Saturday, April 26, 2014

TCMFF 2014 Day 2

The ceiling of The Egyptian
Back to TCMFF 2014 Day 1 

Day 2 (Friday) of the TCM Classic Film Festival started early with a 9 am screening of The Thin Man at the Egyptian Theater. It's a beautiful old theater and just sitting there waiting was a treat. I couldn't find the name of the guy who introduced, The Thin Man, but suffice it to say, he was perfect. He told how he had been out drinking late the night before and described his interaction with one of his colleagues something like this:

Drinking buddy: Aren't you introducing something first thing in the morning?
Presenter: Yeah.
Drinking buddy: Well, what are you still doing here? What are you introducing?
Presenter: The Thin Man.
Drinking buddy: You'll be fine.

He also mentioned that if there was only one thing we should remember from his introduction was that Dashielle Hammett's name was pronounced, "dah-sheel." So there you have it.

A number of the films at TCMFF started with one the TCM perspectives on one of the people associated with the film. For The Thin Man, it was Julliane Moore's tribute to Myrna Loy. While watching it in the darkened theater, I realized that I was starting to tear up. I glanced at the woman sitting next to me. She was wiping away a tear as well. At TCMFF, I always felt I was in good company.

The Thin Man was wonderful as always. I had seen it once on film (16 mm), back in the 80s at San Diego Comic-Con, when my soon-to-be wife and I volunteered to run projectors for the film department. Still, there is a huge difference between running a 16 mm film in a mostly empty hotel meeting room and sitting in a large theater, mostly full of people who love it every bit as much as you do. My wife and I only ran films one year at Comic-Con, but both of us ended up back working for the Con from the early 90s until now. We like to say the we are the Nick and Nora of Comic-Con. While we probably have as much right to lay claim to that as anyone, but that's an awful high standard to live up to. Still, that's what we strive for.

The next block of films was the only one on the entire schedule that didn't excite me. Touch of Evil is a brilliant movie, but like most of Orson Wells films, it's not a movie I particularly like. Of the remaining, the two that looked most interesting were Make Way for Tomorrow and The World of Henry Orient. About three weeks before TCMFF, I rented both and while I liked them, I had to ask myself if I would be upset if I did not see them on the big screen, and the answer was, no.

A rarity at TCMFF, real food
I realized that this might be my only chance to get a hot meal at something close to a normal time of day. I really wanted to go to Musso and Frank's, but didn't have anyone to go with, so I ended up at the sushi place in the mall, so much for a hot meal, though it was the best meal I had the whole time of TCMFF. I used the extra time to pick up a sandwich and run it back to my hotel. I wanted to change clothes before Double Indemnity, and I knew the timing would be tight. I also took my skateboard in case I needed to get somewhere fast.

Skipping the mid-day, block of movies also allowed me to catch part of A Conversation with Richard Dreyfuss at Club Dreyfuss, well sort of. Dreyfuss was about a half hour late. I only stayed long enough to get one or two pictures that looked like him and not like a Richard Dreyfuss-shaped blur. I honestly don't remember a single thing he said, unless it was, "Thank you," "Good to be here," or something like that. The problem was that my 3:00 was Invasion of the Body Snatchers was both something I considered a must see and at The Egyptian, pretty much the furthest of the normal venues from The Roosevelt and Club TCM. Luckily the skateboard and a side street that runs parallel to Hollywood Blvd. got me there in minutes, shortly before they let the line inside.

Richard Dreyfuss

This was my second showing at The Egyptian, and this time I opted for the balcony. Actually, I think I like the balcony better. The introduction to Invasion of the Body Snatchers was by Joe Dante. He was very knowledgeable about the film and production, but you could also tell he was a genuinely a fan of the movie.  We would watching it in Superscope, a print from Francis Ford Coppola's private collection. How cool is that? 

