Saturday, January 31, 2015

µBlog – Mad Men

µBlog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

Started watching Mad Men. It's really cool and all but kind of unrealistic. I mean I've seen those documentaries from the 1960s. You know the ones with Rock Hudson and Doris Day. And no one was getting laid in those films, so I'm assuming Mad Men is pure fantasy.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

µBlog – New Films Announced for TCMFF 2015

µBlog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

Today TCM announced more films for the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF).  Looking at my twitter feed most of the buzz seemed to involve the announcement that Ann-Margret would be on hand to present The Cincinnati Kid. All I could think was I was glad it wasn't Tommy, though I must admit the baked bean scene is amazing.

For me,  the big news boiled down to two films:
  • 42nd Street - Gotta love Busby Berkeley Pre-Code on the big screen. 
  • Pinocchio - To this day, still one of my all time favorite Disney animated films.
Another announcement was Doctor Zhivago, a film I've never seen and know I should. But no matter how you slice it, it's a 3 hour movie, meaning that you might have to sacrifice two films on the schedule to see this one. Might be a hard sell. 

For the complete announcement, see the TCMFF press release.

My Favorite Thing from TCMFF 2014

My favorite thing at last year's TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) was something that happened at Blazing Saddles. There were a lot of things about Blazing Saddles that might make it my favorite:

  • First off, it's my all-time favorite comedy and one of my top 5 favorite movies of any genre. I'm sure I've seen it 50 or 60 times, and I still laugh at each and every joke. 
  • I had only seen the movie two times in the theater. Once in late 80s/early 90s, and I saw it on its initial run when it first came out. I would have been about 12 or 13 at the time. My Dad took me. It was only time we ever went to a movie, just me and him. Usually, it was the whole family. Now back in the mid-70s, 12- and 13-year-olds didn't get to go R-rated movies very often, at least not in my house, so knowing I was going to see it again brought all that back.
  • Finally, Mel Brooks was introducing it. How cool is that? Not just the director, but he also played a couple of parts, and co-wrote both the screenplay and the theme song. Not to mention, it's Mel Brooks. Now admittedly, I had heard him the day before in the lobby of the Roosevelt, and he told more or less the same stories as he had earlier, not they suffered a lot. His delivery was impeccable, and they were every bit as funny the second time around.
You would think that any of the above would make this my favorite, but no, it was something else.

There is a convention that people follow at TCMFF, at least for films that are well known. People applaud at different points during the screenings. The audience applauds during the credits, the title of the movie, the names of the stars and the director, and if there was somebody very well known like a screenwriter or film scorer, that would usually get applause too. And of course, they applaud at the end. During the movie, the audience generally applauds the first appearance of all the major characters on-screen.

What makes this so cool is that pretty much everybody in the audience knows just how long to clap and just when to stop, so you don’t miss any of the dialog. It’s both bizarre and extremely cool at the same time. You are not used to that level level of group think when watching a movie, or at least I have never seen it anywhere else.

Now, my favorite thing involves this. Blazing Saddles was no different than other films at the festival. The audience applauded the credits, and then when the movie started, they 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. 

Now at this point, Internet convention requires that I use the term, spoiler alert. I honestly can't believe anyone reading this would have not seen Blazing Saddles. If you're one of those people, you should stop reading. In fact, I don't even see why I need to be polite about it.

Get out.



Go on, pick up your stuff. We'll wait. Are you gone? Okay, good.

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 into a movie theater to watch the end of the movie that he was appearing in. The Blazing Saddles screening was in TCL Chinese IMAX. The theater that Harvey Korman walks into was Mann's Chinese Theater, the same theater that is now TCL Chinese IMAX, the theater we were sitting in at that moment. And it dawned on us, like the entire audience all at once, that he was sitting in the same room that we were sitting in, so the audience applauded the theater. It was so cool.

Have any other stories about past TCMFFs? Feel free to post or link to them in the comments.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

µBlog – 10K Tweets and I Have #TCMParty to Thank

µBlog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

Last night, a pretty big milestone (for me anyway) came and went, and even I didn't notice it until this morning. I posted my 10,000th tweet. I gotta say I was pretty late to hop on the Twitter bandwagon. By the time I created a Twitter account, most people had already moved on.

I'm not even sure why I did it in the first place. I knew going in that it was on its way out. I know that part of the reason I joined was that one of my Comic-Con cronies was always on twitter and this was a good way to see what she was up to. In the beginning, I wasn't what you call active. I did one or two tweets a day, and but then would have lapses of weeks/months at a time where I did nothing.

I half heartedly kept at it, most because I didn't want to seem like a flake. Kind of odd really, I mean who cares if you're a flake and never update your twitter feed when you have 23 followers. Still, I tried to tough it out. Since I was at least fairly active and would follow people in hopes that they would follow me back, I started to pick up followers.

