Thursday, March 23, 2017

TCMFF Memories – Superscope

Tonight, TCM is showing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (12 midnight Eastern, 9 pm Pacific). Looking at the poster, it reminds me of something from my first TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) back in 2014. They were showing Invasion of the Body Snatchers at the Egyptian. The introduction was by Joe Dante, and we would be watching it in Superscope from 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 1950s 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 1950s, 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 made for distribution to TV stations deteriorated. By that time, the master negatives were also 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.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The TCMFF Survival Guide Strikes Back

Updated March 15. I added info about the Montalbán Theatre (500 Seats) and ArcLight Cinemas’ Cinerama Dome venues.

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

Most of what follows are tips to help you get the most out of the Festival while hanging on to your sanity. Also I've included some links to some other general attending TCMFF blog posts at the bottom. Lots of good info there as well.

TCMFF Etiquette

Seems like they didn’t do it as much last year, but there is usually an announcement before each screening about silencing phones and other devices. 

Do it!!!

It's okay to tweet or post to Facebook while you're waiting in line or sitting in the theater waiting for things to begin. Once, somebody starts talking, put it away. Taking pictures/video during the intro is fine, but turn off the flash. It's distracting and won't help if you're farther than about 10 feet away.

Be considerate of those around you. It's generally considered rude to leave before the end of a screening, but sometimes it's unavoidable. If you have to duck out early, try to get to the event you are leaving extra early and get seat on the aisle so you don't have to climb over people. If you know you need to leave at a certain time, wear a watch. A watch screen is way less distracting than your iPhone 7 Plus.

I shouldn't have to say this but:
  • Don't talk during the movie.
  • Don't take any pictures during a screening. It's really annoying to the people behind you. 
  • Don't check your phone for any reason during a screening. 
  • In an emergency, if you absolutely need to use your phone, go into the lobby. You're not going to be able to help anyone from a movie theater anyway.
Food, try to eat some 
I know you’re going to be running around trying not to miss anything, but seriously, try to get something besides movie theater popcorn and Red Vines over the four days.

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

If you have special dietary needs, there aren’t many good close options for groceries near TCMFF. Your best bets are: 
  • Ralphs (7257 Sunset Blvd). Full service grocery store, should have a deli and salad bar and open 24 hours. About 8 blocks away, but not in the direction of any of the other TCMFF venues, dammit.
  • Ralphs (1233 N La Brea Ave). Full service grocery store, should have a deli and salad bar and open 5 am 2am. Again about 8 blocks away, but on the map it looks marginally further than the Ralphs on Sunset. Also, it too is not in the general direction of any of the other TCMFF venues. Possibly, this might be worth the extra walk as it takes you past Jim Henson Co. (historic former home of Charlie Chaplin Studios).
  • Trader Joe's (1600 Vine St). About 12 blocks away and open 8 am-10 pm.
Other food tips: 
  • Breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Yeah, I know I sound like your mother, but if you skip breakfast, you’re already messing up the food-try-to-eat-some thing. Me, I’ve never been real big on the granola bars, but if you like them, and they work for you pick up a box and take with you. Bring a couple extra. You might find yourself in line with someone who’s totally famished. A 75-cent breakfast bar could earn you a friend for life.
  • If you get to a screening too late and get shut out or have a block where you're not psyched on anything, take advantage of it. Go get a real meal, where it’s hot and they bring it to you on a real plate. It might be the only one you get over the four days.
  • Hungry late? A good bet is In ‘N Out Burger, a Southern California Burger chain. They are located at 7009 Sunset Blvd., corner of Sunset and North Orange Dr., three blocks south of the Hollywood Roosevelt. They have a really simple menu, but have a secret menu that is probably the worst kept secret ever. My favorite is protein style burger, no bun wrapped in big leaves of lettuce so you can eat like a normal burger, great if you’re doing the low carb thing. They are open until 1 am, Sunday-Thursday and 1:30 am, Friday and Saturday.
  • Water – You should try to do some of that too.