Dante went on to explain what Superscope was, a low-budget wide-screen format. Other widescreen formats like like Cinemascope required more expensive lenses and camera equipment. Sci-Fi movies from the 50s usually didn't have the budget for that sort of thing. Superscope was a process where they would shoot with an normal 35 mm camera and in processing, crop off the top and bottom to get the widescreen. Now, where it gets interesting is when they put it on TV. In the 50s, when they still had access to the original negatives, it was a simple matter to make 16 mm prints for TV that used the cropping of the 35 mm (before the Superscope process). But in time, these 16 mm prints deteriorated and by this time, the master negatives were gone, and the only option was to pan and scan from the Superscope. Thus, later copies of Invasion of the Body Snatchers shown on TV cut off the top and bottom and wait for it, both sides.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers was great as well. It's my favorite Sci-Fi movie of the 50s and just squeaked into my list of Top 15 Sci-Fi Movies of all time. At that point, TCMFF had been going for a little better than 24 hours, I had seen four movies and every one of them was one of the best classic movie experiences of my life.

Next up was Double Indemnity, and I had an hour and fifteen minutes before it started. On my skateboard, I was able to get from The Egyptian back to my hotel on Sunset in about five minutes. This gave me time for a quick shower, change of clothes, and back out to the Chinese. I brought the sandwich I had bought earlier with me to eat in line. I immediately got in line for Double Indemnity. I think the queue number I got was in the low 200s. In line, I talked to a woman in line from Minnesota, and two guys in cowboy outfits from Washington state (ready for Blazing Saddles).

Since we had our queue numbers, the woman from Minnesota and I took turns running off the use the restroom. On my turn, I felt like I needed some caffeine. There was a vending machine near the restroom, but I noticed that there were about 7 or 8 bottles of various drinks stuck in the bottom of the machine. No Frappuccino for me. I noticed another vending machine close by, but when I got up to it, it was selling caviar of all things. Apparently, caviar is one of those few things that is much better from a vending machine. I tried that candy shop. They had soda in bottles, and I thought maybe they'd have a Jolt Cola. No dice, but I did find a coffee flavored soda. Also, by the counter they had bins of what we used to call penny candy when we were kids. I bought the most immature candy, I could find, some Smarties, Black Cows, Necco wafers, and Cola-flavored pez, not as good as Cola Bottle Caps, had kind of a Pez after taste. In line I offered candy to the people standing near me.

When I first started writing this, I couldn't remember who introduced Double Indemnity. Turns out it was Robert Osborne. I had to ask on twitter and @diandapanda filled in the gaps. Robert Osborne talked about Fred MacMurray and what a shame it was that neither Stanwyck and Robinson never won Oscars. There was one other thing I'd forgot. Before each screening, someone would always come out and make some announcements. These always included a thank you to the sponsors and instructions that everyone should turn off/silence their cell phones. "People want to see the big screen, not your little screen." What I had totally forgotten was that Robert Osborne's cell phone rang while he was introducing the picture. Awesome. Welcome to the glamour of Hollywood.

Anyway, Double Indemnity was gorgeous on the big screen. The print was immaculate, and it was so cool to finally get a chance to see it, not just in a theater, but the Chinese Theater. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go off on a short tangent about the big screen. It seems to me that screen size has nothing to do with it. I mean if I sat in the Chinese Theater watching a movie by myself, I don't think it would be all that different than watching it at home. Okay, maybe, it would be, but my point is the real thing that makes it better is the audience not the size of the screen. It's sitting in a dark theater with a group of people you don't know, all experiencing it together that makes it special, not the size of the screen. I know the term big screen is not going to go away any time soon. And I'm not going to stop using it either, but I just felt that it had to be said.

Next up. Exit the theater and immediately get back in line for Blazing Saddles. Now, Blazing Saddles was one of the only three films the entire weekend that I had seen on the "big screen." Yeah, I know. Anyway, my dad took me to see it when it came out. I would've been about 12. Now, back in the 70s, people didn't take their 12-year-old kids to see R-rated movies, at least not very often. For me, it was the only time until I was at least several years older. It was also the only time I ever went to a movie with just my dad and not the whole family. Add to that the fact that there was a Mel Brooks interview before the screening, and that made this my number 1 pick of the whole festival.

The Robert Osborne interview of Mel Brooks that preceded the screening turned out to be largely the same as what I had heard the day before at The Roosevelt. He made more or less the same jokes and told more or less the same stories, but that was fine. He was just as funny the second time. I could listen to him read the phone book. He'd find a way to make it funny.