I'm not sure exactly when it was but I think it was about 2 years ago, I stumbled on the #TCMParty hashtag. I'm pretty sure I was on the couch watching TCM, online with my laptop, checking twitter and noticed that someone in my feed was watching the same movie I was and talking about it using the #TCMParty hashtag. Well, I clicked on the hashtag and jumped in on the conversation. That was I'm guessing better than 9,500 tweets ago.

The #TCMParty hashtag started back in 2011, and they post a schedule each week on the TCM Party Tumbler  page. To be honest, I almost never check the schedule. I think it has taken on a life of its own. All I know is when I get home from work I turn on TCM and search on the hashtag, and there is almost always somebody online talking about whatever is on.

Looking at my twitter feed, easily better than 90% of my tweets contain the hashtag, including my 10,000th, We were watching a 1940 Bette Davis/Charles Boyer film, called All This and Heaven Too. The married Boyer had just told his children's governess, Davis, that he wanted to go away with her. My response (Tweet # 10,000):

If you were to go away with me, you would just systematically drive me insane.  #AllThisAndHeavenToo #TCMParty

It wasn't a great film, at least I didn't think so, but it was a good #TCMParty, a lot of Gaslight references.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hip, and Not the Artificial Kind

I feel pretty lucky. I'm at a good point in life. I'm not sure how long it is going to last, but at least for the moment, I am hip. I know this sounds like an incredibly vain and conceited thing to say. Let me explain. Despite the earmark ridiculous facial hair, I am not a hipster. Oh when I was young, I might have had some hipster traits, but those went away a long time ago. Still, I have always had odd interests. They have changed through the years, but they were always out there a bit.

The thing is, so much time has elapsed, hipsterness has swung back around to me. There are a number of other things in my life right now that ooze of the hipster. It's not a concerted effort to be hip. It's just the way it is:

  • I do steampunk, hence the ridiculous facial hair.
  • I just started playing a ukulele, not an attempt to be hip. It's just something I wanted to do. I used to play guitar, back in college, and I wanted to get back into playing music. Ukulele seem like an easy way to do this.

    ... And hipsterness has got to the point where almost anything eclectic is considered hip. Hence, the following just add to it:
  • I live-tweet and blog about old movies.
  • I do volunteer work for Comic-Con and other fan conventions (been doing this for years, a lot of years).
  • I ride a skateboard, actually, I just never stopped from when I was a kid.

I really haven't changed all that much through the years. See Figure 1. Ten years ago, I was doing mosaics out of broken dishes. Twenty years ago (give or take), I was doing a humor column and gag cartoons online. Thirty years ago, I was trying to teach myself how to draw and trying to break in as a comic-book writer.

Figure 1

The thing about hipster culture is that it has its own completely different elliptical orbit. See Figure 2. 

Figure 2

It was somewhat inevitable that at some point, the two paths would cross. It was just highly unlikely that it would happen in my lifetime. See Figure 3.

Figure 3

Thus, I have had hipsterness come back around to me like a rogue comet. Normally, I wouldn't want this. There's nothing sadder than an aging hipster. But there's one difference for me. I have a daughter who just turned 15 last weekend. While most 15-year-old daughters are embarrassed by their fathers, especially ones who are trying to be hipsters in their fifties. Mine thinks I'm cool. I honestly have never attempted to be hip. Or maybe, I always have and have been missing the mark by so much for so long that I forgot what the original intention was.

All I know is this is a really good place to be. I was explaining this, and my 20-year-old son overheard. He said that his girlfriend whom I've only spoken to maybe a dozen times thinks I'm cool. Just seems strange. It may never happen again, but I'm going to try to enjoy it while it lasts.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

µBlog – TCM Announces The Sound of Music as Opening Night Screening at TCMFF

µBlog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

Today, TCM announced the Opening Night Screening at Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer hosting. 

I debated a lot this year on what level of pass to get. Last year, my first year attending TCMFF, I got a Classic pass, and I was fine with it. The big difference between the Classic pass and Essential pass (the next level up), is that you get to walk the Red Carpet, you get to attend the special opening screening they just announced, and a gift bag. There is a $150 difference between Classic pass and Essential pass and when you are buying the passes, they have only announced a handful of films, and not opening screening.

In other words, you have to decide whether not to spend the extra money, when you really don't know what you're paying for. If it's a film I really love, I figure it's money well spent, but if not.... Now, I didn't figure that TCM would pick a bad movie, but there are movies out there that are considered great that I just plain don't like. Breakfast at Tiffany's would be a good example for me.