Plan everything including your breaks
Okay, so you’ve figured out what you want to see. You should probably try to get to events a half hour ahead of the start time, possibly earlier. If it’s something you’d be crushed if you missed, shoot for an hour early, especially if it's one of the smaller theaters. How do you make that happen? You should be able to figure out the end times by looking at the schedule. Anytime you have a longer break between events is a good opportunity to get some food that doesn’t come in a bucket with fake butter and salt. Do keep in mind that TCL House 4 and House 6 (at 177 and 210 seats, respectively), fill up really fast. Try to get there earlier if possible.

Know that getting around is going to take you longer than you expect. Figure that if you’re going from one screen in TCL Chinese 6 to another screen in TCL Chinese 6, five minutes from getting out of one theater and back in line for the next is a decent bet. Everything else is going to take longer, and very likely way longer than you think it will. 

If you look Google Maps, the distance from TCL Chinese IMAX to the Egyptian looks like it’s about 2 and a half blocks, but if you look at the way the surrounding streets are laid out, it’s closer to four blocks, or at least a long two blocks. If you figure you walk fast, you should be able to walk four blocks in about 7 minutes. Think again, if you’re on Hollywood Boulevard, the sidewalks are going to be packed, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

It’s not just TCMFF people, it’s tourists, it’s the guys in the cheesy Spiderman costumes, people stopping to take pictures or answer a text, all in your way when you’re trying to get somewhere fast. The sidewalk might be closed for construction, forcing you to go back half a block to cross to the other side when you weren’t planning to. If you can figure out a way to avoid Hollywood Boulevard altogether, that might be a good idea.

The east west street one block south of Hollywood Blvd is Hawthorne Ave. It jogs a bit at Highland Ave, but does keep going though there isn't a crosswalk to get across Highland Ave. Depending on how confident you are jaywalking/dodging cars you are probably better off going back to Hollywood Blvd. to cross at Highland. The worst stretch of Hollywood Blvd in terms of sidewalk crowds/craziness is the stretch between The Roosevelt and Highland anyway. 

If you’re planning to change clothes between the daytime and nighttime screenings, figure out which break you’re going to use to go back to the hotel and change. Stopping for a quick snack, look around and see if there is anything you can pick up for when you’re famished later.

Know your venues
Updated March 15
The venues listed here are what is listed on the TCMFF site at the time of this writing. It’s likely that there will be other venues included once the full schedule is announced. For example, in 2014 and 2015, there were screenings at El Capitan, and last year there were screenings at the Cinerama Dome. I’ll do my best to update the venues once the full schedule is out.
The important thing to keep in mind about the venues is where they are and how big they are. I’ve arranged the venues in order by how close they are to the Roosevelt Hotel, since that is the host hotel:

  • Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel – Home to Club TCM and the Poolside screenings. Club TCM is where a most of the guest interviews will be. In years past, there was a fairly low stage, rows of chairs and a standing area behind the chairs. The important thing here is that if you’re at the back of the standing area, you might not be able to see very well. If there is an event that is really important to you, make sure you get there extra early. The pool is just that a swimming pool with a screen at the one end.  Everybody says get there extra early if you want one of the lounge chairs. I've only been to one of the poolside screenings. I had some extra time on Saturday last year and caught a little bit of Forbidden Planet.
  • Chinese Theatre IMAX (920 seats) – This is the old Grauman’s Chinese theater. If you cross Hollywood Blvd. from The Roosevelt, you’re there. They usually run some Disneyland-style switchbacks in front of the theater and then up the stairs up into the Hollywood and Highland mall. Don’t panic if the line goes back a long way. It’s a big theater. It was recently renovated with stadium seats and state-of-the-art projection and audio equipment, while still retaining the original decor. 
  • TCL Chinese 6 Theatres is located inside the Hollywood and Highland mall. They are using three screens. The thing to keep in mind here is the last two of the following are fairly small, and they are the most likely to fill up and have to turn people away:
    • House 1 (477 Seats)
    • House 4 (177 Seats)
    • House 6 (210 Seats)
  • Egyptian Theatre (618 Seats) – Great old theater, built in the early 1920s. Personally, I like sitting in the balcony because you get a better view of the Egyptian frescos in the ceiling. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either two long very long blocks or about four normal size blocks away, so allow yourself some extra time to get there.
Updated March 15. The last two venues are not in the general area of the festival. Both are about a 25-30 minute walk according the Festival web site, I think it's a bit less than that. Your mileage may vary. The ArcLight Cinemas’ Cinerama Dome is about three blocks further than the Montalbán Theatre. I'm thinking your best bet on both is to take the Metro Rail Red line, from the Hollywood/Highland station to Hollywood/Vine, should be $1.75 each way. That's how we went to the Montalbán two years ago. Trains run every 10 minutes week days and every 15 minutes Saturday and Sunday, and it's about a two minute ride.