Now, there's something I haven't mentioned, and it was true of most of the screenings at TCMFF. People applauded during the movies. They applauded the title of the movie, and the names of the stars and director in the credits. Then when the movie started, the audience would applaud the first appearance of all the major characters on-screen. Blazing Saddles was no different. We applauded Clevon Little. And then Slim Pickens and Harvey Korman. And of course, Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, and Madeline Kahn, all the way down to Dom DeLuise. Well, at the end of the movie, when Harvey Korman grabs a cab and tells the driver to take him off this picture, he ends up going to watch the end of the movie that he is appearing in. Then as Harvey Korman was sitting there watching the movie. It dawns on us, like the entire theater all at once, that he is sitting in the same room that we were sitting in right at that moment, so we applauded the theater. It was one of my favorite things of the entire festival.

Tempted though I was by seeing, Patton Oswalt introduce Eraserhead, I'm not much of a fan of David Lynch, and I didn't want to be wasted the next day from watching a midnight movie.  I was tempted to go just to see the Oswalt intro. The problem is that I was certain that he would get me so hyped up that I would need to stay for movie, and I really didn't want to risk that. Instead I stopped by The Roosevelt. I didn't see anyone I knew and there weren't many people there, presumably because they were finishing up the late  screening, so I called it a night.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

TCMFF 2014 Day 1

Back to TCMFF 2014 Day 0 

Despite having a decent number of beers on Wednesday, I still had to get up pretty early on Thursday morning, mostly because I had to switch rooms at my hotel, so I had to repack, not that I unpacked completely. Still I did have to get all of my crap out of the one really tiny room I had on Wednesday night, so that it could be moved to what turned out to be a fairly decent-sized room for the rest of the festival.

Re-did griptape on old board for TCMFF
After taking care of all of that I grabbed my skateboard and headed out to Hollywood Blvd. First stop was the Coffee Bean across the street from the Roosevelt. I ran into Nora, the Social Media Manager for TCM. She took a picture of me any my skateboard and tweeted it a bit later that day. She also mentioned that they were going to be doing an interview of Mel Brooks in the lobby of the Roosevelt early afternoon. Then, since it was still pretty early, and most everything didn’t start until about 2:00, I figured I had some time to kill.

I took off on my skateboard and headed east on Hollywood Blvd. I tend to find riding a skateboard strangely relaxing. It forces you to pay attention to what’s happening on the sidewalk in front of you. Otherwise you’re going to miss something, fall, and hurt yourself. In doing this, you end up clearing your mind of all the crap you normally think about. This took me to the part of Hollywood Blvd that I had never been to. The few times I had been to Hollywood, I had always stuck to the few blocks east and west of The Roosevelt and The Chinese Theater. As you head east, you start getting away from the cheesy part of Hollywood, the throngs of tourists and the people in bad superhero costumes getting looking for donations to have their picture taken.

As you get away from that, you start running into weird quirky places like wig stores, book and poster shops, and vintage clothing stores. The other thing that is kind of cool is that as you go east, the stars tend to be more Classic movie people. I think newer stars want to be in that touristy part of the Blvd., so there the stars are two sometimes three deep. I went past the Pantages and the Henry Fonda theaters. I’ve been inside both fairly recently.  The Pantages doesn’t look like much on the outside, but the inside is gorgeous, incredible Art Deco ornamentation everywhere. If you ever get a chance to see the inside, take it.

Posted Thomas Mitchell's star; figured only hard-core 

TCMers would know him
I ended up skating all the way to the where the stars on Hollywood Blvd. end. Turns out, the last three stars on the Hollywood Blvd (south Side of the street) are: Stanley Kramer, Gregory Peck, and Thomas Mitchell. Not too shabby.

Even though it was early in the day, it was quite warm, so I ended skating back on the same side of the street that I'd come up on, mostly because the buildings were giving shade on that side of the street. I ended up going into a military surplus store. I do steampunk, and I could’ve spent so much money in this place. I refrained mostly because my luggage was backed to the gills as it was. I ended up buying a leather pilot’s helmet and a pair of Swiss military surplus goggles.

I made my way back to The Roosevelt, so I could pick up the pocket guide for the festival. I looked through the TCM Boutique. It was really swamped, and it was really hard to see anything. Note to self: next year, unless there is something I absolutely have to have, wait until later when the crowds have died down. I found a seat and started making notes on the schedule. Everything is scheduled in blocks, and often you only have and hour or so between screenings, so not only do you need to plan your screenings you need to plan when you’re going to pick up food, when you’re going to run back to the hotel to change clothes if need be, etc.