To me, it was a crap shoot. You roll the dice in November when you buy the pass and have to wait a couple of months to see whether it came up a seven, a snake eyes, or somewhere in between. I laid down the extra money and hoped for the best. Today, the dice came up, and I think I'll have to call it a seven. The bet I placed back in November came up good. 

The Sound of Music is a great film. The songs are great, good story, beautifully cinematography, and hosted by two stars, the caliber of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. What could I possibly complain about? Is it one of my all-time favorite films?  Frankly, it would be pretty far down the list, but it is a film I love. It's one of the first movies I remember seeing as a very young child. In fact, I was so young, I only remember bits and pieces of the experience of seeing it in the theater. I'm pretty sure I saw it in the theater one other time since, in the 1980s I think.

Oh sure, my absolute dream screening would be North By Northwest with Martin Landau or The Sting with Robert Redford. The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer? I think I'll be able to deal. Totally psyched. I can't wait.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Near Perfect Weekend

Last weekend was pretty darn close to perfect. A little bit more running around than I like, but well worth the effort. The Ken Cinema was playing different a classic movie each day, starting Friday. I'm on track to see all but the last two. Friday night was Sunset Blvd., which I have never seen in the theater. It was way funnier than I expected. The narration and dialog is very biting. At its heart, the film is really a tragedy, so you kind of feel guilty laughing at it.

We had to move some furniture Saturday morning but it ended up being less of a pain than I expected. In the afternoon, I took my 14-year-old daughter to see Blade Runner, The Final Cut. This is one of those films that I watch once or twice a year, but my daughter had never seen it. I'm sure I've seen all of the various incarnations of the film through the years, but even having just seen the film and read the Wikipedia page, I would be hard-pressed to tell you the difference between the Final Cut and the 1990s Director's Cut.

I hadn't seen the film in the theater in a lot of years (possibly 10 or more, might have even been when they re-released as the Director's Cut). It was spectacular as I expected. I actually started to tear up when Roy Batty died. I wasn't expecting that. Now, my daughter, she realizes that there are a lot of Science Fiction films she needs to see if only for upping her geek cred. I had asked if she had wanted to see any of the films I was seeing this weekend, and for that reason, she picked Blade Runner and bowed out on the others. She said she had too much homework that weekend to go any of the others. All of the dedication and desire to do well in school that was totally lost on our son showed up in her in spades. Good girl.

Her reaction to the film was, it was okay, which I can totally understand. Don't get me wrong, I love the film, but I really don't think there is much of the story. I'm not one of those who ascribe to there being a lot of deep symbolism in the film. I'll admit that there is symbolism, but I feel like it is just dumped into a box and poured all over the movie and not tied up in any meaningful way. What makes it great is that the visuals are so good. I love to watch and let it wash over me. And to this day, three decades after its release, it still holds up. I explained this to her, and I think she got it. I thought it was kind of cool that she had almost the same initial reaction to Blade Runner that I did. For those keeping track, her Tweetable review of Blade Runner was:

I've never felt so threatened by boiled eggs.

That night, my wife and I went to the Goth nightclub we go dancing at. That night, they had two rooms running, the front room with mostly newer Goth music, which my wife loves and is a bit hit or miss for me, and the back room with a mix of 80s New Wave-ish dance music and older Goth and Industrial, which I'm more into, well, that and heavy-ish women in corsets. As usual, we spent most of our time in opposite rooms, and occasionally going back and forth between the two.

It was a good night for both of us. The front room had a guest DJ, which is usually either good or horribly bad. That night, it was good. For me, if they play a lot of 80s music and don't screw it up in the remix, I'm happy. That night was mostly good for me as well. If I had a complaint, it would be that it seemed like every third song was, Depeche Mode, not that I have a big problem with that, but there are other bands of that ilk to choose from. The next day my wife told me that she was trying to dance with some guy, but every time she got a chance I showed up and scared him away. Should I be worried? No, not really.

I ended up sleeping in, which I never do. It was rainy, so that made sleeping in all the better. When I woke up, I got coffee and was surprised how crowded it was in the coffee shop. I'm always in two hours earlier. I had a late breakfast and caught about the last 10 minutes of The Maltese Falcon, teach me to sleep in. I read the paper, my Sunday ritual and ran a quick errand. At 12:30, we (my wife and I this time) went to see Once Upon a Time in the West. This is a movie that I have only seen the first time in the last couple of years and have only seen once or twice since. Of course, this was the first viewing in the theater, such a great movie.

We were going with our friend, Didi, who is one of my few close friends, who is an even bigger movie snob than I am. Over the previews, he whispered about how our daughter liked Blade Runner. I whispered back her thoughts. I think all four of us fall in the visually very cool movie, but kind of short on story camp for Blade Runner. As expected, Once Upon a Time in the West was great. The opening sequence is so cool. It's about 12-minutes long. Woody Strode, Jack Elam, and Al Mulock show up at a train station to wait for someone. There is probably three minutes worth of closeups of Jack Elam, as he wiggles and scrunches his face to get rid of a fly that he is too cool, too mean, or too tough to swat at with his hand. The sequence does virtually nothing to advance the story other than to build tension about who is going to be getting off the train. Most directors would get through it as quick as possible. Sergio Leone dwells on it, and his film is that much better because of it. 

