Thursday, August 27, 2015

TCMFF 2016 Dates Announced – Sturhann Tribe Coming to Hollywood

Yesterday, TCM announced the dates for the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), April 28 to May 1, 2016  with passes going on sale in November. I'm sure that most rabid TCMFF fans already heard this and immediately started booking rooms.

For me, this will be my third TCMFF. The first year (2014) I went by myself, and this year I brought my 15-year-old daughter Jasmine along. I saw a post about the dates on Facebook at about 11 am yesterday. The first thing I did was check the TCMFF dates and against the Wonder Con dates. Wonder Con is a comic convention I work.

I was pretty sure there wouldn't be a conflict, because Wonder Con is on Easter weekend. However, for the last several years, TCMFF has fallen the weekend before Wonder Con. This means that if you are doing both events, you're doing two back-to-back long weekends of too much running around, too little sleep, and too much drinking. 

It's brutal, but for me somewhat doable, mostly because even though I am working at Wonder Con, I am working for someone else; i.e., I show up, and they tell me what to do. My wife, that's a different story. She also works for Wonder Con as well. The big difference for her is that she runs the Gaming department, meaning that she is way too busy to do an event like TCMFF the weekend before Wonder Con.

So yesterday at roughly 11 am, I was comparing the dates of the two events, and wonder of all wonders, TCMFF falls four weeks after Wonder Con. This was great news as it gives me a chance to to recover from the one event before hurtling myself into the next. More importantly this means that my wife might be able to go this year. I immediately called her, explained that Wonder Con and TCMFF are a month apart and asked if she wanted to go. She said, sure. 

I got on the TCMFF site and booked a room at the Roosevelt. When I booked a room last year for this year's TCMFF, I waited until about 5:30 pm, the day they announced the dates. By that time, all of the less expensive rooms at the Roosevelt were gone, and I had a choice between expensive room with a balcony or for another $80 a night, I could get a minisuite. The minisuite just seemed to make sense because I would be spending so much on a room anyway. Later on when I decided to bring my daughter, the minisuite was perfect for the two of us. She had the living room and a foldout bed in the couch, and I had an attached room with a kingsize bed. 

For next year I got more or less the same room we had this year. My wife and I in the bedroom and our daughter on the foldout couch. It actually works out cheaper than two separate rooms at the Roosevelt.

All of this happened in the 15 minutes or so after seeing the announcement on Facebook. Is it kind of sad that I did all of this before clicking Like on that Facebook post. Yeah, a little bit. The upshot of this is most of Clan Sturhann will be at TCMFF 2016. Woohoo!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Summer Under the Stars Blogathon: Day 25 – Virginia Bruce and The Invisible Woman

Now, when I first looked over the names for TCM 2015 Summer Under the Stars lineup, I was impressed, but I had to admit, there were a few names that were a bit of a puzzlement. Virginia Bruce was one of those names. When I first saw the schedule, I thought, Virginia Who? In fact, I felt bad that I didn't know her.

Perusing the titles I felt worse. There were a handful of films on the schedule that I knew by name and only one that I could actually say I recognized, The Invisible Woman. So you're probably wondering why I'm writing this, simple The Invisible Woman is a great little movie. 

With the possible exception of Bride of Frankenstein which I think is every bit as good as the original Frankenstein, the sequels to the original Universal Monster movies rarely lived up to the first film. Sure, as they lost their edge, they were still fun to watch, but rarely would you call one of the sequels a good film. What makes The Invisible Woman different is that they abandoned the formula. Rather than making another horror movie with worse production values than the previous film, they wrapped a screwball comedy around the Invisible Man, err, Woman story, and it works brilliantly. 

Storywise, it's not phenomenal, but it is both fun and funny. One of my problems that I have with The Invisible Man films is they tend to have a mean edge, so it makes the title character unsympathetic. The Invisible Woman being a comedy plays it more mischievous and that works way better for me. The special effects in the The Invisible Woman like the rest of the series are very good, especially when the invisible person is only partially clothed.

The casting is superb. Let's start with Virginia Bruce. She's great, despite being invisible through much of the film. She definitely had a feel for comedy. I can see her holding her own with the likes of Cary Grant in a light romantic comedy. The film was considered somewhat risqué at the time, because Virginia Bruce is naked through much of the movie, well, invisible naked anyway. There's a great scene where she puts on her stockings, that takes advantage of this quite nicely. 

John Howard (best known for playing George Kittredge in The Philadelphia Story) is good as her happy-go-lucky playboy love interestFrom there, the rest of the cast is veritable who's who of old Hollywood character actors in parts both big and small. Co-starring with Virginia Bruce is John Barrymore in his third to last film. In a normal Universal Monster movie, the Barrymore role would be that of the mad scientist, but here it's played more like the quirky uncle, which works well in the film. 

Charles Ruggles plays Howard's butler and is brilliant. Barrymore's assistant is none other than Margaret Hamilton, and perennial miser, Charles Lane, is perfect as Bruce's a-hole of a boss. Finally, Oskar Homolka plays a gangster after Barrymore's invisibility machine and his trio of inept henchmen are also Hollywood veteran's:

  • Edward Brophy who tended to always play big-hearted dim-witted criminals
  • Donald MacBride who seemed to specialize in playing outraged hotel managers and clueless police captains
  • Along with Shemp Howard in his pre-Three Stooges days
How could a movie with a cast like this not be worth watching. In short, it couldn't be, even if it was bad. But The Invisible Woman is a great little movie, and everyone shines. 

And Virginia Bruce. Well, I'm still not real familiar with her or her work. Her bios on wikipedia and IMDB are both very short and spend as much time on her marriages and personal life as her career. Her career took a bit of a dip after the death of Irving Thalberg in 1936, and she went from making A pictures to B pictures.