I took off and walked to Fresh and Easy to buy a sandwich, some fruit, and a drink that I could eat easily on the go later. I also wanted to find the way to get from the Roosevelt to the Chinese theater through the back of the mall that @wilmckinley had posted. The idea was to avoid the crowds and craziness of Hollywood Blvd and get there faster by a longer route. Unfortunately, I got distracted by this really cool candy store that was an odd mix of movie memorabilia and confections. Had to really struggle to not buy anything. The end result was that later when I was trying to get from the Roosevelt to the Chinese theater, I did have to fight the crowds, and it was a minor nightmare getting to where I wanted to be. The mall that is built around the Chinese theater is one of those touristy places that is designed to be a maze, so trying to get somewhere specific the first time or two is a a bit of a pain.

Clapboard for the taping in The Roosevelt Lobby

I went back to The Roosevelt and spent my time in the lobby alternating between finding a place to sit and look at the schedule and watching them tape promo's and interviews for airing later.

They took a break a bit before 2:00, but said they would be interviewing Mel Brooks in the next segment. There were only two things going on Thursday afternoon. The first at 2:00 was Meet TCM, followed by Sons of Gods and Monsters at the Hollywood Museum at 3:30. I figured a chance to see Mel Brooks interviewed was worth missing Meet TCM for.

I took a position on the left side of the stage which turned out to give a unique vantage point of Mel Brooks' left ear. Despite trying my darnedest to get a good photo of Mel Brooks, Every time I ended up getting clear but not good pictures of him. Aurora standing right next to me got this great shot that somehow I managed to miss.  I did get this video this video of him horsing around before the interview. Hindsight being what it is, I probably should have got on the other side of the stage for a better angle on Brooks, but it did seem that there were more lights and other equipment on that side of the stage, so it might not have made much difference. Still, I did get this video of Mr. Brooks telling a great story about Cary Grant:

Most of the Mel Brooks interview was about the films he produced that will be aired in May on TCM. They also discussed Blazing Saddles for a Fathom Events screening later this year. I took off right about the time Mel Brooks left the stage and was able to just catch a glimpse of him as he entered his limo. Since I still had my skateboard, I was able to get to the Hollywood Museum several blocks away in just a few minutes. 

I got there right about the time Sons of Gods and Monsters was about to start. When I got to there, I was informed that the room where the presentation was being held was at capacity, but I was free to visit the museum. Thus, I successfully missed the first two programs at TCMFF in exchange for seeing Mel Brooks. Am I happy with that tradeoff? Oh heck, yeah. I spent about 10 minutes wandering the museum. The Hollywood Museum had four floors, but I only checked out the ground floor. I figured that I wanted to shower, change clothes, and wolf down that sandwich I'd bought earlier, before the evening festivities.

I really wanted to wear a white dinner jacket to the opening of Club TCM and even found a place in San Diego that sold them dirt cheap. Despite having lost 20 pounds since the beginning of the year, I was still 5 or 10 pounds away from being able to fit into any of them. However, I did have a Nehru jacket that fit me very well, so I went retro hip instead of retro classy. When I got back to The Roosevelt, the lobby was slammed, jam-packed with festival goers waiting for the Club TCM doors to swing open. 

I went to the bar and spent about 10 minutes trying to get the bartender to stop pretending he didn't notice me. While waiting, I chatted with a pair of sisters, Sara and Dammit, I Can't Remember Her Name. Sara was from Tuscon and Can't Remember Her Name was from Medford, Oregon. I do remember that Medford, Oregon is where the guy who was on the observation car with Walter Neff in Double Indemnity was from. I really need spend more time working on my people skills, and less time on my old movie trivia skills. When the bartender finally acknowledge me, I asked what beers they had, he pointed to a menu on the bar and made a drink for someone else. I'd forgot my reading glasses and the light wasn't good enough for me to read the list of beers.

I had Can't Remember Her Name read off the list of beers and about the fifth one down sounded interesting, Grumpy Monk IPA. Can't Remember Her Name asked if I could order their drinks too, so they wouldn't have to wait another 10 minutes. Sara had a Diet Coke and Can't Remember Her Name had a Grumpy Monk, like me. We talked a bit longer, and then I wandered off to wade through the massive throng still waiting for Club TCM to open. I had a couple of people make comments about the Nehru jacket, including @salesonfilm, I think it was her, who asked if it was a real Nehru jacket. I confessed that I'd bought it at a thrift shop and had no idea, but I'm pretty sure it never belonged to anyone named Nehru.