You could probably take a cab/Uber/Lift, but with traffic on Hollywood Blvd. that might not save you very much time. Also, I don't know how long it takes for one to show up in Hollywood, especially when everyone will be trying to get one at the same time. To be honest, I don't think any way you go is going to substantially faster than any other way.

  • The Montalbán Theatre (500 Seats) – About a block south of Hollywood Blvd. on Vine St.
    Address: 1615 Vine St.
  • ArcLight Cinemas’ Cinerama Dome (596 seats) – About four blocks south of Hollywood Blvd. on Sunset Blvd. (at Morningside Court). Note that Morningside does not go all the way through from Sunset Blvd. to Hollywood Blvd.
    6360 W Sunset Blvd.
    • If coming from Hollywood/Vine Station, take Vine St. south to Sunset Blvd. Turn right on Sunset, theater is a block west.
    • If walking you can do either of the following: 
      • To avoid the Hollywood Blvd. craziness, take Sunset Blvd. the whole way. Take N. Orange Dr. (street the Hollywood Roosevelt is on) south to Sunset Blvd. Turn left on Sunset. Cinerama Dome is about 8 blocks east.
      • If you like sidewalk stars, take Hollywood Blvd. most of the way. Go east on Hollywood Blvd. to N. Cahuenga Blvd. Turn right on N. Cahuenga Blvd. and go south to Sunset Blvd. Turn left on Sunset Blvd. Cinerama Dome is about 2 blocks east.
Line numbers
When you get in line for a screening, you will be given a number in the order you enter the line, this means you can leave the line and go do something if need be, use the rest room, or grab a snack. I would check to see when they're going to move the line. Usually the people giving out the numbers have a good idea. That way you know how much time you have. You need to make sure you get back in in line before your number moves in. They will not hold a seat for you just because you have a number. Take advantage of it when you can. It could be the difference between a sandwich for dinner and Jujubes.

It's really simple if the line doesn't get messed up which does happen sometimes. Say you and the person you're with get line numbers and want to leave to get popcorn. You get back to the line and figure out where your number should be. Most people put the numbers in the pocket of their badge, so you can usually see where you need to go. If you need to ask someone what number they are, go ahead. People are really good about helping you out. Say you and the person you're with have numbers 75 and 76. You find the people closest to yours. It might be 72 and 77. So you get in line in front of 77 and behind 72, knowing that 73 and 74 have to get back in line in front of you.

It's better if you do not squish the line forward. There's are always going to be people who will need to get back in line. Sometimes the line will be really full and you might not want to make it worse. Just figure out where you need to be and find out who has the numbers around yours. Then when the line starts to move you can get back in at the proper spot.

Hollywood and Highland mall
The TCL Chinese 6 is located in the Hollywood and Highland mall. The mall is sort of a tourist mall. Most malls are fairly easy to get around in. This mall, not so much. It was designed so that you could explore, with an eye toward wandering around and getting lost. This means that you may not always be able to tell what level you're on or how to get up or down one level, or most importantly if you're on the correct level for the movie theater. If you have a spare hour before the festival starts, go over and find the TCL Chinese and figure out how to get from there to the Chinese IMAX and how to get out of the mall itself. It should be easy. It’s not. Note any stairs and escalators you run across. The time you get lost is bound to be the time you have least time to spare. If you see any interesting fast food, see if they have a To Go menu. It might be the only hot meal you get.