It's also great to see Charles Bronson in a good role. Usually, he just shoots people. Technically, he does shoot a lot of people here, but at least, here he is doing so in a really good movie and gets to act as well. Henry Fonda is great as well. It's so weird seeing him be a vicious killer. I always think of Henry Fonda as the father we all wish we had. Here, he's more like the father Charles Manson wishes he had. Pretty awesome.

With the late breakfast and no time for lunch before the 12:30 movie, we were famished by the time it got out. Now, Didi is what we affectionately call, a food whore. It doesn't matter what part of town you are in, he knows of a reasonably priced place that is insanely good. We figured we could tap into that culinary database he keeps in his head. He suggested a Thai place about 10 blocks away. We got there, but it was closed. We continued on another 10 or 12 blocks and ended up at a little hole in the wall called, Swine and Soda. Various items with meatballs and frou frou sodas. I got a meatball sandwich, goat cheese potato puree, and a Strawberry Crush (not exactly frou frou, but they were out of the three or four things listed on their sign board, and I didn't want to spend 5 minutes ordering a soda). Oh my god, it was the best sandwich.

Finally, the weekend ended with the Fathom Events screening of The Wizard of Oz. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't that psyched, not because I don't like The Wizard of Oz or Fathom Events or anything, but I had seen it in the theater in August. I really didn't need to see it again that soon, but my friend, Ned wanted to go. I figured, what the heck. It was fun and spectacular as expected, but I do have to say, my favorite part was seeing my Twitter #TCMParty home girls, @CitizenScreen and @IrishJayhawk66 on the big screen in the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) promo that they ran before the file. You go, girls.

I ended up seeing two more classic films at the Ken as well, It Happened One Night (Monday) and Yojimbo (Tuesday). If you're counting that makes six classic films in the theater in five days, not bad for a place like San Diego, not exactly the film Mecca of the universe. I like to think of that as training for TCMFF.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015 TCMFF Travel Plans – You Guys Are Gonna Hate Me

This morning I turned on my computer over breakfast and before going to facebook/twitter like I normally do, I went to to look at the train schedule for going to the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). Turns out they have trains running from San Diego to Los Angeles Union Station about every 90 minutes all day. I want to get to Hollywood by about noon, so the 8:24 should be about right.

Coming from San Diego, I have three decent options for getting up there:

  • Flying – Really short flight, 50 minutes, but you need to add getting to the airport an hour early, another 20 minutes to get off the plane and an hour or so cab ride in LA Traffic to get to Hollywood from LAX.

  • Driving – San Diego to Hollywood should be about a 2 hour drive, but with LA traffic it's always 3 hours (provided you don't hit San Diego or Orange County traffic on the way). Plus, if you drive, you get to pay however much a day to park a car you won't be using.

  • Train/LA Metro – The train takes at least the one I want to take is just under three hours, but Union Station connects to the LA Metro which can get me to Hollywood and Highland ( a couple blocks from the Roosevelt) in about 20 minutes.
No matter how you slice it, it's a three hour trip. The difference is that the train is cheaper, less hassle, and there's a section of the trip where you're looking out the window at people surfing 80 yards away from the train tracks. Train, it is. While everybody else is looking for flights, I'll probably buy my train tickets up about a week out. I told you, you were going to hate me. On the way home, I'll buy tickets at the Union Station since I have no idea what time I'll want to get up and out of the hotel on the Monday after TCMFF.

Back to this morning, I finished breakfast, stopped for coffee, and then drove to work. I normally take I-5 to work, the same freeway I would take most of the way driving to L.A./Hollywood. On my way to work, I get off I-5 and take surface streets for a few exits, which avoids a lot of the worst the freeway traffic on my way to work. This morning as I was waiting at the ramp signal to get back on the freeway, the Pacific Surfliner went by, the same 8:24 train I'll be taking 12 weeks from today. Can hardly wait.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

µBlog – Don't Know Dick

µBlog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

This morning over breakfast, I turned on TCM to catch a few minutes of whatever was on like I normally do. It was a pre-Code film I'd never seen before, The Ruling Voice from 1931. At one point, the gangster father, talking about his daughter, said that she was now engaged to Dick Cheney. I knew Dick Cheney was old, but I didn't think he was that old. The Dick Cheney in the movie seemed like a nice guy, whereas Dick Cheney is kind of a Dick.... Cheney.