By this time, they had started to let people in, but since I was kind of in the back, when I actually made it inside the room, it was packed, and from where I was you couldn't see much more than that occasion glimpses of the tops of the people's heads on the stage. I hung around a bit, and I gotta say, everyone I talked to was really nice. At one point, Kim Novak walked past about 8 feet from me. Dang, she looked good, and as jaded as I am about celebrities, I have to admit, seeing her that close was a thrill. 

I left fairly soon. After missing two events in the  afternoon I didn't want to miss my first screening. Since I hadn't actually followed through on finding my way to The Chinese theater the back way, I ended up braving Hollywood Blvd. and with things shut down for the Red Carpet, that meant about a two block detour to get to the theater. I was relieved when I was waved past the standby line and into the screening of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Turns out, the two sisters from earlier were there, and I ended up sitting next to Can't Remember Her Name.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane was introduced by Charles Busch, and he was great. He told how his father had loved movies and took he and his sisters to see it when he was about 6. At first, I was a bit horrified. What kind of parent, would take a 6-year-old to a movie like this. Then it dawned on me that I'd let my son watch John Woo movies with me at about the same age, so I'd lost any hope for the moral high ground. Mr. Busch also mentioned that this was one of those movies that you really had to see or risk losing your Gay card, so I do have that to look forward to. Fabulous.

I had only seen Whatever Happened to Baby Jane once about two months ago, and as intense as it was, way more so in the theater. About halfway through I realized that my lanyard wasn't attached to anything, and there was a brief moment of panic as I realized that I might have lost my badge at a time when I had no chance of replacing it until the next morning. Turns out, it was on my lap, and the little strip of plastic that the hook on the lanyard went through had broken. I think what happened was that as the movie got intense, I started to cross my arms across my chest. Then as it got more and more intense, I think I literally ripped the badge off myself.

The choices for the next block of movies was Johnny Guitar, The Heiress, and Bachelor Mother. After the intensity of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, I was glad that I'd already decided on Bachelor Mother. A light comedy really seemed like the best option at that point. I immediately got into line for Bachelor Mother, and even so by the time I got into the theater, it was pretty close to full.

Bachelor Mother was introduced by comic Greg Proops. He was charming and very funny, but despite this I think he was my least favorite of the celebrities I heard over the four days. I think the chief difference was that he came off like a comic doing a five minute bit about the movie, while the others I heard just explained why they loved the movie, like a genuine old movie geek. For me, me that worked better. I had never seen Bachelor Mother, except for about 10 minutes of it on TCM about a month ago, as I ate breakfast before leaving for work one morning. It was delightful and the perfect way to end my first full day at the festival.

I think I did stop briefly at The Roosevelt, but didn't stay very long. Despite a very late lunch, it had been way too long since I'd eaten. My hotel was next door to In'N'Out, a really good Southern California burger chain. I got a burger and a strawberry shake and scarfed them down in my room before collapsing.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TCMFF 2014 Day 0

[Okay so I did something very very stupid. Somehow while trying to edit this post, I ended up replacing it with my TCM Film Festival (TCMFF) Day 1 post, so I'm had to re-create it, and it just might end up being a very abridged version.]

This is my report on the first day of the TCMFF, well, not so much the first day, but the day before TCMFF started, hence Day 0. To start, I'm going to cover the trip up to TCMFF and the events surrounding it, so please bear with me. The original plan was to drive up, but I had car trouble, so that was not meant to be. About 5 months ago, I bought a car, a 2005 Mercedes SLK350.

It's an insanely cool car, retractable hardtop convertible, fast, beautiful, and it drives like a dream. The problem is about a month after I bought it, I started having an intermittent problem, where sometimes it just wouldn't start. I took it two or three different places, and after having it three time over a period weeks, the third place finally figured it out. It was either the ignition switch or the Engine Control Unit, but they couldn’t diagnose it any further. The plan was to do the ignition switch first, because that was the cheaper of the two parts. But before they gave me the car back, they replaced a $15 part, figuring that it was cheap and easy to do, so it was worth trying even if it might not fix the problem.  For two and a half months, I didn't have a problem with it.