A friend Will McKinley did a post similar to this three years ago (link at the end). He’s the one who suggested avoiding Hollywood Blvd. altogether, good call. He also suggested coming in from the back. If you cross Hollywood Blvd. from the Roosevelt, you'll be standing in front of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. If you follow the sidewalk to the left of the wax museum (north on N. Orange Dr.), you'll come to a traffic circle where tour buses line up. Follow the traffic circle around to the back, and there's an entrance to the mall. My mistake my first year was to not following that route all the way to the movie theater. I got distracted by things in the mall. If you go in this way, where you come into mall, there will two sets of stairs going up on the left. One goes to the mall business office. The other goes to the same level as the TCL Chinese 6, about 30 feet from the door. Find this stairway. It will save you a lot of time.

If you're staying at Loews Hollywood Hotel, there's a walkway that leads directly into the mall. I would find that and make sure that you know exactly how to get to the movie theater. If you oversleep some morning, you'll thank me.

Read everything you can
Take the time to read everything you can find on the website, Search for blog posts like this one. A good source of info is Twitter, follow @tcm (they phased out the @tcmfilmfest handle last year) and search on the #TCMFF hashtag. There will be lots of good tips there. Google the people being listed as guests, you never know, you might be standing next to one of them at Starbucks, and it will give you something to talk about. If they are showing one of your all-time favorites, read the Wikipedia and IMDB pages about the film. You’re sure to pick up some interesting tidbits that most people don’t know. You can look smart to other people in line.

There and back
Whenever I go to an event like TCMFF, I like to take Airborne the morning I leave and each day while I’m there. Does it guarantee that you won’t get sick? No, but it doesn’t hurt. We’ve had a lot rain this year, so hay fever is bound to be worse. Me, I’m not normally bothered by allergies, but the last few days, it’s been kicking my butt. 

Remember that read everything you can. Well, I know how you can get busy and time can get away from you, especially when preparing for a trip/vacation. Most people are going to have a good 5 or 6 hours travel time getting to TCMFF. Make some printouts or save copies to your tablet or whatever to read in the airport and on the plane.

Are you the type who likes to buy souvenirs? If so, are they going to fit in your suitcase? You might want to consider bringing a Priority Mail Flat-Rate box. If you’re worried about items getting lost or damaged in the mail, you can always mail home your dirty clothes. There is a Post Office at 1615 Wilcox Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028 (hours 9 am-6 pm, Mon-Sat, closed Sun), about another four blocks past the Egyptian. It might even be worth calling your hotel and see if they can mail for you.

Weather, there will be some
I can guarantee you that it will not snow. Beyond that, all bets are off. This year has been especially weird. California has be in the throes of a drought for years. This winter, December had roughly double the amount of rain over normal, and January was close to triple the average. Personally, I like to check the 10-day forecast about a week out. That should give you a ballpark idea of what to plan for. Then check the forecast again, a couple of days before you leave and make any necessary adjustments. I’ve lived in San Diego my whole life, and we have weather pretty comparable to L.A./Hollywood. Generally speaking, weather in Southern California is pretty mild in the Spring. It might get a little chilly in the evenings, but most of the time a light jacket or sweater is good enough. Having said all of that, what you mostly need to worry about is two rather obnoxious extremes:
  • Extreme heat – While not common in April, temperatures in the 90s do happen, and bear in mind that you might be standing in line in the sun during the hottest part of the day. I honestly don’t remember standing in the sun last year, but I know that at the Egyptian, they run the lines in the courtyard in front of the theater, so if you’re there in the middle of the day, you’re going to be in the sun. Even if we get mild weather, sunscreen is highly recommended and maybe even a hat. If you don’t have room to pack a hat, consider buying a cheap one when you get here and just toss it at the end of the trip.
  • Rain – The song says, it never rains in Southern California, but people always forget that the end of the verse is, it pours, man it pours. Very very true, both literally and figuratively. L.A. doesn’t get a lot of rain, but there are times, when it comes down in buckets. We had storms in San Diego this year that dropped about 20% of our annual average in a 24-hour period. Because we don’t get a lot of rain out here, we tend to hopelessly ill-prepared for it. Streets flood. Hotel lobbies flood. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but it could. That’s where your forecast will help. If you’re coming from a different part of the country, you’re probably already way better prepared than we are here. Even if the forecast doesn’t call for rain. If you have an umbrella that packs easy, bring it. You're not going to be able find one easy walking distance from the Festival, especially if it's raining. One of my TCMFF cronies, Deborah Leigh, an L.A. local recommends an umbrella, rain or shine, to keep the sun off.
Good and plastered
We all like to think we can hold our liquor like Auntie Mame, but realistically no one can. I know you’re on vacation and want to have a good time, but keep in mind, you’re probably going to want to be up early the next morning for whatever screening. If you do overdo, take some aspirin and force yourself to drink some water before you collapse in bed. It won’t prevent the inevitable hangover, but it might take the edge off a little bit. FYI, drinks in the Hollywood Roosevelt are crazy expensive.