The Invisible Woman is one of those B pictures. Maybe Virginia Bruce is not the brightest star in the sky of classic Hollywood, but she gave us one hell of a good movie in The Invisible Woman. And that's good enough for me.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Faking a Victorian Mens Bathing Suit on the Cheap – Option 2 (No Work)

It dawned on me that there might be an easier way to fake a Victorian mens bathing suit. Seeing how horizontal striped t-shirts/tank tops are back in style, I thought maybe you could come fairly close to the look just with off the shelf clothing. Armed with this idea, I went off to Target. My idea was to find a cheap horizontal striped shirt and pair of shorts. I figured I wasn't going to find a shirt and shorts that matched perfectly, but if I found a pair of shorts that were the same color as one of the stripes in the shirt, it might be close enough.

What I came up with was:

  • Striped v-neck t-shirt (on clearance for $6.99)
  • Matching (sort of)  Haines gray jogging shorts (regular price at $7.99)

Total with tax was, $16 and change. The end result is:

Not bad considering it was under 20 bucks and no work involved.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Faking a Victorian Mens Bathing Suit on the Cheap – First Try

So you want a Victorian men's bathing suit for lounging around the pool at the steampunk convention, eh? You could buy one of course for $40-$50 online, but let's face it, it's not something you're likely to be wearing to the beach, so cheaper would be better, right? Now you might have noticed that this is marked as, first try. That's because this is based on my first attempt to do one, and I think I might get better results on my second try. Still, this could get you pointed in the right direction.

Let's start by looking at some vintage pics to see what Victorian mens bathing suits looked like. I googled Victorian swimwear and grabbed photos that looked genuine, not modern reproductions of vintage swimwear. To be honest, I'm not a hundred percent sure these are all Victorian. Possibly, some of the following could be later, say 1920s. Still, I think this gives a better idea of the range of Victorian mens swimwear. This is probably what you think of when you picture a Victorian mens bathing suit:

Basically, what we have is horizontal stripes and a one piece union suit with short bottoms and a henley neck/short sleeve t-shirt top.

Let's look at a couple more:

On the left more or less the same thing, still horizontal stripes but a deeper henley neck. It's hard to say, but the one on the left also looks like the top might be a separate shirt (not a one piece). I zoomed way in on the photo, and you l really can't tell for sure. On the right, one piece union suit (I think, it might be two piece as well) with short bottoms and standard tank top.

This is going to be the last one:

Here you have two piece shorts plus a separate tank top. No horizontal stripes except the trim on the bottom of the one in the middle. 

What we're going to shoot for is mix of all of them. Since budget was a consideration, I went the cheapest I could possibly find, one of those 5 t-shirts for $10 places. They didn't have any shorts in t-shirt material, only fleece (sweat shirt material), but at $6 for a pair of shorts I couldn't complain. My first choice on color would have been white, but they didn't have white, so I went with the lightest gray they had. Then grabbed a tank top in a matching color for $4. 

Next was Home Depot for Blue Painter's tape. I got 2 inch wide. You might already have this. Then Michaels for fabric paint, $7 per bottle (I got blue):

Back home, I found some scrap cardboard to make a form to stretch out and make the tank top and shorts lay flat for painting.. Again since cost was a factor, I didn't want to spend any more money than I had to on this. Rather than buy the t-shirt form at Michaels, I opted to make one out of a box I had lying around. This is the result:

You may not be able to tell from the picture, but the shorts are using three pieces of cardboard rather than one (one for the waist and two smaller ones for the legs). If I had it to do over again (and I am going to), I would use a single piece of cardboard for the shorts cut into more or less in the following shape:

Next I put down the blue painter's tape in horizontal stripes. The advantage of using 2-inch wide tape was that it was that I didn't have to use multiple pieces to mask off different areas, though now that think of it, if you used the standard 3/4-inch tape, you could take the same approach and just do narrower stripes. I didn't bother with measuring. I just tried to make sure they were straight. I did fold a little bit of the ends to the back, so I could use that to line up the tape on the back side of the cardboard. That way the stripes appear in the same place on the front and back of the tank top and shorts.

Next, I painted with the tank top and shorts following the manufacturer's instructions (with the exception that I didn't pre-wash beforehand). I wasn't entirely happy with the way they came out. The problem was that the paint was in an ordinary pump spray bottle and not a very good quality one, so you tended to get drops as you can see in the picture.

Part of the problem is the paint started to build up on the nozzle of the spray bottle which made the drips worse. I think it you took a paper towel and cleaned off the nozzle as you worked, that would help. Still, I think you're bound to get drips a little bit anyway. I waited about an hour (or whatever the instructions said) until the paint was dry to touch. Then I took off the blue tape. It looked better than I thought it would, despite the drips. 

The instructions recommended letting it set for 48 hours and then washing before the first use. This is the final result. All things considered, the results are pretty decent.

Final thoughts

I do plan to try it again. After doing this, I noticed that Joanns carried a different brand of fabric paint with an aerosol spray. I want to give it a try and see if the drips are less of a problem. 

The basic technique would be the same but I do have some cog shaped washers that I would like to use as a stencil to get a steampunk design.

Final final thoughts

Last night I tried the stencil thing and the aerosol spray above. The stencil worked great. The aerosol worked great, at first. The spray came out even with less drops. Then as the propellant started to fade, it got worse, way worse than the pump spray bottle. It didn't have enough force to propel the paint out of the can as a mist, but in big drops. I suppose if you used multiple cans, it would great. But I'm guessing it would take three or four cans to do this project which at five bucks a can sort of defeats the purpose of doing it cheaply.