Then the Saturday before TCMFF, the problem comes back, and as it turns out, the ignition switch was a dealer-only part, and ultimately they couldn’t get it in the two business before I had to leave. Now, I was really looking forward to driving up to Hollywood with the top down, music blaring, cruising Hollywood Blvd., etc. All of a sudden, I wasn’t even sure how I was going to get there.

I started looking around, and it turned out there that AMTrak has a train that leaves from a station 10 minutes from my work and gets to Union Station, Downtown L.A., in 2 hours 20 minutes, which with traffic I don’t think I could drive in that time. Then you can get from Union Station to Hollywood on the L.A. Metro in 20 minutes, which I know I couldn’t drive in that time, at least not without a Mini Cooper and green lights all the way a la the remake of The Italian Job. Train it is.

Now, my original plan was to crash on a friend’s couch on Wednesday night. The other advantage of taking the train was that without a car, I wouldn’t have to pay for parking at my hotel for 4 days, which covered a little better than half the cost of a room for an extra night, Wednesday. This meant that not having to drive, I could drink on Wednesday night, woohoo!
I left San Diego (Solana Beach Station) at 3:20. Turns out, the train was kind of cool. About the first almost hour, the tracks stay close to the coast and the scenery is awesome. There’s even a 10 minute section where the tracks run on a low bluff, just above the beach, so you are literally watching people surf 60 or 70 yards away. About the time you start getting into Orange County, the train moves inland, so you the scenery changes to the light industrial buildings and the backs of strip malls. Still by this point, I probably would have been hitting my first bad traffic if I had driven, so moving at 50 mph with nothing to look at was still a win.

I got into Union Station on time at about 5:40 and found my way to the L.A. Metro line. Turns out that this was the first station of the line I wanted and considering I had two small, but surprisingly heavy bags, being on the train first and finding a seat was a good thing. The Hollywood and Highland Metro Station was about 8 or 10 stops from Union Station, so 20 minutes was about right. The station was about a 5 or 10 minute walk to my hotel on Sunset. I checked in and was in my room at 6:40. I honestly don’t think I could’ve driven in that time. Since I had booked Wednesday so late, I had to get a different room for Wednesday night. Now my room on Wednesday was literally the smallest room I’ve ever had in this country. Fortunately, the room I moved to the next day was fairly nice.

I took a quick shower and changed clothes. I had managed to wrangle an invite to TCM social media mixer that they were having at Sadie Kitchen and Lounge. I got there about a quarter after. I was immediately greeted by Nora, who does Social media for TCM. She gave me a Harold Lloyd button. Turns out there was a hosted bar and hors d'oeuvres. Almost immediately, I ran into @willmckinley and his girlfriend Maggie and @EliseCD.

I also got to meet Ben Mankiewicz. Now, I tend to not care too much about celebrities, but I do like Ben Mankiewicz. He has a great sense of humor, the right level of snarky without being mean. In real life he seem like a cool down-to-earth guy. There were a lot of other people (including twitter #TCMParty regulars) there, not all of whom I got to meet that night. But since I’m trying to re-create this blog post from memory, I’m just going to throw out the names of those I know were there. Sorry if I miss you. Let’s see there was @ciniebugz, @IrishJayhawk66, and @CitizenScreen. I also met a couple of people I don’t think I had ever interacted with online before, @jlundenberger (who works for the New Yorker) and @WeRecycleMovies.

The party was great and it was really fun to start putting names and face together with people you mostly know 140 characters at a time from twitter. Turns out there was Warner Brothers Classics party going on at the Formosa that night as well. The people I was talking to as the TCM party was clearing out offered me a ride, so I gladly obliged. The weird part is that when we got to The Formosa, and it was like the entire party had picked up and moved a mile and a half away and picked up where it left off. Suffice it to say that it was great, we had a chance to drink, talk about old movies, and meet new people. It was pretty great.