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

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

Me, I do a little of both, shorts and a t-shirt during the day and something dressy at night. I even managed to procure a white dinner jacket a couple of years ago. God, I hope it still fits. I plan to wear it Thursday night, even though I'm not going to the Red Carpet. If you want to dress up like the Dread Pirate Robert for The Princess Bride, more power to you.

All things considered, most everything is pretty centrally located, but you will do a fair amount of walking and standing. I can pretty much guarantee that at some point you're going to feel like you’re bouncing back and forth like a pinball. If you have new shoes that kind of hurt your feet and you think it will get better, it won’t. If you dead set on wearing them, at least consider changing into them late in the day. If you have one pair of shoes that are really really comfortable, bring ‘em, even if the make you look like you like your Great Aunt Matilda.

In years past, there was a charging station in the lobby of the TCL Chinese 6. Presumably there will be something similar this year

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

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

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

You’ll definitely want to have a camera. Think hard about how good the camera on your phone is. Cameras on smartphones keep getting better and better, but many still do not do real well at a distance or in low light. Last year, I had a chance to get a picture with Bruce Brown (The Endless Summer). The result from my phone with a stranger taking the picture was not good. Obviously, you’re not going to be taking pictures in a darkened theater, but you might want to get a shot of whoever is introducing the film and movie theater house lights tend to be less than optimum for photography. You might be better off with a point and shoot or digital SLR camera. 

Make sure you take the time to empty the SD card or device's internal storage. The last thing you want is to find yourself standing next to Ben Mankiewicz, and realize you have to figure out which pictures from your cousin’s wedding you can live without. The mistake I made a couple of years ago was to wait until late the night before we left to empty out my camera and phone. I start moving the files and saw, About 45 minutes remaining.... Aw, man, I need to go to bed.

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

Be flexible
Despite all of your planning, leave yourself a little wiggle room. Each year they leave four or five TBD slots open on Sunday to repeat films that turned a lot of people away earlier in the Festival. They should announce the TBDs fairly late on Saturday. This could your chance to see something that you had to skip earlier. Plus, you never know how you will feel. Last year for Thursday night, I had planned on Harold Lloyd The Freshman in the first slot followed by Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in the second slot. At the last minute, we decided to go to One Potato Two Potato instead of The Freshman. But once we did that, I didn’t feel like following one interracial romance drama with another, but that left me open for a great Argentinean Film Noir, Los Tallos Amargos, which I never would have got to see otherwise.

It’s perfectly okay to switch things around. You might be late getting to a screening and get shut out. Check the schedule, you might be able to get into something else. Maybe, you figured that you’d be too tired for any of the midnight movies, but you get out of that last screening and feel really pumped and want to keep going. Go for it.

Maybe, there is a block that you’re not particular enthused about. This is the perfect chance to get a real meal or even sneak back to the hotel for a nap. Just remember, you’re there to have fun. It’s almost assured that you’re going to be running around a lot, but there is nothing that says you have to. It’s okay to take a breather.

