in, and the phone would poop out the USB cable, for lack of a better term. After it first started, I googled it, and someone suggested that the problem might be dust in the charging port, so I got a floss pick and used the toothpick end to clean it. That fixed it for about two charges.

It got so bad, that the only way I could get it to charge was to use a right angle USB charger and plug it in, with the USB pushed into something like the side of a bookshelf, so the weight of the phone would keep it from unplugging itself. Even that stopped working, so I had to power down the phone, plug it in, so it wouldn't poop out. Then I had to look at it make sure it was charging. Even then, about half the time it wouldn't charge.

So I'm at Kobey's Swap Meet, and I see this guy, who fixes broken phone screens. I walk up to him and explain what's going on. He takes out a dental pick, not a plastic floss pick, but the metal thing the dentist uses on your teeth. He proceeds to pull out just a buttload of dust, lint, and God knows what. After about three minutes, he says, "Now, I can see the bottom." He works for another two or three minutes, still pulling out big glops of crap. He plugs it in. "There, 37% and charging."

"Cool, what do I owe you," I say.

"Don't worry about it," he says.

"Let me give you five bucks."

"I'll take it."


Friday, January 24, 2020

The African Queen (1951)

This post is part of the Wedding Bells Blogathon, hosted by Hometowns to Hollywood:



More posts can be found at https://hometownstohollywood.com/2020/01/22/the-wedding-bells-blogathon-2/

When you think about weddings in classic films, probably one of the last people you would think about is John Huston. Best known for his crime films, The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo, and The Asphalt Jungle, or his adventures, Across the Pacific, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The Man Who Would Be King, you don't really think matrimony when you think of John Huston. He makes movies about men, and often, the women serve as foils for the actions of the men.

Normally when I write about old films, I try to avoid spoilers. I can't seem to do this post without doing spoilers. If you haven't seen The African Queen and would be upset by knowing details of the plot, stop reading right now. 

Just the fact that I'm doing a post in a Wedding Bells Blogathon is something of a spoiler right there. Katharine Hepburn is the only woman in the cast. If this is about weddings, obviously Katharine Hepburn gets married, and you don't have to be Stephen Hawking to figure out whom she marries. It's not Robert Morley, who plays her brother. Eewww.

In fact, if you haven't seen the film in a while, you might have forgotten that there was a wedding in it at all. So why did I pick this film? Well, mostly, it's unique in that the audience is privy to the entire relationship of bride and groom. Their whole relationship takes place on screen. Also, one of the funniest lines in the movie and one of my favorite quotes about weddings relates directly to the ceremony.

The African Queen is not a romance, it's an adventure. And the two characters falling in love don't fall in love because of looks or romance, but because of their shared experiences on this adventure. Set in German East Africa at the outbreak of World War I, Katharine Hepburn is a missionary who lives with her brother trying to convert the natives in a small village. Their only contact with the outside world is Humphrey Bogart who delivers the mail in his boat, the African Queen, one of the only boats that can navigate that part of the Ulanga River.

Katharine Hepburn is something of a spinster, having lived a sheltered life with her missionary brother. When war breaks out, the German army burns the village and forces all the men into their army. When Katharine Hepburn's brother protests, they hit him not killing him outright, but he dies shortly thereafter from fever and possibly the injury.


With nowhere else to go, Katharine Hepburn leaves the village with Humphrey Bogart, a man she hardly knows. As British subjects, Katharine Hepburn, English, and Humphrey Bogart, Canadian, they are in a bad spot. The British forces are being held off by a German gunboat, the Königin Luise, that patrols a large lake downstream. To make matters worse, the Germans would want the cargo that the African Queen carries, a large amount a blasting gelatin

Katharine Hepburn comes up with the wonderful plan of turning the African Queen into a torpedo and using it to sink the German ship. Bogart thinks the idea is suicide and decides that the best way to dissuade Katharine Hepburn of her plan would be to take her down some rapids in the African Queen, a boat definitely not made for rough water. To his surprise, she's not frightened but exhilarated by the experience. Not only has he not dissuaded her, he has strengthened her resolve. Frustrated, he gets drunk and tells her that there's no way he's taking the African Queen down river. While Bogart is drunk and incapacitated, Katharine Hepburn, deeply offended by demon booze,  pours out his supply of gin, at least a dozen bottles.

Stuck in this little backwater and on the Ulanga River, Katharine Hepburn refuses to speak to Humphrey Bogart. Guilt-ridden, Bogart agrees to go along with her plan, even though he knows it is virtually suicide. The voyage will take them past the German fort, where surely they will be fired on. Beyond the fort, are more rapids much worse than the ones they'd already gone through.

Fortunately, luck is on their side. The sun is the German sniper's eyes, and he can't get a clear shot. The native soldiers shooting more or less randomly at African Queen manage to not hit their explosive cargo. Almost immediately after clearing the fort, they hit the rapids, and through providence, come through unscathed, So excited from surviving the ordeal the German fort and the rapids, they embrace and kiss for the first time. I always got the impression that this was the first time Katherine Hepburn's had kissed any man.

On their trip, they encounter swarms of mosquitoes, crocodile infested waters, and more rapids, damaging the African Queen's propeller, which they have to repair working underwater and using only simple tools. Eventually, the river becomes clogged with reeds, and they must pull the African Queen along with a rope through the reeds, the mud, and the muck. I won't mention the leeches. Oops, I guess I already did.

Humphrey Bogart becomes sick with fever. He knows they will never have the energy to move the African Queen off the mud. Katharine Hepburn fears they have failed and will probably die soon. She prays that God will be merciful to them on the Judgment and will judge them not on on their but their love. Just then the rainy season hits, and the Ulanga River swells with water lifting them off the mud and reeds, and onto the lake. They had only been a few hundred yards away.

They proceed with their plan to sink the German ship. Unfortunately, a storm hits, and the African Queen is lost. Humphrey Bogart is separated from Katharine Hepburn, and he assumes she has drowned. Captured by the Germans and heart-broken, he doesn't protest when the German Captain, sentences him to death as a spy. Just then, more Germans appear with Katherine Hepburn, whom they also accuse of being a spy. When Bogart tells her that he is to be executed, Katharine Hepburn says they should at least have the pleasure of telling the German captain of their plan to sink the Königin Luise.

Sentenced to death as spies, Humphrey Bogart asks the German captain if he will marry them. "It would mean a such lot of the lady."

I won't tell the rest of the story. I'm sure anyone who has read this far already knows the end of the movie. And that line, the one I said was probably the funniest in the entire movie. It's spoken by Peter Bull, the German Captain, "By the authority vested in me by Kaiser Wilhelm the Second, I pronounce you man and wife — Proceed with the execution."

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 – 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. 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 was 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 was 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 before the start of the Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival gathering. It was the one chance I got 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 film 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. "When I was a kid, 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.


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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
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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.


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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 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, 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:






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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 just socialize 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, but these two are the ones that stand out. I mean how cool is Gone with the Wind cosplay.
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.

Another great TCMFF. Well Played, TCM, Well Played.