By late in the evening, it was pretty obvious that one of the people we were hanging out with had had a few too many. Will and Maggie suggested that we share a cab and get her back to her hotel. It turns out that she wanted to get something to eat, and both Will and Maggie were on still on East Coast time and had to be up early the next day, so I agreed to take her to get food, pizza, about the only thing open on Hollywood Blvd at one in the morning. The pizza was okay and I walked her back to her room and made sure she got in okay.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2014 TCM Classic Film Festival Quick Recap

Had a chance to meet Ben Mankiewicz Wednesday night
I just got home from the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) yesterday, and I thought I would share some of my initial reactions to the festival. One word, awesome. I was expecting it to be like Comic-Con for old movie geeks, and I was not disappointed. I'm totally exhausted, but in the best possible way. Saw a total of 16 movies over the four days; nine were old favorites and the rest were new to me. I'll post a more detailed breakdown later, but I thought I'd start with a few quick remarks about what I thought made it so great:

  • People – It's no accident that I'm listing this first. When I mentioned it being like Comic-Con, one key difference between the two events is that Comic-Con throws a pretty wide net. It's primarily about comics, but it's also about film and TV and video games and anime. TCMFF is all about classic movies, so pretty much everyone you talk to is just as rabid about old movies as you are, so unless you're trying to avoid a case of classic film hydrophobia, you definitely feel like you're with your people.
  • Films – Since this is my first #TCMFF, I can't compare to past years, but the schedule was insane. There were times when there were two or three things in the same time block that were absolute must sees. Add to that the handful of epic movies like Gone With the Wind or The Good the Bad and the Ugly, where watching one of these would require skipping like seven or eight movies and two or three other events. Not that I'm complaining. This is very good problem to have. If they made it so that you could see everything, they would only be showing 20 films and would need a theater that seated 5,000.
Letter of Transit for one Victor Laszlo
  • Club TCM – Club TCM inside the Roosevelt Hotel was awesome. Home to certain events during the day and a place to party at night, Club TCM also featured artwork from TCMFF guests and some really great movie props.
  • Intros – Every screening was preceded by an introduction  of some sort. Some were film historians, who gave background on the film itself or the context in which it was made. Others had people currently working in film to introduce one of their favorites. Now, I tend to not be super big on celebrities. A few I admire a lot and would love to meet or share a meal with them. Others, not so much. All of the celebrities I saw were very passionate about the films they introduced and for me, it does give me a little bit of hope to know that there are still people working in Hollywood who can appreciate a great film. Finally, certain of the screening were introduced by people who actually worked on the film itself. Sadly, there weren't a lot of these because there aren't a lot of these people still with us.
  • Outros – A handful of the screenings also had a brief presentation after the film. The ones I saw were things that just worked better after the film. These were always a treat, the icing on the cake
  • Venues – It's one thing to see a great classic film on the big screen, but getting to see a classic a great theater that has just been restored to its former glory is sweet. TCL Chinese IMAX, The Egyptian, and the El Capitan are just beautiful on the inside. And the El Capitan features live organ music, playing movie themes as the audience comes in.  Nice.
  • Ben Mankiewicz – Nothing against Robert Osborne, I appreciate his depth of knowledge, but I really feel like I can relate more to Ben Mankiewicz. I said earlier that there are few celebrities I would like to meet. Ben is one of them and getting to talk to him even briefly was pretty dang cool.
  • Interviews in the Roosevelt lobby – Thursday afternoon, Robert Osborne was recording promos to air on TCM during the festival and doing interviews with guests. When I found out that one of them was going to be, Mel Brooks I was so in. Viewing wasn't exactly optimum because you were standing on the sides or behind them  as they faced the cameras. I have an amazing number of really good pictures of Mel Brooks' left ear. Still, I did get some decent video of him goofing around before the interview.

  • A three-hour tour – Technically, this was not part of TCMFF, but TCM did do a classic movie  locations tour of Hollywood and Los Angeles for their 20th Anniversary. I was able to go the Monday morning after TCMFF with Twitter pals, Aurora, Paula Guthat, Elise Crane Derby, and Will McKinley. Turns out that was the actual anniversary date for TCM. The tour was awesome and included a trip inside the Bradbury Building, where the last part of Blade Runner was filmed. TCM, if you're listening, you need to do that again next year. Please.
  • Meeting my online #TCMParty cronies – Saved the best for last. I always love being able to put a person together with online voice coming through the ether. Was able to meet about a dozen or two people I've been yacking  with about classic movies on Twitter. Nice.