Try to see something beside the inside of a theater
Even if you only have a couple of hours to spare, take advantage. Maybe you can squeeze in one of the tours. If you keep going east on Hollywood Blvd., things start to get less cheesy and you'll find cool things like vintage clothing stores. Also it seems like more of the sidewalk stars that direction are Golden Age Hollywood people. Me, I want to try to have a meal at Musso and Frank's again and maybe trip to Amoeba Records (6400 Sunset Blvd.). Occupying an entire block, Amoeba Records is arguably one of the best record stores in the country. They also have a great selection of DVDs upstairs, organized into categories that TCMFF people will appreciate, such as Film Noir and Pre-Code.

If there is somewhere you want to go, it might be worth it to call and see that they are still there, or that their hours haven't changed. I just heard a couple of weeks ago that Formosa Cafe has closed, shoot.

Last year, I did a series of posts on my favorite TCMFF Sidetrips. See links at the bottom of this post.

Talk to people
You probably wouldn’t know but I’m kind of an introvert. Oh, I’m fine talking to people if I feel have a reason to or if I think I have something in common with them. The thing is pretty much anybody wearing a TCMFF badge is someone you have something in common with, probably way more than most of your friends back home. This is your tribe. Revel in it. By Saturday, almost anyone you talk to has seen at least one of the same movies you have over the Festival. At any given time, there are about five things going on at once. If you’re standing in line, everyone else in that line has just passed up four other things that under normal circumstances they would love to see. If that’s not something in common, I don’t what is. If you’re shy, try the following conversation starters:
  • What have you seen so far? A lot of the time it’s things you saw too or something you really wanted to see, but had to skip for something you wanted to see more. If it’s one of those rare titles, you can find out whether it was worth it. This may help you decide on those TBDs on Sunday.
  • What’s your favorite thing so far? You might get some great stories: Oh, Rob Reiner was so funny. Or I was standing in line for coffee with Ben Mankiewicz. 
  • And don’t forget the standard ones: Where are you from? How was your trip?
Avoid changing your normal routine
This is something I didn't really think about until last year. If you are a big breakfast-is-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day person, don't skip breakfast every day at TCMFF. I normally drink coffee during the day until about 5 or 6 pm. Last year, I would have a cup in the morning and not have time for any the rest of the day. Then I would wonder why I was falling asleep on the late showing. This year I plan to stay properly caffeinated.

There may be certain things that you can't avoid. Say you normally go to bed at 9:00 and you know you're going to be staying up later. Try to compensate by forcing yourself to stay awake later in the week or so before the Festival. If you do need to make changes, try to not go overboard. Take my example of staying caffeinated. If I'm feeling tired in the evening, I may have a cup of coffee in the evening after my normal 6 pm cutoff, but I'm not going to do a double espresso and risk being up at three in the morning looking at the hotel room ceiling.  


Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful. Don't forget to check the links below. Good info there as well. I will update these links as I see more.

Related links
All of these links are from last year or older, but the info should still be good. If I see any updates or good new related posts, I'll do my best to update here. If you know of a good one, leave me a comment, and I will update.

My TCMFF Sidetrip posts from last year:

Friday, March 10, 2017

Classic Film T-Shirts - Totally Shameless Plug

T-shirts now available....

For the longest time I've been wanting to do some t-shirt designs, sort of a classic film take on teefury. If you don't know, is a site that sells t-shirts many of which are mashups of different pop culture items. For example, when I went there just now, one that jumped out at me was a design titled Baking Bad by an artist that goes by the handle of mikehandyart. It has Walter White from Breaking Bad done as the Pillsbury Doughboy. You can see it here

Well, my idea was to do more of less the same thing, but with classic films.  So far, I have a total of eight designs, ranging from Metropolis to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Maltese Falcon to Strangers on a Train. The shirts are available on a site called redbubble. They make the shirt and handle the transaction and shipping, and I make 20% off the sale.

So without any further to adieu, I give you the designs. First up, we have Gunsel, Elisha Cook, Jr., from The Maltese Falcon done in the style of the Shepard Fairey, Obama Hope poster. You can click on the title of the design to go and order the shirt.

Gunsel on shirt

Next in honor of The Graduate being shown at TCMFF, we have Danger! Mrs. Robinson!, featuring the robot from Lost in Space.

Danger! Mrs. Robinson!
Danger! Mrs. Robinson! on shirt

In the same vein as Gunsel above, we have Dingle, Charles Coburn from The More the Merrier. I might do others like this. For example, if I ever learn how to draw a wire-hair terrier, I might just have to do, Asta.

Dingle on shirt

Now, we move back to the silent era to see what Casual Friday would be like in Metropolis.

Casual Friday
Casual Friday on shirt 

It's the necktie t-shirt you always wanted, Bruno, Robert Walker, from Strangers on a Train.

Bruno, A Very Interesting Fellow
Bruno, A Very Interesting Fellow on shirt

Next, we have Screaming M, a mashup of Fritz Lang's M and a very famous image from Santa Cruz Skateboards, because when you think German expressionist cinema, you think, umm, skateboards.

Screaming M
Screaming M on shirt

On the last two, I did different versions of the art for light and dark shirts. Air Bolivia is a mashup of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Air Jordan. 

Air Bolivia
[Light colored shirt]
Air Bolivia on shirt
[Dark colored shirt]

Finally, we have Jefferson Randolph, Ray Milland, from The Big Clock. I love this movie, and I love this design. Unfortunately, I think it is too esoteric for most people. The wanted poster combines the info from the Crimeways magazine's system of irrelevant clues with the sketch Elsa Lanchester does of the culprit. If you get it, you'll love it. Most people are left scratching their heads. 

Wanted: Jefferson Randolph
[Light colored shirt]
Wanted: Jefferson Randolph
[Dark colored shirt]

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Carl and Rob Reiner to Appear at TCMFF

Yesterday, TCM announced that the father-son duo of Carl Reiner and Rob Reiner will appear at the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) and be honored with a hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood. In addition, Carl Reiner will introduce his film, The Jerk (1979), and Rob Reiner will introduce, The Princess Bride (1987). 

This is great news for TCMFF attendees, though I have a feeling that it might make festival choices that much more difficult. I saw Carl Reiner last year at TCMFF, and he was a hoot, lots of great stories.  Still, I saw The Jerk in the theater, so that might make me lean toward something else. I have never seen Rob Reiner in person, but The Princess Bride is one of those films that seems to always be showing somewhere, even in the fairly small number of art theaters in San Diego.  I know I'll have another chance to see it somewhere before too long. But Rob Reiner, that's another story. 

I'm already starting to stress out about the inevitable heart-breaking choices I'll have to make once the schedule drops. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

RIP Robert Osborne

I got home this afternoon to find that TCM host Robert Osborne had passed away. As a classic film fan, this comes as a blow. I never got to meet him. I did see him in person several times at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) and got the following video of him in the Roosevelt Lobby doing a promo for TCM:

Robert Osborne was unable to attend TCMFF in 2015 and 2016 due to health concerns.

At the 2014 TCMFF, I didn't go out of my way to try to meet him. I didn't have a pass that included the meet and greet events, so there's no guarantee that I would have been successful had I tried. 

What I really admire about Robert Osborne is that he was a fanboy made good, before the concept of fanboy even existed. Let me explain. He always loved film. When he was in college, he kept notes of what films opened when, what theater they played at, and who starred in them. He did it just because he loved it. As a result, when he moved to Hollywood, he knew more about film than many working in the industry.  

He had moderately successful acting career, but soon switched to film journalism. One of his first jobs came about because of his thirst for knowledge. He wanted to know who won a certain award on a certain year. The records at the Motion Picture Academy were in such disarray that they couldn't tell him and ultimately hired him to create an archive of all awards going back to the very beginning. 

Later as a film journalist, he got to meet many of his golden age movie idols, many of whom were retired/semiretired. Because he had spent so much time documenting the movies he loved, he knew not only what films they made, but who starred in them, who directed, when they were released, etc. This was not some writer looking for a story. This was someone who knew and respected their work, and he became good friends with many of the greats of Hollywood's Golden Age.

When TCM started in 1994, he was the perfect on-screen host. He shared his love and knowledge with us for over 20 years. He will be missed. Rest in Peace, Robert Osborne.

Feud: Bette and Joan - FX Takes on Hollywood Battle Royale

Warning: This post contains mild spoilers.

Last night, Feud: Bette and Joan premiered on FX. I tuned a tiny bit late and missed most of the opening credits, but did catch enough to immediately recognize that they were paying homage to Saul Bass in the credits. Nice touch, I thought. Fortunately, they replayed the episode immediately after, so I got to catch the credits in all of their pictographic splendor. Wow, perfect.

I honestly can't say how many liberties they took with story, but mostly it rang true. I heard on twitter some people saying they didn't like the interview sections with Olivia de Havilland (Katherine Zeta Jones) and Joan Blondell (Kathy Bates). The only thing that I thought seemed wrong was Olivia de Havilland saying that Bette Davis had "a ballsy intensity." While a true statement, I don't see de Havilland phrasing it that way, at least, not on camera. 

One friend thought the interviews were unnecessary, but that didn't bother me. I just looked at them as a plot device to introduce some of the backstory on the decades-long Crawford-Davis feud. I figure that most people watching Feud: Bette and Joan probably haven't seen What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, much less know the background of Crawford and Davis.

The one plot point I wondered about was, it showed Joan Crawford buying numerous novels in search of a good vehicle for her. She finds the novel What Ever Happened to Baby Jane and takes it to director Robert Aldrich. I did some research and couldn't find any evidence of it going down that way, but that doesn't necessarily mean it didn't.

I don't want to go to deeply into the plot, but there were some great little details. One that jumps to mind is the contrast between the morning rituals of the two stars. Joan wakes up and does her morning facial of ice and witch hazel, while Bette reaches for a cigarette and lighter almost before her eyes are open.

I guess I shouldn't worry about whether the show took liberties and just concentrate on whether it worked for me. The bottom line is, it did. I loved it. I thought Jessica Lange was perfect as Joan Crawford and Susan Sarandon equally good as Bette Davis. Here were two women who refused to lie down and accept their fate, of declining/nonexistent roles for older actresses. They went out and did great work and opened the doors for their contemporaries to do likewise. The series captures this.

If the first episode is any indication, Feud: Bette and Joan should prove to be a fun ride. I'm all in. And if a show like this can draw a new audience to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane and the larger works of Joan Crawford (The Women, Mildred Pierce) and Bette Davis (Now Voyager, All About Eve), that can't help but be a good thing for classic film.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

µ-Blog – Trump Blames Obama for Protests

µ-Blog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

Earlier this week, President Trump said he believes that former President Obama is behind the protests against Trump policies. Now, President Trump has uttered a lot of "alternative facts" since taking office, but in a very very broad sense, he may be right on this one. Let me explain.

President Obama was a reasonable intelligent person and a good president. When you get Trump after Obama, of course, people are going to protest. But let's just say if the president right before Trump had been a Irish Setter, people would go, "Yeah, President Trump is kind of doing okay."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

µ-Blog – Film Noir Icon to Be Resurrected by Labor Day

µ-Blog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

Today, it was announced that the Angels Flight funicular railway will reopen by Labor Day. Angels Flight was built in 1901 and ran until 1969. Plagued by accidents in the last couple of decades, Angels Flight has been operational only for relatively short periods of time, only to be closed again, due to accidents and safety concerns. Most recently, Angels Flight has been dormant since 2013, when a derailment left a passenger shaken but unhurt.  

A group of engineering and transportation companies has agreed to maintain and operate railway and pay for required safety upgrades in exchange for a share the Angels Flight revenue over the next three decades. 

Fans of Film Noir will recognize the iconic railway from its appearance in a number of classic films in the 1940s and 1950s, including Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Criss Cross, and Kiss Me Deadly. While the reopening will not be in time for the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), barring mishaps, it will definitely be up and running for next year's TCMFF.

Angels Flight in its original location near Third Ave tunnel;
shot from Kiss Me Deadly